I gave my liver a strong workout over the past few months to provide you some wine guidance! 37 wines, mostly from Italy, France and the United States, with a couple German wines thrown in. Only one 95+ classic wine, but plenty of 90-94 point outstanding wines, and some relatively good bargains. Speaking of points, I realize I never gave you what the point scale means to me:
- 95-100 is an eternally classic wine that simply rocks your world, or should anyway. Nearly flawless. These are rare, and only retaining food, water, shelter and the best of your best fine press books is more important than getting one of these!
- 90 – 94 is an outstanding wine, head and shoulders above most that are out there. Some minor flaws, but still World-Class. Well worth tracking down. Price should normally be a consideration here, however, as finding inexpensive wines in this category is the end all be all. Highly priced wines better at least be rated here, else they are not worth spending the money on.
- 85-89 is a good to very good wine. Some flaws, not hugely complex, but still quite decent. Inexpensive wines that fall in this category are a sweet spot for daily drinkers and should be sought after.
Unfortunately, most reviewers that use this scale (popularized by Robert Parker and his influential and indispensable Wine Advocate) now suffer from what colleges have suffered, i.e., grade inflation. Yes, wines have gotten better in the last 30 years as production methods have improved and artisinal, non-mass produced wines have become so readily available. Still, not everyone is an ‘A’ student, let alone a ‘B’ student. Same with wine. I try hard to stick to the scale above….if a wine wants a 95-100, it better be ridiculously damn good; a 90-94 damn good; 85-89 good!
Back to this set of wines. The 2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano is, well, Giacosa. Enough said! Seriously, not inexpensive by any means, but simply one amazing wine by Italy’s master of Nebbolio. If you have never tried Giacosa’s Nebbolios, you simply must add it to your bucket list…though be sure it has at least a decade of age in it, preferably a couple decades or more. Aubert is considered one of California’s great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers, with an allocation wait list that shows that is the case. This month a couple of their wines come near the top of the list: The 2007 Aubert Pinot Noir Reuling Vineyard and 2010 Aubert Pinot Noir UV Vineyard are both outstanding (and expensive). If you like big, fruit driven, California style Pinots, get on their mail list. One of the great wines of Washington state, Christopher Baron’s Cayuse, is represented four times below, all outstanding wines. Again, Cayuse has a wait list for allocation that is multi-years long, but you really should get on the mail list for eventual opportunity. His wines are unique, food friendly and a nice balance between the typically richer American take on Syrah and the more terroir, mineral driven Rhone versions of such. As for wine with a good price point, there is no beating Fabien Duperray’s 2008 Jules Desjourneys Moulin-à-Vent, which is one of the best Beaujolais wines I have ever had, or the 1995 Weingut Franz-Joseph Justen-Schmitges Erdener Treppchen Riesling *Auslese*, which was an unreal nineteen year old bottle of Riesling for under $30.
One other reminder, a good place to search for wines available in the market place for shipping to you (or local pickup) is here. And now for the wines. in order of my rating of them.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco): Giacosa is simply the God of Nebbiolo. Some of my greatest wine experiences have been slowing sipping his wines, especially the red labels. As far as this bottle, brilliant. A bit young, but tons of character already. Floral, leather, a bit dusty, with bright red fruit. Long finish. Contemplative. Will soon be great. Wine Advocate gives it a 95, which I more or less agree with. In the U.S., this will cost you around $200. Highly recommended, however, as a special bottle for a special dinner!
2007 Aubert Pinot Noir Reuling Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): Amazing that I finally found one I liked! I have long been a fan of Aubert, and remain on the list, despite the fact that almost every one I have ends up disappointing me some, usually because the high alcohol always comes off as unbalanced, ruining the otherwise great fruit. Perhaps it is just a bit more age that I need to allow, as this one was excellent. Huge black and blue fruits, a myriad of spice and some wet earth. Yes, big…very big, both mouthfeel and alcohol, though this time the alcohol remained a supporting cast member that played its role. A big role, to be sure, but it was as it should be, just one component of many, nicely integrated. Wine Advocate gives this a 98, Wine Spectator a 94. I agree with 94. $80 on release, now running north of $200. Despite how good it is, I would have to pass at that price.
2010 Aubert Pinot Noir UV Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): A second one I liked! Bravo Aubert! Super big pinot, but I really liked it, especially after a couple hours of breathing. Very well balanced. Huge blue fruit, but good acidity to back it up, and nice spice elements to keep it interesting. Wine Advocate gives it a 93, I would go 94. $80 release price, now running north of $120. Recommended if you like big Pinot’s.
2008 Jules Desjourneys Moulin-à-Vent (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-a-Vent): Unreal how good this is…yes, well worth the $42 for a Moulin-à-Vent, probably the best I have ever had. Lots of fresh red fruits, iodine, minerality and roasted meats — I mean just a ton going on here. The nose is unreal. Bravo, Fabien Duperray. Wine Advocate gives this a 92. I give this a 93+ and well worth the high price for Beaujolais. Highly recommend.
2009 Cayuse Camaspelo (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Cayuse remains one of my two favorite Washington producers, and they just keep getting better and better. Get on their wait list! This is Christopher Baron’s red Bordeaux blend. A couple years since my last bottle, and it has improved. Good nose, dark fruits, some leather and cedar….in addition to a bit of interesting ‘funk’. Nice on the palate. Bottle, corked up, was even better two days later. Will get better. A very good wine! IWC gives this a 93, which I agree with, while Wine Advocate gives a 92. $55 on release now north of $110. Recommended even at that price, as it will still improve and you are getting one of Washingon’s best, world-class wines.
2010 Cayuse Grenache God Only Knows (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Christopher Baron’s 100% Grenache. Outstanding. Reasonably restrained. Red fruits galore, lots of earth, herbs and pepper. Will be even better in a couple years. IWC and Wine Advocate give it a 93, which I agree with. $80 on release, now around $120. Recommended even at that price, as it will still improve and you are getting one of Washingon’s best, world-class wines.
1995 Weingut Franz-Joseph Justen-Schmitges Erdener Treppchen Riesling * Auslese * (Germany, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer): Excellent wine. Drinks very young, not nearly reflecting 19 years of age. Light gold, good acidity, nice mouthfeel, lots of citrus and apricot, with some petrol notes. $28. I would give this a 93. Really, for a twenty year old Riesling of this quality?!!! Crazy highly recommended.
2010 Cayuse Syrah Armada Vineyard (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): I think this score will be better in time as it fills out and gains some complexity. Still, no shame in drinking now with excellent dark fruit, but even better flavors of pepper and herbs. Best is the mouthfeel, which remains elegant, silly and medium bodied. Wine Advocate gave this a 97, IWC a 95+. I would go 92+ with plenty of upside potential. $80 on allocation, unfortunately very hard to find now and will probably cost you at least $150. Still, a special bottle that should get better.
2011 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Ho-hum, another outstanding Cayuse. Is there any other kind? Lots of red and blue fruits, some funk on the nose, as well as floral notes. Nice silky and medium bodied palate, good finish. Could use some age to get some complexity and more secondary notes, but certainly not bad right now. Wine Advocate gives this a 94-97, I say 92+ (lots of upside). $65 release price, now north of $110. Like almost all Cayuse, all the time, recommended even if you have to sell stuff to get some!
2007 Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Petresco Riserva (Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG): Very nice. Young, but very ready to drink. Cherries, menthol, lots of minerals and earth like notes. I would give this a 92, and its original cost of $30 was a great deal. Hard to find now but do look!
2005 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau (France, Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape): More modern than I expected, though still some reasonably traditional notes, especially on the nose. Nice red fruits, good spice and earthy elements. Will improve with more years in bottle. Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator give this a 95, I would go 92. Still, at $70, recommend as an excellent Chateauneuf with years to go.
2011 Wind Gap Wines Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard (California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains): Even better than a couple months ago, wonderful acidity, fresh bright red fruit, small hints of allspice and mushroom. I give it a 92 with upside. $56 on release. Recommended.
2011 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): Young, but very good, with lots of stuffing for the long haul. Good medium red fruit, lots of spice, very, very fresh. Good balance of acidity, nice body, good mouthfeel. Should improve even more. Kutch is one from Sonoma that gets it — it is not all about extraction; balance is critical. Wine Advocate gives this a 95, I would go 92+ and recommend rather highly. $59 on release, a bit hard to find now.
2010 Saxum Heart Stone Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Though I am a long time Saxum allocation member, I really have never really fallen for their style. However, I liked this one. Well over 15% in alcohol, yet it really was secondary and under control. Deep purple, tasty, brambly fruit. Just not complex enough (yet?). Wine Advocate gave this a 95-97, IWC a 94. I would go 92. $89 allocation price, now running $135 and up. Pass at that price.
2006 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Il Quadro delle Rose Feudo di Mezzo (Italy, Sicily, Etna DOC): Dark fruit, but it is the herbal notes and minerality that make this interesting and good. Some roasted beef type notes also, and cocoa. Good acidity. Still has some years to go. IWC gave this a 96, Wine Advocate a 93. I would go 91. A bit more than $40. There are worse ways of spending $40.
1993 Schwaab-Kiebel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese Fuder #7 (Germany, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer): At 21 years of age, tastes super young….years to go. Very bright. Lots of lemon and citrus. Moderate sweetness; perhaps could use just a tad more acidity. None-the-less, a fantastic effort for the price point. I would give it 91 points, and at $20 a complete steal in 20+ year old Riesling.
2009 Domaine Vrignaud Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume Les Vaupulans (French, Burgundy, Chablis): Crisp, quenching, light and wonderful! Citrus notes, with lots of stone minerality. Wine Advocate gives this a 93, I would go 91. Still, at $30, a good price for this quality premier cru Chablis.
2010 Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly Cuvée des Ambassades (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cote de Brouilly): Ambassades is always good, and is always an excellent example of what it means to speak of place. And, always a QPR. The minerality in the 2010 is striking. Almost as if the wine was stored in a quartz barrel. Stony red fruit, dusty in a way, great acidity. Years to go, but could drink this daily. I give it a 90, and at < $20, recommend.
2007 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese (Germany, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer): Young, a bit sweet, with mango and citrus flavors. A bit of honey. A bit cloying, could use a tad more acidity. Still, very good, quenching, starting to develop some apricot and petrol notes. I would give it a 90. $20 on release, now about $50. One of the great vineyards in Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, but not recommended at $50.
2012 Sea Smoke Chardonnay Gratis (California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills): Thanks Sea Smoke for the free bottle! It is very good. Big Chard, lots of oak, yet well integrated with nice butterscotch and lemon flavors. I would give it a 90 and recommend.
2009 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent La Roche (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-a-Vent): Did not mean to open my last bottle of this, as I just had a previous one 9 months ago. Still, has improved, and very good — yet, still not where I hoped it would be. Big and somewhat brooding for a Gamay, with nice dark red fruits, still somewhat subdued. Lots of minerality, and some iron/graphite notes. Wine Advocate gave this a 93-94, IWC an 87. I would go 90. Around $30. Recommended.
2009 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Vignes Franches Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune): Good, though still perhaps a year or two too young and needs to settle down. To much charred smoke flavor. But excellent acidity, nice red fruit and perhaps some earth elements. I would give it a 90+ with upside potential. Was $40, now running north of $60. Still, the best of three vintages of this wine I tasted (and 2009 was a great vintage for red Burgundy itself); also a good price for premier cru red Burgundy…so recommend.
2008 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Vignes Franches Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune): At $27, a fantastic deal for a 1er cru. Lots of acidity, pretty good dark red fruit, a bit of a dusty feel, decent spice and earthiness. Evolved quite nicely over 3 nights. I would give it a 90 with upside potential. At $27, this is a steal for high quality, premier cru red Burgundy.
2007 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Vignes Franches Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune): Very good. Nice acidity, red fruit with a lot of minerality and place; only hindered some by what came across as too much smoke. Very young, should improve. I would give this an 89, though at <$30, still recommend, though the 2008 is better.
2009 Tua Rita Giusto di Notri Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany): Very well made, just pretty standard in terms of it could be from anywhere (no sense of place). Good dark fruits, some cocoa, pretty good taste and finish. Just nothing that stands out. Wine Advocate gives this a 94, I would go 89. At $50 or so, it is a crowd pleaser, just needs more individuality.
2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley): Certainly on the large end of the spectrum, though not as big as I remembered from years past. Dark red and black fruit, some tar, maybe some floral elements. Drinking pretty well. A bit of alcohol on the finish, but barely perceptible. Wine Advocate gave this a 92, Wine Spectator a 94, IWC a 93. I go 88. $72 on release, now around $125. Pass.
2009 Saxum Paderewski Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Lots of dark fruit and tar notes. A bit too much heat. Wine Advocate gave this a 97, IWC a 93. I give it an 88. Just too much. $80 on release, north of $140 now. Not recommended at anywhere near that price.
2012 Elysian Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Millesimato (Italy, Veneto, Prosecco, Valdobbiadene): Well made, but nothing too special. Quenching. Lemon notes with other citrus. I give it an 87. $18.
2011 La Palazzetta (Flavio Fanti) Rosso di Montalcino (Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino): Medium bodied, ruby violet in color. Tame nose with some red fruit and floral notes. Nothing outstanding on the palate, yet very balanced and pleasant to drink. Mostly light red fruits, decent acidity, some minerality. Nothing real special, but not at all bad for the price point. I would give this 87 points, and at $14, recommended.
NV Domaine des Terres Blanches Les Ancestrals (France, Loire Valley): Pear, apples, etc, some decent acidity. However, really nothing to stand out from the crowd. I would give it an 86. About $17.
2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard (California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast): Lots of cola flavor, some dark cherry and black fruit. A bit too much prune/plum for my taste. Better on day 2. I would give it an 86. $72 on release, now north of $125. Pass (though sometimes this producer and vineyard can be well worth it).
2008 Bergström Pinot Noir Bergström Vineyard (Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills): Too light, not enough body. Good acidity, some pepper and light red fruit. Not much left to say about it on day 2. I usually like Bergstrom, but this one does not work for me. Perhaps too young? I give it an 86, though Wine Spectator gives it a 93, Wine Advocate a 92 and IWC a 94. $69 on release.
2012 Terriero Prosecco Treviso Brut (Italy, Veneto, Prosecco): Light gold color. Decent amount of citrus and pear. Reasonably well balanced and relatively dry. Good on a warm day. I give it an 85. About $13.
2004 Cantine Sardus Pater Carignano del Sulcis Superiore “Arruga” (Italy, Sardinia): Decent, but nothing special. Red fruit, pretty one dimensional, never did open up to have anything interesting. Wine Advocate gave this a 93, I go 85. At $29, I would pass.
2011 Domaine Didier Grappe Crémant du Jura (France, Jura): Very good acidity, but not much else. Probably too young. 85 points. <$20. May be worth it in a few years.
2012 Domaine David-Beaupère Juliénas La Bottière (France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Julienas): Early, but not sure this will ever fill out and come together. A bit too popsicle like in its grape/blueberry flavors. I give it an 85. About $20. May be interesting to try with another year or two.
2011 Podere Sapaio Bolgheri Volpolo (Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri): Not badly made, just does nothing for me. Dark color, but somewhat light on the palate, with only so-so taste of dark fruit and nothing else. Despite 14.5%, it seemed almost like nothing, no real body. 84 points. $20. Pass.