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).
2008 Ayres Vineyard Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: Retail $35. I bought a bottle of this almost a decade ago (!) at the winery. I was out in the Willamette for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) and I decided to rent a car and tour a bit (this was before I had become an obnoxious, self-absorbed wine writer/blogger). One of my stops was Ayres, which was essentially housed in the basement of a nice, but modest dwelling. The wines, though, were stellar, and this is a perfect representation: fruity (blackberry, cherry, and plum) even eleven years out, with great acidity, a bit of earth, and a particularly fruity finish. I hesitate to say this is wonderful. No, it IS wonderful. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Paul Dethune Champagne Grand Cru Nature Ambonnay: Retail: $50. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. From one of the best Pinot Noir Villages in Champagne, this wine is “off the hook” as my 15 year-old might say (although he is loath to drink anything with bubbles or wine of any kind). Yeasty and oaky on the nose with hints of citrus, the palate is rich and deep. Wow. The palate is equally enticing with an austere baked bread goodness, more than ample acidity, and a lengthy finish. OK, whoa. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
NV Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvée Brut, France: Retail $65. 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier. OK, this is not only a benchmark in Champagne, but it is one of my all-time favorite sparklers. Most of the bottles I have had of this wine, I have had for several years, but that is not the case here. I bought this wine a little less than two years ago, and it is still bright and tart, bubbly and vibrant. Slight hints of oak, citrus, and fresh-baked goods, plenty of sparkle, loads of bubbles, and a lingering finish. Wonderful, but proof that this needs time, even as a non-vintage. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2005 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $70. t was the night that we were celebrating my son’s 16th birthday and he was upstairs on some device or another, adding to the planet’s change in climate. I was downstairs, preparing his favorite meal with my wife and her parents. We had already mowed through two bottles of champagne (we started early-ish) and I was craving some still Chardonnay. I perused my Cellar Tracker and discovered this long-forgotten bottle (I actually have two). No brainer. Pop, pour, and pray it still has life…and it does. And how. Golden in the glass, with a nose that was largely devoid of fruit (hints of lemon curd) and instead dominated by minerality and a burnt match (sulfur, which dissipated quickly). The palate? Oh my. Rich, some butter (but short of buttery), oak notes (but far, far, from oaky), but still fantastic acidity and a finish that lasts far longer than my memory (which is, admittedly, a low bar). Whoa. And a Holy Cow. Outstanding to Outstanding Plus. 93-95 Points.
NV Remy Massin Champagne Blanc de Noirs Nature: Retail $55. 100% Pinot Noir. Remy Massin planted his first vines in the Côte des Bar in 1865 and five generations have since maintained his passion and traditions. The family started making their own champagnes in the mid-1970s and have become one of the leading grower houses in the region. Even before I opened this bottle, I was a bit giddy for two reasons: it is 100% Pinot Noir (my preferred style and the variety that does the best in the region), and it is a Brut Nature, meaning that no additional sugar was added after the second fermentation, rendering the wine completely dry and rendering the wine an even better food pairing. The delicate bubbles lift aromas of peach, white hibiscus, and even white pepper, leading to a tart, yet still luscious palate. Rather austere on it’s own (which is by no means a negative), it really starts to shine with the first taste of any kind of rich fare—it was heavenly with paté. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2013 Roblar Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $30. I bought four bottles of this wine from WTSO almost four years ago now, and this is the first one that I popped: Good cherry fruit, nice acidity, above average finish. This is not a Pinot that will cause you to ponder the meaning of life and have you question whether you have wasted your time on this planet thus far. But it will brighten up your Wednesday Very Good. 87-89 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: I was decided. It was clear. There was no internal debate (nor any external, but since I am judge, jury, and executioner, an external dispute would have been, well, odd…). The Wine of the Week, as of Saturday evening, was the Remy Massin Champagne Blanc de Noirs Nature (yes, the Bollinger was in the running, too, but the Massin had an unanticipated aspect to it). Then, I got an urge. As I mentioned in the note, I had a rare, but decided urge for an American Chardonnay (normally, I tend toward Burgundy, but I have become less than enthralled with the world’s most famous region for Chardonnay). And the 2005 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard was as close to mind-blowing as I have witnessed in a while.
What was your Wine of the Week?