Tag Archives: Wine Enthusiast

Doubling Down On What’s Been Done Before

Photo taken by self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under : CC-BY-SA-3.0

Andy Perdue of Wine Press Northwest says it time for Washington State wine producers to “double down” on Cabernet Sauvignon.

The state needs to focus, he says, much like how Oregon did several decades ago with Pinot noir.

Washington has proved it can grow several wine grape varieties very well, and in some ways this has hurt the industry, because the state hasn’t had a focus. Now, we can align ourselves with other Cab regions, including Bordeaux and Napa Valley. — Andy Perdue, 9/13/18

Now why in the hell would we want to do that?

Napa On My Mind — And The Minds Of Most Consumers

Yes, I know that Cab is still king and there is no doubt that Cabernet Sauvignon sales are still going strong. You can’t fault vineyards for planting Cabernet Sauvignon or wineries for producing it.

But what you can fault is the idea that we should start hoarding all our eggs into one Cab basket–especially a basket that is already dominated by one really large hen.

Look at any “Most Popular” list of American wines and you can easily see a stark theme.

Wine & Spirits Top Restaurant Wines of 2018.

I would definitely be impressed seeing a wine list with Woodward Canyon prominently featured.

Cakebread, Caymus, Chateau Montelena, Corison, Duckhorn, Faust, Frank Family, Heitz, Jordan, Justin, Louis M. Martini, Mount Veeder, Rodney Strong, Sequoia Grove, Silver Oak, St. Francis Winery, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Turnbull–all well known California Cabernet producers. Though, yes, Washington State does get a few nods with Woodward Canyon, L’Ecole 41 and Chateau Ste. Michelle (probably for their Riesling).

The Most Searched-For Cabernet Sauvignon on WineSearcher.com in 2017.

Screaming Eagle, Caymus, Scarecrow, Shafer, Dunn, Robert Mondavi and Silver Oak–all Napa Valley staples with only Penfolds 707 from Australia and Concha y Toro Don Melchor from Chile being outside Cabernets that cracked the list.

Vivino’s Top 20 Cabernet Sauvignon for Cab Day (which was apparently September 3rd)

Pretty much the same Napa-dominated list like the ones above with Quebrada De Macul’s Domus Aurea from Chile, Gramercy Cellars’ Lower East from Washington, Thelema Mountain Vineyards’s The Mint and Springfield Estate’s Whole Berry from South Africa sprinkled in for diversity.

This is not to say that Washington State can’t compete with California–in quality or in price. Lord knows we can and often exceedingly over deliver in both. Many years the state usually leads the pack in percentage of wines produced that receive 90+ scores from critics and often command a sizable chunk of year-end “Top 100” lists.

Photo a compilation of creative commons licensed images uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Perhaps the Washington State Wine Commission needs to get Steven Spurrier on the phone.

But to the vast majority of American wine buying consumers (particularly of Cabernet Sauvignon) that hardly makes a dent in their Napa-centric worldview. Pretty much since the 1976 Judgment of Paris, Cabernet Sauvignon in the United States has been synonymous with Napa Valley, California.

Of course, I’m not saying that Washington should stop producing its bounty of delicious and highly acclaimed Cabs but why should we double down on chasing a horse that has already left the stable?

The Lessons Of Oregon

To bolster his case, Perdue points to the example of Oregon which has built its brand (quite successfully) on the quality and notoriety of its Pinot noir. It’s no shock that on that same Wine & Spirits Top Restaurant List that Oregon has a healthy showing with Adelsheim Vineyard, Argyle Winery, Cristom Vineyards, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Elk Cove Vineyards and King Estate representing the state–doubling the amount of wineries that Washington has featured.

Perdue would, presumably, attribute that success to Oregon’s seemingly singular focus on Pinot noir instead of the jack-of-all-trades approach that Washington State has taken in a modern history that is pretty close to the same age.

But what I don’t think Perdue has really taken into consideration is that Oregon started doubling down on Pinot long before Pinot noir was cool.

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

Pinot noir in early veraison at Cristom Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills

In his book Oregon Wine Country Stories Kenneth Friedenreich notes that many of Oregon’s early pioneers were thought to be crazy by their neighbors and bankers when they started planting Pinot noir in the Willamette Valley in the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1980s when French producers like the Drouhin family of Burgundy took notice that the state began getting some attention on the world’s stage.

Even then, Oregon Pinot noir was still a tough sell in the domestic US market.

 

It’s hard to discount the impact that the 2004 film Sideways had on the perception of Pinot noir. As David Adelsheim noted “There were two great grapes of America [Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay], and after ‘Sideways,’ there were three,” with the Oregon wine industry reaping the benefit of sustained sales ever since.

In the game of life, when Oregon wine producers were least expecting it, they rolled a ‘7’. But they could have just as easily crapped out.

Oregon was initially betting on a long shot–not a 2 to 1 favorite like Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s crazy to think that Washington could every get the same kind of payout.

How About Betting On What’s Exciting?

Seriously, if you are not on the Washington Cab Franc train than you are lagging behind my friend!

Earlier this week Sean Sullivan of Seattle Met and Wine Enthusiast published a fantastic list of “The 30 Most Exciting Wines in Washington”.

Now while there are certainly Cabs included on this list–several of which, like Passing Time and Quilceda Creek, I wouldn’t dispute–there are several wines included that are truly, genuinely exciting.

2013 Leonetti Cellar Aglianico Serra Pedace Vineyard Walla Walla Valley

Yes, an Aglianico! From Leonetti!

2015 Spring Valley Vineyard Katherine Corkrum Estate Grown Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley

The 2012 vintage of this wine was one of the best wines being poured at the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance tasting in Seattle earlier this year.

2017 L’Ecole No. 41 Old Vines Chenin blanc Columbia Valley

I’m no stranger to hollering into the void about the charms and deliciousness of Washington Chenin blanc. I love that L’Ecole is highlighting “Old Vines” on this bottle. It shows that their faith in this wonderful variety isn’t a fly-by-night fancy.

2015 Two Vintners Cinsault Make Haste Yakima Valley

Cinsault has been on my radar since attending the Hospice du Rhone seminar highlighting South African Cinsault. Obviously Washington doesn’t have anywhere close the vine age or experience but Morgan Lee of Two Vintners is an incredibly talented winemaker so it will be fun to see what he could do with the grape.

2016 Savage Grace Côt Malbec Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley

Michael Savage makes some of my favorite Cabernet Francs from the Two Blondes Vineyard and Copeland Vineyard. The Boushey Vineyard is one of the grand crus of Washington. All perfect ingredients for what is likely a very kick ass wine.

2017 Syncline Winery Picpoul Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley

If you’re not drinking Picpoul, is it really worth drinking anything?

2012 MTR Productions Memory Found Syrah Walla Walla Valley

This Syrah, made by Matt Reynvaan (of Reynvaan Family Vineyards fame),  is practically treated like a Brunello di Montalcino. It sees two years of oak aging followed by 3 years of bottle aging before release. A fascinating project.

2015 Sleight of Hand Cellars Psychedelic Syrah Stoney Vine Vineyard Walla Walla Valley

Yeah, yeah the Rocks District is technically Oregon. But since the wine consuming public is too myopically focused on Oregon Pinot noir,  Washingtonians can take credit for the insane depth and character that comes out of wines from this area. At the Taste Washington “Washington vs The World Seminar” this was the run away winner at an event that featured heavy hitters like Joseph Phelps Insignia, Lynch-Bages, Sadie Family, Amon-Ra and Duckhorn Merlot.

