Chateau Cote Montpezat: Castillon Star Shines in ’09

We tasted this treat last week, and it is one of the most successful under $20 wines of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. Broad and juicy, bursting with black cherry and glints of savory red fruits too, it pushes the ripe button but has no overripe qualities at all. Some chocolate and smoky meat tones fill the mid palate and resonate after the initial swell of vibrant fruit, the finish pure with fresh mineral touches. This modern-styled Bordeaux will please the Aussie and CA drinker for sure. Big, supple and fresh at the same time, made of mostly merlot from the slopes of the north bank of the Dordogne river, the cabernet franc gives it the verve that keeps it distinctively right bank! 90/100. (14.5%)

2009 Chateau Cote Montpezat
Cuvee Compostelle

…juicy, bursting with black cherry and glints of savory red fruits too… Some chocolate and smoky meat tones fill the mid palate and resonate after the initial swell of vibrant fruit, the finish pure with fresh mineral touches….

Beautiful 2001 from Saint-Emilion

In mid-January, Bob and I wandered through the misty mornings in Bordeaux taking the trolley from lab to lab to taste 75 wines per appointment. We go in January because it is the off season and people have the time to prepare marathon tastings so that we can take our time to find wines to buy, and sell. While 2010s are foremost in our minds (stay tuned, we are accumulating them for mass offerings soon), we also like to find wines that have already been cellared and are ready to drink. And here we are with 2001 Barde-Haut, recently released from the Chateau, this beauty charmed me in an afternoon session and really stood out. Impeccably balanced, ripe fruit upfront and folding out into earth inflected mid palate, the length fines out very nicely. The wine is drinking perfectly now too. 2001s were overlooked, not being one of those blockbuster styled vintages. For people wanting to drink wines beyond the primary this is a great find, supple, seductive and sure to please. 94/100


2001 Chateau Barde-Haut

…this beauty charmed me in an afternoon session and really stood out. Impeccably balanced, ripe fruit upfront and folding out into earth inflected mid palate, the length fines out very nicely….

Hélène Garcin’s Bordeaux Domination

Hélène Garcin-Leveque is quite impressive in her scope and ambition. Since the early 90s Vignobles Garcin, the company founded by her mother, Sylviane Garcin-Cathiard, has acquired many high-level properties. It almost seems that they intend to take over Pessac-Leognan and the right bank too piece by piece. While that might be impossible since properties are very difficult to find, much less afford, they have become vine barons in their own right. The style of their wines is very consistent and shows unctuous textures and dark and deep flavors that find the earth at its core. At first the wines seem flamboyant and then I find they are, at the core, very solid. Earlier this year Hélène Garcin visited and we tasted 2009 Haut-Bergey and some of their offerings from Argentina as well, oh, yeah, they’re there too, and since then the other 09s have arrived. This is a primer for you, 2009 Bordeaux being the cataclysmic vintage that it is and Bordeaux being the ever pertinent wine and region that it is.


2009 Chateau Haut-Bergey,

…reveals notes of scorched earth/burning embers/charcoal, black currants, ripe cherries and lead pencil shavings. Full-bodied and pure with sweet tannin, this is an under-the-radar, high quality claret…


2009 Chateau Barde-Haut,

…reveals an extraordinary nose of mulberries, black cherries, charcoal, barbecue smoke and forest floor. Rich, full-bodied and opulent with silky tannins as well as a broad, unctuous texture…

2009 Chateau Branon,

…notes of scorched earth, burning embers, blackberries and truffles. …possesses full-bodied power, a stunningly intense, voluptuous, layered mouthfeel and abundant levels of fruit, glycerin and tannin….


2009 Clos L’Eglise,

…notes of melted caramel, sweet mocha, blackberry and black cherry fruit, with hints of loamy soil and unsmoked cigar tobacco as well as a touch of white chocolate and some subtle toasty oak. …lavishly rich…


Superior Bordeaux Supérieur

Rescued from obscurity in the late 1990s, Chateau Croix-Mouton is now and again a prime producer of serious wine for silly cash. Jean-Philippe Janoueix, young gun and previous recipient of “wine grower of the year” in Bordeaux, spares no expense on making this wine and it is easy to tell. His family took control of this right bank estate whose gravelly soils surround this 17th century property. Birthing wines as traditional as Bordeaux can be, the vineyards banked on one of the many bends of the Gironde deliver wines of pure right bank style, dry and supple. No wonder this estate is mentioned in reference books as far back as 1881. I like wines that make me want to drink more of them, and this has that “come hither” disposition, every time I drink it I find new facets of flavor. Ah, nuance. This is not a “trophy” wine but instead one to enjoy. (13.5%)


2008 Croix-Mouton

…a nice balance between fruit, acid and tannins. Shows the broadness of merlot from clay soils and the gravelly quality of alluvial sites too. Cherry, herbs, almost “minty” and some some spicy earth essence….

We Got The Right Bank Stuff

2005 Cassagne Haut-Canon

The 2005 Bordeaux were the best of the decade and sold at high prices with high buzz. That was then, this is now. We found even more of a special Right Bank bottling from that year that we can now sell at maturity, and at a bargain price to boot. …Remember the frenzy over 05s? While everyone else oohs and aahs about ’09s, I’ve got the elegant Cassagne Haut-Canon, a Merlot-rich ’05 that we found on the quays of Bordeaux. Our French connoisseur Rhett raves about Bordeaux every year (this one he pegs at 92).


2005 Cassagne Haut-Canon

…Ripe and supple fruit, blackberry like and some fresh spice sit right in the middle of this wine that has fine tannins and a gentle and long finish….

…You want wine with that?

Yep, and not with snooty pulled-duck sliders, but the real deal soft-bun White Castle burgers crawling with onions of my misspent youth. Only 12 cents back in the day. Fact: A White Castle branch in Lafayette, Indiana has tried selling wine. The label appropriately is Barefoot Cellars, which is a bit more polished than its name. Choices initially are chard, merlot, moscato and a sweet red. I’d go for a dry riesling or a Beaujolais. More sliders, please!

Red-Hot Reds: Keenan, Canoe Ridge, Cold Creek, 91-94 pts

When I want a great American cab or merlot, I look up. Up on Spring Mountain for Keenan, and up to Canoe Ridge and other top sites in Washington State where Chateau Ste. Michelle does its best work. These are wines of genuine terroir that many U.S. wineries just don’t have, no matter how well meaning or easy to drink they are. These wines are more than great grapes from top vintages. They also show off their regional character like the pure crushed rock minerality in the dark fruit Michael Keenan and Nils Venge bring down from Spring Mountain. I find great local taste from the giant Ste. Michelle in the smaller vineyards they have discovered and cultivated like Canoe Ridge in the Horse Heaven Hills, and always in the powerful, firmly structured reds from Cold Creek. These are 2007 Keenan Cabernet SauvignonAmerican wines with a true sense of place. I’m proud to see that in a world of sameness. And I’m proud to share them with you at prices that will make you want to try them all. Run-n-tell that.

2007 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon

“…exhibits a dense ruby/purple hue along with plenty of crushed rock, black currant, black raspberry, white chocolate, and earth characteristics. A supple texture, beautiful concentration, and a long finish…”  92 Points, Robert Parker’s WA2008 Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge

2008 Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Canoe Ridge

“A fine bottle – full, fleshy, immediately throwing out dense aromatics with toast and roasted coffee and bitter chocolate components. A deep vein of black cherry and cassis keeps the core tight and focused, and a small splash of Syrah adds the 2008 Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creekscent of black pepper.”  91 Points, Wine Enthusiast

2008 Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Cold Creek

“…the alcohol hits 15%, yet the tight, dense, cassis-laden body of the wine is intact, with an appropriate hint of herb. The length and balance once again suggest a wine that has decades of life ahead.”  93 Points, Wine Enthusiast

2007 Ste. Michelle Merlot, Cold Creek2007 Ste. Michelle Merlot, Cold Creek

“A full-throttle effort, with big flavor swashes of blackberry, cassis, black pepper, coffee grounds and ripe tannins. This is Cold Creek Merlot at its most powerful; the 35-year-old vines are in their prime and the flavors show it….”  94 Points, Wine Enthusiast


Gotim Bru Is Here: Spain’s Biggest Wine For The Buck!

