This is installment three, in what will be a series of four, catching up on providing tasting notes of wines tasted in 2013. The nice thing about this installment is the large number of truly excellent, world class wines that are reasonably priced. You almost cannot go wrong on any of the below wines. On the higher end, the NV Coessens Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut Largillier is one of the best non-vintage champagnes I have had in years. Sure, $50 or so dollars, but this is as good as many of the more famous houses that will set you back 3x or more money. the 2007 Clos du Mont-Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Cuvée du Papet is outstanding, as it should be for the cost. The 2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Duende Gold Coast Vineyard is as good of a Pinot as you can find in the United States. Get on Lato’s mail list! On the affordable side, all of the Halcon wines below are fantastic, as is the 2007 Zymé Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore, the 2011 Casal de Armán Ribeiro, the 2006 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico, the 2011 Wind Gap Wines Grenache Sceales Vineyard, the 2007 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley and the winner of the QPR (quality to price ratio) of the bunch, the stunning, $12 bottle of 2010 Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico.
Without further blabbering, the notes:
NV Coessens Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut Largillier (France, Champagne): This was absolutely fantastic — truly one of the best champagnes I have had in years. A Blanc de Noirs made from from a single cru (Ville-sur-Arce) and a special lieu-dit (Largillier) of 35+ year old vines; with excellent fruit, with substantial amounts of minerality, and an almost pinot rouge like body, yet light as a feather, announcing its presence with a near explosion of ‘here I am’ on the palate. Great acidity also. I would give this a 95. About $50-60, but for this quality of Champagne, that is a deal. Highly recommended.
2007 Clos du Mont-Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Cuvée du Papet (France, Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape): A bit on the young side, but there is a lot to like here. An incredible amount of herbs and floral notes, like sitting in Provence, mixed with scrumptuous, yet constrained, dark fruit. Excellent with goose liver pate! Wine Advocate gave this a 98, IWC a 95, I would go 94+. At the $69 release price, a steal and highly recommended. At the current $130+ price, find some friends.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Duende Gold Coast Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley): My first Lato and I am now a fan. Great stuff. Nice fresh and exuberant red fruit, floral notes, good acidity and a nice finish. Simply delicious, and with reasonable complexity. Young, but well ready to drink. 16 year old vines. Wine Advocate and IWC gave this a 93, I would go 94. $60 release price, now $75. Recommended. About as good as California Pinot gets.
1999 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis (France, Northern Rhone, Cote Rotie): In a very good spot. Dark as night. Lots of nuance, minerality, spice, dirt, tar and black fruit. Really, really good. Wine Advocate gave this a 95, IWC a 94 and Wine Spectator a 92. I would go 93, but at $130+, tough to recommend.
2006 Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Hillstone Vineyard (California, Napa Valley): Very big and rich, yet not over the top at this point. Outstanding dark fruit (currants especially), cocoa, vanilla and wood spice. Very well integrated at this point, no hurry but I doubt it will get better. Very tasty. I would give it a 93. Hard to find, probably north of $125. Pass at that price.
2011 Halcon Vineyards Esquisto Halcon Vineyards (California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands): Wonderful wine. Medium bodied, reddish-purple, feminine. Nice pepper notes complement slate-ish minerality and zippy red fruit. Nice finish. Excellent match with a filet. Will be interesting to see how this evolves. IWC gives this a 90. I would say at 93, and at $25 an excellent deal. Buy some!
2008 No Girls Wines Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Even a bit better than last time, as the funk is growing (lots of mushroom, soil, ham!, etc), good dark red fruits. Fun to drink. Doubt it will get better than it is now, but well worth the cost. Wine Advocate gives this a 93, which I agree with. At the $55 release price, buy! At the $150 current price, pass.
2007 Zymé Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore (Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella): An interesting concoction, with a very different and enticing nose of red fruits, spice, tobacco and a few things I could not put my finger on…lots going on. Nice of the palate, lots of juicy acidity, just lacking a bit of excitement, no ‘wow’ factor on the palate. I would give this a 92. A bit under $30, recommended.
