Staff Favorites - Ivan Diaz

Ivan Diaz

Reviews

2013 Fable Mountain "Tulbagh Estate" Syrah Western Cape
Review Date: 03-22-2018
One of my favorite bottles of South African Syrah, this can contend with anything from southern France at the same price. Exactly what I'm looking for in good Syrah; the raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are ripe and vivid but not overt; aromatic, freshly cracked black pepper and cedar; subtle, roasted herbs; bracing, lifted acidity that keeps everything quite high-toned. The oak reveals itself in wisps of dark chocolate that never threaten to overtake the wine. This is a stunning find for Syrah nerds like myself.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
VN 92 JS 90

2013 Fable Mountain "Night Sky" GSM Coastal Region
Review Date: 03-22-2018
The Rhone-style wines of South Africa have been some of my favorite values in the last few years as I continue to taste them. Fable Mountain counts among the best of them. This GSM blend is stylistically traditional with its ripe, blue and black berries, pepper, woodsy spices, coffee bean, and seamless balance of tannin and acid. It picks up a smoky, meaty quality, along with a kick of eucalyptus. Truly classic while opening up new avenues of flavor within this stylistic framework.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 90 VN 90

2015 Laventura "Lanave" Rioja
Review Date: 03-08-2018
A blend of 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha, the Lanave is a fresh and fun entry-level bottling that showcases the beautiful balance that these two varietals can achieve. With the Tempranillo bringing the fuller, darker aspects - black cherries, licorice, tree bark - and the Garnacha cutting it with higher-toned strawberry, green herbs, and juicy acidity.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2015 Laventura Garnacha Rioja
Review Date: 03-08-2018
When isolated, the Garnacha shows all the brightness and energy only hinted at in the Lanave. Fresh strawberries, bracing acidity, hints of cocoa and compelling texture provided by the rocky, chalky minerality, make this a highly thorough experience, and extremely versatile with food.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 92

2015 Laventura Tempranillo Rioja
Review Date: 03-08-2018
Bryan’s take on the primary grape of Rioja is fresh and bright, but is special for its ability to express a very pure form of Tempranillo untouched by the flavors that accompany extended oak-ageing. Plum, black cherry, and cassis coat the palate right up front followed by herbs de Provence, warm baking spice, and spicy tree bark. A little tight in the glass right now, this would react very well to a couple years in the cellar, or a few hours in a decanter before serving.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 91

2015 Laventura Malvasia Rioja
Review Date: 03-08-2018
MacRobert produces this white grape as an "orange" wine, allowing 3 weeks of maceration on the skins, and using more "natural" techniques such as organic farming, native yeast fermentation, and minimal sulfur. Showing great funkiness, bees wax, roasted nuts, more white floral aromatics, stone fruit, zippy acidity, crisp texture, and a touch of matchstick minerality, this Malvasia is quite different than most, and a thoroughly enjoyable take on this important varietal which has historically played a part in Viña Tondonia Blanco and other great traditional Rioja white wines.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
DC 91 RP 91

2015 Laventura Viura Rioja
Review Date: 03-08-2018
Of the two whites released by Laventura in 2015, the Viura is the more classic style for Rioja Blanco, though this one is quite different than most inexpensive, “drink now” white Rioja. With its pears and honey, subtle beeswax, fresh herbs, and medium body, it’s almost Chenin Blanc-like in texture and style, and its potential to age seems comparable.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 92

