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 Charles Le Bel Champagne Inspiration 1818 Brut, France: Retail $45. 37% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier, 33% Pinot Noir (Reserve wine 70%). On several sites I saw this listed as the “second wine of Billecart-Salmon” but after tasting? Sure, it’s fine as there is lemon curd and yeasty goodness on the nose. The palate is also rewarding with an initial burst of citrus (and a hint of sugar) followed by a tartness and then a tidal wave of baked brioche. This is a regionally correct champagne with character and style, but, at least for me, it is a bit out of balance and lacking verve. For the price ($35 locally) it is certainly “worth it” but there are others at a similar cost that I would reach for first. Very Good. 88 Points.
NV Comtes de Dampierre Champagne Grand Cuvée Brut, France: Retail $50. 65% Chardonnay (Avize), 35% Pinot Noir (Bouzy). While I “liked” the last bottle, there was an odd metallic thing appearing right before the finish that was a little off-putting. Not here! Fresh baked Granny Smith pie for days, a hint of oxidation (love it!), brilliant acidity, and a lengthy finish. What else could one want? Well, I purchased it at my local H-E-B (I love my H-E-B) on sale for thirty bucks. Excellent. 92 Points.
2013 La Follette Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, CA: Retail $42. It has been a minute since I have popped one of these (almost three years to be precise) and I decided to open this one while binge-watching the Mandalorian (I know, I am a bit behind) while my wife was quarantined upstairs with “the Vid.” While some might consider all or parts of that last statement cruel, I am full-on Darwin these days, so bring on the Pinot. On the dark side in both color and aromas (particular for Pinot) with slightly stewed black cherry, mocha, and oodles of black pepper and clove. The palate has many of these characteristics but is incredibly balanced, as one would expect from a La Follette-made wine. Three years ago (nearly) I liked this wine. Now? I am close to loving it (and it approaches a Whoa). Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Lanson Champagne Brut Black Label, France: Retail $38. 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier. Over the years, I have tried a ton of champagne, a ton. I could count on one hand, however, the number of wines I have tried from Lanson, which I believe is the #1 seller of champagne in France. Pale straw with a decided flinty, matchstick, dirty nose. Those aromas are so powerful, in fact, that it is near impossible to detect any sort of fruit here, initially. Eventually, I can find a bit of pear and lemon rind behind all that distraction, but this is still a bit funky. Another wine where the palate far outplays the nose: good fruit, nice acidity, complexity, and all the stuffing. But that nose… Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 Montes Sauvignon Blanc Outer Limits Zapallar Vineyard, Aconcagua Valley, Chile: Retail $24. Big ass bottle. Under screwcap. I bought this several years ago, at the winery, since, as I mentioned in my previous note, I was enthralled. When I popped the first of the two bottles that I had purchased a year ago, a bit of the luster had rubbed off but only a bit. Today, some of that magic seems to have returned. Sure, I am not along the Chilean coast eating fresh oysters and watching the sunset (I am sitting on my couch watching bad t.v.). More color in the glass than I remember with a nuttier nose as well. But there is also plenty of citrus fruit and a distinct salinity/oyster shell element. The palate is fruity and robust but also tart, even quite tart. It takes me back to that beach, those oysters, and the incredible hospitality shown by the Montes family. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Perrier-Jouët Champagne Grand Brut, France: Retail $50. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay. I do not drink a ton of Perrier-Jouët and I am not exactly sure why. I guess like most people (or at least most champagne drinkers), I find a NV Brut (or two) that I like and I usually just stick with that. Thus we drink a lot of Mailly Grand Cru, which I like given the predominance of Pinot Noir in the blend. While 80% of this wine comes from black grapes, half of that is Meunier and its characteristic florality is evident on the nose, along with under-baked bread, and freshly grated lemon grind. The palate is tart and yeasty with a vibrant sparkle and the finish is slightly above average. Yes, I know that P-J is owned by a huge corporate conglomerate, but one could do worse in the category and price point. Excellent. 90 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Just about every week it seems I try to make a concerted effort to pull some wines from the cellar that do not come from Champagne. Well, this week that number got all the way up to two. Baby steps. Both of those wines, as it turned out, were fantastic and this week’s Wine of the Week was certainly going to come down to one of those two. While I certainly enjoyed the La Follette Van der Kamp, I opted for the 2016 Montes Sauvignon Blanc Outer Limits Zapallar Vineyard as this week’s top wine. Why? Well, even close to six years out and this wine is still singing much as it did the first time I tried it (which happened to be on a beach in Chile). It also gave me a reason to fish out the above photo, which is among my favorites.
What was/were your Wine(s) of the Week?