February/March 2012 Wine Tasting Notes

I have been spending the last few months trying to find good QPR’s (quality to price ratios), keeping the wine budget down since I have picked up a few collectible books.  As in the past when I have done this, I have been pleasantly surprised. Often times, going off the beaten track searching out good values leads to finding gems in the rough; honest wines that actually reflect what wine should reflect…a sense of place, a personal reflection of the intertwined relationship of the vineyard and the winemaker. I love a good Lafite, Yquem, DRC, Conterno Monfortino and Sine Qua Non as much as the next guy (and you will see some ‘high end’ wines below), but if you want to taste wine at a more personal level, as well as saving a ton of dollars, do some research and find some QPR wines such as some that are intertwined down below.

{Ed. Note: You can use Wine Searcher to find these wines, if they are available on the market.}

2008 Sine Qua Non Grenache THE Line (USA, California, Central Coast): I thought this was fantastic. All the normal things you expect from SQN, but this one, compared to the prior few vintages, seems much more smooth on the palate and finish with no hard edges, contained alcohol, etc. Great fruit, nice depth, good acidity. A great American wine from one of it’s greatest wine makers.  Wine Advocate gave it a 97+, Wine Spectator a 95, IWC a 94. I give it a 95 with upside potential.  At $255, not a QPR, though one can argue so against Old World wines of the same quality. Less expensive on the mailing list, but I have been waiting nearly ten years and have still not made it!

2006 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): Very young. Very good. Lots of cherries, baking spices and good acidity. Needs to develop more complexity, but with the stuffing here I am sure that will come in time. Great finish. Marcassin  is arguably America’s premier producer of Pinot Noir with a 5+ year wait list.  This one reminds me why. It has everything. Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator give this a 96. I would give this a 94 with excellent upside potential.  At $125 on the mailing list, an incredible deal, believe it or not, when compared to Red Burgundy of equal stature.

2007 Scherrer Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley): Damn this was good. Blue and black fruits galore, but also hints of tobacco, cedar and herbs. Very elegant, what CA cabs should be. Fred Scherrer has always marched to his own drummer, never buying into the heavy, extracted trend that has dominated New World producers the less decade or two. The result is wines with complexity, less alcohol than many peers, and an honesty that rewards drinking from every bottle. I give this a 94, which at $35, is as good as you can get for a Sonoma or Napa Cab. The wine has years to go, so can buy plenty.

1999 E. Fuligni (Cottimelli) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino):  One of my favorite wines of the last couple months. Full bodied, almost rich, yet still somewhat classic in style. Lots of red fruit, earth, some spice, a long finish. I felt like I was in Tuscany.  Wine Spectator gave this a 99, Wine Advocate a 92. I would say 94, with many years left.  At $80-100, not a QPR, but good for a special night.

1998 Krug Champagne Brut (France, Champagne): Lovely stuff. Nice light gold color. Lots of citrus, honey and nuts. Beautiful and quenching acidity. Could drink this day in and day out. Krug is the greatest champagne in the world, in my opinion (with Salon sometimes running close).  Yes, not a QPR at $225, but for a special night (a friend opened this on his 40th), always fantastic to have. I would give this a 93.

2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard (USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): I have been somewhat harsh on Kosta Browne lately.  I loved their early years, but felt the last handful of years they were too extracted.  However, this is the most impressive KB I have had in 5 years. Ruby purple, nice spicy, fruit filled nose. Red and blue fruits, reasonably restrained, nice finish. I would give it a 93. Wine Spectator gave it a 94, and IWC a 93.  Not exactly a QPR at $72, but not outrageous for the quality of this RRV fruit.

2003 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape (France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape): Compared to 2.5 years ago, the fruit has dampened down some and the more traditional scents and flavors are tang over. Very savage, leather, spice, but still nice raspberry fruit. Very nice, though like many 2003’s from Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CdP), I do not think this will stay in a good window more than 3-5 more years. Always one of my favorite CdP’s in that they retain a sense of old school restraint, and a sense of decent pricing at $50-60.  Wine Spectator gave this a 96, IWC a 94, Wine Advocate a 93. I would give it a 92, and recommend it.

1992 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac): In a nice spot. Classic Bordeaux, more old school in nature. Tobacco, currant, leather, earthy….med/full body, still some life left. Wine Spectator only gave this an 84 and Wine Advocate an 89…I thought it was much better, a 92.  And, since this is an off vintage, at ‘only’ $75, a QPR!

2009 Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) Fleurie (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Fleurie): Damn this is good. As like 5 months ago, great fruit, minerality and acidity. Really fantastic, great QPR at $18. Probably 3-5 years left, but I only have 1 left, unfortunately. Wine Advocate gives this a 93, Wine Spectator an 88. I would give it a 92.  Buy some!

2009 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes Clos des Briords (France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine): Same notes as a few months ago… It remains a mystery to me how wines this good, this inexpensive, are not the talk of the town. Nice citrus, creamy yet outstanding acidity, salinity and minerality, etc. All for $13. Wow. One of the best and most versatile whites one could hope to have at a steal of a price. I would give this a 92, as did Wine Advocate and IWC.

2010 Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble (USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley): Nice wine, good pinot characteristics, without being bludgeoning with too much alcohol or extraction. Very nice with food, lots of acidity, good blue and black fruits, nice spice. Excellent QPR and ‘budget’ pinot from this outstanding producer. I would give this a 91, and at under $25,  worth seeking out.

2004 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard “High Slopes” (USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): This has not moved an inch in the last 2.5 years. Still youthful, lots of dark fruits and spice. If it can develop some additional complexity with another few years in the bottle, it could really, really become great. High Slopes was always my favorite Scherrer pinot, and now I am down to only a couple of these left.  I would give this a 91, as did IWC. Probably about $60 now.

2006 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir ‘Big Brother’ (USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Black cherry, blackberry, good spice and floral notes. Dark ruby. Still very young and will improve with more age. A ‘bigger’ than normal Scherrer, but a pleasure to drink with gorgeous fruit.  About $45, I would give it a 91.

2006 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Another great Scherrer, this one from a tough vintage.  In a very nice spot, though still has many years ahead. Lots of dark cherry, maybe some pomegranate, cloves, nutmeg, etc. Very tasty to drink, the bottle goes quickly. Nice acidity. At a bit under $40, a no-brainer. I would give this a 91.

2009 Château Lamery Superior (France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée): I am certainly changing my thoughts about how good $20 bottles of Bordeaux can be, having been on a good winning streak. Here is another providing taste, complexity and depth well beyond its price range. Medium bodied, 13% alcohol, with a nice dark violet hue, it has a young, classic Bordeaux nose and is awash with fresh fruit flavors, along with wood spice. It has a decent finish and gets better with 24 hours of air time. A bit too much ‘band-aid’ on the nose initially, but that blew off after some hours. I would give it 90 or 91 points. Highly recommended for the $20 price.

2009 Giorgio Pelissero Barbera d’Alba Piani (Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d’Alba): Lots of blue and black fruits. Some floral notes. Good acidity. Well worth tracking down, very tasty. Wine Advocate gave it a 93, IWC a 91. I would say a 90. About $25.

2009 Podere San Cristoforo Carandelle Maremma Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana IGT): Nice. Feminine. Light cherry, flowers, minerality. Young, with very good acidity. Excellent with food. Better as the night went on. Great QPR. Wine Advocate gave this a 92, IWC a 90. I would give it an 89 and recommend it highly for a nicely priced ($18) Tuscan Sangiovese.

2008 Château Guibeau Grand Vin Saint Emilion Grand Cru (France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Côtes de Castillon): An absolute excellent bargain. Very nice Saint Emilion, lots of mineral infused, gritty cherry flavors. Medium bodied, good acidity, nice finish. Easy to drink, food friendly, should buy this by the case. $14, are you kidding?  Buy lots of this! I would give it an 89.

2007 Roar Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands): A big wine, still reasonably young. Dark fruits, some floral notes. Just too much. If it could just mellow a bit, allowing some other complexity to come through, it would be great…but as it is now, there is just too much (of a good thing). Wine Advocate gave it a 94, Wine Spectator a 91. I would give it an 89, with upside potential. One of my favorite producers. This costs about $55 from the mail list.

2010 Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon): Simpler than the 2009 from Burgaud, though very enjoyable as a quaffer. Lots of bright fruit, very fresh, decent body, some minerality. I would give it an 88. Drink in a nice spring day, which snacking on some cheese or meats.  At $14, a steal.

N.V. A. R. Lenoble Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut (France, Champagne): Decent champagne. Bread, citrus, nuts, nice round feeling, though could use just a bit more acidity. Good starter.  It is hard to find a decent, inexpensive Champagne, especially a Grand Cru. I am not sure I would say this is worth $40, but it is decent and worth trying for it’s Grand Cru fruit. I would give this an 88.

2007 Château la Caminade Cahors (France, Southwest France, Cahors): Dark red/black. Light/medium bodied, nice red fruit. Good minerality and acidity, nice value. About $20. I would give it an 88 and recommend it, especially if you have never had a Cahors before.

2009 Château Martinat (France, Bordeaux, Côtes de Bourg): One thing amazing about this <$20 bottle is the nose is damn near the same as most $200 bottles — really nice, classic Bordeaux nose. Pretty decent on the palate, though a bit hallow on the mid palate. Good red fruit. Medium bodied, good acidity, not very long finish. At $17, certainly recommended for a Bordeaux.  I would give it an 87.

2009 Château Pierre de Montignac (France, Bordeaux, Médoc): This is a big bruiser of a wine. Very dark, almost black, very good and typical Bordeaux nose. Huge on the palate, gobs of dark fruit, hints of vanilla and altogether too much smoky oak. Actually very good for its price ($20), especially in terms of the stuffing it has, almost certainly to get better in the coming years, especially if some of the smoke taste goes away. I would give this an 87.

2009 Domaine Robert Arnoux Nuits St. Georges (France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges): Simple, but tasty and young…perhaps some improvement ahead. Lots of sour red fruit. Another $25 bottle, which is about as inexpensive as you can get for a Côte de Nuits, it is decentbut not so much to make you wonder why you spend much, much more for other Burgundies. I would give it an 87. I would not mind trying again in a few years.

2009 Jérôme Chezeaux Bourgogne (France, Burgundy, Bourgogne): About what you could hope for at this price point. Good fruit, not a lot else. Still, a decent easy drinker. Even less expensive than the Arnoux at $16 and comes in about an 86.

2007 Antichi Vinai Sicilia IGT (Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT):  Normally a fan of Nero d’Avola, to the point of it usually being my QPR go-to wine, this one just did not do it for me. It is good, though only to a degree. I found it a bit too tart, with some metallic hints that were very distracting. Still with some air, and with food, it went down easy enough with some enjoyment. At $25, there are better Nero’s to be had. I would give it an 84.

3 thoughts on “February/March 2012 Wine Tasting Notes

  1. Thanks for your comments. I will have to seek out Piron’s Cote du Py, sounds good. I will certainly search out the 2004 Barone Cornacchia Vigna Le Coste Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, it sounds right up my alley. I have to say on Nero d’Avola, it is rare I find one that blows me away, but I almost always like them, they just seem to be able to convey place a bit better then most, especially when left to speak for itself. I had a 2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola Siccagno Sicilia IGT this weekend, at $32 a bit more than many Nero’s, but I found it fantastic. I also like Passopisciaro, Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Il Quadro delle Rose Feudo di Mezzo and like some of the Gulfi’s. Let me know of any you recommend.

    1. I’ve had difficulty tracking down the 2004 Barone Cornacchia Le Coste lately, but I am eager to see if the 2006 lives up to its older sibling. We are already kind of entering the too-hot-to-ship weather in my area though, so I may have to wait.

      I will be sure to give the 2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola a whirl as well. As for myself, I don’t really have a favorite producer of the grape. I lived and worked in Rome for a few months a while ago and Nero d’Avola was the wine I went to most consistently because I was on a budget and the wines always over delivered. Although I tried a number of producers, my note taking was poor at the time and the names haven’t stuck in my memory. I think you and I have a similar evaluation of the varietel though and it’s definitely a grape that I need to get back to in the next few months.

  2. Yes, I’d say that Beajoulais Cru in general is a fantastic steal. I had Chermette’s 2009 Fleurie the other night and would score it low-90s. For under $25 I was quite pleased. Piron’s Cote du Py is even cheaper. Less elegant than Chermette’s Fleurie but also possessing better aging potential and more body. I’ve got a couple Regnies and Moulin a Vents waiting for me in the basement and I have high hopes that they will prove to be solid QPRs too.

    You mention Nero d’Avola. What have been some of your favorites? I’m a fan not only of that grape, but of several of the lesser-known Italian varieties. At the very least they tend to be interesting. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Aglianico spring to mind. The 2004 Barone Cornacchia Vigna Le Coste Montepulciano d’Abruzzo might be the best QPR I found over 2009-2010.

    Keep up the notes! I’m not sure what you have upcoming, but on my end, I’m working my way through a series of Kabinetts (yet again, a great avenue in the search for QPRs), Alsatian Whites, and RM champagnes. It promises to be an excellent summer!

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