2008 Castell del Remei Gotim BruWe have sold hundreds and hundreds of cases of Gotim Bru from Castell del Remei over the years and we were instrumental in getting it into the U.S. I’d call it a Super-Catalan: mostly tempranillo with a big punch of garnacha along with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah. Worth 90 points in every recent vintage and always a bargain. It’s long been a favorite Parker value. He fussed over it or a decade and gave the 2000 a 92 to prove that great wines could be had for $15 or less. Don’t I know it. And Costers del Segre is the place find them, cold and dry and mountainous, it is about 100 miles west of Barcelona and packed with granite and limestone. Some smart winemakers full of French ideas founded Castell del Remei in the 1800’s. A renaissance has occurred under new owners in the last 20 years. The 2008 is a dark and opaque wine, big bodied with the flavor of cherries, black fruits and sweet vanilla, concentrated like a compote or cherry liqueur and balanced by Spanish accents of espresso and licorice. Parker calls it “A serious wine for an incredible price.” At my ESAVE pricing, you’ll want a case. Run-n-tell that.

2008 Castell del Remei Gotim Bru

“Medium purple-colored, it gives up a fragrant perfume of Asian spices, violets, cedar, black cherry, and blackberry. Ripe, flavorful, and long on the palate, it delivers remarkable complexity for its humble price. It is an outstanding value…”  90 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

The next big thing in restaurants: Far north of the Mediterranean

Gastro PubWhile bruschetta won’t disappear (wish it would), look for more smart chefs to take your tastebuds move into the cuisines of colder climates. The flavors of Scandinavia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Russia  and even Korea are increasingly on offer in new restaurants from New York to London, if not yet Florida.  One attraction is the warmth of comfort food, the other appeal is the flip side of seasonal cooking: What and how to cook in winter when nothing is in season.

For centuries northern cooks have pickled, dried, smoked, cured, jellied, jammed and preserved summer’s bounty of vegetables, pork and fish to eat during the long cold winter. Today’s smart chefs have been relearning all these processes in house especially when the haus is a gastropub.  The allure of serving house-made gravlax, pickled beets, pork belly, red cabbage and spaetzle in minimalist decor is irresistible.  I mean once you’ve had tapas, sushi and mezze, can the smorgasbord be far behind?  Of course that’s not food made for merlot, but perfect for Alsatians and Mosels, riesling, gewurz, g.v., pinot blanc and lighter German reds.  And beer, which we Americans now know how to brew.

Napa’s First Growth: Joseph Phelps Insignia 2008, 95 to 97 Points

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia, NapaPhelps Insignia would have to be a first growth if the U.S. wine trade ever put together a Bordeaux-style classification. Heck, it’s in the top reds of the world. I don’t know any Napa Cabernet that’s so consistently at such a high level. Since 1974! You couldn’t even spell Meritage then. Me neither. Yet year after year it was stellar, averaging over 94 by Parker and Wine Spectator’s #1 in 2005.The 2008 is “Glamorous,” “fabulous,” ”wonderful,” the critics agree. I think it’s the seductive aroma and silky texture, dark coffee,cassis, and licorice. What makes it great in my mind is not the blend of the grapes (almost 90% Cab plus Merlot and Petite Verdot), but the blend of terroirs. Joe collected a half dozen of the best vineyards in Napa: Stag’s Leap, Oak Knoll, you name it. Phelps and its history have the pick of the best of them. Is the 2008 as good as 2007? Judge for yourself. Parker says it’s the best back-to-back Insignia duo since ’94 and ’95. You’d pay $200 at the winery for the ’08 and $160 if you’re a club member, but the price at my place is far less. You’re gonna want that.

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa

“…The color is an inky/purple and the wine shows lots of cassis, blueberry, graphite and floral notes, good acidity, stunning concentration and purity, and a long finish. Another great success for Phelps, the 2007 and 2008 Insignias may be the best back-to-back vintages they have produced since 1995 and 1994…” 95-97 Points, The Wine Advocate



1.5 Liter

TOP 100: Andrew Will Sorella Cab From Horse Heaven Hills

2008 Andrew Will Sorella, Horse Heaven HillsBeen too long since Chris Camarda was in Tarpon but we’ve been fans of him and his Andrew Will winery for years. Note to Chris: Come back soon. Btw, Will and Andrew are the names of his son and nephew. Camarda is a world leader in Merlot but he’s a Washington state all-star precisely because he champions terroir over grape varietals. My kind of thinking. He’s dedicated to the particular nuances of each region within the state and celebrates each of the nine prize vineyards he uses from Red Mountain to Puget Sound. Of them all, windy Champoux Vineyard in H3 may be tops for Cabernet Sauvignon and that’s where he scores the Cab for Sorella. It’s his kind of blend, long on the Cabernet Franc and a bit of Merlot that grows so well in Washington’s long hot summer. Together they make a heady wine, mixing plums and berries with chocolate, cedar, and spice. The 2008 is explosive if you ask me. Or Wine Spectator or Steve Tanzer (both rave 95 points) or Camarda himself. He didn’t think it could be as good as 2006 but the 08 is better! You’re gonna want that.

