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

Selections from Our Critics • January 2018


After working with Rheinhessen star winemaker Klaus-Peter Keller, Jochen Dreissigacker returned to his family’s estate in 2001 and set about converting its 51 acres to organic viticulture. Working in the winery with ambient yeasts, gentle pressings and old, large casks, he turned out a trocken riesling in 2013 that feels like it might last for 20 years or more. While it shows its maturity in its rich yellow hue and warm grilled-fruit flavors, it tastes tangy and alive, a lean, stony wine with a mouthwatering salinity. That briny note seems to propel the flavors like water over river stones, a constant, steady flow with clarity and direction, ever-refreshing.

Schatzi Wines, NY —Tara Q. Thomas

From a cool vintage in the cool northeastern corner of Tasmania, this wine carries its coastal freshness through tense flavors of grapefruit pith and lemon, all of it laced with salinity. Think daisies growing in stone and you’ll be close to the flavor of fruit grown in the basalt soils of Pipers River. It’s crunchy chardonnay and pinot noir transformed into some serious sparkling wine. Serve it with smoked whitefish mousse.

Negociants USA, Napa, CA —Joshua Greene

Located in the cool western reaches of the Santa Maria Valley, ten miles from the Pacific, Solomon Hills was planted in the late 1990s by the Miller family, best known for their Bien Nacido Vineyard. The wine was barrel fermented without added yeasts, the oak 25 percent new, the fruit substantive enough to produce an oceanic chardonnay, fresh and airy, salty and mouthwatering. The round, supple texture appeals in its richness, while some rooty flavors, almost carrot-like in their earthiness, ground the brighter lemon and spring-meadow scents, combining to lend the wine grandeur. Beautiful now, this will gain complexity with cellar time. (200 cases)

—Joshua Greene

Luis Petrão, who, until recently, was the winemaker at Esporão in Alentejo, started this project with his father, Dinis, at his family’s vineyards in Bairrada. He has quickly entered into the top ranks of a region beginning to reclaim its former glory, not just for reds from the persnickety baga grape, but especially for long-lived whites. Mostly old-vine cerceal, this elegant wine captures the limestone in which it grows in a focused and concentrated scent of seashells. A smaller portion of bical, fermented in old oak barrels, lends a caramelized note of richness, pointing up the sweetness of the fruit as it expands over the wine’s crisp coastal freshness. Built to cellar.

Grape2Glass, Newark, NJ —Josuha Greene

Under the guidance of owner Marcel Guigal and winemaker Guy Sarton du Jonchay, Vidal-Fleury has entered a renaissance. They’ve released this Côte-Rôtie early; it’s a powerfully structured wine and it rewards patience if you open it now. Be prepared to meet a bruiser, packing a punch of acidity and a mass of tart black fruit barbed with tannins. And be prepared to wait, as a day after the bottle is opened, the oak comes up like a suit of armor, making it hard to perceive anything but the size of the wine. But two days later, everything falls into place: The tannins fill in the fruit like grains of sand through an hourglass, creating a supple texture with depth and grip; smoke wends through the wine to give it dimension; floral notes from five percent viognier add hints of delicacy. What’s remarkable is that the wine holds that balance for an entire week, predicting a long life ahead.

Frederick Wildman and Sons, NY —Tara Q. Thomas

Each year, Paulo Nunes selects one variety at Passarella to bottle on its own as Enxertia. In 2013, he let jaen spontaneously ferment in cement vats, then aged it in barrels, creating a wine with an electric pink edge to the color and mineral energy in the glass (it brings to mind the kind of vibrant jaen José Luis Mateo produces at Quinta da Muradella in Monterrei, where they call the grape mencía). There’s density to the tannins and luscious, earthy fruit, but the youthful power and spicy cut makes the wine feel racy.

M Imports, Fairfield, CT —Joshua Greene

The Old Bush Vine range from Yalumba consistently turns out some of the greatest values from Australia, this latest grenache being one of them. It’s clean and bright; one taster described the taste as “the perfect parallel to the flavor of raspberries.” The structure is about floral delicacy rather than tannic power, a wine light enough to serve chilled. And it brings a range of different foods to mind as accompaniments, from chicken liver mousse to char-grilled sardines to a burger with tomatoes and pickled red onions.

Negociants USA, Napa, CA —Joshua Greene

The spring of 2016 didn’t start out auspiciously: It rained from mid-May through June. But the berries that made it through enjoyed a warm, sunny spell that lasted through August, followed by the warmest September Wilhelm Weil can remember. That weather allowed him to wait for a prodigiously ripe BA. What’s most impressive, however, is how this wine delivers that sweetness: in a shimmery stream of satin-textured, multihued flavor. That flavor soars, the mineral tones magnifying and enhancing the fruit like a shower of sea salt. Everything is so perfectly balanced that the wine doesn’t actually register as sweet; it’s sumptuous, seamless, a thing of beauty.

Loosen Bros. USA, Salem, OR —Tara Q. Thomas

Upcoming Wine Events from The W&S Calendar

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.