2016 Can Mayol Loxarel "Apel" Ancestral Classic Penedes
Review Date: 03-08-2018
A beautiful "ancestral" style from Loxarel is made organically and biodynamically, with minimal sulfur addition, and no sugar dosage. The end product (100% Xarel-lo) is a fully energetic, very dry bottle of fine bubbles, juicy apple flavors, chalky, gravelly minerality, and an unexpected but compelling (and kinda funky) hint of truffle mushroom. A great wine for anyone looking for more "natural" bubbles.
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2016 Amalaya Malbec Salta
Review Date: 03-01-2018
This Malbec from Salta, the highest-elevation wine growing region in the world, is a noted departure from its cousins from Mendoza. From the rugged, parched foothills of the Andes comes a medium-bodied, vividly fruited bottling with a touch of Tannat lending a bit more backbone. Great black fruits, cocoa, minerality, bright acidity, and a hint of smokiness make for one of the best red wine values in the store.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart
DC 90 WS 90

2014 Benmarco Malbec Uco Valley
Review Date: 02-22-2018
From the gravelly, sandy loam soils of the high-elevation Valle de Uco comes the new vintage of Benmarco's entry-level Malbec. Unlike so many others at this price point, this Malbec shows balance and restraint following the minimal intervention philosophy of vineyard manager Edgardo del Popolo. There is a lifted quality here that keeps it surprisingly fleet-footed, while maintaining a deep, round expression of Malbec.

2015 Aquitania Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley
Review Date: 02-22-2018
This is a great value in Cabernet from any region. Indeed, some identifiably Chilean bell pepper and sweet tobacco are present on the nose and palate, but it's all wrapped up in big, beautiful Cab fruit including black cherry, black raspberry, cassis, and some subtle cocoa. Superb wine, especially for the price.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 91 RP 90

2016 Mas Codina Cabernet Sauvignon Penedes
Review Date: 02-15-2018
What a treat! A producer more known for the production of excellent Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) now brings us their foray into the world of Penedes red wine with a deceptively delicious, and super affordable Cabernet Sauvignon. Black cherry, blueberry compote, raisins, eucalyptus, and spicy bell pepper are present and vivid in this extremely crowd-friendly bottling.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart

2011 Miguel Merino "Unnum" Rioja
Review Date: 02-15-2018
The new vintage of Unnum comes to us bigger, livelier, and more delectable than ever. Made from all old vine selected fruit, it shows darker and toastier than the Vitola. Juicy black cherry, cassis, plums, anise, tree bark, coffee bean, and it keeps going as it breathes. The fullest, richest offering from Miguel Merino should be enjoyed with steak or morcilla (blood sausage).
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2011 Miguel Merino "Vitola" Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 02-15-2018
The Vitola is consistently one of the best values in Rioja around. A balance of traditional and modern winemaking techniques manifest in the bottle perfectly and create a wine of extraordinary depth and flavor. Almost Bordeaux-like in its presence on the palate, it shows cherries and red currants, woodsy spice, herbs, roasty coffee, leather, and finishes with flecks of pepper. Streamlined acidity and soft tannic structure make this really easy-going on its own, and an ideal pairing with filet mignon.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Antech "Cuvée Eugenie" Cremant de Limoux
Review Date: 02-08-2018
From our favorite direct import producer of French sparkling wine comes the newest vintage of the exquisite Cuvee Eugenie. A unique blend of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Chenin Blanc and 10% Mauzac, this exceedingly well-balanced bottling shows characteristic chalky minerality, ripe pear, fresh lemon and orange zest, subtle floral aromatics, and hints of toasty brioche. There is real prestige and beauty here, which makes the low price point hard to believe. Extremely fresh and refined, this will pair beautifully with fish in buttercream, but is inexpensive enough (and perfectly suited) for your favorite fried chicken.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
DC 91

2015 Pike Road Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-04-2018
The new vintage of Pike Road is a compellingly subtle, rather Burgundian Pinot Noir that showcases a level of nuance and restraint too rare in this price point. Balanced red currant and cherry, aromatic tea leaves, light hints of baking spice, and comfortably integrated acidity elevate this offering above so many others for a similar price. Perhaps the best Pinot in the shop under $20.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2011 Can Mayol Loxarel "Reserva Familiar" Brut Nature Classic Penedes
Review Date: 12-07-2017
The 2011 is creamier and a bit richer than the 2010, though maintaining the dry, linear features that give this wine its unique character. Flavors of apple, lemon, and stony/chalky minerals gain extra roundness from the extended time (six-plus years) on the lees. Instead of crunchy green apples, the profile here shows more ripened, baked golden apples, hints of baking spice, and moussey bubbles. This profound and versatile wine will pair perfectly with the same foods you might pair with Champagne, from creamy Mahon cheese to fresh yellowtail crudo, or even buttermilk fried chicken. Enjoy!
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2014 Can Mayol Loxarel "999" Brut Nature Rosat Classic Penedes
Review Date: 12-07-2017
This wine gains its gorgeous ruby color by blending 60% Xarel-lo Vermell and 40% Pinot Noir. While it shows more fruity richness than the Refugi, this is still a Brut Nature and is utterly, refreshingly dry. Restrained strawberry, dried cranberry, tart citrus and orange peel all wash across the palate with a bracing acidity and tickling bubbles.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart

2011 Viña Real Gran Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 11-30-2017
Defined primarily by its ripe, luscious fruit profile, this Gran Reserva deserves a decadent meal for accompaniment (perhaps duck breast with a cherry compote). Medium to fuller bodied and rather voluptuous on the palate, it reveals raspberries and cherries, buttery pie crust, cinnamon, cocoa, and a hint of leathery earth, all without ever veering to closely to sweetness.

2008 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 11-30-2017
The 2008 Ardanza (one of my favorite bottlings from one of my favorite producers) is brighter and leaner than the riper, juicier 2007, and is all the better for it. Dried, sour cherries waft from the glass, mingling with clove-y spices, cedar, tobacco, and that dried, autumn leaf quality I always get from the best Rioja. The medium-bodied palate continues to showcase the lifted, almost tart cherry while revealing more rustic, earthy tones. After almost ten years of ageing before release this is a great wine today, but has potential to age another ten.

Le Brun de Neuville "Authentique Assemblage" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 11-09-2017
The wine in this bottle is aged on the cork, a rather uncommon method of aging Champagne that imparts unique flavors otherwise absent from other bottles that don't incorporate this technique. What comes through is round, baked apple hugged by salted, honeyed nuts, graham cracker, and shades of briny minerality that vaguely resembles dry sherry. At this price point, this grower bottling is one of the best and most unique Champagne values in the shop... or anywhere.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
WE 92 WS 90

2015 DuMol Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-28-2017
There's a reason Dumol is considered one of the best producers of Russian River Pinot, and this bottling is a perfect example. First, it is strikingly "of its place," showing richness and density without becoming too full or heavy, maintaining an effortlessly light touch - a defining trait of the best RRV Pinot. Second, the deep red and blue berries are ripe and vivid, but never too center-stage, allowing the layers of complexity underneath to rise to the surface. Some chamomile tea leaf, warm baking spice, and a hint of coriander round out the palate while the full malolactic fermentation renders a mouthwatering note of buttery pie crust. The acidity is streamlined and tannins are fine, making for a beautifully delineated, elegant Pinot Noir.
Price: $68.99 Add To Cart

2015 DuMol Russian River Valley Syrah
Review Date: 09-28-2017
Dumol produces very little Syrah, but their offering in the category is an exceedingly vital contribution to the category. This bottling has more in common with Cote-Rotie than it does with other California Syrah, showing rather restrained at the moment, with loads of promise in the cellar. Dark, brambly blackberries and blueberries, a dusting of finely ground black pepper, savory roasted herbs and an earthy, clay-like minerality all contribute to the stunningly classic flavor profile. It is exceptionally well-structured; the tannins and acidity strike an interwoven harmony that deftly binds everything together without coming off as too "grippy" or "tight". This is enjoyable now with a few hours of airtime, or in 5-7 years with some lamb sausage.

2014 Valderiz Ribera del Duero
Review Date: 08-10-2017
Deep and powerful, the 2014 release from Valderiz is classic Ribera that, for $30, drinks with a quality well beyond most Cabernet for the same price. This is staggeringly aromatic wine showing stewed black cherries, steeped plum, spice cake, cloves, mint, cedar, pine, and dark cocoa. Rich and velvety on the palate with pleasant spice and sweet tannic grip on the finish, this is beautiful and luscious on its own, or a perfect compliment to seared lamb.

2015 Talley "Rincon Vineyard" Arroyo Grande Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 05-25-2017
The Rincon bottling (from vines planted in 1984) is a bright, refreshing style with an abundance of nuances that continue to unfold as the wine opens in the glass. Starting off with crunchy apple and bright lemon, it then reveals subtle notes of honey, almond, and hazelnut, along with a wave of of tropical pineapple and pear. Mineral notes of flint and stone make an appearance toward the back end, providing the finish with beautiful freshness, salinity, and an invitation for another sip.

Mas Codina Cava Brut Reserva Penedès
Review Date: 02-02-2017
For my money, Cava like Mas Codina stands head-and-shoulders above more popular, expensive, but less polished sparkling wines. The bubbles are finer, creating a mousse-y texture on the palate, while the flavors of nectarine, baked apple, and subtle flowers are balanced and restrained in a way that avoids any cloyingness. At only $12.99, this is an incredible value with truly romantic expression perfect for any intimate occasion.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

Writer's Tears Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 01-26-2017
My first ever review on a spirit is for this beautiful, round, exceedingly smooth Irish whiskey that captivated me from the moment my nose met the aroma. This lovely, "Prohibition" style whiskey is soft and caramely with slightly briny accents and a woodsy finish that goes down warm and easy. Do not miss while this is still available.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2013 Dierberg "Dierberg Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-10-2016
This super-reliable producer of Santa Maria delivers another winner with this single-vineyard Chardonnay. It strikes a hard-won balance between the juicy pineapple, apricot, and lemon flavors, and the creamy, vanillin accents developed from careful malolactic conversion and gentle oak aging. This Chardonnay has enough acidity to enjoy on its own or with a flaky, buttery fish this summer.

2006 Taittinger "Comtes de Champagne" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 03-11-2016
The 2006 vintage of Taittinger's flagship "Comtes de Champagne" is a fabulous wine coming from a top-notch vintage. It has all the rich, creamy character that has come to define this bottling, showing ripe, white peach, raw honey, hazelnut, and buttercream on the nose. But this vintage yielded quite a lot of mineral flavor across the region, helping to provide focus among some of the more decadent flavors. Chalky minerals and laser-like acidity incorporate to give the impression of a gravity-defying tight-rope walk between acid and fruit, mineral and oak, complexity and purity. The length is surprising with its lingering notes of fig and apricot, providing an extremely pleasurable finish. Excellent.

Pierre Paillard "Les Parcelles" Grand Cru Extra Brut Bouzy Champagne
Review Date: 10-15-2015
Simultaneously delicate and well-structured, this Grand Cru Brut stands head and shoulders above a mountain of clumsy, overly sweet non-vintage Champagne. Balancing pears, lemon curd, gentle minerality, creamy texture, and saline acidity, this certified organic bottling is the roundest, cleanest entry level Champagne to impress my palate in a while. A perfect pairing with almost anything, from duck liver mousse to fried chicken.
Price: $48.99 Add To Cart
ST 91 RP 90

Antech Blanquette de Limoux Brut Nature
Review Date: 04-02-2015
Almost Chablis-like in its austerity and crispness, the Blanquette shows flavors of Granny Smith apples, seashell minerality, and Meyer lemon. The Brut Nature designation assures us that there is no additional sugar dosage in this wine's production. Perfect warm-weather quaffing, and a perfect pairing with oysters, ceviche, or whatever fresh seafood tickles your fancy.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart