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).
NV Chanoine Frères Champagne Brut Grande Réserve, France: Retail $40. 70% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier. I picked this up from our local Total Wine when I was there stocking up on Mailly Grand Cru. This was 25 bucks with the discount and I would say that I am happy with the purchase. Sure, it is not the most complex champagne and yes, the dosage is a bit high for my tastes, but there is good fruit, a bit of yeastiness, and ample acidity. 25 bucks? I’d probably buy it again (the rosé, at the same price, is better though). Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2005 Joseph Drouhin / Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir, France: Retail $100. 100% Chardonnay. Decidedly dark in the glass with an almost amber color. The nose suggests oxidation but is it premature given that it’s fifteen years out? Yeah, it’s premature. I have had four-decades-old bottles of Chablis that have been stunning. This is good, but far from stunning, with caramel and lemon on the nose. The palate has ample acidity, but the oxidative nature is dominant so I struggle with how to judge this wine. It is certainly beyond “good” but it is not what it should be. At least what I think a Grand Cru should be. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2010 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. It was the tenth anniversary of a night that changed my perspective on life. That night, several doctors came into my emergency room, amazed that I was still alive. Thus, this 2010 from one of my favorite Pinot producers seemed appropriate. A fairly dark color in the glass with dark berry fruit and a touch herbal. On the palate, this is pure Wes Hagen Clos Pepe: rich fruit, a touch of earth on the mid-palate, and brilliant acidity that is present from the jump until well after the wine is gone. Bravo Wes. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
NV Jean-Pierre Launois Champagne Brut Tradition, France: Retail $50. 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. I bought received four bottles of this wine from Last Bottle at Thanksgiving, but this is surprisingly the first bottle we have tried. The winery is located in Le Mesnil sur Oger, which is 99.4% Chardonnay, so the Pinot comes from Avize (a Grand Cru village as is Le Mesnil), so I am surprised this is not labeled as a “Grand Cru.” Also surprising, this has a dosage of 9 grams/liter, which is by no means “high” but this tastes more like an extra Brut (or even Brut Sauvage–0 to 4 grams) than a standard Brut. Regardless, a lovely wine: peach and brioche dominate the nose, but there is also acacia flower and a hint of green apple. The palate is a bit austere and quite tart but the fruit arrives with time as does considerable minerality. Wow. And a Whoa. The finish lasts for quite some time. This is perhaps not a champagne for the masses but for those who prefer a drier style (9 grams, really?). I hope I can hold onto a few bottles for a decade or so. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
NV J.P. Secondé Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut, France: Retail $40. 100% Pinot Noir. The third and final bottle of this wine and either I am coming around a bit to the dosage (at 10 grams/liter, it runs a tad sweet) or I am becoming increasingly focused on looking on the bright side of life these days that I am holed up with my family, anxious every time someone sneezes? Look, I love my family, I love my family, I love my family (saying it often helps) but I need to get out of the damned house. Maybe champagne is an escape? What the hell am I even talking about right now? Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2008 Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, CA: Retail $55. Robert Parker gave this a 96, Wine Spectator? 95. Both rated the wine shortly after release (2010?) and both gushed about the fruit and the potential for aging (WS through 2017; RP 10-12 years). So I am at the upper end of the drinking window for both “esteemed” reviewers. Considerable sediment in the neck, inky dark in the glass, intense blackberry and anise on the nose with a touch of heat (15% ABV). The palate is all about the fruit, even a dozen years out: Holy cow, intense blackberry, plum, even pomegranate and cocoa with a slightly medicinal aspect (that was a bit odd) are initially present. This is immediately followed by a tangy acidity–really, really tart–and finishes with just a slight hint of tannin. Should you have bottles in your cellar (I have one left), I really think it is time to pop those puppies. I really can’t believe how intensely fruity this wine still is. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Well, this is the sixth (or is it tenth?) week of this whole isolation thing and a few things have become clear. Thus far, it has not hit Houston nearly as badly as many had predicted (or feared), people around town (and particularly in our neighborhood) seem to be thumbing their collective nose at the physical distancing guidelines and in this house, we tend to face the tiny menace with a barrage of bubbles (which is a much better substance to ingest than, say, disinfectant?). My wife, a physician at the largest children’s hospital in the country, is growing increasingly alarmed at the cavalier attitude exhibited by our neighbors and fears that as the state is “opened” by our somewhat near-sighted governor, the virus will soon find its way into our little development. So as we struggle on a daily basis with her going into work for fear of exposure, the real danger lies, perhaps, just outside our door. Oh, and the Wine of the Week? Tough call but I am going with the 2010 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, which I opened to celebrate a second birthday, of sorts. Here’s hoping that I soon won’t have a third “anniversary.”
What was your Wine of the Week?