Reviews 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. This month: a terrific red Burgundy for Black Friday 2019
• Joel Gott Pinot Gris 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.2%): This Oregon white is mostly OK for what it is, with some lime fruit and what tastes like a little fizziness. But there are better made wines at this price.
• Toad Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($17, sample, 14.1%): This California red from Lodi is $12 or $13 worth of cabernet, which is not a bad thing. It’s reasonably well made, with with brambly berry fruit and almost cabernet tannins (though the oak is out of balance). But $17? Only in the premiumization universe.
• Domaine Thenard Givry Les Bois Chevaux 2012 ($20, purchased, 13%): A Premier Cru red Burgundy, the second highest classification, that actually tastes like red Burgundy (French pinot noir) at a tremendous price. It’s getting a touch thin, but still has earth, some forest floor, and telltale lovely red fruit. Imported by Beverly Imports
• Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This French red, made from gamay, is a November tradition. The 2019 version from Drouhin is a little thin, but mostly Beaujolais in style and taste (berry fruit). Which means it’s missing the horrible ripe banana fruit that too many nouveaus have had in the past decade. Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.
How does an entry-level red Burgundy like the Ambroise Nuits-Saint-Georges cost $50?
Want to know how much the wine world has changed since I started doing this? The wine person at the Washington, D.C. restaurant where where we drank the Ambroise Nuits-Saint-Georges said no, she didn’t get a chance to taste a lot of red Burgundy.
Here’s someone who is in charge of wine at a reasonably hip restaurant who doesn’t get a chance to drink red Burgundy. That never would have happened a decade ago. But these days, when even an entry-level red Burgundy like the Ambroise Nuits-Saint-Georges ($50, purchased, 12.5%) costs more than most people can afford, it’s a fact of life.
I was lucky enough to have the Ambroise Nuits-Saint-Georges because my pal and top-notch wine writer Lou Marmon brought it to dinner (DC has a fine corkage law). Lou bought the wine after it was released, paying about $25. That the current vintage has doubled in price since 2003 or so speaks to how silly wine prices have become for red Burgundy (pinot noir from the Burgundy region of France) and why the wine person doesn’t get a chance to taste them often.
The wine, of course, was delightful – earthy and foresty and spicy and everything one would expect from red Burgundy. But, as the Wine Advocate reviewer wrote 13 years ago, it was fruity and straightforward and relatively simple as red Burgundy goes. Except for the price, of course.
And yes, Lou and I insisted that the wine person and our waitress taste the wine, which they enjoyed. No sense in always letting us old white guys have all the fun.
Two $150 bottles of wine to celebrate the Cubs’ World Series victory
A $150 bottle of white Burgundy and a $150 bottle of red Burgundy – what better way to celebrate the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years than with $300 worth of wine?
The Big Guy brought the white, a 2014 Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Champ-Canet Premier Cru, and I bought the red, a 2012 Chateau de Meursault Clos des Epenots Premier Cru. Neither were in my original Cubs wine post, but those wines — and which were $20 to $50 cheaper — were sold out.
Needless to say, we had never paid that much for a bottle of wine, which was the point. “It’s OK if you’re going to do this once every century,” said The Big Guy, and who was I to argue?
My other goal? Make sure the food was up to the wine, and it’s not being immodest to say that it was (or so the others at the dinner, including Lynne Kleinpeter and Kathy Turner, told me):
• A goat cheese and salmon timbale with the Sauzet, a chardonnay. The wine was young and fresh enough to handle the richness of the goat cheese, and it complemented the food exactly as I had hoped.
• Chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms duxelles with the Epenots, a pinot noir. This was one of those pairings that shows why pairings matter – the wine made the food taste better and the food made the wine taste better. The Epenots, though still young, had some of that Burgundian mushroom and forest floor, and the bright red fruit did the chicken proud.
So were the Burgundies worth $150 a bottle? As delicious as they were, probably not. For one thing, both were still too young, and will need at least a decade before they’re going to taste the way they should taste. The Sauzet, in particular, was angular and disjointed (or at least as much as a classic white Burgundy can be), and only time will smooth out those rough edges.
That they weren’t worth what they cost isn’t so much a criticism of the wines, but of the wine business and how foolish high-end wine prices have become. The Big Guy remembers paying $50 in a restaurant for the Sauzet in the 1990s; that means the retail price has increased 10-fold in the past two decades. In other words, paying $20 for a cup of Starbucks coffee today. The best value of the evening was the port, given how much crappy port costs $20 and $30, and I’ll buy another bottle when this one is gone.
Hopefully, when Cubs manager Joe Maddon – a wine guy of no small repute – celebrates the World Series, he’ll have as much fun as we did on Saturday night.
It 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.
In which the Wine Curmudgeon enjoyed two reasonably priced wines from Burgundy, a red and a white, that didn ?t taste like they were made with the wrong grapes or came from California. In this case, old-fashioned does not mean outdated or not worth drinking. More, after the jump: