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 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay Barrel Fermented, Sta Rita Hills, CA Retail $45. Under screw cap. I would have to check, but I think I have written more about wines from the Clos Pepe Vineyard than any other. It has been a solid two years since I have written a tasting note on this wine. It is perhaps slightly darker, a bit more reserved, and exhibits more secondary (even tertiary) aromas and flavors. That said? I think it is even better. Rich, tart, layered. Wes Hagen, then winemaker of Clos Pepe, spent the vast majority of time I ever spent with him talking about the Pinot from the vineyard. But this Chardonnay? Whoa (to Wes’ credit he did mention that he thought Clos Pepe was more conducive to Chard, but that fact does not fit into my current diatribe). Outstanding. 93 Points.
2005 Bernard Gaucher Champagne Prestige Brut, France: Retail $70 (?). $36 on Last Bottle. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Residual sugar (RS) = 10 grams/liter. While I try to buy my fair share of vintage champagne, I do not drink a ton of it since I tend to age vintage bubbles as I love the slightly oxidized, sherried characteristics that older Champers develops. While this is not all *that* old, it is close to two decades old and I figured it was time to pop one of the four I bought from Last Bottle . This wines exhibits some of that autolytic element that I crave along with golden apple, and even peach on the nose. The palate, quite frankly, is too sweet, particularly for a vintage sparkler. Sure, there is good fruit and some body, but the acidity is muted somewhat by that unnecessary sugar. I would say at 6-7 g/l this would be noticeably better. Still, a solid wine, but I can’t help but wonder… Excellent. 90 Points.
2017 B Kosuge Pinot Noir The Shop, Carneros, CA: Retail $45. As written by my wife: I have been a huge fan of Byron Kosuge and I particularly love The Shop. While the Drunkencyclist was away I pulled this from the cellar to go with my version of Coq au vin in celebration of our son’s return home from his CA college tour. This is like the friend you keep coming back to; dark fruit but not overly fruity, earth flavors, and perfect with our meal. At this price point I think it’s quite the steal… I might have to open another bottle before the drunkencyclist gets home. But don’t tell him, he gets touchy about me raiding the cellar. Excellent. 91 Points.
NV Mailly Champagne Grand Cru Brut Rosé, France: Retail $50. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Drank with a very good friend I haven’t seen since pre-covid. An appropriate choice for the occasion. There are so many reasons why Mailly Grand Cru is my go-to champagne. I first visited the winery as a cycling tour guide a couple of decades ago before they built the big, but stylish tasting room. It is a cooperative (I am a socialist at heart) and easily the best in Champagne if not all of France. It reminds of dear friends in Paris who, and this is in a bit of dispute, first told us about the wines (I think I told them, but…). We love the wines so much, that we named our dog Mailly. In fact, her full name is: Mailly Grand Cru Brut Rosé (since she is decidedly amber in color). Rich pink color, and plenty of fruit: cherry and peach. The palate is also fruity (but not as much as on the nose). Vibrant sparkle on the palate, really active. Fantastic. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Camille Savès Champagne Premier Cru Brut Bouzy, France: Retail $60. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. A blend from the villages of Bouzy, Ambonnay, Tours-sur-Marne, and Tauxières. While the first three are all Grand Cru, the last is only Premier Cru, which is why this wine is labeled as such. This wine ticks all of the boxes: majority Pinot, mostly from Bouzy and Ambonnay (two of my favorite villages), and simply delicious. Slight golden straw in the glass with a fervent sparkle, citrus and brioche notes on the nose, yeasty, tart, fresh and lengthy on the palate. At $39 at Costco, I think this is a clear buy. Even at full retail, I would consider this a buy. Excellent. 93 Points.
2019 Sauvion Rosé d’Anjou, Loire Valley, France: Retail $15. Under screw cap. 70% Groslot, 30% Gamay. I have to admit that I have not had much Groslot. In fact, I am fairly certain that I have not had any (but given the amount of cycling and touring I have done in the Loire, it has no doubt passed these lips). Lovely rich pink with a decided orange tint. Nice red fruit, a bit of citrus, and some red flower. The palate is tart, but also sweet–not cloying, but certainly sweet. Not White Zin sweet, but more of a off-dry kinda vibe. Let’s just say that my mother-in-law loved it. A lot. And that’s OK. Honest. Very Good. 87 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Every time I open a bottle of Clos Pepe, be it Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, I think “one less in the world” since 2014 was the last vintage of Clos Pepe Vineyards, made by Wes Hagen. In 2015, the owners of the vineyards, Cathy and Stephen Pepe (Wes’ mother and step-father) decided to get out of the wine-making business and awarded to Kathryn Walt Hall and Walt Wines. While I have not tried one of the Walt Clos Pepe Pinots, which now fetch $75 a bottle (the Wes Hagen’s Pinots were $50), they seems to be receiving some critical acclaim. One real tragedy that has resulted from that shift back in 2015? It seems as though that no one is making a vineyard-designate Clos Pepe Chardonnay any more. Wes intimated to me on a couple of occasions that even though the vineyard was better known for its Pinot, it was perhaps a better site for Chardonnay. Other prestigious winemakers must have agrees as Arcadian, Au Bon Climat, Brewer-Clifton, Rick Longoria, and Brian Loring (among many others) have all made a Clos Pepe Chardonnay at some point. For all of these reasons (I did not even mention that the estate is now for sale—$9.75 million in case you are interested) as well as, of course, what is actually in the bottle, the 2011 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay Barrel Fermented, Sta Rita Hills is this week’s Wine of the Week.
What was your Wine of the Week?