BRIEFS

Keep a close watch on the arrival of the 2015 northern Rhones.  The vintage yielded spectacular Syrahs that were at once tender and authoritative, loaded with classic terroir yet engaging from a purely hedonistic sense.  Specific names to look for are Durand, Courbis, Ferraton, and CoursodonIf you are shopping ratings, some of these have pretty impressive ratings from Wine Spectator already, and fine range scores from Wine Advocate and Jeb Dunnuck that will surely end up on the higher end when the final reviews are issued.  Simply, as time passes these wines will get more ttention and quantities aren’t huge to begin with.  Don’t miss out on this epic vintage in the north.

Not meaning to be sectarian in any way, but it has really been a white Christmas with respect to uncanny deals on Chardonnay.  A measly $11 will buy you the spectacular new Novellum Chardonnay 2015 from Domaine Lafage (Wine Advocate 92 and arguably the best in the series, $10.98), consistently one of the best values on the market.  Even sillier are the special purchases on the breakout Chilean Ritual Chardonnay 2015 (a James Suckling 93 that we sold well at $15.99, now $9.98!), and the crisp, appealing Thorn-Clarke Mount Crawford Chardonnay Eden Valley 2016 (90s from both Vinous and Wine Spectator, $9.98).  This is a remarkable group of Chardonnays for this kind of price, with a special thanks to exceptional vintages and a quirky current market.  To find a scenario similar you would need a time machine to go back to the ‘90s to find Chardonnays this good for this kind of tab.

Just received what we believe to be the best damn bottles of Pinot Noir we’ve ever had form Australia.  The new releases from Gary farr’s eponymous label, By Farr, are, in a word, epic.  We were blown away by these micro-production gems grown in Victoria just west of Melbourne.  Glossy, seductive, spicy, world-class, with that Pinot umami that separates the legends from the rest, these offerings are a must-buy for fans of the genre….

We’ve managed to pull together a fair cache of older Sauternes all from top vintages, including a number of bits from 2005 that were enthusiastically re-rated by Wine Advocate in June of 2015, a variety of d’Yquem bottlings, and carefully selected stars from more recent collectible vintages.  It’s a good time for your sweet tooth. See all Sauternes.

BRIEFS BLANC

BRIEFS

  • It’s time, actually perhaps a little past the time to still get in on the 2014 White Burgundies. This is the best vintage w have tasted since 2010, and definitely more on point and well delineated than the 2015s that are now hitting the market.  We are still scouring the countryside for late arriving 2014s and suggest you take this opportunity to grab a few more things while you still can.  The new Chateau de Meursault Clos du Chateau 2014 is one of the best we have tasted from a series we have followed for years.  This beautifully situated little insiders’ gem just outside the village definitely plays at a high  2014, with a complex nose of mineral, honey, flowers and salt caramel.  In the mouth it delivers citrus, toast, grilled nuts, peach and pear with a deceptively rich midpalate and finishing lift.  We’re also getting final reloads on 2014s of value favorites Albert Bichot Bourgogne Chardonnay Secret de Famille 2014 ($19.98) and Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles 2014 ($19.98).  If you’re feeling flush there are a few bits left of the epic 2014s from Domaine Leflaive.
  • We probably don’t spend enough time talking about California Chardonnays. But honestly there is a lot of homogeneity stylistically and it seems to be one category where people are more brand conscious and less willing to listen.  So finding things we think are worth talking about and then choosing our ‘battles’ doesn’t allow for many opportunities.  We got quite excited about the Alma de Cattleya Chardonnay a while back from dynamic young winemaker Bibiana Gonzalez Rave, but hadn’t been significantly moved in a while since.  That being said, a couple of ‘old guard’ names got our attention recently.  The name Truchard has been on other people’s labels as well as their own, but often their own wines might have been a touch too restrained for their own good.   We appreciate the old school, sort of euro, less-fussed with style that we all grew up with, but there is a thin line between ‘sleek’ and ‘boring’.  The Truchard Chardonnay Carneros Napa Valley 2015 had just a bit more stuffing in the mid-palate than other versions we have tasted, and that little went a lot way to kick this wine to a new level.  Classic Carneros apple/citrus, deft oak, and ripe but fresh flavors with a little more carry, this works.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was different about the Chappellet Chardonnay Napa Valley 2014, which is often overlooked in favor of their reds and even their Chenin Blanc.  This one got our attention right away, with what is aptly described in the wine Spectator review, “Pure, rich and graceful, centered on a core of green apple, pear, melon and spice… A classic old-school Napa Chardonnay.”
  •  If you had told us 20 years ago that the Cotes de Jura would be one of the hippest appellations around sporting several sought after whites that sold in the $50 range, we would have thought you were from an alternate universe. Yet that is the case, and some of the things coming out of there these days, like those from the Jean Francois Ganevat, have created quite a stir.  This estate is clearly looking like the ‘next big thing’ from this area.  Thanks to the serious folks behind it (Burgundy legend Marquis d’Angerville started here in 2012) suggests this wine will get media attention and clearly, from the juice, they are aiming high.  The Domaine du Pelican Savagnin Ouille Arbois 2014 is a riveting wine, this indigenous varietal showcasing  driving flavors and deceptive length.   Also, for those of you that think Jura is too oxidative, this one is ‘ouille’, which means ‘topped off’ so they keep the barrels full to control the ‘sherry’ notes.  The descriptors from a 2013 review hit home, “very subtle aromas of peach skin, oyster shell and white flowers. Crisp on the attack, showing a salty tension that animates the quince and herbal flavors on the palate.”  Serious juice, superb with food and well worth the freight.  Their Domaine du Pelican Chardonnay Arbois 2014 is a fine specimen of the more traditional ‘flor‘ style as well.  

