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).
2020 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $45. We were at one of our preferred restaurants here in Houston and we were already done with the slightly sub-standard Taittinger well before we had finished with the appetizers (my wife has had a rough week). I noticed this on the list for a mere $46, so, what the heck? A pale straw in the glass with more tree fruit than citrus, a definite oak aspect, and just a touch of white pepper. On the palate, there is fruit, of course, oak (which was difficult to ignore but in no way overpowering), and a level of acidity that was both refreshing and balancing. Close to a Whoa. Excellent. 92 Points.
2009 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. This has long been my yardstick again which I measure all other American Pinotsand it holds true with this bottle. 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.
2007 Domaine Fabrice Gasnier Chinon, France: Retail $25. 100% Cabernet Franc. In a few weeks, I will be biking through Chinon once again (it’s been perhaps five years since my last time there) and decided that this made sense for our steak night. A good friend brought this over to our home for dinner way back in 2010 when the owners of the cycling tour company I worked for were over for dinner. The owner died this past November and opening this bottle brought on even more significance. Fairly dark in the glass with black fruit, spice, and a bit of green pepper on the nose. While the fruit is a bit faded, and perhaps a bit stewed, it instantly took me back to the cobble-stoned streets, the ruinous castle, and the statue of Joan of Arc that characterize Chinon. And I can’t wait to get back there in just a few weeks. Excellent. 91 Points.
2005 Domaine Jessiaume Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravières, France: Retail $45. 100% Pinot Noir. Back in 2011, I bought six bottles from Wine Library (yeah, *that* Wine Library) for less than $20/bottle. I thought it was a steal at the time but now? I wish I had bought more. Sure, there is a stewed note on the nose, but there is some ripe red berry fruit, plenty of the classic Burgundian “barnyard”, and interesting vegetal and herbal notes: celery, basil, thyme. Rich on the palate, really rich with really surprisingly intense flavors and a sweetness that I was not expecting. At. All. Whoa. I am going to have to bump this up a notch. I am ecstatic that I have another three bottles. Deserves another Whoa. Outstanding. 95 Points.
NV Mailly Champagne Grand Cru Brut Réserve, France: Retail $45. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. 100% Grand Cru. It has been about three months since I have written a note about this wine. In this house, that is the equivalent of about five years (kind of like a dog-years thing). Another fantastic bottle. But with the retail cost up to $50 (we first started buying this in earnest when it was $20), we will regrettably need to look elsewhere for our “house” champagne. Outstanding. 93 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Another solid week of pulling wine from the cellar, with several notable bottles for both what they contained but also for the meaning behind them. I have visited Chinon countless times, and each time it has been captivating, I can’t wait to get back. Mailly has meant so much to me and my wife that it was the clear choice when we named our “puppy” five years ago. And I have opened more bottles of Clos Pepe than any other American Pinot Noir (and it is not even close). But this week, the Wine of the Week comes from a region that I regrettably don’t visit all that much anymore. It has been years since I have been there on a bike and the wines have become so ridiculously expensive, that it simply does not make economic sense to “invest” in them. Santenay, however, will always bring a smile to my face as its wines were among the few that I could afford back when I was leading bike tours in the region. Sure, the wines can be a bit rustic and are considered far less refined than those of its neighbors to the north, but that’s fine for me. That’s why the 2005 Domaine Jessiaume Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravières is this week’s Wine of the Week (that, and it was really, really good, naturally).
What was/were your Wine(s) of the Week?