Another bevy of wines made their way through my hopefully not oversaturated gullet during the past few months. While I would like to claim this being an unselfish act to provide you, dear reader, with lots of wine choices, honesty dictates that I just come straight out and say that the imbibing was purely done for my own enjoyment! Still, a positive side effect is the list of tasting notes provided here in the hope that some of you may try some on your own, especially if you are re-reading The Decameron, in which I found a slight inebriation quite helpful in bringing out the delight that Boccaccio bequeathed us with. In any case, that book review comes in a month or two, so for now I hope you enjoy these wine notes.
I was ‘wine’ lucky these last few months having six wines I would rate in the eternally classic category. 3 from California (2008 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva, 1987 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, & 2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Lancelot Pisoni Vineyard), 2 from France (2009 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence & 2005 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis) and 1 from Washington (2007 Cayuse Flying Pig). While none of these are by any means inexpensive, they are ethereal, world class wines that represent the best of the best. Perfect for a special occasion and all have a decade or two of life ahead. My wine luck continued as I was able to assist in the drinking of six different Marcassin’s (5 Pinot’s and 1 Chardonnay). While none of them made the classic category, they were all good, and having wines from America’s most sought after Pinot and Chardonnay producer is always an experience. I have had a couple dozen in my wine drinking life to this point and am still waiting for the one that completely wows me. I shall keep trying! The bad news is, unlike most of my wine note postings, there is not many good deals, or QPR’s (good Quality to Price ratio) to be found, though there are a few. The 2008 Château Latour à Pomerol certainly fits and you should track one or two of those down. The same holds for the $20 2012 Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly Cuvée des Ambassades, the 1995 Schwaab-Kiebel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese Fuder #9, and the 1993 Schwaab-Kiebel Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese Fuder #11. In the $30-40 range, the 2012 Domaine Vrignaud Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume Les Vaupulans, 2009 Domaine Pavelot (Jean-Marc et Hugues) Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Guettes, 2009 Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabajà, and the 2009 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras Vieilles Vignes are all worth tracking down.
Oh, and do yourself a favor and get on the Alban mail list, the Paul Lato mail list, the Cayuse mail list and the Rhys mail list. You may need to wait a couple/few years to get an offer, but eventually you will get these world-class wines at the release price, which makes them affordable and an excellent deal.
A reminder of the point scale used in these ratings:
- 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.
You can search for the following, or any wines, at wine-searcher.com.
2008 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Edna Valley): From America’s original Rhone Ranger and still one of the best. Wow! One awesome wine, in a great spot. Fruit, spice, floral, meats — this has it all. Palate coating presence, oodles of dark fruit with a myriad of secondary flavors (already), especially smoked meats and all spice, perhaps some cocoa. Long, long finish. Big done right. Wine Advocate gives this a 93-96 and IWC a 94. I give this a 97. About $100 on release, now about $130. Not cheap, but one special bottle of wine. Highly recommended.
2009 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence (France, Southern Rhone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape): Outstanding young CdP from what is usually my favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer. Lots of blue fruit, though even more smoked meat/fat aroma’s and herbs. A wonderful mouthfeel, medium bodied but silky, nice long finish with a myriad of flavors. Great stuff. Wine Advocate gives this a 98, I go 97+. With a couple decades of life ahead, and almost certain improvement, this is highly, highly recommended. Can be found for about $120, which while not inexpensive, is a truly decent bargain for a wine this damn good.
2007 Cayuse Flying Pig (Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley): Washington’s greatest Rhone producer, here showing how well they have mastered Bordeaux varietals. Cayuse simply rocks. One awesome wine. Just singing. Medium bodied, excellent red and blue fruit, tobacco, minerals, spice…pretty much everything. 60 second finish. Probably will still get better with a few more years. The best Cayuse I have had yet. Wine Advocate gave this a 96, I would go 97. About $80 on release, now about $150. An amazing bottle with a decade of life ahead, and well worth a splurge for a special occasion.
1987 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (California, Napa Valley): Perfectly stored and perfectly drinking. Herbs, currant, tobacco, leather complement fresh red fruit, ending in a 60 second finish. Just fantastic and hard to imagine any of today’s superstars bringing this degree of complexity to the table with one of their wines in 30 years. I hope I am wrong. 12.5%, perfect acidity, unreal complexity. Wine Advocate gave this a 97, Wine Spectator a 94. I go 96, and think it still has a decade left. One can still find this for about $150, which for a nearly 30 year old example of what Napa was capable of from when you were young, is well worth it.
2010 Paul Lato Pinot Noir Lancelot Pisoni Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands): My current favorite producer of American Pinot and a real up and comer….Outstanding in every way. Good from the initial pop, and only got better through the night. Perfectly balanced, with delicious and fresh dark red fruits, some earthy and floral notes, and a surprising acidity that kept it all in check. The best Pinot I have had in quite some time. Wine Advocate gave this a 94, IWC a 93. I would go 96 and give a huge recommendation. $85 on mail list release, hard to find now and would probably cost $120, but still recommended at that price as an amazing, special bottle of wine.
2005 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d’Ampuis (France, Northern Rhone, Cote Rotie): A truly outstanding wine from one of the great producers in the northern Rhone. Young, but very expressive. Dark purple, with a nose of red fruit, flowers, herbs and pepper, it coats the palate and finish with bright cherry flavors, along with follow through of herbs/pepper and an interesting tar aspect. Excellent, can only imagine the heights it may reach in a few more years. Wine Advocate gives this a 96-98, Wine Spectator a 94, IWC a 93. I give it a 95+. One can find for a bit over $100, but well worth it as a special bottle of wine. Has a decade or two of life ahead.
2009 Marcassin Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Marcassin is the most sought after of American Pinot producers, with wait list and atmospheric secondary market prices to prove it. One of the best Three Sisters I have had, despite its youthfulness. Wonderful Pinot like nose of red fruits, which come through on the palate along with some allspice and wet earth notes. Seems noticeably lower in alcohol than many Marcassins, which IMO allows the other qualities to really shine. Wine Advocate gives this a 90, I say 94. Recommended at the $75 mail list release price, but for those still waiting the many years to get an allocation, it will now run you $160 or so.
2007 Marcassin Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): In a very good spot, though clearly still young with improvement to go. Much bigger than the 2010 Lato Lancelot next to it, with much more obvious oak notes along with a significant jammy/plum profile. Yet, the size comes together quite well, and carries a long finish. Good stuff. Wine Advocate says 91. I would give it a 94. $75 on mail list release, now $175.
2011 Aubert Pinot Noir UV-SL Vineyard Sonoma Coast (California, Sonoma Coast): Very young, but oh so very good. Very big in the fruit department, but with some air, already blossoming with oodles of complexity, especially spice and floral notes, even some mushroom type flavors. Wine Advocate gives this a 96, I go 94. $80 on mail list release, $130 on the marker.
2010 Rhys Pinot Noir Bearwallow Vineyard (California, North Coast, Anderson Valley): Rhys is on the short list as one of my favorite relatively new Pinot producers. This is very good Pinot. Dark cherry abounds, in a medium bodied effort, with simply lots going on; spices/herbs (mint?), and earth elements. Very energetic on the palate, and got more and more interesting in the glass. IWC gives this a 93, Wine Advocate a 92. I agree with IWC. About $60 on release, now about $80. Recommended.
2009 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Like the Marcassin Pinot mentioned above, Marcassin is the most sought after of American Chardonnay producers, with wait list and atmospheric secondary market prices to prove it. Very young, but still good and got better as it got a few hours of air. Honeysuckle, lemon and peach. Oak exists. Decent acidity to help close. Should really be excellent in a few years. Wine Advocate gave this a 96, I would go 93+ with upside. Reasonable for the quality at $125 on release (at which recommended), now running $225+, at which I would pass.
2010 Ramey Syrah Rodger’s Creek Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Deep purple, almost black. Some pepper on the nose, along with black fruit and a bit of smoked meat. Great purity. Just needs to flesh out some; obviously well extracted, though not jammy, but yet just a tad hollow on the mid-palette, at least in this bottle. Still, an amazing young wine, especially at the cost and its potential. Wine Advocate gives this a 98. I give it a 93+, with upside. Years of growth ahead. Was $54, which was a steal for this quality. Probably more now if you can find it. Recommended.
2005 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): One lucky evening some friends and I did a vertical of Marcassin estate Pinot from three different vintages. Of the 2001, 2005 and 2006, this 2005 had the nicest fruit. It was fresh and bright, red and blue. Big, but lots of acid to match. Only lacking a bit in complexity, as it did not have the extent of notes the 2001 had — yet, my guess is in time it will be much better as this thing has years to go to peak. Wine Spectator gives it a 94, Wine Advocate a 93. I go 92+. It will cost you north of $300 to track down at this point, so the cost does not justify the performance. Buy a fine press book instead.
2001 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Interestingly close to the bottle I had three years ago…not much movement. Some complexity in the nose with blue fruit, spice, mushroom and earth. Palate good but not as complex. Fruit almost a tad bit over the hill perhaps — at least certainly not going to get better. Very good, but drink up. Wine Spectator gives this a 97, Wine Advocate a 93. I would go 92. This will set you back $250-300 to track down now, so buy a fine press book instead.
2008 Château Latour à Pomerol (France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol): Very good. Dark fruits, tobacco, perhaps some licorice. Lots going on in the palate and on the finish. Excellent Bordeaux for the $39 I paid for it. Wine Advocate gave this a 91, IWC and Wine Spectator an 89, World of Fine Wine a 16.5/20. I would go 92, with upside potential. Highly recommended at this price point.
2005 Cirillo Grenache 1850’s Old Vine (Australia, South Australia, Barossa Valley): Not what I remember from the last bottle which a year or two ago just blew me away (and I rated as my favorite wine of 2014). This one was much more candied. Tasty as hell, though I have to admit, almost sweet and over the top (not in an extracted sense, just in a sweet sense). Points should be lower, as it really is not what it should be in terms of typicity, but, damn, freakily tasty! Wine Advocate gives this a 95, IWC a 93. I would go 92. At my $35 cost, highly recommended, though would be hard to find now, and probably $75+.
2005 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape (France, Southern Rhone, Châteauneuf-du-Pape): Excellent form and structure, just lacking a wow factor. Good dark fruit, with a nice nose typical of a mix of traditional and modern CdP. I think more time will improve this, giving it more secondary aromas and flavors. IWC gave this a 94, Wine Advocate a 93. I would go 92. Usually around $60, which is pretty good for CdP, especially considering Charvin is an excellent world class producer. Recommended.
2011 Saxum James Berry Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): One of the premier producers of Rhone varietals in the United States, though I have never been a high fan. Good wine, seems a bit more restrained then what I am used to with Saxum, which is a good thing. Good dark blue fruit, hints of herbs and some floral elements. Did not hold up as well on day 2. Still, nice palate coating flavors. Wine Advocate gave this a 94-97, IWC a 94. I would go 92. $89 on mail list release, at which price I would recommend. Now running $125+, at which price point I would not.
2010 Wind Gap Wines Pinot Noir Woodruff Vineyard (California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains): From magnum. With lots of air this filled out nicely. Very feminine and delicate, with lots of floral notes and minerality assisting the bright cherry flavors to provide a degree of complexity. The antithesis of the prototypical CA pinot, this is all about grace and elegance, and I think it comes very close to pulling it off. Wine Advocate gives this a 94, IWC a 93. I would give this a 92. Stay away if you only like big Pinot’s as this is not that! About $60.
2012 Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly Cuvée des Ambassades (France, Beaujolais, Cote de Brouilly): Should have ordered more than a couple. A bit lean, but quite interesting in profile. Lots of tart red fruit and acidity. Minerality in spades. Someone mentioned baking spices, which seems right to me. Excellent QPR. I would give this a 91+, and at $20, recommended.
2007 Maybach Family Vineyards Chardonnay Eterium (California, Sonoma Coast): Tropical and large scaled. Reasonable acidity. Tasted great, but just did not seem to have the complexity of the Marcassin next to it. Wine Advocate gave this a 90, I would go 91. $80-100. Pass at this price.
2012 Domaine Vrignaud Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume Les Vaupulans (France, Burgundy, Chablis, 1er Cru): For a youngster, this sure was good. Even better on day 2 and 3. Certainly crisp, with nice mineral and saline notes to complement the lemon/citrus flavors. I would give it a 91, with upside. At around $30, recommended.
2009 Domaine Pavelot (Jean-Marc et Hugues) Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Guettes (France, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune, Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru): Lots of minerality and dark red fruits. With time, this could become spectacular, as there are a plethora of components just not harmonized yet. Lots of structure, just a bit disjointed, but almost certainly will come together. Already some secondary elements just being born, with some rocky earth, spice and some mushroom notes, but still very reticent. IWC gave this a 91, I would go 90 but with lots of upside potential. At $35, recommended.
2009 Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabajà (Italy, Piedmont, Barbaresco): Good red fruit and spice, some floral elements. A bit earthy. Good acidity. Ready to drink now. Wine Advocate gives this a 93, IWC a 90. I agree with IWC. At about $40, a reasonable buy for an outstanding Barbaresco.
1995 Schwaab-Kiebel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese Fuder #9 (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): Very good, still very young despite the moldy cork. Good acidity. Lemon and pear flavors. Refreshing. What a deal at under $17 for a 19 year old Spatlese. I would give this a 90, and at under $20 a steal!
1993 Schwaab-Kiebel Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese Fuder #11 (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer): Another excellent $20 Schwaab-Kiebel now around 20 years of age. Lemon and pear notes, some petrol on the nose. Golden in color. Nice acidity. One outstanding QPR. I would give this a 90, and highly recommended.
2009 Domaine du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras Vieilles Vignes (France, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune, 1er Cru): Young, but already performing well. Red fruits, seemingly some charred oak (but held in check), lots of acidity. Some light spice notes. Likely will flush out to be an outstanding wine. I would give it a 90 with upside. About $40. Recommended.
2006 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard (California, Sonoma Coast): Not sure what to say here other than this bottle was somewhat disappointing. Opened and drank over three hours. Did not move much during that time. Lots of oak, with some charred notes. Big dark fruit. Sort of monolithic. Had next to an 01 and 05, not as interesting of fruit as the 05, not as complex as the 01. Not bad at all, just not that impressive. Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator both gave this a 96. I would go 89. Perhaps just young, certainly has the stuffing to evolve quite a bit longer. Still, at the $250-300 it will cost you to track one down now, do yourself a favor and buy the 1930 LEC of The Decameron in fine condition, which you will enjoy more than this wine, and buying it will still allow you $200 to spend on another fine press producer of the current age!
2002 Mitolo Shiraz G.A.M. (Australia, South Australia, McLaren Vale): Forgot I had drank one of these five years ago until writing up my notes. Interestingly, despite five more years of age, my note is basically the exact same as years ago. Good, dark ruby. Decent, if one dimensional nose. Lots of blueberry, some vanilla, some spice. Enjoyable, but still just lacking enough to make it excellent. Still has plenty of years on it though, so who knows. Wine Advocate gave this a 95-97, IWC a 92. I give it an 89. One can still find it for $70 or so, but I would pass at that price.
2009 Peter Michael Pinot Noir Ma Danseuse (California, Sonoma Coast): Big, brooding Pinot. Dark, dense, very full bodied. Dark cherry and black fruit. Did not have nearly the complexity of the Rhys next to it. Still, good tasting. Wine Advocate gave this a 95, IWC a 94. I would go 89. Will cost you $140 if you can find one. I would pass at that price. Note this same wine from the 2010 vintage is the first Pinot to ever get the coveted 100 point rating from Robert Parker. Point being, you might want to ignore my 89 and give this particular pinot a chance from whatever vintage, especially if you like big wines.
2005 Cesarini Sforza Trento Aquila Reale Riserva Brut Maso Sette Fontane, Val di Cembra (Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige): Decent and pleasant surprise. Nice texture and mouth feel, a bit large, but good apple and citrus notes. Not super complex, but it disappeared quickly which says something for it. Still, for $30, I would expect better. I would give it an 89.
2009 Saxum James Berry Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Lots of dark fruit, some floral elements peak out occasionally, though cocoa/tar notes are much more predominant. I remain skeptical on these improving with age, though I have enough to hopefully prove myself wrong one day. But, for my palate anyway, these are at their best young. I am biased on the size just being too big. Wine Advocate gives this a 98, IWC a 96. I am the odd-ball, giving it an 88. A reasonable $85 mail list release price, but nearly $200 now. An easy pass at the cost.
2010 Saxum Syrah Booker Vineyard (California, Central Coast, Paso Robles): Maybe I need to quit drinking. All of these big wines that are supposed to be awesome are… marginal. Well made? yes. Make a statement? Yes. But really? Good fruit, a bit of spice here and there. However, where is the long term interest? What does it make one ponder other than losing the ability to ponder? Anyway, this one is not bad by any means, but it certainly is not ethereal. Just a big wine, with good fruit, lots of alcohol, makes you take notice. But c’mon people, I call BS on all these other ‘notes of blah, blah and blah’. Such complexity is not there, it is just not. Wine Advocate gave a 94-96, IWC a 94. I go 87. At about $150… you know what I will say….buy a fine press book instead.
2009 Domaine Belluard Terroir de Mont Blanc Brut Zéro (France, Savoie): Ok. refreshing, with good acidity. Lots of apples and lemons. Only real complaint is it was pretty monolithic without much depth. I would give it an 87. About $30. Pass, but willing to try another vintage.
2005 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss Riesling Kastelberg (France, Alsace Grand Cru): Bright yellow, almost gold. Strange funky nose, at least initially, giving way to some citrus/lemon notes. Lots of lemon on the palate, lots of acidity (maybe too much for what it has to work with). Not quite together. Did get better as time went on. Perhaps just too young? IWC gave this a 90. I would go 86. Hard to find now, probably $50+. Pass at that price.
2012 Domaine David-Beaupère Juliénas La Bottière (France, Beaujolais, Julienas): Early, but not sure this will ever fill out and come together. A bit too popsicle like in its grape/blueberry flavors. Minus the alcohol, your kids would love it. You, probably not so much! Still, I will give it an 85 as it holds some strange interest. < $20.
2010 Domaine Debray Volnay 1er Cru Pitures (France, Burgundy, Cote de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru): Though a bit better on day 2, this just was too light, not enough body and not enough going for it outside of some bright, tart (too tart) fruit. Some floral elements (rose) would show up some, but not enough to make it interesting. I would give it an 85. Pass.