 

 

 

BRIEFS (BLANC)

  • While we could write volumes on all of these (and may later on), we’d like to call attention to a few cool, off-the-main-road whites we’ve gathered in over the last few weeks.  A little sunshine can do that.  We’ll start by saying the 2015 whites from Savoie have been wonderful surprises.  A little warmer vintage in these pristine high-valley vineyards add a layer of flesh and fruit as a bonus to the crisp minerality and pure, floral flavors.  If we have to name one, start with the Jean Masson Savoie Vieilles Vignes Traditionnelle Apremont 2015, a fresh, delicate white with plenty of verve that is a star with lighter fish dishes.
  • Got Greek?  We stumbled across Assyrtiko, a crisp, mineral infused white from the Greek island of Santorini during an attempt to put together a Greek wine section with a Greek food importer some years back.  Curiously, not many years later, the brand, Sigalas, turned up on the Wine Spectator Top 100.  Since that time more, and more serious Greek producers have found their way here.  Ktima Vourvoukeli is new to us, and the winery is located in northeastern Greece about 30 miles from the Mediterranean.  The Ktima Vourvoukeli Assyrtiko 2015 is an exciting find, especially considering the Sigalas has become trendy, more expensive and harder to keep in stock.  This one is a touch fleshier with a nice layer of yellow stone fruit, a little less severe minerality, but still plenty of lift and brightness.  We aren’t sure, since this is our first go-round with Ktima, if its the region, the vintage, or both that gives it its particular character, but it is a superb alternative white at a great price.  Oopah!
  • We have been threatening to bring out examples of the new wave in South Africa but have be restrained to a large extent by some of the passionate new importers’ lack of logistical skills.  We know enough to tell you that there is a groundswell of fresh activity around the Cape and some unique and exciting new faces coming down the pike, however slowly. We’ve been doing this long enough to know that you likely aren’t going to go looking for something called Thorne and Daughters Rocking Horse Cape White 2015 unless we give you a good reason.  This is a captivating if previously unimagined white blend of 33% Roussanne, 28% Semillon blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 18% Chenin Blanc and 6% Clairette that comes together to deliver a sleek melange of white stome fruit, citrus, delicate botanicals and a slightly honeyed note. There’s a tactile yet waxy mouthfeel with a good backbone of acidity.  Skillfully done, this one really grabbed us.

BRIEFS

  • This is why you taste. One would have expected the highly touted Cune Imperial Reserva 2010 to stand as something of a monument to a seminal vintage. Most people will presume the 2010 will be the play with a Parker 92 and comments like, “…a textbook Reserva”. Hey, it’s a great drink, don’t get us wrong. But we wondered if James Suckling, who isn’t known for Spanish wines, was a little overzealous when he gave the 2011 a ’96’.  Turns out the 2011 Cune Imperial, from a less touted, warmer vintage, exceeds its sibling in deliciousness, so maybe James was onto somethiing.   Ripe, creamy, tender and fruit forward, it is a pretty irresistible beverage.
  • We try not to repeat ourselves often, but after opening a bottle of the Vina Santurnia Rioja Gran Reserva 2004, we are and wondering why this stuff isn’t flying off the shelves. There aren’t any reviews that we could point to, but this plush, velvety, spicy, plummy red has a lovely texture and tender edges. In our minds this lush, smooth, tasty Rioja with substance and without any ‘bite’ would be the profile of what a lot of folks would describe as ‘the perfect red’.
  • We just tasted it, so consider this an early warning. Be on the lookout for the Cristom Pinot Noir Jefferson Cuvee 2014, one of the most complete under $30 Pinots we have tasted thus far from this spectacular Oregon vintage. The wine has a beautifully dense core of sappy cherry fruit with a precise savory underpinning of forest floor and minerality. It makes us really wonder just how good Steve Doerner’s vineyard bottlings are going to be. We also feel a little sorry for a lot of Oregon vintners that are going to try to get $50-60 for their ‘double-secret-reserve’ bottling when a wine like this can be had for half that price.
  • Just a quick note, as the boats are beginning to land. As an overall guideline to 2015, the little reds like Dolcetto and Barbera in Piedmont, Loire Reds, Beaujolais, and ‘entry level’ Burgundies and Rhones promise to be the best in years. Our job is easy when there are just a few diamonds in the rough. When virtually everything is this tasty, it’s a lot harder to pick and choose, though it’s also hard to make a mistake. Great time to stock up over the next year.