Category:Expensive wine

Anyone can write a wine review 3

My brother Jim, as noted, is a wine aficionado of some repute, though he hangs out in much more rarefied wine circles than I do. So, when Jim emailed that he was opening a bottle of vintage Cristal for New Year's Eve, I asked him to send his impressions about the wine and I would post them. (Yes, I know I banned Roederer wines from the blog, but I can make an exception for my brother.)

His thoughts on the 1990 Cristal (and a new feature that will appear occasionally — Wine my brother drinks):

"Out of the bottle it looked normal — noticeably different pressure release, an errant cork may get to the ceiling, maybe, but the bubbles rose in the glass when poured. First sniff was almost sour, not unpleasant but not expected. Didn't know what to expect, really.

"First sip I tasted on the roof of my mouth and in my sinus — big, slightly sour but fruity. The majority of the folks who had an opinion deemed it sour apples, and I agree. Really smooth, and if I knew what a 'velvety mouth feel' was I might employ it here. Plenty of carbonation to keep the party in the glass going, all in all a big hit. I don't know that letting it sit for 20 years made it any better, certainly different, but it was a treat to try something that was really well made and not something you see everyday."

Expensive wine 21: Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Another reminder why points are worthless.

The Grgich ($60, sample) is a gorgeous, beautiful wine with all elements in balance, and it's only going to get better as it ages. It's a lesson in winemaking — how to produce a Napa Valley cabernet that speaks to the terroir without the excesses (too much oak, too much fruit) that drive so many of us crazy.

So what scores did this wine get? How about 89 points from something called the Connoisseur's Guide? How about 92 from the Spectator? I've got $10 wines that score that well. To add insult to injury, Robert Parker wrote: ".. high acids and high tannin give the wine a monochromatic, clipped, lean character that will not age out. Rather, the wine is likely to dry out."

All of that negativity, of course, is because the Grgich is a gorgeous, beautiful wine without any of the excesses that drive so many of us crazy and that earn the wines with the excesses such high scores. Look for black cherries and a rich, long finish without any of the sweetish fruit that the excess wines display — and, at the risk of offending Mr. Parker, this wine is not going to dry out.

This is a holiday wine for prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, or nuy it as a gift for someone you really like and who will really appreciate it. And, thanks to the recession, it's available for as little as $45 at a variety of Internet retailers.

Chris De Burgh’s wine collection

Dear Mr. De Burgh:

I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of your music. It's a little too pop for me, and I'm a punk and New Wave kind of guy (though Working Girl, which featured your hit "Lady in Red," wasn't bad). But, apparently, we have wine in common.

Decanter magazine reports that you are going to sell your wine collection, which contains some of the finest wines in modern history. It includes Lafite 1945, Latour 1961, Mouton 1982, Cheval Blanc 1978, and Margaux and La Mission Haut Brion '61. Your reason? You told the magazine that it would be a "sacrilege" to open the wines and drink them.

That's your privilege, of course, though the Wine Curmudgeon has always been puzzled when people buy wine but don't drink it. Having said that, however, I'd like to offer my help in disposing of your collection.

These are not only exquisite wines (my one and only Cheval Blanc tasting was amazing), but they're wines that 99 percent of wine drinkers will never taste, including those of us who do it professionally. So I have a proposal for you.

The blog's third birthday is next month, and I have a variety of events planned to celebrate. I'll give away some wine, and Sony Music has donated some classical CDs to the cause. The blog has been a huge success since I started it in November 2007, and I always like to thank my visitors and readers for their help. So what about using one of your wines for the party? It doesn't have to be a '45 or '61, or even one of the 1982s. Anything you think is fair will be fine with me.

I can't pay you what it's worth, obviously (one of the things that goes with being a punk and New Wave kind of guy no doubt). But I can offer you some Texas wine in exchange, plus the vast amount of publicity this will bring. I understand you have a new record to promote?

Let me know if we can work something out.


Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon

Expensive wine 19: Grange 2005

The setting was Fearing's, the restaurant in Dallas' Ritz-Carlton hotel that is run by Dean Fearing, one of the top celebrity chefs in the country and where you can drop $100 a person for dinner without even thinking about it. The Ritz, of course, is the Ritz. And, if that wasn't enough, some of Dallas' top wine collectors would arrive in a few minutes to attend a re-corking clinic for their vintage bottles.

Which just goes to how dedicated the Wine Curmudgeon is to his craft. I was about as far as possible from my $10 wine. But this was a chance to taste Penfold's Grange ($500, sample), an Australian shiraz blend that is one of the world's great wines. And how often does that happen?

I needn't have worried. Winemaker Peter Gago, like so many Australians, is not overwhelmed with his self-importance. How many California (or even French) winemakers who make super-premium wine would have had a thoughtful discussion about whether a $500 wine was worth $500? How many would have said, as Gago did, that the wine business needs to do more to educate consumers — to demystify how wine works. "We have a challenge globally," he said, "about spreading the word about wine, and at whatever level of wine we make."

So how was the wine? Impressive, if not nearly ready to drink. Much Australian wine is loud and boisterous, with concentrated fruit and high alcohol. It slaps you on the back. The Grange, on the other hand, was almost unfriendly, as if it wanted to size you up first. The fruit was there, and in another five or 10 years will start to show itself. Gago says the wine is hiding a lot up its sleeve, to be revealed as it ages. In all of this, the Grange truly is a great wine, a bottle to be appreciated not for immediate pleasure but for what it will become.

Expensive wine 18: Ojai Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard 2005

This Ojai syrah is yet another example of the recession helping consumers. When it was released a couple of years ago, list price was $55. Search the cyber ether today, and you’ll find it for as little as $35.

Which is quite a value, since the wine wasn’t especially overpriced at $55. That’s because I’ve always been impressed by Ojai, a small, family-owned producer on the Central Coast that makes wines that avoid many of the pitfalls of its more famous brethren in Napa and Sonoma. They’re balanced and relatively moderate, yet still showcase the rich fruit that California is famous for.

The syrah (sample) is a complex wine that will only get better as it ages, and it should do that quite nicely over the next four or five years. It offers the classic syrah aroma of bacon fat at first sniff, but that gives way over time to dark berry fruit. The wine itself is ripe and juicy (blackberry, perhaps?) and its finish is long and steady, without any of the overly pronounced tannins that similarly-priced syrahs and shirazes have. This is red meat wine as the weather turns cooler, something to drink with a special Saturday night dinner.

Expensive wine 17: Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV

The Wine Curmudgeon held out as long as he could. But the most important special occasion of the year was coming up, and the fact that Ruinart’s price, thanks to the weak dollar and the shortsighted Champagne business, had increased by 16 percent in 18 months was no excuse.

Sometimes, even I have to admit that spending a lot of money for a bottle of wine is worth it. The Ruinart ($84, purchased) was everything it has always been, and even a little more. The bottle was gone in 45 minutes, despite our best efforts to make it last. And I swear that the wine changed at least three times during that period. It was bit tight but still excellent when we opened it, becoming more caramel after 20 minutes or so. And then, when there was but two glasses left, it delivered bright and amazing pear fruit followed by some kind of lemon something or other.

This is sparkling wine to celebrate with, even at this price. Highly recommended. And the food pairing? Popeye’s fried chicken, actually. It worked quite well (as I always told my students it would). And if Popeye’s isn’t what it once was, it’s still worth reckoning with.

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Expensive wine 16: Freestone Pinot Noir 2007

One of the things the Wine Curmudgeon likes to do when tasting wine, assuming I can't taste it blind, is to taste it without knowing how much it costs. That way, I won't pre-judge it based on price, something that works too ways. If I know a wine is expensive, I expect a lot — sometimes too much. And if I know a wine is cheap, I don't expect too much — sometimes not enough.

So, for a recent weekday dinner, I pulled the Freestone ($55, sample) out of the wine closet. All I knew, because it was was from Freestone, was that it was more than $20 or $30. And it is a well-made wine, subtle and sophisticated and elegant, with cherry fruit and balanced acid. It was a welcome relief in this age of tannic, alcoholic and unbalanced pinots that are made to get high scores and not necessarily to be pinot.

But it was $55. Wow. Is that what pinot has come to, when it costs that much money for a quality bottle of wine?

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