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Top 10 wines in the US press

2004 Champagne Lebrun-Servenay “Vieilles Vignes” Brut Grand Cru

Irene Virbila, writing for the LA Times, picked a selection of grower Champagnes as a “less obvious” option to the Grande Marques of Taittinger, Pol Roger, Moet-Chandon and Krug. “The bottle may not be as elegantly packaged, but what’s inside can be thrilling and revelatory”, she said.

Grower Champagnes are wines made by the family that grows the grapes. With some of these smaller estates owning grand cru vineyards, the prices for their top Champagnes can be a “relative bargain”, Virbila said.

Of this 2004 brut from Lebrun-Servenay, she said: “A Grand Cru made from 100% Chardonnay sourced from 40- to 80-year-old vines in the Côtes des Blancs, this elegant Champagne spends nine years on the lees. The 2004, scented with honey and hazelnuts, is crisp and fresh, and yet wonderfully complex and creamy, with a long-lingering finish. A class act.”

Price: About $70

2009 Guy Charlemagne Champagne “Cuvée Charlemagne” Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut

Virbila said this “silky” 2009 Guy Charlemagne Champagne “holds its own with the big boys.”

She said: “The Cuvée Charlemagne from Guy Charlemagne (love saying that name) is made only in top vintages. The grapes for the 2009 originate from Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger and Oger in the Côtes des Blancs. Of course, this Grand Cru is Blanc de Blancs — all Chardonnay. With its mass of fine bubbles, inviting scent of lemon and sun-dried fruit, and its long, silky finish, Cuvée Charlemagne holds its own with the big boys.”

Price: About $50

Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Primarily designed for fine dinging restaurants Silver Palm wines,made by Jackson Family Wines, are “spot-on, approachable and affordable”, according to Sandra Silfven writing in Detroit News.

Of this Cabernet Sauvignon she said: “The 2012 vintage is rated the best vintage of the new millennium, and the wine is made by Jackson Family Wines, which has a tether on some of the best North Coast (California) vineyards. Fruit is opulent; tannins are round and firm; texture is silken. Think blackberry, cassis, dark cherry, plum, black licorice and spice. It’s 82% Cabernet Sauvignon filled in with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Alcohol is 13.7%. It’s such a gem for the price. Do let the wine breathe in the bottle or glass to help it relax and unfurl its flavors.”

Price: $19

Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir California 2013

Silfven also recommended this Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir, also from the Jackson Family portfolio, calling it a “dependable” line producing wines that are fun to drink, affordable and have a “social conscience”. Murphy-Goode has been a sponsor of the nonprofit Operation Homefront since 2002 helping to raise millions for military families in need.

Of its 2013 Pinot she said: “If you wonder what all the interest in Pinot Noir is about, start here. Murphy-Goode delivers incredible quality for the price. This Pinot is sourced off cool vineyards up and down the Cali coast from areas including Monterey, Santa Barbara and Mendocino. It’s juicy and packed with Pinot character: black cherry, strawberry, spice, cola and vanilla. It’s aged in French and American oak. It’s an intense dark color with good texture on the palate and bracing acidity for structure.”

Price: $15

Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Dave McIntyre, writing for the Washington Post, recommended this Siduri Pinot Noir from California’s Monterey County.

He said: “Rich, warm and ripe, this Pinot Noir packs power with black cherry and raspberry flavors and a lovely floral note that seems to lift it right out of the glass.”

Price: $44

Pena do Lobo 2013, Ribeira Sacra, Spain

McIntyre also recommended this Spanish red made from the Mencia grape as the perfect antidote to this “late-winter chill”.

“Mencia is a grape that was mistaken for Cabernet Franc for a while, before DNA testing debunked that idea. It’s easy to see how the mistake could be made, though. This wine offers wood spice, such as white pepper, along with a savory character that suggests trying the wine alongside big red meat.”

Price: $20

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOC, Tre Vigne 2011, Piedmont, Italy

Rebecca Murphy, writing for Dallas News, recommended this 2011 Italian red from Vietti this week, a winery founded by Mario Vietti. Later Mario’s son-in-law, Alfredo Currado, became the first in the region to make single-vineyard Barolos, and is widely credited with bringing back the indigenous white grape variety Arneis from near extinction.

She said: “Currado considers their Barbera d’Asti wines to be more powerful and age-worthy than their Barbera d’Alba. This 2011 is showing savory blackberry and cherry fruit brightened by the grape’s trademark vibrant acidity. It is medium-bodied with ripe, integrated tannins. Its bright acidity handles tomato sauces beautifully, and its soft tannins make it a perfect companion for grilled tuna.”

Price: $15.99 to $19.99

2012 Field Blend Mendocino Biodynamic Red, Mendocino County, California

“If you love red wine but it gives you headaches, this may be the wine for you”, said Michael Dresser of this Mendocino County blend writing in The Baltimore Sun.

He said: “It’s advertised as being free of sulfite, the preservative that is the culprit behind the headaches. Made by the well-known organic winery Frey Vineyards, the Field Blend combines Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Sirah in an amazingly vibrant blend with explosive blackberry and blueberry flavors. It’s really a fruit bomb — in a good way. The caveat is that preservatives are used in most wines for a reason; I’d be careful not to keep this wine too long or to store it in a warm place.”

Price: $16

Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Legendary Collection, Chile

Dennis Sodomka, writing for the Augusta Chronicle, described this Chilean red, produced in partnership with the UK’s Manchester United Football Club, as a “spectacular”, “powerful” and “complex” wine “smooth tannins”. It is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Carmenère.

“For we Americans who think football means NFL, SEC or Big Ten, let me remind you that the rest of the world thinks football is the game where you kick a white ball into a net. We call it soccer”, he said.

Of its quality, he said: “It is deep red in color, peppery and herbal on the nose. The tastes explode in your mouth with the first sip, starting with red fruit flavors, including cherry, plum and a touch of strawberry. As you sip it other flavors emerge: blackberry, chocolate, cassis. The elegant finish is long and velvety with smooth tannins. This special edition comes in a black box and is easy to spot. If you can’t find it, a good substitute is the regular Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon. The two main differences between the wines is the regular Cab has no Carmenère blended in, and it is aged only eight months.”

Price: $17 to 19

Chloe Pinot Noir 2013, Monterey County, California

The Chloe wine range

Finally Gil Lempert-Schwarz, writing for the Las Vegas Review Journal, recommended this Californian Pinot Noir, which he said had aromas of “classic red berries with red cherries, freshly baked raspberry Danish and English currant preserve, then a fresh blast of cool minerals and fig leaf”.

On the palate, he said: “It is a lovely rounded mouthful of wine with red berries dominating the taste buds, but there’s a spice component that immediately gives us a hint it is from a warmer climate than Burgundy, France, where pinot noir is indigenous. Crushed red cherries, bramble fruit and red currants are present with touches of cranberry juice going through the spice-laden midpalate, into a nicely balanced finish redolent with soft tannins that are entirely unobtrusive.”

Price: $9.99

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