2011 Wind Gap Wines Grenache Sceales Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley): As another reviewer mentioned, very lively and light on its feet. A pleasure to drink, zesty red fruits, lots of character on the palate. Good finish. Pure and not messed with, bravo. IWC gives this a 92, which I agree with. Wine Advocate goes 90. Around $36, recommended.
2011 Casal de Armán Ribeiro (Spain, Galicia, Ribiero): This rocked. Light, with oodles going on. As one mentioned, potpourri on the nose and even on the palate, especially red fruit and cinnamon. Good acidity, nice finish. For $19, are you kidding? Even better on day 2. About $20. Highly recommended.
2007 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (California, Sonoma County, Russian Rover Valley): Has put on weight in the last couple years, and is certainly in a very enjoyable, exuberant phase. Big, deep red fruit and herbs dominate. Very good with years to go. IWC gave this a 91, I would go 92. Around $40. Recommended.
2006 Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico (Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico): This is really developing into a wonderful wine. Lots of cherry fruit, minerality, acidity and a presence that is developing as it picks up a few more years. Great stuff. Even greater QPR. Wine Advocate says 92, IWC a 91. I agree with 92. At $20, a steal, buy a bunch.
2010 Brigaldara Valpolicella Classico (Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella): Now this is a QPR to me…lovely drink. Light, but full of fresh red fruits, a bit of pepper, lots of acidity and minerality. Seriously, $12? The enjoyment factor on this, especially on a warm spring evening, is very high. IWC gave this a 91, I would go 92. At $12 a huge bargain, buy a case!
1994 Theo Schmitz-Schwaab Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese #3 (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): Gold/bright yellow, lots of peaches and apple with honey. Nice body, very tasty, though could use a bit more acidity. An excellent QPR for nearly a 20 year old Spatlese. I would give it a 91. Under $25 for a 20 year old Mosel, recommended.
2011 Halcon Vineyards Prado Alder Springs (California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands): Surprised me that I liked this. Nice balance, not too viscous or oily; in fact a nice zippiness to it. Peach, apple and citrus notes; lots of floral elements. Certainly makes great summer drinking. Rhone Report gave this a 93, IWC a 91. I agree with 91. At under $25, recommended.
2011 Halcon Vineyards Syrah Alturas (California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands): Tight right now, almost certainly will grow into a larger score. Medium bodied, lots of cool climate Syrah elements just starting to wake up. Pepper again adds a distinctive note. Good acidity. Lots going on here, with just some time needed to really help it stand out. Well worth seeking out for the price. Rhone Report says 91-94, IWC a 91. I agree. At about $25, recommended.
2011 Oltretorrente Colli Tortonesi Rosso (Italy, Piedmont): Very pleasing to drink, certainly a crowd pleaser. Lots of fresh red and blue fruits with some cocoa type notes and enough acidity to be quite food friendly. I would give it a 91. At $20, recommended.
2009 Saxum James Berry Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): As expected, one big wine. Gargantuan is a word that comes to mind. Inky purple, nice menage of a nose, dark fruits, allspice, licorice, perhaps some flowers. Swirling in the mouth is an explosion of flavors. All the professional 96-98 point scores make sense…then I swallow it and the score plummets. No getting away from alcohol being the predominant component on the finish. So, a 98 point palate with an 82 finish…so 90 it is. 🙂 A glorious cocktail wine; but a marginal food wine. Wine Advocate gives this a 98, IWC a 96. I would go 90. $85 release price, though now running close to $200. At this price, pass.
2011 Cantina Rigatteri Mirau Isola dei Nuraghi IGT (Italy, Sardina): Another excellent qpr. For $20, an excellent Grenache that does not bowl you over. Excellent nose with a whole lot going on. Medium bodied at most, lots of fruit but probably even more ‘other stuff’. Very nice. At under $20, this is a good deal, I give it a 90 and encourage you to find some!
