Category:Expensive wine

Expensive wine 125: Two Bruno Paillard Champagnes

bruno paillard champagneYes, they cost a lot of money. But these two Bruno Paillard Champagnes show that not all expensive wine is overpriced

Champagne long ago stopped being priced reasonably, its cost hostage to the Champagne business’ hubris and demand from Asia. Even a very ordinary bottle, barely worth drinking, can cost $40. So when I tasted two Bruno Paillard Champagnes last week, offering finesse and elegance at a fair price, it was time to write a blog post

The Extra Brut Premiere Cuvee NV ($50, sample, 12%) and the Extra Brut Premiere Cuvee Rose NV ($60, sample, 12%) are reminders that expensive wine does not have to be overpriced. (Quick note: Only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne. See the blog’s Champagne and sparkling wine primer.)

Neither is cheap, but both offer quality comparable to more costlier bottles – and, frankly, they’re much more interesting. One reason? Paillard blends old wine saved for the purpose into the current wine, giving them an almost honeycomb character. Plus, this is a family business that does things its way.

The Premiere Cuvee is not quite grower Champagne, but it’s not the same $45 bottle sitting on liquor store shelves, either. Look for a light, fresh approach to the wine, minus the yeasty character so many other wines strive for. There is crisp apple and even some lemon fruit, courtesy of the chardonnay in the blend (even though the wine is about 45 percent pinot noir).

The rose is even more appealing (which, given the price, should tell you how much I enjoyed it). Again, even though there is probably more pinot noir in the blend, there is enough chardonnay to make it much fresher than you think it whould be. The cherry fruit is complex – something deeper and more subtle than the usual produce department cherry flavor. Highly recommended.

Imported by Serendipity Wine Imports

Expensive wine 124: Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Beringer private reserveThe Beringer private reserve cabernet shows off the style that made this kind of wine famous

The wine closet continues to offer surprises – witness the high-powered Beringer private reserve, a Napa red. This was a sample from the long ago recession, when producers were so eager to move product that they even sent pricey bottles to me.

The Beringer private reserve ($115, sample, 14.5%) has aged barely at all in that decade. It’s still a huge wine, with rich and luscious black fruit. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have tasted like if I had opened it when I got it.

And, though the wine isn’t subtle, it’s not overpowering. The structure is round and supple, and if there aren’t layers of flavor, it’s much more than a one-note wine. There are very relaxed tannins hiding in the back, and all that fruit isn’t especially cloying. Despite the high alcohol, it’s not noticeable until you’ve finished the bottle. So it does need food as big as it is.

In this, it’s an excellent example of the style of Napa cabernet so beloved by critics who give points, retailers who use points to sell wine, and wine drinkers who buy wine according to price and points.

Expensive wine 123: Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2016

The Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir shows California’s Anderson Valley to its best advantage

My friend, the New Orleans wine judge, critic, and radio host Tim McNally, regularly rants about the decline in pinot noir quality and value. Tim would rant less if he tasted the Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir.

The Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir ($40, sample, 13%) is red wine from California’s Anderson Valley, one of the world’s great – if less known – pinot noir regions. The best Anderson Valley pinot noirs are more restrained than many of their New World colleagues, sitting somewhere between France’s Burgundy and Oregon in style. Which is a damn fine place to sit.

The Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir is classic Anderson Valley pinot – earthy with spice and green herbs in the front, almost silky dark berry fruit, elegant tannins (perhaps the most interesting part of the wine), and wonderfully restrained oak. All in all, this is a New World pinot noir that isn’t too big or too overpowering, yet still tastes like the New World and not a lesser Burgundian knockoff.

Highly recommended, and given the price of very ordinary California pinot, a fine value. Drink it with any sort of lamb (crusted with a garlic and herb paste, perhaps?) or a Mediterranean vegetable platter marinated with herbs, garlic, and olive oil.

Mini-reviews 123: Sauvignon blanc, Trader Joe’s merlot, chambourcin, mencia

Trader Joe'sReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Luis Felipe Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Autoritas 2018 ($8, purchased, 12%): Something very odd going on with this Chilean white — either that, or lots of winemaking to get it to some point I can’t figure out. Not especially Chilean in style, with barely ripe grapes and almost no fruit at all — just some California style grassiness. Imported by Pacific Highway

Trader Joe’s Merlot Grower’s Reserve 2017 ($6, purchased, 13%): This California red, a Trader Joe’s private label, is a bit thin on the back and a little too tart. Plus, the residual sugar shows up after three or four sips. Having said that, it’s easily one of the most drinkable and varietally correct wines I’ve had from TJ — for what that’s worth.

