Bourgogne Blanc of Exceptional Quality at a Great Price

Today’s Story: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey

To say Pierre-Yves Colin was a rising star turned legend in Chassagne-Montrachet over the last decade or so might be an understatement. Pierre-Yves started working with his father Marc Colin (the Burgundian legend in his own right) in 1994 and became winemaker until the 2005 vintage when he decided to branch out into his own venture. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey was established by Pierre-Yves and his wife Caroline Morey (daughter of Jean-Marc Morey) and spawned out of a negociant business the couple started in 2001. Pierre-Yves inherited 6 hectares from his family and purchases fruit from carefully selected growers, but there is no question he knows all of this terroir like the back of his hand. When making his wines, Pierre-Yves presses the fruit very slowly and at higher pressures than normal, racks directly into 350L barrels for natural fermentation, never stirs the lees, and diverts his wine by gravity into his cellar. Pierre-Yves’ wines spend two winters aging in the cellar before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Whether it be thanks to the intense attention to terroir, his winemaking practices, or any minute decision he makes throughout the year, there is no question that Pierre-Yves’ wines are something special.

I previously reviewed the 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes from PYCM.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Bourgogne Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2019 Bourgogne Blanc is pale straw yellow in color with hints of green. I decanted this for two hours but tasted it along the way, since when I had this a few months back it took quite some time to open up in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon zest, Asian pear, crisp green apple, white lily, flint, matchstick, oyster shell, and raw almond. Meanwhile the flavors are of pronounced intensity, and the palate offers up notes of lemon citrus, ripe green apple, a pinch of lime zest, underripe pear, white florals, flint, sea salt, crushed stone minerality, and a hint of white pepper. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very good quality and a good one to revisit in a couple years.

Price: $47. This is great value for top-notch Chardonnay. Intensity, balance, complexity, and length are all quite solid here for the price level and this seems like a good one to have in the cellar. PYCM shows his prowess once again.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Young but Incredibly Promising Riesling From One of Saar’s Great Names

Today’s Story: Weingut Peter Lauer

Weingut Peter Lauer is a very highly regarded producer of German Riesling in the Mosel’s Saar region, and it has been in the Lauer family since 1830. Today the estate is run by fifth generation Florian Lauer who took over in 2006, but his father Peter remains involved in the cellars to this day. The estate consists of 8 hectares (19 acres) of vineyards situated across some of the Saar’s greatest sites, and the Lauer family holdings are planted to 100% Riesling. Many of their vines are very old, with some of them at 100 years of age. Weingut Peter Lauer is known for their dry Rieslings, particularly from the Grosse Lage sites of Kupp, Feils (sometimes referred to as Saarfeilser), and Schonfels, however they do make wines in the off-dry and sweet styles as well when the vintage conditions are perfect for them.

From a winemaking perspective, all viticulture is organic in nature and nearly all of the work is done entirely by hand thanks to the incredibly steep grades of the vineyards. After the fruit is hand-harvested, it arrives at the winery where fermentation is completely spontaneous and free of any non-native yeasts. What’s more, Weingut Peter Lauer maintains the practice of fermenting the same sites in the same barrel (fass/faß) vintage after vintage so that the same native yeasts can ferment the same point of origin (fruit) in a similar style. Each label is then labeled accordingly, such as the Faß 18 (Barrel 18) I am reviewing today. Lauer prefers slow fermentations with extended lees contact and bâtonnage (lees stirring) to add structure, while also eliminating their need for fining. The resulting wines are incredible representations of their terroir, and truly some of the finest being produced in the Saar.