Lessons of Oregon part II

Another lesson from Oregon that’s often overlooked is the lack of attention given to other grapes grown in the state. This was a takeaway I had from Friedenreich’s Oregon Wine Country Stories that I noted in my review with the fascinating possibilities of the Southern Oregon AVAs like the Umpqua, Rogue and Applegate Valleys or the shared Columbia Gorge AVA up north with Washington.

There are over 50 grape varieties grown in Oregon–yet we really only hear about 1 to 3 of them. Sure the producers in prime Pinot country with blessed vineyards on Jory and Willakenzie soils, have a good gig right now. But the countless small wineries in other areas of the state trying to promote and sell their non-Pinot wines are facing an uphill battle.

Now What?

Does Washington State really want to  be associated with just one grape variety? With more than 70 different grape varieties, why limit ourselves?

As a Washington wine lover that adores the bounty and bevy of fantastic wines like Viognier that can compete with great Condrieu, geeky Siegerrebe and Pinot noir from the Puget Sound, Counoise rosé that echoes the grape’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape heritage and robust Malbecs that gets your mouth watering with their savory, spicy complexity, I vote no.

If are going to double down on anything then we should double down on what makes Washington, Washington.

We’re the Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis of the American wine industry. We can do it all and we can do it very, very well.

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Geek Notes 9/16/2018 — Wine For Normal People Episode 84 Featuring Tuscan Wine Regions

Screenshot from the Wine For Normal People podcast

Outside of blog land, I frequently teach wine classes. As part of my usual prep routine whenever I have a class to write, I’ll fill my Overcast queue with wine podcasts relating to the class. I find that listening to podcasts while cleaning the house, working out at the gym and driving helps submerse me into the topic and compliments my book studies really well.

My usual sources for hardcore geekdom are Levi Dalton’s I’ll Drink To That! (whose episode with Gramercy owner and Master Sommmelier Greg Harrington I featured in a previous Geek Notes) and the GuildSomm podcast hosted by Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth.

However, I’ll also frequently listen to Chris Scott’s The UK Wine Show, Heritage Radio Network’s In the Drink, Jim Duane’s podcast Inside Winemaking and the very first wine podcast that I started with–Grape Radio.

Two newly launched podcasts that are also in my rotation are Wine Enthusiast’s What We’re Tasting and James Halliday’s Wine Companion podcast.

But I’m always on the lookout for more options so if you know of any other great wine podcasts worth checking out, post them in the comments below!

It was while working on an upcoming Italian wine class that I stumbled upon what is definitely going to be a new go-to resource for me–Elizabeth Schneider’s Wine for Normal People podcast.

A Little Background and Why You Should Listen Too

Anyone who shares a disheartening sigh while looking at wine displays virtually dominated by the same 3 big mega-corps is fighting the good fight in my book.

Elizabeth Schneider is a Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Sommelier who hosts the podcasts with her husband, M.C. Ice. I’m sure there is a story behind the hubby’s stage name but I haven’t came across it yet while listening.

Outside of the podcast, she does speaking engagements, online classes and has an upcoming book Wine for Normal People: A Guide for Real People Who Like Wine, but Not the Snobbery That Goes with It slated for release in early 2019.

Her website also has a super user-friendly list of brands owned by big mega-corps that is worth book marking. As I found in compiling my own list of supermarket wines, this is no easy task to stay on top of so I wholeheartedly support Schneider’s efforts in promoting more knowledge and transparency in this area.

I must confess that when I first read the description of the Wine For Normal People podcast, I thought this would be a bit too beginner for me. It could still be a great podcast that benefits a lot of people who want to dip their toes into the world of wine but I was expecting it to be something more like an updated version of William Wilson’s Wine for Newbies podcast.

But what I quickly found after listening through a few episodes is that Schneider has a fantastic teaching style and approach to wine that serves up ample geeky goodness but balances it by presenting the topic in a digestible manner.

Even for folks like me who have fell down the rabbit hole of wine geekiness, listening to the podcast and paying attention to how she presents her topics is of huge benefit. When we live in a world with a billion+ wine drinkers, one thing that us hardcore wine geeks have to realize is that we really are the minority here. Not every wine drinker aspires to be a Master of Wine or Master Sommelier or even a wine geek. The passion and enthusiasm that drives us to learn more–and to share what we’ve learned–can often be a bit much for many wine drinkers and ends up driving them away back to the comforts of the same ole, same ole.

In the end it is all about balance which, like a good wine, I find well exhibited in the Wine For Normal People podcast.

Plus, there is still plenty of geeky nuggets in each episode like these things I noted in Episode 084 on Tuscan Wine Regions (35 minutes).

Photo by Rob & Lisa Meehan. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Vineyards in Montalcino

Some Fun Things I Learned/Enjoyed From This Podcast

(3:36) I really liked Schneider’s answer to the question of if the French should feel threatened at all by the rise of Super Tuscans using Bordeaux varieties. She talks about the difference in French culture of “closing ranks” versus the in-fighting that you often see among Italian winemakers.

(7:06) Brunello is a relatively recent wine on the Italian wine scene with the particular Sangiovese Grosso clone isolated only in 1888. However, Schneider notes that winemakers as early as the 14th century were aware of the superior quality of wines in the Montalcino region.

Photo by 	Renzo Grosso. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The estate of Biondi-Santi pioneered the modern concept of Brunello di Montalcino.


(8:44) Very surprised to hear that only 4 vintages of Brunello were declared during the first 57 years of production after 1888. I definitely want to read more about this and why.

(11:55) This starts a really great discussion on the two zones of the Montalcino region–the northern and southern–with some very useful insights on the different wines produced in the different soil types. Nice tidbit on the winemaking approach of Silvio Nardi who own vineyards in both zones.

(15:24) The uniqueness of the Sangiovese based wines of Carmignano compared to Chianti. Often called “The Original Super Tuscan” due to its historical tradition of using Cabernet Sauvignon but Schneider also notes that Carmignano is distinct for growing Sangiovese on flatter lands whereas the grape usually thrives on higher elevation hillsides. Also of interest is that some Carmignano estates, like in Bolgheri, have Cabernet Sauvignon vines that were grafted from cuttings taken from Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux.

(21:20) Going to have a slight disagreement with the podcast here. After talking about some of the reasons why Chianti has historically been “a hot mess” (quite true!), Schneider encourages people to not really bother taking a chance on Chianti and instead look for wines from the Chianti Classico zone. This isn’t bad advice per se, but it is one of the Magic Beans of Wine that I’ve never been a fan of promoting.

Photo by Arnaud 25. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

I won’t deny that Chianti’s bad rap is well earned but sometimes there is a needle of a gem within the haystack of fiascos. You have to trust that a good quality producer is not going to put their name on crap.


Yeah, there is lots of crappy Chianti out there. But there is also a lot of crappy Chianti Classico out there as well. Instead of focusing on the region (Chianti vs Chianti Classico), it really should be about the producer–which, to be fair, is a common theme that Schneider makes repeatedly in this podcast. Yet, for some reason, she seems to ignore that a good quality producer of Chianti Classico can also make a good quality Chianti. This Chianti may even be made from grapes grown in the Chianti Classico zone but declassified down to Chianti for various reasons–younger vines, less aging, wanting to have a more approachable and easy drinking bottle at a lower price point, etc.

