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 André Clouet Champagne Rose No. 3, France: Retail $50. 100% Pinot Noir (10% Bouzy rouge added to the vin clair). There are few words in any language that stokes my palate more than “Bouzy” as it has a singular meaning: the best Pinot Noir in Champagne. And therefore Rosé from the famed Grand Cru village has to be considered among the best in the world. The mere name of the town takes me back to my days riding the vineyards, hustling the last few kilometers to get into town before the wineries close up for lunch. Then, after a quick tasting, taking a bottle of Bouzy Rosé to the steps of the tiny church in town to pair with the sandwich I bought on my way out of Epernay. This non-vintage bottling from one of the village’s titans, André Clouet (established 1741) is a brilliant representation. A gorgeous salmon with a savory strawberry-rhubarb blend of aromas, the palate is tart and precise, with laser-sharp acidity, a delicate sparkle, and, eventually, fruit. The relatively modest dosage (6 gr/l) comes off as just about perfect. OK. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2017 Cave d’Esclans Whispering Angel Côtes de Provence, France: Retail $25. Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle. For a number of years now, I have been a fan of Château d’Esclans and Whispering Angel. I’ve also been of the opinion that this True Rosé (i.e., not a saignée) has the ability to age, not indefinitely, of course, but certainly for at least a few years. This 2.5-year-old beauty has turned much more floral than fruity on the nose. The fruit is still there in droves on the palate, though, with minerality and salinity. Wonderful. Perhaps even better than last year. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2011 Château d’Esclans Côtes de Provence Déesse Rouge, France: Retail $35. A blend of mostly Mourvèdre and Syrah. A bit of a Big Ass Bottle. Dark in the glass and fruity on the nose (blackberry, plum, both a bit stewed), this wine has a lot going on. Fruity, tart, a bit spicy, considerable earth on the palate, yup, a lot going on. While this wine is definitely getting “up there” in age, it is still an excellent quaff. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2012 Cline Cellars Zinfandel Meadowbrook Ranch, Tehama County, CA: Retail $45. I actually bought this wine on a visit to the winery now five years ago. I had long been a fan of the winery and when they invited me to come out and visit, I readily agreed. It was one of the more low-key visits I have made as a wine writer, and that was just fine with me. I sat there in the tasting room, sipping through the myriad offerings, impressed by nearly every wine. This wine stood out, however. So much so that I plopped down my Capital One and purchased a bottle. Five years later, this wine, which is at the upper end of Cline’s price structure, is still doing quite well. Dark in the glass with dark berry fruit, a shot of earth, and a splash of minerality. The palate is equally enticing: fruit (albeit reserved), balanced acidity, and a lengthy finish. In short, a lovely wine, made by lovely people. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Moutard Père et Fils Champagne Rose de Cuvaison, France: Retail $45. 100% Pinot Noir. Disgorged May/2013. Despite my countless trips to and through Champagne, I have never been to the Côte des Bar, which lies to the south and west of the better known Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs. Traditionally viewed as a “lesser” region when compared to its famed siblings, the Aube (where the Côte des Bar is located) is becoming an increasingly prominent sub-region in Champagne, now producing roughly a quarter of all bottles from the world’s premier sparkling wine producer. This wine is dark and could be easily confused as a red. The fruit is also dark; more raspberry than strawberry. The palate is also weighty with ripe fruit and ample acidity, but perhaps a tad too much dosage (10 gr/l). Still, a wonderful quaff, which has held up quite nicely (the last bottle I had was four years ago). Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
NV Herbert Beaufort Champagne Grand Cru Carte d’Or Tradition Brut, France: Retail $50. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. As I have mentioned more times than I would care to admit, I have a thing for champagnes from Bouzy on the Montagne de Reims. It is known for its Pinot Noir, which is, naturally, right in my wheelhouse. One of the last purchases I made before we moved from Philadelphia four years ago was a case of this wine from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for $25/bottle. Well, two left after this one, which was fantastic. Incredibly yeasty on the nose with hints of lemon rind and lime. The palate is rich and layered with freshly baked baguette, citrus tartness, and a lengthy finish. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: The week came down to the tale of two champagnes (as seems to be the case more often than not), two wines, in fact, both from the Grand Cru village of Bouzy in Champagne. The first, the NV André Clouet Champagne Rose No. 3, was a birthday gift from my wife and was indeed a fantastic quaff. The second, the NV Herbert Beaufort Champagne Grand Cru Carte d’Or Tradition Brut, I purchased shortly before leaving Philadelphia from the state-run wine shop. While both great wines, in the end, I opted for the latter as this week’s Wine of the Week for no other reason than honoring my bittersweet (mostly bitter) relationship with the PLCB. While most of the time I cursed its existence (and hoped for its demise), there was an occasional deal like this Beaufort champagne, which helped to ease the sting of the overall negative experience that is retail wine in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
What was your Wine of the Week?