Fun Fact: You can tell quite a bit from the Peter Lauer labels, perhaps in a much more unique manner than what’s typical. For instance, the circle in the center of each label can impart knowledge of quality, as the “village level” wines have a green circle and the Grand Cru wines a gold circle. Of course, the GG (Großes Gewächs) designation on the Grand Cru labels helps as well. You can also tell the sweetness level of the wine in a rather inconspicuous manner compared to how many producers may just put “Trocken” or “Spätlese” on their labels. For instance, the tiny circled “T” in the bottom center of my label today tells me this is a Trocken (dry) style. Peter Lauer will also show TF for Trocken to Feinherb (dry to off-dry) or simply F for Feinherb (off-dry). Any bottling without one of these designations can be presumed “fruity” or noble sweet.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Ayler Kupp Riesling Faß 18 Großes Gewächs

100% Riesling; 12.5% ABV

The 2019 Ayler Kupp Riesling Faß 18 Großes Gewächs is pale gold in color. This takes a few hours to come out of its shell, so I waited two hours for the first glass and drank it over the following two hours. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose offering up notes of white peach, apricot, green apple skins, lemon candy, honeysuckle, wet slate, and a hint of chopped grass. The flavors are also of pronounced intensity, while the palate showcases notes of lemon, green apple, white peach, chamomile, honeysuckle, slate, and stony mineral. The palate is also pretty herbal overall. This dry Riesling is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very good quality but needs probably another five years in the bottle.

Price: $60. There’s a solid value play here, but you need to be patient and lay this down. I like opening wines that are too young every once in a while, because they help teach me the progression of the aging process and help guide my decisions in stocking my collection. This Riesling offers great intensity, balance, and length at a young age so it’s one to keep on the radar.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Syrah With an Incredible Sense of Place but Missing a Few Key Components

Today’s Story: Marie et Pierre Bénetière

Marie et Pierre Bénetière is a very small family-owned and operated wine estate located in the Northern Rhône appellation of Condrieu. As a native of Condrieu, Pierre developed a love and passion for Viognier at a young age and set his sights on making wine for a career. Pierre’s first love was the wine of Domaine Georges Vernay, a legendary vigneron in the appellation who Pierre studied under at the start of his career. Though Pierre didn’t have a ton of money at the time, he purchased a small unplanted parcel on an incredibly steep hill in the very southern reaches of Côte-Rôtie to begin his namesake domain. Pierre spent years manually carving terraces into the rocks and planting vines, which he continues to do to this day. Over time, he was able to acquire a couple parcels in his beloved Condrieu and today owns 2.5 hectares (6 acres) between the two appellations.

Due to the incredibly steep hillsides of Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu, Pierre works entirely by hand in his vineyards as do practically all of his neighbors. From a winemaking perspective, Pierre follows rather traditional techniques including full stem inclusion with his Syrah and minimal SO2 adds throughout the process. A reserved and private man, Pierre maintains a small cellar for his wines where he produces Condrieu (Viognier) and Côte-Rôtie (Syrah) designated bottles. The Syrah portfolio includes two wines, the Cordeloux which I am reviewing today and the Dolium which is only made in the greatest vintages and when yields allow. Each Syrah bottling represents a distinct terroir of Côte-Rôtie, with the Cordeloux sourced from vines on the granitic Côte Blonde and the Dolium sourced from vines on the clay and iron rich Côte Brune.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cordeloux Syrah

100% Syrah; 12.5% ABV

The 2015 Cordeloux Syrah is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for three hours and tasted it along the way, though finished the bottle over a total of six hours. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black olive, bacon fat, forest floor, charred underbrush, truffle, cracked black pepper, a hint of smoke, and chocolate. There’s slight VA here as well, though not as bad as what other consumers have reported and not enough to make it unenjoyable to drink. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate offers up notes of brambly blackberry, black cherry, tobacco leaf, olive, mushroom, smoked meat, forest floor, crushed rock, cracked green peppercorn, and chocolate. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. While I got lucky due to the reported bottle variation and VA experiences, I was worried about this one the first hour or two of decanting. With such a young wine I’m concerned slightly by the lack of fruit, however the classic tertiary notes of Syrah found in this bottling are great for current drinking. Needs to be slightly better-balanced and more intense to warrant a very good or outstanding quality rating.

Price: $150. There’s a lot of good in this wine from an aroma and taste perspective, however I think by being slightly off-balanced, not very intense, and with a shorter finish than expected I can’t justify the price-point. Factoring in the reported bottle variation, this vintage seems like a gamble. All this being said though, there’s more than enough for me to like to encourage me to seek out other vintages of Bénetière.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

An Interesting Note on the 2015 Vintage:

You may have noticed on my label shot above, if you have a discerning eye, that it appears there are two labels on this bottle. For instance, you can see some of the font below overlapping the label above. In other vintages of this bottling, the label shows the AOC designation of Côte-Rôtie where the Syrah for this wine is planted. In the 2015 vintage, however, according to Chambers Street Wines the domaine filed paperwork for AOC designation too late and the wine could therefore not sell under the Côte-Rôtie AOC designation. Instead of peeling off all the original labels with this designation, a second label was placed over top with the lower designation of “Vin de France” coupled with the wine’s variety which is Syrah. Thinking it might make for an interesting keepsake or picture at the least, I partially peeled back the top label to reveal the below:

A Fun New Variety for Me

Today’s Story: Ciavolich

Ciavolich is a historic winery situated in the town of Miglianico in Italy’s Chieti provence, and they are dedicated to the indigenous varieties of Passerina, Cococciola, Pecorino, Trebbiano, and Montepulciano. The Ciavolich family traces their roots back to about 1500 when they were wool merchants of Bulgarian origin, though they migrated to Miglianico around 1560 to escape the Saracen invasion in their homeland. The family’s history with wine, however, came much later in 1853 when Francesco Ciavolich built the winery and cellars near his home. Though this winery still stands today as a testament to some of the earliest winemaking in Abruzzo, the family was forced out of their home in 1943 during an occupation by German soldiers just after harvest. Therefore, the 1943 harvest was the last by the family at their historic property. During the 1960s, though, the Ciavolich family inherited the 50 hectare (123 acre) estate of Loreto Aprutino in the province of Pescara from Donna Ernestina and they resumed winemaking. Giuseppe Ciavolich planted his vineyards here to Montepulciano, Trebbiano, and Cococciola. The estate remained in the family ever since, and beginning 2004 is under the guide of Chiara Ciavolich and her husband Gianluca.

Today the Ciavolich estate consists of two main vineyard sites in the towns of Loreto Aprutino and Pianella. In Loreto Aprutino, Chiara has 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyards with additional land dedicated to olive groves and arable land. This makes up the heart of the estate and its production. In Pianella, she has 15 hectares (37 acres) with six hectares planted to Montepulciano and one hectare planted to Pecorino. The rest is planted to olive groves. Chiara practices a modern take on the traditional winemaking practices of the region, working with a range of vessels that include stainless steel, oak, concrete, and terracotta amphorae. Her main line of wines goes through what she calls contemporary vinification, though Chiara makes sure to pay respect and transparency to the variety. Her Fosso Cancelli wines, on the other hand, follow more traditional practices such as spontaneous fermentation in the ancient vessels made of terracotta, oak, and concrete.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Aries Pecorino

100% Pecorino; 13% ABV

The 2020 Aries Pecorino is pale gold in color. After this opens up in the glass and comes up in temperature, the medium intense aromas on the nose include lemon zest, white peach, pear, mango, ginger, chamomile, mild green herbs, and crushed rock minerality. Meanwhile on the palate, the flavors are also of medium intensity while showcasing notes of pineapple, peach, tangerine, lemon zest, white floral, chopped grass, and marine mineral. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Good quality, as this is fairly delicate but it offers decent depth in a crisp and enjoyable wine.

Price: $20 (though this can be found for $15 depending on location). This offers decent QPR if you can find it at the $15, though I do also feel $20 is pretty fair. This is the first time I’ve tried Pecorino, and I look forward to giving more bottlings a try.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

Rather Youthful Showing for a Historic Port at 36 Years of Age

Today’s Story: Dow’s Port

Dow’s is one of the most highly-regarded producers of Port, with the family-owned house tracing its roots back to the year 1798. Bruno da Silva, who was a Portuguese merchant from Oporto, moved to London and created a wine importing business concentrated on the Port trade from his native land. He quickly rose to prominence both for his business acumen and the quality of his wines, however the Napoleonic Wars threatened to cut off the crucial trade routes for his Port. Not one to face defeat, Bruno applied for the right to arm his ships with guns and cannons to fend off enemies of the British Empire in the Bay of Biscay, and he was awarded the opportunity so his business could continue to flourish.

