2004 Dom Perignon, Brut Vintage Champagne by Moet et Chandon, France.
The world’s most glamorous symbol, the iconic Dom Perignon luxury Champagne is still a magic force in wine and the 2004 vintage is a smash hit, in fact in the depressed UK market this years allocation of Dom Perignon 2004 sold out in hours! The US market is slowly seeing the roll out now, but considering how limited and serious this vintage is, it may sell out before the end of the year. Make no mistake, while this bubbly tends to be a status symbol, a once a year treat or a gift to someone you want to impress, it is a great Champagne, even though it should sit in a cold cellar for a decade or more, especially this beautiful 2004, it is way to young to even begin showing all the glorious character is surely has. The 2004 is not exotic or fatty rich like the freakish 2003 vintage, in fact it is much more austere, lean and withdrawn in comparison, but that said it has vigor, intensity and an inner core of soulful grace that should it remarkable rewards for those that put some away in the cellar. The latest Dom shows a heightened toasty note, yeast, birch and nutty side now with very slowly emerging fruit, hints of lemon, peach and apple faintly come through on the palate along with tension filled acidity, mineral and fine mousse. This dynamic Champagne is filled with energy and class, I only hope that I get a chance to taste it in it’s full maturity, in about, let’s say 15 to 20 years! Tasting Dom still is a treat, it is a standard in the industry, and while it is much hyped and while there is many a fine sparkling wine that rival it, it is a lovely wine and certainly this latest vintage is a class act.
($180 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
2011 Kesner, Chardonnay, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.
One of the best 2011 California Chardonnay wines, period, is Jason Kesner’s 2011 Alder Springs, this is pure genius in the glass and a wonderfully crafted wine. I have my favorite Chards, Brewer-Clifton, Kongsgaard, Alfaro and Morlet to name my tops, but I might have to give the nod this vintage to this sublime effort, Kesner’s Alder Springs is simply majestic and glorious with layers of fruit, mineral, complexities and is full of life and elegance. The nose starts off with wet stones, white flowers, brioche and citrus fruits leading to a vivid palate that balances lively acidity with creamy richness perfectly with pear, lemon, apple and white peach fruit, along with honeysuckle, steely mineral, clarified cream, hazelnuts, toast, vanilla and fig. This is really classy stuff, Jason Kesner is a great talent, his latest lineup is his best yet, even from a difficult vintage his wines shine, I can’t wait to try his 2012 wines, they should be stuff of legends, I recommend checking out these wines as soon as possible, and specially this 2011 Alder Springs Chardonnay it is awesome.
($60 Est.) 94+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($58.95)
2012 St. Michael-Eppan, Pinot Bianco “Schulthauser” Alto Adige, Italy.
The latest Kellereigonossenschaft St. Michael Weissburgunder is stunning example of this varietal, this is exceptional Pinot Blanc, and a wonderful white wine to enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years with expressive fruit, mineral and elegant drive, not often found in Pinot Blanc. St. Michael-Eppan’s latest set of wines are clearly a huge step up in terms of style, focus and commitment and should not be missed if you like Italian Dolomite wines, their Pinot Grigio and Riesling wines are lovely as well, but this Pinot Blanc really stands out in this vintage and merits a special bit of attention, it is taste of mountain heaven with lovely peach, apple and soft citrus fruits, honeyed elements, subtle roundness and good mineral notes all play key roles here along with fresh integrated acidity that drives the wine with being stark or severe making for a medium body and graceful in total. Hints of tangerine, wet stones and verbena linger in the glass and give added complexity in this wonderful effort, this is again impressive stuff from St. Michael-Eppan, it is great to see such passion and quality again in these wines.
($26 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2006 Cesari, Il Bosco, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC, Veneto, Italy.
Cesari’s Il Bosco has become a go to Amarone, it is rich, lush and lavish as one would expect of fine modern Amarone, but it still feels dry, vibrant and is not heavy or ponderous in anyway, this is classy and balanced wine that deserves attention. I was thrilled to find the 2006 drinking as great as it is, since the hype machine overlooked this vintage and focused more on the 2007, but if you are looking for a suburb Amarone you should check out the Cesari Il Bosco 2006, it has everything you could want. The 2006 starts with heady black cherries, plum pudding, fig, clove and a dusting of coco powder with dried roses, cigar spice and golden raisins. As the wine gathers itself and opens it reveals a fine tannin structure, a bit of juicy acidity and a wonderfully smooth texture where you find a raspberry and sweet herb streak and the lengthy finish which echos with chocolate covered raisins and candied cherries. This would be an awesome wine with lamb, cheese plate and or prime rib, and again this wine feels plenty dry and balanced not porgy or overtly cloying, a masterful display in affordable and pure Amarone, drink now through 2022.
($65-72 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com
2010 Montesalario, Sangiovese, Montecucco DOC, Tuscany, Italy.
Montecucco is an up and coming area in the Tuscan Maremma coastal region, closely surrounded by Grosseto to the southwest, Sascano to the south and Montalcino to the north and northeast, This adds up to great Sangiovese country, in fact most of the Sangiovese planted here are identical to those found in Montalcino, the famed Sangiovese Grosso. This area is just being explored and discovered and the wines are showing glorious potential, this is a region to watch for high quality and value, one of the better examples to look for is from Montesalario, imported by Siena Imports, San Francisco. The 2010 Montesalario Sangiovese Montecucco DOC is flat out stunning and gorgeous with a dark garnet hue, rich texture, vibrancy and density showing a mix of berry, cherry, plum and strawberry fruits, chocolate, tobacco leaf, lavender, licorice and cedar wood spice. This is Sangiovese at it’s best, fresh, detailed, layered and lengthy, not a wine to age forever, but a real pleasing wine to enjoy over the next 3-5 years.
($27 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2012 Ken Wright, Pinot Noir “Shea Vineyard” Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This wine has huge potential, though it will need some time to come together, and while I can see there are great times ahead it would be a shame to drink this bottle anytime soon, though I certainly recommend putting some away for about 3 to 5 years, as I am sure it will bring rewards. The nose is slightly reduced and has a bit of gunpowder and toast blocking the graceful fruit and floral tones that only faintly come to life with air. The palate is forceful, vigorous and firm at this stage, again with lots of coaxing and air there is sublime beauty deeply sleeping with violets, rose petals, cherry, red currant and black plum that very slowly reveal themselves in subtle layering along with cinnamon, apple skin, saline and licorice. There is some hints of game, spice, mineral, tea and loamy earth as well, this is going to be a spectacular Pinot Noir when it has some age, it reminds me of a young Henri Gouges Nuits-St.-Georges Perriers. I sincerely hope I get a chance to re-taste this future star in about 6 to 7 years, I have no doubt this Pinot Noir will be legendary. Ken Wright rates this vintage very highly, and I can see why, but for his set of 2012 wines you’ll need to have the patience of the gods.
($48 Est.) 93-95 Points, grapelive
N.V. Domaine Bonnardot, Cremant de Bourgogne, Brut Rose, Burgundy Sparkling Wine, France.
Wow, what a nice bubbly, a great Brut Pinot Noir rose from Burgundy that offers terrific value in a first rate wine, I hope I get my hands on more myself. Perfect for celebrations, and anytime you feel like a sparkler, this elegant and stylish sparkler will do the job. The Domaine Bonnardot Cremant Rose starts with brioche, toast, yeast and cherry notes leading to a crisp and fresh palate of wild strawberry, apple and citrus while the bread dough, hazelnut and a hint of red currant play softly in the background. This could fool many people into believing that this was a fine Champagne, I know I was very impressed, and it has plenty of class, character and delicate details to marvel at.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive
2011 Franc Tireur, Revielle-Roussillon, Cotes Catelanes, France.
This earthy and dense red from the South of France, close to the Spanish frontier is made from ancient 100 Year Old Carignan vines, and it’s a wonderfully pleasing wine from an organic producer/artisan winemaker that I’d never tried before. I certainly will be keeping my eyes out for Franc Tireur after sampling this intriguing old vine Carignan, I’m grateful to importers Return to Terroir for introducing me with a taste of this interesting wine. The 2011 Revielle-Roussillon Cotes Catelanes starts with a mix of earthy loam, spice, wild herbs and leathery notes before revealing a savvy mix or red fruits, mineral and warm brick/rocky essences with red currant, black cherry, boysenberry and plum layers. There is flashes of truffle, cracked pepper, lavender oil and salty anise making for a complex and well made wine that has old world charm and vitality, drink 2013-2018.
($20 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive
2012 Weingut Knebel, Riesling, Mosel, Germany. (Trocken)
Recently voted best Thanksgiving Wine by the NYT (New York Times) has certainly brought Knebel to wider attention, and I must say, I did after reading the NYT article buy a bottle for my Thanksgiving celebration, even though I had tried the Knebel 2011 wines, which were excellent as well. Matthias Knebel is a winemaker to follow, he is a rising star, and his wines show great promise, he comes from a new generation, he along with his contemporaries are looking at natural and traditional ways to explore their terrors, his peers like Arianna Occhipinti and fellow German young star Eva Fricke are creating a lot of excitement in the wine world and it seems the future is in good hands, this generation has heart, soul and talent, it shows in their passion and in their wines. The 2012 Knebel QbA Riesling is a dry and beautifully detailed wine with vigorous acidity, great extract and layers of pure Mosel character with mineral essence and vivid flavors, this is clear and focused Riesling of high quality. The nose is tangy fresh with citrus, stone fruit and sea breeze elements leading to a brisk and zesty palate of lime, apricot and white peach fruit, bitter apple, mint, crushed stone, grapefruit pips, saline and a lingering tangerine note, this is lovely and vibrant wine that has a pale yellow golden hue. I love the intensity, the drive and robust style in this wine, it is very serious stuff and has the potential to be even better over a period of many years, I think I’ll put a few bottles away and check them out in 5 years time, and the price is very fair for what you get, again I highly recommend grabbing a few bottles if not cases while you can. The 2012 vintage is a breakthrough vintage for Knebel and Fricke, a huge success across Germany as a whole and a perfect year to showcase these young talents, be sure to check the Knebel wines out, especially this one, drink 2014 to 2020.
($20 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive
avail at www.sfwtc.com ($18.95)
2011 Weingut Meyer-Nakel, Pinot Noir, Blue Slate, Ahr, Germany.
The Blue Slate Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) 2011 is dark, rich and lavish wine with ripe fruit layers, round silky texture and a long finish, this is an extremely hedonistic Pinot Noir from one of Germany’s top Pinot Noir estates. Meyer-Nakel in the Ahr is simply a must find wine from Pinot lovers and while the top end cuvees are even more sought after and pricy than some highly respected Burgundy, the medium level wines can be found, like this wonderful entry level, in the USA, the Blue Slate, which gets it’s name from the soils and of which lends it’s unique mineral spice and flavor. The 2011 is lush with an almost full body and has plenty of density in the mouth, but still shows precision and detail, and it starts with a dark ruby/garnet hue, a seductive bouquet of violets, cherry liqueur, red pepper and vanilla leading to a palate of black cherry, plum, red currant, blueberry and wild raspberry, along with smoky char and flinty spice. There is a warm and sweet essence of oak, but it is not garish or over done, it helps frame and smooth out the impressive fruit while the slate mineral element, the earthy truffle note and acidity add complexity and vibrancy. The finish lingers on and on reflecting on all the pieces mentioned plus a hint of fig paste, saline and bitter chocolate, look for this wine to age gracefully and gain in subtlety over the next 5 to 10 years, though it is really hard to resist now and is super pleasing now, drink from 2014 to 2023. No question, the Meyer-Nakel Pinots are stunning, I’m a huge fan, these wines are absolutely world class.
($56 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive