Last week, I gave my top ten Red, White, and Sparkling Wines of the year out of all the samples that I reviewed during the 2021 calendar year. This week, I turn my focus on those memorable wines that I pulled from my cellar over the past 12 months. 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).
2013 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Beaune du Château Blanc, Burgundy, France: Retail $45. 100% Chardonnay. Based on my notes, my wife bought this wine shortly after we moved to Houston and all of our wine was in cold storage until our house was built and the cellar was finished. Somehow, some way, this wine survived until now. And, on the eve of Father’s Day, I decided to pop it since, well, Father’s Day Eve (for all of the fathers out there I am seriously trying to make this a thing). I was also terrified about “premox” or premature oxidation–a malady that strikes far too many white Burgundies and has decimated my own white Burg “collection.” Well, no worries here, light straw in color, lovely aroma of lemon curd, white peach, and a touch of white pepper. On the palate? Whoa. Delicate fruit, gripping tanginess, layers of flavor, and a bit of spice, particularly on the lengthy finish. This is the first white Burgundy I have had in a while and it is particularly fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2009 Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay Barrel Fermented, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $35. DIAM 10 Closure. OK, I am going to try to keep it together here as this was the last bottle of the case of this wine I bought I am not entirely sure how long ago. Sniff. I have a long history with Clos Pepe (and to a lesser extent, winemaker Wes Hagen), which I have chronicled many times in this space and on my wine blog (shameless plug alert): http://www.thedrunkencyclist.com. So I am a bit sad but this wine assuages me out of my melancholy–this is freaking gangbusters (no doubt Wes would have used slightly more colorful language there). Yellow straw in the glass with a warmly toasted-nut (basked with lemon curd) aspect in the glass. The palate is defined by the acidity (striking), but buoyed by the subtly intense (can that be a thing?) fruit, a dab of oakiness, layers of complexity, and a dollop of minerality. Since my first sip of Clos Pepe Chardonnay, I have berated (maybe too strong?) Wes that I thought the best wines made from what I consider to be an American Grand Cru, were not Pinots, but Chardonnay. This serves as justification. Whoa. Complete gangbusters, a wine that *few* would ever guess is over a decade old. Yowza. I miss Wes at the helm of Clos Pepe so much. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2007 Marcel Deiss Engelgarten, Alsace, France: Retail $50. Single vineyard field blend of Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Deiss touts this as a Premier Cru, which means basically nothing in Alsace. Well, perhaps it should based on this wine. It has been a couple of years since I have opened a bottle, but I would venture to say it has improved. Sure, the golden–even amber–color causes some concern, but the lovely, rich nose of ripe peach, tropical fruit, and honeysuckle allays those fears almost instantly. The palate, while touched by a kiss of sweetness, is gorgeous with weighty fruit, balancing acidity and incredible depth. And the finish here is off the charts. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Far Niente Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $70. Under cork. B.A.B. Tonight, to kickoff our 20th Anniversary week, we went to a new (to us) restaurant, just a few miles away, that encourages patrons to bring their own bottle of wine. The curious twist, however, is that they also have a small but fabulous wine list with the bottles at extremely reasonable prices. Like this Far Niente Chard: $49. Whaaa? Less than what is offered on the Far Niente website? By twenty bucks? OK, I’ll play your little game. Giddy-up. More golden than straw in color with boatloads of lemon curd, and touches of vanilla and whit pepper on the nose. Opulent, rich, even unctuous on the palate, but not in the “traditional” Cali Chard kind of way. No, this is more to the Burgundian style of Chard (while style celebrating its California heritage), and oh, so good. I wonder if this restaurant will sell me the wine for $49 at retail? Cheaper than I can find it…. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2018 Grgich Hills Chardonnay Napa Valley, CA: Retail $43. Humble Wine Bar, Cleveland, OH $60. DIAM10 closure. I wanted the 2006 Charles de Casanova “Stradivarius” ($53!?). Out. Then the 2008 Dom Pérignon ($215!). It was a 2010. Meh. Then the 2015 Domaine Drouhin Arthur ($50). Nope. So I “settled” on this. Whoa. A bit of golden deliciousness to this straw hued wine. The nose is nothing short of fabulous with a bushel of citrus, green apple, a touch of hazelnut, and the slightest hint of oak. The palate is close to, well, gangbusters (I was going to say perfection, but let’s just press the middle pedal a bit). This really highlights the fruit, which surprises me given this winery’s (and Napa Valley’s) history. This is clearly an attempt (and a solid one at that) to embrace “new Chardonnay” while keeping a foot (semi) firmly planted in California. Great balance, acidity, and the ever-elusive verve, this bottle wants me to get on the next plane to San Francisco and make the trek north to route 29 (then 128) and pull into the Grgich parking lot, ready to spend a couple of hours getting reacquainted with this Napa stalwart. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2014 Kemmeter Wines Riesling Sheldrake Point Medium-Dry, Finger Lakes, NY: Retail $30. Under screw cap. I first met Johannes Reinhardt way back in 2015, when I bought this bottle, in his tiny but tasteful tasting room within a few hundred meters of Feuka Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Johannes is quintessentially German with his stern demeanor, his attention to detail, and his precise wines. While I had wanted three of the slightly sweeter versions of this wine, I was sent two of the drier style and I can’t say that I am disappointed. At. All. While the sweeter Riesling lies quietly in the cellar, this tarter, more food friendly (perhaps) wine is singing in the glass. Still barely a light straw in color, the lemon rind, petrol, and minerality leap out over the rim, engaging the olfactory sensors, inviting a cannonball-type dive in. And I did. Whoa. Great fruit but even more impressive acidity with that flintiness and an incredibly lengthy finish. If there is a better Riesling producer in the Finger Lakes, well, I have to meet him/her. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2016 B Kosuge Chardonnay Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $45. Under DIAM 10. If I am not mistaken, this is the first Chardonnay that Byron has put under DIAM, which I consider a fantastic idea (although I might prefer Stelvin?) since that 2009 I tasted in 2017 was badly oxidized. Byron’s wines deserve to be cellared, deserve to be aged. Case in point. Five years out, this wine is perhaps still too young as it is singing on both the nose and the palate. Pale straw, barely any color at all, there is plenty of fresh lemon curd, and a hint of white pepper. Whoa. And a holy cow, even. The palate is relatively subtle at first, with a bit of fruit but plenty of acid, and touches of vanilla and oak. By the mid-palate, though, this wine reveals its mettle as the subtle power wafts in, bathed in that acidity, but also striving to reach the stage. I would say this is much more Grand Cru Chablis in style as it needs to warm just a bit to reveal its depth–and there is plenty. With a bit of time in the glass, this really shines. Holy cow again. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2014 Château des Sarrins Côtes de Provence Blanc Secret, France: Retail $20 (?). 100% Rolle. I stopped by this producer on a trip to Provence despite the fact that it was a bit out of the way. Why? Château des Sarrins is owned by none other than Bruno Paillard of Champagne fame. It seems as though Bruno spends considerably more time in Provence now that he has passed off the running of his eponymous Champagne house to his more than capable daughter, Alice. I have stated on a number of occasions that there is far too little Rolle (those in the more uncivilized areas of the world know it as “Vermentino”) produced in Provence (about 5% of the total production is white) and this is clear evidence to that assertion. A little more evolved (even less fruity & more vinous in nature) than the bottle I had a year ago, which had already long since moved on from the fruity marvel that I first tasted in the summer of 2016. Lovely nutty and floral notes on the nose, with just hints of lemon curd and ripe pear. The palate is much the same, but the acidity, which can be lacking in Rolle, is still near laser sharp and drives the wine to its lengthy finish. Yowza. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 Tongue Dancer Chardonnay Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $42. About a year ago, I received a bottle of this wine as a sample from Kerry and James MacPhail and I was mesmerized. Sure, there was fruit, but oh so much more. What I wrote then: “Light in color, but rich in aromas of lemon curd, Bosc pear, and vanilla, on the palate this wine is reminiscent of a Grand or Premier Cru Montrachet. This is a study in tension. Sure, it is rich, luscious, and decadent, but it is also subtle, nuanced, and balanced. While this wine is certainly gorgeous now, I feel that I opened it far too soon and it could easily go another 5-8 years, no problem.” I liked the wine so much, in fact, that I bought a bunch of it. I tried to hold off a bit longer, knowing that this wine would only get better but I just couldn’t take it any more. Whoa. Yeah. OK. Let’s up that sheet a notch. All what I wrote previously and more. Sure, James MacPhail sees himself as a Pinot whisperer (I think), but clearly Chardonnay should be added to the list of varieties that he can transform into magic in a bottle. Outstanding. 96 Points.
My White Wine of the Year
This was a tough one to choose since there were so many great wines, often paired with a fantastic memory or a wonderful story. In the end, I chose this Viognier (I know, right?) from Dry Creek Valley.
2013 Trattore Viognier, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail? B.A.B. There are a few things that I know about this wine: it’s from (what then was) a relatively new operation at the northern end of Dry Creek Road; it cost me 22 bucks (although I am fairly certain that they gave me an industry discount); the winery was referred to me by whom I would consider my Dry Creek Valley mentor (you know who you are Donald). I also know that I visited the winery with said mentor and we tasted through close to the entire lineup and it was this was the wine that stood out (and why I bought two bottles of it). I do not know why (other than having way too much wine in the cellar–I know, rough problem to have) I have waited so long to pop one of the bottles. I would like to say that I knew that this wine would turn into the incredible gem that it is, but that would be stretching the truth a bit (I did know that it was fantastic and I had an inkling that it would age well in the cellar, but my May, 2016 self would never have planned to hold onto this wine for that long). Wow. Whoa. Yowza. And a Holy Cow for good measure. This wine is off the charts fantastic. Rich, layered, complex, fruity, tart, I could sip at this wine for several days. A bit dark in the glass, as one would expect, but otherwise? No signs of age here. I can safely say that I have not had a Viognier this good outside of Condrieu (and even then…). Thank you Donald, I am saving the other bottle to share with you! Outstanding. 96 Points.