Wines for Spring 2018 – and warmer (hopefully) weather!

Wines to enjoy as the weather improves… (or, should improve)

As Winter transitions begrudgingly to Spring, our desire for lighter culinary flavors brings the opportunity to explore lighter wines (and the occasional blockbuster).

A special note to those who enjoy French wines: Vintages from 2015 and 2016 throughout France yielded generally fantastic results – which allows many of us to enjoy affordable wines that deliver exceptional value. As wines of these vintages become available, I will be hunting for values to share.

All the wines reviewed are widely available (unless noted) and should remain in stores through June or beyond. At the bottom of this letter are several wines reviewed previously that are recently re-supplied or still available. Enjoy!

Best regards,
Jack Brice


Reserve Mont Redon Rose Cotes du Rhone 2016

Rhone, France
PLCB Code# 78831

Vivid pink. Bright and energetic on the nose, which is sharpened and given a spicy edge by a suggestion of white pepper. Taut red currant, bitter cherry and blood orange flavors open up slowly on the back half and show good clarity. Lingers quite nicely on the finish, leaving a subtle floral note behind.” 89 Points Vinous June 2017

Why this is good value:  This goes against my typical don’t-drink-rose-from-last-year rule but after assurances from Randy at the PLCB store, I dove in – the price point helped to facilitate my gamble…  The gamble pays off in this case: Nice Cotes du Rhone (CdR) color and flavor (strawberries, cherries) that is full enough to be rewarding while clean enough to qualify as a thirst-quenching warm weather rose.  Buy a case and drink it all summer!
90 points Jack Brice


Louis Latour Grand Ardeche Chardonnay Ardeche 2015

Ardeche, France
PLCB Code# 78821

“A plump, flattering style, with a piecrust note out front, followed by warmed  macadamia nut, creamed yellow apple and green melon fruit flavors. Ends with a lightly toasty finish. Drink now.” 88 Points Wine Spectator, November 2017

Why this is good value: Interesting wine.  An important and historic Burgundy producer, Louis Latour drifted south to a lesser-known Northern Rhone region to create this international-style Chardonnay.  While the modern (especially popular in new world) methods of barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation and oak aging are used, this slightly toasty, soft and fruity Chardonnay is still light on its feet.  This wine does NOT scream WHITE BURGUNDY (after all, it isn’t from Burgundy!), and the soft, fruity, oaked style might draw California fans while not pushing away the old world fans.  Have a party and serve this, no one will think you unsophisticated… Great Value!
89 points Jack Brice


Holm Oak Pinot Gris Tasmania 2015

Tasmania, Australia
PLCB Code# 583266 (Special Liquor Order ONLY)“20% was wild-fermented in used oak barrels, the remainder cool-fermented in tank. This approach has paid big dividends, with a fragrant and flowery pear and jasmine bouquet, the palate with pear and a hint of star anise.”  94 points James Haliday, Australian Wine Companion

Why this is good value: Although a special order wine (which can be accomplished by taking the code to any PLCB store), this wine was featured at a Pittsburgh Cultural Trust event as well as several private dinner events recently – and totally impresses!   Tasmania is a small, comparatively cool Australian island state that is building a global reputation for fine wine making.  This Pinot Gris is no fluke.  Holm Oak’s owners are also the vineyard managers and wine makers who painstakingly produce high quality wines that are increasingly sought after.   An easily approachable white, serving up lovely juicy citrus initially, but as the wine breathes and warms in the glass, floral and tropical flavors start bursting through with unexpected complexity.  Worth the effort!
92 points Jack Brice


La Chablisienne Grande Cuvee Premier Cru 2015

Burgundy, France
PLCB Code# 25883

“A blend from different Premier Cru vineyards across Chablis, this wine is the product of the wide choice of grapes available to this cooperative. It’s soft and ripe yet shows the crisper edge typical of the vintage.”  90 points Wine Enthusiast

