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).
1999 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année: Retail $130. 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay. 82% from Grands Crus and 18% from Premiers Crus. We popped this on Mother’s Day and given that one of the two we have had was a bit of a stinker, I was worried. Well, no worries. Deep golden color with an amazing nose of baked apple and brioche, this is one of those wines you could just sit and sniff for hours. Incredibly rich and refined, this is firmly in my wheelhouse—this is why I hold onto vintage Champagne for at least a decade. Sure, the bubbles have faded a bit, but that might actually add to its charm. Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 95-97 Points.
2014 Cecchi Chianti Classico: Retail $15. 100% Sangiovese. I’ve said it before, but this is one of the best red values out there. Earthy and fruity, which seems to combine the best of the Old World New World. When asked to recommend an inexpensive red, I always include this wine on the list. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
N.V. Baron Dauvergne Cuvée Privilège Grand Cru Bouzy: Retail $60. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. Grower Champagne (wines made by the farmers who grow the grapes–a fairly rare practice in Champagne) is all the rage now and while I think it is a bit over-blown, there are some very tasty wines being made by those with direct control over the fruit. This wine has it all: great fruit, plenty of brioche aromas and flavors, and considerable depth. Gangbusters. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2007 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria: 375 ml. Retail $30. 100% Zibibbo. Dark. Similar to a Coke with about three ice cubes after 27 minutes at the pool. That cola theme continues on the nose, but it evolves into an ice tea aspect with a bit of lemon. On the palate this is incredibly rich: unctuous, syrupy, Rich. And good. Ok. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2013 Kokomo Sauvignon Blanc Timber Crest Vineyard: Retail $18. When I mentioned to owner/winemaker Erik Miller that I had a bottle of this wine left, he cringed. Why? Well, he seems to believe that his aromatic whites should be consumed early if not quickly. Well…. I disagree. First, I have had a few of rosés with a couple of years on them…and they were fabulous. Now this. Sure, it is perhaps not as vibrant and ebullient as it was upon release, but this wine proves that Mr. Miller is perhaps a better winemaker than he himself realizes. Lemon rind and a bit of minerality on an otherwise muted nose. On the palate? This is just short of a “Whoa” in my opinion. Good fruit, plenty of acidity, and considerable depth. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 St. Amant Marian’s Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi: Retail $24. Raspberry pie à la mode. I would consider Stuart a friend so I tend to overlook his abilities as a winemaker, but this is gangbusters. While I am far from a big Zin wine guy, this is exceedingly well done. I fear that most of Stuart’s wines are consumed far too soon as this wine, four years out is really Outstanding even for a big Zin. Bravo Stuart. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: OK, this was another easy one. While all the other wines were truly fantastic and could have easily been the Wine of the Week, one wine clearly stood out from the others. Like I said in the note, the Cecchi Chianti Classico is one of the better values on the market. Both the Kokomo Sauvignon Blanc and the St. Amant Zin were still surprisingly fresh and lively. The Baron Dauvergne Champagne was exciting, particularly since I have a few more bottles in the cellar, which is also the case for the Donnafugata Ben Ryé. The Wine of the Week, though, was pretty much a no-brainer as soon as I opened the 1999 Bollinger Grande Année. Rich, deep, contemplative, it really was everything I look for in an aged champagne and it won me several brownie points opening it on Mother’s Day.
What was your Wine of the Week?