Tag Archives: 2009

Precison in Pauillac: Grand Puy Lacoste

Borie is a famous name in Bordeaux, the brothers Xavier and Eugene owning Grand Puy Lacoste and Ducu-Beaucaillou, respectively. Xavier is upping the ante at Grand Puy Lacoste now. I remember the graceful smile on his face when he poured us barrel samples of this wine in his salon, tasting it made me think what an underrated property this has been. This classic Pauillac property is building monuments to the nobility of the commune. While showing voluptuousness and dark fruit, it is precise and elegant, fresh and floral and earthy altogether, stately and harmonious. It is the best 09 I have tasted since they began arriving earlier this year. We sold out of what came in initially and a cache is coming our way at a great price, you can get in on it too! (13.5%) 96/100

 

2009 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

…Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by hints of spring flowers, crushed rocks, black currants, cedar and earth/underbrush. …velvety-textured, it is a beauty of finesse, balance, purity and nobility….

A Wine That Deserves Its Badge of Distinction

Joseph Phelps Insignia

When the wine bug bit Joseph Phelps in the late sixties, he quickly succumbed to the romantic lure of life in wine country, so in 1973 he purchased 600 acres of land, and by 1974 his winery was complete and the first wine produced. Nearly four decades later, the flagship wine, Insignia, is recognized as one of the world’s great wines. Insignia is truly a representative of great American wine that stands the test of time, and we’ve got a vertical offering just for you.

 

 
2007 Joseph Phelphs Insignia 1.5L

…Beautiful aromas of creme de cassis and flowers… Sweet oak is present, but it is pushed to the background by the wine’s extravagant wealth of fruit and full-bodied power. This is finesse and flavor authority…

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia

…towering, statuesque wine bursting with blackberry jam, tar, spices, leather and licorice. It shows fabulous depth and richness backed up by serious, imposing tannins that suggest it has a long life….

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia

…a big, generous wine that covers the palate with waves of dark red fruit. Today it is beautifully expressive and opulent yet also well balanced. An explosive finish rounds things out in style….

 

Legends of the Ribera del Duero

Master Winemaker Trifecta

Mariano Garcia
Decades ago he became chief winemaker at legendary Vega Sicilia, at the very young age of 24. By chance he was asked to stand in at a blind tasting at Vega Sicilia while in his teens. No prior wine knowledge at all, none, zip, zero, yet he was the only person able to identify the two identical wines out of a line up of 20. Extraordinary talent. While no longer the winemaker at Vega, his reign of the Duero continues, decades later he began his new Aalto adventure. However, note that there’s nothing new about the vines, which are all bush-pruned and over 40 years of age. I was happy to have been in Madrid with him for the introduction of Aalto almost a decade ago and am now very pleased to offer you the chance to sip vinous history from a true legend.

Peter Sisseck
A Dane who attended the University of Bordeaux before moving on to winemaking stints in that heralded region and at Simi in California’s Sonoma Valley, Sisseck’s meteoritic rise is the stuff of dreams. While his winemaking skills were no secret, it was the creation of Pingus (a wine Parker called “one of the great wines of the world”) that sent his reputation soaring, adding his own star to the Ribera constellation of gifted winemakers. His commitment to Ribera del Duero began in 1990 when he moved there to begin working with Hacienda Monasterio, which was the guiding force behind his creating Pingus. The wines here, unlike Pingus, are available and affordable and represent among the best of the Ribera del Duero. The organically farmed Tinto Fino, (Tempranillo’s Ribero name) vineyards are just up the road from Vega Sicilia, so the terroir is close to perfect. This may be his best effort yet at Hacienda Monasterio.

Alejandro Fernandez
If Vega Sicilia set the standard for Ribera del Duero (the same family also owned the Hacienda Monasterio 100 years ago), the recent surge in the development and popularity of the Ribera came about because of this man, Alejandro Fernandez. Rooted in the Ribera, making wine from his small vineyard was his constant. With other professional pursuits including a beet farmer, he went public with its wine in the early 1980s. Pesquera was an instant success, with more projects following such as Condado de Haza, Dehesa la Granja, and El Vinculo. …But it all began with his baby, Tinto Pesquera, back in 1972 when he purchased his own vineyard, complete with a 16th century winepress that he still owns today. Like his wines, Alejandro is a man of the land, and this is reflected in the grace and presence found in the powerful palate of his strictly Tinto Fino wines from vines nearing the centenary mark.

 

2009 Aalto

…Reminds me of Burgundian pinot noir. …remarkably drinkable. …oak is already so well assimilated, it leaves you with a complex drinking experience now. Rarely does this type of balance occur….

2009 Hacienda Monasterio Crianza

…fabulous tempranillo wine touched with cab, smacking of dark cherries and black berries, spiced with lavender, ginger and anise. …This is [Sisseck’s] best crianza so far; a rival for the 2004 which was superb….

2009 Pesquera Tinto Crianza

…This is as pure a Pesquera as I have ever tasted and I’ve been drinking Alejandro’s wines for decades…. It hasn’t been this powerfully good since the great 2004s, and this ’09 just might be better….

High on the Ridge

Thrilling 94 Point California Red

Ridge’s latest masterful zin comes from the same brilliant guy, Paul Draper. He is too precise to be a romantic, but he certainly believes in the magic of place, very specific places… and so do I. For 50 years, Paul has followed the old timers’ old vines and smart geology to the best sites in California for his favorite grapes. Top of the list for zinfandel is Geyserville in Sonoma. Always good stuff and, in fabulous years, great. While earth and rocks provide a mineral core and the sun makes the wines lush and inviting, Draper’s careful winemaking adds elegance, polish and balance. He uses old Rhone-ish grapes like petite sirah and carignane generously and he’s fastidious about quality. Ridge shows how easy it is to make great wine in California if you have the best natural sites and brilliant humans. Ridge does.

 

2009 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel

…Gorgeous wine. …inner perfume, sweet black cherries, menthol and minerals. …considerable finesse and fabulous overall balance. A round, sensual finish makes it impossible to resist a second taste….

Mindblowing Rhone: Old-Vine ’09 Rasteau La Fontaine

2009 La Fontaine

The great hits just keep coming in the Cotes du Rhone, especially on this side of the river heading toward the mountains and here the wines of La Colliere in Rasteau are stunners. Opulent, succulent, deep purple, full of blackberries and the darkest kirsch. The domaine is in Rasteau, a CdR village that just jumped to AOC, or Cru, status in 2010 – meaning that it is Rasteau now, like Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape before it. Lots of hot rocks there and it’s still possible to grow mourvedre, which I think is a key to the flavor. Vines are 50 years old and the farming is organic. The human ingredients are top notch too: Georges Perrot is said to be one of the smartest owners in the area. I know his partners importer Eric Solomon and Rhone guru Philippe Cambie have brilliant palates. 2009 was the ripest year to smile on the Rhone in many vintages. Whatever the reason, this is the richest taste of the Rhone you’ll find for the price. Bet you’re gonna want more than one.

Penfold’s Ghost! My Best Aussie Value Is Penley’s Killer 2009 Cabernet.

2009 Penley Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Penley Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon

…You might have figured that out judging by the way Penley’s Phoenix flies out of here. Cases just disappear as soon as they arrive. It’s grown-up cabernet, plummy rich and smooth, subtly surprising, elegant. Quite a switch from all that shiraz ’round the barbie… not that there’s anything wrong with that. This cabernet is worthy of a good petit chateau. Two good reasons for that. First, it’s from the red-soil terra rossa in Coonawarra, flat out the best cabernet terroir from Down Under. The other is owner Kym Tolley, descendant of the good doctor Penfold himself, and famed winemaker Douglas Tolley, as well as a student of Max Schubert and a first class vigneron in his own right. Tolley has made this cab with medium body and firm tannins that guarantee at least a decade of good cellaring. Always a smart buy, and at our B-21 price I know you’ll want more than one.

Inventory Glitch! 2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou

2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou
2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou

This is a crazy business. So much wine, so much buying and selling, that miracles can happen. Like finding forgotten cases of 2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou. Yes, that Ducru which scored a 100 from Parker in 2009 among a decade of high scorers. But the ’09 is much too young to open, not here yet and will cost four times as much when it does! While I am happy to sell you futures, the 2001 I turned up is ready to drink with a lot of cranberry, black cherry and St. Julien finesse. I can sell this rare aged Bordeaux to you right now for just $100 $90. What a deal for all of us!

WA Rates Foxglove: Mind-Boggling CA Value, 90 pts!

Yep. Parker’s buddy Antonio Galloni was blown away by Foxglove’s wines. I’m offering these gems from brothers Bob and Jim Varner way below big-box prices, great buys in high-quality cab, zin and chardonnay from the Central Coast. The Varners are Edna Valley heroes everywhere, from Parker to Decanter to Food & Wine for their estate wines (the Varner and Neely labels), and the new Foxglove line sourced from the best winegrowers they know. “The Varners clearly have the magic touch. These are among the finest values readers will find anywhere in the world.” You bet, Antonio. These guys have always done great with chard and I think the Paso Robles reds are as good. A lush cab and a very earthy zin are here too. You don’t have to pay that much at B-21. Load up on Foxglove today!

2010 Foxglove Chardonnay
2010 Foxglove Chardonnay

2010 Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Foxglove Zinfandel
2009 Foxglove Zinfandel

On The Road – Bourgueil’s Ageless Beauties: ’89 Cab Franc & ’09 Old Vine

You might not know Faugères and I could not have found this patch of the Languedoc without help. So I’m thrilled that Kermit Lynch showed the way to this special place and a very special winemaker, Didier Barral, and his beautifully pure wines at the Domaine of Leon Barral. As lush and earthy as any in Chateauneuf or Priorat at a fraction of the price.

Let me tell you about the place, Faugères is about 50 miles west of Montpellier and maybe 30 from the sea, sort of near St. Chinian and Minervois. High altitude vineyards up in hills with so much schist that some people say the grapes ripen at night from the heat of the stones. Faugères has grown grapes for centuries. Barral is one big reason Faugères is now on the wine route. Some of the wood and slate buildings have been there for ages and some it hand-built yesterday. Small and old-fashioned, certainly. Barral and his wines are famous across France and a beacon around the world for the biodynamic winemaking of the future.

On my visit a Japanese activist was spending a year with Barral to see how he does it. The answer? With cattle, pigs and sheep in the vineyards, ladybugs and earthworms in the soil and natural yeast and an antique wine press. I tasted the luscious 2009s and feasted on Didier’s food in their ancient barn. He then set out two boudins he had made, a roast haunch of pork and a two foot wheel of Franche-Comte.

A unique experience, wines like few others can make from syrah, carignan and mourvedre. Each wine is marvelous; even the “basic” cuvee from 40 year old vines is a huge helping of Faugères‘ rich, wild terroir. I know you’ll want more, and at B-21’s prices, you can have them all. This is the best of the very old way of France.

2009 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes
2009 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes

1989 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Cuvee Beauvais
1989 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie, Bourgueil Cuvee Beauvais

On The Road – My Juiciest 2009 Rhone Buy! CdR From Kermit & Friends

2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône
2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône

Once we reached this beautiful, remote plateau high in the Vaucluse I tasted the true genius of Kermit Lynch in his very own Cotes du Rhone. The mountain breeze was blowing lavender and rosemary and Kermit’s 2009 was smokin’, ripe plums and black cherries, meaty and smooth all at once.

Amazing. 92-points rich, richer than wines twice the price. Proves Lynch is a great wine-maker as well as a smart importer. He uses the same skills in both: a terrific palate, a sharp eye for terroir and good relations with the best small vignerons. I had met dozens of Kermit’s partners in the last ten days and more of them gathered here. Growers and winemakers like Louis Barruol from St. Cosme and Vieux Telegraphe’s Daniel Brunier.

In the brilliant sun that morning I saw why Lynch loves Provence and how he finds the perfect vineyards to make wines of his own. He selected 40 year old vineyards a few miles away on the outskirts of Avignon. Then Kermit put together his own robust southern Rhone blend, leading with grenache, then syrah and cinsault. All natural yeasts were used and the wine was bottled unfiltered.

What comes through is pure Kermit and pure Rhone; the finest value of all the wines I tasted on the trip. Lynch‘s vignerons have taught him well and he’s earned their respect. No wonder he’s at home in Provence. When you taste his Cotes du Rhone, you’ll be there too.

