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Bordeaux

Petrus Gets Bad Review from Wine Spectator

2007 Petrus got 92 points from The Wine Spectator. I could not be more shocked to see The Wine Spectator trashing Petrus. However, that’s exactly what they did as any wine selling for $1300 is an abject failure at anything less than 100 points. You’d have to be a fool to bother to drink Petrus with such a rating - at least if you gave any credence to the 100 point scale.

That’s the rub with the worthless pointy system - a $25 wine can get the same score as a $1300 wine thus implying anybody that drinks Petrus is an idiot. Well OK, anybody spending $1300 on a bottle of wine is a sucker, but the fact is that Petrus is as unique and distinctive as wine can be and such silly rankings miss that fact. You may have to be an idiot to buy Petrus, but you’re no such thing if you enjoy drinking it.

At the top of the The Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2009 is the excellent Columbia Crest 2005 Columbia Valley Reserve rated 95 points by The Wine Spectator. I defy anyone with a palate to taste the 2007 Petrus against that 05 Columbia Crest and, without price as a factor, choose the Columbia Crest over the Petrus. Yet that is exactly what The Wine Spectator claims with their rankings. I’m also willing to bet that not one single Wine Spectator editor, including the one that gave the Columbia Crest 95 points, given the choice, would choose to drink (not buy) the Washington wine over the Petrus if they had to pick between the two. Yet, if they give any credence to their own system they would have to choose the Columbia Crest, which their own rating system ranks higher than Petrus.

I’ll happily drink the Columbia Crest, but I’m not hypocritical enough to claim I prefer it over the Petrus. I would never spend $1300 for a bottle of wine as no wine is worth that much, but if you’re buying, just like the editors of The Wine Spectator would, I’ll take the Petrus.

 


Fourty Eight Years Old

Not me, a wine. As old as it was, I was still older. I wish I was in as good of shape.

Old wine is a hit and miss thing. One bottle can be great and the next shot. Buying old wines is an even bigger crap shoot. This was a hit. The bottle of 1961 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac was simply perfect. They don’t mak’em like that anymore - literally. You can help but think of the old saw, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” when you taste wines such as this and wonder if the bigger badder wines of today could possibly taste this good at forty eight. I hope so, but secretly doubt it.

This beautiful bottle was supplied by my friend Donald Patz, of Patz & Hall fame, and a more perfect example of what old wine can become you’ll not find. The color was a gorgeous ruby becoming garnet. The addictive nose was exotically spiced, but still layered with seductive sweet, dark fruit that expanded into a growing complexity that could only remind me of listening to Kind of Blue on Bose headphones. The flavors and finish were all kissing Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. As you see I am older than the wine.

Greatness like this was no accident. They knew what they were doing. It has to make you wonder if we really know what we’re doing to have stopped making wines such as this.

Why Does That Wine Cost $550 A Bottle?

fredthompson_jmccarth_8441278 It was a quiet Sunday night in late January, not a big night even for this well-known restaurant. I got a reservation with no problem.  Not long after we were seated a couple swept into the room with a bottle in tow. He was grey haired and elegantly, but casually dressed. She was quite a bit younger and beautiful – just like the bottle of wine he was carrying.  It seems he had decided to bring two trophies to dinner.

The wine was 2006 Chateau Margaux and it goes for well over $500 a bottle these days. Probably cheap compared to his date. The sommelier did his duty and was suitable attentive as he pulled the cork and poured the wine. Graciously they offered him a taste. Then they ordered. He took a bowl of clam chowder, she a dozen pristine, fresh oysters – and that was it. Now I’m as open minded as they come when it comes to serving red wine with almost anything, but one thing I know for sure is that a young, tannic red Bordeaux is disgusting with fresh oysters and not much better with chowder. Yet the fact that the Margaux was nowhere ready to drink and that it was terrible with the food made not a difference to this couple. It only mattered that they could afford it. That’s why it costs $550 a bottle because people that don’t have a clue about what they’re eating or drinking buy it because it costs $550. A living example of the which came first the chicken or the egg dilemma. They didn’t buy the wine because it was great, but because it was expensive.

There is a range where wines are expensive because of their excellence, but that dollar point is passed at a much lower level than today’s trophy wines. It’s hard to say where that line is, but $550 is way over the top. Such prices are achieved only when people who have no idea what they’re drinking must have a wine to prove they know what they’re drinking.

Much to the pleasure of the staff, when they left the bottle was still a third full and she left almost a full glass. It mattered not because the wine had fulfilled their wants before the cork was pulled. They got their money’s worth.

Note: Fred Thompson was not in attendence that evening. Photo used for humor value alone.

Stellar Cellars

chateau-petrus

I was a guest, which is by far the best way to attend tastings like this, although as this was a dinner, it might be better to call it a drinking. Be assured I didn’t spit once. It never crossed my mind. One thing drinking old wines confirms is they don’t make’em like they used to. For better or worse, they’re different – more delicate and less alcoholic. It was a great evening with outstanding food, wine and company. What else is great wine for? Many thanks to Dr. Mike Dragutsky for inviting me to join in. Below are the wines with some short comments.

1990 Cristal Brut, Magnum – A reminder of how great Cristal used to be. Toasty, creamy, long and very complex. Cristal today is a mere shadow of this wine.

1985 Kistler Chardonnay, Carneros – Rich and powerful, but a bit passed its prime.

1995 Puligny Montrachet, Enseigners, Verget, Magnum – Unfortunately showing quite a bit of oxidation already, but still quite exciting with a firm mineral backbone and great length. Drink up soon.

2005 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir, Ten, Santa Rita Hills – A powerhouse pinot with a lot of new oak.

1988 Bonnes Mares, Comte de Vogue – Not showing well at first, this bottle ended up by my place so I got to go back to it several times. By the end of the evening it opened into a graceful beauty with layers and layers of length and personality.

1997 Chateau Pichon Lalande, Pauillac, Magnum and 1997 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac – I’ll comment on these two lovely, elegant and totally mature wines together as they dramatically illustrated how much better wines age in magnum. The Pichon Lalande was much fresher with brighter fruit and depth. These wines show how pretty wines can be from lighter years.

1989 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac – Still velvety and rich with an expansive bouquet and a long seductive finish. Twenty years old is a great place for classic Bordeaux from excellent vintages.

1988 Chatau Guraud Larose, St. Julien – Silky, delicate and perfumed. Really lovely with an almost caressing texture. Drink up now while it’s so pretty.

1961 Chateau Bouscaut, Graves (Pessac-Leognan now) – Just a beautiful old wine that is still showing a touch of fruit freshness amid all the coffee, porcini and spice. With that nice touch of that earthy minerality that defines Graves. Long and graceful.

1988 Petrus, Pomerol – Wine of the night. An elegant, graceful wonder. Svelte and incredibly long and complex. A wonderful wine.

1979 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac – The definition of elegance. A perfectly proportioned wine. Subtly complex and endlessly interesting. As usual, a perfect Bordeaux.

1977 Taylor, Oporto – Will this wine ever mature? Still young, fruity, dark, sweet and powerful. Just plain great Port that will age forever.

1982 Château Cheval Blanc

Chevalblanc That's not good enough for you? How about Trotanoy 1970, Haut Brion 1982 or Lafite: 1970, 1976, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003. These are just a few of the wines being offered in an upcoming auction by Hart, Davis and Hart in Chicago. Literally thousands of bottles are being sold and the list, offered in a hard cover book exceeding one hundred pages, offers the very best of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone, Italy and California. Owner John Hart, who I have known for almost thirty years, is one of the top rare and fine wine professionals in the country and his firm was selected to offer for auction The Fox Cellar, which includes the wines above and seemingly countless others. They will be offered for auction over two days, September 19th and 20th. Included in the event is a sumptuous lunch at Chicago's famous Tru Restaurant, where the auction is held.

