Over the course of a week, I taste a bunch of wine, usually with friends, and almost always with my wife. Here are some of the wines we tasted over the past few weeks. 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).
2011 Axis Mundi Grenache/Syrah: Retail $24. 67% Grenache, 33% Syrah. I still have this man-crush for Wes Hagen. Why? Well, first, second, and third, he makes amazing wines. For me, Clos Pepe is close to the be-all, end-all in California Pinot, so when he started making this 67% Grenache, 33% Syrah in a reserved, Pinot-style, it was a no-brainer. And well…it does not disappoint: cherry and raspberry fruit with just a hint of a vegetal aspect, this fairly lightly colored gem really delivers. Great acidity and lasting finish, this is “fab” as the Californians might say. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec: Retail $25. 50% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 8% Mourvèdre, 7% Counoise. I picked this up at Costco for the modest sum of $15—a neighbor only likes big reds (and I have mostly Pinot) so I figured this would fit the bill. Dark purple with notes of mocha and dark raspberry, this is certainly a solid wine given the tariff, but the fruit is dominant in a Jolly Rancher kind of way. Sure, my neighbor liked it, but I was hoping for more given its pedigree. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2004 Domaine Bernard Morey et Fils Santenay 1er Cru Passetemps: Retail $65. 100% Pinot Noir. Well, I have been avoiding this wine. Why? Well, I have not had a ton of luck with older whites in general and white Burgundies in particular. Older Chardonnays from Beaune and the environs have a tendency to oxidize prematurely. So instead of drinking these, I have feared them. Yeah, that is stupid, but I have proved repeatedly that having a Ph.D. does not prove you are all that bright. This wine, despite its decided golden hue was lovely. Candied lemon zest ensconced in honey, this wine takes a while to understand. Eventually, I reveled in its shy fruit and subtle acidity. Santenay has long been one of my favorite towns in the Côte de Beaune (along with St. Aubin, they were long the only affordable sources for quality whites—but sadly no more), so I was elated to find this wine in fine shape. Phew. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2007 Skewis Pinot Noir Peters Vineyard: Retail $45. 100% Pinot Noir. If there are nicer people in the wine world than Hank and Maggie Skewis, I have not met them. Last year, they announced their retirement, which also meant the end of the brand. With all of the acquisitions flying around, I would have hoped that someone would have stepped in and given them a bit of a golden parachute, but no apparent luck. Thus, I will need to guard the few cases of their wine I have left with fervor. Tonight, I could not help it, I needed a fix of Skewis and this delivered: black cherry and just a touch of funky earth leads to a nicely balanced wine with just the right amounts of fruit, spice, tartness, and grip. Well done Hank and Maggie, you will be missed.. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2006 Tallulah Syrah Bald Mountain Ranch: Retail $40. 100% SyraI had just returned from Sacramento where I was on a panel with the owner/winemaker of Tallulah, Mike Drash, so this was a natural choice once I got back to my cellar. Exceedingly dark, initially, with wafts of cassis and black licorice. On the palate, this still has near monstrous fruit—blackberry and that cassis. Mike took over the winery while this vintage was in barrel so while he did not “make” the wine from start to finish, it still shows his deft hand as a very talented winemaker. Bravo Mike. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Looking over the list of wines consumed this week, a couple of points jump out immediately. First, four of the five wines received the same assessment and numerical range (“Outstanding. 90-92 Points.”), which I have to say was a bit odd and even a touch concerning (although I might need a bit more time to ascertain why). The second is that those same four wines all have a personal meaning to me that goes beyond the label (truth be told, the fifth, the Beckman, I picked up at Costco and I actually really enjoy going to the store, but that is not what I mean). The Axis Mundi was crafted by Wes Hagen, the brilliant winemaker behind Clos Pepe (which is no more as the winery has ceased operations), one of my all-time favorite Pinot Noirs. Similarly, the Skewis Pinot Noir will never be made again as Hank and Maggie ride off into retirement. Both wines caused me to reflect the times that I spent tasting wines with both of them—talking Pinot and reflecting about life. The Morey Santenay helped conger up different memories of riding through the Burgundian countryside and the formidable hill that marked the end of the Côte de Beaune. All three would have been worthy of wine of the week, but this week I went with the 2006 Tallulah Syrah Bald Mountain Ranch, as I mentioned in the note, I met Mike Drash for the first time while I was in Sacramento and he not only is a very talented winemaker, but he also is an extremely nice guy.
What was your Wine of the Week?