Oliver Winery Creekbend Chambourcin 2016 ($22, sample, 13.4%): Professionally made and varietally correct, this Indiana red shows how far regional wine has come. I wish it showed more terroir and less winemaking — it too much resembles a heavier wine like a cabernet sauvignon and it doesn’t need this much oak.

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%): There are quality grapes in this Spanish red, which is the best thing about it. Otherwise, it’s a very subdued approach to the mencia grape, taking out much of the darkness, earth, and interest. And $17 is problematical.

Photo: “Coburg wine cellar tour” by hewy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Expensive wine 122: Ridge Lytton Springs 2016

ridge lytton springsThe Ridge Lytton Springs zinfandel blend speaks to quality and value in the finest California tradition

The premiumization debate should not obscure the fact that there are expensive wines that deliver value and quality. Perhaps the foremost of those is anything from Ridge, the California producer that has been the watchword of the faith for anyone who believes in value and quality. As evidence, we have the Ridge Lytton Springs.

The Ridge Lytton Springs ($45, purchased, 14.4%) reminds us of everything that is possible with California wine. It speaks to terroir and to Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley and its particular style of earthiness. It speaks to aging – this wine, ready and delicious now, has at least a decade of life in it, when it will become rounder and less ripe and much more interesting.

Best yet, as with all Ridge wines, it shows the rich, ripe style of California, but done with structure and and almost elegance. Look for dark fruit (black cherry? black raspberry?), a wonderfully peppery middle, and one of best uses of oak I’ve tasted in years on the finish. Plus, the tannins are not an afterthought, as with so many zinfandels (even expensive ones), but an integral part of the wine.

This isn’t a swaggering Lodi zinfandel. The fruit and alcohol aren’t piled on for show, like frat boys seeing who can chug the most beer. Rather, the Ridge Lytton Springs is rich and ripe because zinfandel produces rich and ripe wine. And because it’s a blend (four grapes, including some two-thirds zinfandel and one-quarter petite sirah), winemaker John Olney can use the blending process to make the sum greater than the parts.

Highly recommended. I decanted this about a half hour before dinner, which seemed about right. It’s a food wine, but not just red meat. I served it with roasted pork shoulder studded with rosemary and garlic, which worked more than well.

Mini-reviews 122: Albarino, Chianti, Viura, Eberle Cotes-du-Robles

Eberle Cotes-du-RoblesReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Lagar de Cervera Albarino 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white offers $12 worth of value, and it’s not especially albarino like. It’s a little soft wiithout the citrus zip, not all that savory, and not especially fresh. Very disappointing. Imported by Golden State Wine Co.

Renzo Masi Chianti Rufina 2018 ($15, sample, 13%): Very ordinary Italian red, made in a soft, fruity, less tart New World style so that it lacks all of the things that make Chianti interesting. Meh. Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Azul y Garanza Viura 2017 ($10/1-liter, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white missing the lemony snap and crackle that viura should have. The same producer’s tempranillo is much more interesting. Having said that, the viura is more than drinkable and the price is terrific. Imported by Valkyrie Selections

Eberle Cotes-du-Robles Rouge 2017 ($34, sample, 14.1%): You get exactly what you pay for — rich, full and well-made Paso Robles red blend that has structure and restraint. But since it’s Paso, that means very ripe black fruit that keeps coming and coming.

Expensive wine 121: Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet 2013

Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet The Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet is young white Burgundy in all its glory

Wine is known for making food taste better, but it can also improve the ambiance of a meal. This has little do with the alcohol; rather, it’s about the quality of the wine and how its enjoyment makes everything else seem better. Which is exactly what the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet did recently.

The Big Guy wanted to have wine with lunch, which meant we had to eat at the blog’s unofficial BYOB restaurant. The catch, as we discussed on the drive there, was that the food had been ordinary lately and the service worse. It’s not asking too much to be greeted politely at a restaurant, is it? And especially when you eat there as often as we do?

Not to worry, The Big Guy told me. I have some Puligny, and all will be well. And he was exactly correct – the Henri Clerc Puligny-Montrachet ($50, purchased, 13.5%) smoothed out all the rough edges, and I remember the wine much more than I remember the rest of the lunch.

The Clerc is the kind of wine that reminds us why French wine is French wine, if only because the estate dates to the 16th century. The wine itself — chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy is young. The term is “nerovisite” – sort of like a teenager who can’t sit still. As such, it should open and become more elegant and richer as it ages over the next decade. Now, though, it’s delightful – lots of fruity acidity (crisp pear, pleasantly tart pineapple?); full through the middle; and lots and lots of the wonderful Puligny minerality on the finish.

Highly recommended, and just the gift for Father’s Day if Dad wants something other than a big, red, and fruit bomb-y wine.

Imported by Vos Selections