President Paul Hart recounts in the auction book his first visit to the cellar as they prepared for the auction. There he saw more than 1,000 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, 65 cases of Petrus, 95 cases of Château Marqaux, 150 cases of Mouton, 90 cases of Haut-Brion, 120 cases of Latour, 45 cases of Cheval Blanc and 130 cases of Lafite. What most of us can never comprehend is all of this wine is owned by a person. One guy bought all of this and more than we can imagine and built a place to keep it. Even with the thousands of bottles that Hart, Davis and Hart are offering in this auction only a portion of the Fox Cellar is being offered. He is keeping more than he can ever drink and still offering up over one hundred pages of the world's most famous wines for sale.

If you've ever wondered why these wines sell for such stratospheric prices, this cellar is a prime example. All around the planet obsessed collectors amass cellars with far more wine in them than not only they, but their heirs can drink before their bottles turn into a pale reflection of the glorious nectars they once contained. Wines like these are no longer wines, but things to be possessed as a symbol of success and power. That's why they cost what they  do. There is something about the acquisition of 1,440 bottles of Latour or 1,560 bottles of Lafite by an individual that is offensive. Like great art hidden from the public in private collections instead of being shared with all as part of our human patrimony, some things are just too important to all of us too be hoarded away by Scrooge.

Fortunately these gems are being liberated before they fade into feeble old age. I cannot overstate how exceptional many of these wines are and experiencing them at this state of maturity is like seeing the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper for the first time. They are not beverages, but art. Like great art, these bottles are not cheap and the risk in purchasing them is not insignificant. Bottles of 1982 Cheval Blanc can be corked too. In such a situation you need someone to guide you and I can think of no better guide than John Hart and his compatriots at Hart, Davis and Hart. Over the decades, John has devoted himself with passion and rigid ethical standards to bringing wines to his customers in pristine condition. If you're going to spend this kind of money, John is someone to depend on.

Most of us will rarely or ever buy, much less drink such wines, but this is the world that Lafite and Latour live in and why they cost what they do. Even if you're not buying, taking a look at this web site for this auction as it's a real peep show for wine voyeurs. I guess great wine is like pornography, you know it when you see it: and this is it.

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Wine Notes

Recent wines I have enjoyed, most under $20.

Veneto Bianco IGT, Anselmi, San Vincenzo, Italy, 2006 - The lovely light gold color is a proper prelude to the balance of this excellent wine. So few producers get the concept of balanced richness in white wines. Substantial without the least bit of heaviness or cloying fruit or oak, the smooth creamy texture has just enough bite to keep it refreshing. As usual this wine is a tremendous value offering far more complexity than almost anything at this price point. Best of all, the second glass is better than the first. ( find this wine )

Riesling, Bergterrassen Fedespiel, Johann Donabaum, Austria, 2006 - A delicate flower of wine. A lacy mixture of floral and mineral. This is a style of wine that just does not exist outside of Austria, Germany and Northeastern Italy. If it does, I have not tasted it. Lean and delicate, this is one of those wines if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss all it has to offer. The finish is dry, but mellowed by the lovely fruit. (find this wine )

Riesling, Private Lumpkin, Lazy River Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton District, Oregon, 2006 - While inspired by Old World Wines, you’ll know right away this wine is from the New World. Richly aromatic with ripe apricots and pungent petrol notes, this wine is quite lush with a bit of sweetness accentuated by its fruit-forward style. Not for aging, but perfect for the best Asian cuisine you can find.

