Even though many people have tried, I firmly believe that quantifying wine quality is not scientific at all. Yes, I do attach a numerical range to the wines that I taste (and have received a fair amount of criticism for that), but I do that to serve merely as a reference point. And let me be clear: it is my reference point and should not be mistaken for what I think other people should think about the wine.
There are times, though, when tasting a wine that I am compelled to utter the word “Whoa.” I can not describe the exact characteristics of a “Whoa Wine” but I know it as soon as I taste it. All the elements that I think are necessary to be considered an outstanding wine are there: fruit, structure, depth, balance. All of which come together beautifully. Whoa.
2012 Colomé Altura Maxima: Retail $120. 100% Malbec. Dark, but not brooding. Rose and violet dominate the nose: a really amazing sensation. On the palate “silky” is not apt. “Smooth” is an insult. I love words but I have few here, this is an amazing wine. Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 95-97 Points.
2009 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir: Retail $50. 30% whole cluster. At the end of the tasting, Kristy asked if I would like to try one of their library wines. I tried not to answer too quickly seeing that we had just met and I did not want to frighten her. It was a different vintage, of course, but if this is any indication of the (at least shortish term age-ability) of Foursight Wines, well, in a word, whoa. Still great fruit, but more complex flavors and depth. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2012 MacPhail Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir: Retail $49. The vineyard is one of the more iconic names in the Valley, located just below Gap’s Crown. Only 7 barrels produced. 50% New French oak. Luscious fruit but also earthy. Whoa. Outstanding 94-96 Points.
2012 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Retail $63. 44% Grenache Noir, 37% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault. I have had many red CdP, but by no means have I had many of the legendary producers. La Nerthe has been around a while, but I doubt it is the first producer that comes to mind when one talks about the appellation. Well, it should be. I could just sniff this wine for the better part of what remains of my meager life: notes of black raspberry, vanilla, and an earthy note that is hard to classify, but I am pretty sure that I want to roll around in it naked. The palate is a shade behind the nose, but only a shade. I hesitate to make grandiose statements, but this is gangbusters, albeit just a baby. I will give it a Whoa. Nay. Two Whoas. In a decade or so? I might run out of Whoas. Outstanding+ 93-95 Points.
2013 Passaggio Coplan Vineyard Merlot Sonoma County: Retail $52. I have a degree of familiarity with Cindy Cosco and her Passaggio wines, but this was my first time trying her Merlot. Initially, this came off as reserved or even austere. Coming back a while later, this wine is nothing short of fantastic. Make no mistake, the prominent acidity is screaming for food, but even alone, it is a treat. Subtle fruit and a hint of tobacco, after a couple of hours open, this was absolutely singing. With a bit of patience or a good decant, this will show you what Merlot can, no, should be. Whoa. Outstanding, 93-95 Points.
2013 Purple Angel by Montes Colchuagua Valley Chile: Retail $67. 92% Carménère, 8% Petit Verdot. Big heavy bottle (not a fan). Recommend an hour decant. Shy on the nose (didn’t decant) this is big without being overbearing—even without the decant this is gorgeous (am a fan). Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2012 Ramey Wine Cellars Annum Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $100. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc. From the best blocks that Ramey sources in Napa. Great nose of blackberry, mocha, and even toffee, that I could smell for a while. Great balance and weight, a full-bodied wine that stops well short of being over-powering. “Elegant” is an over used word in wine, but it is apt here. I would be in no hurry to drink this wine as it will improve over the next 10-20 years. Easily. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2004 Red Lily Tempranillo Rogue Valley: Retail $35 (for newer vintages). 500 cases. 3500 cases total production for the winery. Rachael, the owner and winemaker studied criminal law and wanted to be a basil farmer but her dad talked her into growing grapes instead. Aged 50% in oak (mostly French, a touch of American). Red fruit with a dusty smokiness that is impressive. Fresh and young on the palate with depth and spice and plenty of tannic backbone left. Whoa. Holy Cow. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2012 Rodney Strong Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $75. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
#59 in Wine Spectator Top 100. While the Alexander’s Crown exhibited mostly dark fruit flavors, this leans a bit more to the red fruit (cherry and red raspberry). Choosing between the two is like picking a favorite between my two boys–they are both incredible. Outstanding Plus (OK, I like this one slightly better). Whoa. 94-96 Points.
2015 Domaine de la Vigne Romaine Moulin-à-Vent: Retail $30. 100% Gamay. Really small production from vines that are just a few kilometers from Dubœuf home. Another whoa. And a holy cow. Big, rich, and full. Wine of the tasting. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.