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 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 shot 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! Excellent. 90 Points.
NV J Vineyards & Winery California Cuvée, CA: Retail $27. 61% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir, 3% Pinot Meunier. When Judy Jordan (daughter of Tom Jordan, founder of Jordan Winery) sold this to Gallo in 2015, it raised a bit of a stir and many questioned if the quality of the wine would suffer. Well, I am far from an expert on all wines J, but this is, well, fine. While it’s price places it above other California sparklers such as Mumm and Chandon, I am not sure the wine quite matches up. Sure, there is plenty of citrus, a bit of minearlity, and a hint of yeastiness on the nose. The palate is also pleasant with plenty of citrus tartness, some nuttiness, but also a bit of sweetness. While this is no doubt considered a “Brut” it is on the sweet side, for sure, and would benefit from a lower dosage, at least according to me. Very Good. 87 Points.
2007 Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Kessler, Alsace Grand Cru, France: Retail $40? Under cork. This was the last of seven bottles I purchased almost a decade ago, to the day. Of those seven, five were absolutely fantastic (albeit at slightly different levels), and one was pretty much a train wreck disaster. So when I pulled this last cork, I liked my odds. Yeah, about that. Don’t ever call me for gambling advice. This was in a word: not good (don’t ever call me for counting advice, either). Closer to an orange wine in color and characteristics than a Grand Cru Riesling. In fact, that is a good question: if this wine were presented to me as an orange wine, would I feel differently about it? Well, it was not presented that way, so I really don’t give a flying squirrel whether I’d consider this a “good” orange or not (although…). So is it flawed? Is it just old? I am not quite sure, I guess I will go with the former since those other five were stellar. Bummer, but life goes on, for the most part and it could be worse. Case in point: I am headed to Cleveland tomorrow. Yeah. Flawed.
2009 Skewis Pinot Noir Greenwood Ridge Vineyard, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $50. Under cork. I include the retail price only as an anecdote as Hank and Maggie Skewis called it quits in 2017. At some point, I will need to wax more poetically on the influence the two have had on my growth as a consumer and writer, but suffice it to say that, along with Clos Pepe, Skewis has served as a guidepost for my exploration of Californian Pinot Noir. One of the few wine clubs I have ever joined, the wines produced by Maggie and Hank represent the “real” Russian River and Sonoma Coast. Usually made in a “wine ghetto” far off the beaten path, the Skewis wines have an earthiness, a gravitas, that is lacking among so many contemporary bottling. There were a mere 180 cases of this Anderson Valley beauty produced, which is quintessential Skewis–they did not have a huge, generic wine that would pay the bills, they had a series of single vineyard gems that required the care and attention that hand-selling afford. Dark cherry and spice on this near-inky dark wine with surprising (for Pinot) of spice and anise. Whoa. The palate is, as I have come to expect from Skewis, complex and layered. Sure, there is fruit from start to finish, but there are also oodles of tartness, the aforementioned complexity, and verve. Oh the verve. A dozen years out and this wine is still gangbusters. Sure, it craves some food, either salmon, short ribs, or sirloin, but it also commands the room on its own. More of a Dean Martin than a Frank Sinatra as it does not demand the spotlight, but once it has the floor? Yowza. Outstanding. 90 Points.
2019 Sterling Vineyards Rosé, Carneros, CA: Retail $35. B.A.B. Under screw cap. 100% Syrah. I bought this for members of my neighborhood wine club right at 50% off, and it was really well received. I finally got around to tasting it for myself tonight and I was immediately struck by the color. At a time when it seems like most rosés are getting lighter, trying to emulate the wines of Provence, this is one of the darkest rosés (in color) I can remember drinking. Aromas of cherry and raspberry mingle among fresh rose petals and a hint of spice. Close to a whoa just for the nose. On the palate, as one might expect based on the color, this is quite rich, even really rich and full-bodied. Were this to be served blind at room temperature, I doubt many would guess “rosé.” Yes, this is a weighty pink, but the fruit is plentiful and intense with waves of acidity. I tried to find the residual sugar on this wine (to no avail), but I would say there is indeed a noticeable (but barely) of here as it really comes through on the mid-palate. Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Every time I open a bottle of wine made by Hank and Maggie Skewis, I have contradicting emotions. On one hand, I know I am in for a treat as Hank Skewis really knows his way around Pinot Noir. Skewis was one of the few wine clubs I ever joined (there were only four) and over the two years or so that I was a member, I purchased right around six cases (72 bottles). The other feeling I have is one of dread. I am dreading the day that I open my last bottle of Skewis wine (I have 28 bottles left) since Hank and Maggie called it quits a few years ago and there will be no more Skewis wine. Sad for me, but happy for them as they are apparently enjoying their retirement. Needless to say perhaps, but the 2009 Skewis Pinot Noir Greenwood Ridge is this week’s Wine of the Week.
What was/were your Wine(s) of the Week?