Tradition rules at Lopez de Heredia; it should and it must to make wine this classic, pure and elegant. Don Rafael was one of the founders of modern Rioja, by which I mean 1877-modern when the first phyllloxera-weary French were just crossing the border. No reason to change now in tech or taste. No malo, no AC, no fruit bombs, no choking oak. What you get here is not bowls of cherries and plums, but leaner berry fruit, hints of rose, leather and cinnamon, graceful and long lived. Not for every taste, but my kind of winemaking, pure, from soil to yeast to salt air. The Tondonia reds are true rarities that their fans seek out and treasure for years. Not that you need to wait. The Lopez de Heredia is aged past the minimum, beautiful to drink now and for another 15 years. I also have 1994 Gran Reserva if you want to taste real patience. This 2001 is perfect to kick off another century of delicious tradition. The winery’s current generation is quite ready for the future. Next time you gotta see this place, a gingrebready old 19th century winery… and a sweeping new Zaha Hadid structure as cool as Gehry’s “Bilbao.” Inside those contemporary swirls is an intricate replica of the gorgeous Art Nouveau boutique that Don Rafael commissioned to show off his Riojas at the Brussels expo in 1910. Tondonia is always in style. The 2001 Reserva will make you a believer for a long time.
2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva
…nose of decayed red fruit, fireside hearth, a touch of mulberry… The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, crisp red fruits (wild strawberry and cranberry) with a sharp, vibrant, tense, tannic finish… 95 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
I know I’m on to something good when a wine stands out among nearly 45,000 wines at a monstrous wine fair. That’s what happened at VinItaly this year when I tasted at the booth of the Chianti Rufina producer, Selvapiana, with Frederico Masseti, the managing director of the estate. The single vineyard Bucerchiale Riserva got my immediate attention. Everything about the wine wowed me, but then, every wine Mr. Masseti showed that day was a winner – including the 1968 Chianti Riserva. This 45 year old Chianti produced from 100% Sangiovese grown on schist, limestone and clay at high altitude was unbelievably vigorous for its age. It was light in color, but still had beautiful aromas of dried berries and spice, with a memorable finish. It was a real homage to the Bucerchiale vineyard that allows the grapes to ripen slowly and completely giving the resulting wine complexity and nuance rarely accomplished in this sub-zone. Recent vintages of Bucerchiale have been extraordinary primarily due to the privileged vineyard site, but also because most of the vines are now approaching 50 years in age. Old vines, limestone, clay, schist and high altitude come together in a way that sets the Bucerchiale apart – it truly stands out in a crowd! Believe me, it will stand out for you too.
2009 Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva
…Red plum, redcurrant, tobacco, forest floor and potpourri spices on the sexy, very complex nose. …multilayered flavors of blueberry, tobacco leaf and loam. …lingering ripe red cherry and spice flavors…. 95 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar | GPS: 95
I thought that Alejandro Fernandez’s 2009 Crianza (94RAS) was the best I’ve tasted from his landmark tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero. It was the best vintage since 2001, but when I opened the Reserva, wow! The two years in oak took it up a gorgeous notch for me. The Wine Advocate just came out very enthusiastically too, Lush fruit and caressing texture “can only bring smiles,” Neal Martin said and pegged it at 93 points, conservative by my lights and darn high scoring for a $50 wine. Of course I’ve got a much better price and a full range of sizes, too, magnums and double mags. This is a beauty; any follower of Alejandro, any Ribera fan, will want plenty on hand. GPS: 95
2009 Pesquera Tinto Reserva …when I opened the Reserva, wow! The two years in oak took it up a gorgeous notch for me. …This is a beauty; any follower of Alejandro, any Ribera fan, will want plenty on hand. 95 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Prop.
Only in America could a first growth like the fabulous Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards be on a first name basis with its devotees: it’s plain Todd to any of you who have met the long tall Anderson on his trips here. I’m especially partial to his rock smarts; Todd was a geologist before he started grapes near Howell Mountain 30 years back. Friendly giant of a guy. Same goes for his Bordeaux reds: Big, powerful, and worth taking time to get to know. The 2010 estate reserve cabernet is another exceptional wine of great purity with all those adult flavors of dark fruits, anise and tobacco. Give it five years and the black magic in this bottle will thrill. Lay down a couple for a long-term relationship that will last decades.