Sure, the Chianti Classico from that same producer will be the superior bottle but that doesn’t discount the potential value in a bottle of well made Chianti from a reputable producer.

(22:59) Canaiolo nero use to be the main grape of Chianti until the 1870s. Very interesting! I would love to try a varietal Canaiolo.

(24:22) Oooh I love Schneider’s use of different varieties of roses as a vehicle for explaining the differences in Sangiovese’s clones. It’s not easy to explain clones but this metaphor is a good start.

(24:55) This starts a very useful overview of the different sub-areas within the Chianti Classico zone.

Photo by Viking59. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-self

While it’s not impossible to envision the Gamay of Beaujolais (pictured) growing in Tuscany, I would probably wager on this being a case of a weird Italian synonym for another variety,


(29:02) Very interesting to hear that some producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano have been grafting over to the Chianti Classico clone of Sangiovese–though Prugnolo Gentile still dominates. Also apparently Gamay can be blended in (29:23)!?! I wasn’t aware of Tuscan Gamay so I’m wondering if this is a synonym for another grape like Alicante? Will need to do some more research here.

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Birth Year Wine Myopics

Wine Enthusiast recently published a great article highlighting what wines from the recent 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages are worth laying down in the cellar for 20+ years. They titled this article “A Guide to Finding Ageworthy Birth Year Wines”.

But for the moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles who want to set aside a thoughtful birth year bottle to share with someone on their 21st birthday, you’re better off ignoring 97% of the advice Roger Morris gives you in this Wine Enthusiast article.

A well structured Bordeaux from Pauillac or Margaux?

A nutty, toasty vintage Champagne?

A savory, spicy Hermitage or Côtes-Rotie?

A big, robust Napa Cabernet Sauvignon?

A brooding and mouthwatering Barolo?

A complex and nuanced Burgundy?

Those are all great wines, no doubt, and examples from the 2015 & 2016 vintages in particular will be giving wine lovers pleasure for the next 2 plus decades. But before you plunk down some serious cash and invest in the proper storage conditions to take care of these wines, ask yourself one very important question.

Do you think the person that you are saving this wine for is really going to appreciate and enjoy this wine when they turn 21?

Let me re-phrase that question for you from another perspective.

What were you drinking when you turned 21?

Unless your last name is Moueix, Bezos or Gates, I’d probably call BS on you sipping Petrus at 21.

Petrus?
Giscours?
Opus One?
Silver Oak?
Jordan?
Quilceda Creek?
Beaucastel?
Domaine du Pégau?
Cristal?
Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru?
Joly Coulée de Serrant?

If you were then my hat’s off to you but I’ll be honest and admit that 21 year old me was drinking Boone’s Farm, Arbor Mist Blackberry Merlot and St. James Winery’s Velvet Red and Pink Catawba. And that was after 16 to 20 year old me had graduated from drinking Bud Light and whatever alcohol made its way to the various jello shots at the parties I attended as a kid. Oh and I guess growing up in the church I had my fair share of Mogen David and Manischewitz Concord wine as well.

Being a gambling woman (only somewhat reformed), I would wager that the vast majority of you had similar early drinking experiences and palates that I did.

What reason is there for us to think that the next generation of 21 year olds are going to be any different?

Is it Better for the Giver or the Receiver?

Even when I turned 30, I don’t know if I had the palate to fully appreciated this birth year wine.

The problem with articles like the Wine Enthusiast guide is that they are almost completely driven by the perspective and palate of the person giving the wine. Yeah,folks like us are going to absolutely adore what a 2016 Lynch Bages, Gaja Sperss, Guigal La Mouline or Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon will taste like in 2037. At that point these wines are going to have evocative bouquets of savory tobacco spice, dried herbs and other tertiary flavors with long, lingering and mouthwatering finishes.

But you know who is probably not going to like those wines at all?

My niece Elise.

At best, she would smile politely and acknowledge the gift. I’m sure at dinner she would take a sip or two, trying not to gag at the bitterness and acidity. I could see her swirling the wine a little in the glass, trying to imitate what the other adults at the table are doing, hoping that maybe somehow the air would magically transform the wine into a strawberry margarita.

I’m not going to put her through that dog and pony show. But I’m definitely still squirreling away special wines to share with her and my other nieces and nephews when they turn 21.

However, its not Barolos, Napa Cabs or other age-worthy red wines.

No, I’m squirreling away Sauternes, Tokaji, German Rieslings, Vouvray Demi-Secs, vintage Ports and Madeira.

The Overlooked Majesty of Age-worthy Sweet Wines

To Roger Morris and Wine Enthusiast‘s credit, they do name drop a couple of these Birth Year worthy sweet wines in the article noting the quality of the 2016 vintage for German Rieslings and quoting Joe Campanale, owner/beverage director at Fausto in New York City on the potential of 2017 for vintage Port and Madeira. But the fact that these tremendous wines got lip service at best (with others like Sauternes not even mentioned) is sadly reflective of the “Rodney Dangerfield-status” of sweet wines in general.

It’s a shame that cheap mass-market Moscato give the category such a bad rap because well made Moscato d’Asti from high-quality producers like Mauro Sebaste are delicious wines.


In an age of Moscato Mania, Stella Rosa’s rapid ascent and the Capriccio Craze, the idea of enjoying sweet wines often gets a negative reaction from “wine people”.

This snobbish aversion to anything sweet still persists even with many of the best selling “dry” red wines being laden with residual sugar via the additions of Mega Purple or, in the case of wines like Meiomi Pinot noir, sneaking in sweet white grapes like Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Yet there is a reason why some of the most legendary wines throughout history have been sweet dessert wines.

They’re freaking delicious!

Plus, the presence of all that sugar coupled with acidity (Rieslings and Vouvray), fortification (Ports and Madeira) and Noble Rot (Sauternes, Tokaji and some German & Alsatian wines) gives these wines amazing aging potential. The evolution of Sauternes, in particular, is a remarkable journey to follow as the fresh, youthful exuberance of tropical fruit give way to richer notes of honey, spice, caramel and crème brûlée.

The Beauty Of It All

When you look at the pros and cons of saving sweet dessert wines for future 21 year olds versus the typical roll call of great red wines and dry Champagnes, there is no contest.

These dessert wines are wines that in 20 + years will not only have the complexity and nuance to appeal to seasoned wine drinkers but for newly christened 21 year olds these wines will be sweet and approachable with identifiable flavors of fruit, candy and honey.

I have one nephew and one niece born in 2008 but I bought a couple extra bottles of this Rieussec so I could crack into it a bit earlier. Purely for educational and research purposes, of course.


Sure, they may not “get” all the concepts of terroir, Botrytis, aging and vintage variation behind these wines. For them, each sip will probably taste the same while you’re likely going to see each sip unfurling another layer of flavor that has spent decades developing.

But you’re both going to still really enjoy those sips and are far more likely to share a celebratory moment that’s worth treasuring for many years to come.

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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.

Subscribers can stay on top of the geekery with new posts emailed right to their inbox.

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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Tracking the Tastemakers

Photo by Petrovsky. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-3.0

I’m reminded of Austrian puppeteer Karin Schäfer often when I walk into a supermarket’s wine department.

Recently Wine Enthusiast released their Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers for 2018–a list highlighting the folks who are “… doing their part to lead the conversation and leave a lasting influence on the world of food and drink for generations to come.”