Why this is good value: Burgundy’s Chablis region is small, so prices for the elevated Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines are typically high.  Fortunately this La Chablisienne 2015 Premier Cru blend comes to Pennsylvania at an affordable (for Chablis) price.   Juicy green apple and citrus flavors dominate, leading to a crisp clean finish with some minerality toward the end.   Nice Chablis characteristics with trademark flavor balance and finish.
90 points Jack Brice


Yves Cheron Cotes du Rhone Les Dentelles 2015

Rhone, France
PLCB Code# 48658“I was blown away by the 2015 Cótes du Rhône Yves Cheron les Dentelles. Made from 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah aged all in cement, it’s a big, rich, full-bodied beauty that’s loaded with notions of kirsch, blackberries, toasted spices and white pepper. Deep, rich, concentrated and impeccably balanced, it’s the real deal.” 92 points Wine Advocate, Dec 2016

Why this is good value: Wow – nice wine for the money!  CdR wines have a reputation for being somewhat rough/rustic which is like a calling card in that the flavor profile reminds the consumer of the wine’s provenance – but is rustic-ness always a good thing?  Not a concern here – the Cheron les Dentelles (named for the craggy mountains overlooking the Gigondas region of Southern Rhone) is a smooth and even-handed wine with lots of mouth-filling Grenache flavors and only a touch of the stereotypical rustic notes.  The result is a wine that would impress those who might typically reach for a Chateauneuf (at three times the price)!
92 points Jack Brice


Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2012

Rioja, Spain
PLCB Code# 6372

“This is a structured and power red with dried berry, chocolate, spice and salty, mineral character. Full-bodied, firm and chewy. Shows wonderful potential.” 93 points James Suckling

Why this is good value: A perennial Rioja favorite and (fortunately for consumers) produced at consistent high quality.   The Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2012 resulted from a challenging vintage (very dry) that yielded a small crop of very concentrated fruit, resulting in higher than typical fruit concentration with great depth of flavor.  Containing a trademark Rioja blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, the primary flavors of cherry and spice with undertones of balsamic develop nicely with some breathing.  An elegant wine to drink now and likely to develop further – even better with food.   Great value for money in my opinion.
92 points Jack Brice

Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Cold Creek Vineyard 2013

Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
PLCB Code# 74788“Aromas of black fruit, spiced plum, vanilla and herb lead to full dark fruit flavors. It shows a lot of ripeness but keeps it in balance.” 90 points Wine Enthusiast

Why this is good value: BOOM!  Rich, soft and dense with substantial texture, this 100% Cabernet is not the least bit shy or retiring, in fact it is one of the biggest reds I’ve tasted this year.   Fortunately, some stylishness and balance shines through the full weighted and dense flavors of currant, cocoa, vanilla, caramel and oak.   Even for those who shy away from a big wine, this Cabernet is appealing and will last a while.
92 points Jack Brice


(NOTE: This sparkler was recently re-supplied and plentiful in stores again.  In my opinion a great value so I am reiterating my notes on it.   ENJOY!)

Maison Aguila Cremant de Limoux Brut NV

Limoux, France
PLCB Code# 78624 (In stores now)

“Yeast and toast on the nose. Apple and citrus, with elegant mouthfeel and caressing bubbles.” Steve Pollack, wine buyer for the Chairman’s Selection® program

Why this is good value: Situated in the southeastern corner of France very close to the Spanish border, the Limoux region is known for sparkling wines and some claim created their production method more than 100 years prior to wheb the Monk Dom Perignon created Champagne.  Historic claims notwithstanding, this sparkler (containing 65% Chardonnay, 25% Chenin Blanc, and 10% Mauzac) provides more floral nose than expected and a bursting mouthful of sharp green apple and undercurrent pear/citrus flavors supported by laser-cut acidity and persistent finish.  Might pass for much more expensive sparkler in blind tasting! 
91 Points Jack Brice

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