What We Have Been Drinking—1/9/2023

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).

2009 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir Vigneron Select, Sta. Rita Hills, CA: Retail $60. Under cork. I was a wine club member of Clos Pepe for years, right up until it shut its doors following the 2014 vintage. Over the years, I purchased close to 200 bottles from the winery, but only seven of them were “Vigneron Select” wines–from the best barrels. And this is the first of those seven that I have popped. Whoa. Light in color but plenty of those aromas that I associate with Clos Pepe: tart cherry, baking spice, eucalyptus. Whoa. The palate is powerful, but in a delicate way; the flavors are intense and layered, but this wine does not hit you over the head. Instead, it takes you by the hand and encourages you to slow down a bit. And if you do? You will be handsomely rewarded. Outstanding. 95 Points.

2012 Fox Run Vineyards Riesling 11 Hanging Delta Vineyard, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, NY: Retail $40. Under cork. The back label of this wine contains a ton of information about what a hanging delta is and the process that took several thousands of years to make it happen. I am pretty sure that I understood exactly none of what it said (truth be told, I only read the first couple of dozen words and then fell asleep). My advanced degree is decidedly NOT in geology or history or astronomy or whatever the hell they were talking about. The wine, though? I was a bit worried, to be honest, as this decade-old wine had been left for dead in my cellar since I bought it at the winery back in 2016. But whoa. Still light in color (a pale straw), and exhibiting an enticing nose (peach, pear, a hint of petrol) in the glass. The palate is sweet, maybe even more than slightly, but it works exceedingly well with the intense tartness and lovely fruit. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2014 Freeman Pinot Noir Yu-ki Estate, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $70. Under cork. I am a bit of a moron. I was looking for the 2009 Freeman Estate and I pulled this one instead. Oops. In a way, though, I am glad I did as this wine is particularly fantastic. Medium color for a Sonoma Coast Pinot with plenty of Bing cherry fruit, a dash of baking spice (cardamom), and more than a touch of eucalyptus. Whoa. The palate, while initially a bit cold, really open up to a boatload of fruit, plenty of spice, a zingy unifying acidity, and a finish that lasted for minutes. Yowza. Outstanding. 93 Points.

2009 Freeman Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $50. Under cork. I hesitate to guess when I first became enamored with Freeman Pinot, but it was in direct response to having read John Winthrop Haeger’s seminal work, North American Pinot Noir. I perused the book non-stop, back in the day, and I mapped out several wineries to visit. Near the top was Freeman, the love-child of Ken Freeman and his spouse, Akiko (who eventually became the winemaker). This wine, though, was made by Eric Buffington, the Assistant Winemaker at the time, who was clearly talented. Over the course of several visits to Freeman, I like to think that Eric and I became friends, and still have a connection today. Eric, sadly (but good for him), left the wine industry about a decade ago, but many of his wines live on in my cellar. Case in point. This 2009 Keefer Pinot is alive and kicking, thank you very much, with great dark, even smoky cherry fruit, earth, and a whole lotta verve. the palate is quite bit younger than its vintage would indicate with fantastic fruit, lip-smacking zinginess, a depth of flavors, and a finish that rivals the most expensive Pinots from the region. Whoa. I had just tasted the more expensive Freeman You-Ki Estate Pinot, and this exceeds its younger and more prestigious brethren. At least by a bit. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2018 Nino Franco Faìve Rosé Brut, Veneto IGT, Italy:  Retail $24. 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc. Nino Franco started making this wine over a decade ago outside of the Prosecco DOC, using non-traditional grapes. Quite fruity on both the nose and the palate with plenty of red and black fruit initially followed by some good acidity and a vibrant sparkle. It finishes with a very slight hint of sweetness. Excellent. 91 Points.

2008 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407, South Australia: Retail $35. Heavy Bottle. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. For the better part of the last 25 years, I would lead bicycle tours in France (and various other countries in Europe). Part of my job was to be a resource for the clients regarding French culture, which, of course, includes wine. On one trip through Burgundy, I had a handful of Australians on the trip who were particularly interested in learning more about French wine, but knew very little about it. Thus, there were many nights that we closed the restaurant, ordering red after white (and sometimes back to white) from France’s top region for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, blowing through my wine budget by the third night. Well, as a thank you, they bought me this, the only Australian wine they could find in Dijon (really? you mean to tell me there is not a single bottle of Grange in all of Dijon??). Tonight, almost on the anniversary of the demise of the tour company I worked all those summer for, I popped this. Lovely. Sure, it’s not Grange (but it is also a tiny fraction of the price), but it is made to be approachable and affordable. Check and check. Medium to dark color with great red and dark fruit on the nose (blackberry, plum) along with earth and spice. Delicious. The palate is equally impressive with a surprising amount of juicy fruit given the dozen-plus years since the harvest. But there is also great tartness and hints of herbs, spice, and forest floor. The finish is lengthy but devoid of much tannic structure as they have been fully integrated. Outstanding. 93 Points.

NV Taittinger Champagne Cuvée Prestige, France: Retail $45. 60% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, 40% Chardonnay. Due to my affinity for Domaine Carneros, I picked up several bottles of this Taittinger, aka “the mother ship.” While I am less familiar with this house than others, this wine certainly shined. Great fruit (mostly citrus), yeastiness (I am going with fresh croissant), and nuttiness (almond and hazelnut) on the nose, with a tongue-lashing acidity, a mouthful of fruit, and a finish that lasted at least this long into this note. Yowza. Excellent. 92 Points.


WINE OF THE WEEK: One of the facets that I love the most about wine is its ability to help conger up memories. The vintage might evoke memories of a particular year, it may even represent an anniversary of sorts. Or there might be a story surrounding a visit to the winery or an interesting tidbit as to how the wine was acquired. Each of the wines this week have a particularly interesting (at least to me) anecdote attached to it, many of which I outlined in the notes above. All the wines were fantastic and all the memories are cherised, but if I had to choose one, it would be that week I spent with those crazy Australians in Burgundy, which renders the 2008 Penfolds Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 407 this week’s Wine of the Week. I doubt I will ever lead another bike tour again through Burgundy, but opening this wine immediately took me back there and resulted in a lengthy smile.

 What was/were your Wine(s) of the Week?




About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Chardonnay, France, Merlot, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

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