This is the fourth installment, in a series of five, catching up on providing tasting notes of wines tasted in 2013. See here, here and here for the first three installments. This set is topped by a handful of cult wines that are nearly impossible to get and very expensive if you do find them. Yet, for special occasions, well worth seeking out. Especially the 2009 Sine Qua Non Grenache Upside Down, the 2007 Marcassin Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard, the 1982 Château Gruaud Larose and the 1995 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Maxim. A new find for me are pinot’s made of fruit from Oppenlander Vineyard in Mendocino County, especially from Baxter Vineyards. Reasonably priced and made in an old world fashion where fruit is only part of the equation, and where alcohol is kept well in check. There are not a lot of good value wines to recommend in this set, except the 2012 Ochota Barrels ‘the green room’ (a very exciting up and coming Australian winery), the 2005 Stéphane et Vincent Perraud Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Granite de Clisson (excellent white for those wanting anything but a Chardonnay), and the 2011 Alain Gautheron Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourneaux (excellent for those wanting a Chardonnay that is not oaked to death). Without further adieu, the notes:
2009 Sine Qua Non Grenache Upside Down (California, Central Coast): From the master, Manfred Krankl, whose Sine Qua Non (SQN) is the wine to have, if you can find and/or afford it. Lots and lots of red and blue fruits, spices and herbs. Really a flavor explosion on the palate. Just the tiniest bit of heat. Young and exuberant, enough acid to pull it all together. Great stuff. Wine Advocate gives this a 94-96, IWC a 95, which I agree with. North of $200, but not recommending SQN would be sacrilegious. Save and buy, or split with friends, for a special wine on a special night.
2007 Marcassin Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Finally a Marcassin Chardonnay that I liked as much as I hoped to. Perhaps I usually drink these too young? This one was still a baby, but evolved wonderfully over a couple hours. Oak was there, but only in a proper supporting role. Lemon, marshmallow and what I think of as rocky minerality was there with good acidity. Really, really good. Wine Advocate gives this a 96+, Wine Spectator a 93. I give it a 95. $75 on release, at which price certainly recommended. At the $200 current price, I would never spend that much on a Chardonnay (sorry white Burg people, goes for you also!), but if you are a Chardonnay fan it does not get much better than this.
1995 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Maxim (France, Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape): One of the rarest wines on the planet. The one previous bottle I was able to partake in a few years back was my second favorite wine of all time. This time? Not as good as the previous bottle, but still very good, with lots of dark fruit and pepper with chewy, good tannins. Plenty of years left. This will cost you well over $300 if you can find it, which you will not!
2004 J. Rochioli Pinot Noir West Block (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Still amazingly young, but has shed the tons of baby fat from years past. Reminds me why I once loved this style. Big, but as if it had a carb free diet the last month, devoid of excess baggage making it full of luscious red fruit and all spice, with even some mushroom like hints sneaking in. Surprised, but no way around saying this rocked. Wine Advocate gave this a 96-98, Wine Spectator a 96, IWC a 91. I would give it a 94. To find one at this point will set you back more than $150, and since I get some variation in these, at that price, hard to recommend. However, it is a great wine.
2007 Baxter Pinot Noir Oppenlander Vineyard (California, North Coast, Mendocino County): First time with this producer and for this vineyard, and it was awesome. Excellent wine, great depth, lots of character with minerality and spice. Great food wine with lots of acidity. IWC gives this a 90. I would give this a 94. Around $50, highly recommended.
2009 Baxter Pinot Noir Oppenlander Vineyard (California, North Coast, Mendocino County): I liked the 2007 so much, I thought I should try the 2009. As mentioned in the 2007 notes, I had never had Baxter before, or an wines from Oppenlander fruit, but will seek them out from here on out. Great stuff. Over-used, and usually incorrectly, but lots of Burgundian character. $50. I would give this a 94. Highly Recommended.
2005 Château Faugères Cuvée Spéciale Péby (France, Bordeaux, St. Émilion): A cross between a Napa cab and Bordeaux in that the nose was nicely reminiscent of Bordeaux, with lots of tobacco and leather notes, with a big California type palate. Young and almost too big, but never crossed over the line. This will be great in a few more years, though already is approaching that level. Wine Advocate says 94, Wine Spectator 95 and IWC 92. I would say 94. About $100. This is good now and will improve for another decade, so recommended for a world class Bordeaux that California wine lovers will like.
1982 Château Gruaud Larose (France, Bordeaux, St. Julien): A previous bottle of this a few years back was my favorite wine of all time. Could I get lucky twice? Nope. Very good, though not nearly as exciting as the last one. Lots of life left, big fruit, lots of leather and cedar, one amazing nose. Very good acidity, nice finish. All good, just lacked the wow factor I got from it last time. Wine Advocate gave this a 98, IWC and Wine Spectator a 94. This bottle I would give a 93. Will cost you north of $350 to find one now, but in the one in ten chance of being as good as the first I got, I would recommend going into bankruptcy for it, if needed.
2009 Château Raymond-Lafon (France, Sauternes): Very young but very enjoyable. Lots of apricot and lemony honey, enough acidity to keep it from cloying, went perfect with seared foie gras. Wine Advocate gave this a 93, IWC a 92-95 and World of Fine Wine an 18 (of 20). I would give it a 93. Young, but recommended, especially at the $25 price point for a half bottle.
1994 Graham Porto Vintage (Portugal, Douro): Lots of dark fig and plum, some caramel and nuts. Nice finish. Getting there but seems like another few years will help. Wine Advocate gave this a 98, Wine Spectator a 95 and Ray Hersh a 95+. I go 93. From $80-100. Recommended as I think it will only get better, and it is one of the great port houses of all time.