Admittedly lists like this usually illicit an eye roll response from me because of the feel of puffery that abounds in them. Often when I look more critically at these kinds of list, such as Social Vignerons’ 2018 Top 40+ Wine Influencers which I reviewed in my post Under the (Social Media) Influence, I find an absence of voices and views that actually do influence me to check out a new wine, winemaker or region.

Then there is the cynical part of me who looks at the world of wine through the jaded sunglasses of supermarket shelves dominated by mega-corporations and massive consolidation among distributors which leaves me feeling that the real “tastemakers” in the US sits on the boards of E&J Gallo, Constellation Brands, Diageo, Brown-Foreman, Beam Suntory, Treasury Wine Estates, AB InBev, Costco, Young’s Market Company, Republic National Distributing and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

But that wouldn’t make a very exciting list now would it? Plus, I’m sure the puppeteers that are heading the decision-making at these companies would prefer to keep their strings hidden.

A Taste of Vox Populi

While the geek in me would love to see more people get excited about Pét-Nat sparklers and wines made from unique grape varieties like Trousseau, Fiano, Touriga Nacional, Pošip, Xinomavro and others, I know I’m in the minority.

So I sit by and shake my head as people go nuts over wines aged in bourbon barrels, mixed with cold brew coffee, Frosé cocktails, blue wine or silly packaging with “living labels”–the quality of the contents inside the bottle be damned.

Can’t argue with success even if it is not your cup of tea.


Even trends that start out on a craft level soon get co-opt and commercialized like how making cider from red-fleshed heritage apples became the latest rosé trend. The rye whiskey heritage that pre-dates the Revolution is now “marketable” with the big boys like Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey and Jim Beam hopping on the rye wagon and expanding their portfolios. Patron and Jose Cuervo have their eyes set on the Mezcal market.

And let’s not even get started with what’s become of the sour beer and hazy IPA segments.

But c’est la vie.

If there is a dollar to be made in the beverage industry, somebody will be there to make it.

In vino veritas

Like wine, there is truth in innovation and if history has taught us anything over the course the 10,000+ years that humans have been consuming alcohol it is that we do like a little variety in our tipple–even if that variety is pumpkin spiced flavored.

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

Y’all know its only a matter of time till Apothic PSL comes out, right?


To that extent, I’ll set aside my cynicism to look at Wine Enthusiast’s list and highlight for you some of the folks whose stories I’ve found spark just a bit of hope in my world weary heart.

Maggie Campbell – President/Head Distiller, Privateer Rum; Board of Directors Vice President, American Craft Spirits Association

A female head distiller who has a WSET diploma and is pursuing a Master of Wine certification? Badass! My wife is from the Peabody/Salem, Massachusetts area which is a short drive from Privateer Rum in Ipswich so the next time we’re visiting family back east, I’m definitely putting this distillery on my “Must Visit” list.

Paul Elliot — Founder, Loft & Bear

In all honesty, the vodka industry has been something of a joke the last couple decades with flavors and marketing holding more sway than quality and craftsmanship. I have to tip my hat to the small craft distilleries who try their best to forge a living in this category. While the whiskey, gin, rum and tequila categories have their Goliaths, those mediums at least give the Davids a few rocks of opporunities to differentiate themselves with their ingredients and aging. That’s a tougher task in the craft vodka segment.

Kudos to Elliot and Loft & Bear which not only wants to stand out from the pack but also wants to give back through their charity commitments.

Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher — Co-winemakers, Fossil & Fawn

Photo by  Cornischong . Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-self

Admit it. You can see Treasury Wine Estates coming out with a “Living Amphora” series of Natural Wines at some point.

While I haven’t always been enthralled with the quality of natural wines, I do respect the commitment and passion behind the people who make them. I haven’t had a chance to try Fossil & Fawn yet but, being Pacific Northwest neighbors, I’ll certainly make an effort to seek them out when I’m in the Portland area.

But, and I’m going to let my cynicism slip in here, I do think that the moment when the Natural Wine Movement has made it will be when wineries like Fossil & Fawn start getting gobbled up by mega-corps like Constellation Brands (a la AB InBev’s mad buying spree of craft brewers).

It will be both a sad and triumphant time for the Natural Wine Movement but I’ll raise a glass and hope that folks like Fischer & Mosbacher still stay part of La Résistance and can make a healthy living doing so.

Maya Dalla Valle – Director, Dalla Valle Vineyards

Dalle Valle has been one of the few Napa “cult wines” that I’ve believed have been worth the hype. It is heartening to see the vineyards still stay in the family and that rather than resting on her name, Maya has gone out into the world to gain real experience at wineries across the globe.

Jésus Guillén — Owner/Winemaker, Guillén Family Wines; Winemaker, White Rose Estate

The last few times I’ve had White Rose wines from the Dundee Hills, I’ve been impressed. Learning about Guillén’s story gives me reason to explore these wines more as well as his own family estate wines.

The windmill that is featured on many of the Long Meadow Ranch wines is still holding the fort on their Mayacamas property overlooking Rutherford.


Chris Hall — Proprietor/Chief Operating Officer, Long Meadow Ranch

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).

But visiting the estate a couple years ago as well as their delicious farm-to-table restaurant really hit home for me the Hall family’s commitment to sustainability and the environment.

Jonathan Hajdu — Winemaker, Covenant Wines

I’m not Jewish but I’ve listened to many Jewish friends over the years lament about the poor selection and quality level of many kosher wines–especially those that are mevushal which are flash pasteurized so they can be handled by non-Jews.

While I know that there are quality minded producers in Israel and abroad making kosher wines, their small productions and the hurdles of importation limits their access to US consumers. Being based in Napa and Sonoma, Covenant Wines does have the potential to fill in a sorely needed niche. It never hurts when you have fruit sources like Rudd’s Oakville Estate and Mt. Veeder vineyards!

Their limited production will make them hard to find outside the Pacific Northwest but if you get an opportunity to try Trout’s VITAL wines, take it.

Ashley Trout — Owner/Winemaker, Brook & Bull Cellars; Head Winemaker, Vital Wines

I’ve been a fan of Ashley Trout since her first project, Flying Trout Wines which is now owned by TERO estates. Recently I was really impressed with her VITAL rosé at the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance tasting earlier this year which I documented in my Walla Walla Musings post.

The entire VITAL project is super cool and worth supporting with all the profits from the wine label going to the SOS Clinic of Walla Walla that provides healthcare for under-served members of the community–including many vineyard workers and their families.

I was wondering why Ashley Trout was pictured in her Wine Enthusiast photo op drinking Duckhorn wine until I read that she is married to Brian Rudin the winemaker of Duckhorn’s Red Mountain project, Canvasback. They have two kids who have likely inherited some really good winemaking genes.

Katarina Martinez — Owner/Head Brewer, Lineup Brewing

While no industry is immune, the beer industry has had a lot of light shined recently on the rampant sexism that women working in the industry face. There is even a website called Beer & Sexism which documents stories of women brewers and employees with experiences that range from mild (but thoroughly annoying) mansplaining to severe sexual harassment.

There is no universal blessing bestowed on women that means they’re going to make better beer but with women brewers representing only around 10% of the industry, its worth going out your way to support the underdog.

While it will probably be tough to find the New York-based Lineup Brewing on the West Coast, I’ll keep an eye out for Martinez’s brews.

