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).
2006 Argyle Pinot Noir Spirithouse: Retail $65. Back in the day, I bought a bunch of Argyle: I knew a guy who had an allocation (I think) and sold me a bunch of the wine at well below retail (I know). This was one of those bottles. Under Stelvin closure, this has very little signs of age, even a dozen years out. Ruby red with just the slightest signs of bricking, dark Bing cherry, eucalyptus, and the slightest hint of menthol. Whoa. On the palate, this is strictly gangbusters: fruit, tartness, earth, and tannin all in harmony. Wholly cow. One of the top ten Pinots I have tried this year, fo sho. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2006 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir: Retail $55. If this is not my favorite California Pinot, the line is short behind it. While this has a bit of age, it still thrusts its chest out and says: “get a load of me.” And there is a lot of load to get. Dark cherry marmalade with vanilla, clove, and spice. On the palate this is youthful, bright and cheery with plenty of cherry. Tart, deep, lovely. This is precisely why I love the Clos. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2017 Château d’Esclans Whispering Angel: Retail $25. Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle (Vermentino), Syrah, Tibouren. A few years ago, Sacha Lichine, son of famed wine writer and producer Alexis Lichine, anticipated the growth in rosé wines and purchased Château d’Esclans in 2006 with the goal to make the best rosés in the world. Whether one agrees that they are the best in the world (he produces four rosés under the label) is of course arguable, but there is no debate that the “entry level” wine, Whispering Angel, is one of the most successful rosés on the market today. And it should be. Quite pale salmon color with rose petals, tight red berries, and hints of rhubarb and crushed rock. Clean, pure, liquid sunshine from the Côte d’Azur. If this can’t make you love summer, you either fear the warmth of the sun or you are the Snow Miser. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
NV Forget-Brimont Champagne Premier Cru Brut Rosé:Retail $80. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. It was late. We were playing Trivial Pursuit. We were losing. I needed sustenance. I disappeared. I re-emerged with this. Whoa. Fairly dark as a Rosé, more Coho than Atlantic with caramel a go-go on the nose, along with baked strawberry pie and just a hint of rhubarb. On the palate, really rich, surprising since this is from the Aube region of Champagne, which is not particularly known (yet?) for its rich, cerebral wines. Depth, tartness, verve. Whoa. Oh, and we came back and won the game. At least that is how I am choosing to remember it. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2003 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley: Retail $100. 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. I opened a sample of the 2014 Jordan, so I thought this would be a fun mini-vertical (can two wines 11 years apart be considered a vertical?). Classic Alexander Cab/Jordan nose: blackberry, cassis, eucalyptus, and black pepper. Impeccable balance. Sure, there is fruit, but it is subdued. Sure, there is acid, but it balances the fruit nicely. And sure, there are tannins, but they are mostly integrated and render the wine a silky mélange of fruit and earthy notes. Bravo. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2001 Domaine Georges Vernay Côte-Rôtie Maison Rouge: Retail $65. 100% Syrah. My lovely wife asked for a Syrah and I know she meant “California” but I pulled this instead. Why? I like to be a bit contrarian from time to time, so I went full-on French. This 2001 is certainly starting to show the slightest bit of age (some moderately stewed fruit on the nose), but there is also black raspberry, anise, eucalyptus, and even tar. The palate is quite tart, with most of the fruit subtle if not subdued, but the balance is there, certainly. This really is delightful–far from overbearing, and with plenty of character, this might be on the downward slope, but it truly is fantastic. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: There was a lot of good from which to choose this week. There were two Pinot Noirs from two of my favorite producers and, coincidentally, from the same vintage a dozen years ago. There was also the champagne from a producer in the relatively recently approved Aube region and a Syrah from the Northern Rhône region of Côte Rôtie. All reasonable choices, all worthy of Wine of the Week honors. This week, though, as possible a first (at least in a rather long time), I am opting for a Cabernet Sauvignon from California. Tom and Sally Jordan planted their first vineyard in 1972 with a desire to make wines that reminded them of those that they so enjoyed whilst traveling through France. There is little doubt that the 2003 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley does just that while at the same time interjecting more than a little Northern California verve.
What was your Wine of the Week?