Tag Archives: pinot noir

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Expensive wine 82: Anne Amie Winemaker’s Select Pinot Noir 2012

Anne Amie winemaker's selectNothing illustrates the foolishness of the three-tier system more than the Anne Amie winemaker’s select. This Oregon producer isn’t especially big, and only has distribution in 39 states. Which means that those of you in the other 11, including Pennsylvania, can’t buy it.

Which is a shame, because the Anne Amie winemaker’s select ($24, purchased, 13.6%) is a steal, perhaps the best pinot noir at this price I’ve had since I started writing the blog. If nothing else, it is varietally correct. To find a pinot that tastes like pinot at this price is the equivalent of my beloved Chicago Cubs winning two or three World Series in a row, and they haven’t won one in more than 100 years.

And there is much more than varietal correctness. This is a beautiful and delightful Oregon-style pinot with zingy red fruit (very red cherry), a touch of bramble and blackberry on the nose, soft and relaxing tannins, and more oak than I thought. This wine is still very young, and the oak should fade into the background over time, letting the fruit show a little more. It also shows how a talented winemaker can work with a warm vintage to produce a balanced wine.

Highly recommended (though the price may be higher elsewhere), and another reason why Anne Amie is one of my favorite producers in the U.S. I just wish more people could buy its wines.

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Mini-reviews 80: Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau, Planet Oregon, Vistalba, Leese-Fitch

Drouhin Beaujolais NouveauReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month (though it posts today because of the holiday):

?Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): Better than the last couple of vintages of this French red, in which it tastes more like wine than grape juice. But it’s still too soft and too full of that off-banana flavor that marks poorly made Beaujolais Nouveau. One day, perhaps, these wines will again be worth drinking, and I’ll keep trying them to let you know.

?Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 ($20, purchased, 13.4%): There’s nothing really wrong with this Oregon red, other than I expected a bit more than it delivered. Look for lots of red fruit with some earthiness, but it’s light and too simple for $20 — even for pinot noir.

?Vistalba Tomero Torront s 2014 ($14, sample, 13%): This Argentine white is more sauvignon blanc than torrontes, with too much citrus and not enough of the soft white fruit that makes a dry torrontes so enjoyable. Having said that, it’s not unpleasant; it just doesn’t taste like torrontes. Given that, the price is problematical.

?Leese-Fitch Chardonnay 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Solid and dependable grocery store chardonnay from California that follows the same template every year — just enough green apple fruit, fake oak, and heavy-ish mouth feel to taste the way it should, and consistency is a virtue when you’re standing in front of the Great Wall of Wine on your way home from work.

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Thanksgiving wine 2015

thanksgiving wineThis year’s “Why did they bother?” Thanksgiving wine press release offered two roses, costing $65 and $100, as the perfect holiday wines. We’ll ignore for the moment that the point of rose is to cost much less than that; rather, why would anyone need or want to pay that much money for wine for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the greatest wine holiday in the world because it isn’t about money or showing off, but because it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the food and the wine.

Needless to say, my suggestions for Thanksgiving wine cost much less and almost certainly offer more value. Guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

? King Estate Pinot Noir 2013 ($26, sample, 13.5%): I tasted this Oregon red at an American Wine Society dinner, where we also had a $160 California red. Guess which one I liked best? This is is not to take anything away from the California red, but to note the King Estate’s quality and value, and especially for pinot noir — lighter but with a touch of earthiness, cherry and raspberry fruit, and a wonderful food wine. Highly recommended.

? Pierre Sparr Cr mant d’Alsace Brut R serve NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): Sophisticated sparkling wine from France’s Alsace that got better the longer it sat in the glass, and which surprised me with its terroir and sophistication. Look for stoniness and minerality with ripe white fruit.

? Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2013 ($26, sample, 13,5%): This California red is my favorite Randall Grahm wine, not necessarily because it’s better than any of the others, but because of what it is — syrah that somehow combines New World terroir with old world style. Lots of black fruit, soft tannins, and that wonderful bacon fat and earthy aroma that makes syrah so enjoyable.

?Domaine Fazi le De Beaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): A Corsican rose made with a grape blend that includes sciaccarellu, the best known red on the French island. Maybe a touch thin on the back, but an otherwise more than acceptable rose with a little tart red fruit and that Mediterranean herbal aroma known as garrigue. And yes, I’d take 10 bottles of this over any $100 rose.

? Muga Rioja Blanco 2014 ($13, sample, 13%): Spanish white made with mostly viura has some oak, tropical fruit, and refreshing acidity, and why the Spanish don’t bother with chardonnay. Muga is one of my favorite Spanish producers, and almost everything it makes is affordable, well-done, and worth drinking.

More about Thanksgiving wine:
?Thanksgiving wine 2014

? Thanksgiving wine 2013
? Thanksgiving wine 2012

 

wine closures

Chehalem, pinot noir, and screwcaps

chehalem pinot noirScrewcaps, say the purists, don’t let wine age. Harry Peterson-Nedry has a PowerPoint presentation that says otherwise. And who says Microsoft products are useless?

Peterson-Nedry is the co-owner and long-time winemaker at Oregon’s Chehalem Wines, where screwcaps have been used to close pinot noir, chardonnay, and its other varietals since the end of the last century. As such, Peterson-Nedry, a former chemist, has tracked more than 15 years of wine, complete with data, charts, and graphs. Or, as one of the slides last week mentioned: “absorbents at 420 nanometers.” In other words, a rigorous, scientific look at how well Chehalem’s wines aged under screwcaps.

The result? Quite well, actually, if different from the way wines age with natural and synthetic corks. And, if we didn’t believe — or understand — the science, we tasted three five-wine flights of Chehalem labels — the winery’s $29 Three Vineyards pinot noir from 2009 to 2013, the same wine from 2004 to 2008, and Chehalem’s stainless steel $18 Inox chardonnay from 2004 to 2014. Tasting made believers of us all, even those who may have been skeptical about Peterson-Nedry’s research.

The highlights from the slide show and tasting (without too much science) are after the jump: Continue reading