Stephen Tanzer's


Why should you care? Washington’s 2011 growing seasons was freakishly cool by the standards of this hot, dry, high-desert viticultural region, although it produced some wonderfully refined wines in a more European vein. Two thousand twelve brought a return to warmth without extreme heat. In fact, it was statistically an almost perfectly average year that many insiders describe as an ideal growing season. Although the first serious red wines are only now being released, it’s already clear that there will be more outstanding bottles from 2012 than from any past vintage in Washington.

What does it taste like? Star winemaker Chris Peterson, who was responsible for a string of outstanding vintages at DeLille Cellars in the 2000s, launched his own exciting Avennia brand in 2010 and hasn’t missed yet. His least expensive red wine, the 2012 Gravura Red Wine Columbia Valley, leads off with fresh aromas of black raspberry and cocoa powder complemented by sexy earth tones. It’s sweet, broad and fine-grained, showing lovely energy and lift to its flavors of dark berries and dark chocolate. This very classy Bordeaux blend spreads out nicely to dust the palate with fruit and finishes very long, with well-integrated ripe tannins. It’s a terrific value, as is the superb 2011, should you happen to find a bottle on a retailer’s shelf. My score: 92 points.

How much does it cost? $35

October 24th, 2014 | no comments

Mention Tuscany and everyone thinks red wine. But the region also makes some lovely, fun-to-drink whites that are usually quite inexpensive. I personally love the vermentinos and especially the ansonica wines of Elba and the Tuscan Coast, but inland Tuscany is also home to the delightful and ever-improving Vernaccia di San Gimignano (this is the name of both the grape and the wine) and to a few interesting chardonnays and viogniers too. READ MORE »

October 20th, 2014 | no comments

Spanish wine aficionados know that Priorat is the source of many of the country’s greatest, rarest and most expensive red wines, with numerous bottlings cruising well past the $100 mark. For my money, a number of the best Priorat wines are worth the tariff, as they display a remarkable interplay of power and mineral-driven vibrancy that’s rare to find anywhere. Unfortunately, though, many Priorat wines fail to live up to the region’s reputation, so savvy wine drinkers have been turning to the wines of Montsant, whose vineyards almost completely surround the smaller Priorat appellation. READ MORE »

October 14th, 2014 | no comments

Why should you care? South Africa can’t hold a candle to New Zealand when it comes to the sheer volume of sauvignon blanc produced, or the number of good choices available to consumers. And yet the handful of elite sauvignons made in South Africa frequently strike me as more distinctive and layered, not to mention less herbal. In recent years, Downes Family Vineyards (called Shannon Vineyards in the local South African market) has produced one of the most satisfying and complex examples of all, from the cool-climate Elgin region of the Cape.

What does it taste like? The 2013 Sanctuary Peak Sauvignon Blanc Elgin Valley, which includes 11% semillon vinified with wild yeasts and aged briefly in new French oak, offers a cornucopia of scents, ranging from lemon drop, peach skin and chlorophyll to more exotic papaya and lanolin. It’s concentrated, tactile and creamy, conveying an impression of thickness without any excess weight. A piquant pink grapefruit quality leavens its hint of floral sweetness. The lightly musky finish features excellent subtle length and lift and an exhilarating sugar/acid balance that brought me back for more. My score: 91 points.

How much does it cost, and where can you find it? ($24; Southern Starz)

October 9th, 2014 | no comments