Category:Expensive wine

Expensive wine 88: Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignonm 2013

Penfolds Bin 407The post-modern Australian wine business deals in more irony than a pulp detective story has bad similies. One of the most ironic is that Penfolds, for decades the best known and among the best Aussie producers, is owned by Treasury Wine Estates, which is giving new meaning to the term Big Wine.

Somehow, Penfolds still makes great wine. I’ve been lucky enough to taste the Grange, generally considered the greatest Australian wine, and it is. The Bin 407 ($57, sample, 14.5%), which costs about $500 less than The Grange, shows how committed Penfolds remains to quality.

Look for that unique style of Aussie black fruit – deep and rich and generous and sweet, but because it’s Penfolds, not overdone and surprisingly in balance. Also, layers and layers of other flavors, including lots of pepper and spice. The tannins, too, are firm, and don’t disappear in a wave of fruit.

Highly recommended, and especially for any fathers who appreciates cabernet. The wine is still a little young, but is ready to drink now, and would pair with almost any Father’s Day barbecue.

Mother’s Day wine 2016

Mother's Day wineWelcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s 10th annual Mother’s Day wine post, in which the point has always been about finding something to make Mom happy. It’s funny how often that doesn’t happen in wine, isn’t it?

As always, the most important piece of advice to make that possible? Buy Mom a Mother’s Day wine gift that she will like, and not something that you think Mom should like because you know more about wine than she does. In other words, if Mom likes sweet white, then buy her the best sweet white you can find, and don’t worry about whether it’s a proper wine for her to drink.

These Mother’s Day wine suggestions should get you started doing just that – and all are highly recommended:

Domaine Robert Sérol Turbullent NV ($18, sample, 8.5%): This rose sparkling wine, made with the gamay grape from a less well known part of the Loire in France, is one of those wines that most of us are afraid to try because it’s so different. So take my word for it: Terrific Mother’s Day bubbly, with raspberry fruit, tight bubbles, and surprisingly dry given the lack of alcohol.

Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Petit Chablis ($20, purchased, 12.5%): Delicious and almost affordable white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Chablis area in the Burgundy region of France) that is varietally correct – a rich mouth feel, wonderful lemon fruit, hints of white spice, and an almost nutty flavor mixed in with all the rest. A good introduction to Chablis for someone who drinks mostly California chardonnay.

Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): Given how many roses – even from the Old World – are amping up the fruit this vintage because some focus group said they should, the Bieler remains what a great Provencal rose should be: Tart raspberry fruit, crisp and refreshing, and always enjoyable. There is even a hint of what the French call garrigue – an almost herbal aroma from the flowers and herbs growing near the vineyards.

Alois Lageder Schiava 2014 ($15, purchased, 12%): A fascinating wine from one of my favorite Itlalian producers made with the odd schiava grape. It produces a light, spicy, fruity (berry?) red wine with few tannins. Somewhere between gamay and pinot noir, but truly its own wine and one that should please both red and white drinkers.

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2015
Mother’s day wine 2014
Expensive wine 86: Jansz Premium Cuvee NV
Wine of the week: Banfi CollePino 2014

Expensive wine 87: Jansz Premium Cuvee NV

Jansz Premium CuveeTasmania, the island off the southern coast of Australia, is one of the least known wine regions in the world, and Tasmanian sparkling wine suffers because of that. Which is too bad, because, the wine doesn’t suffer from a lack of quality. Case in point: The Jansz Premium Cuvee ($30, sample, 12%).

Tasmania is colder than most of Australia, a climate that allows it to produce grapes that don’t do as well in the rest of the country and to make lighter, fresher wines. In the case of the Jansz Premium Cuvee, that means chardonnay and pinot noir, using Methode Champenoise (or, as some of the Tassies – love that Aussie slang – call it, Methode Tasmanoise) to produce a crisp, yeasty, and delightful bubbly.

Look for a creaminess that you usually don’t get with New World sparklers, plus pear and green apple fruit and a dash of berry from the pinot noir. The oak is restrained, complementing the wine and not dominating it. Highly recommended, and an ideal choice for Mother’s Day whether as gift or for brunch with Eggs Benedict or crepes stuffed with scrambled eggs.

Expensive wine 86: Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2004

Latour Corton Grand CruIt has always been difficult to understand the post-modern French haste to sell their wine birthright to anyone who will pony up too much money for a mediocre product. Why make overpriced plonk to get a high score when you can do it the right way and make something that has amazed the world for centuries?

