Chateau De Villambis, Haut-Médoc, 2010 ($21.99) - Wine Advocate (Neil Martin): 90 "The de Villambis has a ripe, quite opulent bouquet that thinks this is 2009! The palate is medium-bodied with crisp acidity, lovely orange zest notes tincturing the lively black fruit, and a composed, refined, yet intense finish that is fresh and vital. Excellent! Drink now-2018." We also have half bottles of the 2009 at $11.99.
Château Cambon La Pelouse, Haut Médoc, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, 2010($23.99) - This fine value, from a 100-acre vineyard near Cantemerle and Giscours (Margaux), is a blend of 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot produced under the guidance of well-known consultant Claude Gros. James Suckling: 91-92 "Loads of fruit to this young wine with masses of currants and dark berries. Full body, with silky tannins and a long, long finish." Wine Spectator: 90 "Dense but fresh with a saturated core of blackberry pâte de fruit, anise, and plum that races along with vibrant spice and graphite notes. The long finish shows cut and drive with enough grip to cellar short term. Best from 2014 through 2019. 18,000 cases made."
Chateau Lalande-Borie ($32.99) - Wine Spectator: 91 "Solid, with a very juicy core of lightly mulled plum and blackberry fruit, a polished apple wood note that runs along the edges, and a solid, gravel-tinged finish. Sports nice terroir and leaves a mouthwatering feel on the finish. Best from 2015 through 2027."
Chateau Monbousquet ($56.99) - Parker: 93 "Bottled unfined and unfiltered, it exhibits notes of Christmas fruitcake, black raspberry, cedar wood, and spice box and has a full-bodied, fleshy, succulent mouthfeel, sweet tannin, and decent acidity along with the tell-tale purity that always seems to emerge from the Perse estates. This wine should drink beautifully from 2013-28. The 2010 is a brilliant effort from this estate. Yields were a modest 33 hectoliters per hectare, and the wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and the rest mostly Cab Franc with some Cab Sauvignon."
Chateau Clerc-Milon ($99.95) - Parker: 94 "One the finest Clerc-Milons ever, this blend of 50% Cab Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 11% Cab Franc + Carmenere and Petit Verdot has a complex nose of cedar wood, red and black fruits, white chocolate, and creme de cassis. Very powerful at 14.5% natural alcohol, this wine has impressive purity and texture, a full-bodied mouthfeel, relatively sweet tannin, but an already endearing complexity, length, and richness. This is a superb effort and one of the reasonably priced classified growths. Drink 2014-2034."
Chateau Villotte, Bordeaux Supérieur, 2009 ($12.99) - We were able to get only five cases of this exceptional wine. Like so many of the 2009 Bordeauxs, it boasts an inordinate amount of delicious, ripe fruit. A blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, it was aged in new and year-old barrique, surprising for a wine at this price. First come, first served.
Chateau Haut-Barrail, Médoc Cru Bourgeois, 2009 ($16.79) - The 2009 vintage in Bordeaux is getting rave reviews. Many properties made wines that exceeded their reputation. Chateau Haut-Barrail is owned by the Gillet family. The 15 acres of vines (70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon) were planted 35 years ago. The property is situated on the hills in the Bedagan district, facing the Gironde River. Surprisingly at this level, Haut-Barrail uses 80% brand new oak barrels. Neil Martin (who writes for the Wine Advocate): 90 "The Haut-Barrail 2009 has a very fine bouquet with cedar, black fruits, a touch of Xmas cake and sous-bois with good definition. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, good acidity, and a very composed finish with ample freshness. This is a very well made 2009 Cru Bourgeois."
Château d'Aurilhac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, 2009 ($17.75) - This gold medal winner at the 2011 Paris Fair is a blend of 46% Merlot, 46% Cab Sauvignon, and 2.5% each Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Erobertparker.com (Neal Martin): 90 "This 09 has a well-defined bouquet with blackberry, cedar, a touch of sous-bois, and well integrated oak. The palate is crisp and tart, yet quite sweet on the entry with ripe red cherries and fresh strawberries. Left 30 minutes in the glass, the d'Aurilhac moved up several gears, attaining harmony and focus. Silky smooth on the finish, quite lush but with the acidity to keep it all in balance. I ended up really enjoying this Haut-Médoc, but do allow it 45-60 minutes to open up." Parker: 87-89 "Longtime readers know d'Aurilhac is one of my favorite under-the-radar Bordeaux in top vintages. This impressively made Médoc offers a lot of quality for its price. The 2009 reveals copious black cherry, black currant, earth, and spice notes intertwined with a hint of background oak. A luscious texture, a succulent style, and a juicy, long finish suggest it will drink well for 5-7 years."
Fleur La Mothe Médoc Cru Bourgeois, 2009 ($19.59) - This 13-hectare property was purchased by three enologists including Edouard Massie, the consultant at Pontet Canet, Calon Segur, Talbot, and Gruaud Larose! The soil is clay-limestone, gravel, and sand. The vines, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, average 50 years of age. A sorting table eliminates all but the best grapes. The wine is very modern with nice, lush fruit and great balance. The package is also modern and eye-catching. Wine Spectator: 89 $25 "Delivers a pure, very focused beam of raspberry and black cherry fruit backed by mouthwatering spice, melted red licorice, and floral notes. Shows nicely integrated structure. Drink now through 2016. Wine Advocate (Neal Martin): 90 "A very concentrated bouquet with far more fruit intensity than its peers. The palate is silky smooth on the entry with very good depth, harmonious with luscious black, vanilla-tinged fruit towards the succulent finish. Good length. Modern in style and beautifully crafted." Gold Medal, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and Concours de Bordeaux.
Chateau Moya, Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux, 2009, 2009 ($21.99) - Wine Spectator: 90$35 "Very juicy and inviting, with deliciously ripe notes of linzer torte, blackberry, and crushed plum laced with anise and toasted spice. The lively finish stretches out nicely. Drink now through 2016. 2,080 cases made."
Chateau Chantegrive, Graves, 2009 ($22.99) - Parker: 90 "A great bargain in any vintage, the 2009 may be the best wine they have ever produced. A major sleeper of the vintage, it is a blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with notes of tobacco leaf, hot rocks, sweet kirsch, and black currants that are impressively displayed. With its silky tannins, this is medium to full-bodied, velvety textured, and a very seductive and lush style of wine. This is a beauty. Drink it now through 2022."
Chateau Lillian Ladouys, St.-Estephe, 2009 ($29.99) - Wine Spectator: 92, Smart Buys "On the toasty, more modern side of the spectrum, with ambitious roasted fig, apple wood, and blueberry comfiture notes followed by racy graphite, espresso, and blackberry pâte de fruit. Not shy, but has the density for balance. Best 2013 - 2024." Wine Journal (Neal Martin): 90 "very fine lift on the floral, almost Margaux-like bouquet with vivacious red cherries and wild strawberry. Good definition. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and an almost Burgundian texture. Very polished and focused, certainly one of this estate's best wines in recent years." Parker: 90 "Elegant, with loads of black currant fruit, cherries, and dusty, loamy soil notes as well as hints of tobacco leaf, spice box, and cedar, it is a medium to full-bodied, nicely textured, fleshy wine that should drink nicely for 10-15+ years. The change to a better class of St.-Estephe was started by the late Vincent Mulliez, who passed away tragically last year, but who got things started by reducing yields, cleaning up the place, eliminating the TCA that had tainted so many earlier wines, and using a blend of 60% Cab Sauvignon and 40% Merlot."
Cap de Faugeres, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, 2009 ($32.99) - Parker: 91 "The 2009 is possibly the best Cap de Faugeres yet made, a sleeper of the vintage, and a realistically priced one at that. A blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon that hit 14% natural alcohol, the wine displays loads of charcoal, blackberry, espresso roast, and white chocolate. It is full-bodied, unctuously textured, with very sweet tannin and stunning purity, texture, and length. This is a super-duper wine, bottled unfined and unfiltered under the guidance of the consultant Michel Rolland. Drink it now-2022. Under new proprietor Silvio Denz, the wines from this property, as well as his Chateau Faugeres in St.-Emilion, have gotten better, even by the high standards maintained by the previous proprietor."
Château Taillefer, Pomerol, 2009 ($33.99) - The east bank Bordeaux communes of Pomerol and St.-Emilion offer sexy and succulent Merlot-dominated wines. Pomerol is the smallest of Bordeaux's wine producing areas. Its very best (and most expensive) wines come from the gravel and clay soil of the eastern plateau, but some great values come from the sandier soil to the west. Château Taillefer, which appears on maps as early as 1764, has been in the Moueix family since 1923 and is now run by Bernard Moueixfs widow, Catherine, and her children in consultation with University of Bordeaux Professor Denis Dubourdieu. Taillefer is located in the southernmost part of Pomerol. The 13 ha of vines, planted at a density of 6000/ha, average over 30 years of age and are 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cab Sauvignon, and 5% Malbec. Low yields (less than 40 hl/ha) and use of a sorting table add to the quality. The wine ages 15 months in French oak (30% new), finishing with an egg-white fining and no filtering. Erobertparker.com (Neal Martin): 90 "Catherine Moueix has made a very fine 2009. It has an understated, tertiary bouquet with precise red fruit and well-integrated oak. The palate is medium-bodied with great precision rather than power. Very fine. Who said you have to be up on the plateau to make great Pomerol?" James Suckling: 92 "Aromas of black truffles, blackberries, and raspberries. Full-bodied, super silky tannins, and a long, fresh finish." Now-2022.
Chateau de France, Pessac-Léognan, 2009 ($39.99) - Pessac-Léognan is the northern and best part the Graves district, just south of the city of Bordeaux. Although it doesn't have quite the popular caché of Margaux, Pauillac, St. Estephe, and St. Julien, connoisseurs recognize its quality as second to none. With the exception of Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, P-L's wines tend to be excellent Bordeaux values. The style of the wines here is slightly different with more emphasis on tobacco notes, but the quality is often exceptional. This property has an odd name for a French wine, but the 2009 is a stunner! Wine Spectator: 93, $50 "Big and bold with currant, blackberry, and plum fruit backed by espresso, smoke, and mineral notes in this muscular red. The powerful character is more menacing than alluring, but this shows impressive structure and depth. Best from 2014 through 2030. 4,000 cases made."
Chateau Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan, 2009 ($45.99) - Wine Spectator: 92, Top 100 for 2012 (#70) "Offers a very solid core of black Mission fig, blackberry preserves, and freshly roasted espresso flavors woven nicely with hints of alder wood, tar, and pastis. The long finish shows polish with nice grip in reserve. Best from 2013 through 2022. 12,083 cases made." Robert Parker: 93 gThe best ever wine from this estate (even better than their sensational 2005), this full-bodied wine offers notes of blueberry, black currant, asphalt, and burning charcoal embers in a deep, layered, and multidimensional style. It is impressively pure and well-built with far greater concentration and length than I remember this wine having in the past." After tasting it from cask, Parker suggested the wine would drink well in it's youth, but he later tasted it after bottling and wrote, "Forget it for 5 years and drink it over the following three decades (2017-47)." These two wines hint at the flaws in the Spectator's reviews and top 100 list. The Ch. de France got a marginally higher rating, but it didn't make to top 100 list!
Le Petit Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognon, 2009 ($42.99) - This is one of two second labels of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. It is typically 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot. The property has received magnificent reviews in the last few vintages; the 2009 primary label, which will be well over $150 when it arrives, received 100 from Parker! Wine Spectator: 90 "Inviting, with steeped red and black currant fruit woven with plum, skin, fig sauce, and smoldering dark tobacco notes. A nice fleshy feel on the finish makes this approachable now. Drink now through 2018."
Reserve de Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac, 2009 ($59.99) - Pichon’s second label. Parker 91: "Made from 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, it exhibits notes of forest floor, white chocolate, licorice, black currants, and vanillin-infused black cherries and possesses a sweet, round, generous style. Drink it over the next 10 years."
Petit Lion de Leoville Las Cases, Saint Julien, 2009 ($79.99) - Second labels from great vintages are often terrific Bordeaux values. Eighty bucks is a lot, but consider that the great Ch. Leoville Las Cases 2009 sells for $350 or more! There has been much confusion about what label Las Cases uses for its second wine. Clos du Marquis is actually a different parcel of the property. Parker: 88 "This 2,000-case blend of 71% Merlot and 29% Cabernet Sauvignon is a luscious, fruit-driven effort produced from young vine (15-18 years old) parcels in the famous Le Clos, the vineyard next to Chateau Latour that is responsible for Leoville Las Cases. Abundant fruit, easy-going tannins, and a forward mouthfeel. Enjoy it over the next decade." Wine Spectator: 89-91 "Currants on toasted bread character on the nose and palate. Medium- to full-bodied with chewy tannins and a medium finish. Balanced and attractive."
Chateau Branaire Ducru, St.-Julien, 2009 ($89.99) - Parker: 96"Haut couture becomes a wine! This dense purple wine has the tell-tale notes of flowers and pencil shavings, and its broad aromatics are intense and totally captivating. Powerful, rich, and full, but less tannic and more opulent than the 2005, this is a dazzling Branaire to drink between 2017-2035.... At 13.6% alcohol, it is the most powerful Branaire ever made, and the final blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot showcases what a great vintage 2009 is for Cabernet Sauvignon."
Chateau Giscours, Margaux, 2009 ($99.99) - Parker: 94"The finest Giscours in my professional career, this dense purple wine has a stunning nose of burning embers, charcoal, creme de cassis,new saddle leather, and damp, forest-floor notes. It is full-bodied with exceptionally sweet, well-integrated tannins and a multi-dimensional, almost skyscraper-like mid-palate and finish. With its low acidity and remarkable substance and depth, this gorgeous wine should age beautifully for 20-30 years. Drink 2012-2042"
Chateau Fonplegade, St.-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, 2008 ($58.50) - Within St.-Emilion there is small section called the "Côte Sud (southern slope)," a relatively warm mound that produces richer, chunkier wines. Chateau Fonplegade’s 46 acres here can be traced to 400 C.E. when the Romans christened it. The name comes from "fontaine ployée" (swaying fountain), which refers to the many springs that cross the mound. The property is owned by Denise and Stephen Adams. Typically 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc (the vines average 30 years of age), the wine undergoes a five-day cold soak prior to fermentation in temperature controlled wooden vats. The wine is then aged in 100% new barrique. Parker 93 "A major sleeper of the vintage, it has fabulous aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry, loamy soil, graphite, and earth. Dense and supple with abundant fat and concentration in its medium to full-bodied, complex, evolved personality, it should drink well upon release through 2026."
Chateau Greysac, Médoc, 2006 ($18.99/750ml; $9.99/375ml) - This Bordeaux property is located on gravel rises in the hamlet of By. Its 70 hectares are planted to 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Planted 7500 per hectare, the vines average 25 years of age and typically produce 55 hl/ha (about 5 tons per acre). Spirits and former wine giant Diageo previously brought Greysac and hundreds of other Bordeaux into the U.S. but jettisoned that portion of its business a few years ago. (Diageo still owns Sterling, Rosenblum, and Beaulieu Vineyards in California.) Greysac disappeared from the U.S. market until a new importer was recently found. Greysac was purchased in 1973 by Baron François de Gunzberg and several friends. With the financial backing of the INFINT group, they began to modernize the chateau, vineyards, and winemaking facility. The grape selection is quite strict; 30% of the grapes are usually rejected. The wine is typically straightforward and clean with sumptuous fruit. It acquires elegance and complexity over time. Those characteristics are evident in the Wine Spectator review of the 2006: "87 Aromas of currant and gun metal. Medium-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and silky tannins. Slightly one-dimensional now, but will turn out very well for the vintage. Best after 2010." It has turned out well, and I was impressed by the intensity of its sweet earth/black cherry fruit. This is a lot of wine for the money.