Krista Scruggs — Vigneronne, Zafa Wines

This entry had me raising an eye brow and going “Whoa!”. Scruggs with her Vermont-based Zafa Wines is experimenting with co-fermenting wine grapes with farmed and forage apples as a sort of a wine-cider hybrid project that sounds crazy cool.

I have no idea how easy her stuff is to find but its worth the search to find what Scruggs describes on her website as “JUST FUCKING FERMENTED JUICE FROM RESPONSIBLY FARMED LIVING FRUIT.

Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen — Winemaker/Co-owner, W.T. Vintners/Raconteur Wine Company; Wine Director, RN74

I don’t hide my affections for W.T. Vintners’s wines like their delicious rosé and very Old Worldish 2015 Boushey Vineyard Rhone blend that beat out (for me) the 2014 Sadie Family Columella (which was nearly 3x the price) at this year’s Washington vs World Blind Tasting Event. Plus, the food and wine experience at RN 74 in Seattle is second to none.

This Madeira flight at RN74 featuring (left to right) a 1988 Malmsey, 1976 Terrantez and a 1948 Bual (!!!) is among my Top 10 lifetime wine moments for sure.


That said, I’m still a bit skeptical at how much influence winemakers and sommeliers have in the bigger scheme of the industry. Yeah, they can make great wine and put together a great list but for the majority of wine drinkers who are picking up a bottle of wine at the grocery store or Costco to take home for dinner, they’re more apt to be swayed by fancy packaging than by “terroir-driven, single-vineyard wines.”

Sorry, my cynicism is leaking out again.

Kelli White — Senior Staff Writer, GuildSomm

For me, personally, I will have to say that Kelli White has been the one figure on this list who has actually influenced my tastes and approach to wine. Over the last year since I’ve discovered her work on GuildSomm, she has become one of my favorite wine writers.

I’ve learned so much from her with this just being a small sampling of some of her outstanding work.

The Devastator: Phylloxera Vastatrix & The Remaking of the World of Wine

The Evolution of American Oak

Photo by εγώ. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under free licenses.

The root of my Xinomavro obsession of late.

Gods & Heroes: Xinomavro in Northern Greece

Brettanomyces: Science & Context

Major Maladies of the Vine

The GuildSomm website is worth bookmarking just for her articles alone.

Hannibal ad portas

These next listings are probably the most realistic inclusions on Wine Enthusiast’s list because these folks actually have the position and power to influence the market in substantial ways.

Neil Bernardi – Vice President of Winemaking, Duckhorn Wine Company; General Manager, Kosta Browne

Duckhorn has grown immensely from it founding as a small Napa winery by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. It’s becoming a large mega-corp in its own right with a portfolio of brands that includes Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration, Decoy, Canvasback, Calera and Kosta Browne. This is a story not that far off from that of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates which started as a small Washington winery and now has a portfolio that includes more than 26 brands like 14 Hands, Columbia Crest, Erath, Borne of Fire, Northstar, Spring Valley Vineyards, Conn Creek, Patz & Hall and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

Duckhorn’s growth is on a steep trajectory and I don’t see their strings of acquisitions slowing down. A big question, especially as they acquire more vineyards and contracts, is whether they will continue to keep their brand holdings in the upper premium range or expand more of their value offerings like Decoy.

Katie Jackson — Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs, Jackson Family Wines

Photo by 	Jim G. uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Vineyards outside Kendall-Jackson’s Wine Center in Santa Rosa.

Yeah, Jackson Family Wines is huge with over 30 brands in California (including La Crema, Siduri, Brewer-Clifton, Byron, Cambria, Freemark Abbey, Cardinale and Copain), a growing presence in Oregon (buying Penner-Ash and Willakenzie among others) as well as wineries across the globe. They make (and have no problem selling) more than 3 million cases a year of their Vintner Reserve Chardonnay.

That translates to a lot of influence and sway in the industry so it is heartening to read about Katie Jackson’s effort to promote sustainability across her family’s empire including the public release of sustainability reports. Just a few days ago it was announced that more than three-quarters of the company’s vineyards (which includes 12,000 acres under the Kendall-Jackson label alone) are certified sustainable.

That’s a significant needle mover that will certainly have a long term impact on not only the wine industry but on the health of the environment as a whole. While I can often be dour on large wine companies, I have to sincerely applaud Katie Jackson and the Jackson family for these efforts.

Maybe there is hope for my cynical heart yet.

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August is Washington Wine Month!

Photo taken by self. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as User:Agne27 under  CC-BY-SA-3.0Yeah, I know it kinda feels like we just had a Washington Wine Month not that long ago.

Technically this past March was just Taste Washington Wine Month which highlights the big Taste Washington Event in Seattle that features over 225 wineries and 65 restaurants as well as activities (like seminars and The New Vintage Party).

But this month is the real Washington Wine Month. I swear! The Washington State Wine Commission even bought the domain www.winemonth.com to let the world know that August is Washington Wine Month.

Okay, it’s silly marketing but, hey, why waste a good excuse to drink and geek out about Washington wine? I’m in.

While throughout the month I’ll be highlighting Washington wines in my 60 Second Wine Reviews, I wanted to kick off the fun with a little primer of some of the great blogs, Twitter feeds and books that I used when researching my posts on Washington wine and wineries.

At the end I also feature a highlight of some of my favorite Washington-related posts and reviews that I’ve done here on Spitbucket. If you want to stay up to date with the fun be sure to subscribe so you can get posts sent right to your email.

Great Wine Blogs with a Washington-bent

Washington Wine Report (@wawinereport) — Though Sean Sullivan has moved up to the big leagues of wine writing being the Washington beat reporter for Wine Enthusiast, he still finds time for his Washington Wine Report that has been the benchmark standard for Washington wine blogging for some time.

Screenshot from Great Northwest Wines (8/1/18)


Great Northwest Wine (@GreatNWWine) — More of an online magazine than necessarily a blog but few cover the Pacific Northwest wine scene better than Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman.

VinoSocial (@VinoSocialNancy) — While not completely Washington-centric, Nancy Croisier does have a lot of experience and great insights to share about the Washington wine industry. She also wrote up a great post with all the relevant hashtags for folks wanting to promote and follow Washington Wine Month activities.

Wine Diva Lifestyle (@Shona425) — Shona Milne is one of the original bloggers covering the Woodinville wine scene that is now home to over 100 wineries.

Woodinville Wine Blog (@woodinvillewb) — With such explosive growth in the industry, it’s great to have multiple feet on the ground covering it. Written by a team of 3 friends who explore the food and events happening in Woodinville as well the wine.

Washington Wine Blog (@WA_WINE_BLOG) — A blog ran by 3 doctors who also share their love for the wines of Oregon and California as well.

Write for Wine (@WriteforWine) — Though Margot Savell’s blog has a global scope, she is another pioneer in the Washington wine blogosphere which she has been covering since 2007.

Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman — While Catie McIntyre Walker’s blog isn’t as active as it once was, she–like Shona–is one of the original pioneers in the Washington wine blogging scene with Catie’s focus being on the outstanding wines of Walla Walla. With over 140 wineries, there is still a lot of great stuff to discover.

Washington Wineries on Twitter Worth a Follow

Of course all wineries are going to want to promote their wines and events, but I like following these wineries because they will also give you behind the scenes peaks into the fun stuff of making wine instead of only posting promotions and bottle porn pics.

Lagana Cellars (@LaganaCellars) — Carmenere at bud break and just before veraison. Oh and robin eggs!

Photo taken by self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as User:Agne27 under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Chris Figgins at the 2012 Taste Washington Grand Tasting.


Cote Bonneville (@cotebonneville) — Baby chicks!

Figgins Estate/Leonetti (@FigginsFerment) — This is more of Chris Figgins’ personal twitter account but it has great content and pics showing life in Walla Walla as well as the development of their new Toil vineyard (my review of one their wines) and construction of their Figgins barrel room caves.

Claar Cellars (@claarcellars) — Veraison on Pinot gris! Watch a bottling machine in action!

Maryhill Winery (@MaryhillWinery) — I’m okay with bottle porn when it is tied into mouthwatering and delicious food-pairing recipes but what I live for are retweets of aerial drone shots of their spectacular vineyards in the Columbia Gorge!

Books About Washington Wine

Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide by Paul Gregutt — Still the magnum opus of Washington wine. Check out my review of the book here.

Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History by Catie McIntyre Walker — Written by the original Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman, no one knows the valley, the people or the wines better than her.

Essential Wines and Wineries of the Pacific Northwest: A Guide to the Wine Countries of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Idaho by Cole Danehower — Up until he passed away in 2015, Cole Danehower was one of the best authorities on the wines of the Northwest. Coupled with the beautiful photographs from Andrea Johnson, this book is something to treasure for multiple reasons.

Discovering Washington Wines: An Introduction to One of the Most Exciting Premium Wine Regions by Tom Parker — A bit outdated (2002) but super cheap on Amazon. What I found most fascinating about this quick and easy to read book was the compare and contrast between how the future looked for the Washington wine industry back at the turn of the century versus the whirl wind of success it’s seen over the last 20 years.

WineTrails of Washington by Steve Roberts — Also a tad outdated (2007) but still a quite useful tool to plan your winery tours in Washington. Just keep in mind that we have around 300 more wineries than we did when Roberts first wrote his book. Still my dog-earred and marked up copy gets pulled off the shelf from time to time as I compare the growth in his very well thought out “wine trails” that group wineries by locations. His WineTrails of Walla Walla (2010) is a smidgen more up-to-date.

The Wine Project: Washington State’s Winemaking History by Ronald Irvine and Dr. Walter Clore — A required textbook for my Washington Wine History class when I was at the Northwest Wine Academy because this truly is the textbook dictum of the people and moments that deeply impacted this state’s wine industry.

A Few of My Favorite Washington-related SpitBucket posts

The author with Bob Betz (right) and Louis Skinner (left) at Betz Family Winery

The Legend of W.B. Bridgman
The Mastery of Bob Betz
Exploring The Burn with Borne of Fire

Getting Geeky with Whidbey Island Siegerrebe
Getting Geeky with Bunnell Malbec
Getting Geeky with Gramercy Picpoul
Getting Geeky with Savage Grace Cabernet Francs
Getting Geeky with Soaring Rooster Rose of Counoise

Quilceda Creek Release Party
Event Review — Washington vs The World Seminar
Walla Walla Musings
It’s time to catch on to Passing Time
Making a Bet on Washington Chenin blanc

Loved the interplay of rich dark fruit and savory spice with mouthwatering acidity in this 2015 Hence Syrah from Walla Walla.


60 Second Wine Review — Hedges In Vogue Cabernet Sauvignon
60 Second Wine Review — àMaurice Viognier
60 Second Wine Review — Temper Red Blend
60 Second Wine Review – Gordon Cabernet Sauvignon
60 Second Wine Review — Hence Syrah
60 Second Wine Review — Lauren Ashton Cuvee Meline
60 Second Wine Review — Apex Catalyst
60 Second Wine Review — Sinclair Estate Vixen
60 Second Wine Review — Lost River Syrah
60 Second Wine Review – Browne Site Series Cabernet Sauvignon
60 Second Wine Review — Scarborough Stand Alone Cabernet Sauvignon
60 Second Wine Review — Tagaris Pinot noir
60 Second Wine Review — Woodward Canyon Artist Series

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

Photo by davitydave. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0We are in the home stretch of our series on the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign with only a few more offers left to review.

Today we’re making our second to last stop in Margaux to review the offers of the 3rd Growths Ch. Kirwan, d’Issan and Giscours as well as the 2nd Growth Brane-Cantenac.

In our previous visits to the commune we explored the offers of Marquis d’Alesme, Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes and Cantenac-Brown as well as that of Ch. Palmer.

You can check out the links at the bottom to see other offers from across Bordeaux which we have reviewed so far in this series.

Ch. Kirwan (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

The origins of Kirwan date back to the 17th century when the land belonged to the noble de Lassalle family. In 1710, the Bordeaux negociant Sir John Collingwood bought the property which eventually passed as a dowry to his daughter when she married an Irishman from Galway named Mark Kirwan.

In 1780, Thomas Jefferson visited the estate on his tour of Bordeaux and ranked the wines of Kirwan as a “2nd Growth” behind his ranking of First Growths Latour, Lafite, Margaux and Haut-Brion.

Photo by Gilbert LE MOIGNE. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Label of Chateau Kirwan featuring the Chateau and the portraits of Armand and Jean-Henri Schÿler

After Mark Kirwan passed away in the early 19th century, the estate went through a succession of owners until it family came into the hands of Camille Godard, the mayor of Bordeaux. In 1882, Godard bequeathed the estate to the City of Bordeaux who contracted the negociant firm Schröder & Schÿler to manage the property.

By 1925, the Schÿler family had purchased Ch. Kirwan outright. The property is still in the hands of family today with Nathalie Schÿler managing.

In 1991, the Schÿlers brought Michel Rolland in to consult. Prior to this, Rolland had worked almost exclusively with clients on the Right Bank making Kirwan his first foray into the Haut-Medoc. He quickly made several substantial changes, insisting on lower yields and more strict selections with the creation of a second wine, Les Charmes de Kirwan, to help limit the fruit that would go into the Grand Vin. Since 2002, all the fermentation have been done via native wild ferments.

Ch. Kirwan is unique among the classified growths with virtually all of its 40 ha (99 acres) vineyards being the same as they were during the 1855 classifications with only slight changes in the cépage assortment. Today the vineyards are planted to 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and a little bit of experimental Carménère.

Over the years the amount of Cabernet Franc has decreased (and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon) but Kirwan still has one of the highest percentages of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot planted in the Medoc. Most of the Cabernet varieties are found on the deep gravelly-sand soils of the Cantenac plateau while the Merlot thrives on the more clay and limestone-based soils on the western side of the Margaux commune near Arsac.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Around 16,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-95 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 90-92 Wine Advocate (WA), 89-92 Wine Spectator (WS), 89-91 Vinous Media (VM), 89-90 James Suckling (JS), 90-92 Jeb Dunnuck (JD), 88-89 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

This is well extracted, with dark berry fruits, attractive tobacco leaf and charcoal notes. It has that same savoury frame that so many from Margaux have this year, and the fruit character is not bursting with generosity but is still expressive and lyrical. It really does offer something for those looking for a more sculpted wine. Medium term drinking. (91 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $45
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $45.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $46.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $47 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $56 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $46 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $43 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

Photo by Ryan O'Connell. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

Merlot berries being sorted at Ch. Kirwan during the 2010 harvest.

