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Time to Buy Top Names from the 2014 Vintage in Bordeaux

2014 was a great vintage for the Cabernet Sauvignon based wines of the Left Bank. Although the Right Bank slightly under performed, there is no question, that overall this the best vintage since 2010. The three vintages proceeding the 2014’s were largely unremarkable and although 2009 and 2010 were true classics, most of the Classified Growths were overpriced in my opinion.

Given high pricing for the ’09’s and ’10’s I was somewhat resigned to the fact that I might need to move on from buying new release Bordeaux. After all the wines I really like need almost 20 years to mature and the release prices of most my favorites were prohibitive. Perhaps I would be better served to buy back vintages and roll the dice somewhat on provenance.

Fortunately for myself, and other consumers, three consecutive lackluster vintages served to dampen desire for Classified Growth Bordeaux. In order to move inventory prices decreased substantially for most Classified Growths. Coupled with a relatively stronger 2014 vintage, consumers are presented with a rare opportunity to buy top houses, from a fantastic vintage, at what seems to be discounted prices.

Below are the ’10 and ’14 prices for a few select wines:

’10 Montrose – $270  ’14 Montrose – $130

’10 Cos d’ Estournel – $225  ’14 Cos d’ Estournel – $130

’10 Lynch Bages – $190  ’14 Lynch Bages – $100

’10 Ducru Beaucaillou – $270  ’14 Ducru Beaucaillou – $130

Admittedly, in all cases the ’10’s are slightly better wines. Are they nearly twice as good as the pricing would suggest? I don’t think so. Given that prices appear to be back on the rise for the exceptional ’15 and ’16 vintages I think consumers have a chance to buy some of the very best Classified Growths at prices we may not see again for the foreseeable future. I’m buying all of the wines mentioned above and several other favorites. Happy hunting!

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2005 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée – Bottle Notes

2005 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the winning bottle in the June Installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

The family of Domaine du Pegau has roots in Châteauneuf-du-Pape dating back to the mid-17th century. The word Pegau refers to a wine jug discovered in the excavations of the 14th century Pope’s palace in Avignon. Today, the estate is run by the Paul Ferraud and his daughter Laurence. Domaine du Pegau owns 21 hectares of vines in Chateauneuf du Pape.

Light crimson in color. 14% ABV. Stunning nose of red fruits, kirsch, tar and lavender. Medium body with strong acidity. Clean, focused and pure. Balanced and fresh with silky tannins. Cherry, raspberry, garrigue and pepper on the palate. Medium length on the finish. This CdP is deceptively structured and powerful. In a good spot now but should cruise to 20 years of age.

My rating: 93 points.

Current vintages including the 2013 and 2014 can be found had for just about $50. Hard to go wrong with this iconic producer of CdP.

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The Week in Zinfandel (6/19/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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Wines People Love to Hate

There are no shortage of wines that collectors consider polarizing. Pegau for the often noticeable brett. Cayuse for the funky smells that I oh so love. Silver Oak for the dill pickle smell from American oak. Beyond these examples though there is a special pedestal for the most polarizing wines. Literally, the wines that collectors love to hate. The two poster child wines for this category are undoubtedly Kosta Browne and Quilceda Creek.

Any thread on a wine board about either of these producers draws out detractors who are only slightly less vociferous than your friend on Facebook who has to post about our current president every day of the week. Comments like “I dropped that list in 2009” or “I emailed the winery and told them to remove my name from the list” are somewhat commonplace on these threads. No one really cares, but the same individuals feel compelled to weigh in any time the wines are mentioned.

Kosta Browne was founded in 1997 by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. The first several vintages produced were rich, plush and hedonistic. They received very high scores from James Laube at the Wine Spectator. Despite the high scores the wines were criticized for not resembling Burgundy in any manner shape or form. Many questioned the ageability of the wines. Starting in 2007 or so the wines seem to have become more balanced and nuanced all the while still having this amazing fruit forward style that fans of Kosta Browne adore. Prices have steadily increased and the appellation wines now cost $68 and the SVD wines over $80. This is another point of contention for the naysayers. In spite of all this the waiting list at Kosta Browne is about as long as any list in California.

Quilceda Creek Vintners was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. The wines have always been well known in the state of Washington but it was a series of 100 points scores from the Wine Advocate in the early 2000’s that propelled Quilceda Creek to the very pinnacle of domestic Cabernet Sauvignon. Many detractors point to a clear change in style about the time the high scores started rolling in. The wines made pre 2002 were more old world in style with traditional Bordeaux like structure and taste. The 2002 vintage, and subsequent wines have been made in a fashion that many say catered to the Robert Parker crowd. Big, lush, hedonistic Cabernet with more of a blue fruit profile. The high scores led to increased demand and subsequently higher prices. The cost for their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon doubled over the course of a decade.

So what do these wines have in common? Both are tremendously successful and have received high praise from critics. Both have rightfully raised prices over time. Both clearly cater to a new world palate. I’m not sure any of this is bad or should draw the ire of a certain group of collectors. Perhaps early members of the winery mailing lists felt alienated as prices increased or styles changed? Either way I am not sure what compels them to weigh in every time either winery is mentioned. Life is short and wine should be fun. Please move on and let the rest of celebrate Kosta Browne and Quilceda Creek.

I blogged about Kosta Browne and Burgundy in Kosta Browne Does Not Taste Like Burgundy. Get Over It.

I blogged about Quilceda Creek price increases in An Open Letter to Quilceda Creek Winery.

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2009 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Mike and Kendall Officer. Their passion is clear: Small lots of Zinfandel and Syrah from exceptional, historic vineyards. Many of these vineyards are heritage sites planted by Italian immigrants and date back to the late 1800s . They have also recently added their first whites, two blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County’s first ever Grüner Veltliner.

Carlisle Vineyard was planted in 1927 by Alcide Pelletti on the eastern bench of the Laguna de Santa Rosa flood plain in the Russian River Valley.

Crimson in color. 15.2% ABV. Sublime nose of red and blue fruits, pepper and a hint of peach. Full bodied and bursting with acidity. Plush, opulent and so very smooth on the palate. Exceptional balance. Raspberries, boysenberries and Asian spices on the palate. The wine finishes strong. Glorious Zinfandel from one of the top old vine vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Current vintages of the various Carlisle wines are available via the mailing list, which is exceptionally long. Several retail outlets in California stock Carlisle, but you need to check with them at the time the winery releases their wines in the Spring and Fall.

I’ve wrote about Carlisle previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5 and The 2016 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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Pick My Next Bottle – 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The June Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

2005 was an exceptional vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Conditions were perfect and the vintage rivals other greats of the last 30 years including 1990 and 1998.

The Contenders:

  • 2005 Clos Saint-Jean La Combe de Fous – One of the candidates for the wine of the vintage is the extraordinary 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape La Combe des Fous (same blend and elevage). Probably the best cuvee of this wine yet made, the wine has a saturated purple color to the rim as well as an extraordinary nose of blackberry, blueberry, black truffle, incense, lavender, and a hint of graphite. The wine is remarkably concentrated, spectacularly pure, full-bodied, with amazing length of well over a minute. This wine is a ‘wow, wow’ sort of wine, a profoundly great Chateauneuf du Pape. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2025. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2005 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe – One of the most age-worthy cuvees in the appellation, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe’s 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape was gorgeous on this occasion, showing classic iodine, seaweed and peppery herbs intermixed with layers of sweet currant, plum and blackberry fruits. Full-bodied, powerful and ripe, with a still youthful profile, this beauty won’t hit full maturity for another 3-4 years, and should hold for a decade or more after that. 95 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2005 Domaine du Pégaü Cuvée Réservée– The 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee (normally a blend of approximately 80% Grenache and the rest Syrah and Mourvedre) exhibits a deep ruby/plum/garnet hue along with lots of grilled meat juices, roasted Provencal herbs, tar, blackberries and black currants. The wine is medium to full-bodied, still firm and tannic. It is those tannins that make the 2005 somewhat reminiscent of a tight, more austere-styled vintage such as 1995. The 2005 needs at least another 4-5 years of cellaring, and should last for 20 years or more. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Should I Open?

  • 2005 Domaine du Pégaü "Cuvée Réservée (41%, 17 Votes)
  • 2005 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe (37%, 15 Votes)
  • 2005 Clos Saint-Jean La Combe de Fous (22%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 41

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the July installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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1997 Pahlmeyer Merlot – Bottle Notes

Pahlmeyer was founded in the mid-1980s when Jayson Pahlmeyer, a Bay Area lawyer, decided he preferred thinking about wine over reading legal briefs. Pahlmeyer produced its debut vintage in 1986. Bibiana González Rave is the current winemaker. Wines produced at Pahlmeyer include the flagship Proprietary Red, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Fantastic nose of red fruits, chocolate and leather. Rich, plush and hedonistic. Full bodied with ample acidity. Cherries, cassis, spiced plums and tobacco on the palate. The finish is exceedingly long. For my money, one of the very best domestic Merlot’s ever produced. In a class with the ’92 Leonetti Merlot and the ’92 Beringer Howell Mountain Merlot Bancroft Ranch. Stunning wine and a treat at twenty years of age on Father’s Day. Drink soon.

My rating: 96 points.

It is worth noting that the wines Helen Turley made at Pahlmeyer from 1995-1997 are true benchmarks for California. I have a few bottles each of the ’96 and ’97 Proprietary Red that I look forward to opening in the next year or so.

Pahlmeyer wines are readily available at retail and via the winery. Current vintages of Pahlmeyer Merlot should set you back about $80. I’ve already secured a few bottles.

While we are at this, what is the best domestic Merlot you have ever had? I would love to see your comments below.

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The Week in Zinfandel (6/12/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2001 Argiano Solengo – Bottle Notes

Argiano dates back to the 16th century. The nearly 120 acres of vineyards are planted to Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah. The wines, both Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans, have routinely received outstanding scores. In 1992 Argiano was acquired by the Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano.

Solengo, which is Tuscan for “lone wild boar”, is the product of the combination between Tuscan soil and French grape-varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Syrah.

This bottle was decanted for an hour.

Blood red in color. 13.5% ABV. Glorious nose of red fruits, wet asphalt and rose petals. Light to medium body with acidity in spades. Elegant, graceful and perfectly aged. Dried cherries, currants, plums and earthy mushrooms on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with mouth drying tannins. An exquisite wine that is aging beautifully. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

I brought several bottles ’99 vintage of this wine back from Italy after visiting the Cinque Terra in 2001 and the label will always have a special place in my cellar. Current vintages can be found for around $75 and are well worth the hunt.

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2004 Domaine Saint Préfert Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve Auguste Favier – Bottle Notes

Domaine Saint Prefert dates back almost 100 years, to the early 1920’s, when Fernand Serre purchased an 80 hectare parcel of land. He founded Domaine Saint Prefert in 1930. The winery quickly earned a reputation for making high quality Chateauneuf du Pape and Domaine Saint Prefert became one of the first wines exported from the Southern Rhone to the United States. In 2002, Isabel Ferrando, a former banker who learned about winemaking in the Gigondas appellation at Domaine Raspail-Ay, purchased the vineyard and winery from the Serre family. Philippe Cambie is her consultant.

Ruby red in color. 14.5% ABV. Savory nose of red fruits, cedar and grilled meats. Medium body with ample acidity. Powerful yet restrained. Emblematic of the ’04 vintage with great, pure flavors but not in any way over the top. Cherries, garrigue, blood and kirsch on the palate. The finish is very long with silky tannins. This CdP has it all. Structure, fruit, tannins and acid. What a pleasure. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 93 points.

Consider buying current vintages including the ’13 and ’14 in the $40 to $50 range.

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