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 Amelle Pinot Noir Pratt Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $42. We have been slowly working through the couple of cases of this wine that we bought this past Spring and the wine is phenomenal: rich blackberry and plum fruit, with notes of sage, earth, and eucalyptus. Rich and fruity–certainly New World in orientation, but a depth that is not always associated with Pinot from the U.S. In a word? Joyous. Not a wine to have with escargot, Epoisses, or even salmon (although I might be wrong there), but it is one to pop when binge watching a guilty pleasure on a Saturday night. Every bottle that I open, though, evokes a bit of guilt: The talented winemaker, Eric Buffington, called it quits a few years ago and I bought this wine on the cheap and I feel incredibly guilty about it. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Les Chanteaux: Retail $30. 100% Chenin Blanc. One of my favorite wines from perhaps my favorite Chinon producer. I have had many iterations of this wine and I have almost always been impressed. Except. The wine has one of the worst stoppers I have ever seen–a plastic “thing” that starts to spin after two turns of the corkscrew. This wine is still alive but it is certainly on life-support due to the stopper, and it is a fairly big departure from just a few months ago when I opened the last bottle which was fabulous and lively. A tad dark and the nose is muted, but the palate is joyous with subtle lemon, good balance, and a lengthy finish. Sadly, though, this wine like my previous case is showing the effects of this stupid effing “cork.” Ugh. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2010 Maranet Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail: $30. This is the second label of noted Russian River Pinot producer DuMOL, typically made from younger vines with fruit that is not up to a level worthy of being incorporated into the flagship wines. Quite fruity with dark cherry at the forefront, but earth, a slice of spice, and a hint of anise. Pretty big fruit on the palate, with rich fruit, a splash of vanilla. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2015 Joseph Mellot Sancerre La Demoiselle Rosé: Retail $25. 100% Pinot Noir. If you have never had a Sancerre Rosé, you might just be dead to me. Sure, they are somewhat difficult to find, but when you do, you should not hesitate: go all in. They are typically extremely well-balanced between fruit and acidity and most of them age quite gracefully. This is what a rosé of Pinot Noir should be. Slightly fruity, but not too much. Slightly tart, but not too much. And the finish? Lasting, and that can never be too much. Nice. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé: Retail: $500+. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. Surprisingly vibrant pinkish-orange color with a smoky cherry aroma. I do not have much experience with older rosés, but this is (not) surprisingly compelling. Incredible fruit and tartness with freshness and yet also complexity. Whoa. If this is any indication, aged rosé champagne is a different breed. Give me some steak. Some brisket. Some hearty anything and stand back. I might be in heaven. Whoa. Outstanding to Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.
2012 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. 100% Pinot Noir. Sadly, this winery closed its doors for good a few years ago, but happily, I bought a bunch of wine before it did. Thus, I have several more bottles of this beauty waiting patiently for me in the cellar. Great cherry fruit, eucalyptus, and that Sta Rita Hills gravitas which Wes Hagen (winemaker) was pivotal to bring into prominence. The palate is lovely: great fruit, earth, tartness. Yowza. And a Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: The Wine of the Week was decided even before I pulled the cork of the 1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé. It was determined as soon as I had committed to opening the bottle. Sure, the wine could have bee corked (it wasn’t), it could have been “flat” (it wasn’t), but I knew it would at least be interesting (boy was it). I do not have many bottles left in my cellar that pre-date my relationship with my wife, so when I open one, it usually is a special occasion (we had a good friend and fellow champagne hound visiting), and the wine is likely to provoke a host of memories and emotions. In 1996 I was living in Marin County, California, teaching and coaching at a high school there. It was a year of a “momentous” birthday and life was pretty darned good (for the most part–I was in a rather toxic relationship that eventually crashed and burned fairly drammatically, but I am choosing to leave that part out of the story). The wine, of course, was fabulous, but the trip back in time was priceless.
What was your Wine of the Week?