Chateau Haut Selve Reserve, Graves, 2006 ($29.99) - This is a great object lesson in the weakness of reviews early in the life of an age-worthy wine. The respectable review from 2009 follows, but this wine has matured magnificently. It is impressive, delicious, and a terrific value! Wine Spectator: 88 "Aromas of blackberry and bark follow through to a medium body, with fine tannins and pretty fruit. Solid and rich. Best after 2010. 1,105 cases made."
Chateau le Vieux Serestin, Médoc Cru Artisan, 2005 ($18.69) - This very impressive Bordeaux is a blend of 45% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with 8% Petit Verdot and 2% Cab Franc. "Cru Artisan" is a new designation that comprises 46 quality-oriented estates that are family-owned and operated and that adhere to eco-friendly practices such as limited pesticides. This wine saw an extended period of aging in mostly used oak barrels. It's impossible to describe, but there is something special about the bouquet. The wine has very good depth of fruit and was clearly made using low grape yields. It is youthful but very enjoyable with some airing time. Further aging will only help this beauty attain even greater heights.
Chateau Rocher Corbin, Montagne St.-Emilion, 2005 ($27.99) - Montagne St.-Emilion is one of the satellite villages just outside of St.-Emilion. Its wines are usually not quite as good as its famous neighbor, but they shine in great vintages like 2005. This biodynamically-made wine comes from 50% pre-phylloxera vines (phylloxera can’t survive in the sandy soil here), a rarity today in France. The remaining vines are 50 years old. This is a youthful, delicious wine.
Chateau de Côme, St.-Estephe, 2005 ($34.99) - This second label of Ch. Clauzet is a blend of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has wonderful aromatics of blackberry and licorice, and it drinks beautifully with some airing. This wine shows the quality of the 2005 vintage, and it will continue to develop for three more years. Clauzet is owned by Maurice Velge who initially acquired 10 hectares on ridges of sandy-gravelly soil in 1997. He now owns 30 hectares of vines. José Bueno, the head of the operations team, spent 23 years with Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The hand-picked grapes are sorted twice to eliminate those that are less than perfect. Following a long maceration, the wine is aged on the lees in barrels for 14-18 months.
Chateau Gaudin, Pauillac, 2006 ($35.99) - In addition to the Grand Cru properties of Bordeaux's famous commune of Pauillac, there are numerous less heralded estates. Some, like Chateau Gaudin, make excellent wine; some do not. This 10-hectare property is located on gravelly ridges and is surrounded by prestigious names. It is planted with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and a smattering of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère. The average age of the vines is 40 years. The wine receives a traditional fermentation and is then aged for 18 months in new barrique. The recently released 2006 is nearing peak drinkability. The impressive bouquet and palate feature blackcurrant, cherry, herbs, cedar, earth, and some oak. This terrific value is a serious wine with good refinement and a medium-length finish.
Chateau Lalande Borie, Saint-Julien, 2005 ($49.99) – Here is an opportunity to drink mature Bordeaux of very high quality. It was stored in Bordeaux under perfect conditions for the last four years and just shipped to the U.S. Parker 90: "A sleeper of the vintage as well as the finest wine I have yet tasted from this estate, Lalande-Borie is made by Ducru Beaucaillou’s proprietor, Bruno Borie. He has turned out a graceful, charming, seductive St.-Julien possessing a dense purple color and sweet cassis fruit intermixed with forest floor, spice box, and earth characteristics. This is a beauty to drink 2008-2018."
3 de Valandraud, St.-Emilion, 2005 ($54.99) - This Bordeaux shows real breeding. Château Valandraud began in 1989 when Jean-Luc Thunevin and his wife, Murielle Andraud, bought a tiny vineyard (1.5-acre) and a former garage to be used as a winery in St.-Emilion near Château Pavie-Macquin. Only 1500 bottles of the 1991 Valandraud were released, and they caused a sensation. Thunevin is closely associated with the "garagiste" movement, innovative winemakers in Bordeaux who make tiny amounts of wine in a modern style, sometimes literally out of garages. Thunevin has purchased additional acreage and now makes about 1500 cases of wine each year. The wine gets phenomenal reviews and is over $300 per bottle! A section of the vineyard is not quite as good, and its production is bottled under the Virginie de Valandraud label. 3 de Valandraud is the second label of both Ch. Valandraud itself and the Virginie. The 2005 is a blend of 80% Merlot, 8% each Cab Sauvignon and Cab Franc, and the remainder Carmeniere and Malbec. It spent 12 months in 100% new barrique. It makes you really want to try the primary label! We also tasted the 2008 which we will bring in when the 2005 sells out.
Chateau Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux, 2005 ($79.99) - Robert Parker: 92 “Significantly better from bottle than it was from barrel, the 2005 Rauzan-Gassies appears to be the finest wine this estate has ever produced. Dense purple-hued with a beautiful perfume of camphor, creme de cassis, licorice, bay leaf, and incense, it is a full-bodied, stunningly concentrated, broad, rich Margaux with lovely integrated tannins. This backward 2005 will handsomely repay cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2030+.”
Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, 2005 ($199.95) - Pavillon Rouge is Chateau Margaux’s second label and has always been one of the more successful second labels wines. Although it is expensive, it generally delivers great style and grace. The 2005 is no exception. It is showinh the smoothness and silkiness that are its hallmark. Parker reviewed it 4 years ago: 91 “Equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a hefty alcohol content. Fleshy, opulent, and nearly decadent with terrific fruit, a creamy texture, and supple tannin. Now-2023.”
Chateau La Tour Figeac, St.-Emilion, 2004 ($37.99) - Christine Derenoncourt, the wife of one of Bordeaux’s leading winemaking gurus, Stephane Derenoncourt, made this blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc from a bio-dynamically farmed vineyard, and produced from yields of [only] 22.5 hectoliters per hectare. Wine Spectator: 88 "This is not a profound wine, but it is very pleasant and ready to drink now."
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2004 ($114.95) - Robert Parker 90-92: “A blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc, the 2004 Pichon Lalande is vaguely reminiscent of the 1986 and 1988. Deep ruby/purple-tinged, with moderately high, firm tannin, a degree of austerity, plummy black currant fruit intermixed with licorice, smoke, and dried herbs, good freshness, and medium body, give it 2-3 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following 15+ years.”
Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, 2004 ($
Chateau Potensac, 2003
($34.99)- La Cour d’Argent and Potensac are
perfect examples of the silliness of rating scores. They received marginally the
same score from Robert Parker and the Wine
Spectator, yet the Potensac is a much more serious and far superior wine. Go
plum/purple 2003 Potensac is a sleeper of the vintage. Sweet, exotic scents of
mincemeat, black currants, cherries, and crushed rocks are followed by an
elegant, fleshy, forward, delicious claret to enjoy over the next 5-7 years,
although this wine has a tendency to last longer. It is one of the finest
Potensacs produced in several years. Drink 2006-13” Wine Spectator:
“Very pretty blackberry and currant aromas follow through to a full-bodied
palate, with fine tannins and a silky finish. Nicely done. Best after 2009.”
Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Pessac-Leognon, 2003 ($79.99) - Wine Spectator: 93 "Loads of blackberry and licorice with hints of meat and smoked oak. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and lots of very ripe and exotic fruit. Very exotic and wild. Rich finish. Best after 2009. 8,330 cases made." Robert Parker: 92 "The opulent, accessible 2003 offers a dense plum/ruby-tinged color and a big, sweet bouquet of crème de cassis, smoked herbs, lead pencil, and subtle wood. It is a deep, fleshy, medium to full-bodied offering with low acidity, a plump, opulent texture, and a heady finish. Enjoy this beauty over the next 15+ years."
Château D'Armailhac, 2000 ($99.99) - Parker 91 "This continues to be one of the most seductive and luscious d'Armailhacs I have ever tasted. It may be my favorite vintage of d'Armailhac. Opaque purple-colored, this blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot has surprisingly good acidity with the high Merlot content and high tannin, but an expressive, opulent mid-texture and loads of charcoal-infused, cedary, black currant fruit intermixed with spice box, dried herbs, and espresso notes. The wine is full-bodied, sweet, and expansive. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2020."
($99.99) - Lying adjacent to
Mouton-Rothschild, this Pauillac has improved dramatically in recent years.
color. Promising aromas of black currants, vanilla, truffle, smoke, and mineral.
It is full-bodied, powerful, layered, and enticingly textured, but backward and
firm. The finish is long, but this broodingly backward, large-scaled
Pontet-Canet will require considerable patience. Drink 2011-2030.”
Château Moulin de la Bridane, St. Julien, 1999 ($34.99) - This beauty has terrific color and aroma. A classic Bordeaux, it is a blend of 47% Cab. Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 13% Cab. Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. The separate lots were aged 9 to 16 months in one-third new oak before blending. This special wine can be enjoyed now, but it will evolve for year or so.
Chateau Pichon Lalande, Pauillac, 1999 ($99.99) - Parker 89+: “Putting on weight as it evolves in cask. Deep ruby color. Sexy nose of caramel, tobacco, sweet black currants, and spice. A silky-textured, seductive effort that may merit an outstanding rating if it develops more length and mid-palate. 2002-18”
Château Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien, 1995 ($115) - Wine Spectator: 91 "Intense aromas of crushed blackberries, licorice, and Spanish cedar. Full-bodied, concentrated, and structured." Parker: 89 "Revealing more grip and tannin since bottling, the 1995 Gruaud-Larose exhibits a dark ruby color, and a nose of sweet black cherries, licorice, earth, and spice. Rich, with medium to full body, high tannin, and subtle oak in the background. Drink 2005-2020. Gruaud-Larose was purchased in 1997 by Jacques Merlaut who was not responsible for making the 1996 or 1995, but is responsible for their elévage and bottling."
Bourgogne Rouge, Agnès Paquet, 2010 ($18.69) - The search may have ended for the holy grail of Pinot Noir - a delicious red Burgundy under $20! Most of the contenders are strong on structure but weak on fruit with a lean quality. Not so this absolute winner from Agnes Paquet, who established an 18.5-acre domaine with her husband, Sebastien, in 2001. Their holdings are mostly in Auxey-Duresses with additional parcels in Pommard, Chassagne-Montrachet, and one parcel entitled only to the Hautes Côtes de Beaune appellation. Agnès takes more care with this wine than one would expect for a basic Bourgogne Rouge, and it shows. The vines used are at least 20 years old; some are 80 years old! Most Bourgogne Rouge represent young vines (ten years or less). The grapes are hand-sorted, and all the bunches are destemmed. A five-day cold maceration (to extract color and fruit) precedes the ten-day fermentation and maceration on the skins. Fifty percent of the wine is then aged in barrel (15% new), and the wine is bottled unfiltered to preserve its fruit. This wine can be found in many Paris bistros for good reasons.
Henri Plasse Brouilly, 2010 ($19.99) - Cru Beaujolais are made from 100% Gamay grapes, but unlike Beaujolais Nouveau, these are serious wines that can take some bottle age. The vines on Henri Plasse's 13 hectare property are between 40 and 70 years old. He employs Burgundy techniques such as whole cluster fermentation and cap punch-down for the extraction of maximum color, flavor, tannin, and aromatics. This nicely balanced wine (13% alcohol) has a bouquet of raspberry and peach with a lovely flavor profile of black cherry and dark berries. There is also a vein of spice and smoke in this relatively traditional Gamay. Its slightly earthy quality is reminiscent of other Burgundy wines (yes, Beaujolais is in the Burgundy district!), and it yearns for a steak, sausage, or pork on the grill. The ideal serving temperature is 59-60 degrees. Brouilly is one of the most highly regarded of the ten Cru Beaujolais villages.
Fleurie, Domaine des Nugues, 2009 ($19.99) - The cru villages of Beaujolais make delicious wines that get no respect because the public associates them with Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine shows just how good cru Beaujolais can be. It has surprisingly deep color, rich and delicious fruit, and enough structure to warrant additional aging, although it can surely be enjoyed now. International Wine Cellar (Josh Reynolds): 89 "Medium red. Ripe red berry and cherry aromas are complicated by notes of anise and cola. A richer style of Beaujolais, offering powerful dark fruit flavors and solid tannic structure. Gains freshness with air and leaves tangy berry skin notes behind on the persistent finish." Gérard Gelin bought and renamed this estate (it is pronounced newgg) in 1976. It is currently run by his son, Gilles. The vines average forty years of age; some are over 100 years old! All fruit is hand-harvested and whole-cluster vinified.
Bourgogne Passe-tout-grains, François Mikulski, 2008 ($19.99) - The vast majority of red Burgundies are 100% Pinot Noir, but that was not always the case. Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, was widely planted in the Côte d'Or until it was banned by the AOC early in the 20th century. Some vines remain, but they cannot be used for the prestige names like Pommard and Volnay. In a nod to tradition, Passe-tout-grains was granted AOC status in 1937. These wines are typically 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Gamay which must be grown in the same vineyard and then fermented together. The idea is to make a fruitier, softer, and earlier drinking wine at a lower price. The best producers like Mikulski use the same warm fermentation that is used for the prestige Burgundies, as opposed to the carbonic maceration common in Beaujolais. This one, mostly from a vineyard in Pommard, is surprisingly serious and quite good. It will benefit from a few months in the bottle. Mikulski's father escaped Poland in 1939, settled in Dijon, and married a Boillot, so there were vineyards in the family. François was born in 1963. After viticulture studies and military service, he worked at California's Calera Wine Company before returning to France where with his wife, Marie-Pierre, he founded Domaine Mikulski in 1992. The domaine rents 8.5 hectares of vines and is best known for Meursault and very untraditional labels.
Michel Briday Rully Rouge 1er Cru "Les 4 Vignes," 2009 ($24.99) - This 100% Pinot Noir has a lovely texture, good fruit, and just enough acidity and tannin to warrant decanting or aging another year or two. Rully lies in the Côte de Châlonnaise, just south of Burgundy's famous Côte d'Or. This is an assemblage from four different premier cru vineyard sites. After destemming and a long (18-20 days), warm (82 degrees) fermentation, it was aged in mostly used barriques for 12 months and neither fined nor filtered. With scents of black fruits, cassis, and blackberries as well as distinct mineral/limestone/wet stone in the finish, this is a relatively robust Pinot Noir that will pair well with beef, game birds, and stews such as the classic Bouef Bourgignonne or Coq au Vin. The 15-hectare estate is owned and operated by Michel's son and daughter-in-law, Stephane and Sandrine. We also carry Briday's lovely Rully Blanc.
Chateau de Rully 1er Cru "Molesmes," 2009 ($29.99) - We wrote up the white wine from Chateau de Rully last month. This fine red was made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes that were hand-harvested, sorted, and totally destemmed. After a 12-day maceration, the must was fermented in temperature controlled vats with cap punch down twice daily during the alcohol fermentation. After complete malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged 14 months in oak barrels (40% new). The deep ruby-red color is accompanied by a bouquet of smoke, toast, and black fruits. The palate features toast, spice, licorice, and black cherry. The tannins are fine and ripe.
Domaine Lignier-Michelot Bourgogne Rouge, 2009 ($34.99) - An amazing value and an excellent introduction to red Burgundies, this wine shows opulent, exotic fruit with bilberry, black currant, and spice notes. There is surprising complexity and a lingering aftertaste. Slightly tight, it is developing rapidly and should be at its best from late 2010 through 2013. Virgile Lignier is the fourth generation to run the property, but its entire production was sold to négoçiants until 1992. The family owns parcels in Morey St.-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, and Gevrey-Chambertin. Their entire production from 20 acres of vineyards is only 1000 cases per year! The vineyard for this Bourgogne Rouge is located just below Clos Vougeot! The wine was 100% destemmed and aged on its lees for 12 months in mostly used wood.
Henri Boillot Bourgogne Rouge, 2010 ($34.99) - Wine Advocate (Antonio Galloni): 88-89 "The 2010 Bourgogne is a ridiculously great wine for the money. It boasts tremendous depth and richness at this level, with gorgeous mid-palate pliancy and striking inner perfume. It is made from an assortment of village and 1er Cru parcels mostly in Volnay (85%) with a touch of Santenay (15%) that are too small to be bottled on their own. Drink 2013-2020." Put this wine away for a year or two, and you’ll have something special. Unfortunately it is very limited.
Lignier-Michelot Bourgogne Rouge, 2010 ($34.99) - This is our third vintage of this wonderful red Burgundy. Lignier’s vineyard is located below Clos Vougeot. The wine was 100% de-stemmed and aged on its fine lees for 12 months in mostly used wood. The nose displays enticing and spicy red and black fruits. On the palate there is good density and flesh with tannins buried in the fruit. Wine Advocate (Antonio Galloni): 87 "The 2010 Bourgogne is a pretty, up-front wine with lovely fleshiness in its red fruit. This is an especially racy, fragrant Bourgogne for the year and should drink well right out of the gate. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2017."
Camille Giroud Santenay, 2007 ($34.99) - Situated just below Chassagne-Montrachet, Santenay is the southernmost village in the Côte d'Or, but its red wines are stylistically more like those of the northern Côte d'Nuit than the southern Côte d'Beaune. Earthy and gsauvageh (wild) when young, they age into spicy gems with delicious earth and cherry flavors. Founded in 1865, Camille Giroux was a family-owned winery and negoçiant house until it was purchased in 2002 by a group of Americans led by Ann Colgin (of Colgin Cellars!) and her husband, Joe Wender. Importer Becky Wasserman is the managing director. Brothers Bernard and François Giroud kept the vineyards; the Americans took the brand, winery, and an impressive collection of 350,000 bottles, some dating back to 1937. David Croix, the young but talented winemaker, is moving toward purchasing only grapes (as opposed to already-made wine), so he can maintain control of the process. He works in the vineyard with his suppliers. The wines are aged mostly in once-used barrels, then bottled unfiltered. Parker's description of the 2006 accurately reflects the 2007: "Strikes a lovely balance between sweetness of plum and cherry fruit, the tartness of their skins, and the bitterness of their pits. Its stony, chalky undertow does not prevent the fruit from persisting in a downright lip-smacking charm offensive."
Savigny-Lavieres 1er Cru, Domaine Camus-Bruchon & Fils, 2008 ($39.99) - This is the best $40 red Burgundy we have tasted in a long time. With a very attractive perfume, good plummy fruit, meaty yet elegant personality, some spiciness, and solid structure, this wine can be enjoyed now, but it will be at its best from 2012 to 2015. Lucien Camus, one of the finest red wine makers in the Côte de Beaune, fashions beautifully balanced, deep, and complex wines that are the epitome of what great Burgundy is all about. He took over from his father in 1971 and has some top vineyards in Savigny-les-Beaune and small premier cru holdings in Beaune and Pommard. Camus spends much of his time in the vineyards tending his vines, a notably high percentage of which are very old. Beware! This remarkable, focused, and pure Pinot Noir may be habit forming, and it may lead you to a lifelong and expensive love affair with red Burgundies!
Domaine Francois Gaunoux Volnay 1er Cru "Clos des Chenes," 2005 ($59.99), Beaune 1er Cru "Clos des Mouches," 2005 ($64.99), and Pommard 1er Cru "Les Grands Epenots," 2005 ($69.99) - It's always a pleasure to see a producer hold back wines for an extra year before release. Itfs also a pleasure to see relatively reasonable prices for such distinguished Burgundy vineyards from such a fine Burgundy vintage. "Clos des Chenes" is a top 'climat' in Volnay and offers a combination of strength and elegance with complexity and balance. The Beaune is from a fabled 'cru' in the southern part of this appellation tucked in a hillside bordering on Pommard. Showing both a feminine side and a serious streak, this is a fine example of the appellation at a great price. The Pommard shows a combination of strength and finesse. This complete wine is the quintessential "iron fist in a velvet glove." All are limited.
Henri Boillot Volnay, 2010 ($67.99) - Wine Advocate (Antonio Galloni): 89-91 "A gorgeous core of minerality. Shows fabulous depth with intense, high-toned floral notes that wrap around the fruit. Energy and tension are the hallmarks in this fine and highly promising Volnay. Sold as a villages, it is made entirely from 1er Crus that are too small to justify separate bottlings. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2022. Henri Boillot turned out a superb set of 2010 reds. Best of all, readers won’t have to shell out a fortune to enjoy them, as a number of the more modestly priced wines far exceed the quality of their respective appellations. Yields came in at 20-22 hectoliters per hectare, a 40% decrease over the more typical production of 35 hl per ha."
Lignier-Michelot Morey St. Denis Premier Cru " Les Façonnières," 2008 ($79.99) - It's unusual to think of an $80 wine as a good value, but this is such a wonderful red Burgundy that it actually a good value despite the price. Here is the holy grail that California and Oregon Pinot producers try to emulate. It is broodingly deep, marvelously fragrant, and intensely lush despite its youthful restraint. Parker: 91-92 "'You never have to do anything to improve on the fruit of these old vines,' remarks Virgile Lignier of his Les Façonnières, 'they are always in shape.' The resulting wine from this cru is in athletically good health as well. Exuberant dark plum and cherry fruit with a tart fruit skin edge and piquantly cyanic notes of fruit pit mingle with village-typical high-toned, bittersweet herbal concentrates on a palate of infectious juiciness and exhilarating lift. Hints of soy and peat interact with the fruit in a display of energy as well as umami. Now-2025." Very limited.
Corton Grand Cru "Les Maréchaudes," Chandon de Briailles, 2002 ($95.99) - This mature and wonderful red Burgundy was cellared at the domaine and recently rereleased. Wine Spectator: 91 "Ripe and dense, with dried fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry along with licorice and forest underbrush. Traditional style. Fine concentration and balance with a chewiness to the tannins and a long, sweet finish. Best from 2007 through 2020. 10 cases imported."
Midslope Côtes du Rhône-Village “Rasteau,” 2007 ($19.99) - A key concept in French wine is terroir, the “where-ness” of a wine. The best terroir in the southern Rhône is generally considered to be Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The village of Rasteau is a close second. Rasteau is rapidly becoming recognized for its outstanding Grenache, and many believe that the best wines from Rasteau resemble a well made Châteauneuf. This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. Midslope is the sister project of the wildly successful Upslope Syrah from Thompson Vineyard in Santa Barbara. Midslope represents terroir in a bottle. A very good terroir.
Mas de Restanques Vacqueyras, 2010 ($23.99) - Vacqueyras is one of the best villages in the southern Rhône. Its wines are often on a par with those of Châteauneuf du Pape, but they are invariably more attractively priced. This beauty is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre. Stephen Tanzer: 90 "Vivid purple. Highly expressive aromas of black and blue fruits, violet, and spice cake. Fleshy and smooth on entry, then tighter in the middle, offering juicy black raspberry and boysenberry flavors lifted by tangy acidity. Puts on weight with air and finishes seamless and long."
J.L. Chave Côtes du Rhone "Mon Coeur," 2010 ($23.49) and Crozes-Hermitage "Silène," 2007 ($26.99) - 2007 and 2009 are being heralded as one of the best ever in the Rhône. These two wines are magnificent! Chave is perhaps the most famous name in the northern Rhône; his Hermitage ($200) is second to none. The family firm has been passed down from father to son since its establishment in 1481! The current owner, Jean Louis Chave, graduated from the University of California-Davis. In addition to his focus on the great wines of Hermitage and St. Joseph, Jean Louis began a separate negoçiant business that buys high quality grapes from other parts of the Rhône. "Mon Coeur" comes from four organically grown, low-yield vineyards. It is a blend of 50% Grenache, 45% Syrah, and 5% old vine Carignan. most from the villages of Rasteau and Cairanne. A lush wine with gorgeous Rhône flavors, it was aged in large wood casks for 12 months. It is attractive to drink now, but it also has staying power. Parker 88-90 "The star of this lineup in terms of value is the 2010 Mon Coeur, a blend of Syrah and Grenache primarily from Vinsobres, Rasteau, and Cairanne. This dense, rich 2010 reveals kirsch and black currant fruit intermixed with notions of spice box, pepper, and meat. Luscious and round, it is ideal for drinking through 2017." The Crozes Hermitage is made from 100% Syrah grapes from the Chave estate's young vines blended with some hillside plantings from neighbors. Chave finished the wine in his barrels at his cuverie. This intensely colored and flavored wine is a stunning value. Wine Spectator 90: "Very bright and fresh, with a lively floral note leading the way for damson plum, red cherry, and red currant fruit, backed by an elegant, iron-tinged finish." Despite identical scores, the Crozes really is a step up in depth and complexity.
Domaine La Boussiere Vacqueyras, 2007 ($28.99) - There has been great interest in the 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Papes, but the prices are high (see below). Basic Côtes du Rhônes only get you so far. Gigondas and Vacqueyras are the best villages in the southern Rhône for great wine and great value. Their quality often rivals that of CdP. This one is gorgeous. Tanzer: 91-93 "Highly spicy aromas of fresh red berries, white pepper, cinnamon, and lavender. Lush raspberry and cherry flavors are enlivened by tangy minerals. Turns sweeter on the finish, which strongly repeats the floral note. This wine's abundant fruit will give it great early appeal... [Brothers Gilles and Thierry Faravels are] among the most consistent producers in the Southern Rhone." The vines are located high on the slopes of the gorgeous Dentelles de Montmirail, where the heat is ameliorated by altitude and wind. Careful, non-interventionist winemaking (minimal sulfuring, gravity-bottling, minimal racking) yields wines of concentration and depth.
Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Côtes du Rhône, 2009 ($30.99) - Despite its limited availability, this has consistently been one of our favorite wines and a great value. Wine Spectator: 90 "This dark and alluring red delivers nicely layered cherry preserves and blackberry cobbler notes backed by black licorice and smoldering tobacco on the lengthy finish. More polished and forward than usual, but this has the stuffing to cellar mid-term. Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. Drink now through 2014." Parker: 90 "The 2009 Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet red represents the essence of Provence in its notes of ground pepper, new saddle leather, lavender, kirsch, garrigue, and abundant red and black fruits. This luscious red begs for a bloody grilled steak. Drink this creamy, medium to full-bodied, gorgeous, complex, evolved wine now - 2019. Brothers Jean-Pierre and François Perrin as well as their four sons, Thomas, Marc, Pierre, and Mathieu, have quickly become the dominant wine producers of the entire southern Rhône Valley. They have expanded their operation even further by partnering with the Jaboulets. Now having over 1,200 acres in vine and extensive contracts, this is a high quality locomotive, great news for consumers seeking a range of top quality red and white wines in all price ranges.... True stars in the Perrin portfolio are the white and red Côtes du Rhône from their estate called Coudoulet which is adjacent to the appellation of Châteauneuf du Pape."
Coudoulet de Beaucastel, Côtes du Rhône Rouge, 2007 ($31.99) - One of the great Rhône values, this wine is made from grapes grown on the wrong side of the highway and are thus not allowed to use the Châteauneuf du Pape designation. The grapes are treated and the wine is made in the same way as Beaucastel's $100 Châteauneuf. We still have some of the 2004 and 2005 Coudoulet at the same price; they are drinking beautifully. Robert Parker 92: "The blockbuster 2007 Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet, always one of the best bargains from the south, may be the finest Coudoulet ever produced. A blend of 30% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache, and the rest Syrah, Cinsault, and a few other authorized varietals, it is incredibly opulent and rich with sensational notes of black currants, licorice, smoked herbs, and meat juices, a full-bodied mouthfeel, savory tannins, and good acidity as well as length. This outstanding wine can be drunk now or cellared for 10-15 years. One of the great estates of the Rhône Valley, Chateau Beaucastel has been run by several generations of the Perrin family beginning with the late Jacques Perrin (who died in 1978), then the brothers Jean-Pierre and Francois, and now their sons Thomas, Marc, Pierre, and Mathieu. Beaucastel has nearly 200 acres in vine in Châteauneuf du Pape, and they have branched out with an impressive operation under the Perrin et Fils label, purchasing grapes and acquiring land (in Vinsobres and Gigondas, for example). Their goal is to become the most recognized name for high quality wines in the southern Rhône."
J.L. Chave St.- Joseph "Offerus," 2009 ($34.99) - The big brother of Chave's wonderful Mon Coeur Côtes du Rhône. J.L Chave côtes du rhône "mon coeur." Chave, one of the finest (and most expensive) producers in the northern Rhône, also buys newly fermented wine from sources in both the northern and southern Rhône and finishes them in his cellar. This wine comes from ten organic growers. It is pure Syrah with a powerful and complex aroma. Rich but not heavy, it is a beautiful wine and a remarkable Rhône value. Wine Advocate: 90-92 "The 2009 St.-Joseph Offerus may turn out to be the finest example of this cuvée yet made. Terrific fruit intensity along with abundant strawberry, black cherry, kirsch, licorice, and pepper notes make for a beautiful,, medium to full-bodied, elegant, and supple wine to drink now-2021. The Chave family has more experience than just about anybody in the winemaking world. The domaine was founded in 1481 - a decade before Christopher Columbus discovered America!" Limited
Mas de Boislauzon Châteauneuf du Pape, 2009 ($37.99) - Wine Spectator: 92 $44 "Big and winey, with a dark, muscular core of roasted fig, plum, and blackberry fruit laced with cocoa powder and tobacco. Despite its heft, this is polished and pure with plenty in reserve for cellaring. Best from 2012 through 2022. 1,780 cases made." Robert Parker: 93 "The 2009s are stunning. This strong, powerful, concentrated effort exhibits a dense purple color as well as loads of blueberry, black currant, and black cherry fruit. A blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvèdre, it is a sexy, opulent, voluptuous, seductive, head-turning Châteauneuf that should drink beautifully now through 2023. This 22-acre estate is on top of its game thanks to the efforts of the brilliant brother and sister team of Daniel and Christine Chaussy."
Domaine La Barroche Chateauneuf du Pape, 2004 ($39.99) - This is just the second release from this exciting new estate. Fresh from enology school, proprietor and winemaker Julien Barrot convinced his father to stop selling grapes and to establish their own domaine, which has 12.5 hectares and produces only red wine. The average vine age is 60 years old, but 1/3 of the vines are 100 year-old Grenache, and one parcel overlooks the vines of Chateau Rayas, the most expensive wine in all of Chateauneuf du Pape. The Barroche vineyards have been farmed organically for a generation. Stephen Tanzer 93: “Intense raspberry, strawberry, and exotic blood orange aromas complicated by garrigue and anise. Supple, sweet, and elegant, showing excellent depth and a broad range of red fruit tones. Silky, intensely fruity, and long.”
