Tag Archives: expensive wine

Expensive wine 114: Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albarino 2016

nanclares dandelion albarinoThe Nanclares Dandelion albarino is not only worth what it costs, buts shows how stunning an albarino can be

The Wine Curmudgeon paid $23 for the Nanclares Dandelion albarino, and I will pay it again. And again. And again. It’s not only worth the money, but it’s one of the best albarinos I’ve ever tasted. It puts most of those $17 and $18 albarinos – which sell only because the grape has become hip and with it – to shame.

The Nanclares Dandelion albarino ($23, purchased, 13..5%) is savory and salty in a way that other albarinos can only dream about, even though that’s one of their reasons for being. The albarino grape, used to make this white wine, is grown in the Rias Baizas in on Spain’s Atlantic coast, and it’s accepted as fact that the location lends an oceany, almost saline flavor to the wine.

Most albarinos, including several highly regarded ones, focus on tart lemon fruit, and the savory character is a second thought. In this wine, though, the lemon fruit is in the background. That means the wine isn’t as tart, and has a much richer mouth feel. In all, more complex, more subtle, and more enjoyable

Highly recommended, and especially for a holiday celebration with shrimp, lobster, and even turkey. This is yet another wine that proves that prices can make a difference when the winemaker makes wine for the consumer and not for scores.

Imported by Llaurador Wines

 

Expensive wine 113: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Justin Cabernet SauvignonThe Justin cabernet sauvignon shows off Paso Robles’ terroir in an enjoyable and value-oriented approach

The Justin cabernet sauvignon is so approachable and so well put together that I had to look twice at the label. Could this really be a red wine from the Paso Robles region of California, which is best known for ripe, almost over the top efforts?

It is, and is yet another label from Justin that shows off the wine and not the winemaker. In this, the Justin cabernet sauvignon ($27, sample, 14%) does something I wish more high-end California producers did: Make wine and not points. This vintage shows it’s possible to to combine Paso Robles’ rich, full style with wine that most of us will enjoy drinking.

Call the Justin cabernet sauvignon a surprisingly well mannered Paso Robles cabernet. That means structure, with aromas of cedar, mint, and green herbs, and flavors of rich black fruit. The tannins are soft, but they’re there, so they balance all that fruit. Perhaps most surprising? That the wine is still quite young, and will get deeper and more complex as it ages. It’s amazing how interesting a wine can be when the producer takes the terroir into account.

Highly recommended, and a value at this price. And yes, it’s even a Thanksgiving wine, and especially if the alternative is a sweet, insipid, 14.5 percent pinot noir that costs $35.

 

The growth of ultra-expensive wine

expensive wineDoes the increasing popularity of ultra-expensive wine mean wine has become a collectible and not something to drink?

The Big Guy, who hangs out with a better class of wine drinker than I do, forwarded me the auction company email: “Can you believe the prices of these wines?” he wrote. The list was expensive wine run amok – impressive labels, certainly, but prices that even I had trouble comprehending:

• $8,500 for a bottle of red Burgundy.

• $1,000 for two bottles of an 1872 Madeira.

• $40,000 for a case of 2000 Petrus, perhaps the Holy Grail of wine collecting.

• $4,750 for a magnun of another red Burgundy.

Which raises a host of questions: Who buys these wines? Do they actually drink them? And, of course, the one that has always fascinated me – how does one justify paying thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine?

Because spending that kind of money happens all of the time. It’s just not auctions, but includes trading on Liv-Ex, a stock exchange for wine. In this, the growth of ultra-expensive wine sales and expensive wine becoming more expensive have been hallmarks of the 21st century wine business. Two decades ago, people bought wine to drink it. Today, more and more people buy wine not to drink it.

This matters for two reasons. First, as these ultra-expensive wines grow in popularity, more resources will be devoted to them. If more resources are devoted to these wines, will less be available for the wine that most of us drink? Second, how healthy can the wine business be when its most prized products are kept in locked vaults? How can the evolution of wine — from something to drink with dinner to a version of coin collecting — be a good thing?

Yes, the sale of ultra-expensive wine remains a small part of the wine business. Those 10 million cases of Barefoot that are sold annually dwarf ultra-expensive wine sales. But how much attention does all that Barefoot get? The hype for ultra-expensive wine dwarfs Barefoot, as well as the rest of the wines that most of us drink. That even I’m writing about it says something – and it’s probably not good.

More about ultra-expensive wine:
Wine as a collectible, and not something we drink
Expensive wine prices in the real world
More about wine prices 2018

Expensive wine 112: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2015

Chateau Montelena ChardonnayThe Chateau Montelena chardonnay remains classic California white wine

The Big Guy and I were drinking pricey California chardonnay, which is probably worth a blog post all by itself given our devotion to white Burgundy. The point here, though, is that the wines we tasted, which included the Chateau Montelena chardonnay, reminded us that California producers can make some of the best wine in the world.

The Chateau Montelena chardonnay ($48, purchased, 13.5%) remains the kind of California wine that helped earn the world’s attention at the Judgment of Paris in 1976. It’s elegant and balanced, without the too much of one thing or another that makes me crazy when I taste high-end California chardonnay. Yes, some of my colleagues may consider this a fuddy-duddy approach to winemaking, but it’s their problem if they can’t appreciate grace and virtuosity.

What makes the Chateau Montelena chardonnay so classic? Taste this – even just one sip – and you can tell it’s Napa Valley chardonnay. That means more fruit (a lovely, barely ripe green apple) and an undercurrent of minerality, as well as layers of structure. The oak is decidedly New World, but it isn’t over the top and will integrate into the wine over the next several years.

Highly recommended. This is a delicious wine that will only get better over the next five years and could last even longer.

Expensive wine 111: Pehu Simonet Champagne Face Nord Extra Brut NV

Pehu SimonetThe Pehu Simonet is quality Champagne, but not necessarily the kind of Champagne that you’re used to drinking

These days, when Champagne is sold in grocery stores and retailers like World Market, it’s often difficult to remember what all the fuss is supposed to about. Bubbly with toilet paper and rag rugs? Hardly the luxury profile that the Champagne business wants for its product. But that’s where something like the Pehu Simonet figures in.

The Pehu Simonet ($50, purchased, 12.5%) is a remarkable wine, a bubbly from a small family producer that shows off the region’s diversity and quality. In this, it demonstrates that not all Champagne has to taste like Veuve Clicquot.

Call it beguiling, but not for everyone; missing is the brioche and caramel of more commercial bottlings. But it also isn’t made in the fruit and acid-driven style driven style of something like Ruinart, which I enjoy every much. For one thing, the Pehu Simonet is drier than most bubbly (extra brut is more dry than brut, which is the usual designation for a dry sparkling wine). For another, to quote the importer’s tasting notes, the palate is “surprisingly rugged, kind of like skirt steak.”

I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but you get the idea. There is green apple fruit, almost ripe, and it does eventually show through the wine’s impressive and almost unending minerality. This is Champagne to be considered as much as it is to be enjoyed, and I wasn’t prepared for that when I first tasted it. Halfway through the bottle, though, I was finally beginning to understand what was going on. And I was glad I made the effort.

Imported by Skurnik Wines

Expensive wine 110: Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris Dundee Hills 2016

Eyrie Vineyards pinot grisThe Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris is substantial, age-worthy, and delicious – who cares what score it got?

How useless are scores? The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris got 88 points on Cellar Tracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software). Just 88 points for one of the best-made wines I’ve tasted in my life? So yes, past useless.

The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris ($22, purchased, 12.5%) is a dazzling Oregon white that doesn’t rely on showy limeade fruit to make its point. Rather, it’s about spice and white pepper, a full and complex mouth feel, and layers and layers of subtlety. In this, what fruit there is (lime peel?) is just one of its many attributes.

But why not? The Lett family behind Eyrie has been making Oregon wine for as long as there has been Oregon wine, and every Eyrie wine I’ve ever tasted reflects their history and passion. This is a substantial wine, as “important” as any chardonnay is in the foolish hierarchy that is part of how wines are scored. Or, as a nationally known expert once told a judging panel I was on: “If it isn’t cabernet, chardonnay, or pinot noir, it doesn’t get a gold medal.”

Highly recommended – not only one of the pinot gris I’ve ever tasted, but a steal at this price. This is a substantial wine that will age for maybe a decade, but is delicious now. Pair this with roasted or grilled seafood and chicken dishes (no heavy sauces), and marvel at what second-generation owner Jason Lett has accomplished.

Expensive wine 109: La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Rioja 2008

La Rioja Alta Viña ArdanzaThe La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza speaks to terroir, tradition, and quality – and at a more than fair price

Rioja, the Spanish red wine made with tempranillo that comes from the Rioja region of northern Spain, is one of the world’s great wine values. And it doesn’t matter whether you want to spend $10 or $100. Case in point: the La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza ($37, purchased, 13.5%).

In the past decade, Rioja producers have been caught between Parkerization, which demanded riper, higher alcohol wines for a high score, and traditionalists, who believed in Rioja’s legendary terroir.

The traditionalists won; even Parker likes the La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza, giving it 93 points.

Their victory is a triumph for everyone who appreciates terroir and making wine taste like where it came from. The blend is 80 percent tempranillo and 20 percent garnacha, and the latter smooths out the tempranillo but doesn’t cover it up. The result is a full, open, expressive, and traditional Rioja that is a joy to drink.

Look for an inviting earthiness, the lovely and telltale orange peel, and rounded cherry fruit, all balanced by a subtle acidity and a hint of tannins. There is even a little baking spice tucked in – the whole is truly greater than the sum of the wine’s parts. This vintage should age and improve for another five years or so, but is ready to drink now.

Highly recommended, and especially as a Father’s Day gift for a red wine drinker who wants something different. Or who appreciates classic wine produced in a classic manner.