2008 Andrew Will Sorella Horse Heaven Hills

“Impressive for its intensity and elegance, packed with black cherry, cherry, plum and spice flavors, hinting at roasted red pepper and a tarry minerality as the finish glides smoothly over refined tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot…”  95 Points, Wine Spectator

Party Down: Chalone Chard and Markham Merlot!

2008 Chalone Estate ChardonnayBig scores and big markdowns on two of the best-known names in California, just in time to stock up for the holidays. Landing deals on the wines I know you want is why you come to B-21 – and only those of you on our private list can get them this low. Lucky you because these two wines are real crowd pleasers. Chalone’s unique corner of Monterey has always made an especially Burgundian Chard and the 2008 is particularly rich. Markham of course was one of the first names in Merlot in Napa Valley. And with the help of the smiling vintage gods, the 2007 is a ripe red cherry bomb. You could pay $20 or more elsewhere or you can deck your party bar in merry red and white for much less at B-21. You’re gonna want that.

2008 Chalone Chardonnay Estate

“A rich, layered style, very Burgundian in style, with complex melon, fig, tangerine and light toasty oak. Full-bodied, deep and concentrated, yet light on its feet…”  92 Points, Wine Spectator

2007 Markham Merlot, Napa2007 Markham Merlot Napa

“Sleek and well-focused, with appealing cherry and tomato leaf aromas and nicely layered red currant, herb and spicy caramel flavors that linger toward ripe tannins…”  90 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

Best Napa Cab of 2008? Joseph Phelps Insignia does it again, a match for ’07. ’08 Insignia is a beauty too! (95 to 97)

2008 Joseph Phelps InsigniaYou loved the 2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia. Parker calls the 2008 such a success it makes ’07 and ’08 the greatest back to back pair since 1994 and 1995. Different years, different strokes, both delicious. Might well be the best cab of the ’08 vintage for me. The ’08 Insignia has much the same pedigree, 89 percent cab, then Petit Verdot and Merlot, pulled from the best vineyards in Stags Leap, Spring Valley and Rutherford. All hand picked in the cool, cold soaked, extended maceration and fine French oak. Another thing: It is deep and lush stuff, long on espresso and dark fruits and sleek with graphite. Stunning and the cult lines are already forming. They’ll pay $200 at the winery, but your BFF price from me is $140. I’ve got 375 half bottles for a smaller taste and magnums for a whale of party. You must add 2008 to the 2007 in your cellar and watch them mature together. You’re gonna want that.

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia

“The color is an inky/purple and the wine shows lots of cassis, blueberry, graphite and floral notes, good acidity, stunning concentration and purity, and a long finish. ”  95-97 Points, Robert Parker, WA

Swearing off pinot noir…a few suggestions for Lettie.

Miles from Sideways Pinot Noir
Earth to Miles...there are other reds out there!

Wall Street Journal wine maven Lettie Teague announced last week that she was bored with over pinot noir, bored. Done. The ultimate slap on Miles and Sideways. I won’t got a long with her full rant on pinot– not after tasting through a world of pinots at our grand tasting. Yet I will agree that many buyers don’t look far enough in wide world of reds.

The main attraction of pinot noir to many wine drinkers was seeking an alternative to cabernet sauvignon. They weren’t just bored with cab, they plain didn’t like it, too heavy and too dry and tannic. So Merlot and Pinot Noir were the first steps into lighter reds. Teague’s own new alternatives were German Blaufrankisch, Barbaresco and Rioja Crianza.  I’d vote for a giant step beyond to Spanish monastrells, Italian dolcettos, a whole raft of Beaujolais and Chinon from France. And how about some light-hearted zins, Barbara  or a grand old charbono.