It’s that hustle and bustle time of the year. People are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to read long, involved pieces on wines. We get it. But we also don’t want you to miss out on anything. So here are some quick notes on a number of different things that we haven’t had the opportunity to explore in depth with the understanding that there might be something more extensive on some of these later on…
**Chardonnay fans might want to take a quick look at some of the key reloads we got back in. We sold out the De Wetshof Chardonnay Lesca 2017 on our email at the beginning of December. The argument is pretty compelling here. This one, raised in rare limestone soils, is the only under $25 Chardonnay to get a 93 point score from Wine Spectator. Bright, driven, full of energy, South Africa can make exceptional Chardonnay and this one is a consistent bargain for the genre.
**Nobody is creating more drama for Chardonnay than Charles Smith (also of K Vintners and Wines of Substance). His Sixto wines, all the result of finding some mature gem vineyards that were off the radar, are racking up big reviews. We took serious hits to the Sixto Wines Chardonnay Frenchman Hills Vineyard 2015, Sixto Wines Chardonnay Moxee Vineyard 2015, and Sixto Wines Chardonnay Roza Hills 2015 but were able to scrounge up a little more juice. Given the premium quality and level of performance, the prices are quite attractive as well. If you missed them before, here’s a reprieve. If you haven’t tried them yet, it’s high time you did!
**We didn’t have the time, or the stock, to do a big offer on this breakthrough wine, but Lavinea is an important name to know. Isabelle Meunier has worked at prestigious addresses such as Domaine de la Vougeraie in Burgundy and Felton Road in New Zealand, and is now committed to elevating the stature of Oregon Chardonnay on the world stage. With a total production of 231 cases, the impact of their Lavinea Chardonnay Lazy River Vineyard 2015 on the broad market will obviously be limited, but it will make quite an impression on those fortunate enough to latch onto some. It’s a James Suckling 93 and an ‘enthusiastic’ 97 from Wine Enthusiast.
**Yeah we know we said we were done buying Champagne for the season. But when we had a chance to re-taste the Paul Dethune Grand Cru Brut, a favorite from years past, we had to squeeze in one more. Just…too…good. Featuring 70% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay (Pinot Noir country), and 30% Chardonnay, it has the broad, mouthfilling, authoritative palate that reminds us of another favorite, Billiot, but with a bit finer, yeastier impression on the edges. Exciting, engaging bubbles as always.
**We have seen very few examples from this respected vineyard over the years, but what we have seen has been impressive (St. Urbans Hof examples come to mind). The Carl Loewen Riesling Laurentiuslay Spatlese 2017 is a great, old-school, kick- your- tail spatlese, packed with dense fruit and stones. The grapes come from 80-100 year old ungrafted vines. Nothing else can make a wine like this but really old vines. Importer Terry Theise’s take, “In essence this is weighty, extravagant fruit anchored to profound and almost chewy earthiness. like a crème-brulée of Laurentiuslay, earth, apricots and butterscotch.” JamesSuckling.com’s call, “A breathtaking Spätlese! Succulent and vibrant with a bright acidity, carrying the long and super clean finish. Better from 2020, but it shows enormous aging potential…96 points.” A spectacular traditional spätlese.
**Bodegas Riojanas is a grand old label that ages gracefully like a fine Burgundy, and we have had some stellar experiences with bottles dating back to the ’50s and ’60s. This year slipped by before we got the chance to talk these up, but long time followers know we have sold past examples of their Monte Real series and drank many bottles ourselves with gusto. They never disappoint, always delivering seamless, elegant, supple and complex fruit supported by slightly dusty, ripe tannins.
The Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Gran Reserva 1998, now age 20, shows the more earthy, complex, aromatic side of Rioja while the more direct Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Gran Reserva 2004 has a plumper middle thanks to the riper fruit from the vintage. If you came in and asked us for something to impress that you could take home and enjoy tonight, there’s a good chance we would hand you one of these. Once again, nothing delivers value like Rioja.
**With the remarkable parade this year of great wine from the Southern Rhone’s 2016 vintage, it was simply a matter of so many great wines and a finite amount of opportunities. It was a given that we wouldn’t be able to get to everything. The Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape La Dame Voyageuse 2016 is billed as something of a ‘second wine’ and a more approachable version of their flagship Reine de Bois Chateauneuf.
This is only the third version that we know of but it is the best Voyageuse of the series. It didn’t finish far behind its vaunted sibling in the reviews and higher than a lot of other top Chateauneufs, and you can get the better part of two bottles of this for the price of one of the Reine de Bois. Jeb Dunnuck 95, Advocate 94, this is a big, lush, lusty mouthful of 90% Grenache with bits of Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Vaccarese, all lifted and tempered by this one-of-a-kind vintage. Very user-friendly, seriously good.
**There’s a bit of history here that can be confusing. Briefly, Pax was a hot label a few years back and the recipient of numerous impressive kudos, followed by a period where there were some internal issues and Pax, the label, was ‘Pax free’, whereby winemaker Pax Mahle founded the Wind Gap label. Long story short, Pax is back at Pax, and doing some fine work.
The Pax Cellars Syrah Sonoma Hillsides 2017 to us marks a new level of sophistication in the house style. We recall a lot of those early Pax Syrah hits to be firmly planted in the power camp which was definitely the style of the moment. But while the ‘Hillsides’ doesn’t lack punch, it stops short of being over done, shows a more focused and controlled rein on the fruit, and teases with whiffs of meat, smoke, and maybe even a little bacon.
By the winery’s own admission, this wine is the assemblage of juice from various higher, cooler sites made with a direct eye to the northern Rhone. This is something that most of the acknowledged Rhone Ranger superstars have yet to do. Syrah is still something of a work in progress in California, but this reaches a high level with a clear stylistic objective. Bravo.