Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-24-2019

This week, I’m back with a catch-all report of wines I received these past few months but didn’t get around to reviewing until recently. (It’s been a busy and enjoyable summer, and I hope the same is true for you.)

Anyway… Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain wines are consistently some of my favorite from Napa, and I love their Chardonnay and Riesling in particular. So, since I tasted these wines sighted, I tried to approach them with as much skepticism as possible. That said, the 2016s showed wonderfully. Crystal clear, pristine wines, and both are worthy for serious cellar time. Especially considering the price, I’m still amazed these wines exist.

C.V.N.E. comes through with some moderately-priced Riojas worth checking out. And Italy’s Garafoli provides three wines from Marche that offer some deliciousness and intrigue for the price.

Lastly, Virginia’s Early Mountain delivers a juicy red quaffer that’s perfect for late summer evenings.

All of these wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Garafoli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore “Podium”Italy, Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
SRP: $26
Light yellow color. So perfumed, with aromas of peaches, limes, dandelion, floral potpourri, sea salt. Nice breadth of texture on the palate with vibrant acidity. Oranges, yellow plums, apricot, lots of fresh fruit, with plenty of sea salt and spicy floral potpourri, along with richer elements of honey and wax. Lots going on here. A single-vineyard Verdicchio, fermented and aged in concrete and stainless steel. (90 points)

2018 Garofoli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore “Macrina” Italy, Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. So floral, with lots of honeysuckle and daisies, along with peaches, honeydew and limes. Lively and crisp on the palate with a pleasantly plump feel. Honeydew drizzled with lime, and I get these notes of chalk, minerals, punchy herbal tones as well. This is pure summer fun but also shows significant complexity, especially for the price. Aged five months in concrete and stainless steel. (88 points)

2016 Garofoli Rosso Conero Piancarda Italy, Marche, Rosso Conero
SRP: $17
Deep, juicy purple color. The nose boasts raspberries and black cherries with smoky menthol, wild herbs, eucalyptus and pepper. Vibrant acidity, dusty tannins, with a solid core of red and black cherry fruit. Notes of smoky, charcoal, herbs, a bit sharp and linear, but there’s enough juiciness and complexity that it works. Spicy incense notes on the finish. 100% Montepulciano aged one year in oak. (88 points)

2016 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Cune Crianza Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
SRP: $13
Vibrant ruby color. Nose shows juicy black cherries, spiced cranberry sauce, clove, roses and tobacco. Crisp, lively and fresh on the palate with dusty tannins. The wine is ripe and juicy but stays fresh and bright. Raspberries, cherries, topped in cocoa, dusty earth, roses, clove and mint. Lots of complexity here for a wine at this price point. An attractive, inviting, drink-me-now Rioja. (88 points)

2016 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Viña Real Crianza Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
SRP: $16
Bright ruby color. Aromas of cherries, chilled strawberries, along with sweet roses, clay/earthy tones and cocoa powder. Fresh and bright, light tannins, juicy red fruit, crisp acidity. Cherries, raspberries and pomegranate mix well with roses, rhubarb, anise and mint. Fun, juicy, balanced, accessible but complex for the price. Aged 10 months in American oak. (88 points)

2016 Com Tu Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Montsant
SRP: $55
Rich purple color. Spicy aromatics with sage, pepper, creosote and mint, along with smoky cherries, sweet cranberry sauce, with cedar, coffee and incense. Juicy and full-bodied with suave tannins and moderating acidity, not too heavy for 15%. Raspberry and strawberry jam fruit mixes well with sweet coffee, mint, eucalyptus and pepper. The complexity is quite nice, smooth and accessible, totally delicious, but showing some complex floral, spice and earth tones. Grill-friendly stuff that packs a punch. A project from Rene Barbier Ferrer of Clos Mogador. 100% Garnacha from 35- to 50-year-old vines, aged 18 months in barrel. (90 points)

2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $34smith madroness
Light yellow color. Gorgeous nose of salted limes, apricot, pineapple, with dusty, chalky, sea spray notes. Laser-like focus on the palate, quite dry and vibrant. Juicy yellow and green apples with limes, and a complex mix of limestone, ocean spray, mountain stream and crushed shells. Such a lively, complex, balanced and age-worthy Riesling. Smith-Madrone does it again, and this vintage is a stunner for the cellar. 12.8% alcohol, about 0.7% residual sugar. (93 points)

2016 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $40
Light yellow color. Aromas of juicy yellow apples topped in complex notes of honey, almond, cinnamon, sea salt, hay and chalk dust. Deep texture on the palate with pretty acidity and lovely balance. Yellow apples, candied lemons, orange peel and apricot, juicy and fruity but also airy and elegant. Salty, minerals, chalky, with notes of honey, nougat and hay. Gorgeous, deep, yet vibrant. Another beautiful Chardonnay from Smith-Madrone. Barrel fermented with 80% new French oak. I’d love to age this for five years. (93 points)

2018 Early Mountain Vineyards Soif USA, Virginia, Central Virginia, Madison County
SRP: $26
Deep but bright ruby color. Very pretty, juicy, fresh nose of red plums, candied cherries, bubble gum, with sweet pipe tobacco. Fresh and lively on the palate, light-bodied (12.3% alcohol) with soft tannins and zippy acidity. Plums, cherries, raspberries, super juicy but it’s also showing complex nots of earth, soy, rose potpourri and clove. So fun and delicious. An interesting semi-carbonic wine, a blend of 49% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 3% Chardonnay and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Soif means thirst in French and Early Mountain certainly made a gulpable, juicy, low tannin, crushable red in this difficult vintage. (88 points)

Comments (2)

  1. Smith Madrone Riesling was the Riesling that convinced me it was possible to make a CA dry Riesling to compete with the best in the world. This one looks sweeter than the ones I’ve had in the past but you’ve convinced me to make a little shopping trip after harvest.
    Cheers, Alan

  2. Cheers, Alan! So funny you say that, because it was also Smith-Madrone’s Riesling that made this German, Austrian Riesling-lover rethink what was possible in CA! All the best, Isaac