It has been since September 2012 since I last posted tasting notes, so the list of wines consumed since then is quite long! So long, that I will provides notes in installments over the coming weeks. This is installment #1, in which there are only a couple of really outstanding wines (the Schrader especially, though also Saxum and Copain should be called out), but quiet a few that are very good. Not many great values in this list however, with the exception of the 2008 Cien y Pico Manchuela Doble Pasta, the 2005 Gulfi Nerosanlorè Sicilia, the 2009 Marcel Lapierre Morgon and the 2010 Domaine Jean Royer Le Petit Domaine Le Petit Roy. As before, I recommend the use of Wine Searcher to find wines at the best price.
2005 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon CCS Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard (California, Napa Valley, Oakville): From one of the premier Cabernet producers in the United States, this is an excellent wine, just entering its drinking window, IMHO. Great fruit, even better spice, pepper, leather, etc., with a long finish. Great stuff. Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator say 95 points, and for once I agree with them both. $95 on release, though now it will cost you north of $400 to acquire one.
2009 Copain Pinot Noir “En Bas” Kiser (California, North Coast, Anderson Valley): Excellent, lots of minerality, very fresh and vibrant. A couple years to round out and give some more depth could make this extraordinary. Wine Advocate gave this a 94, IWC a 92, I will split the difference and say 93. $65-75, recommended. I wish more California Pinot producers would take this approach of finding balance, not just fruit and alcohol clobbering you.
2008 Cien y Pico Manchuela Doble Pasta (Spain, Castilla La Mancha, Manchuela): This is outstanding Grenache fruit, tempered by reasonable alcohol that really lets the fruit shine through…simply enjoyable, actually excellent with pasta and red sauce, having enough acidity to work well. Bravo! IWC gives this a 91, I give it a 93 and at $20, highly recommended.
2007 Saxum Broken Stones (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Big, but very well made with lots of amazing fruit, with tiny hints of meat and spice. Really round and full, a pleasant drinking experience. I know these are always given long drinking windows by the critics, but I do not buy that they improve much — of course, damn good now so who cares. Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator gave this a 96, IWC a 95. I would go 93. At the $45 release price an easy recommendation. At the current rate of about $150, unless you like huge wines, pass.
2006 Marcassin Pinot Noir Blue-Slide Ridge Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): From America’s most sought after and hard to get Pinot producer. Excellent nose with lots of forest floor and spice, along with the dark fruits. Did not quite follow through to the palate however…very good, gobs of fruit and some spice, but not complex enough and simply too big. Maybe too young? Wine Spectator gave this a 96, Wine Advocate a 95. I would give it a 92. $125 release price, now going for about $225. Hard to recommend at that price, so will not, but by all means drink with reckless abandon if someone offers you some.
2008 No Girls Wines Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Improving…lots more delicious funk, improving finish. Should be just marvelous in another year or two. Wine Advocate gives it a 93, which I agree with. At the $50 release price, recommended. At the $150 current market price, do not buy it, but find someone you can mooch it off of so you do not miss out.
2003 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard “High Slopes” (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): From magnum. In a perfect spot, though I do not think any improvement is ahead. Excellent, well integrated fruit, spice and acidity; wonderful with duck confit. I would give this a 93. Around $40 on release, hard to find now. Recommended.
2005 Gulfi Nerosanlorè Sicilia IGT (Italy, Sicily): Outstanding wine, firing on all cylinders. Will still age nicely for a number of years, probably with some improvement, but it is a very happy drinker right now. Blue fruits and Sicilian terroir run rampant. Wine Advocate gave this a 95. I would say 93, but still, at the $40 release price, highly recommended.
2009 Marcel Lapierre Morgon (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon): Nearly the same as 18 months ago, just not quite as fresh or vibrant, but damn good. Wine Advocate gives this a 93+, IWC and Wine Library TV a 92. I agree with 92. Hard to find now, but at the $25 release price, highly recommended.
2010 Roar Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands): One of the more enjoyable Roar’s from the last handful of years. This has a ‘yummy’ factor — it simply tastes good. Lots of red fruit, as expected, but some spice, a bit of earth and some light toast round it out. Good finish. Certainly a crowd pleaser. Wine Advocate gives this an 89, I would go 92. $50. Somewhat recommended.
2006 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Big Brother (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Getting even better as the years march on. Black cherry, blackberry, good spice and floral notes. Should continue to improve for a while, still pretty young. Wish I had more, but went through my entire half case in the last 18 months. This got a 91 from IWC, I would go 92. About $50. Recommended.
2008 Scherrer Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Scherrer Vineyards (California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley): Okay on day one but just fantastic in day 2. Really opened up with loads of tobacco and mint adding an interesting and complex touch to the deep blue fruit. I would go 92+. Really nice finish. At around $40, a steal for a cab of this quality. Recommended.