Riesling, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Essence, S.A. Prüm, Germany, 2006 - All charm and pleasure in this nice riesling for everyday drinking. Just off-dry, but with plenty of acidity to keep it alive, this is a wonderful wine for summer parties or for just keeping in your refrigerator for a glass when you get home from work. A very good starting place for those that don’t know the pleasures of riesling as it’s inexpensive and easy to find. One of those nice wines to enjoy without thinking too much about it. ( find this wine )

Nebiolo (yup, one b) d’Alba, Cappellano, Italy, 2003 - This is just a wonderful bottle of nebbiolo that is an amazing value. Unfortunately they don’t make enough to make it easy to find. Try Chambers St. in Manhattan and cross your fingers. A classic nebbiolo with lifting aromatics laced with tar, spice and that taught floral character only nebbiolo achieves. Still tannic and closed, it will improve for many years. Better than many expensive Baroli for a fraction of the price. Great wine from a great producer. Imported by Louis/Dressner

Pinot Noir, Rogue Valley, Skipper’s Cuvee, Dobbes Family Estate, Oregon, 2006 - This wine makes you wonder why more pinot noir producers are not looking more seriously at Southern Oregon. While the majority of top Oregon pinots are from the Northern Willamette, this wine is so good it should pique the interest of quite a few producers. Richly colored and very aromatic, it exhibits the classic cool climate personality that brought growers to Oregon in the first place. Compared to the price of most Oregon pinots these days this is a great bargain. ( find this wine )

Washington Red Table Wine, Three Wives, Remy Wines,  2006 - Young winemaker Remy Drabkin is someone to watch. Her tiny production under the Three Wives and Remy labels may be hard to find, but I suggest you try to get on her mailing list now. This release, a kitchen sink blend of Bordeaux an Rhone varieties from Washington is a very nice wine at a very nice price. Rich and brightly fruity, this is a great wine for sausages fresh off your grill. Remy has done a great job of crafting a distinctive wine with a clearly Northwestern style.

Rosso Orvietano, Rosso di Spicca, Tenuta Le Velette, Italy, 2005 - I love little Italian wines like this charming wine. Light, with an earthy fruit and lean, zesty character, it’s a perfect wine for simple pastas or pizza. Best drunk with a light chill in stubby bistro glasses on a warm Wednesday night, on your patio, with a dinner you quickly whipped together. Better yet it only costs about ten bucks.(find this wine )

Châteauneuf du Pape, Les Bartavelles, Jean-Luc Columbo, France, 2006 - Since Châteauneuf became a wine region on steroids, much loved by the Barry Bonds steak house crowd, it’s been hard to find a Châteauneuf you can drink with out blowing your palate and the next day. Here is a very nice wine, not a great wine mind you, but a very nice wine that is a pleasure to drink. Make no mistake this is not a light wine, but by New World standards it is quite restrained. With an alcohol level around 13.5% (many hotshot CdP’s push 16%), this is wine that can be drunk with ease and you can still go to work the next day. Most importantly, this is not a simple raspberry fruit bomb, but a wine that offers real varietal character and a rich earthiness and balance that is clearly and thankfully French.

Veneto Rosso IGT, Catullo, Bertani, Italy, 2002 (60% cabernet sauvignon, 40% corvina) - Normally I can stand these new wave Italian wines, but this is a very nice effort. Of course, the cabernet sauvignon overwhelms any touch of corvina character, but what I like is that that the wine is not overdone. You can taste the oak, but it is not over-oaked and is not at all over-extracted and still actually tastes like it not only came from Italy, but the Veneto. A nicely balanced wine that will pair well with lamb or veal. It is mature and ready to drink.

Moulis, Château Maucaillou, France, 2003 - It was with a tinge of sadness that I opened my last bottle of this excellent Bordeaux, but it was only a tinge. This wine, like most 2003 Bordeaux, is ready to drink. Frankly, I think letting wines from this super-hot vintage age is a very bad idea. The wines are lush and easy without the definition that is the hallmark of classic Bordeaux. Wonderfully fragrant, rich without ponderous fruit and with a long, soft cedar spiced finish I just adored this wine. As befitting the a last bottle of good Bordeaux, I served it with the best lamb chops I could buy. ( find this wine )