2010 Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
…Layers of blue and black fruit, smoke, tobacco and licorice are woven together beautifully. …creamy, layered finish laced with expressive blue and black fruits rounds things out in style….
93-96 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
Took this photo of their 1969 Prado Enea resting in the cellar while visit with the Mugas in Toro.
I admire how the Spanish truly respect age, in people and in wine. It’s one reason the Muga family cellars their wines so long and puts so much effort into making their own barrels. That’s why I’m so close to them. The Mugas have been in Haro for at least three centuries and they care lovingly for their oldest Gran Reserva Rioja. They release a Prado Enea only when it’s ripe, rich and ready to drink although you can cellar another 15 years or more. Perfect for me, and Parker, too. This 2005 is a charmer; all those years in oak, new and old, harmonize the forest of berries, dark chocolate and wild herbs into a lusciously sleek wine. The Mugas are old friends of B-21, so you may have met Juan and Isaac on their visits here. I’m lucky enough to see them in Haro. Everyone sees their amazing cooperage and endless cellars, but my favorite spot was much older. Juan Muga took us to a convent from the 1300s that is now the Los Augustinos Hotel with a very contemporary restaurant from the 2000s. Imagine sitting in the huge stone arches of a medieval cloister sampling Iberico ham and tempura asparagus with the best Mugas and the other favorite drink of modern Spain: table-side gin and tonics. What a family! We’ll bring them back soon. So get to know the newest member of the family, the 2005 Prado Enea Gran Reserva and you’ll be a Muga friend for life, like myself.
2005 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva
…opulent bouquet of primal, ripe, boysenberry, mulberry, dark chocolate and crushed violets that blossom with aeration. The palate is full-bodied with crisp acidity… pure blackberry and cassis fruit….
95 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
I dare you Champagne fanatics: Pop Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvee Brut. You’ll love this unbelievable bargain. Absolutely the best I’ve had in Italy. It comes as close to Champagne as any: crisp, refined, the finest pearl bubbles, lovely faint gold. Made methode champenoise, of course, hand turned and all that. More important, it comes from Franciacorta, the go-to DOCG for sparkling wine with its limestone soils. Sitting in the cool foot of the Alps and all those lakes between Venice and Milan. Bellavista takes as much care with vineyards as any grower in Champagne, sorting though 100 lots before they pick the 30 to use in this cuvee, aging in small barrels before blending. At this price, your summer will pop with celebration, the savings spilling all over your deck and dock, too.
Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvee Brut
The NV Brut Cuvee is the finest entry-level methode Champenoise wine being made in Italy. White peaches, green apples, flowers and crushed rocks are layered into an energetic frame of notable class….
90 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
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This beauty from Bordeaux’s Canon-Fronsac is a dead ringer for great St.-Emillon. In fact, at just 15 km from St.-Emilion and Pomerol, Canon-Fronsac is a geological continuation of the St.-Emilion limestone plateau with clay soils that Merlot just loves, producing supple and sophisticated wines that keep me coming back for more. Gaby is so good and such a solid bargin that 90% of it is consumed in Europe! When I tasted it, I had to get it for you. When you pop this one, everyone will gab about just how unbelievably good it is. With plush, smooth tannins swimming in a core of Merlot-driven plums and hint of Cabernet herbs and the ability to age gracefully, 2009 Gaby is a show-stopping steal.
2009 Chateau du Gaby
A broad, fleshy, smoky style, with dark plum, currant paste, braised fig and baker’s chocolate notes that hang on the muscular finish. A gutsy style, but should be tamed a bit by cellaring….
91 points, Wine Spectator
Sonoma Coast is a new Burgundy in America for me. Cool breeze and Pacific fog makes clear, precise chardonnay I don’t often find in California. These are not creamy pop wines, but structured and built for food, and in summer that means seafood. I have great luck in this young appellation especially from smart new growers like Flowers and Failla who follow European standards. Helps that Flowers got his start as a nurseryman and that Failla has roots in Turley; they both care about grapes and winemaking that puts wine before winemaking. Very elegant chardonnay; wish there were more. So when I get chards like these I want a lobster roast or scallops and shrimp, a big slab of white fish grilled with lime and just a touch of butter. Put some fruit on the grill too. The Flowers is more delicate and subtle, full of apples and pears, while Failla is richer and peachy. Take your pick, or order both, and have a special dinner with your new friends from California.