Bruno’s son, John da Silva, later joined the family business and proved himself to be equally savvy. In 1862, John forged a partnership with Frederick William Cosens and re-established their Port trading business as Silva & Cosens. Over time, as the business continued to prosper, the duo was joined by George Acheson Warre whose family had been a critical player in the Port trade since its earliest days. George helped lead Silva & Cosens to even more success in Portugal itself, and the team later merged with Dow & Co. in 1877. James Ramsay Dow, who ran Dow & Co. at the time, was highly regarded for his exceptional vintage Ports even though he wasn’t the largest house. Due to this reputation, when Silva & Cosens merged with Dow & Co. they chose to keep the entire company under the Dow name.

Dow’s experienced decades more of continued success under this partnership, growing into one of the most important names in Port that continues to this day. In 1912, though, Andrew James Symington held a partner position in Warre & Co. and, while the Warre family maintained a majority ownership in Dow’s, he was propositioned to take over Dow’s operations in Portugal to allow George A. Warre to return to London. At this time Andrew James Symington received a 30% stake in Dow’s, while he traded shares in Warre & Co. to George A. Warre. For nearly half a century, the Port trade continued to blossom as the Symington family managed the vineyards in Portugal and the Warre family managed the sales and import business, though the Symington family purchased full control of Dow’s in 1961. The Symington family maintains ownership of Dow’s to this day, alongside their other producers including Graham’s, Warre’s, and Cockburn’s.

Today’s Wine: 1985 Vintage Port

Blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, and Vinha Velha; 20% ABV

The 1985 Vintage Port is deep purple in color and nearly black at its core. Appearance here is quite youthful considering the age. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose offering up classic notes of plum, crème de cassis, blackberry compote, dried cherry, fig, brown sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, and the palate showcases a similar profile of plum, raisin, dried cherry, fig, cassis, mint, grilled herbs, caramel, and chocolate. This sweet wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. A very good Port showing quite well for its age, but overall nothing mind-blowing.

Price: $115. Given the age of this bottling and how well it showed on this occasion, I think this is a pretty solid price to give it a try. I will say, however, that I think you need to be cautious about provenance if you decide to purchase a bottle. This bottling came from remarkable provenance and sounds like it showed better than others who recently enjoyed it.

Incredibly Pure Expression of Pinot Noir From One of Burgundy’s Legends

Today’s Story: Domaine Denis Mortet

Domaine Denis Mortet is a very highly-regarded wine estate established in 1956 by Charles Mortet in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. Charles started with only one hectare (2.5 acres) of vines, though similar to many others around him he sold the majority of his fruit to merchant houses. Over time Charles’ holdings grew and his son Denis joined him during the 1980s to assist with winemaking. When Charles retired, Denis received 4.5 hectares (11 acres) of vineyards in the villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and Vougeot. Denis was well on his way to a gifted winemaking career, becoming lifelong friends with the great Henri Jayer and tasting with legendary Lalou Bize Leroy around the start of his own venture. He established Domaine Denis Mortet in 1992 alongside his wife Laurence, and the two set about expanding their holdings further.

Denis rose quickly to legendary status not just amongst wine consumers but with his peers in Burgundy. His attention to detail in his vineyards, where Laurence was also a huge help, was second-to-none as he prioritized quality over quantity and stopped using weedkillers and chemical pesticides in 1996. His resulting wines were also highly regarded due to their elegance, finesse, transparency of terroir, and ageability. Denis’ son Arnaud joined the family domaine in 2000, working closely with his father in the vineyards but throughout the entire winemaking process as well. Sadness struck, however, in 2006 with the far-too-soon passing of Denis and Arnaud took full control of winemaking.

At the time Arnaud took over, Domaine Denis Mortet consisted of about 11 hectares (27 acres) of vineyards in some of Burgundy’s best villages. Many of these holdings came to the family as other vignerons retired, largely because they knew that the Mortet family and its viticultural history would be perhaps the greatest possible stewards of the land. Since then, Laurence and her son Arnaud added an additional 5 hectares (12 acres) to the family domain and today their holdings total 16 hectares (39 acres) throughout the Côte de Nuits. In the year 2013, Arnaud’s sister Clémence joined the family business and Domaine Denis Mortet seems well set on remaining a Mortet family business for decades to come.

From a viticultural perspective, not much has changed under Arnaud in terms of attention to detail and rigorous care for the land. His biggest changes have been even more beneficial, including doing all work by hand with shears and eliminating machine use in the vineyards. Arnaud likes to say he utilizes 50% organic practices and 50% “reasonable” practices, including the minimized use of treatments for diseases and the like. In the cellar, Arnaud follows the practices he learned from his father but he is not one to shy away from experiments so long as they improve the quality of his wines. Arnaud, for instance, drastically increased the strict quality standards for sorting fruit when it arrives at the winery, and he even goes through the painstaking process of removing the center stems in his clusters for the whole cluster fermentations. Fermentation is accomplished using native yeasts in vats over the course of 15-20 days, and Arnaud minimizes punch downs to about five or six. He also uses less sulfur than his father, allowing the wines to be more enjoyable in their youth while maintaining the quality and structure for a long life in the bottle. Aging in the domain’s cellar lasts for about 16 to 18 months in oak, though Arnaud also greatly reduced the amount of new oak used during this process.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St-Jacques

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St-Jacques is medium ruby in color with shades of deep garnet. I gave this a three hour slow-ox in the bottle before pouring it into the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, muddled strawberry, blueberry, spiced plum, sweet tobacco, leather, licorice, gingerbread, crushed gravel, forest floor, black truffle, charred herbs, and clove. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate offers up notes of black cherry, blackberry, black plum, blueberry, violet, tobacco, leather, wet gravel, black truffle, olive, cola, vanilla, and clove. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) dusty tannin, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Outstanding quality and incredibly complex. 500 cases produced.

Price: $470 based on Wine-Searcher (we paid $190). Given the market pricing I found online, it’s very difficult to discuss value at this price-point. If you’re able to find this for around $200, however, then I think this offers great value. This wine is ridiculously complex and well-balanced, with a very long life ahead of it.

A Bold and Complex Masterpiece From One of Napa’s Most Historic Producers

Today’s Story: Louis M. Martini

Louis M. Martini is a historic Napa Valley winery, established in 1933 and one of the first after the repeal of Prohibition. Louis was born in Italy and, at the age of 12, left Genoa to join his father in San Francisco in 1899. The duo made their first wine together in 1906, upon which Louis was sent back to Italy to study winemaking as a profession. Once back in America, he established the L.M. Martini Grape Products Company in 1922 where he focused on the production of sacramental wine during Prohibition. By the middle of 1933, however, Louis expected the repeal of Prohibition and constructed his winery in St. Helena of the Napa Valley. Though the winery received its bond in September of that year, they could not produce wine until the end of the year when Prohibition was officially repealed.

After a few years, Louis expanded into Sonoma with the purchase of the Goldstein Ranch in 1938 and renamed the property to his Monte Rosso Vineyard. This site sits 1,000 feet up in the Mayacamas Mountains and still to this day produces some of the highest quality bottlings in the Martini lineup. Louis’ son Louis P. joined the family business as well, ultimately taking full responsibility as head winemaker in 1954. The winery then remained a family business for decades, with Mike Martini taking over as winemaker in 1977. In 2002, however, the Gallo family purchased the Martini winery and vineyards though not much changed as the two families were friends throughout several generations. In 2013, Michael Eddy took over the winemaking role and is the first non-family member of the Martini’s to make wine at this historic estate.

