Tag Archives: Matt Kramer

60 Second Wine Reviews — Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon

Some quick thoughts on the 2013 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

The Geekery

Back in 2004, Matt Kramer pegged Darioush Winery as “One to Watch” in his book New California Wine, and his words have proven apt as Darioush has become one of the “must visit” estates in Napa Valley.

Located in the Stags Leap District, the winery was founded in 1997 by Iranian immigrants Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi. The site of their winery on the Silverado Trail used to belong to Altamura Winery before the later moved down to Wooden Valley near the city of Napa.

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from estate fruit in Mount Veeder and Oak Knoll District AVAs and from hillsides vineyards in the greater Napa Valley AVA. The wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot that spent 22 months aging in 85% new French oak. Around 9,155 cases were made.

The Wine

Medium intensity nose. Dark fruit (blackberry, black plum) with noticeable vanilla and oak spice.

The mouthfeel is huge! Very full bodied and almost thick with high tannins and dense dark fruit. I felt like I was chewing this wine more than I was chewing my steak. The wine did have medium plus acidity that added a saving grace of juiciness to keep my palate from wearing out. Long finish brought some spice.

The Verdict

Photo by Jim Gateley. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC BY 3.0

The Darioush Winery in Napa Valley. Like the wine they make, it’s BIG!

Big, big, big wine. It has a lot of character and probably would benefit from a good 2 hour decant which my dinner didn’t afford.

Still, it paired well with my steak and was worth the restaurant mark up. At around $95-110 retail, it is worth the money for someone who wants a huge, brooding red wine that is almost a meal in itself.

Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy — Boillot edition

Photo by Geoffrey Fairchild, released on Wikimedia Commons via Flickr under pd-author
An oft repeated truism in the world of Burgundy is that you should buy based on the producer rather than the vineyard or classification. But this solid piece of advice becomes difficult to follow when you run into multiple bottles made by producers with similar names.

In many cases, these estates are related by blood or marriage which creates a tangled web for a Burgundy lover to untangle.

As part of my own studies, I’m going to try to untangle some of these webs–one common surname at a time. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions for additions or corrections in the comments.

My tools on this journey, besides the internet, will be:

Remington Norman and Charles Taylor’s The Great Domaines of Burgundy
Clive Coates’ The Wines of Burgundy
Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Burgundy
Bill Nanson’s The Finest Wines of Burgundy

We will start off with the Boillot family.

The Boillot family’s history of winemaking in Burgundy dates back to 1855 with the fifth generation of Boillots now running their eponymous estates. At several of these estates (like Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot and Domaine Henri Boillot) the sixth generation is working in the family business and preparing to take over.

In 1955, a conflict between Lucien Boillot and his father Henri lead to Lucien leaving his father’s estate, Domaine Henri Boillot, and starting his own winery. Henri’s other son, Jean, eventually took over Domaine Henri Boillot and renamed it Domaine Jean Boillot. Jean also married Colette Sauzet, daughter of the fame Puligny-Montrachet producer Etienne Sauzet.


Lucien had two sons, Louis and Pierre, with Louis starting his own estate in 2002 and Pierre inheriting control of Domaine Lucien Boillot et Fils.

Jean also had two sons, Jean-Marc and Henri, as well as a daughter, Jeanine, who married Gérard Boudot and now manages Domaine Sauzet. Jean-Marc started his own eponymous winery in 1989 while Henri started a négociant firm (Maison Henri Boillot) before eventually assuming what was left of Domaine Jean Boillot. To avoid confusion with his brother’s estate, he merged the holdings into his own domaine and changed the name back to Domaine Henri Boillot.

The Current Boillot Estates

Domaine Louis Boillot (Chambolle-Musigny) founded in 2002 when the estate of Lucien Boillot et Fils was split between Louis and his brother, Pierre. Louis is married to Ghislaine Barthod who runs her namesake estate in Chambolle-Musigny.
Prime holdings: Gevrey-Chambertain 1er Champonnet (0.19 ha) and Volnay 1er Les Caillerets (0.18 ha)

Domaine Lucien Boillot et Fils (Gevrey Chambertain) currently ran by Pierre.
Prime holdings: Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perrières (0.23 ha) and Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets (0.18 ha)

Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot (Pommard) founded in 1989. Prior to starting his own estate, Jean-Marc worked as a winemaker for Olivier Leflaive.
Prime holdings: Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Champ Ganet (0.13 ha) and Les Combettes (0.47 ha)

Domaine Henri Boillot (Volnay) founded as a négociant firm in 1984. In 2005, Henri bought out his siblings shares of his father’s estate (Domaine Jean Boillot) and merged the holdings into his own domaine.
Prime holdings: Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru (0.34 ha), Volnay 1er Les Fermiets (2.4 ha) and monopole of Puligny-Montrachet 1er Clos de la Mouchère (3.99 ha) within Les Perrières

Geeking out with Taupenot-Merme Gevrey-Chambertin Bel Air

Going to need more than 60 seconds to geek out over the 2009 Domaine Taupenot-Merme Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Bel Air.

The Background

Domaine Taupenot-Merme is a 7th generation family estate based in Morey St.-Denis ran by siblings Romain and Virginie. The estate covers 32 acres in both the Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune including plots in the Grand Cru vineyards of Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyères-Chambertin (Taupenot-Merme being one of the few estates to bottle these Grand Crus separately), Clos de Lambrays (the only other estate outside of the eponymous clos to own a piece of this Morey-St-Denis Grand Cru) and Corton in the Le Rognet climat.

According to Bruce Sanderson of Wine Spectator, until 1988 the estate did all their vine propagation and rootstock grafting in house, carefully selecting massale clones from their best vines. Since 2001, all the vineyards have been farmed organically.

For winemaking, the grapes get around 10 days cold soaking before fermentation with the estate using wild, indigenous cultures for both primary and malolactic fermentation. Fermentation is done in stainless steel with a mixture of punch downs and pump overs before the wines are transferred to barrel where they see 12-15 months aging before spending their last 3 months in tank prior to bottling. The amount of new oak each wine receives varies, ranging from 25% for village level to 40% for Grand Crus. Premier Cru wines, like the Gevrey-Chambertin Bel Air, usually see about 30% new oak. The wines are bottled without any fining or filtering.

The Vineyard

https://www.winescholarguild.org/programs/bourgogne-master-level-program/bourgogne-master-level-program.html

The Premier Cru vineyard of Bel Air surrounded by the Grand Crus of Gevrey Chambertain.
The pink line highlights the up-slope part of the vineyard that is village level.
Photo taken from screenshot of The Wine Scholar Guild’s Master Burgundy Course.

The Bel Air vineyard is located in an enviable position up-slope of the esteemed Grand Cru Chambertin-Clos de Bèze with 6.6 acres classified as Premier Cru.

The high altitude vines and rocky, oolithic limestone-rich soils tend to do particularly well in warm vintages (like 2009) where it can maintain fresh acidity. The vines are at the same altitude as much of the Grand Cru of Ruchottes-Chambertain and parts of Latricières-Chambertin but Bel Air is much more heavily shaded by forests and sits on a steeper slope which impacts the amount of direct sunlight the vines receive. Though the most heavily shaded plots are not permitted to Premier Cru classification but rather village level Gevrey-Chambertin.

As with a lot of Burgundy, it is hard to know exactly how many growers own pieces of a particular vineyard. Matt Kramer’s 1990 book Making Sense of Burgundy, list 11 owners with the family of Jean-Claude Boisset owning the largest segments with 1.5 acres. Domaine Taupenot-Merme’s 0.9 acre holdings in the Premier Cru were mostly planted in 1973 and produce around 205 cases of wine.

On WineSearcher.com, you can find several offerings of Bel Air Gevrey-Chambertin from producers like Domaine de la Vougeraie (ave price $73), Philippe Pacalet (ave price $123) and Domaine Philippe Charlopin-Parizot (ave price $79).

The Wine

Photo by Nissy-KITAQ. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

The floral earthy component of this wines makes you feel like you are walking through a botanical forest.

Medium intensity with pop and pour. A mix of red and dark fruits with a tinge of sweet baking spices like cinnamon and allspice. Tossed in a decanter and after an hour, WOW! The aromatics jack it up to high intensity with the fruit becoming more defined as a mix of dark plums and red cherries. The spice is also more pronounced and is joined with a floral earthy component, like walking through a botanical forest.

On the palate there is silkiness to the mouthfeel with the ripe tannins but medium-plus acidity keeps it feeling very fresh. The fruit carries through but the spice notes get a little more quiet as the floral earthy notes come to the forefront and linger for a very long finish.

The Verdict

This is a wine with a lot of layers and while it was drinking gorgeously, I can’t help but feel like I opened it up too young. It probably has the legs to keep on developing for another 5-7 years easily.

The wine is averaging around $108 on WineSearcher.com but I was able to pick it up at a local wine shop for $90. That is a screaming deal for how scrumptious this Burg is drinking and I’m sincerely regretting not buying more. Even at $108, it is a very compelling bottle and one of those wines that screams “Yes, this is what high quality Burgundy is about!”

If you can find this bottle, nab it.

A Magnitude of Triviality

I greatly respect Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator. I love his writing style, particularly his Making Sense series of books, where he makes frequent use of anecdote and relatable metaphors to explain wine concepts. It’s a plain spoken style that I often try to emulate in my own writings and teachings on wine. But Matt Kramer is also a wine critic and as such is prone to the same navel-gazing and self justification for their existence that all critics indulge themselves in from time to time. The most recent example comes from his explanation of the difference between professional wine critics like him and mere wine loving folks. For Kramer, it was about differences in magnitude.

Think of it this way. You’ve seen a certain movie a dozen times, then two dozen times. You know it intimately. You begin to notice things you missed the first time or two. Then, after the tenth time, small elements begin to loom ever larger. By the twentieth time, that effect gets magnified yet more.

This is the critic’s perspective. After tasting 200 or 500 Cabernets from a single vintage, it’s not that you’re bored (although that’s surely possible). Rather, it’s that, often unconsciously, what to anyone else seems a very small difference is precisely what captures your attention and excites you.

I sincerely apologize if this post causes you to spend several minutes of your life wondering if Matt Kramer has a navel piercing.

I sincerely apologize if this post causes you to spend several minutes of your life wondering if Matt Kramer has a navel piercing.

The shorthand summary of this quote and the article is that wine critics are important because they taste so much and therefore can pick out the minute differences in wine that most people often do not. While this is undoubtedly true and Kramer’s logic is quite sound, it does beg the question that if the “magnitude of difference” between a 95 point wine and a 94 point wine is derived from these minute differences that only become apparent when awash in a sea of peers–then what’s the value of that to regular consumers? If they’re not going to be able to pick up on these subtle differences, then why would they care if those notes are in a 95 point wine but not a 94 points wine?

The point where a “magnitude of difference” become a “magnitude of triviality”

It’s okay to look at wine scores as a reference point. When you are a consumer, looking at a literal wall of wine in front of you, it can be comforting seeing a sign that says “95 points! Wine Spectator” or “94 points! Beverage Dynamics”. It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking that because someone thinks this highly rated wine is good it must be a “good wine.” But you have to remember that while it may be a “good bottle”, that doesn’t mean that it is a “good wine” for you.

It’s important to understand that Kramer’s “Magnitude of Difference” between a critic and someone like you cuts both ways. All the knowledge that he’s acquired, all the bottles that he’s tasted has shaped his palate to where it is. Yes, he will certainly taste and pick up on things in the wine that you won’t but that also means that you will taste things and focus on aspects of the wine in ways that he won’t. Your “magnitude of triviality” is different and that matters a lot when you consider that you are the one that is ultimately consuming (after likely paying for) the wine.

This is why you should always fall back on yourself, your palate and what gives you pleasure as the final arbitrator of what is “good”. I don’t care if someone is telling you this is one of the greatest bottles of all time, from an amazing vintage and a prestigious estate with critics falling over themselves to award it 100 points. If that bottle doesn’t give you pleasure then, for you, its not really a “good wine”.

It’s just a wine that other people liked.