Tag Archives: Matt Kramer

Getting Geeky with Rabbit Ridge Petit Verdot

Going to need more than 60 Seconds to geek out about this 2011 Rabbit Ridge Petit Verdot from Paso Robles.

The Background

Rabbit Ridge Petit Verdot

Erich Russell founded Rabbit Ridge winery in 1981 in Healdsburg, Sonoma. Originally a home winemaker in San Diego, Russell’s wines caught the attention of the winemaking team at Chateau St. Jean who offered him a position. From there he spent time at Simi and Belvedere Winery before starting out on his own.

Over the years, Rabbit Ridge has earned numerous accolades and acclaim. They’ve had 3 wines featured on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. Connoisseur’s Guide named Russell it’s “Winemaker of the Year” in 1998. Wine writer Jay McInerney noted in his 2002 work Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar that if you wanted to guarantee yourself a good bottle of Zinfandel, seek out the “R wineries” of Rafanelli, Ravenswood, Ridge, Rosenbloom, Renwood and Rabbit Ridge.

In 2001, the winery moved to the central coast of California. Here, the Russell family planted 200 acres on the west side of Paso Robles. Today the winery produces around 10,000 cases from their sustainably farmed fruit.

Rabbit Ridge is a family operation from top to bottom with Erich and Joanne Russell running the estate with their daughter, Sarah Fleming Garrett, and her husband Brice. In addition to working at Rabbit Ridge, the Garretts also have their own label, Serrano Wine, that was launched in 2018 in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles. According to Barnivore, all the Rabbit Ridge wines are “vegan friendly” with only bentonite and yeast fining used.

The 2011 Petit Verdot is sourced from estate fruit with a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon blended in.

The Grape

Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz note in Wine Grapes that the first mention of Petit Verdot was in Bordeaux in 1736. However, the grape may not have originated there. Ampelograhical evidence of similar varieties suggest that Petit Verdot may have been a domesticated wild vine that originated somewhere in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department south of Bordeaux on the border with Spain.

Photo by Eric 先魁 Hwang. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Petit Verdot grapes growing in Portugal.

The name Petit Verdot references the small berries with thick skins that produce green (French vert) and acidic flavors if the grape doesn’t ripen fully. A very late-ripening variety, Petit Verdot is often harvested several days or even a couple weeks after Cabernet Sauvignon.

Despite contributing deep color and spiciness to blends, the risk of not fully ripening caused Petit Verdot’s plantings in Bordeaux to sharply decline in the 20th century to around 338 ha (835 acres) in 1988. However, global warming has sparked renewed interest with a jump to 526 ha (1300 acres) by 2009. Mostly grown on the Left Bank, classified estates that have notable plantings of Petit Verdot include Ch. Margaux and Palmer in Margaux, Pichon Lalande in Pauillac, Léoville Poyferré in St. Julien and La Lagune in the Haut-Medoc.

Petit Verdot in the US

Varietal versions of Petit Verdot have always commanded a premium in the United States. The reason has been because of limited supply and planting compared to other varieties. Matt Kramer notes in his 2004 book New California Wine that while a ton of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon would average around $3,921 and Pinot noir $2,191, Petit Verdot usually cost around $4,915 a ton to harvest.

Today, there are 2,897 acres of Petit Verdot planted throughout California with Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles being the home for a majority of those plantings.

Outside of California, the grape can be found in Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington State. In Canada, it is also grown in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia and the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario.

Photo taken by self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-user

Petit Verdot leaf growing at the Hedges Vineyard on Red Mountain.

Red Willow Vineyard pioneered Petit Verdot in Washington State in the mid-1980s. Here Master of Wine David Lake encouraged Mike Sauer to plant UCD clone-1 Petit Verdot in his Yakima Valley vineyard. However, as Paul Gregutt notes in Washington Wines, those early plantings failed and the blocks had to replanted with new clones in 1991.

In Walla Walla, the Figgins family of Leonetti planted Petit Verdot at the Spring Valley Vineyard.  Today Petit Verdot is still a significant component of their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Other early plantings of Petit Verdot in the 1990s took place at the Mill Creek Upland vineyard in Walla Walla, Destiny Ridge in Horse Heaven Hills and Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain. As of 2017, there were 254 acres of Petit Verdot in Washington State.

The Wine

Medium-plus intensity nose. Brambly fruit like elderberry and boysenberry with some blue floral notes and forest floor earthiness. With a little air some tobacco spice and a distinct streak of graphite pencil lead emerges. The nose reminds me a bit of Cabernet Franc.

On the palate those dark brambly fruits carry through. The wine has full-bodied weight but I wouldn’t have guessed a 14.8% alcohol. There is no back-end heat or jammy fruit. Moderate oak contributes some baking spice but doesn’t play much of a role. Medium-plus acidity gives the fruit freshness and balances well with the ripe, high tannins. This wine is mouth-filling and mouthwatering. Moderate length finish brings back the spice and minerally graphite notes.

Some Personal Thoughts

I have to confess a bias of sorts. Stories like that of the Russells and Rabbit Ridge fuel and sustain my love for the world of wine. It’s so easy to get lost in the doldrums of supermarket shelves dominated by portfolio of brands owned by a handful of mega-corps that you lose sight of what wine is really supposed to be about. Wines like this remind me of why I geek out about wine.

The 2014 Rabbit Ridge sparkling Pinot noir Brut was also really tasty as well. Look for a 60 Second Review of this wine in December.

I’ve been following Rabbit Ridge Winery on Twitter and highlighted them in my article The Winery Twitter Dance as one the best winery Twitter account worth following. While I don’t know the Russells personally, it’s hard not to feel like I do because of all the great behind the scene tidbits that they share about the hard work and joys that comes with managing a small family winery. Likewise with the Serrano Wine Twitter, you feel like you are with the Garretts on their journey in launching a new winery from the ground up.

For folks like the Russells, the wine that you open up to share on your table with family and friends isn’t just a brand. It’s their life work and the result of hours upon hours of toil, and gallons upon gallons of sweat, spent over every step of the process. From first putting the vines into the ground to finally the cork in the bottle, they’re putting a part of themselves into each wine.

When you share their wines, you’re not sharing something thought up during a marketing department’s brainstorming session and tested on focus groups. Instead, you’re sharing something that was dreamed up by person who looked out at a vineyard or into a great glass of wine and thought “I could do this. I should do this.” and tested that dream over and over again on their own table–with their own family and friends.

The Verdict

I opened this bottle of 2011 Rabbit Ridge Petit Verdot with higher expectations than I do for a commodity brand.  And I certainly savored that it lived up to those expectations. At $20 (yes, $20 for a varietal Petit Verdot!), this wine has character and complexity that opens up even more in a decanter over the course of dinner.

No, it’s not a jammy, hedonistic red like many Paso wines can be. Its best role is definitely on the table where its acidity and structure can shine with food. But it is a bottle way over delivers for the price and worth trying.

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Keeping Up With The Joneses of Burgundy — Leflaive Edition

Egg monument in Bâtard-Montrachet erected by Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive.

After examining the family tree and connections of the Coche, Boillot, Gros and Morey families, we now turn our attention to the Leflaives of Puligny-Montrachet.

Tradition and the remnants of Napoleonic inheritance laws often mean that many estates in Burgundy share similar names. This can add to the confusion and complexity of studying the region so for this series we try our best to untangle a bit of that web–one family tree at a time.

Aiding our endeavor will be my trusty hoard of Burgundy wine books including:

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
Benjamin Lewin’s Burgundy (Guides to Wines and Top Vineyards)

A new addition to that list which has been used heavily for this post is Clive Coates’ work Côte D’Or: A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy. While older than Coates’ Wines of Burgundy (1997 vs 2008) I’ve found that the two books compliment each other really well with Côte D’Or offering more historical details and family connections while Wines of Burgundy fills in the gap for newer estates.

If you know of any other great resources on Burgundy wine and the various connections between estates, leave a note in the comments!

Now let’s take a look at the Leflaives.

The Leflaive Family

The Leflaive family’s history in the Côte de Beaune region dates back to at least 1580 when a Marc Le Flayve lived in the hamlet of Cissey between Beaune and Puligny-Montrachet. Following the marriage of Le Flayve’s great-great-great grandson, Claude Leflaive, to Nicole Vallée in 1717 the Leflaive family moved to Puligny-Montrachet.

Photo by 	Tomas er. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Grand Cru vineyard of Bâtard-Montrachet has always been at the heart of the Leflaive family’s holdings.


It was the son of this Leflaive, also named Claude, who acquired a choice 5 ha (12.4 acres) plot of Bâtard-Montrachet that was divided among his five children on his death in 1835. Seventy years later, his great-grandson Joseph Leflaive founded what is now known as Domaine Leflaive in 1905.

A marine engineer by training, prior to devoting himself full-time to winemaking, Leflaive helped construct the first French-made submarine.

Starting with just 2 ha (5 acres) of vines, Joseph Leflaive greatly expanded the domaine over the next couple decades–often buying up vineyards that hadn’t recovered financially from the dual troubles of oidium and phylloxera from the last century. In the 1930s, the domaine was one of the first to regularly export their own bottlings to the United States. Following Joseph’s death in 1953, his children (Joseph Régis, Jeanne, Anne and Vincent) decided to keep their shares of the domaine together.

Joseph and Vincent were the first to actively manage the estate. They were soon joined by winemaker Jean Virot who worked at the domaine until his retirement in 1989. When Joseph passed in 1982, his son Olivier took his place managing the family’s domaine. When Vincent retired in 1990, his daughter Anne-Claude joined Olivier at the domaine.

Following Virot’s retirement, Pierre Morey (of Morey family fame) became régisseur, or winemaking director, a position he would hold until his own retirement in 2008. He was succeeded at Domaine Leflaive by Eric Rémy.

Disagreements between Olivier and Anne-Claude Leflaive eventually led to a separation in 1994 with Anne-Claude maintaining sole management of Domaine Leflaive and Olivier leaving to focus on his own Maison Olivier Leflaive. Following Anne-Claude’s death in 2015, Brice de La Morandiere (son of Joseph Régis’ daughter Marilys) assumed management of the family’s domaine.

Current Leflaive Estates

Domaine Leflaive (Puligny-Montrachet) founded in 1905 by Joseph Leflaive and today ran by his great-grandson Brice de La Morandiere. With around 25 ha (61.8 acres), Domaine Leflaive is the single largest producer of Grand and Premier cru quality wines in Puligny-Montrachet. In the 1990s, with the aide of consultants François Brochet and Claude Bourguignon, Anne-Claude Leflaive led the estate to a complete conversion to biodynamic viticulture.

The Grand Cru vineyard of Chevalier Montrachet. In many years Domaine Leflaive’s example from this vineyard will rival the Le Montrachet wines from other producers.


Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (1.91 ha), Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (1.15 ha), Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru (1.99 ha) and Le Clavoillon Premier Cru (4.79 ha–around 80% of the 1er cru)

Maison Olivier Leflaive (Puligny-Montrachet) founded in 1984 by Olivier Leflaive with his brother, Patrick Leflaive, as a negociant firm that now controls 17 ha (42 acres) of vineyards. In addition to their own vineyards, the Maison also has contracts with growers tending to more than 100 additional hectares in Chablis, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise. Jean-Marc Boillot (of Boillot family fame) was the estate’s first winemaker but since 1988 those duties have been carried out by Franck Grux. In 2015, the Maison’s interest extended to Champagne with a partnership with Erick de Sousa to make Champagne Valentin Leflaive.

Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Meursault Premier Cru Les Poruzots, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Chaumées

Additional Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy

The Boillot Familly
The Morey Family
The Gros Family
The Coche Family

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Getting Geeky with Stony Hill Chardonnay

The First of September kicks off California Wine Month and while I won’t steer this blog as much towards a California-centric bent as I did with Washington Wine Month (hometown bias, y’all), I will be highlighting California wines throughout the month in various posts and my 60 Second Wine Reviews.

However, I also have posts in the pipeline that you can expect to see soon for a new edition of Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy as well as a wrap up of my ongoing series on the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign (had to give my wallet a bit of a break). Later this month I’m teaching a class on Italian wine so you can be sure to expect a sprinkling of Mambo Italiano here and there.