Cuvée du Vatican (Jean-Marc Diffonty) Châteauneuf du Pape, 2009 ($42.99) - Parker: 90-92 "The 2009 Châteauneuf (70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, plus some Mourvèdre, Cinsault etc. aged in both foudre and old barrels) displays a dark ruby/plum color followed by sweet aromas of rasp-berries, black cherries, forest floor, and Provençal herbs. Attractive and soft with light to moderate tannin as well as medium to full body, it should drink nicely from release through 2022."
Domaine Galevan Châteauneuf du Pape, 2009 ($44.99) - Parker: 91-93+ "The 2009 Châteauneuf, a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre from 50-year-old vines, has a beautiful deep ruby/ purple color followed by dense black raspberry and black currant notes as well as hints of smoked herbs and underbrush. Impressively built, its full-bodied richness and endearing texture border on voluptuous, while it also displays admirable purity and length. Clearly an estate on the rise, although there is very little wine available. Owner/winemaker Coralie Goumarre is another strong-minded and impressively talented woman,. Her 2009s are even better than what she did in 2007."
Domaine Courbis Cornas "Champelrose," 2009 ($47.50) - Wines from Cornas are some of the best of the northern Rhône. They are expensive but not stupidly so! Parker: 93-95 "Voluptuously textured, but I wonder if its sexy display of cassis fruit and extravagant richness is hiding more tannin than is obvious. It is a prodigious Cornas with all the pepper, smoked game, blackberry, cassis, burning ember, & scorched earth character one could desire. This rich, full-bodied 09 should be a singular Cornas to drink over the next 15+ years. Drink 2011-2026"
Dom. Pierre Usseglio Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Tradition, 2010 ($48.99) - Parker: 90-93 "One of the top estates in Châteauneuf du Pape is that of the two brothers Thierry and Jean-Pierre Usseglio. Their cellars are just north of the village, adjacent to the walls of the ruins of the Pope's palace. The 2010 Tradition is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and the rest Mourvèdre and Cinsault. At least a third of their Grenache was wiped out due to the poor flowering in this vintage, a common characteristic of all Grenache vineyards in Châteauneuf du Pape. That also helps explain the extra level of concentration in the wines. The yield was only 23 hectoliters per hectare, which is almost financial suicide, but that's Mother Nature. This is a dense wine exhibiting loads of black raspberry, blueberry, and blacker fruits than the 2009 with admirable purity, good acidity, and sweet tannin in a full-bodied, endearing style. Drink now-2026."
Raymond Usseglio Châteauneuf du Pape "Cuvée Girard," 2007 ($48.99 - Châteauneufs from the great 2007 vintage are beginning to arrive. Francis Usseglio left Italy in 1931 to become a vineyard worker in France. After years of hard work he obtained eight hectares of vines as a sharecropper and began to produce his own wine in 1949. He purchased land in 1962 and his son, Raymond, planted vines. Subsequent purchases increased the domain to 21 hectares. Decanter Magazine: "The arrival of son Stéphane at the helm in 2000 and investment in the cellars have brought positive change at Raymond Usseglio. Stéphane’s fine tuning has given great expression to the fruit and added concentration and finesse." Wine Spectator: 92 "Shows the ripeness of the vintage, with an almost heady core of raspberry, boysenberry, and blackberry fruit. But then racy acidity, a snappy licorice edge, and sweet tobacco and spice notes stretch out the grip-filled finish. Best from 2010 through 2020. "Robert Parker: "Raymond Usseglio is a serious producer fashioning traditionally made Châteauneuf du Papes that stand the test of time... The unfiltered cuvée called "Girard" is a blend of 80% Grenache, 6% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, and the rest Counoise and Cinsault. It is muscular and full-bodied, with a tremendously powerful aromatic profile of melted licorice, incense, fig, black cherries, black currant, pepper, and spice. This staunch traditionalist, who ages everything in old barrels for 16 to 18 months, has turned out absolutely sensational 2007s."
Jean-Luc Colombo 2009 Cornas "Terres Brûlées," ($49.99); "La Louvée," ($79.99); and "Les Ruchots" ($79.99) - Cornas lies in the northern Rhône. Although not as famous as Hermitage and Côte Rotie, it produces magnificent wines exclusively from Syrah grapes. Jean-Luc Colombo makes modern, lush, and supple wines. The Wine Spectator rated these wines 92, 94, and 94 points, respectively with comments such as "A massive core of plum, black cherry, and cassis flavors that are remarkably pure and intense.... Very ripe and lush.... Shows great range and intensity.... The finish is long and sleek."
Domaine de la Charbonniere Châteauneuf du Pape les Hautes Brusquieres Cuvée Speciale, 2010 ($57.99) - Parker: 92-95 "Deep, rich, and opaque. Displays loads of framboise, black raspberries, black cherries, licorice, and garrigue. It has layers and layers of fruit, a full-bodied mouthfeel, a denser core, and slightly more acidity and structure than the 2009. This will probably require a few years of cellaring, then drink beautifully for 15 more years. Michel Maretfs estate of 45+ acres is primarily in the eastern and northern sectors of the appellation with large holdings in La Crau and the well-known lieu-dit of Brusquieres. His daughters, Caroline and Veronique, seem to be taking over more and more of the responsibilities and add to the remarkable number of women in positions of influence and control in Châteauneuf du Pape."
Chateauneuf du Pape, Charvin, 2007 ($75) - Parker: 97! "The finest wine ever made at Charvin. The blend from the 45- to 50-year-old vines is 85% Grenache and the rest equal parts Syrah, Mourvedre, and Vaccarese, all aged in cement tanks prior to being bottled unfiltered. A terrific nose of kirsch, lavender, licorice, forest floor, and spice box soars from the glass of this full-bodied effort. With fabulous density, a multidimensional mouthfeel, and a 45+-second finish this brilliant, elegant, feminine-styled wine is loaded with concentration and intensity. Like many 2007 Chateauneuf du Papes, the extraordinary fruit level makes it hard to resist. However, it will be even better in 3-5 years, and should last for 15-20."
Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas “La Louvee,” 2005 ($74.99) - This young Rhone will benefit from some aging, but it is an exceptionally good, layered wine.” Wine Spectator: 94 “This is packed, with dark fig and raspberry ganache notes all richly layered with bittersweet cocoa, aged tobacco, loam, and iron. The long, muscular finish will need time to stretch out. Best from 2008 through 2017. 350 cases made.”
Chave Hermitage, 2006 ($199.95 net) - We've previously written up J.L. Chave's negoçiant Côte du Rhône and Crozes-Hermitage, but this is the real deal from one of the great Rhône producers. Parker: 95-98 "This should turn out to be a great, great vintage for their red Hermitage as it reveals the classic cassis, crushed rock, and pepper characteristics along with enormous power, unctuosity, and richness. Licorice and black olive notes are also apparent. This is a dead-ringer for the 1991 Chave Hermitage, which is drinking spectacularly well today. A bastion of traditionalism and terroir-sensitive winemaking, the Chaves, both father Gerard and son Jean-Louis, continue to establish higher and higher standards for artisanal, high quality winemaking without manipulation or compromise. The Chave address remains one of the most extraordinary places of learning in the wine world. Most importantly, they have had a remarkable succession of successful vintages that began in 1994." Very limited.
Additional older vintages and rarities can
be found at our Oldies
But Goodies page.
Domaine Sainte Eugénie, Languedoc-Roussillon, 2006 ($12.99) and Domaine Grange des Rouquette, Costières de Nîmes, 2006 ($12.99) - These wines are imported by Robert Kacher who scours the French countryside looking for good values from off-the-beaten-path regions. The Sainte Eugénie is a blend of 60% Carignan, 20% Grenache, and 20% Syrah from the foothills of the Pyrénées along the Mediterranean coast. The Carignan vines are over 65 years old. About 40% of the wine is aged in small cask for up to one year. The result is a marvelously complex and clean wine that rivals anything produced in the appellation. The red fruits burst from the glass with mild hints of toast and spice that continue through the impeccably balanced finish. The Grange des Rouquette, made by Thierry & Véronique Boudinaud, comes from the right bank of the Rhône River just outside of the Côtes du Rhône proper. It is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre. The three varietals were harvested separately, allowing each to attain maximum ripeness. Most of the wine was fermented in tank with a small amount of the old-vine Syrah vinified in barrel. The beautiful, sweet red fruit in the nose is round and soft on the palate. Thierry traveled extensively in his quest for knowledge about winemaking while working in California, New Zealand, and Bordeaux.
Domaine Santa Duc "Les Plans," 2006 (14.99) - Yves Gras of Domaine Santa Duc is a legendary producer of Gigondas, and has bottled for us this wonderful little cuvée from the Vaucluse. Only 500 cases are ever made. The vineyards are located in areas just outside the famous appellations of Gigondas and Vacqueyras. The wine is made from 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are fermented full cluster to add structure and complexity and aged completely in stainless steel tanks to retain the fruit.
Chateau Peyros Madiran, 2006 ($13.99) and Madiran Vieilles Vignes (Old Vines), 2006 ($17.99) - Like Cahors, Madiran is an old, off-the-beaten-path wine growing area in southwestern France that quietly makes interesting wines that are very flavorful and very good values. Whereas Cahors features Malbec grapes with some Merlot, Madiran features the Tannat grape with some Cabernet Franc. Just as Malbec is today more closely associated with Argentina than its original home, Tannat is also better known in South America (especially Uruguay) than France. Tannat's popularity was historically limited by its tendency toward high tannin levels. Cabernet Franc is often blended with it to cut down on the tannins. Interestingly, the now-common technique of micro-oxygenation (especially in Australia) during fermentation was invented by Madiran winemaker Patrick Ducournau in 1990 as he attempted to reduce the naturally high tannin. Madiran is often made by soaking the grapes with their seeds. This produces a wine with the highest level of procyanidins which are anti-oxidants and also help repair cells of the coronary arteries in the heart. Men from Madiran have a long life expectancy, possibly as a result of procyanidin intake. Chateau Peyros is the southernmost property in the Madiran appellation. It takes its name from the Gascony word that means "rocky location." The basic wine is a blend of 60% Tannat and 40% Cabernet Franc. The VV bottling, from the oldest vines on the property, is a blend of 80% Tannat and 20% Cab Franc. It is richer in flavor. Both wines tend to throw a deposit, so it is best to decant them before serving with hearty fare.
Clos la Coutale Cahors, 2009 ($17.59) - If you’re impressed by Argentine Malbecs, you may be interested in trying the varietal from its French origin. Cahors lies southeast of Bordeaux and is known for its deeply colored, rich red wines. This classic example, blended with 20% Merlot, shows intense and ripe fruit. The Wine Spectator gave this a mediocre review. They are wrong. It is delicious!
Mas de Gourgonnier, Les Baux de Provence, 2009 ($15.99) - Luc and Lucienne Cartier have been farming and making wine organically for decades. Their gorgeous, countryside property yields powerful expressions of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and more – not to mention olives (their oil is one of France’s finest) and incredible fruit and vegetables. Luc and Lucienne’s wines combine the richness and intensity of top Rhône or Bordeaux with a crystal-clear and unmistakable expression of Provençal soil. They use a distinctive, rustic, squat bottle for this great value. Parker hasn't reviewed this wine since the 2007 vintage, but is description applies here as well: "The 2007 Les Baux de Provence constitutes nearly 30% each of Carignan and Grenache, with slightly smaller shares of Cabernet Sauvignon (less than in several recent vintages) and Syrah. Smelling delightfully of fresh plums, sandalwood, ginger, cinnamon, lavender, and a hint of game, it is expansive and with fine-grained underlying tannins. Juniper and cassis add a pleasantly bitter pungency to the finish, contributing along with saline and smoky notes to the invigoration of a long finish. This understated wine will not only offer highly versatile enjoyment over the next 3-4 years but should blossom further as well. The varietal makeup can vary dramatically each year according to the vicissitudes of nature and the insights of the blenders. Yet it is always a distinctly recognizable wine."
Domaine du Bel Air Bourgueil "Jour du Soif, (translates as 'day of thirst')" 2009($16.99) - The village of Bourgueil (pronounced something like boor-GOY and bore-GOY) is one of the Loire Valleys best producers of red wine. Made from 100% Cabernet Franc, these wines are often quite vegetal in style, but 2009 was an incredibly good vintage in the Loire, and the ripeness of the fruit in this wine makes it immensely appealing. It will stand up to pretty hearty fare. Serve it with a light chill.
Domaine Jones Rouge, 2009($18.69) - Katie Jones is a Brit living the dream. She worked for a wine co-op in the Languedoc but always wanted to own her own vineyard in France, so that is exactly what she is doing. She purchased an 80-year old 3.5 hectare vineyard in the village of Maury (Roussillon), but her red and white wines carry a simple Vin de France label. Almost all of her wine is sold in the UK, but a few dozen cases come to the U.S. This is quite a yummy wine. Wine Advocate (David Schildknecht): 90 "Raised in used demi-muids and tank, the '09 Jones Rouge is a pure Grenache grown on Maury's dark schist. Strikingly evocative of very ripe strawberries, it adds interest and invigoration by way of smoky black tea, crushed stone, and white pepper. Despite its fullness, this delivers long-lasting levity and refreshment with its luscious fruit, offering a polished, pure, infectious introduction to the Grenache Noir grape. Start drinking this, and I guarantee you will have to restrain yourself to not drain the bottle."
François Crochet Sancerre Rouge "Réserve de Marcigoué," 2006 ($27.99) – Yes, Virginia, there is a red Sancerre! In fact, Sancerre was known primarily for red wine made from Pinot Noir until the late 19th century. After the devastation of phylloxera, the majority of its vineyards were replanted with Sauvignon Blanc, but even today Pinot Noir accounts for about 20% of production. No other varietals are allowed in the 14 villages permitted to use the Sancerre AOC. Most of the Pinot Noir goes into rosé or light reds similar to Beaujolais, but a few producers go for a more serious Burgundian style. Even those producers don't always succeed, but François Crochet has been making terrific wines in most vintages. This amazingly good wine exceeds the quality and depth of fruit available from Burgundy at this price. Fragrant and ripe red-berry fruit on the nose is followed by copious amounts of wild strawberry and violet character on the palate. Deep in color, the wine is subtle, complex, and lengthy. The grapes were hand-harvested from vines with an average age of 35 years grown on chalky clay soil. The wine was aged in a combination of 228 liter and 500 liter oak barrels for 14 months after which it was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Only 250 cases were made. A winner!
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Rouge “La Damoiselle,” Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Rouge “La Damoiselle,” 2003 ($94.99) - So there’s this guy who keeps hitting his head against the wall. Why? “Because it feels so good when I stop.” We hit our heads against a wall when we buy a wine that we know will be difficult to sell either because it is unusual, expensive, or both. But it is so good that we accept the challenge. This is a very expensive red wine from a region known for its whites. Add the fact that it is 100% Pinot Noir, a varietal associated only with Burgundy in France. Made from 60-year old vines, this deeply colored wine is rich, concentrated, and very serious. It is not overpriced!