The Louis M. Martini portfolio of wines is quite robust, so I’d encourage you to explore the website here to learn more about their offerings. In addition to Monte Rosso, they source fruit from Stagecoach Vineyard, Cypress Ranch Vineyard, Sun Lake Vineyard, and Thomann Station Vineyard. While Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, Martini also produces wines with Merlot, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Source

Today’s Wine: 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Sirah; 14.9% ABV

The 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following two hours. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with a nose of crème de cassis, blueberry, plum, black cherry, redcurrant, licorice, violet, tobacco, graphite, scorched earth, underbrush, vanilla, clove, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate showcases notes of blackberry compote, blueberry pie, spiced black plum, black cherry, licorice, sweet tobacco, violet, thyme, charcoal, mushroom, gravel, mocha, and baking spice. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but silky tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Overall a very rich, intense, and concentrated wine of very good quality.

Price: $100 (I paid $28 five years ago). What really impresses me here is the intensity and depth of this wine. While I can’t necessarily call it great value for my palate at its current market price, the price I paid was an absolute steal. This is richer and more of a brute than what I typically go for, though I think this is a fantastic wine for knowing what it wants to be.

The Pinnacle of Blanc de Blanc Champagne

Today’s Story: Champagne Taittinger

Champagne Taittinger is a well-regarded and rather large Champagne house established in 1932 in Reims, France by Pierre Taittinger. Though the château and property came into Taittinger family ownership in 1932, the estate traces its roots back much further to the year 1734. In that year, Jacques Fourneaux started his wine business in Champagne by working with the Benedictine Abbeys who owned much of the finest vineyard land at the time. Following Pierre’s purchase of the estate from the house of Forest-Fourneaux, the Taittinger family began their incredibly run of producing some of the finest wines of the Champagne region. Pierre’s son François took over the family domaine in 1945, building out the cellars within 13th century chalk pits and expanding the vineyards. From then onward to the start of the 21st century, Taittinger became a Champagne house of the highest quality and of world renown. The estate remained in the family until 2005 when it was sold to the US private equity firm Starwood Capital Group, however the family re-purchased Champagne Taittinger shortly after.

Taittinger is well known for its Chardonnay-dominant wines, especially the Prestige Cuvée bottling of Comtes de Champagne. Today the family estate consists of 288 hectares (711 acres) of vineyards, of which roughly half is planted to Pinot Noir with Chardonnay and small holdings of Pinot Meunier accounting for the rest. Their own holdings make up for about half of the total production, though, so acting as a négociant Taittinger purchases the rest of its fruit from a number of growers with longstanding ties to the house. While the full Taittinger portfolio is rather robust, the top bottling of Comtes de Champagne (which I’m reviewing today) is worth isolating.

The Comtes de Champagne was introduced with the 1952 vintage as a Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) bottling of the highest magnitude. Fruit for this bottling comes mainly, if not entirely, from Grand Cru vineyards and winemaking, including use of oak, is meant to minimize an outside touch. Oak usage is meant solely to impart additive flavors such as brioche and nuts (almond, hazelnut, etc.), and the wines spend eight to ten years in the chalk pits before release. These wines are often said to be the best and purest expression of Blanc de Blanc Champagne, so without further delay…

Today’s Wine: 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne

100% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 1998 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is medium gold in color with delicate effervescence in the glass. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the complex nose offering up notes of baked yellow apple, Asian pear, white peach, lemon cream, crème brûlée, brioche, browned butter, white chocolate, hazelnut, and chalk. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of green apple, lemon meringue, lime zest, underripe pear, white floral, chalk, buttercream, brioche, and saline minerality. This dry Champagne is full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. This is an outstanding wine with at least another decade of optimal drinking, as it comes across quite youthful today.

Price: $280. Though there are certainly better “values” out there when it comes to Champagne, I think this is of the caliber to be worth its price. It has great complexity, depth, balance, and a long finish while being incredibly youthful and age-worthy. A great vintage for Comtes de Champagne.

