Once a staple here on this blog, I have not posted many “What We Have Been Drinking” posts in the last six months (only four, for those wondering). These are wines that were not sent as samples—in most cases, I actually paid for these wines (although a few have been given as gifts). When I moved down here to Houston, I shipped the wine down and it had been in storage until recently.
A couple of weeks ago, though, I finished building my cellar and all of those bottles have been released from their purgatory.
NV Herbert Beaufort Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru Carte d’Or Tradition Brut: Retail $50. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. I like to think there are times in life when I get it right, but let’s face it, those are few and far between. I thought I got a great deal on the first car I bought, but once I removed the mat to vacuum, I saw that the driver’s side floor boards were rusted out and I could see the pavement pass by underneath as I drove along. I once decided to date a woman who was separated from her husband, which was bad enough, but she also turned out to be psychotic. And there was the time while leading a bike tour in France and everyone in the group (other than me) ordered what I translated as a “white fish” and it turned out to be blood sausage. This champagne though? I nailed this one. Right before I left Philadelphia, this was available at the PLCB, the state-run liquor store for the incredible price of $25 a bottle. I knew the producer, I knew the region, I knew it was 100% Grand Cru. So I bought a case without having tasted it first. Smart move. Pale yellow in the glass, with a nose of pain au chocolat sprinkled with shaved almonds. On the palate, bright and vibrant with depth and an impressively lengthy finish. I think it would actually pair well with blood sausage (or white fish). Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2013 Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley: Retail $13. A gift that someone brought over for our housewarming and once I researched this a bit, I was convinced that it was not going to be all that good. This is why I opened the bottle and paired it with the dreaded leftovers. The original meal was actually very good (my version of Hachis Parmentier), but leftovers always get the dregs when it comes to wine pairing since, well, they are leftovers. This wine though? Not bad at all actually. A smokey, toffee, raspberry dare I say “goodness” followed by a finely reserved wine with nice fruit flavors held in check by ample acidity. This is not a wine to save 20 odd years for your now 4-year-old daughter’s eventual wedding, but you might want to keep it around until she makes it into kindergarten (although not much more). On second thought, drink it now with whatever you can find in the fridge. Or even a freshly cooked meal—this is not just for leftovers. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2013 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay The Meadows Vineyard: Retail $32. Most of my experience with Hansel has been on the Pinot side of things, and all of those bottles have been stellar so when I saw this bottle at Costco, I did not hesitate. Sure, the $32 is a bit high for an everyday drinker, but this is far from an everyday drinker. A few years ago I mentally gave up on white Burgundy after my umpteenth bottle of pre-maturely oxidized wine. Well, while not quite the same, this might be a new destination for medium-bodied, yet still delicate Chardonnay. Light golden color with a tropical influence of pineapple and lemon zest, the Hansel website claims that this wine harkens the great vineyards of Corton-Charlemagne. Had I read that before tasting the wine, I would have cried blasphemy, but I tasted first and I have to say that they are rather spot-on: rich mouthfeel with subtle fruit and just the right amount of oak. I wanted to visit the winery before, and now I must. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
NV Mailly Champagne Grand Cru Brut Réserve: Retail $45. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. We have had this bottle for a while—since 2011 kind of while. The sparkle is a bit light, the color is a bit golden, and the nose is a bit oxidized. But this is Grand Cru Mailly, and that means a ton–it is one of the wineries I always visit when in Champagne. A bit of citrus on that sherried note, with caramel and brioche. On the palate, this clearly has some age on it with that baked caramel bread and a mustiness that is far from off-putting but clearly indicates its age bracket. This is the kind of bubbles that I love, but I know it is not for everyone, but it is for me, so if you get a bottle of older non-vintage champagne, relax, put the bottle down, and I will be there in a few minutes to take it off your hands. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.