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 $45. Odd. The last few bottles we have had of this wine were certainly “Excellent” but fell a bit short of the first few bottles that we had (which had pushed into the “Outstanding” realm). Well, this is a return to those first bottles. Whoa: rich blackberry and plum fruit, with notes of sage, earth, and eucalyptus. Rich and fruity–certainly New World in orientation, but with 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. 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.
NV Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur, France: Retail $45. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier. While far from an expert, I have had a few wines from Ayala and I have found the previous iterations a tad sweet, and this is the case here as well (although at 7 grams, I would not think it this sweet). Good fruit, balanced acidity, but this just comes off as slightly sweet to me. Still, Very Good. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2011 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay Barrel Fermented, CA: Retail $40. Regular readers of this site know that I consider Clos Pepe to be one of California’s “Grands Crus” for Pinot Noir (along with Bien Nacido, Hirsch, and a couple of others), but Wes Hagen, the former winemaker and vineyard manager at Clos Pepe, considers the vineyard perhaps better suited for Chardonnay. And everyone who has ever met him knows that it is hard to argue with Wes Hagen. This is our tenth bottle of the wine and this time around, a bit darker in color, more of a golden hue on the otherwise straw-yellow wine. A bit funky, with lemon rind and tropical notes, the wine is certainly “older” with muted fruit but still vibrant acidity. Only two left (sad-face emoji). Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut Rose Prestige, France: Retail $70. Blend of Premier Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Fairly dark in the glass, more of a deep salmon than pink in color with rich red berry fruit, a bit of yeastiness, and a hint of sweetness on the nose. The palate is rich and fruity with nicely balanced acidity and a fine sparkle, a lovely Brut Rosé. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Réserve Exclusive Rosé, France: Retail $50. 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay. 16% red still wine. I picked this up at my local H.E.B. grocery store, which had it on sale for $32 (with the purchase of six total bottles). I might have to get more. Fairly dark in the glass with luscious red fruit and a touch of yeast. The palate is fruity and full-bodied, thanks to all that Pinot. This is certainly in my wheelhouse. Yeah, I am going to get more. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2012 Flowers Chardonnay Camp Meeting Ridge, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $85. I picked up three bottles of this wine for $50/bottle from Last Bottle over four years ago, and this was the first that we popped. Whoa. I imagined that this would be good, but not *this* good. Slightly golden in the glass, with aromas of rich lemon curd, ripe pear, hints of vanilla, and just the slightest touch of oak (100% French, 20% new for 19 months). The palate is pretty close to mind-blowing. Imagine a Puligny-Montrachet, but only with more fruit even eight years out. Balanced, subtle nuance, depth, tartness, and a finish that lasts for minutes. Amazing wine. Outstanding. 95-97 Points.
2015 Château de Thauvenay Sancerre, France: Retail $25. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. I was conducting a wine tasting on Zoom (hello new abnormal) and the bottle of Sancerre I pulled from the cellar was corked. So I scrambled and grabbed this quickly. Golden in the glass with classic Sancerre notes of citrus, a bit (but only a bit) of cut grass, and a subtle creaminess that surprised me. The palate is both tart and full, with good fruit and above-average acidity. This is certainly not the best Sancerre I’ve had, likely not in the top-whatever, but this filled the void in the tasting and I survived the Zoominess of it all. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: If there had ever been a complete no-brainer in choosing the Wine of the Week, this was certainly it. It checked all of the boxes for selection (in no particular order) : an Oustanding (or at least Excellent) wine, it caused at least a modicum of introspection (if not causing me to reflect on human existence), I became morose and/or melancholic as I poured out the last few drops (often shaking the bottle to ensure that every last residual but ended up in my glass), I lied to my wife about wine (either the quality or remaining quantity) in the hopes of limiting her consumption, and I remembered to take a photo. The Wine of the Week: 2012 Flowers Chardonnay Camp Meeting Ridge, Sonoma Coast, phenomenal.
What was your Wine of the Week?