Brunello di Montalcino With Great Typicity and a Solid Price-Point

Today’s Story: Azienda Agricola Altesino

Altesino is a well-known and fairly large producer of Brunello di Montalcino, established in 1970 in the northeastern hills of Montalcino in central Tuscany. Situated in the 15th-century Palazzo Altesi, the estate’s historic cellars remain in use today though the winery has since expanded to a larger production facility built into the hillsides behind the vineyards. The property today consists of 100 hectares (247 acres), though only half of this area is planted to vineyards. These vineyards are then subdivided into the six parcels of Altesino, Macina, Cerbaia, Montosoli (which is the first-ever Cru/single-vineyard bottling of Brunello di Montalcino), Pianezzine, and Velona. A majority of the vines are planted to Sangiovese for the production of Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, and Palazzo Altesi, however the property also contains Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Trebbiano, Malvasia, Vermentino, Chardonnay, and Viognier to round out a rather robust portfolio of wines.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Brunello di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 14.5% ABV

The 2011 Brunello di Montalcino is deep garnet in color. I decanted this for about an hour, allowing the wine to open with aromas of medium (+) intensity and a nose of bing cherry, black raspberry, redcurrant, red rose, anise, tomato leaf, leather, charred green herbs, dried earth, a hint of mushroom, and dried gravel. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate offering up notes of cherry, red plum, raspberry, dried strawberry, grilled red tomato, licorice, tobacco, charred herbs, crushed rock, a hint of smoke, and terracotta. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but tightly-knit tannin, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good quality and a great representation of the variety and region.

Price: $60. I think this offers pretty decent value for Brunello. The typicity here is top notch as this offers a very classical representation of Sangiovese and Brunello di Montalcino, all while being well-balanced and fairly complex relative to pricier bottles.

Premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Drenched in History

Today’s Story: Staglin Family Vineyard

Staglin Family Vineyard is a family-owned and operated wine producer located in the Rutherford AVA of California’s Napa Valley. The current estate was established by Shari and Garen Staglin in 1985, though this historic property on the Rutherford Bench traces its roots back much further. Back in 1864, John and Mary Steckter purchased 367 acres and planted the first grape vines on 60 acres surrounding their home. Ownership changed hands several times following John’s death in 1904, but came to a Texan gold and oil tycoon by the name of Frank Manley in 1922. Manley lived on the property with his family for several decades, ultimately selling the property to the Sullivan family in 1963 who, by marriage, had ties to the Latour family who owned Beaulieu Vineyard. The Sullivans sold the land containing the home, however they maintained ownership over the prune orchard where famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff converted the land to vineyards once again. Once up and running, fruit from this vineyard went toward BV’s premium Georges de Latour bottling until the Staglin family purchased the property in 1985.

Today the Staglin family owns just over 60 acres at their Rutherford estate, with roughly 51 acres planted to vineyards. While the focus here is on Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends, they also have Chardonnay and Sangiovese planted on the property. In 2002, the family completed construction of 24,000 square feet of state-of-the-art underground production facilities and caves to lighten their environmental impact and provide a proper resting place for their wines. The Staglin family’s premier wine is an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (often blended with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), though they produce an Estate Chardonnay as well which is rare for the AVA. Staglin also produces a range of wines under the name Salus, with these bottlings meant to be more approachable in their youth. Rooted in philanthropy, all proceeds from the Salus line are donated to fight schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot; 14.9% ABV

The 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following hour or two. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cassis, blackberry, black plum, redcurrant, cigar box, scorched earth, truffle, graphite, baking spice, light vanilla, and milk chocolate. Flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, while the palate offers up notes of black cherry, blackberry, crème de cassis, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, charcoal, charred herbs, vanilla, baking spice, and mocha. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium but silky tannin, high alcohol, and a long finish. Of very good quality, this powerful but not over the top Cabernet is both silky and elegant.

Price: $250. While it’s tough for me to call this a good “value,” the quality level here certainly puts this bottling into the correct pricing tier relative to premium Napa Valley Cabernet. The balance is nearly perfect here, while the wine offers up a very inviting drinking experience of great depth and length.