Tag Archives: russian

Best Buy In ’09 Russian River Chard: 93pt Walter Hansel

2009 Walter Hansel Chardonnay Cuvee Alyce

2009 Walter Hansel Chardonnay Cuvee Alyce

I don’t find such superlative chardonnay as Hansel’s intense and complex Cuvee Alyce at my price on either side of the pond. You know that Burgundy sets my standards high, and Hansel has met them repeatedly. There is lemon and smoke, pear and crushed rocks that the French would admire, plus a buttery opulence and juicy acidity from the Golden State. The elegant single-block chardonnay is the accomplishment of Steven Hansel and his family’s dedication to terroir. They respect the precise attributes of each vineyard in their corner of Russian River Valley. Hansel hand-picks, sorts and crushes by whole cluster to get the full natural character in each cuvee. His Cuvee Alyce is a particular favorite of mine, the most structured and restrained in his portfolio. It could last 10 years. I wish more California chards were in the same vein. More remarkable is Hansel’s modesty; he doesn’t brag big or demand cult prices. Doesn’t need to. The ’09 Cuvee Alyce speaks for itself.

The Strong One, Rodney Strong

2009 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2009 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Strong is the the definitely word for a guy like the late Rodney Strong. Don’t know many who could go from dancing for George Balanchine and Martha Graham in New York to pioneering Sonoma‘s most famous vineyards. That was in 1959: 50 years before the 2009 vintage and these ripe reds, sleek and silky pinot, complex cabernet (with merlot and cab franc), and a rich mouthful of merlot. Strong’s successors, Tom Klein and Rick Sayre, still believe in those appellations and insist on regional character in each wine, from the most affordable to the priciest single-vineyard bottles. Pinot noir comes from the cool of the Russian River while the cab and merlot are from Sonoma County and show that lush palate feel. Rodney Strong wasn’t the first bonded winery in Sonoma, but he was the 13th! Can you imagine? Only 13 wineries in Sonoma! Glad this one stayed.

2009 Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Rodney Strong Sonoma Merlot

2007 Rodney Strong Sonoma Merlot

Chardonnay Showdown: Big ratings, great prices! I love it!

Golden Gun Duel from "The Man With The Golden Gun" (1974)

Tough competition, very tough in my book. Five superior chardonnays, all at very high scores — and very low prices for sought-after labels. They’re not all the same ol’ chard, don’t let anyone tell you that. Nothing sloppy here! Like the white burgundies I love, each one sings of precise terroir from the high seaside of South Africa to four corners of California. I demand character in chardonnay and each of these has its own. Antinori’s Antica comes from cool, rocky Atlas Peak high in Napa, while Hamilton Russell’s Walker Bay vineyards are in stony clay and shale within two miles of the sea. Shafer’s soaring Red Shoulder Ranch is pure Carneros grown in sight of San Pablo Bay, the lush Mt. Eden is from the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Gallo Signature is from the chard-loving Russian River Valley. Five styles of delicious, four vintages, scores from 90-92 on up. Any way you go, these are terrific wines at prices hard to beat anywhere else.