Pinot Noir, Corral Creek Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Chehalem,  Oregon, 2001 - I know that the 2001 vintage forced Oregon producers to a more lean style, but I admit that I love these wines as they age and wish more producers would make wines like this in more forgiving vintages. The nose is wonderfully layered with orange peel, spiced wild cherries and touches of wildflowers, vanilla and tart blackberries. Firm and almost taut on the palate with a graceful, almost delicate character with hints of tar, candied bitter orange and wild strawberries. I think this wine is perfectly ready to drink now and , in fact, may be at its high point. The tannins on the finish have evolved into that dusty, silky texture than only pinot noir achieves. A very good wine at its peak. ( find this wine )

 

Elegant Infanticide

95 yquem The confident, tuxedoed waiter bends over and intimately intones, “Wouldn’t you like something a little sweet with your foie gras.” All to often, in America’s finest restaurants, the glass that arrives contains Château d’Yquem, the most famous of all dessert wines. I can’t count the times this has happened to me over the decades and, yes, I consider myself lucky to say that. As petty as it may seem, I have a problem with it.

The problem is that there are two Château d’Yquem wines. One is the wine that promises to become d’Yquem and the other is the d”Yquem, which is something that only arrives with time.  The first is an excellent dessert wine, the second is a legend. Anyone who has tasted this wine at its zenith understands that d’Yquem does not become d’Yquem until, at a minimum, it passes its twentieth birthday. Before that this great wine offers only potential greatness, not greatness itself. Yet bottle after bottle of this outrageously expensive miracle are poured out in restaurants in the name of elegant infanticide. These restaurants and their sommeliers should know better than this, but do it anyway seemingly struck by the d’Yquem label, more like groupies following the lastest star in People Magazine than serious wine aficionados. To drink young d’Yquem is an intellectual exercise at best and a terrible waste of potentially sublime wine at the worst.

Besides being a horrible waste of one of the world’s greatest sweet wines, it is also a disservice to their customers as there are many wonderful. perfectly ready to drink sweet wines that are more exciting to drink than immature Chateau d’Yquem. It seems to me that a competent sommelier should never be star-struck and serve a wine based only on its name with no regard to whether the wine is ready to drink or not: especially at this price level.

The poor d’Yquem that died a early death a few nights ago was a 1995 Château d’Yquem, an incredible wine that is nowhere near ready to drink. While still tight and a bit pungent, you cannot miss the greatness simmering underneath that will require at least another decade to release itself and perhaps ten years after that to achieve its pinnacle. With current retail prices for this wine at around $200. it should not be hard to encourage you to sit on your investment so you really get what you paid for. Everyone should rise up to protect this great wine and defend it against the next sommelier that wants to serve it before it actually becomes d’Yquem.

 

Carbonnieux

Chateau-Carbonnieux I still remember the experience clearly. I walked into the wine shop, armed with my new found expertise provided by Alexis Lichine and Alexis Bespaloff, and purchased my first ” serious wines” to age. The year was 1977 and the wines were 1975 Château Carbonnieux Blanc and 1971 Rouge. They were priced outrageously at about ten bucks a bottle. I bought three bottles of each and placed them with honor in the new, but still empty, racks I had constructed in the unused coal bin in the cellar of the old house I lived in at the time. I had selected these wines because of the lovely stories provided by two famed Alexis’ about the Château and its wines. I kept the reds for many years and the whites for at least two or three years before pulling the corks. The precise tasting notes have long ago left my memory, but I remember them with pleasure and a certain sentimentality.

This warm recollection has led me to order many a bottle of Carbonnieux over the years. More often than not I drank the Blanc as it was widely available and a staple on wine lists. However, those days are long gone and I haven’t seen a Carbonnieux Blanc on a wine list for a long time, but suddenly there it was on the list yesterday at lunch and I could not resist the warm tug of nostalgia and ordered a bottle of the 2004. The Carbonnieux white wine vineyards are planted to 65% sauvignon blanc, 34% semillon and 1% muscadelle and, although the semillon is the junior partner, its smooth creamy oily textures dominate the blend, while the sauvignon blanc provides lift, highlights and zest to the finish. Considering the improvements in winemaking at this estate over the last decades, it’s safe to assume that these are far better wines than I drank in the past. While there are more profound whites from Graves, this is a lovely wine with a character that easily flows across the palate. In addition, the 12.5% alcohol maintains the liveliness of this wine instead of letting the dense oily character of overripe semillon make the wine heavy and dull. This Grand Cru was just labeled Graves when I first drank it, but the wine is now part of the prestigious Pessac-Léognan Appellation, which was first created in 1987.

This trip down memory lane made for a very pleasant lunch. Like, music, wine can also transport us to a different time and place.

Wine Notes

Every time I have a wine I like I put the bottle on my desk so I can write about it. When space runs out you get one of these “Wine Notes” posts. These are all wines that I have consumed with meals and have usually tasted over a period of several days. They are more often than not under $30 as I frequently find more expensive wines not enjoyable with my day-to-day cooking as they are not ready to drink or just too big and woody. These posts are a true picture of the wines that I choose to serve at home with my own meals. All the wines in these posts are recommended. In fact, you’ll rarely find me writing about a wine I don’t like unless I think it’s an incredible rip-off or a pretentious, over-marketed wine of questionable quality like Veuve Cliquot.

  • Prosecco, Montello d Colli Ascolani, Loredon Gasparini, NV - I’ve been gulping a glass of this charmer every night while cooking dinner lately and find it refreshing and uplifting after work treat. It is a lovely, creamy fruit-driven bubbly that is just barely off dry. At under $15 this is a pleasure that can be enjoyed often. I’ve been using a stopper and drinking over three or four days and the bubbles hang in there to the last glass.
  • Muscadet Sèvre e Maine sur lie, Cuvée Médaillée, Le “L“‘d’Or, Pierre Luneau-Papin, Domaine de la Grange, 2005 - A steely laser of a wine. Very firm and tight with that stony minerality that only Muscadet delivers. I drank this wine over a week and it just kept getting better with air. Muscadet is the clear winner when it comes to the long wine name awards. It was perfect with some pan-fried Oregon oysters. I know it will be better with age, but I just don’t have the willpower not to drink it now.
  • Müller Thurgau Dry, Phalz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebhotz, 2005 - This is one of those wines that have so much acidity you think your glass has a static charge as it touches your lips. Crisp with a zippy lemon-lime fruit, this was a great match to some Thai spring rolls. Wines like this should be used to define the usually misused term “dry” as this one is almost jarringly dry. As you know combining electric acidity with jarring dryness means that both me and my deep fryer love this wine.
  • Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore, Torre di Ceparano, Fattoria Zerbina, 2003 - I’ve been a Zerbina fan for a long time. While their top expensive “Super” wines get big points, what I actually love are their least expensive wines like Ceregio and this wine. The Torre di Ceparano is consistently a great value in sangiovese. Structured with authentic, earthy sangiovese fruit and character, there are few Chiantis that can match this wine and those that do all cost a lot more. If you can’t figure out what the big deal with sangiovese is all about try this wine with some braised lamb shanks. In my opinion, Zerbina is the best producer in Romagna.
  • Nebbiolo Langhe, Produttori del Barbaresco, 2005 - An very good bargain in Piemonte nebbiolo, which is something that is getting harder and harder to find. Very classic with earthy fruit, drying tannins and distinctive aromatics. You’ll find plenty of the famed “tar and roses”, which are the defining characteristics of classic nebbiolo. It is definitely worth waiting a few years before drinking this fine wine.
  • Beaujolais Le Perreon, Nouveau, Domaine de la Madone, Jean Bererd et Fils, 2007 - Served lightly chilled with homemade pizza topped with lots of sweet onions and an egg, which made a perfect match and a very enjoyable dinner. Believe it or not, there are some very good Nouveau Beaujolais wines being produced by small estates. Good luck finding them though.
  • Dolcetto d’Alba, Pertinace, Treiso, 2006 - With so many Dolcetto wines on steroids these days (six are named in the Mitchell Report), it’s nice to find a wine that you can actually drink without going to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned. Fresh, brightly fruity, pleasantly zesty and under $15, which makes this a great wine to buy by the case for casual meals. No it’s not profound, but sometimes deliciously easy is more enjoyable than profound.
  • Cahors, Clos La Coutale, 2005 - If you ever wondered why people grow malbec after tasting yet another drab commercial grocery store wine from South America, try this rich blend of 80% malbec and 20% merlot. Robust with layers of flavors and a firm backbone that leads to a warm, earthy finish. An excellent choice for this winter’s hearty stews.
  • Bourgogne, Cuvée Sylvie, Domaine Sylvie Esmonin, 2005 - A great value in fine French pinot noir. Lately I’ve been having better luck finding good pinot in this price range than with more expensive bottles. As a Burgundy lover living in Oregon, I am always ordering bottles of Burgundy to convince locals of its superior charms. Often these wines do not present convincing arguments in support of my position. However, wines like this do. This is almost picture perfect pinot noir. No, it’s not the most complex pinot you’ll ever taste, but it is delicious and purely varietal. Rich, creamy and velvety from first sniff to the last lingering essence of the finish, this wine is pure pinot pleasure. One note, by the next day the wine had faded quite a bit. Therefore, I’d suggest drinking this wine up young and pretty.
  • Côte de Brouilly, Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes, Nicole Chanrion, 2005 - This is one of those rich Cru Beaujolais wines that remind you more of pinot noir than the many insipid wines that carry the name Beaujolais these days. This is a classy gamay with great depth and richness. This wine is still actually a bit closed and needs a year or two more to really strut its stuff. Mixed with the brilliant gamy fruit flavors and aromas are touches of black truffles, herbs and a touch of black pepper. This is a wine that makes you sit up and take notice.
  • Château Aney, Haut Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, 2003 - Just a few decades ago Bordeaux was my go-to wine. It dominated my cellar and my table. Those days are long gone and now I taste more Bordeaux than I drink. However, when rack of lamb appears on my table my taste buds yearn for Bordeaux, or what Bordeaux used to be anyway. Now 2003 is not my favorite vintage and I had not tasted wines from the Chateau before, but with Kermit Lynch’s name on the back label I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. While like most 2003’s it is not the most structured Bordeaux you’ll ever taste it has enough of a tannic backbone that it reminds you it really came from the Haut Medoc. For me this wine is ready to drink now and over the next year or two and that nothing worthwhile will be gained by extended aging. It went perfectly with my lamb and cost less than $25. Now there’s a Bordeaux you can enjoy. It’s worth pointing out this wine is listed at 12.5% alcohol, that’s nice too.
  • Côtes du Rhône, Les Cailloux, Domaine Rabasse Charavin, 2004 - Here’s a big, ripe chewy wine that pulls it off. It took me a glass to adjust to it, but after that I found its ripe earthy warmth comforting and enjoyable. Having a big cheeseburger dripping with extra sharp cheddar tonight? Here’s your wine.

St. Emilion, Chateau Pipeau, Grand Cru 2003

Recommended by the ever reliable wine merchant Doug Salthouse, proprietor of Smart Buy Wines in New Jersey, this Saint Emilion Grand Cru is a tour-de-force combination of all that was, is and what can be exciting about Bordeaux. Rich and smooth without a hint of over-extraction, this wine blends modern knowledge with classic Bordeaux character. I’m ordering a case of this under $30 bargain.

” Located just 3 kilometers from Saint Emilion, Chateau Pipeau is a perfectly situated vineyard with great exposition (sun exposure). The vineyard has been in the Mestreguilhem family since 1929, thus there is now three generations of experience that has sought to constantly improve this wine. This blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc come from vineyards situated on soils composed of gravel, sand and clay. Fermentation is carried out at low temperatures over a period of 4 – 5 weeks. Following fermentation, the wine is matured in oak casks, one third of which are new.” - from the Smart Buy Wines newsletter