Summer Wines

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, 2018
A master artist like Schaefer crafts exquisite gems even on the Kabinett level. The Himmelreich shows inexhaustible facets of Riesling's capacity to portray various shades of granny apples, slate and sweet dough. That's just the nose. The palate balances sweetness and acidity so seamlessly it feels like sucking on a freshly picked apple, while flinty/salty flavors on the fringes add depth and complexity. (July 23, 2020)

Weingut Heinrichshof, Mosel, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Rotlay Riesling trocken, 2018
If Heinrichshof was a VDP producer, would this qualify for Grosses Gewaches status? Probably not, it's not intense enough. But it is a stony, spicy Riesling, with aromas and flavors that are more about apple peel than apple fruit. Imported by IBBL. (July 23, 2020)

Giuseppe Cortese, Langhe, Chardonnay Scapulin, 2018
An excellent Chardonnay of the flinty, mineral-edged variety. I don't know enough about Barbaresco to talk about how much the Scapulin reflects terroir, but the character is subtly different than other Chardonnays I'm familiar with. The fruit is strong on citrus and it has a certain umami savoriness that I think hints at truffles. (July 24, 2020)

Vitkin, Grenache Noir, 2016
An elegant, floral wine, fresh plums with a touch of rocks and dust. One of the few Israeli reds you can drink in summer without the A/C on, all the same it's a wine that's intellectually stimulating as well. There's a freshness to it that gives me pause. "Is this really from around here? I could have sworn this came from the Loire or something". (July 26, 2020)

Sphere, Riesling, 2018
Drinking an Israeli Riesling is always a cerebral experience for me. The same questions always come up. How typical is it? As a Riesling? As an Israeli white? Can the two actually inhabit the same universe? With Sphera, there is another question. Doron's whites have a marked signature. They're gently structured and always show a soft signature that I think of as rainwater and mud. It's not a forced imprint, but it's there and I, for one, love it. Still, how much of what we get is Riesling and how much Doron? Well, I think the 2018, specifially, is still more Doron Rav-Hon and Sphera than Riesling, but, as I said, Doron doesn't force himself unto the wines, it's just that his character is always there. The 2018 is spicy and racy, fatter than even an Austrian, let alone a German, would be, with complex aromatics wherein I find, in addition to the rainwater and mud I mentioned, linseed and green apples. It's damn great, thank you. (July 28, 2020)

Freeman Winery, Gloria Estate, Pinot Noir, 2016
I had such a great time when I visited the winery in February. I loved the 2017, which I tasted, but bought the 2016 to get that extra year of age. Well, this, despite high scores in the US, is somewhat underwhelming. Dark in color and flavors, for Pinot, it shows a markedly green character, vegetative without compensating with freshness or minerals. It's complex aromatically, though, and despite my reservations, I enjoyed it enough to wish it was available here. (July 29, 2020)

Niepoort, Duoro, Redoma, Rosé, 2019
One of my favorite rosés, because it captures the fiery intensity and minerality of Duoro whites in pink. Think of a strawberry juice served with Atlantic salt. (Aug. 8, 2020)

Niepoort, Dão, Conciso, 2015 
This Baga and Jaen (Mencia) blend also works very well as a summer red. It's lithe and earthy, with enough complexity and character to reward the interest of more contemplative drinkers. I always think of a Beaujaolis Cru when I drink it. (Aug. 11, 2020)

Monte Branco, Alentejano, Alento, Branco Reserva, 2018
OK, so I recommend Portuguese wines every chance I can, especially the whites, but I've stayed away from Alentejo and its sub-appellations. I guess my initial forays just didn't yield anything too captivating for my tastes. But I wanted a change of pace for a lunch at Tchernichovsky and ordered a bottle from this relatively young boutique. Alentejano is, I understand, a more liberal, forward-looking sub-appellation. It strikes me as the Saint-Romain of Portuguese whites, solid and direct, with great acidity and a touch of exoticism. There's enough going on for me to return to another bottle in 6-12 months. (Aug. 8, 2020)