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).
2012 Ken Brown Chardonnay Nielson Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, CA: Retail $40. I visited the tasting room several years ago, where I tasted through a few wines with Ken himself. He was an extremely gracious and modest guy, but the history of the region could not be written without a chapter or two devoted to him. Of all the wines, I was particularly impressed with this Chardonnay, so I bought a few. This is the first that we have opened. Still quite light in the glass with barely a tint of straw and the nose is subtle: a hint of lemon, a bit of minerality, and even some pear. The palate is demure but confident with shy fruit, balanced acidity, and a beyond average finish. Nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2004 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano, Italy: Retail $50. 100% Nebbiolo. Well, it has been nearly two and a half years since my last bottle of this wine, and it just keeps getting better. Holy cow. Sure, it is a bit lighter, but that is expected, there is the fruit (dark plum, blackberry), the tartness, a mintiness, and plenty of earth in the glass. The palate is glorious. Sure, it is rather austere, but there is tart, slightly stewed fruit, oodles of acidity, and the finish lasts for quite some time. I have another three bottles, how long to wait? Now that is the question. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2009 Couly-Dutheil Chinon La Baronnie Madeleine, Loire Valley, France: Retail $40. 100% Chenin Blanc. It has been a while since I have tried this wine, but there seems to be no reason for worry. Dark berries and plenty of earth and a surprising lack of green pepper, which is often typical in Chinon. The palate is fruity but in a decidedly reserved kind of way. Good acid, plenty of grit, and the added benefit that this vineyard was once owned by Rabelais. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Nicolas Maillart Champagne Premier Cru Brut Platine, France: Retail $40. OK, we have a problem, or at least I do. The label states 78% Pinot Noir, 16% Chardonnay, 8% Meunier. Huh? Really? Make an effort, borrow a calculator. Something. As for what is IN the bottle, bright, tart, loaded with citrus and yeast. The palate is equally invigorating with zingy lemon rind, a perky sparkle, and a bit of baked bread at the back-end. The tartness lingers for quite a while. As does the arithmetic mistake. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
NV Philipponnat Champagne Royale Réserve Brut, France: Retail $65. 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier. We have not had a ton of Philipponnat, but it is one of the more respected houses in the region. When I saw that it was Pinot-dominate, it only hardened my resolve. Surprisingly tart and fruity, but also oodles of yeastiness. I might be a little off the mark here, but while it is great right now, it could certainly use a bit of time. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Bernard Remy Champagne Grand Cru, France: Retail$ 65. When I try to decide what bottle of bubbles I want to drink on any given night, I usually start with the tasting window provided by the thousands of users here on Cellar Tracker. Quickly, though, I realize that providing a drinking window for a non-vintage wine is pretty asinine since, well, one has no idea when the bottle was purchased (or produced) and thus has no indication of age. This leads into my second determinant: when I bought the wine. Since I bought this back in 2015 from Last Bottle, and given that it is 100% Chardonnay (I guess I like a little more age on my Blanc de Blancs than perhaps the average bubble imbiber), I figured it was time to pop another bottle of a wine that had made the 1,500-mile trek from my Philadelphia basement to my Houston cellar (which is a glorified closet). Still bright and “brioche-y” in the glass (albeit with a decided golden tinge), this is simply fantastic, particularly with the added age. Tart, but rich, delicate yet bold, delicious and deep, this is gangbusters. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: I went back and forth this week trying to decide on a Wine of the Week. At first, I thought it should be one of the tasty champagnes that we opened–none marked any celebration or occasion, but all were fantastic (although I have to say that the Philipponnat was a tad disappointing). I also pondered the Chiarlo Barolo since it was both quite good and a pleasant surprise. In the end, though, I decided on the 2012 Ken Brown Chardonnay Nielson Vineyard, for a few reasons: it was delicious, it paired exceedingly well with my linguine and clam sauce dish, and I particularly liked the photo I took. Yes, sometimes it comes down to something as simple as that.
What was your Wine of the Week?