Greetings and Salutations! I confess that it has been a few months since dropping my last Chapter. Rest assured, however, that your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth has not shirked his duties in the interim. We have managed to keep some great monthly wine recommendations coming, all of which are also summarized below in this month’s Value Wines and Worth A Splurge Wine recommendations for your convenience.
The month of May brought the powerhouse event Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour to my fair burg for the first time. Nearly 330 great vineyards from around the globe reserved booths for the event, and thousands of enthusiastic wine lovers dutifully lined up outside the main ballroom of the Hyatt Regency with bated breath in anticipation of grabbing the ceremonial Riedel stem that was included with each ticket and sprinting to the duly appointed vintner booths.
The sheer size of the event and the enormous number of wines on display at the Dallas Grand Tour was an intimidating factor. I have been fortunate to attend some amazing tastings over the past decade or so, both locally and in my travels, but nothing on this mammoth scale. Clearly, some clever planning would be key to a successful (and relatively sober!) event. Even assuming that my lovely significant other and I sampled different wines, we would collectively be hard pressed to taste even ten percent of the delicious offerings. Yes, I am aware that many if not most wine professionals taste and then spit out the wines. Having said that, are you kidding? You bet your life I was going to enjoy the Grand Tour to the fullest! Heck, I even grabbed a convenient hotel room to avoid the Uber rush afterward! Fortunately, the clever guys and gals at Wine Spectator provided a map of the event in advance, allowing a resourceful Wine Bargain Sleuth the opportunity to plan in advance of that first taste. Since the favorite varietals for my duo were Big Reds, Pinot Noirs and sparklers, we took advantage primarily of those specific booths in our advance plan and charted a reasonably rational path to take advantage of those wines. The only regret of yours truly was that this amazing event only lasted one day!
After dutifully presenting our fun tickets and collecting the afore-mentioned Riedel stems (a very nice touch for the wine glass snob that I confess to being), our merry duo made a beeline for the sparkling wines. A clever arrangement provided the opportunity to taste Champagne back-to-back with California sparklers. For example, if so inclined you were able to sample a classic Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne NV and its domestic sibling Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley L’Ermitage 2006, which established that a quality California sparkling wine could more than hold its own with a French Champagne. The latter bubbly stood out as one of my favorite sparkling wine at the event, along with the amazing Perrier-Jouet Brut Champagne Belle Epoque 2006. If pressed, I would have to give a slight nod to the French classic, and my tasting notes indicated: “Best sparkler at the event–shows what magic a well-crafted decade old Champagne can be. Copious, tiny bubbles, classic dry finish, toasty and mineral mid-palate. Wow!”
After a brief cleansing sip or two of also-remarkable Sauvignon Blanc, we headed to the multiple rows of Pinot Noirs from around the globe. Some of the standouts from our samples included Siduri’s 2013 Gary’s Vineyard from Santa Lucia Highlands, which presented as an elegant, polished Pinot, Belle Glos Las Alturas 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands, described by my notes as “medium bodied, multiple layers of dark cherry, cola and a hint of vanilla, with an earthy, lingering finish” (as an added bonus, I met the winemaker of this gem, John Lopez!), Oregon expressions of the varietal presented by Adelsheim, Ponzi and my personal favorite Oregonian Elk Cove, which presented its 2012 Mount Richmond Willamette Valley Pinot. My tasting notes from the 2012 Elk Cove Mount Richmond reflected: “A brilliant example of Oregon Pinot, which manages to blend dark cherry and vanilla hints with an extremely earthy, wild mushroom finish. Elegant.” However, as much as my significant other and I enjoyed the domestic Pinots from California and Oregon, the showstopper of this classic varietal without questions was the Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey 2012 from Cote d’Or France. My tasting notes stated: “Best Pinot at the event–a classic, seamless, complex Burgundy with typical French earthiness yet which still manages a burst of strawberry and white cherries. Outstanding!”
Although my dynamic duo was clearly on a roll at this stage, we reminded ourselves that this event was a marathon rather than a sprint, and we cleverly took 15 minutes to hydrate with bottled water and to sample the delicious food samples distributed by the “food trucks,” which in actuality were food booths cleverly decorated with two rear doors from a real panel van festively painted by the food vendors. If the truth be told, the snacks were probably worth a Chapter by themselves, but then again the Grand Tour was about the grape rather than the eats! Properly fortified and liquids balanced, we boldly headed for the Spaniard Rioja vintners, a house favorite.