Case in point is the Latour Corton Grand Cru ($365, sample, 14%), which is everything French wine has been and should be. This is red Burgundy, pinot noir from the Corton section in Burgundy, and any discussion of Corton involves hundreds of years of history and which particular spot on a hill in Corton the grapes came from. If that’s the starting point, why do you need anything else?

I tasted this wine at the Sunday night dinner for Critics Challenge judges, attended by the handful of us who have to stay an extra night. The judges bring wine (I brought some Texas, of course, which was well received), and competition organizer Robert Whitley adds some from his cellar. This came from Robert, and it was the kind of wine that makes you pause after a sip to wonder how it’s possible to make that kind of wine.

The Latour Corton Grand Cru was earthy and dark, but because 2004 was a warm vintage, it also had more red fruit than I expected. Yet those descriptors are almost useless, because this wine won’t be ready to drink for at least five or six years, and probably longer. That means it’s certainly delicious now, but hasn’t aged long enough to bring the whole into focus, and is too young for the various components to have come together. The best analogy I can think of? Marinating a piece of beef or chicken, where the ultimate goal is not to taste the marinade, but to make the beef or chicken taste better.

Highly recommended, and don’t worry too much about the price. That has been skewed by demand in Asia, where a bottle costs more than five times what it costs in Europe. I found this wine for €44 France, about US$60. Not cheap, but more than fair considering what you get.

Expensive wine 85: J. Christopher Dundee Hills Cuvee Pinot Noir 2012

 J. Christopher Buying pinot noir may be the most difficult thing in wine. It’s expensive, and since there are so many styles, you’re not sure if what you’re spending all that money for will be wine that you want to drink. Which is where the J. Christopher, an Oregon pinot nor from the Willamette Valley, comes in. It does everything an Orgeon pinot is supposed to do, and it’s fair value for the price.

The J. Christopher ($39, purchased, 13.8%) is, if not spectacular, well made and well put together. Look for fragrant black cherry fruit, some much welcome savory herbs, a bit of minerality toward the back, and just enough earthiness so you can say the earthiness is there. It’s not as fruity or rich as as California pinot noir, and it’s not as subtle as red Burgundy, but it is interesting and enjoyable.

Pair this with traditional pinot noir dishes, whether roast lamb or grilled salmon. It’s probably not going to get much better over time, so drink now.

Expensive wine 84: J. Christopher Dundee Hills Cuvée Pinot Noir 2012

 J. Christopher Buying pinot noir may be the most difficult thing in wine. It’s expensive, and since there are so many styles, you’re not sure if what you’re spending all that money for will be wine that you want to drink. Which is where the J. Christopher, an Oregon pinot nor from the Willamette Valley, comes in. It does everything an Orgeon pinot is supposed to do, and it’s fair value for the price.

The J. Christopher ($39, purchased, 13.8%) is, if not spectacular, well made and well put together. Look for fragrant black cherry fruit, some much welcome savory herbs, a bit of minerality toward the back, and just enough earthiness so you can say the earthiness is there. It’s not as fruity or rich as as California pinot noir, and it’s not as subtle as red Burgundy, but it is interesting and enjoyable.

Pair this with traditional pinot noir dishes, whether roast lamb or grilled salmon. It’s probably not going to get much better over time, so drink now.

Expensive wine 83: Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2011

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte BlancIs any wine worth $100 a bottle? That’s the question the Wine Curmudgeon has been agonizing over since I started this wine thing all those years ago, and I still don’t know that I have an answer. But I do know how much fun it was to taste the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2011 ($100, sample, 13%) to try to find the answer.

The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is a beautiful wine, a white Bordeaux that takes what most of us know about that blend and says, “Close your eyes, taste this, and don’t say anything quite yet.” There is so much going on, so many layers of flavor — lemon, honey, almonds, spring flowers, peaches, minerality — that I don’t even know where to start to describe it. It’s also very young; the layers overlap and nudge each other, each vying for attention. Eventually — two years? three? four ? — they’ll start to blend, and the wine will be that much more impressive.

Finally, a word about oak. Regular visitors here know how I feel, that oak should be part of the wine and not its reason for being. Also, white Bordeaux, given that it’s made with sauvignon blanc, is difficult to oak well. The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc turns all of that on its head, and the oak is another layer that adds quality, flavor, and complexity — and it too, will eventually blend into the whole.

Highly recommended, and a wonderful gift for anyone who loves and cares about wine. And if you do taste it, let me know if it answers the $100 question.