2010 Flowers Chardonnay
…Apricots, peaches, lemon, mint and savory herbs wrap around the textured, broad-shouldered finish. A vivid, striking wine, the 2010 is loaded with personality….
92 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2011 Failla Chardonnay
Pure, clean scents of ripe apple, melon, pear and subtle citrus form the core of this bright, elegant, delicate version. Subtle oak comes through on the finish….
92 points, Wine Spectator
Daniel Boulle, proprietor
I can barely pronounce Aphillanthes, but I can sure drink anything Daniel Boulle makes. All mind-blowers. And this CdR of VV grenache and mourvedre cuvee is stunningly intense, dark stuff, full of ripe berries, mushrooms, licorice, smoke and spice. That’s the signature of our sweet spot in the Rhone, the stony “plain of God” and low hills around Rasteau and Cairanne scattered between Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. The 2010 vintage was a beauty and Boules is a never-fail perfectionist. I found him through our importer pal Peter Weygandt who loves exploring the Rhone as much as I do. Another “up from the co-op” story of a fourth generation wine maker who took his family’s 80-year-old vines and made a big-rating name for themselves. Even Parker calls them the richest he’s tasted. With great terroir, tiny yields and the advice of our friend Phillipe Cambie, these wines make Aphillanthes easy on the tongue. And I make it easy on your wallet and easier to love.
2010 Domaine les Aphillanthes CdR Villages Cuvee Vieilles Vignes …notes of sauteed porcini mushrooms intermixed with blueberry, black currant and black raspberry fruit. Full-bodied and rich with good structure and density… another impressive, pure, multidimensional effort…
92 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
St. Henri is Penfolds’ other icon, a Bordeaux-styled shiraz that is friendlier than Grange and just as old. Darn impressive at one tenth the price. It has always had its own cult: Penfolds lovers seeking elegance saw beautifully good value in a rich shiraz with a lot less waiting. The secret is that Penfolds adds a punch of cabernet to the shiraz and raises it in old wood vats. Naked flavor of grapes, not oak. No better example than the 2008 vintage: WA called the ’08 Grange a 100-point wine, but and you’ll spend 15 to 20 years and $700 to enjoy it. Yet Neal Martin assesses St. Henri as a gorgeous and gregarious 95-pointer. So it’s five points shy of perfection, at 95 still a rare jewel and at my price you can buy enough to get through years of waiting on Grange.
2008 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz
…copious layers of black cherry, cassis, cedar and just a hint of fresh beetroot. The palate is full-bodied with a dense carapace of primal blackberry and cassis fruit. …well balanced and offers great delineation… Drink 2024-2045.
95 points, eRobertParker.com
You and I have been loving old-vine garnacha from Alto Moncayo for years. I thought the 2009 Veraton was through the roof when I tried it on the road with Jorge Ordonez, the wild Spanish explorer (and our travelin’ buddy)… but the 2010 beats it silly. 95 points silly!
Perfect expression of this hot dry windy corner of old Spain… all red clay and red slate. Garnacha has never been more luscious and lusty. This 2010 is one of the best Spanish wines I’ve had in the last year. Exciting intensity, remarkable depth and length attributed to the soil. Impressive drive. Credit ideal terroir plus Jorge, his local partners and Oz wizardry of Chris Ringland, the Mr. Grenache of Australia. There’s no better buy from Spain than this 2010 Veraton.
2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton
Intensity is remarkable, great precision on the nose and palate. The intensity of the finish is attributed to 40-60 year old vines in slate/red clay soils. The length is sustained. …an extraordinary rendition of Garnacha….
95 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Andrea Franchetti, Passopisciaro’s proprietor.
The subtlety and silkiness that Andrea Franchetti’s genius gets from the slopes of Sicily’s rugged volcano take take me straight to the Cote de Nuits and Piemonte (at half the cost). Berries and flowers in the nose, bright flavor, sleek body and electric nerve. Yet the grape is local nerello mascalese, not pinot or nebbiolo and nothing like the Bordeaux varieties he brought to Tuscany so famously. Funny thing, this is not what Andrea intended in 2000. He thought Etna would make very big reds he said in a great interview I saw in Vinography. Instead the old mountain taught him (can’t argue with a Sicilian lava flow, I’ve seen it). The nerello vines are 70, 80 years old, and vineyards follow contradas, lines laid out in the flows long ago. So Franchetti cleaned up the vines, picked late and treated the wine gently. The nerello paid back his respect with gorgeous single-vineyard “Contrada” wines and this beautiful blend. Franchetti also gave Etna a superb chardonnay. Together, they thrill Italian wine lovers like me every year. To make sure you get in on the adventure and the elegance, join us and climb the volcano. It’s breathtaking.
2010 Passopisciaro Passopisciaro Rosso
…scents of black truffles, incense, smoked game, creosote, spring flowers and black fruits. Full-bodied with mouth-staining tannin as well as mouth-saturating extract and richness… 94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2009 Passopisciaro Guardiola (Chardonnay) Pale straw. Pungent apple, buttercup and mineral aromas along with a hint of resin on the complex nose. Juicy, concentrated flavors of thyme, lime, banana, honey and stone coat the palate….
90 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar
2010 Passopisciaro Guardiola (Chardonnay) …impresses for a rich, textured fabric of peaches, apricots and flowers. Clean mineral notes emerge over time, adding focus and drive. A long, multi-dimensional finish rounds things out nicely….
92 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2009 Passopisciaro Contrada Chiappemacine …similar to the straight Passopisciaro. It possesses attractive density and expressive fruit, all supported by firm yet well-balanced tannins. A bright, articulate finish adds proportion and balance….
93 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2010 Passopisciaro Contrada Chiappemacine …reveals a more immediate expression of fruit. Dark red berries, tobacco and mint flesh out on the radiant mid-palate. …an energetic style because of the vintage… impeccably refined and harmonious….
94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2009 Passopisciaro Contrada Sciaranuova ….Bright red fruit, flowers, anise and minerals wrap around the palate in this wiry, energetic Nerello Mascalese. This shows substantial vibrancy and cut, along with intense mineral notes…
94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2010 Passopisciaro Contrada Sciaranuova A totally striking wine… a deep, intriguing bouquet redolent of orange peel, tar, licorice and exotic spices. Dark berries, minerals and rose petals add further complexity on the generous, silky finish….
94+ points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2009 Passopisciaro Contrada Porcaria …exquisite wine layered with dark, sensual fruit. …muscular yet weightless… The wine takes shape beautifully in the glass as it gains notable intensity all the way through to the palate staining finish….
94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
Way past time for you to enjoy the great table wine from the legendary Port vineyards of the Douro. No better time or place to catch up than with the juicy ’09 Reserva I have from Quinta do Crasto’s 70-year-old vines. The 2008 edition went sky high when Wine Spectator tapped it No. 3 in the Top 100. The 2009 is a winner in my book too, and at a terrific price. It has Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional and two dozen other old grapes from the steep schist hillsides of the valley, all handpicked and basket pressed. A big, well-built wine, brick red and purple; sumptuous texture, whiffs of cinnamon and wild herbs, fresh berries and plums with a very long finish. A truly fine wine that would sell for a lot more if it were from any other country. …Which makes visiting Portugal in a bottle as smart as it is delicious.
2009 Quinta do Crasto Reserva Old Vines
…A big drink of deep purple, sumptuous fruit flavors, whiffs of cinnamon, rich texture, and long easy finish. There’s a simpler red, long on Tinta Roriz (that’s Tempranillo on this side of the border), more flowery in the nose…
94 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Guy Charlemagne is one of my most delicious discoveries, great grower Champagne in the grand cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger (yes, that Mesnil!) and this is his beautiful “Mesnillesime” cuvee from the best vintage since 1998. Easy to find since Charlemagne is right across the street from the great house of Salon which may be why so many people overlook it. Not me. Charlemagne’s ’04 is a gorgeous wine, their very best. All the elegance and unctuous palate, 100% chardonnay and low dosage. When I was visiting Salon last week, the ’02, ’04, ’06 and ’08 bottles were stack high in the cellar but you won’t taste the ’04 Salon for another 4 or 5 years. Yet the ’04 Guy Charlemagne is yours now. Why wait? This is an exceptional Champagne you should pop now!
2004 Guy Charlemagne Mesnillesime Grand Cru
…one of my most delicious discoveries… a gorgeous wine… All the elegance and unctuous palate, 100% chardonnay and low dosage…. an exceptional Champagne you should pop now!
94 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor