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
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!
Laurence Feraud’s top cuvee at Pegau, da Capo, was the 100-point star of 2010, but she never quits and squeezed something darn good out of 2011 too. An iffy vintage for some, but not Laurence. When I stopped by her cellar in Chateauneuf earlier this month, I found the ’11 Cuvee Reservee a beautiful wine with a detailed texture and more mourvedre in the nose, Grenache and the rest filling out the voluptuous body with dark cherries and plums. Sweet if not as expansive as 2010. How could it be? It’s not the 2010, Laurence knows that and priced it so that it’s a solid buy. You should have a few bottles of the 2011. They’ll get you through your wait for the once-in-a-lifetime 2010s (got a few of those available too!).
2011 Pegau CdP Cuvee Reservee …a seductive, open-knit, precocious, sexy example with decent acidity, sumptuous fruit and delicious, mature flavors of roasted herbs, kirsch, black currants, raspberries, licorice and incense…. 90-93 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
I’m bowled over by a place like La Cigale, the gilded 1900 brasserie on Place Graslin the heart of Nantes. Outside the guy on the street is shucking shiny Gillardeau No. 4 oysters; inside is a Sistine Chapel for gourmets where every ceiling and wall is ornately painted and tiled. And in pride of place, a full line-up of Billecart-Salmon. But, of course. For me, Billecart-Salmon, from NV to vintage rose, may be the best food wine in Champagne: blanc de blancs with shellfish or sushi and tete de cuvee with a French steak. Critics love it as much as diners. Parker, Tanzer et al. rave on structure, the big pinot flavor, and finesse. So do I. Which explains why B-21 may have more cuvees than La Cigale’s winelist. The 1999 and 2000 you have to have. Now’s the time to learn Champagne’s perfect for summer; this is more than a once-a-year pleasure.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose …offers appealing flavors of ripe black cherry, raspberry and orange peel that show hints of toasted raisin bread, anise and sweet smoke. Offers a beautiful texture, with a long, mouthwatering finish…. 92 points, Wine Spectator
Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve
Made with a high proportion of Pinot Meunier, this is elegant, fruity, with plenty of good acidity and a wonderful floral character. It is so fruity, fresh, a wine for real enjoyment. 91 points, Wine Enthusiast
Other Champagnes by Billecart-Salmon:
Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut …complex bouquet displays scents of green apple, pear, lemon zest, toasty lees and honeysuckle. Packs a solid punch but conveys a weightless quality, offering sappy orchard fruit and citrus flavors… 93 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar
Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut Just returning from Champagne where I tasted the Extra Brut among other sparklers. This was impressive, yet not for everyone. Lots of nerve and without standard dosage shows off the underlying material… 94 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
2000 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut A wine that strikes a great balance between its intense fruitiness and a pure steely character. It makes it a dry Champagne, with the richness of a great wine. It has weight, intensity and several years more aging. 95 points, Wine Enthusiast
1999 Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Brut A beautifully crisp wine, very mineral, with its citrus and green apple flavors given a fine texture of bright acidity. It is still so young, with just a hint of toast to show some maturity. The finish is shockingly fresh. 94 points, Wine Enthusiast
2002 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon Brut Rose This is a beautifully balanced, elegant and mature sparkler. There is fruit—ripe strawberry—but the main character is its fine balance and richness. It can age, though it is at its best now. 94 points, Wine Enthusiast
Some of my most exciting wine hunting in the last few years is in the south of France – think Leon Barral and Ch. Lascaux. I love Herault, rugged old country on the slopes of the Massif Central. Head west from Montpelier along the Mediterranean and then go up into the hills. Saint-Chinian is now one of the top AOCs in Languedoc and Canet Valette my best new discovery there. Marc Valette and his granddad know this terroir; they were one of the first to go “bio” 20 years ago to show off its purity and quality. No fertilizing, no fining, no filtering, no foolishness, just good honest wine. Proof’s in this bottle, the 2009 prize cuvee he calls 1001 Nuits, and it is magical. He blends five of my favorite grapes from Chateauneuf du Pape with Provencal abandon for a with big aromas and silky finesse, exotic yet muscular enough for the local cassoulet. Valette says he makes his wine to suit his rugby teammates and his favorite Michelin-starred chef. Guess you and I are in the middle and love it for being old-fashioned, incredibly sophisticated and a can’t-miss deal. A 93-pointer for under $20? Better buy plenty! 93 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
The 2011 vintage was tough for some Burgundians. But not for the precise and eccentric Jean-Pierre Courmot and his beautiful plots in Chassagne-Montrachet. Jean-Pierre’s pinot noirs are pure and vivid with energy at every level and his 1er cru whites are the best I’ve tasted in this vintage – the best since 1989. Just stunning, among the great chardonnays of Burgundy. I love the rich and ripe Santenay (93RAS) and the dense La Romanee (95RAS) oughta be Grand Cru. Not easy for everyone get to in to see Jean Pierre. But I was an early member of the cult dealing with JP’s dad and every year I get inside the iron gate. The high-vaulted cellars are a gallery of bold modern art; the “backyard” is a treasure of a vineyard sloping down from the castle. Jean-Pierre’s jetset style makes him the Keith Richards of the Cote de Beaune, so we get along fine and I come home with a great supply. Maybe you can always get what you want, but you better hurry.
You love Beaucastel. I love Beaucastel. Beaucastel loves B-21. That’s no Barney; it is why we have terrific deals on a gorgeous selection of the Perrin family’s best bottles in all sizes, from 375 to double mags, and vintages from 2006 to the wonderful ’09s and ’10s. That includes the 100-point 2010 Hommage a Jacques Perrin, a once-in-a-lifetime 3-liter buy. Almost every time I’m in the Rhone I get off the A7 just north of Chateauneuf-du-Pape for a visit and a sumptuous tasting. Had a lush dinner there last year and we’ve often hosted the Perrins here; young Cesar was with us at Cafe Ponte in 2012 when the 100-point rating just came out. By the way, our romance with Beaucastel is not just for red wine lovers. The 2010 Chateuneuf blanc is a 95-point jewel of a white, plush with melons, nuts and exotic spices. The 2011 Vieilles Vignes Roussanne is 98-points rich, the most beautiful rendition of this old Rhone grape you can get. What a treasure trove: white, red, CDP and Rousanne, five vintages, your pick of sizes. All pure Beaucastel and all at B-21 bargain prices. A rare treat. My homage to Beaucastel. Make it yours, too.
2010 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge …black cherry, new leather, licorice, pepper, and hints of flowers on the nose, this full-bodied, structured, yet surprisingly elegant and polished 2010 has fantastic purity of fruit, superb balance, and knockout length…. 96 points, J. Dunnuck’s Rhone Report
2007 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge …gorgeous aromatics (blackberry, cassis, lavender, garrigue and roasted meat), full bodied power, serious concentration and unreal purity. Very polished and almost civilized by Beaucastel standards… 96+ points, J. Dunnuck’s Rhone Report
2006 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Powerful, with a round, almost creamy core of blackberry and raspberry fruit all layered with cocoa, sweet toast, mesquite and fig paste. Long and rich through the finish. Still quite primal, with lots in reserve…. 96 points, Wine Spectator
2010 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc …displays the typical tropical fruit notes intermixed with rose petals, crushed rock, spring flowers and a rather exotic, somewhat tropical character, but tangerines dominate the fruit spectrum…. 95 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2010 Chateau Beaucastel CdP Blanc Roussanne Vieilles Vignes …nectarine, mango, subtle smoke, rose petals, this sumptuous, full-throttle wine has unmistakable minerality, a skyscraper-like texture and an amazingly laser-like finish with incredible amounts of glycerin… 97+ points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2009 Chateau Beaucastel CdP Hommage a Jacques Perrin …density, richness, precision and unreal flavor intensity, it reveals abundant gamey, meaty notes intermixed with smoked duck, Provencal herbs, blueberries, blackberries, kirsch and licorice…. 99 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
2010 Chateau Beaucastel CdP Hommage a Jacques Perrin …perfect… Inky blue/purple, with an extraordinary nose of smoked duck, grilled steaks, Provencal herbs, blackberries, blueberries, kirsch, licorice and truffle, enormously massive, concentrated… 100 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
Le Cros is a 100% syrah cuvee from a very old parcel. Clearly southern Rhone syrah, but what a wine. Tasted Le Cros with our importer buddy Peter Weygandt back in December and couldn’t wait to offer it to you. It is dense, serious wine that will astound at this price. Smashing Rhone for those of us who want even more! Long, rich, complex with exceptional aromatics. You’re gonna love being wrapped up in this one because after all, it’s a Rhone World!
Haut-Bergey proprietor Hélène Garcin just visited B-21 in April, the second time in a year, and Bob and I were unable to join her for dinner in January due to a travel mishap. Call it a home and away series. You recognize her since we promote her wines, Barde-Haut, Clos L’Eglise, Branon and Poesia in Argentina, and Haut-Bergey here. Haut-Bergey is her bargain deluxe in the heart of Pessac-Leognan. The style is more lush than is common in Pessac, a modern classic so to speak. I’ve not tasted it again since from barrel in 2011, it just arrived last week, but remember it being very similar to 2009, just as voluptuous if not a bit more amplified and “ripped.” (14%)
…displays classic tobacco leaf and smoky barbecue notes along with rich black currants and crushed rocks in a medium to full-bodied, seductive, attractively up-front style. …It is a sleeper of the vintage.
Sancerre is the birthplace of sauvignon blanc and the Les Pentes vineyard of Serge Dagueneau and his daughters in Pouilly Fume shows the grape at its best, a bright white wine that is both lush with fruit, stone dry and flint smoky. You can see why Robert Mondavi borrowed (stole?) the words “fume blanc” from this Loire Valley village. But Napa just doesn’t have the terroir of Pouilly, and certainly not the dirt the Dagueneaus have, some of the best in Pouilly Fume. Locals call it “terre blanche” or “white earth.” Geologists call it Kimmeridgian marl and I love the stuff. It’s chalk, clay and mud packed with ancient oyster shells, shrimp and a whole fossilized seabed. Which should help you plan the menu to pair with it. For me that was a shining tower of glistening fruits de mer on a delicious Paris night at Le Dome, the 100 year-old brasserie and Hemingway hangout in Montparnasse, where I found Dagueneau high on the wine list. Had to order it — and thank our importer pal Peter Weygandt for bringing it our way. Great match for the fresh oysters, shrimp, langoustine their kin, small and large, and more molluscs and crustaceans than I can name. That terre blanche is also what gives the smoky aroma, but it’s the Dagueneau location and careful late picking that adds an orchard of white, green and yellow fruit. More than grapefruit and kiwi, there is white peach and tons on mineral. Perfect. Sauv blanc doesn’t get much better than this. 2011 Serge et Filles Dagueneau Pouilly Fume “Les Pentes”
…The lush, ripe pit fruit; luscious citrus; and wafting floral perfume… additional intensity, accompanied by piquant nut oils, oyster liquor, and shrimp shell reduction, making for a deep, saliva-liberating savor….
With all the accolades Delas has received, what could I possibly add? Cote Rotie and Hermitage, these are epic wines. Having had the great fortune to taste a ridiculous number of old Rhone bottlings over the last 35 years, it is clear that Cote Rotie and Hermitage are among the very greatest wines on earth. Few wines scream their provenance better than a great Hermitage or Cote Rotie that can do it even at 50 or 60 years of age. They have a unique voice that so many wines do not.
2010 Delas Freres Côte-Rôtie
la Landonne…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…
2010 Delas Freres Côte-Rôtie
Seigneur de Maugiron…bouquet shows boysenberry and blueberry liqueur, Moroccan spices, violet and woodsmoke. Lush, seductively sweet black and blue fruit flavors stain the palate, picking up suave spice and floral qualities….
2010 Delas Freres Hermitage
Domaine des Tourettes…possesses an inky/purple color, plenty of creme de cassis, licorice, lead pencil shavings, camphor, flint and barbecue smoke characteristics, and a thickness and viscosity that eclipse that of the 2009….
2010 Delas Freres Hermitage
les Bessards…great intensity, prodigious, almost skyscraper-like texture, massive body and high tannins. …for true connoisseurs… it is one of the single greatest Hermitages I have ever tasted….
2009 Delas Freres Hermitage
les Bessards…caresses the palate with freshly cut roses, spices, red berries, mint and licorice. Bright aromas and flavors dazzle the palate while the wilder, more varietal side of Aglianico is less apparent….
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%)
Spent an afternoon with Laurence Féraud last week in Chateauneuf. Lots going on at Pegau! Coming soon is Chateau Pegau. No no, not Bordeaux. These are Grenache folks through and through. A Chateau’s property must be contiguous and that’s not what makes Pegau’s Chateauneufs great. Her parcels are spread across the CdP zone; a plot near Rayas, others in La Crau and Montpertuis, etc. Chateau Pegau is a recently purchased Cotes du Rhone estate located just south of the CdP zone, and it is really good. More on this later in the year. Actually the point I want to make is based on tasting the 2010 Reservee and Capo from bottle with Laurence last week. These wines do live up to the press, and are must-haves if you can. Check out the HUGE special bottlings.
…aromas of smoked meats, Peking duck, licorice, lavender, aged beef, grilled steak blood, black currants, plums, sauteed cepes and soy. …concentrated, broad, expansive and massive but not over the top…
This just in! You no longer have to spend $80 for a bottle of Pegau! What happens when you own 40+ acres of vineyards in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (and that’s a lot of Chateauneuf!) and want to sell off some of your production, as say, Cotes du Rhone? French wine law only allows CdP to be declassified as non vintage Vin de Pays, or “country wine.” Lucky you. Dynamic Laurent Feraud, owner of Domaine Pegau, has those 40+ acres of CdP and has fashioned a stunning value in Plan Pegau. After tasting a vertical of Pegau CDP with her spanning 30 years, we got a taste of the Plan and the planning began. So close to that Pegau pedigree, this is a delicious mouthful that will leave you with a cash-back smile.