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But let’s turn the focus back to California beginning with the most memorable California wine that I’ve had in the past year–the 2008 Stony Hill Chardonnay.

I had the privilege of trying this 2008 Stony Hill Chardonnay courtesy of a dear friend who brought this wine over for dinner this past Thanksgiving. That night featured a lot of heavy hitters including a 2004 Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant, a 2006 Philipponnat Grand Blanc Brut, a 2006 Hospice de Beaune Volnay Premier Cru Cuvée Blondeau, 2012 Domaine de la Vougeraie Vougeot 1er Cru “Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot” Monopole, 2007 Copain Gary’s Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highlands and a 2010 Sichel Sauternes but this Napa Chardonnay was my run-away wine of the night.

The Background

Stony Hill Vineyard was founded in 1948 when Fred and Eleanor McCrea, inspired by their love for white Burgundy, planted their first 6 acres of Chardonnay along with some Riesling and Pinot blanc on the old Timothy Feeley homestead located on Spring Mountain. Charles Sullivan notes in Napa Wine: A History from Mission Days to Present that the McCreas sourced the budwood for their Chardonnay from the Wente family in the Livermore Valley.

Photo by 	StonyHill at en.wikipedia. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-3.0

The winery doors to Stony Hill Vineyard.


The first vintage followed in 1952 and, by 1954, Stony Hill’s small production was being completely allocated through mailing list. According to Thomas Pinney, in his A History of Wine in America, by 1990 someone wishing to get their hands on Stony Hill wine had to wait at least 4 years on a waiting list for the privilege.

In 1972, Mike Chelini joined Fred McCrea as winemaker, assuming the job full-time on Fred’s passing in 1977. By 2011, Chelini, along with Bill Sorenson of Burgess, was one of the longest tenured winemakers in Napa Valley with the upcoming 2018 vintage being Chelini’s 45th harvest.

During this period Stony Hill developed a reputation for producing some of Napa’s most ageworthy Chardonnays with a lean, acid driven style that bucked the trend of buttery, malo-laden Chardonnays that were adorned in lavish new oak.

In his New California Wine, Matt Kramer describes Stony Hill Chardonnay as “… the essence of what California Chardonnay can be: pure, free of oakiness, filled with savor, and yet somehow unpretentious. It is rewarding, even exciting drinking–if you can find it.”

The task of finding Stony Hill has always been tough with the winery’s tiny 5000 case production but also because of the economics and realities of the wine business in the 21st century. Even when Stony Hill’s mailing list shrank, allowing more wine to be available on the retail market, the McCreas found that many large distributors which control the three-tier system didn’t care to pay attention to a small family winery–even one with such a stout pedigree.

Photo by StonyHill. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-3.0

Stony Hill Vineyards on Spring Mountain


Plus the counter fashion style of Stony Hill’s wines, which often requires patience and cellaring, as well as the “too cheap for Napa” pricing put the McCrea family in a position where they were looking to sell and in late August 2018 it was announced that Stony Hill Vineyard was being sold to the Hall Family of neighboring Long Meadow Ranch.

Long Meadow Ranch

In my recent post Tracking the Tastemakers which examined Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers for 2018” I expressed my admiration for the wines of Long Meadow Ranch that are now headed by COO Chris Hall.

Long Meadow Ranch has been one of my favorite Napa estates for a while. Such an under the radar gem with a great winemaking pedigree that began with the legendary Cathy Corison and now features Ashley Heisey (previously of Far Niente and Opus One), Stéphane Vivier (previously of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’s owners’ California project–Hyde de Villaine) and Justin Carr (previously of Cakebread, Rudd and Hourglass). — Tracking the Tastemakers (August 30th, 2018)

The view from Long Meadow Ranch’s Mayacamas Estate overlooking Rutherford.


Above and beyond Long Meadow Ranch’s fantastic wines and winemaking pedigree is the Hall family’s deep seated commitment to the environment and sustainability. Pam Strayer of Organic Wines Uncorked has a terrific write up on how Long Meadow Ranch is showing how a winery in Napa can thrive with an organic business model.

Founded in 1989 with their Mayacamas Estate, the Halls now tend to over 2000 acres of vineyards and agriculture lands that includes olive trees, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens and even cattle that supplies ingredients for their farm-to-table restaurant, Farmstead.

The Wine

High intensity nose–an intoxicating mix of grilled pears and peaches with a little bit of white pepper spice. A very savory nose.

Photo by Jerry012320. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

On the palate, the white pepper spice from the nose seems to morph into a stony minerality like river stones.


On the palate those grilled fruits come through. Even though they are couched with some subtle smokiness, the fact that the fruit is still present and distinctive is impressive for an 8 yr+ domestic Chardonnay. That is surely helped by the medium-plus acidity which holds up the medium weight of the fruit and keeps the mouth watering. Instead of white pepper, the wine takes on a more minerally river stone note that lingers through the long finish.

The Verdict

Just superb. Reviewing my notes after enjoying this wine during Thanksgiving, I was marveling at how youthful and fresh this wine was tasting. If you are lucky enough to have a bottle, you can probably still savor it easily for another 3 to 5 years–and I may be too conservative in that estimate.

While I’m not immune to the occasional indulgence and siren song of a butter-bomb like Rombaurer or Robert Lloyd’s sinfully delicious Carneros Chardonnay, neither of those wines could ever come close to the layers of elegance and complexity that this 2008 Stony Hill Chardonnay exhibits. This wine is truly on another level when it comes to domestic Chardonnays with its peers being found more in Burgundy than in Napa Valley.

This is a wine that combines the savoriness of a well aged Meursault with some of the mouthwatering acidity of a Chablis. At around $50 according to Wine Searcher, this wine is a screaming value compared to aged Burgundies of equivalent quality.

Ultimately, I have to fully echo Matt Kramer’s endorsement that tasting an aged Stony Hill Chardonnay “… is rewarding, even exciting drinking–if you can find it.”

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Keeping Up With The Joneses of Burgundy — Coche Edition

Photo by Torsade de Pointes. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-Zero

Vineyards in Meursault, home to many of the Coche family’s prime holdings.

Welcome to the latest installment of my on-going series about the winemaking families of Burgundy!

Be sure sure to check out previous editions about the Boillot, Morey and Gros families.

If you have any suggestions for future editions (or know anything I missed!), feel free to leave a comment below.

Along with some internet sleuthing, my tools on this journey 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
Benjamin Lewin’s Burgundy (Guides to Wines and Top Vineyards)

The Coche Family

Photo by e_calamar. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Through Léon’s grand daughter, some of the Coche family holdings are now in the hands of Domaine Roulot.

In the 1920s, Léon Coche started his domain after acquiring six parcels in Meursault, Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie. While he did some estate bottling, most of his grapes were sold to négociants. On his passing, the estate was inherited by his 3 children–Julien (who already had founded his own estate in 1940), Georges and Marthe. Georges took over his share of the family estate in 1964 and expanded his holdings with parcels in the Volnay Premier Crus of Clos des Chênes and Les Taillepieds.

Georges’ son, Jean-François Coche, assumed the domain in 1972 and appended the maiden name of his wife, Odile Dury, in 1975. In his nearly 40 years at the helm, Jean-François elevated Domaine Coche-Dury to “cult wine” level. Along with Comtes Lafon, Jancis Robinson describes the estate as one of “Masters of Meursault”. In 2010, Jean-François’ son Raphael took over the family domain as the fourth generation of Coche.

The inheritance of Léon’s daughter, Marthe, eventually passed to her daughter Geneviève who married Guy Roulot of Domaine Roulot. That estate is now ran by their son, Jean-Marc Roulot.

Julien’s Branch

In 1940, Julien Coche founded Domaine Julien Coche-Debord with just a single hectare in Meursault. The estate was expanded with some of his inheritance from his father Léon and was further enlarged when his son, Alain, took over added several notable Meursault premier crus like Les Charmes and La Goutte d’Or. Alain also changed the name to Domaine Coche-Bizouard et Fils.

Alain’s son Fabien joined the family estate in 1991 and started a négociant firm (Maison Coche-Bouillot) in 2001. Up through at least the 2013 vintage, wines have been produced under the label Domaine Alain Coche-Bizouard but now the estate is known as Domaine Fabien Coche à Meursault.

Current Coche Estates

Domaine Fabien Coche à Meursault/Maison Coche-Bouillot (Meursault) The estate formerly known as Domaine Coche-Bizouard et Fil and the négociant firm of Alain’s son Fabien. In addition to their holdings in Meursault, the estate also owns parcels in Auxey-Duresses, Monthélie and Pommard. The entire estate produces around 50,000 bottles.

Prime holdings: Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, Meursault Premier Cru Les Charmes (0.28 ha), Pommard Premier Cru La Platière (0.20 ha)

Domaine Coche-Dury (Meursault) Ran today by Raphael Coche, son of the legendary winemaker Jean-François Coche. The estate bottles more than 70% of its holding.  Négociants like Louis Latour and Louis Jadot often purchase the rest. The winery farms the estate’s holdings sustainably with an annual production of around 50,000 bottles.

Prime holdings: Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru (0.34 ha), Meursault Premier Cru Les Perriéres (0.23 ha and 0.37 ha in Les Perriéres-Dessus), Meursault Premier Cru Les Genevriéres (0.20 ha)

Additional Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy

The Boillot Familly
The Morey Family
The Gros Family
The Leflaive Family

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Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy — Gros Edition

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

Clos Vougeot. The Gros family first acquired parcels in this Grand Cru in 1920.

Welcome to the third installment of my Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy series where I try to untangle the relationships between the many different Burgundy estates that share the same surname.

Click here for previous editions about the Boillot and Morey families.

My tools for this journey will include internet sleuthing as well as:

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
Benjamin Lewin’s Burgundy (Guides to Wines and Top Vineyards) (new book)

The Gros Family

Alphonse Gros, the patriarch of the Gros winemaking family was born in 1804 in the village of Chaux located just north of Nuits-Saint-George. In 1830, he married Julie Latour of the notable Latour family and settled in the village of Vosne-Romanée. In 1860, Alphonse purchased what would become Clos des Réas–a premier cru vineyard that is currently a monopole of Alphonse’s descendant Michel Gros.

Alphonse and Julie had two children with their son Louis Gustave taking over the family’s estate and changing the name to Domaine Gros-Guenaud to include his wife’s holdings. In 1882, he added 2 hectares (5 acres) of the Grand Cru Richebourg. During his time, Louis Gustave was an early adopter of domaine bottling for at least a portion of his production.

Photo by Tomas er. Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Richebourg Grand Cru which several members of the Gros family still own parcels of.


On his death, the estate passed to his son, Jules Gros, who married Jeanne Renaudot and changed the name of the family domaine to Gros-Renaudot. In 1920, when the estate of Léonce Bocquet was available for sale, Domaine Gros-Renaudot purchased two parcels of Clos Vougeot in the enviable “Cuvée du Pape” section of the large Grand Cru. A few years later the estate was able to acquire parts of the Grand Cru Échézeaux, including the highly regarded Les Grands Échézeaux.

When Jules and Jeanne’s son Louis inherited the estate in 1930, he changed the name to Domaine Louis Gros and continued to add to the family’s holdings.

Following the death of Louis Gros in 1951, his four children (François, Jean, Gustave and Colette) jointly ran the domaine until 1963 when the holdings were split up with François and Jean starting their own eponymous domaines while Gustave and Colette combined their inheritance to start Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur.

Today the many Gros estates are ran by the sixth generation of Gros–Anne (François’ daughter), Michel (Jean’s son), Anne-Françoise (Jean’s daughter) and Bernard (Jean’s son). At estates like Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur and Domaine Anne-Françoise Gros, the seventh generation of the Gros family are taking on prominent roles in the family business.

Current Gros Estates

Domaine Anne Gros (Vosne-Romanée) founded in 1996. By 1978, heath problems had caused François Gros to cut back with nearly all the estate’s production being sold to negociants. In 1988, Anne joined her father and renamed the estate Domaine Anne & François Gros with the focus returning to estate bottling. In 1995, the last vintage of Domaine Anne & François Gros was produced as Anne assumed complete control of the estate, changing the name to its current incarnation. She is married to Jean-Paul Tollot, son of Jack Tollot of Domaine Tollot-Beaut in Chorey-Lès-Beaune.
Prime holdings: Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (0.93 ha) , Échézeaux Grand Cru (0.76 ha) and Richebourg Grand Cru (0.60 ha).

Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur (Vosne-Romanée) founded in 1963 by brother and sister Gustave and Colette Gros. In 1980 they were joined by their nephew Bernard (son of Jean Gros and brother to Michel and Anne-Françoise) who took over the estate completely in 1984 when Gustave died. The estate is currently being ran by Bernard and his son Vincent.
Prime holdings: Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (1.56 ha) of the Clos Vougeot-Musigni climat at the top of the vineyard–just beneath the Musigny slope, Les Grands Échézeaux Grand Cru (0.37 ha) and Richebourg Grand Cru (0.69 ha).

Photo by Olivier Vanpé. Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-2.5

The village of Vosne-Romanée which is at the heart of the Gros family’s holdings.


Domaine Michel Gros (Vosne-Romanée) founded in 1979. Even after starting his own estate, Michel worked closely with his father to run Domaine Jean Gros until Jean’s retirement in 1995. Today, Michel is the only member of the current generation of the family to not own a piece of Richebourg but instead inherited the entire monopole of the Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Clos des Réas.
Prime holdings: Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (0.20 ha), Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brulées (0.63 ha) and the monopole Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Clos des Réas (2.12 ha).

Domaine Anne-Françoise Gros (Pommard) founded in 1988. While Anne-Françoise merged several of her holdings with those of her husband, François Parent–brother of the owners of his family’s estate Domaine Parent, her parcel of Richebourg is still bottled under her name as A-F Gros. Today the estate is ran by their children, Caroline and Mathias.
Prime holdings: Échézeaux Grand Cru (0.28 ha), Richebourg Grand Cru (0.60 ha) and from the Parent holdings–Pommard 1er Cru Les Arvelets (0.31 ha)

Additional Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy

The Boillot Familly
The Morey Family
The Coche Family
The Leflaive Family

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Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy — Morey Edition

Photo by PRA. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0As with our first edition featuring the Boillot family, we’re going to explore the many Morey estates in Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet, trying to dissect the tangled weave of similar names to see how the estates may (or may not) be related.

Along with some Google-Foo, my scalpels on this journey 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

The Morey Family

The Morey family’s history in Burgundy dates back to at least the 16th century with evidence of winemaking in Meursault since 1793. The history in Chassagne-Montrachet dates back to Claude Morey’s arrival from the village of Paris l’Hôpital in 1643.

In 1950,  Albert Morey (father of Jean-Marc and Bernard) was one of the first estates in Chassagne-Montrachet to domaine bottle.

Robert Parker has noted in Burgundy: A Comprehensive Guide to the Producers, Appellations, and Wines, that the Morey family name is well regarded in Burgundy for producing “…very good, sometimes excellent white wines.”

In studying the various Morey domaines, the family’s prominence in the Grand Cru vineyard of Bâtard-Montrachet is apparent with several members producing examples. Most of the Morey Bâtards come from tiny holdings averaging only around 0.11 hectare (≈ 0.27 acres).  Domaine Pierre Morey owns the largest amount with nearly half a hectare.  Meanwhile, Domaine Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey contracts with multiple growers in the Grand Cru to expand his production.

The Current Morey Estates

Domaine Pierre Morey (Meursault)

Founded in 1971 by Pierre Morey, son of Auguste Morey, who farmed several parcels for Domaine Comte Lafon under métayage agreement. For two decades, Pierre also served as vineyard and winery manager for Domaine Leflaive.  During this time he was inspired to convert his estate to organic viticulture in 1992 and biodynamic in 1997.
Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.48 ha); Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières (0.52 ha); Pommard 1er Cru Les Grand Epenots (0.43 ha)

Domaine Emile Jobard-Morey (Meursault)

Tiny 4.5 ha domaine ran by Rémy Ehret, son-in-law of the original owners, and Valentin Jobard. The vineyards are farmed using sustainable viticulture. Unfortunately not much information is available about this estate to decipher the connection to the other Moreys or to estates like Domaine Antoine Jobard.
Prime holdings: Meursault 1er Cru Charmes (parcel just below Les Perrières); Meursault 1er Cru Le Porusot

Domaine Jean-Marc Morey (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 1981 by Jean-Marc after the retirement of his father, Albert Morey, with his father’s holdings divided between Jean-Marc and his brother Bernard (Thomas & Vincent’s father). For almost two decades his daughter, Caroline, has helped him manage the property with his son, Sylvain, running Bastide du Claux in the Luberon.
Prime holdings: St. Aubin 1er Cru Les Charmois (0.40 ha); Beaune 1er Cru Grèves rouge & blanc (0.65 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet Les Champs Gains rouge & blanc (0.77 ha)

Domaine Marc Morey et Fils (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 1919 by Marc’s father Fernand Morey with Marc taking over the family estate in 1944. In 1978, the estate was divided between his two children. His son, Michael, took his share to establish Domaine Morey-Coffinet.  His daughter, Marie-Joseph, and her husband Bernard Mollard used their holdings to continue Domaine Marc Morey. Today, their daughter Sabine runs the estate. All the vineyards are farmed sustainably.
Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.14 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets (0.20); quasi-monopole of Chassagne-Montrachet 1er En Virondot (2.02 ha) with the domaine buying the remaining 0.1 ha from other growers

Domaine Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 2001 as a négociant firm by Pierre-Yves Colin (son of Marc Colin in St. Aubin) and Caroline Morey, daughter of Jean-Marc Morey.  The first solo vintage of estate fruit was in 2006. Prior to returning to his father’s estate in 1995, Pierre-Yves spent time working in California at estates like Chalk Hill. Additionally he worked harvests in the Loire and Rhone. Domaine Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey farm their vineyards sustainably with some hectares farmed completely organic.
Prime holdings: Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes (0.40 ha); Purchase contracts for Grand Crus Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne and Bâtard-Montrachet

Caroline Morey’s Chassagne-Montrachet Le Chêne

Domaine Caroline Morey (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 2014 by Caroline Morey, daughter of Jean-Marc Morey and wife of Pierre-Yves Colin. The domaine owns 7 ha inherited from Caroline’s father in Chassagne-Montrachet and Santenay.
Prime holdings: Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets (0.75 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champ Gains

Domaine Thomas Morey (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 2006 when the estate of Bernard Morey (Jean-Marc’s brother) was divided between his sons, Thomas and Vincent. The estate focus on red Pinot noir is unique among the Moreys. All the vineyards are farmed sustainably.
Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.10 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Vide-Bourse (0.20 ha located just below Bâtard-Montrachet); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Dent de Chien (0.07 ha located just about Le Montrachet)

Domaine Vincent et Sophie Morey (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 2006 when Vincent inherited his share of his father’s estate. His wife Sophie is from the notable Belland family in Santenay . Their marriage brought around 12 ha to the domaine.  All vineyards are sustainably farmed.
Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.10 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embrazées (3.80 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets (0.35 ha)

Domaine Morey-Coffinet (Chassagne-Montrachet)

Founded in 1978 when Michael Morey, son of Marc, combined his inheritance with that of his wife, Fabienne (daughter of Fernand Coffinet and Cécile Pillot). The other part of Domaine Coffinet went to Fabienne’s sister, Laure, who founded Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay. The estate has been practicing organic cultivation (receiving Ecocert in 2015) and is converting over to biodynamic.
Prime holdings: Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru (0.13 ha); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru En Remilly (0.35 ha located next to Chevalier-Montrachet); Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Blanchots-Dessus (0.06 ha the southern extension of Le Montrachet)

Additional Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy

The Boillot Familly
The Gros Family
The Coche Family
The Leflaive Family

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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.

The winery was founded in 1997 in the Stags Leap District 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.  Medium plus acidity 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 with lots of character. It probably would’ve benefited 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.

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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 Cru Champonnet (0.19 ha) and Volnay 1er Cru 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 Cru 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 Cru Les Fermiets (2.4 ha) and monopole of Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère (3.99 ha) within Les Perrières

Additional Keeping up with the Joneses in Burgundy

The Morey Family
The Gros Family
The Coche Family
The Leflaive Family

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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.

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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.

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