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 Joseph Desprois Champagne, France: Retail $35. Blend? I referred to my good friend Goo-Gell for a little background information on this wine that I purchased from Wines Til Sold Out and there was virtually none. No producer, no wine reviews (other than my previous), and even the importer on the back of the bottle has no information about this champagne on their website. The same goes for Richard Juhlin who reviewed over 8,000 champagnes in his latest book. Not a mention of Desprois. In very small print on the bottom of the label, it says the wine was made by Paul Dangin, but, again, there is no mention of this wine on that website. This all leads me to believe that this wine is a private label perhaps produced for WTSO particularly since the only stores that seem to sell this wine are all in Japan. Having said all that, it is pretty good. Fairly fruity (I am guessing a heavy dose of Pinot Meunier) and certainly on the sweeter side of “Brut,” it still has the acidity that one looks for in champagne as well as a bit of the autolytic (yeasty) component that sets wines from Champagne largely apart. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2013 Ehlers Estate Merlot St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $55. 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. I have been a fan of Ehlers Estate, or more precisely of winemaker Kevin Morrisey, for several years now, so when I saw this Merlot pop-up on Last Bottle, I leaped and bought half a case. I should have bought more. While Ehlers is in the heart of Napa and Cabernet country, perhaps Kevin’s best wines were his Merlots (although his Cab Francs were pretty darned good as well). Rich blue fruit, a bit of heft (more than your average Merlot) and spice (black pepper in particular) characterize this wine, which is downright tasty. I still don’t know what happened to Kevin (he left Ehlers abruptly in 2018—if you know, please send me a note), but holy cow, do I love his wines. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2012 Maria & Manfred Hick Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Glauberkreuz, Wachau Valley, Austria: Retail 12€. Under screwcap. I bought this back in 2014 on a trip to the winery and had pretty much forgotten about it until the other day. I was tasting some Hungarian Grüner which had been sent as a sample and I checked to see if I had any other Grüners in the house. Sadly, this was one of only two wines of the variety that I currently have (a situation that I must address post-haste). Straw color and only ever-so-slightly golden with a nose of stone fruit (peach, pear) and just a hint of petrol. The real surprise, though, was on the palate–extremely rich and full-bodied (14.5% abv), this has to be the most intense Grüner I have tasted. Rich fruit, a heavy mouthfeel, and a lingering finish. This is a bit off the charts and unlike any Grüner Veltliner I have ever tasted. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2011 B Kosuge Pinot Noir The Habitat, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $50. I have said often in this space that I am a bit of a Pinot hound and that the variety was my vehicle to evolve from being an obnoxious French wine snob to a slightly less obnoxious French wine snob. Byron Kosuge was one of those first producers that led to my metamorphosis. I bought a singular bottle of this vintage on one of my subsequent visits with Byron and I decided to pop it to compare with a Kosuge Hirsch Vineyard from the same vintage. This wine? Earth with black cherry on the nose, while the palate is rich and multi-layered. There’s just no getting around two assertions: Byron is a talented winemaker, and this Habitat is rather delicious. Just short of a Whoa. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2011 B Kosuge Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $65. This is, arguably, the best wine in Byron Kosuge’s arsenal and it is sourced from what I would consider as one of this country’s Grand Cru vineyards for Pinot Noir (along with Clos Pepe, Bien Nacido, Pisoni, Rochioli, Shea, among others). Dark both in color and aromas with ripe blackberry, dark cherry, and earth. Fruity, tart, and rich with multiple layers and considerable depth. If you are a Pinotphile and have not had a Kosuge Hirsch, it should immediately rocket up to the top of your bucket list. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé, France: Retail $60. 44 to 48 % Pinot Noir, 13 to 18 % Meunier, 25 to 29 % Chardonnay, plus 12% still Pinot Noir. Darker, perhaps, than your “typical” rosé, with bright cherry and strawberry dominate on the nose; delightful. I know the grand old Veuve takes a lot of heat from the various “experts” based, at least in part I imagine, on the fact that Veuve Clicquot is now owned by one of the largest alcohol conglomerates on the planet. The palate exhibits one of the richer rosé champagnes with incredible fruit, great sparkle, and a lasting tartness. It might be a tad sweet, but heck, this is really good. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: The choice this week was clear. So clear that, in fact, that I completely forgot to take a picture of the bottle. Nonetheless, the 2011 B Kosuge Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard is the Wine of the Week. If you are, like me, a Pinotphile, I have two musts for you. The first is to try Byron Kosuge’s wines. The wines are fantastic and Byron is an extremely knowledgeable and incredibly nice guy. The second task is to make your way out to the Hirsch Vineyard on what many call the “Extreme Sonoma Coast.” While Hirsch Vineyards now has a tasting room in Healdsburg, making the trek out to the actual vineyard is well worth it. Planted in 1980 by David Hirsch, it is both a stunning and remarkable spot on the Pacific Coast.
What was your Wine of the Week?