Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-13-2022

This week’s report encompasses a range of wines that speak to diversity and value.

Oregon Pinot fans are surely aware of Willakenzie, which formed in 1991 and boasts a 420-acre estate in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Five years ago, Erik Kramer joined as winemaker, continuing on the Pinot legacy but branching out into Chardonnay as well.

I’ve known Mendoza’s Trapiche mostly for their widely-available and inexpensive Malbec, but they’ve got some gems in their portfolio as well. Take the Terroir Series, three single-vineyard Malbecs that offer nuance, depth and distinction at a very reasonable price. From vines all planted above 3,000 feet, winemaker Sergio Case is doing something special with these wines. Age-worthy and packed with value, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a few of these apiece and forget about them in the cellar for a few election cycles.

For these hot, humid days, I also have some Cavas from Bella Conchi that offer a lot of fun without breaking the bank. And one rosé from Napa’s Smith-Madrone – only the third time they’ve made this one, but it really rocks.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted, while the Trapiche wines were tasted single blind.

2017 Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Gualtallary
SRP: $40
Dark purple color. Saucy but tart nose of red and black currants and cherries, along with mesquite, chewing tobacco, some sage, violet petals, and rich, loamy soil. The palate is precise and focused with dusty tannins and lively acidity. The black cherry and currant fruit is juicy but tangy, and topped in dustings of mesquite, tobacco, tar, leather, campfire, hints of mushroom and forest floor. There’s this stony, mineral essence that lingers long on the finish. Complex but vibrant, this is showing great right now but will do well with three-to-five in the cellar. From Gualtallary vines planted at 4,200 feet. (92 points IJB)

2017 Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series Finca Orellana Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, La Consulta
SRP: $40
Deep purple color. Ooh this nose is lovely! I get dark plums, black cherries, with these deep, stony, rocky, earthy tones (graphite, smashed rocks, paved road, potting soil), with violet and pepper nuances. The palate is grippy and well-structured with vibrant, lip-smacking acidity – the    balance is on point. Tart black currant and blackberry fruit blends well with notes of tar, campfire, potting soil, roasted red pepper, anise and leather. I also get nuanced tones of coffee and mocha and a deep mineral presence throughout. A stony but bright finish. Wow, I’d love to see this in five years, but it’s so expressive young, too. From 62-year-old La Consulta vines at 3,250 feet, aged 18 months in French oak and a year in bottle. (93 points IJB)

2018 Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series Finca Coletto Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Tupungato
SRP: $40
Deep purple color. So suave and inviting on the nose, with fig paste and plum sauce, doused in violets, clay and potting soil, some cocoa, anise and pencil shavings. Structured so well, grippy but refined tannins, balanced with crisp acidity. Tangy but deep plums, with figs and cranberry relish – interesting mix of fruit – backed up with complexities of violet and clove potpourri, tilled soil, graphite, minerals. This needs time to coax out the savory nuances packed in here, and this will age so nicely. Long, zippy, fresh, spicy finish. Aged 18 months in French oak and 12 months in bottle. From 57-year-old vines at El Peral, 3,700 feet. (92 points IJB)

2019 WillaKenzie Estate Chardonnay Estate Cuvée USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $75
Medium yellow color. The aromas are so fresh, with kiwi, yellow apples, topped in chalk, stony minerals, saline, some bread crumbs and honey. The palate is full of precise acidity and deep texture, with flavors of lemons and limes and crunchy yellow apples. Some floral perfume and saline tones blend well with biscuits, bread dough and some honey. A very clear and focused Chardonnay that should age nicely. Really surprising and delicious stuff. (92 points IJB)

2018 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $50
Medium ruby color. The aromas are so juicy and fresh, with raspberries and fresh cherries, along with rhubarb and cola, rose petals and some earthy, clay tones. The palate shows suave tannins and crisp acidity, with tangy, fresh raspberries, cherries and red plums. The fruit is blended well with notes of rose petals, pepper, cola, some tobacco. Lots to unpack with air and time; this is delightful. (91 points IJB)

2018 WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir Emery USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $75
Deep ruby color. Beautiful nose of tangy strawberries with warm raspberry jam, topped in complex tones of mint, pepper, anise, rhubarb, just a lot going on here. The tannins are chalky but structured, balanced nicely with zippy acidity, and the red cherry and strawberry fruit is juicy and fresh. The complexities of black tea, pepper, sage, oregano, cola and rhubarb go on and on and offer a lot to contemplate and enjoy. Pretty, balanced, with a very long finish. This could use at least two or three years, but what a beaut. (93 points IJB)

2021 Smith-Madrone Rosé USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
SRP: $30
Deep watermelon color. Juicy strawberry aromas, watermelon, lemon, topped in a complex mix of roses and daisies, honeysuckle, saline and mint – smells so delightful. The palate sports juicy texture with vibrant acidity, and the balance between the depth and freshness is great. Watermelon, red apple peel and ripe pear fruit mixes with rose petals and honeysuckle. Air and warmth bring out notes of sea salt, chalk, white pepper and oregano add complexity. The nuance and balance are delightful. Cabernet Franc with 33% Merlot. Awesome value. (92 points IJB)

N.V. Bella Conchi Cava Brut Reserva Spain, Cava
SRP: $17
Light yellow color. The nose is bright and zesty with yellow apples, limes, tones of floral perfume and chalk dust. The palate is zippy and brisk with limes, tart apricot and yellow apples. Light bubbles and a chalky, talc-infused frame mixes with white and yellow flowers and slight biscuit tones. A lighter style but a lot going on as well, and solid value. (87 points IJB)

N.V. Bella Conchi Cava Brut Rosé Spain, Cava
SRP: $16
Bright watermelon color. Nose of red apple peel, tar cranberry, with floral perfume, crushed sweet tarts and hints of white pepper. Crisp and zippy on the palate with a tart, crunchy feel to the fruit (raspberry, red apple peel). Notes of chalk, limestone, sliced cucumber and some mint add complexity. A racy, fun appeal. (86 points IJB)

N.V. Bella Conchi Cava Brut Seleccion Spain, Cava
SRP: $17
Medium yellow color. Aromas of crisp green and yellow apples, with some hay, saline and crushed limestone – a lemony, fresh appeal. Nice textural depth on the palate, with bright acidity. Green apple and papaya fruit mixes with yellow flowers, fresh basil, cucumber slices and limestone elements. Lots going on here, with light biscuit dough on the finish. (88 points IJB)

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