This is the fifth installment, in a series of five, catching up on providing tasting notes of wines tasted in 2013. See here, here, here and here for the first four installments. This set is topped by some spectacular deals in world class wines that will not break the bank. The 2004 Cirillo Grenache 1850’s Old Vine from Australia comes from some of the oldest vines on earth, pre-phylloxera vines from the 1850’s! The bottle only cost me $40 and is one of the best wines I have had all year. The 2007 Martina (Sassa) Brunello di Montalcino came in at under $30 and is one of the best Brunello’s of the vintage at any price. The 2006 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una is a wine that I have had many times, but not in the last few years. I always thought it was ‘okay’, but time has done this justice, it is now fantastic. My wife and I actually named this wine years ago when we visited the winery (they had it in barrel unnamed at the time). Glad it has kicked in! The 2009 Domaine du Vissoux / Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié is an amazing Beaujolais from the great 2009 vintage and will only set you back about $25. Finally, find some 2010 Château Vieux-Rivière, an amazing Bordeaux for $20. Those willing an able to spend more money will love the 1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia which is at a great age, firing on all cylinders. The 1984 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill may be thirty years old, but it is a youngster and is as good as it gets. Lastly, Sine Qua Non is always good (and expensive!), and the 2007 Sine Qua Non Grenache Pictures is no exception. In short, there is plenty here for everyone, and most of these will make your fine press book reading more enjoyable!
2004 Cirillo Grenache 1850’s Old Vine (Australia, South Australia, Barossa Valley): This just may be my wine of the year to this point. This is simply outstanding in every way, from the light violet hue, to the ethereal nose of dark fruits, spice and earth; to the palate, on which a myriad of flavors battle for your attention. Simply stunning. The fruit is pure as it gets, not overly concentrated, just fresh and big, but the size of it is well kept in bounds by a cornucopia of spice and earth elements. A 40 second finish, and lively acidity caps off this nearly perfect wine. At $40, this is an unbelievable bargain, especially for a wine which comes from vines planted in the 1850’s, all pre-phylloxera. Unquestionably a producer to watch, and since the wines are quite limited, better jump on them while you can. IWC gave this a 92, I would go 97. It cost me only $40, though now I cannot find anymore. Highly recommended.
1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia (California, Napa Valley): Outstanding, one of the best showing wines all year. Perfectly stored since release. Wonderful bouquet on the nose, dark fruits, herbs, some olive. Great presence on the palate, with oodles of flavors and a long finish. Simply wonderful. IWC gave a 93, Wine Advocate a 91. They are both wrong. This is a 96 rated wine! Though about $140, recommended as a wine for a special night, and an excellent example of a mature Napa Bordeaux blend.
1984 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill (California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain): This was unbelievably young and fresh for being nearly 30 years old. Very dark purple, and murky as hell, the visual of it did not bode well. But, the nose and palate quickly put any doubts to rest….this was as good as it gets. Beautiful nose of cedar, blue fruits, cigar and leather. On the palate, the fruit was fresh and vibrant with excellent acidity and a remaining tannic structure that will hold this wine for 30 more years. Nice minerality. Long finish. Wine Advocate gave this a 94, I would go 96. Will cost you $150 to track down, but for a 30 year old Napa wine with plenty of life ahead, recommended.
2007 Sine Qua Non Grenache Pictures (California): Bramble, mushroom, earth and black fruit, perhaps even some floral elements. Dark, dark purple, almost black. Nose a bit restrained initially, but opens up. A huge wine, but kept well in balance. Maybe, just maybe, a bit disappointing on the tail end, but I am looking for issues when I say that. Not the best SQN, but damn good, and probably even has some improvement ahead over the next few years. Wine Advocate gave this a 97, IWC a 95. I would go 94. Now running at least $270, at this price, there are other SQN’s I would purchase. Still, if you have the money, you cannot go wrong.
2007 Martina (Sassa) Brunello di Montalcino (Italy, Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino): An incredible value in Brunello. Lots of cherry, herbs, earth, and perhaps some aged leather. Smooth on the palate, yet fills every crevice with evolving flavor. Would love to have a case of this. Not sure it is meant to hold too long, but certainly has a fantastic 5-8 years ahead. I would give this a 94, and at just under $30, an absolute steal for a world class Brunello.
2006 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): I should have been more patient with my bottles from some years ago. This was singing — much, much better than years ago. It has flushed out, and has developed a bunch of complexity, especially herbs, spice, earthiness — while still retaining lots of vibrant, fresh fruit. Still seemed young also, has plenty of life ahead. IWC gave this a 91, I would give this a 94. $56. Recommended and not only because my wife and I actually named this wine when it was first produced!
2009 Domaine du Vissoux / Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Fleurie): This was wonderful. Lots of red fruits, cranberry, cherry, raspberry, with some floral elements and minerality. Good acidity. In a great spot. IWC and Wine Advocate give this a 91, I would go 93. At $25, highly recommended.
1997 Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone): Initially reticent and not showing much, but really opened up over the night putting on weight. Lots of spice on the palate. Good red/blue fruit. Still, I think time to drink up. I would give this a 93. Though at well over $100 if you can find it now, I would pass.
2002 Shirvington Shiraz (Australia, South Australia, McLaren Vale): Hmmmm….4 years ago I slammed this giving it an 81, completely monolithic and over the top. Now, this was delicious. I say that despite my tastes having moved much more to a lighter style over those same four years. Yes, still very big and viscous, with oaky vanilla, but this time it carries it well and also provides secondary and even tertiary aromas and flavors. Aging well. Wine Advocate gave this a 99, I would go 92+. Now will cost you north of $140, so tough to recommend at that price.
1999 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ripe al Convento (Italy, Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino): Pretty much the same as my note from a year ago. No improvement, but no decline either. Cherries, cinnamon and flowers. Very good. Wine Spectator gave this a 97, I would go 92. Good, but at the $125 it will cost you now, pass.
2010 Château Vieux-Rivière (France, Bordeaux, Lalande-Pomerol): This black/purple, somewhat concentrated, expressive Lalande de Pomerol may be one of the values of the year. It is singing right now. Nice sweet tannin, blue and black fruits, classic Bordeaux notes, everything in the right spot, including a nice long finish. Outperforms most at many times the cost. Great stuff! At $20 a screaming deal in Bordeaux of this quality. I would give it a 92 and highly recommend.
2007 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico (Italy, Tuscany, Chianti Classico): Much better than the one I had a couple years ago. Lots of cherry and herbs, with some chocolate type notes, floral elements and minerality. Excellent for the price point. Just coming into its own, probably more improvement ahead for a couple years. WIne Advocate gave it a 93, I would go 92. At $35, not a bad deal, “sorta” recommended.
1995 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva (Italy, Tuscany, Chianti Classico): Medium light, with lots of acidity (almost a tad too much), and lots of flowers and spice. Red fruit abounds, fresh and zingy. At 18 years old, some life still ahead, though I doubt improvement. Good stuff. Wine Spectator had given this a 90, WIne Advocate an 89. I would go 92. At $40-50, not a bad buy for aged Chianti Classico.
2010 Sylvain Bock Bascule (France, Rhone, Ardeche): Sylvain Bock is another up and coming producer to watch, I am guessing soon to have a cult following and prices will go up accordingly. 100% old-vine Carignan, only about 13% alcohol, this is refreshing, with light red pomegranate and cherry flavors, good acidity, and some minerality that makes in interesting. I would give this a 91+, and at just under $20, recommended.
2011 Carlisle Syrah Papa’s Block (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Nice dark fruits, almost sweet-like, with tons on flavors. Hints of herbs and meat. A little heat on the finish. Good stuff for the price.Wine Advocate gave this a 92-94, IWC a 92. I would go 91. Still, at $35, ‘sorta’ recommended.
2000 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor Private Reserve (Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto): Amazingly similar to the last time I had it 4.5 years ago, just better with age. Had the misfortune of following a fantastic 1999 Phelps Insignia, so suffered in comparison. However, still very good. Earthy notes, black fruit and tar predominate. I do not think this is going to improve and does not seem to have tons of structure to support to much longer in bottle. Wine Spectator gives this a 94, Wine Advocate a 91, I agree with 91. About $60. ‘Sorta’ recommended.
2010 Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Py James (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon): Nice stone minerality, pepper and flower notes. Just a bit thin, but good presence and finish. Still cannot believe the complexity and terroir that comes out of $25 bottles from the cru’s of Beaujolais. Wine Advocate gave this a 91-92, I agree. About $30. Recommended, though you can find less expensive Cru Beaujolais just as good.
2009 Pisoni Pinot Noir Estate (California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands): Actually liked it quite a bit, not really any heat which I had expected. Fruit is emerging, fresh and pure, especially black fruits. Still young, not a lot of secondary flavors, but heading in a positive direction. Wine Advocate gave this a 91, IWC a 90. I go 91. About $65. At that price, most vintages I recommend, probably pass on this one.
2011 Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly Cuvée des Ambassades (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais): Quite young, though good structure and appears primed to be outstanding. Enjoyable and already complex in a very ‘sense of place’ kind of way. At under $20, a fantastic qpr. I would give this a 90+. Recommended.
2006 Marcassin Pinot Noir Blue-Slide Ridge Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): Another swing and a miss from America’s most sought out (and expensive) Pinot producer. Still not getting this one…Big and huge, dark, ripe black and blue fruit, big texture, some heat on the finish. Tasty, but I think still too young, and I do wonder how this would ever come into good balance. Wine Spectator gives this a 96, Wine Advocate a 95. They must be drinking something else. I give this a 90 at most. $125 on release, $200 now. Pass.
2007 Azienda Agricola Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino (Italy, Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino): Lots of dark fruit, tobacco and herbs. Nicely done, but just missing a certain something (age?) that prevents it from really shining. Decent price, worth giving another one a shot with a couple more years of age on it. IWC and Wine Advocate give this a 92. I would go 90. About $40.
2008 Socre Barbaresco (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco): Very fragrant, especially menthol and a bit of tar and leather. Good on the palate, still a bit tannic. Cherries and spice, with a bit of the menthol carrying over. Maybe slightly disjointed right now, that a bit more time will help with. Decent finish. Wine Advocate gave this a 92, I would go 90. About $26. Recommended.
2009 Calera Pinot Noir de Villiers Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan): Similar notes to my tasting of it in February of 2013, but seemingly in a bit of a sleep period as it did not quite have the bite from early in the year. Good, fresh fruit, nice mouthfeel, just a bit tame right now. Wine Advocate gave this a 96, IWC a 92. I would go 90+ on this bottle. Still, at the $35 release price, recommended.
2009 Château Cormeil-Figeac (France, Bordeaux, St. Emilion): Very nice, affordable Bordeaux. Drinking well right now. Bright and a bit tangy, good mineral elements with red fruits. Good acidity. Well worth $25. I would give it an 89, and recommend.
2010 Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly Cuvée des Ambassades (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais): Nice, though a few years too young, Dusty red raspberry fruit, lots of mineral character, lots of acidity. An excellent food wine. IWC gives this a 91, I would give this an 89+, and note that it will be better in a few years. At under $20, recommended.
2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Ampelos (California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills): Deep red, lots of dark fruit on the nose which carries to the palate. Big, but reasonably calm. Tasty fruit, just could use some other elements. Wine Advocate gives this a 96, IWC a 94. I would go 89. $48 on release. Probably a pass, though would like to try another in a year or two.
2007 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Beaune): Way, way, way too young. However, good stuffing, lots of minerality, tame but good red fruit. Some charred oak hints. Just needs time. Wine Advocate gives this an 88, which I agree with. Still, I got this at $29, which is a steal for premier cru Burgundy.
2008 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Beaune): Real young, earthy, bright red fruit, with charred barrel notes. Should be better in a few years. I would give this an 88, and at under $30, like the 2007 above, a steal for Premier Cru Burgundy.
NV Frank Cornelissen MunJebel Rosso 7 (Italy, Sicily, Etna): I am trying to get my head around this producer, whose philosophy resonates with me. Thought-provoking, perhaps more an an intellectual experience than an enjoyable one, at least right now. Murky dark red, initially very sour on the palate, though I found that to mellow some with air time. Extremely bright and zippy red fruit, I could sense an expression of place trying to come out, just not sure I got it. Will keep trying from this producer. I would give this an 87. Worth trying, for something very different from a real pioneer.
1999 Elderton Shiraz Single Vineyard Command (Australia, South Australia, Barossa): Decent minerality, fruit no where near as pronounced as the 2002 Shirvington, yet seems to be lacking structure and perhaps is either in a dead zone or is past its prime. A bit bitter on the finish. Has its moments, having had it in the past it was well made, just not one of their stronger vintages. I would give it an 87. About $70. Pass, though other vintages of this wine are outstanding.
2010 Domaine de Saint Siffrein Châteauneuf-du-Pape (France, Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf de Pape): Medium bodied. Rather plain, nothing jumping out. Maybe too young? In any case, was expecting more. Wine Advocate gave this a 92-94, IWC a 90. I would go 86. About $26, I would pass.
2011 Carlisle Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard (California, Napa Valley): Thought I would like this (being Hayne vineyard), but though well made, it did not work for me. Some nice fruit taste (if I bit too extracted), notes of dark fruit, licorice, plum and tar/asphalt, but to monolithic and a bit out of control with some heat. Hayne is an iconic Napa vineyard, but this rendition does little for me. IWC gave it a 94, Wine Advocate a 92-94, I would go 86. Perhaps, in fairness, too young. About $40, pass.
2006 Bergström Pinot Noir Bergström Vineyard (Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills): Not showing much yet…at least I have to believe that is the case as opposed to being over the hill already. Decent structure, but literally next to nothing going on. Wine Advocate gave this a 95, Wine Spectator a 93. I would go 86. At $75, pass.