2006 Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir (California, North Coast, Mendocino County): Excellent QPR for $26. Bigger than the Baxter version, but still very nice. Little cola flavors, lots of dark blue fruits. I would give this a 92, and I am officially a fan of Oppenlander Vineyard.
2012 Ochota Barrels the green room (Australia, McLaren Vale): Seriously, McLaren Vale? Wow, this is damn good stuff. As fresh and pure as it comes, simply delicious, with emphasis on fresh red fruit, minerality and spice. Will buy a bunch next time it is offered. This is an emerging cult winery of sorts, buy it now while it is affordable. IWC gave it a 90, I would go 92+. About $35, though hard to find. Recommended.
2007 Scherrer Winery Pinot Noir Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): More refined then the last bottle I had a couple years ago. Really held up well next to the wonderful and much more expensive 04 Rochioli West Block. Lots of red and blue fruit, though still too young as secondary elements, which I am sure exist, are still sleeping. This will be outstanding in 5+ years. IWC gave this a 91, I would say 92. $60. Recommended.
2005 Stéphane et Vincent Perraud Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Granite de Clisson (France, Loire Valley, Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine): Marvelous light wine, interesting flavors, lots of fun. Would love to have a case of this for the next couple summers. I would give it a 91, and at $16, recommended.
2006 Antica Terra Pinot Noir Botanica (Oregon, Willamette Valley): A bit hot when served too warm, but when cooled down and given some time to breath, nice classic Pinot notes emerge. Lots of blue fruits, but some spice and even mushroom type notes made it interesting. Wine Advocate gave this a 92, IWC a 91, I would go 90+. $60. I like this producer, from Maggie Harrison, former assistant at Sine Qua Non, so recommended.
2009 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul (France, Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape): Very dark, sort of traditional nose though figgy/jammy more than classic. Big on the palate, dark blue fruit, some barnyard type hints. Very good but not one of their better efforts. IWC gives this a 93, Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator a 92. I give it a 90. There are many vintages of this easy to recommend, but this one is a pass at the current $70.
2011 Alain Gautheron Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourneaux (France, Burgundy, Chablis): Crisp, young and lean, lots of minerality with a hint of lemon. Went well with crab and melons. I would give this a 90, and at $26, a very good value. Recommended.
2010 Roar Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands (California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands): Textbook ‘big’ Central Coast pinot. Lots of dark red/blue fruits, hints of all spice, a bit of heat, almost a hint of being sweet. Easy enough and pleasant to drink, but certainly not their best offering. Wine Advocate gave it an 88, I would say 89. $50-60. Not bad, but Pass.
2009 Aubert Pinot Noir UV Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Great, large fruit, though still a bit disjointed, and I am skeptical that the size will ever allow the heat to go away. None-the-less, a pleasure to drink, just lacking the extra complexity that a more deft take on this would allow. Wine Advocate gave this a 93, I would go 88. At an $80 release price, or the current $125 market price, pass.
1971 Stumpf-Fitz’sches Riesling Hallgarten Selection (Germany, Pfalz): Still alive and kicking, though certainly on the decline. Dark gold, hints of brown, light on its feet, good sweetness left. Starting to lose some zip, but interesting to drink. I would give it an 88. Never will find another one, so who cares if I recommend or not.
2010 Domaine du Murinais Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée les Amandiers (France, Northern Rhone, Crozes Hermitage): Perhaps not in a great spot, but promising in terms of floral notes and minerality. Just currently a bit too thin for me, hoping it flushes out some. A bit under $20. I would give it an 87.
2007 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Rouge (France, Jura): I like zippy wines as much as anyone, but this has more acid than a 60’s hippie convention. I am still searching for a dentist to replace the enamel on my teeth. Yes, this wine will outlast me, and probably my future grandchildren, but I wonder if it will ever tone down some to let the elegant light red fruit be enjoyed. I don’t know how the hell to score this as future potential seemingly will get it up to the high 80’s, but now…. I would kindly give this an 86. Just over $20, pass unless you want to hold and try in 50 years.
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé (France, Champagne): I drink this often, as a usually very good rose Champagne. For whatever reason, this one was just ok. Normal color and nose, but just a bit shallow. IWC gives this a 92, I would go 86. Pass at $70.
1999 Mailly Grand Cru Champagne L’Exception (France, Champagne): Marginal. No deep notes, but it was okay, reasonably crisp with typical citrus notes…but did not excite me at all. I would give it an 86, and at $65, an easy pass.
2009 Château Margüi Côteaux Varois (France, Provence): I wanted to like this, but it was just average. In fairness, if any bottle ever had bottle shock prior to opening, it was this one. I would give it an 86. $19.
2009 Château La Haie (France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux): Nicely balanced, but a balance of not much beyond average material. Okay for the price. Could use a bit more backbone. I would give this an 86. $17.
2010 Bünchen Riesling Spätlese (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): Decent QPR at $14; a bit too sweet, lacking enough acidity. But refreshing on a warm afternoon. I would give this an 86.
2010 Saxum Broken Stones (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Why do I keep buying this year in and year out? I know it is sacrilegious to say this about any Saxum, but come on. While this has excellent tasty fruit if you chew on the wine, it is simply hot and out of balance, and comes with slight bitterness on the finish. It is not just stylistic to me, I like plenty of big wines, but I simply do not get it on this one. Again, yes it is tasty, but scratch the veneer of that and ????. Wine Advocate gave this a 92-94, IWC a 94. I would go 85. $80 release price, now around $120. Pass.