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 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Réserve, France: Retail $65. 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. My local H-E-B grocery store (I love my H-E-B) has this for an every day price of $43 and change. Buy six bottles (of anything)? 10% off. Thus, this comes in at just shy of forty bucks before tax. Nice. While I tend to shy away from predominantly Meunier Champers, this is quite lovely. Pale straw in the glass with a fruity nose of ripe peach, marzipan, hazelnut, and a whole lot a verve. Yowza (and almost a Whoa). The palate is clean, tart, precise, but also has a bit of swagger that one would expect form one of the more respected large houses in Champagne. While this group is perhaps more lauded for their Brut Rosé, this wine is no slouch. And for forty bucks? Load up the Prius (hopefully soon to be a Tesla). OK. Whoa.
Outstanding. 93 Points.
2011 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Estate Cargasacchi Vineyard, Sea Rita Hills, CA: Retail $45. 100% Pinot Noir. I do not drink a ton of Cargasacchi wine since, well, there is very little of it made. Very little. Peter and his wife, Julia farm about 30 acres of vines in the Sea Rita Hills and Santa Barbara County, 90% of which they sell to a dozen or so producers. Thus when I had a chance to buy a few bottles of this Pinot in 2014, I did not hesitate. I did hesitate to open a bottle though, as this is the first one I have cracked. Dark in the glass, really dark, with rich aromas of red and black berry fruit, a bit of anise, and a splash of black pepper. The palate his rich and layered. Wave after wave of fruit, an acidity that tries to keep up, and just enough earth. While this is not the best Pinot from Start Rita Hills I have tried, it is certainly among the richest. Holy cow. And Whoa.. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2009 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. Well, after a good six years on the shelf between the previous two bottles of this wine that I tasted, I only waited another 13 months to open the next. Whoa. While I thought the bottle I tasted in 2020 was beyond stellar, this bottle, believe it or not, was even better. Still incredibly fruity with tart cherry, bright raspberry, and even some hints of cassis on the nose. The palate is nothing short of magical. Whoa. Rich fruit, incredible balance from a zingy tartness, an earth soul, and a lengthy finish. Yowza. With every bottle of Clos Pepe I open, I experience such joy but also incredible sorrow. I know both Wes Hagen, the winemaker, and the vineyard have moved on, but I have a few dozen bottles of magic left. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2009 Frick Winery Syrah Owl Hill Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $24. 100% Syrah. Way back in 2014, in the nascent years of my blog, I visited the Dry Creek Valley on my first press trip (more or less). One of the stops that I made during that glorious week of riding my bike up and down the valley in the morning, with incredible winery visits in the afternoon, was to Frick Winery, at the northern end of the narrow, short valley. If you have an idea of what a “boutique winery” is, gently toss it to the compost pile. Frick is as “boutique” as it gets. Towering at about 6’8″ Bill Frick is essentially a one-man show as he is the viticulturist of the estates 7.77 acres, serves as winemaker to the 14 different wines from seven different grape varieties, and is the only tasting room employee (only open on the weekends, since, well, he has a bunch of Frick to do). When I told him I was a writer, Bill generously offered me a 30% discount, which I accepted, albeit guiltily. I bought two bottles, and I opened the first tonight, some seven years later. Yowza. Rich fruit with spicy notes on the nose: raspberry, plum, boysenberry, but also lighter aromas of Bing cherry, and ripe strawberry. Add to that black pepper, cardamom, and fennel seed, this is particularly incredible. The palate is still intensely fruity with all those aforementioned aromas now serving as flavors, with some earth, and a vibrant, tension creating acidity. OK. Whoa. Initially, this was a bit shy, but with some time open? Holy Smokes. I thought this was great at the time (which is why I bought it), but did I envision this? Hardly. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Mailly Champagne Grand Cru Brut Réserve, France: Retail $42. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. My local Total Wine had this at 15% off if you buy eight. So I bought eight, naturally. This batch seems to be a shade below what I would consider “standard Mailly excellence” but it is still plenty tasty to not regret naming our nearly four year old “puppy” “Mailly.” Yeah, we dig this stuff even though the price has gradually crept up to the point that it is no longer a “steal.” Still, our “house champagne.” There are a ton of quotes in that note. Ugh. I need help. Excellent. 91 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: This week, along with the requisite champagne, I suggest a little deeper and pulled out a few bottles with a bit of age on them. That is a fairly rare occurrence given that my wife has stated on several occasions that she “doesn’t like old wine.” At each such utterance, I try to point out that some wines actually improve with age, but that only seems to harden her resolve, resulting with opening another bottle that (at least in my opinion) that was popped too soon. At some point, however, I realized that if I start the evening with some champagne, she is much less attentive to whatever might follow. This week, the best wine of the week was undoubtedly the 2009 Clos Pepe, but seeing that it has already been Wine of the Week (and probably more than once), I settled on the 2009 Frick Winery Syrah Owl Hill Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley as this week’s top wine.
What was/were your Wine(s) of the Week?