2010 Fattoria di Magliano Sinarra Maremma Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany, Maremma): Very nice, lots of red fruit with a bit of vanilla and light spice, nice presence and structure. A crowd pleaser kind of wine. IWC gives this a 91, I would go 90. About $20, recommended.
1998 Weinhofgut Anton Zimmermann Bernkastel-Kueser Weisenstein Riesling Auslese (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): At almost 15 years old (and yet still only $20), this was quite a treat. Completely awesome? No, but nicely pleasurable. Pears, citrus, lightly oily, a bit sweet. Could use just a bit more acidity. Very nice on a warm spring day. Cannot ask for much more at this price point. I would give it a 90. At $20 for 15 year old Mosel Riesling, a steal. Get some.
2009 Rudius Fion Bainise Halcon Vineyard (California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands): Very nice Grenache blend. Red fruits, a bit tart, nice acidity, very pleasant drinking. Maybe could use just a bit more body to add some flesh to it. IWC gives it a 90, I would say 89. At $40, hard to recommend or not to!
2009 Domaine Vrignaud Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume Les Vaupulans (France, Burgundy, Chablis): Nice spring drinker, probably still a couple years too young. None-the-less, nice lemon and grapefruit notes, good minerality, almost ‘stony’, with just hints of spice and other minor notes. Very nice 1st cru for the price. Wine Advocate gave this a 93, I would go 89. About $30, recommended.
2009 Château Lilian Ladouys (France, Bordeaux, St. Estèphe): Very nice wine, excellent price point. Just slightly modern, with some cocoa or coffee elements to go with the nice blue fruit and light spice. Certainly good drinking now. Wine Advocate gave this a 90, I would go 89. Still, at the $20 tariff, recommended for very good Bordeaux from a great vintage.
2009 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent La Roche (France, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent): Was expecting more, but I think it is a bit young. Good structure, though seems to need just a bit more body. Good Gamay red fruit, minerality abounds which gives it interest. Wine Advocate gave this a 93-94, IWC an 87. I would go 88. At $22, one can find better.
2010 Domaine Duseigneur Lirac Odyssée (France, Southern Rhone, Lirac): Needs more time, yet still a decent drink. Fresh, focused fruit, a bit dusty. Not overly complex, but nice and a great price. Rhone Report goes 89, IWC 87. I would go 87. About $15.
2011 Josef Bernard Kieren Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Weingut (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): Easy drinker on a hot day. Lemon and apple notes, doused with honey (especially in texture). Very nice qpr. Perhaps a bit surprisingly cloying for a Kabinett. I would give it an 87. About $15.
2007 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills): Did not do much for me, not as enjoyable as the one I had when it was younger…perhaps in a strange spot, else drink up. Dark fruits, alcohol on the nose and finish. Deep, extracted fruit awash in the mouth, though could use more acidity and some other elements. Wine Advocate gave this a 96, IWC an 89. I would go 86. About $70 on release, now $90. Pass.
1999 Azienda Agricola Sant’Elena Ros Di Ro (Italy, Friuli): Not a huge fan of this one; almost too much of a leather and cheese nose (yep!), not flawed in any way, good dark blue and black fruits, okay acidity, okay finish, but just not special and the nose was a bit off putting. I would give this an 86. Under $20. Pass.
2010 Bünchen Riesling Spätlese (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): Too cloying for me. Decent for the price, with lots of apple and citrus, but just too thick of a mouthfeel, needing more acidity. I would give this an 86. Under $15. Sort of pass, bit not bad for the price.
2010 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (California, Sonoma Coast): Did not care for this. Monolithic. Not in a good spot. Not as huge as some KB’s, which was nice, but just had nothing to say. IWC gave this a 91, I would go 85. $58 on release, $100 now. Easy pass.
2011 Gravallon-Lathuiliere Brouilly Pisse Vieille (France, Beaujolais, Brouilly)): Am generally a fan of Beaujolais, but this one did not quite cut it for me. Bright, with decent stone minerality, but not much fruit or pop. I would give this an 85. Just under $20, pass.