One reason Georges Duboeuf makes a good king is that he knows every part and parcel of his kingdom intimately. Each village, every Cru, the great vineyards within them, all more intriguing and noble than the oceans of plebeian Beaujolais nouveau. To me, Morgon is one of its best appellations, a reminder that Beaujolais is not that far from Burgundy. Gamay here is big yet elegant. And Jean Descombes is one of the best in Morgon. And 2009 one of the best vintages ever. Those together make this a smoking good wine, all the black cherries and berries, wrapped up in a luscious, silky syrup lined with spice and minerality. This is one of the most complex wines I’ve tasted from Duboeuf, much more of a wine than you’ll ever find under at that price, and #21 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list this year. You’re gonna want that.
“Light tannins and a smoky mineral note frame this lush red, which displays layers of black cherry, raspberry ganache and tea rose flavors. There’s a spicy thread running through the wine, leading to a fresh, firm finish…” 93 Points, Wine Spectator & #21 Top 100 of 2011, Wine Spectator
Well, it’s over. Or has the fun just started? The first week of B-21′s holiday season started with a grand tasting and private sale with Champagne flowing through the aisles, then 12-on-21 day, home for Thanksgiving, then black Friday. In that spirit we’re making the holidays easier and more joyful with our email offers and shipping deals. We’ve put together a dozen perfect gifts, little B-21 private tastings in a three-pack. Why agonize over finding the just-right single bottle for someone? With our new gift-packs they get three bottles of our favorites, a particular region or variety. Couldn’t be easier. You’re gonna want that!
That’s the Wine Spectators of America in 2011, when Marvin Shanken’s crew came to the top five of their annual list…The beautiful 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir of Kosta Brown was WS Wine of the Year, big recognition for a small diligent producer. Stuff is grand but hard to get; I had my first two years ago thanks to the generosity and smart palate of a friend at the Naples Winter Wine Festival.
Our hero Kathryn Hall nailed down number two spot with her 2008 masterpiece of Napa cab, and another pinot artisan, Dehlinger of Russian River came in at number five. An impressive showing for the Yanks and a surprising call at a time when much of the rest of the world is knocking out great stuff. 2009 Mosels, out-of-reach Bordeaux, gorgeous Spanish reds, killer Rhones and a bootload (cq) of great Italians.
Plenty of time to argue that later. For now looks like 1) Wine Spectator’s waving the flag, 2) willing to spend $50 and up after a few years of prim belt-tightening, and 3) sweet on Sonoma pinots again. And why not?
The first five of Wine Spectator’s 2011 Top 100, actually that would bottom five of the Top Ten, or the lower half of the top decile. Okay, numbers six through ten from the great Oracle. Guess what? Two of the five just revealed are old friends of ours and yours. Number 8 is a jewel of Barolo, 2006 Domenico Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, that you’ve already bought out. We do have the 2007, which rates a 96 from Wine Advocate and is even easier to drink. At No. 10 is our old young friend Louis Barruol at St. Cosme with the 2009 Gigondas Valbelle, a killer grenache (arriving soon). Note: No. nine is a Croze-Hermitage, also 2009. The ’09 Rhones are hard to beat. Stay tuned for more reveals, smart remarks and B-21 scores.
Everyone knows Ruffino, but people in the know know Modus, the precious jewel in the giant’s crown. Ruffino started making this super Tuscan ten years ago and made it the right way, fine native Sangiovese as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the terrific 2007 vintage, that gave the cherries and dark berries a dusting of mocha and tobacco, extra smoothness and elegant structure. No wonder it made #25 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100. You’re gonna want that.
I am a big fan of the Viticcio wines at all levels, from their bargain Bere to the super-Tuscan. But the Landini family’s best efforts are in the Chianti Classico Riserva, still the heart of the region’s heritage. Theirs is certainly classico, bright red fruits with those traditional earthy hints of licorice, tobacco and coffee, and very smooth thanks to a touch of Merlot in the Sangiovese. A real winner. I’m not alone on this. Wine Spectator put Viticcio’s ’06 then ’07 riserva in the Top 100 the last two years! Number 40 this year. Parker’s Wine Advocate called it “joyous.” Right. Share the joy. You’re gonna want that.
Both these wineries just started in this century and already they’ve made the Top 100 list. But we spotted them early and you loved them. Loved them so much we sold out! The Wine Spectator buzz created new found demand but with our connections we got them back in. Keep that Ribera flowing!
We’re especially proud of finding Resalte. The new-generation owners spent years in the vineyards supplying pipe and trellis before becoming vintners in 2000. They know how to do it right, carefully organic with all the modern techniques, but they stick to old Spanish values: long aging, longer finish. The 2005 is all Tempranillo, plus chocolate and licorice; very sleek texture.
Dominio de Atauta is officially just as young and it bowled over the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 pickers and the Wine Enthusiast too. No surprise, it stands up to Chateau Latour and Vega Sicilia in blind tastings. Atauta’s in a cool, high corner in the far east of the Ribera del Duero, where the Tempranillo vines are very old, 150 years old. From back before phylloxera. Wise to farm these old vines biodynamically and rescue the best of their ancient tiny berries. The dense extract of dark fruit and clean minerality is a whole new flavor.
Everybody loves lists, and boy do I love B-21′s Top 25 just released. The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 is great fun and suggests new areas to explore but for actual drinking and buying it’s a collection of fantasies. We have some bottles that are out of my range, but we have them, and more important the whole list we assemble is both accessible (hey we are merchants here to sell wine) and full of great values.
The best example, for me, is the Solena Pinot Noir, a brilliant demonstration of the best of Oregon Pinot, a luscious and elegant bowl of berries framed by earth and spice accents. Credit that to Willamette Valley terroir and the savvy of an unusually dynamic duo, Laurent from La Tour Blanche and Danielle from Pine Ridge. And that’s only #23 on our top 25 — and only $24.99.
The Top Ten will start to dribble out Monday in two and threes with the Big One on Friday. Then the next 90 will be revealed. Until then it’s all hush-hush in Marvin’s smoke-filled compound. Casey Kasem couldn’t make it last longer.
Yet WS likes a surprise or three and last year tipped its hat to the affordable range where many wine drinkers live, including yours truly. My own nominees there would include ’07 Chappellet’s Mountain Cuvee, both Villa Maria’s luscious Cellar Reserve SB and the lowball Oyster Bay. And from Down Under, there’s a boatload of juicy values from Stump Jump and Cimicky’s Trumps to most of the Molly Dooker line up (I bet those lefthanders put two over the fence). And look for Grenache and Carignan from France and Spain to do well (Go Priorat).
In fact our brain-trust emerged from the A-21 bunker with 38 we bet are bound for the Top 100 and we’ll let Mr. Shanken pick the other 62. My advice if he’s looking for a surprise — the 2009 Mosels and not-so-nouveau Beaujolais of the same vintage.
The betting windows are open. What’s going to make the list?
P.S. The smart collector knows the top ones will go quick, so place your bets early.
Their wines continue to garner top scores and yet their prices remain very sane, making these must-have incredible values. Proprietor Alessandro Landini had two wines featured in the top 100 from the Wine Spectator (2006 Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva and I Greppi Greppicante) and these aren’t even the highest scoring wines they offer. Not only are the current releases excellent but we tasted with Alessandro in Italy last month and are happy to report that upcoming releases will be even better. Viticcio’s wines are tasty on release but seem balanced and deep enough to cellar beautifully for 10 years.
Aussie wines get big props in the March Food and Wine magazine. Their favorite “Collector’s Value” was the 2005 St. Henri from Penfolds, the elegant alternative to big and big-bucks Grange. “With its layers of blueberry, licorice and dark chocolate, can develop for years in a cellar just as gracefully.” And they say a bargain at $65.
I certainly agree (as did the Wine Spectator’s Top 100) on St. Henri at B-21, it’s even more of a steal: $54.95. Your own Down Under storage deserves one — or several.
We weren’t surprised to see Brancaia near the lead of the Wine Spectator Top 100. Brancaia is one of sharpest wineries in Tuscany, with vines in Chianti Classico and in Maremma. However I expected it to be the big-bucks Il Blu or Ilatraia, glorious stuff. Yet the Spectator tapped Tre, a sangiovese bolstered with cabernet and merlot. Even better for our times. This is intense, with lots of berries and earlthy shades of coffee, and a wrapper of merlot velvet. It’s a rich bargain when you can get a 93-pointer for $19.99.
We hear “Beringer Blass” so much now we forget the first name of the modern Australian genius is Wolf, as inWolfgang. He landed Down Under more than 50 years ago, an East German sparkling winemaker who dreamed of making great reds. He blazed trails across Barossa in a green VW beetle consulting and preaching the new style of Australian wine we’ve come to love. He bought his own vineyards in 1969 and when the first wave of Australians hit the US in the ‘80s, one of the best was eagle-crested Wolf Blass. Oz shipments grew and grew; Wolf’s own label got bigger, too to join Mildarra, Beringer Wine Estates and ultimately oilcan Fosters.
As you can taste in the 2006 Gold Label Barossa Shiraz, Wolf Blass’s own brand just got better, big bold and smooth as back in the day. This is classic Shiraz, big and broad, full of berries and plums spiced with smoke, licorice, pepper and a touch of cocoa. It’s a hefty 15.5% ABV yet you won’t taste the alcohol. Tannins are invitingly soft. Put the lamb shanks on now.
The 2006 ’s also deserves the ultimate Aussie compliment “It’s good value.” An understatement worthy of Croc Dundee himself. Nowhere on the street or the internet is it a better deal than at B-21 if you can find this vintage at all. At $13.99 a bottle this is a Shiraz that ought to fill several rows of your cellar.
“This exhibits generous blackberry and raspberry fruit at the core, shading the edges with pretty white pepper, cream and floral overtones that insinuate themselves beautifully as the finish goes on and on. Drink now through 2016.” 91 Points, Wine Spectator