2009 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): What can I say? Consistently good, half a decade now as my favorite go to ‘weekly’ RRV pinot. Scherrer remains my go to Sonoma wine, for world class wines at reasonable prices. IWC gives this a 91. I would go 92. At $40, recommended.
2008 DuMOL Pinot Noir Finn (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Very tasty, with lots of red and blue fruit and some damp earth notes. A bit heavy on the fruit so after a couple glasses it got a bit tiring…but, those two glasses sure were good! I would give this a 91+, but at $80, probably a pass.
1998 Henriot Champagne Brut Millésimé (France, Champagne): Lots of citrus, apple and bread dough; fine stream of bubbles with a great mouthfeel, refreshing though could use just a bit more acidity. I would drink up. Nice. IWC gives this a 91, Champagne Warrior a 88-90, World of Fine Wine a 15.5. I would give this a 91. About $65. Somewhat recommended.
2010 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (California, Sonoma Coast): Quite a bit better than the bottle from a few months back. Not sure if just some bottle variation, or my mood when drinking it, but this one was outstanding. Fresh, excellent red fruit, a bit more full than last time, with more flavors. I would give it a 91. $50. Somewhat recommended.
2003 Robert Foley Claret (California, Napa Valley): Spectacular initially, with huge dusty blue and black fruit, sweet tannins, hints of leather and cigar. Score is not higher only because it got tiring after a glass and a half. But, very good and would show wonderfully in a blind tasting. Wine Advocate gave this a 96, Wine Spectator a 95, IWC a 94. I would go 91. Now selling for about $150, I would pass though if you like huge Cabernet blends, making friends with someone that has this is a good idea.
2010 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): This is very nice for a young KB. No question that the fruit is good, but what I like is it seems just a tad more tame, allowing some spice and dare I say even mushroom like notes to show. Not bad at all. IWC gives it a 91, as would I. $58 on release, now about $125. Recommended at the release price, not at the current market price.
2008 No Girls Wines Syrah La Paciencia Vineyard (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Another good No Girls…good blue fruits with lots of funky potpourri, spice and earth. Good acidity, easy to drink. I would give this a 91. $55 release price, but now $125 and up. Hard to recommend at that price, so will not…but, get on the damn mail list!
2005 Tatiarra Shiraz Pressings Caravan of Dreams (Australia, Heathcote): Quite a bit different from when I last had this 18 months ago. Strange to say, but it tasted younger. This thing has years to go. Main difference, fruit dominates this time around. The olive has largely disappeared. Still some tar and cocoa type hints, but blue and black fruit abounds. Would be interesting to check back in a few years, hopefully some non-fruit characteristics will come flying back, and my guess is they will. This is high quality, and built for the long haul, though enjoyable now. I would give it a 90. Around $60. Because I think it will improve with more age, I would somewhat recommend.
2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills): Young, but ready to drink. Lots of bright red and blue fruit. Very tasty and fun to drink. Hopefully well develop a few more traits in a few years. Wine Advocate gave this a 93, IWC a 90. I agree with 90. $50 on release, hard to find now. Somewhat recommended.
2002 Kilikanoon Shiraz Oracle (Australia, South Australia, Clare Valley): Well made. Big and dark, tar, cocoa, dark fruit, pretty well integrated. Some sort of x factor prevents it from being really outstanding, cannot put my finger on it. Good, not great. Wine Advocate gave this a 97, IWC a 90. I agree with IWC. At $50 on release, worth getting. At around $80 these days, pass.
2001 Château Pavie Decesse (France, Bordeaux, St. Émilion Grand Cru): Outstanding nose, initially lots of funk, lifting to gove a traditional-ish Bordeaux nose, surprisingly for a Pavie Decesse, the fruit was subdued and it just seems slightly disjointed. Still enjoyable, perhaps an awkward stage? Wine Advocate gives this a 95, IWC an 89. I would give it a 90. At around $100, a pass.
2008 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir Beaux Frères Vineyard (Oregon, Willamette Valley, Ribbon Ridge): Good, with decent potential to become near excellent, especially with the acidity and bright red fruit. Young, but happy with it. IWC gave this a 94, Wine Spectator a 93. I would go 90, with potential to improve. At the $65 release price, somewhat recommended.
2010 Domaine Jean Royer Le Petit Domaine Le Petit Roy (France, Vin de Table): From Magnum. Did not wow me as much today as last time, but still damn good for the price. A bit lighter than I remember and slightly tart. Still, good depth, nice fruit, some meaty elements, etc. I would give this a 90. At $15-20 for a 750ml bottle, a steal. Recommended.
2007 Domaine Saint-Damien Gigondas Vieilles Vignes (France, Southern Rhone, Gigondas): On the plus side, this was very balanced and a very good reflection of Southern Rhone typicity. Lots of dark fruits, but tamed and not jammy, with good amounts of secondary aroma and flavors, such as raw beef, charcoal and even some ‘rocky’ minerality. The only thing preventing this from being extraordinary is…..try as I might, I could just not get the wow factor out of it. Seemed perfectly well made, no flaws, etc. Perhaps too well made, so missing its own soul? Or, probably more likely, just needs some time to add some more depth? In any case, a very good wine, recommended for the price, and I am optimistic that this could really be something in 5-10 years. This got a 95+ from Wine Advocate and a 91 from IWC. I would give it a 90+. At $40, I would somewhat recommend, but give it a few more years.
2010 Bernard Vallette Beaujolais Quatre Saisons (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais): Very quaffable, nice cherry and mineral/iodine notes. I would give it an 89, and recommend as a nice bargain at $16.
2004 Brancaia Il Blu Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany): I wanted to like this — it had some nice rustic and herb notes to go with some dark fruit and tar, with decent acidity…..but, it just did not sing to me. Seemed well made, but just not together, and I am not convinced time will bring it into being. Either in a strange place, or it is overpriced. Wine Spectator gave this a 96, Wine Advocate a 94. I would go 89, and at $70 would pass.
2009 Epoch Estate Wines Syrah Block B Paderewski Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Big and ripe. Reasonably well balanced for its weight, lots of dark fruit and smoked meats. However, just too much concentration IMO, keeps this from having the complexity it might otherwise have — that, and a bit too young, though I am not convinced how that these will last an extra long time. Wine Advocate gave this a 94-96, IWC a 92, and Wine Spectator a 91. I would give it an 89. $70 on release. I would pass, though if you like huge wines, you may like this.
2010 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands (California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands): Not at all bad…big as you would expect, with nice fruit profile, standard KB cola, maybe a bit of licorice. Fun to drink. IWC gives it a 91, I would go 89. $60 release price, now trading at about $100. At that price, pass.
2007 Martinelli Pinot Noir Blue Slide Ridge (California, Sonoma Coast): Well made, nut all around just too big. Yes, I know it is BSR, and that is what one should expect….but I found it slightly out of balance, a huge mouthfeel which does not feel right to me in a Pinot, lots of alcohol. Yet, no arguing that it tastes good. Wine Advocate and IWC give this a94, I would go 88. Hard to find now, but will cost you at least $100. At that price, pass.
2010 Roar Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands) Too young, but decent stuffing with some promise. Fruit subdued a bit for now, but with some air time comes out as fresh dark red fruit, with some dusty spice elements. Not sure if it will ever be extraordinary, but promises to be quite good. Wine Advocate gave this a 91, I would go 88, though expect it to improve with time. $60-70, somewhat recommended.
2005 Château la Bienfaisance (France, Bordeaux, St. Émilion Grand Cru): Not as good as 4 months ago — perhaps had overrated it before. I still get dark fruit and some hints of stone, earth and tobacco…but just hints, making this very one dimensional. Still think it is decent fruit, and tastes pretty good, but is not going to be any better than a decent quaffer. Wine Advocate gave this a 92, IWC 88-91, Wine Library TV an 88. I would give it an 87. Now runs about $40, at which price I would pass.
2008 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Skeveldra (France, Loire Valley, Sancerre): I have to say I am liking this more than the previous couple bottles from 1 and 2 years back…tells me in time, this could actually be very, very good. Yes, still funky weird, but actually getting some SB typicity now, with very fruit and acidity. If I had any left, which I do not, I would sit on this for another 2-3 years before trying the next — though certainly drinkable now. I would give this an 87. $40+, pass, unless you like experimenting with things that may expand your horizon for better or worse.
2000 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile (France, Alsace): Somewhat quenching, but not quite enough acidity, even though this was not real sweet. Some citrus and light honey. IWC gives this a 92, I would say 87. At $40, I would probably pass.
2008 Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Balciana (Italy, Marche): Okay, but not a huge fan. Not enough acidity, IMO, to match the sweetness. Because of that, some of the notes that were there, such as honey, flowers and pears, were overshadowed. On the cold side however, it was better. Wine Advocate gave it a 93, I go 87. A bit over $20. Pass.
2006 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Morellino di Scansano Riserva Poggio Valente (Italy, Tuscany, Maremma): I could be kind and say this is too young, which it probably is….but, not enough here to make me think it will fill out enough. Red and blue fruit, but a bit hallow. Some earthiness which was pleasant. Wine Advocate gives it a 92, Wine Spectator a 91, IWC an 89. I would give it an 86. I like the producer usually, but for this one at $25, pass.
1998 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame (France, Champagne): This did not do it for me. Too fruity, not enough acidity and frankly, plain. I usually like La Grande Dame, but the 98 does not seem for me. IWC gives it a 92, Champagne Warrior 88-90, World of Fie Wine a 16 (of 20). I would go 85. At $110+, an easy pass. The great lady must be rolling in her grave if this is what they are putting out now (in fairness, the 1996 was pretty good).