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).
Several weeks ago, after my wife, sons, and I were all fully vaccinated, we started to visit a few restaurants. We did not go crazy since I have used the last fifteen months or so to experiment a lot more in the kitchen (mostly to silent reviews, but clean plates). Nonetheless, we forced ourselves to go out at least once in a while to support local restaurants (we also did quite a bit of takeout). All of that will likely now change, of course, with the resurgence of the virus, but, well, I would rather not talk about that right now.
Pierre Morlet Grande Résèrve Premier Cru Brut Rosé Champagne, France: Cost: $72 at a’Bouzy. 74% Pinot Noir, 26% Chardonnay from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards and three vintages. The restaurant has become my go-to Houston restaurant for Champagne even though, for some reason, they used an a’ instead of à. Usually, that will be enough to set me off and avoid the place altogether. But no. As I said, it is my go-to for bubbles in Houston. By far. The list is incredible and the prices (at least for the reasonable stuff) is well, reasonable. Pretty dark in the glass, one of the darker rosé champagnes I have had in a while. Rich red berry fruit (strawberry, cherry), some yeast ones, and noticeable chalkiness. The palate is dry but quite fruity, even really fruity. Luscious red fruit. Really great. Also depth, minerality, and verve. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2014 Château des Capitans Juliénas, Beaujolais, France: Retail $25. 100% Gamay. I was in Austin with the family at a restaurant downtown. I ordered a bottle of Jermann Where Dreams Chardonnay from the Venezia-Giulia region in Italy, and the server, who was the only one working with about 50 diners in the place, was overwhelmed. I saw her scurrying around the restaurant, looking for our wine, which was fruitless. I offered to step in. She acquiesced. I scoured the place but never found the great white whale, er Chard. I did find this bottle of Juliénas, however. The aforementioned waitron told me that the wine was not in the system and asked me how much the wine cost retail–she would then just add 40% as our cost (that’s $35 for the math-challenged). Holy cow. Owned and produced by Georges DuBœuf, this wine is consistently my favorite Juliénas if not my favorite wine from the entire region of Beaujolais. While 2014 was no 2015 (often called the “vintage of the century”), this was still stellar. Rich dark red fruit (slightly stewed, but ever-so-slightly), black pepper, and just a hint of green pepper. Whoa. The palate is just gorgeous. Rich fruit, great acidity, plenty of verve. Lovely. Outstanding. 94 Points.
Jean Vesselle Brut Résèrve, à Bouzy, Champagne, France: Retail $48. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. We were all in Austin and after a search on the web, I found June’s All Day on the internet. It was founded (and still partially owned) by June Rodil, a bit of a wunderkind in the Texas restaurant/wine scene. The spot was named by Food and Wine as one of the best restaurants of 2017 and I had met June on several occasions in Houston (she left Austin for the bright lights of H-Town in 2019). I had convinced the family to come with me to watch the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge (which I had seen before and it was quite cool) after which we could then walk the little-over-a-mile to the restaurant. Great plan! Except. First, it was early July–the bats don’t really come out in the hot summer months as much, but not knowing that, we hung around for about an hour waiting for not much of anything. Second, it was July in Texas. So it was hot. And humid. Really humid (which also means tons of mosquitoes). Last, the walk to the restaurant was a little longer than I had envisioned. By about a mile. So when we all arrived at the place, it was late (9:30-ish), we were all hot and sweaty (really sweaty), and more than a little hangry. But. We were able to get the last table, it was really cold inside, and. All Champagne. Was. Half. Off. Half off. So we opted for this bottle of Jean Vesselle, which, you may notice, has the proper punctuation associated with Bouzy (a rather famous town in the Champagne region). The wine? Golden rich baked apple. Lemon rind. Yeasty goodness. It was on the list at $122 but for $61? Giddy-up. Close to a Whoa. Excellent. 92 Points.
Louis Roederer Brut Champagne, France: Retail $45. On the list at 1751 Sea and Bar for $55. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier. My wife wanted oysters, so I found this place which had a variety of the shelled creatures as well as a fantastic (and reasonably priced) wine list. Roederer is one of the standards in Champagne (and its sister winery in Mendocino is quickly becoming the same in the U.S.), generally seen as on the lighter side of styles and this is certainly the case here. The nose is dominated by lemon and a splash of biscuity goodness while the palate is defined by a tangy acidity and finesse. Both the wine and the oysters were sublime. Paired together? Close to magical. Very Good. 89 Points.
NV Voirin-Jumel Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Cramant, Champagne, France: Retail $70. On the list at a’Bouzy (it really pains me to type that) for $68. I am not all that familiar with the wines from the Côte des Blancs, since, frankly, I have never been to that part of Champagne. I’ve ridden through the Vallée de la Marne and up/around the Montaigne de Reims more times than I can count, but I have never ventured much further south of Epernay than Bouzy. But la Côte is on my list (as is Troyes, for those keeping score at home) and based solely on this bottle (and a quick perusal of their website) so is Voirin-Jumel, a grower in the storied town of Cramant. Bright tree fruit (several varieties of apple: Granny Smith, Fuji, golden delicious) with a wheelbarrow full of yeasty goodness exude from this bright straw elixir and the palate is even better. That Rich golden Delicious dominates initially, but when the acidity roars in, freshly baked croissant is riding piggy-back. Yowza. I have long-stated that Blanc de Blancs is not my jawn but I have been reevaluating that mantra, particularly when it comes to older vintage wines and now, grower grand cru. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: As of this morning, I am still out in Oregon, where I have been riding my bike and visiting some wineries. That was the reason last week that instead of my norm, a picture of the Wine of the Week, I had a picture of my bike (I did not have a shot of the wine with me). Well, this week, it just so happens, I have a picture of each of the wines listed above, so there will not be any gratuitous bike porn (unless you really want it–click here to see a pic of the next bike I am having built). As for the top wine on my recent forays out to restaurants? While each of the champagnes had their merits, the 2014 Château des Capitans Juliénas was particularly rewarding since it was not on the list at the restaurant, I happily came across it, and it was pretty darned affordable for what it is (which is fantastic).
What was/were your Wine(s) of the Week?