We were able to sample again many of the terrific Spanish Rioja reds that we tried and discussed in Chapter 30, as well as the La Rioja Alta Rioja Vina Ardanza Reserva 2005 and the 2009 vintage of long-time favorite Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva. While each of these reds were clearly outstanding in their own right, my challenged palate reluctantly said “adios” to the delicious Spaniards in search of the California Cabs and Bordeauxs.
The Big Reds from the US and France were so terrific to your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth that choosing among them was analogous to picking the favorites among your children (although as every parent knows, there are days when the choice is easy!). Having said that, a handful of wines simple could not be ignored, a list which included the Round Pond Estate Rutherford 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (my tasting notes simply noted “there is a better than zero chance that this vineyard is on its way to being one of my favorite four Rutherford Cabs–textbook Rutherford dust finish”), the Adobe Road Napa Valley Beckstoffer Georges III 2010 (“Elegant and gorgeous Cab, powerful and expressive”), the Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour Private Reserve 2010 (“Still a Napa classic–dark fruit bomb with a seamless delivery, complex with a lengthy and earthy finish”), the Bordeaux Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan 2007 (“A lovely example of a solid Bordeaux from a premier producer even in an off year”) and the Ornellaia Borgheri Superiore 2012 (“Proof that the best of Italy can produce a gem that stands up to any Bordeaux at its own game”). However, the search for excellence in Big Reds at the Grand Tour event ended in what your humble Wine Bargain Sleuth must confess was the highlight of many highlights of the evening.
Having thoroughly worn down my companion, who freely admitted to falling victim to the dreaded wine festival malady “Palate Fatigue”, I embarked on a solo mission to determine what the Hall winery was offering to the fortunate attendees of the event. Those who have followed “The Wine Bargain Sleuth” over the years have seen more than one Hall offering reviewed, and I was confident that their booth would have something worth sampling. As luck would have it, when I rounded the corner I spotted a bevy of bottles of the Hall Kathryn Hall 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon being served. My brisk walk was instantly upgraded to a near sprint to get my sample of this beauty before the wine, which was recently awarded an impressive 93 rating by none other than Wine Spectator itself, was exhausted. As I approached the designated booth, it suddenly dawned on me that the Hall owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, were actually pouring. I had previously had the pleasure of meeting both of them (each has Dallas ties), and I naturally smiled, extended my wine stem and had the distinct honor of being served the amazing, highly regarded 2011 Kathryn Hall…by the lovely Kathryn Hall. Wine sleuths, you just can’t make this stuff up!
I sincerely hope your cub reporter is now forgiven for my delay in posting this Chapter–it simply took a few weeks to digest and sort my tasting notes to do the singular event justice! If forced to describe my evening at gunpoint, I suppose I’d have to confess that it was about as much fun as one can have with their clothes on.
And now, without further delay, here are this month’s Value Wines and Worth A Splurge Wines, which this month have a decided theme of summer wines:
Value Wine No. 1: Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel
This month’s Value Wine No. 1 is the cleverly named Seven Deadly Zins 2012 Old Vines Zinfandel. This Lodi-sourced example of the robust Zinfandel grape is a worthy match for your backyard BBQ ribs or that extra-juicy burger fresh off the old grill. This inky purple wine (it contains a small dollup of Petite Sirah) has a profile of blackberry jam with multiple layers of earthiness, pepper and minerality woven throughout. Its fine tannins ensure that the Zin is seamless and remarkably elegant for a wine at this price point of $16 retail. I would describe this bold Red as the ideal mid-week wine for those who enjoy grilling out during the warmer months. Widely available, this Zinfandel was recently awarded an impressive 91 rating by Wine Enthusiast. My recommendation is that Wine Sleuths should stock up immediately!
Value Wine No. 2: Domaine de Paris Cotes de Provence Rose 2014
An increasing number of US wine fans are discovering the greatness of Rose as warm weather envelops us. While we are on our run of clever names (now what was the name of that French Rose again?), the Domaine de Paris Cotes de Provence Rose 2014 is worth a try for your summer sipper! Although quite dry, the Domaine de Paris Rose has a bright fruit profile of white cherries and strawberries with a surprising earthiness. This complexity on what initially appears to be a simple blush wine allows this Rose to pair with fruit salads, boiled shrimp or even a grilled chicken. Bright, refreshing and thirst quenching, the Domaine de Paris 2014 is widely available at a price a few dollars shy of its $15 suggested retail. Wine Spectator was favorably impressed, awarding a solid 88 rating to this Rose. If your palate is ready for something delicious and new, look no further.
Value Wine No. 3: Ledger David 2014 Sauvignon Blanc
When one thinks of the delicious white wines produced in Oregon, the initial reaction is typically Chardonnay or even Pinot Gris. However, some producers zig while others zag, and that is certainly the case with this month’s Value Wine No. 3, the Ledger David 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (Rogue Valley). Despite the typical cool climate of Oregon, the Ledger David 2014 Sav Blanc is more reminiscent of a California version of the varietal than, say, a New Zealand offering. Bright, delicious fruit permeate the Ledger David wine, with orange hints and pineapple leading the nose. As is typical of the new world Sav Blancs, the 2014 Ledger David is fermented in stainless steel, leaving the finished product full of cleansing acidity without the harshness some Sav Blancs display. Named an Editor’s Choice and awarded a healthy 92 rating by Wine Enthusiast, this wine is both unusual and absolutely delicious. It retails for $20. What is keeping you from grabbing a case?
Worth A Splurge Wine No. 1: 2012 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon
I have had the opportunity a couple of times in the past month or two to enjoy the 2012 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon with good friends. Honig has long made high quality Cab from its classic Napa Valley location in Rutherford on the bench floor. This is classic Rutherford Cab Sav, with dark berry profiles, hints of cocoa and vanilla bean and a silky, lingering finish with the classic “Rutherford Dust” that so many Cab fans (your favorite Wine Bargain Sleuth among them) seek. As with a great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Honig pairs beautifully with a juicy T-Bone steak, but its polish and balance also make it equally tasty with pan-seared scallops. This is an affordable example of classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that you will always be proud to serve the most finicky of wine fans. And the experts? Wine Spectator noted that the Honig was “On solid footing, with sassy tannins….” and bestowed a healthy 89 rating on the 2012 Honig Cab, and the peoples’ choice site Wine Tracker gave it a 90 plus rating. In short, this domestic red is the very definition of a “Worth a Splurge” wine.
Worth A Splurge Wine No. 2: Epoch 2011 Tempranillo
This month’s Worth A Splurge Wine No. 2 is a treat for those who enjoy the polished, earthy Tempranillo wines typically associated with the Rioja region of Spain. The craftsmen of Epoch have offered their Paso Robles, California interpretation of this European classic wine in the form of the Epoch 2011 Tempranillo. I recently had the opportunity to sample this robust red on two different occasions, once pairing the wine with aged cheeses and fruit and once pairing the Epoch wine with one of the absolute best bone-in filets that New York City had to offer. May I say that the Epoch Tempranillo was magnificent in both instances, and my only disappointment is that my cellar is now empty of more bottles of the 2011 Tempranillo. While I would normally pair such a terrific grilled steak with a California Cabernet or a fine Bordeaux, the Epoch’s richness and slight peppery qualities allowed the 2011 Tempranillo to seamlessly pair with the robust flavor of the savory filet. I highly recommend such a pairing if you are itching to try something other than your favorite Big Red with a sizzling steak. In addition to the peppery profile noted above, I detected a chocolate hint on the mid palate that follows the rich initial taste of cassis and red fruits. Finally, the minerality of the Epoch Tempranillo foreshadowed a lingering, smooth finish that kept me reaching for the wine glass. And the experts apparently had similar experiences with the wine, as Wine Advocate awarded the Epoch 2011 Tempranillo a hearty 95 rating after giving the barrel tasting a 94-96. Simply a treat, wine sleuths. Go forth and locate a bottle or three!
Wine Thought of the Day: Wine Fun Facts
As white wines age, they gradually become darker in color. As red wines age, they gradually become lighter in color.
The typical 5-ounce glass of red wine contains around 110 calories. If you’re on a diet, drink white; the typical 5-ounce glass of white wine contains about 104 calories. Think you’ll save significant calories by drinking grape juice? Wrong, Mr. Health! The typical 5-ounce glass of grape juice contains 102 calories.
Today, the standard size wine bottle holds 750 milliliters (a little over 25 ounces) of wine. During the first 200 hundred years that bottles were in use, their capacities ranged from 16 to 52 ounces.
Until next month– Cheers!
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