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
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 Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
…serious power and depth. Layers of blue and black fruit, smoke, tobacco and licorice are woven together beautifully. Vivid yet rich and resonant… creamy, layered finish laced with expressive blue and black fruits… 93-96 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
What can I say? My customers love this wine. So easy to drink and so easy to buy that it’s hard for me to keep in stock. Penley’s Phoenix Cab is rich stuff, blackberry and currant, sturdy structure, the earth of Coonawarra and the distinctly Australian texture that embraces you like an old lover. The right oak softens it; the minerality makes for a firm core. You don’t need James Halliday to tell you it’s a 93-pointer, you just know it (and buy me out of it!). You know there’s more to Oz than shiraz, this cab may the best varietal Penley makes and its pedigree is purely Australian. The terroir is Coonawarra, where the Limestone Coast is topped with the red earth called terra rossa, the best cabernet district Down Under. The name behind it has terrific Oz breeding, too: Kym Tolley (some of you got to meet him here last year) who not only worked decades for Penfolds under legend Max Schubert, he is a descendant of the first Penfolds and of the Tolleys, another old pioneer wine family. Hence the name Penley.
Vibrant deep crimson; a punchy and expressive cabernet bouquet with redcurrant, cassis, clove and olive on display; the palate is medium to full-bodied, fleshy and manages to create a long and even finish…
Columbia Valley grows rousing good reds and daring vintners like Ron Coleman. He makes beautiful, stylish single-vineyard cabs and merlots, yet it’s his mad, brilliant blends like Firehouse Red at everyday prices that stir my heart. Wine Spectator made the juicy 2009 a Top 100 pick and this 2011 matches it. Coleman can teach Bordeaux and the Rhone new tricks. Tamarack buys grapes from the best vineyards all over Columbia Valley for varietals and cuvees which are mixed with genius. For 2011 Firehouse he plucked the full Bordeaux Five plus carmenere and the Rhone’s syrah, grenache and counoise, plus a chunk of sangiovese and zin. This is no childish crowd-pleaser or a lucky pot of leftovers, but a careful first blend that winds up having it all. Big bites of cherries, plums, and blackberries, whiffs of flowers and fruit, chocolate and coffee, leather and smoke and licorice. It’s powered by grown-up mineral energy that can drive a hook-and-ladder all night. Jump on it.
A pure classic and one of the top Bordeaux wines of its price, 2009 Lafon-Rochet is a stunner. Their neighbors, Lafite and Cos D’Estournel, probably wonder why they charge so little. Let’s go with it! Tasting barrel samples, I remember it was one of the standouts then, and tasting it for the first time from bottle confirmed it. For my money, in fact, St-Estephe was the top commune of the vintage from top to bottom. Initially sinewy, the dark and fine flavors are deep, a bit linear and considerably structured. Lafon-Rochet is straight-laced, stately and excellent. 94 points. (14%)
Picking the best grapes from some of the 30 year old Cabernet vines in their Knights Valley vineyards, Beringer decided to release a “Reserve” bottling in 2008 to complement its regular KV release. The 2009, which was Wine Spectator’s #8 on the Top 100 of 2012, and according to senior writer James Laube “…the best Beringer Knights Valley wine I can recall and one of winemaker Laurie Hook’s best efforts,” is already starting to reach cult status. The 2010 takes it up a notch as both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker score it 94 points. Amazingly rich and elegant, it definitely approaches Peter Michael’s bottlings (the vineyards are right next door) at half the price. Only 5,000 cases were produced and the buzz surrounding this release has been overwhelming. Beringer continues to produce high quality wines at every price level and really shines on this new effort.
…Blue and black fruit, grilled herbs, tobacco, sage and rosemary are all layered into this relatively succulent, round Cabernet… Sweet floral notes along with a hint of tar and violets add complexity on the finish….
Remarkably situated along the Gironde River on the north shore of the Medoc, and impeccably run by Bernard Magrez, Les Grands Chênes shows the magical value quotient of the Medoc. A 50/40/10ish split between merlot and cab and cab franc, Les Grands Chenês comes by its polish honestly, being consulted by Michel Rolland. Winner of a Medaille D’or in 2011, that’s the gold, at the Concours General Agricole in Paris, LGC shows rich and dark fruit and opulent texture with fresh acids too, and value: a wine like this from Napa Valley would cost $50. Drinks beautifully now and will continue to evolve for 10 years, easily. Snare your non-Bordeaux drinking friends in your wine web with this one. 90 points. (14%)
…loads of espresso roast, black chocolate, creme de cassis, forest floor and tobacco leaf in a full-bodied, opulent, and flamboyant style. Dense, rich and deep in fruit, it exhibits the plush, silky tannins…
I like the company mission statement at Zonte’s Footstep: “The truth is out there in the vineyard… but the proof is in the bottle.” Yes, it is. One of the mavericks of modern Aussie wine is involved here. …Yup, Ben Riggs. That slogan fits his work here in Langhorne Creek, where more cabernet is planted than shiraz, for good reason. It is revealed with a pointed shovel. The subsoil here is a 40 million year old alluvial plain with red sand over ancient limestone yielding cabernet that resembles an excellent Haut-Medoc from Bordeaux; solid plump cabernet that is juicy, not too grippy. Langhorne Creek Cabernet, this is a textbook version. Take note. You’re gonna want that.
Proudly wearing its own insignia since 1974, Joseph Phelps Insignia was the first proprietary Bordeaux blend wine produced in California. Nearly four decades later, the flagship wine is recognized as one of the world’s greatest wines. Since 2008, when Ashley Hepworth was promoted to winemaker after the retirement of Craig Williams, quality has not taken a step down but we see a more consistent blend. The trifecta of vintages share an average blend of 87% Cabernet, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and remainder Malbec, verging towards the more savory, earthy “Bordeaux-esque” style of the first growths. These iconic wines are available at unbelievable prices for a short period and don’t forget to reserve your 2010 which should arrive in September. Insignia is truly a representative of great American wine that stands the test of time.
…a 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
…tannic wine that’s rich in blackberry jam, black currant, blueberry, raspberry, dark chocolate and spice flavors. …Just gorgeous now, and it should develop bottle complexity for at least the next 10 years.
…core of blue and black fruit, licorice, spices, smoke, and melted road tar as this stunning wine opens up in the glass. …Hints of menthol, violets and crushed rocks all flow through to the incisive, vibrant finish….
Ed Sbragia, iconic winemaker for Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnays in the 80s and 90s, has always been a country boy from Sonoma. As he was producing world-class chardonnay in Napa, his heart’s always been in Dry Creek where he grew up, raised his own family and has his own label and winery. Family vineyards, too: Home Ranch is exactly that, where he grew up and where his father made wines; the cab grows at Doc Andolsen’s, the family doctor. And the chance to make wines with his son Adam was his dream. I like family stories, but the wines are the point. Pure Dry Creek, extremely fresh and juicy cabernet, remarkably elegant and sophisticated merlot and chardonnay that is full and rich. His latest release of Home Ranch Chardonnay and Merlot are tremendously outrageous values; the chard is expressive but not showy, the merlot is rustic, but elegant and spicy.
That’s a happy family right there. So salute them and we’ll let you in on one of Sonoma’s best small wineries.
…utterly impeccable from start to finish. Firm mountain tannins… Iron, tobacco and licorice notes dominate, while the fruit takes a little longer to become evident. With time in the glass, the wine gets better and better…
…hits the palate with juicy dark berries, grilled herbs, cedar and tobacco. There is lovely purity to the fruit backed up by pure, distinctive Monte Rosso tannins. A big, powerful finish rounds things out in style….
As the “great” vintages go by and prices go up on them, certain “classic” vintages become more and more attractive. 2008 is one those vintages delivering wines with balance and character that have been passed over for blockbusters and critics raves. Seeing the last prices of a hot property like Smith Haut Lafitte in sought after vintages like 2009 and 2010 ($150 and $129, respectively) makes wines like this one considerable; especially with a chateau like Smith Haut Lafitte and experienced buyers that like a property, know what it tastes like and like it for that reason. The Cathiard family, you recognize the name if you are a snow skier from the Olympics, has continued to further the reputation of this classified growth (for red wine only) and we have it here for the smart money.
The Big Easy, that’s Ernie Els’ big, fluid golf swing. Well, like the man himself, his wine is pretty formidable and aptly named, like his money swing. His “Proprietor’s Blend” gives volumes of vivid blackberry and cassis and full-throttled fruit on the palate and a seductive finish that goes 300 yards, like his drive. The wine is big, plush and easy to enjoy. Heck, Parker himself gave this sexy blend of all five red Bordeaux varietals along with a dash of syrah 93 points! To me, this tastes more like a bodacious Napa red rather than something from South Africa. Either way, it’s fun drinking and an excellent value. You’re gonna want that.
I like the company mission statement at Zonte’s Footstep: “The truth is out there in the vineyard… but the proof is in the bottle.” Yes, it is. One of the mavericks of modern Aussie wine is involved here, yup, Ben Riggs. That slogan fits his work here in Langhorne Creek, where more cabernet is planted than shiraz, for good reason. It is revealed with a pointed shovel. The subsoil here is a 40 million year old alluvial plain with red sand over ancient limestone yielding cabernet that resembles an excellent Haut-Medoc from Bordeaux; solid plump cabernet that is juicy, not too grippy. Langhorne Creek Cabernet, this is a textbook version. Take note. You’re gonna want that.
Over the last few weeks I have been revealing what I believe to be the top values in 2010 Bordeaux vintage, and in countdown fashion I have reached the summit this week: 2010 Chateau Le Pey.
This Medoc wine has been on my radar since the 2000 vintage and this, the 2010, is the best vintage I have tasted. Finally moving to over half cab (55%), the balance merlot, I think the Chateau has reached the point of perfection. To expect more out of $15 wine is to set up all those $30-$40 wines for failure. This is medium weight, supple, shows fine tannins and is authentic Bordeaux with structure to develop for 10 years while having the finesse to drink early. I tasted this while visiting Bordeaux in January and it was the single best value of the trip. 92/100. (13.5%)