On The Road – Found In Faugères: Stunning Organic Mourvedre, 96RAS

You might not know Faugères and I could not have found this patch of the Languedoc without help. So I’m thrilled that Kermit Lynch showed the way to this special place and a very special winemaker, Didier Barral, and his beautifully pure wines at the Domaine of Leon Barral. As lush and earthy as any in Chateauneuf or Priorat at a fraction of the price.

Let me tell you about the place, Faugères is about 50 miles west of Montpellier and maybe 30 from the sea, sort of near St. Chinian and Minervois. High altitude vineyards up in hills with so much schist that some people say the grapes ripen at night from the heat of the stones. Faugères has grown grapes for centuries. Barral is one big reason Faugères is now on the wine route. Some of the wood and slate buildings have been there for ages and some it hand-built yesterday. Small and old-fashioned, certainly. Barral and his wines are famous across France and a beacon around the world for the biodynamic winemaking of the future.

On my visit a Japanese activist was spending a year with Barral to see how he does it. The answer? With cattle, pigs and sheep in the vineyards, ladybugs and earthworms in the soil and natural yeast and an antique wine press. I tasted the luscious 2009s and feasted on Didier’s food in their ancient barn. He then set out two boudins he had made, a roast haunch of pork and a two foot wheel of Franche-Comte.

A unique experience, wines like few others can make from syrah, carignan and mourvedre. Each wine is marvelous; even the “basic” cuvee from 40 year old vines is a huge helping of Faugères‘ rich, wild terroir. I know you’ll want more, and at B-21’s prices, you can have them all. This is the best of the very old way of France.

2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères
2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères

2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Jadis
2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Jadis

2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Valiniere
2009 Domaine Leon Barral Faugères Valiniere

Sexiest Couple In Argentina: 92-pt Malbec and 90-pt Torrontes!

Colomé just keeps getting better. The Malbec has been a league leader for years and a Top 100 regular for Wine Spectator. Just a whiff of the 2010 Torrontes wowed us too. Both of Argentina’s signature grapes are winners in Colomé’s hands, always a lot of class for little cost.

The estate Malbec received a 92 from Sr. Parker, and it’s a terrific wine. It has the kind of dense fruit I like, lots of dark berries that are very fresh and jammy but with very little sugar; lots of tang and tingle. It’s layered with licorice, fig and chocolate. Amazingly, the white has just as much punch and perfume, the most character I’ve had in a Torrontes. This is a big white, packed with spice and energy despite its size, like a Botero dame doing a tango. Take note: there’s nothing new about Colomé wines, this is no startup import label. It’s from higher up, in Salta where they’ve been making good wine for almost 200 years. Both of these are rich wines and great value at everyday retail, and at B-21’s prices they are terrific deals.

2011 Colome Torrontes
2011 Colome Torrontes
2009 Colome Malbec
2009 Colome Malbec

My Best Value In ’09: Kermit’s Own Cotes du Rhone, 92pts

2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône
2009 Kermit Lynch Côtes du Rhône

Amazing wine. Just superb. I spent two weeks traveling through France this winter and tasted 800 wines that the intrepid Kermit Lynch has discovered over the years. Brilliant guy and great stuff. Oddly this was the best buy in the whole bunch, a wine of Kermit’s own making! He found the growers, selected the grapes and oversaw the blending deep in the southern Rhone. Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre and more in one big juicy bite. The purest CdR with the earthy terroir, rough herbs, wild lavender and big ripe fruit of life in Provence. You can tell he loves this place. So bright and refreshing you’ll want to open a bottle every day, and you could at this price.

You Asked For It: Chateau Smith, Washington’s Krazy Good Cabernet

2009 Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon

Okay. You loved it. For a Cabernet, this is tough to beat. Washington does that, especially at Chateau Smith. Bursting with fruit and more, like plums wrapped in bacon grilled and dusted with anise and cinnamon. But Charles Smith is always explosive, think of his Boom Boom, Kung Fu Girl, Velvet Devil, or champion Royal City, all of them as ripe and rich as any juice in the Columbia Valley. The black and white labels are cool, but Chateau Smith Cab pops with color and spice.

Some think Charles Smith is a bit of a madman, and so do I. His wines are insane!