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 Coralba Prosecco, Veneto, Italy: Retail $10. 100% Glera. I purchased four bottles of this wine from Wines Til Sold Out just over a year ago as a cheap sparkler that I could pop if the in-laws showed up unannounced (which rarely happens, but still always good to be prepared). I imagined that this was a “typical” Prosecco for this price point. Probably not very complex, likely plenty of fruit, and no doubt a high dosage (i.e., fairly sweet). Normally, I like being right, but this time? Well… It’s fine. Few will be disappointed, some might even really like it. Heck, it might even put hair on your chest (if that is a particular personal goal). Very Good. 87 Points.
2014 The Federalist Wines Zinfandel The Federalist Bourbon Barrel Aged, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $22. I was sent a couple of bottles of this wine a few years ago and as I was running out to my son’s Little League baseball game (we got crushed, again), I grabbed a few bottles to conduct a little impromptu wine tasting for the other parents (I think they love me now). I grabbed this without checking what I thought of it a couple of years ago when I tried it. I figured “Bourbon Barrel Aged” was a total gimmick and this wine was not going to show well at the diamond. Oh well, purge the cellar. Make space. Drink it before it dies. All kinds of thoughts running—also, how sophisticated were the other parents at the game? They would just see it as “free booze” and return to yelling at their kid, the coach, or the umpire. No biggie. Well, after all four of the participants were quite effusive over the wine, I decided I needed a taste. Well. And close to a Whoa. As it turns out, I really liked it back then, which has not changed. Fruity, but with depth and balance. Yowza. And just short of a Whoa. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Maison de Grand Esprit Champagne Marquis de La Mysteriale, France: Retail $40(?). 59% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir. I did not have high hopes for this champagne. It was not due to the fact that I had tried it before (I don’t believe I have), nor did I know anything about the producer or brand. The reasons for my skepticism? First, the name—it just seemed way too showy for me (Marquis de la Mystèriale? Seriously?). Second, I bought it from Wines Til Sold Out for twenty bucks. Now, I have bought a ton of wine from WTSO and I have been overwhelmingly happy with those purchases. But a Champers for $20? You usually get what you pay for. So why take a flyer on six bottles? Simple. To serve some “real” champagne when my in-laws come over for dinner. At $20 it was worth taking a shot at causing my father-in-law to think I am a much bigger deal than I actually am. A funny thing happened when I opened this first bottle, however. It’s actually a pretty good bottle of bubbles with an active sparkle, plenty of tree fruit (golden delicious and Granny Smith apple), a focused acidity, and a fairly lengthy finish. Sure, I would prefer a lower dosage (I am guessing it is around 10 grams/lier or higher), but here is to being pleasantly surprised! Very Good. 89 Points.
2007 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $45. Another wine that I worried that I might have held a bit too long given that 2007 was not an other-worldly vintage (some have said it was actually horrible while others claim it to be a “typical” Willamette vintage). It does come off as rather austere with some dark fruit eventually emanating from this *very* dark wine. What is perhaps more prevalent is the menthol and eucalyptus bookending the subtle fruit notes. The palate continues along the same theme with secondary flavors of leather, black earth, and sage push the fruit almost completely out of the picture. Still, I love “older” wines like this as much for what they have become as for where they have been and the memories that they evoke. Excellent. 91 Points.
2008 Stonestreet Chardonnay Broken Road, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $55. I bought three bottles of this wine from Wine.com way back in 2011 and while this is the first I remember tasting, there is but one bottle left in the cellar. #GriftHappens Well, certainly golden in the glass, but no signs of oxidation on the nose, just tons of honeyed, even candied lemon curd, laden with heavy doses of vanilla and oak. Yeah, this is a big’un, certainly in the style of those late 90s California Chards. The big difference? While all of that lemon chiffon pie, oak, butter, and vanilla are certainly there on the palate, there is also an acidity that breaks through and lets the others know who is really in charge. Certainly not my style of Chard, but there is no doubt that this is extremely well-made and a fabulous wine. Outstanding. 93 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Wines like this week’s Wine of the Week, the 2008 Stonestreet Chardonnay Broken Road, are a bit of a dying breed. Sure, there are a few of the old California style, big, bold Chardonnays to be found, but they are becoming much harder to find. Most producers have moved to either the more fruit-driven style which are often unoaked or have taken, dare I say, a more “Burgundian” approach, using a much lighter hand with oak, often using neutral or already used barrels to impart a much softer oak aspect. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing but it is also important to recognize that the big oak style of Chardonnay was quite important in the development of the California wine industry, similar to the big gas-guzzling behemoths that built the US auto-industry. OK, maybe that was a bad analogy.
What was your Wine of the Week?