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 Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur, France: Retail $45. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier. Pale to yellow straw in the glass with yeasty and flinty notes on the nose. The palate initially comes off as just a touch sweet, but the more than ample acidity quickly renders the sweetness moot. Good flavors and depth throughout and a slightly above average finish. Very Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
NV Paul Berthelot Champagne Premier Cru Eminence, France: Retail $45. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. I really don’t understand all the negative reviews for this wine on Cellar Tracker (where I manage my cellar and is the world’s largest collection of tasting notes) as I think, yet again, that this is simply stellar. Sure, we had one bottle that was a bit of a stinker, but the other eleven have been fantastic. I rated this bottle slightly lower since it seems to be tarter than the previous one, but still a lovely bottle of champers. Excellent. 91 Points.
2008 Brick House Pinot Noir Boulder Block, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $50. I bought a couple of bottles of this wine way back in 2010 when I was out in the Willamette Valley for the first time for the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration. I rented a car and did a mini-Miles recreation, visiting some of the pillars of the Willamette wine scene: Penner-Ash, Patricia Greene, Bergström, Adelsheim, I could go on… One of the best, though, was a tiny outpost in Newberg that sourced from all over the Valley, Brick House. I doubt that the winery is at the top of many a weekend aficionado’s list of “must-sees” but for those “in-the-know” (I stumbled upon the winery almost coincidentally), Brick House is a (the?) mover and shaker in the Valley. Thus, I bought a few bottles and forgot about them…until now. I guess this is on the dark side of Pinot in the glass, if only slightly so. Whoa. Just taking in the aromas that waft beyond the glass is worthy of a whoa or seven. Holy cow. Blackberry, black cherry, plum, violet, yowza. The palate is a deviation from the nose in the sense that it exceeds the close to the euphoric nose if that is even possible. Subtle, but nuanced fruit, with multiple layers of expression. Whoa. This wine celebrates the Burgundian heritage of the variety while embracing the New World (i.e., Oregonian) capabilities of the grape. Whoa. Again. I realize that few can experience a 12-year-old Oregonian wine, but when it is made this well? It encourages all to at least try. Outstanding. 95 Points.
NV Champagne Collet Champagne Brut Rosé, France: Retail $50. 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. This is in the top 20 in sales of champagne in the U.S. and I regrettably admit that I had never heard of it before moving to Texas and seeing it for sale on the shelves of my local grocery store. Fairly dark when it comes to rosé champagnes with a deep reddish-orange and plenty of flinty, blood-orange, rhubarb, peach, hibiscus, rose petal, a whole lot going on here on the nose. The palate is tart, subtly fruity, and, quite frankly, fantastic. I did not have high hopes for this, but it really excels. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut Réserve, France: Retail $50. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. What an odd bottle. The nose was perfectly fine and in line with the previous note, but the palate? Hmmmph. It was metallic, funky, bitter, and just not very pleasant. I mentioned to my wife that I thought this was the first bottle that I have ever tried that was fine, even wonderful, on the nose but rather repulsive on the palate. Never one to give up on champagne, I corked it as I tried a few other sparklers from my samples pile. When I finally returned to this D-L? It was as if that unfortunate (understatement) initial impression had never existed. Odd. So how to score such an experience? The latter notes would have closely mirrored the first bottle, but initially? Yikes. Not Rated.
WINE OF THE WEEK: As happens every year in this house, we drink a bunch of champagne at the end of the year, and that was the case yet again this year. I also try to pull out a few special bottles to celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of another. When I selected the 2008 Brick House Pinot Noir Boulder Block, I had a feeling that it would be good, even special, but I really had no idea that it would be that good, perhaps the best Pinot Noir I have had from Oregon. Certainly a great start to the New Year and hopefully a harbinger of wines to come. Happy New Year, everyone.
What was your Wine of the Week?