Kirwan has been charming the pants off of me since the 2009 vintage (WS Ave $79). Both the 2012 (WS Ave $55) and 2014 vintage were released in the mid $40s and offered stellar value for the quality they delivered. Even the troublesome 2011 (WA Ave $54) and 2013 vintages of Kirwan drank way above their similarly priced peers with the former starting to see a steady price bump as more folks have catched on.

That personal track record of producing a savory, yet elegant style which hits my pleasure spots as well as pricing which fits perfectly in line with the 2014 vintage makes this a Buy for me.

Even though it looks like most critics have been poo-pooing this years release, this is a case where I’m going to go with my gut and past experience instead of numerical scores.

Ch. d’Issan (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

Engraved above the door in the entryway to Ch. d’Issan is the estate’s Latin motto–Regum Mensis Arisque Deorum “For the tables of kings and the altars of the gods”–which pays tribute to the property’s long history and presence on the tables of royal families throughout Europe.

Legend has it that wine from the vineyards of d’Issan were served at the wedding banquet of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henri II in 1152.

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that following their defeat at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, the English Army made their last stand at d’Issan. At the conclusion of the Hundred Years War, the property was granted as a reward by King Charles VII to the Comte de Foix for his service is fighting the English.

Centuries later the wines of d’Issan were well stocked in the cellars of the Prince of Wales (later George II) along with those of Latour, Lafite, Margaux and Pontac (Haut-Brion). While serving as the Ambassador to France, future US President Jefferson ranked the estate (then known as Ch. Candale) as a “3rd Growth” following his tour of the wineries of Bordeaux. In the 19th century, the favorite claret of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was reportedly Ch. d’Issan.

Image from The U.S. Diplomacy Center exhibition page which states All materials in this exhibition are in the public domain and can be reproduced without permission.

When Thomas Jefferson visited the estate in 1780, he ranked the wines Ch. Candale (named after its then owners) as a 3rd Growth–a ranking that would later be affirmed in the official 1855 Classification done by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce.

The estate gets its name from its time under the ownership of the 17th century French knight Pierre d’Essenault who acquired the estate as a dowry with his descendants running it till 1760.

The modern history of the estate began after World War II when it was purchased by the Cruse family who also owned the 2nd Growth Ch. Rauzan-Ségla. The Cruses eventually sold Rauzan-Ségla in 1956 to focus completely on d’Issan.

The estate is still managed today by the Cruse family however, in 2013, Jacky Lorenzetti acquired a 50% stake in the ownership of d’Issan to go along with his holdings of Ch. Lilian Ladouys in St. Estephe and Ch. Pedesclaux in Pauillac.

When the estate was officially classified as a 3rd Growth in 1855, the vineyards were planted almost entirely to the obscure variety Tarney Coulant (also known as Mancin). Today the 44 ha (109 acres) of d’Issan vineyards are planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot with the percentage of Merlot increasing in recent years.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot. Around 6000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 90-92 WA, 89-92 VM, 92-94 JL, 89-91 JD

Sample Review:

The 2017 d’Issan is plump, juicy and forward. There is lovely depth and texture to the 2017, but without the explosive energy that has characterized some recent vintages, including the 2015 and 2016. Plush fruit, silky and soft tannins all add to the wine’s considerable appeal. I expect the 2017 will drink well with minimal cellaring. In 2017, d’Issan is a wine of finesse, persistence and nuance rather than power. The blend is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot. Harvest started on September 18, the earliest since 2003. Quite unusually, there was no break in between the picking of the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, some of the younger vine Cabernet came in before all the Merlots were in. Tasted four times. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $60
JJ Buckley: $61.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $59.97
K&L: $59.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $71 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $76 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $63 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

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

The castle looking chateau of d’Issan.

The history geek in me absolutely adores the story of d’Issan. But I’ve only have had tasting experiences with a couple of vintages of d’Issan–both stellar years (2005 WS Ave $119 and 2009 WS Ave $95). While its relatively easy to make good wines in vintages like those, I find that the mettle of an estate shines in the more average to sub-par vintage.

So while I love the story, without having a bearing on what the d’Issan team can do in vintages like 2017 or poorer, I’m not inclined to gamble on their 2017 offer. Pass.

Ch. Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

Founded in the 18th century as Domaine Guilhem Hosten and later known as Chateau Gorce-Guy, Brane-Cantenac received its current name when it was purchased in 1833 by Baron Hector de Brane, known as “the Napoléon of the Vineyards”. To finance the sale, Brane sold his Pauillac estate Brane-Mouton (later known as Mouton-Rothschild). The “Cantenac” comes from the plateau that the estate’s 75 ha (185 acres) are located on.

In 1866, Brane-Cantenac came under the ownership of the Roy family who also owned neighboring d’Issan. Under the Roys the estate would fetch among the highest prices of all the classified 2nd growths with some vintages being on par with the pricing of the First Growths.

The modern history of Brane-Cantenac began in 1920 when it was purchased by the consortium behind the Societe des Grands Crus de France that also owned Ch. Margaux and Ch. Giscours as well as Chateau Lagrange in St. Julien. Among the shareholders were Léonce Recapet and his son-in-law, François Lurton. After dissolution of the consortium in 1925, Recapet and Lurton purchased Brane-Cantenac with the estate later passing to François’ son, Lucien.

Lucien Lurton would go on to acquire several estates that he turned over into the care of his 10 children in the 1990s. His son, Henri Lurton, took control of Brane-Cantenac in 1992.

While mostly traditional in style, Brane-Cantenac was one of the first in Bordeaux to adopt the use of the use of an optical sorter during harvest and in some vintages will make use of a reverse osmosis machine–mostly in rainy vintages to remove excess water that has swelled the grapes.

The author and Henri Lurton at the 2016 UGC tasting featuring the wines of the 2013 vintage.

Around 25% of Brane Cantenac is farmed organically with only ploughing and organic manure used throughout all the vineyards. Additionally 12 ha (20 acres) are farmed bioydnamically.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot with this vintage being the first vintage to include Petit Verdot in the final blend. Around 11,000 cases a year are produced. In 2017, most of that year’s frost hit the portion of vineyards usually allocated towards production of the estate’s second wine, Baron de Brane.

Critic Scores:

94-96 WE, 92-93 JS, 91-93 VM, 88-91 WS, 89-92 JD, 91-94 JL

Sample Review:

The 2017 Brane-Cantenac was picked from 14 September to 2 October at 31.2hl/ha after frost destroyed 35% of the vines in April. It is matured in 75% new oak and 25% one-year old and it has 13% alcohol. It has a tightly wound bouquet with broody black fruit, tar and a touch of graphite, very Pauillac in style as usual. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, very linear and precise, not a deep Margaux and unashamedly classic in style with dry, slightly brusque tannin. The finish is dominated by tobacco and pencil lead notes with healthy pinch of pepper on the aftertaste. Classic Brane-Cantenac through and through. Tasted on three occasions. — Neal Martin, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $64
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $413.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $69.97
K&L: $66.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $75 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $80 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $60 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $56 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

Describing Brane-Cantenac as the “Pauillac of Margaux” is a spot-on description. Outside of the top estates of Ch. Margaux and Ch. Palmer, no one else in the communes makes a more structured and age-worthy Margaux than Brane-Cantenac. Compared to its 2nd Growth peers and even the highly esteemed Pauillac 5th Growths Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet, Brane-Cantenac is often vastly underpriced for its quality level.

However, it is that highly structured and exceptionally age-worthy style which causes me to avoid Brane-Cantenac in vintages like 2017 when I’m looking for more shorter term “cellar defender” wines. While the estate is a stellar buy in cellar-worthy vintages like 2009/2010 and 2015/2017, it doesn’t fit the bill on what I’m looking right now so Pass.

Ch. Giscours (Margaux)
Some Geekery:

While the origins of Giscours goes back to the 14th century, the first documentation of winemaking at the property dates to 1552. In the 18th century, the estate was owned by the Marquis de St. Simon whose family saw the government confiscate Giscours during the French Revolution.

The property was sold in 1793 to two Americans, John Gray and Jonathan Davis. Eventually Giscours was acquired in 1845 by a Parisian banker, the Comte de Pescatore, who hired Pierre Skawinski to manage the property.

Photo by Ken Case. Released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

The exterior of Ch. Giscours.


Over the next 50 years, Skawinski would go on to develop many innovations in the vineyard and winery including the design of a new plow as well as the use of sulfur spray to combat powdery mildew. He also developed techniques of gravity flow winemaking at Giscours that his sons would later take to other notable Bordeaux estates like Léoville-Las Cases, Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet.

In 1875, Giscours was purchased by the Cruse family who had their hand in the ownership of several Bordeaux properties. They sold the estate in 1913. By 1952, Giscours came under the ownership of an Algerian vigneron, Nicolas Tari. In 1976, Tari’s son, Pierre, was one of the judges at the famous “Judgement of Paris” wine tasting in 1976.

Today Giscours is owned by Eric Albada Jelgersma who also owns the 5th Growth Margaux estate Chateau du Tertre, the Haut-Medoc estates Ch. Duthil and Ch. Houringe as well as the Tuscan estate of Caiarossa.

In 1995, Alexander van Beek was brought in to manage the estate and is credited with taking Giscours (as well as du Tertre) to new heights of success.

All the vineyards are sustainably managed with 20% farmed biodynamically.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

94-96 WE, 92-93 JS, 90-93 VM, 90-92 WA, 89-92 WS, 92-94 JL, 89-91 JD

Sample Review:

An up and coming Margaux estate, the 2017 Château Giscours offers a complex bouquet of sandalwood, damp flowers, sous bois, and spicy red fruits. It’s slightly stretched and firm on the palate, with medium-bodied richness. I’d like to see more fat and texture here, but I suspect it will put on more weight with time in barrel and bottle. It should drink nicely for a decade. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $59
JJ Buckley: $60.94
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $365.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $59.97
K&L: $59.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $68 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $72 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $67 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $52 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

The 2005 Giscours is such a beauty but even in sub-par vintages Giscours has been producing winners that over deliver for the price of a 3rd Growth.


Probably one of the best buys in Bordeaux is the 2005 Giscours (WS Ave $102). This is a wine that is drinking at its peak now and is easily outshining wines almost twice its price. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy this wine several times with a few bottles still left in the cellar.

Likewise the 2012 (WS Ave $75) and 2014 are still punching above their weight though both were closer to $55 when they were released. It’s been clear for sometime that Giscours has been an estate on the ascent but, sadly for our wallets, the prices are starting to catch up with its stellar quality level.

That makes seeing a 2017 future offer below 2014 levels quite surprising. While I doubt the price of the 2017 will reach into the $70s, it’s far more likely that the wine will be closer to 2014 by the time this wine hits the shelf in 2020. It’s worth it to Buy now and lock in the futures price.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

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Getting Geeky with Rubus Barossa Shiraz

Going to need more than 60 Seconds to geek out about the 2014 Rubus Shiraz from the Barossa.

The Background

Rubus is a negociant label of the importing firm Kysela Pere et Fils that was founded by Master Sommelier Fran Kysela.

Prior to earning his MS in 1989 and starting his firm in 1994, Kysela previously worked for California wineries Fetzer and Gallo as well as importers Kermit Lynch and Weygandt-Metzler. In his more than 40 years in the wine business, Fran Kysela has earned numerous awards including 2013 Importer of the Year from Wine Enthusiast magazine.

His wine import portfolio represents over 200 producers, including notable wineries such as Abeja, Accordini Igino, Alain Jaume, Avennia, Bressia, Bonny Doon, Buty, Betz, Chakana, Cholila Ranch, Clos de Sixte, Domaine Mordoree, Finca Sobreno, Gravas, Hahn, Jip Jip Rocks, La Petite Frog, Levendi, Long Shadows, Loring, Maipe, Marcassin, Mas Sinen, Maysara, Milton Park, Montebuena, Mt. Monster, Pago de Carraovejas, Palacio de Bornos, Paradigm, Patton Valley, Poggio Nardone, Quilceda Creek, Rebuli, Reverdy, Rinaldi, Segries, St. James Winery, Tamarack, Thorn Clarke, Tiza, Tres Ojos, Valminor and Vinsacro among many others.

The first wine released under the Rubus label was in 1997 with 1200 cases of an Amador County Zinfandel. Since then the brand has expanded to include Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Chardonnay from Colchagua Valley in Chile, Pinot noir from the Waipara Valley in New Zealand, Prieto Picudo from Tierra de León in Spain, a Grenache-based Vin Gris from Corbières in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France as well as a Shiraz from the Barossa of South Australia.

All the wines bottled under the Rubus label are personally selected by Fran Kysela.

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

While the oak used for the Rubus Shiraz was entirely American, for half the barrels the staves were sent to France to be seasoned (air dried) and coopered in the French style.

The 2014 Rubus Shiraz was only the third release of a Shiraz from Kysela. A co-ferment of 98% Shiraz with 2% Viognier, the wine was aged 12 months in 100% American oak with half the barrels being seasoned and coopered in France. Around 2,000 cases were produced.

Instead of being labeled as the Geographical Indication (GI) of Barossa Valley, the 2014 Rubus is labeled as being from simply “Barossa” which Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen note in Wines of the Southern Hemisphere: The Complete Guide means that fruit from neighboring Eden Valley could have been blended in. Conversely, if a wine is labeled as being from the “Barossa Valley” then only 100% Barossa Valley fruit could be used.

The Origins of Syrah

In Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes, co-authored by Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz, it is noted that the origins of Syrah have been proven to be distinctly French despite myths attributing its origins to the Persian city of Shiraz in modern-day Iran.

Map from Rhône-Alpes map.png on Wikimedia Commons created by Utilisateur:Rinaldum. Derivations done by self and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

With Mondeuse Blanche native to the Savoie region (#4) and Dureza originating from the Ardèche (#1), it is likely that the cross-pollination that created Syrah happened somewhere in the Isère (#3) where Dureza is known to have reached.
The Drôme department (#2) includes the Northern Rhone wine region of Hermitage where there are written accounts of Syrah being grown here by at least the 1780s.

DNA analysis conducted in 1998 by Dr. Carole Meredith and others at UC-Davis have shown the parents of Syrah to be the Savoie wine grape Mondeuse blanche and the Ardèche variety Dureza. Both grapes were at one time cultivated in the department of Isère, southeast of Lyon, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region with ampelographers speculating that this was the likely area that Syrah originated in.

Further research by José Vouillamoz has shown a potential parent-offspring relationship between Syrah’s parent Dureza and the Pinot grape meaning that potentially Pinot noir could be a grandparent variety to Syrah.

Additional research into the origins of Viognier has shown a parent-offspring relationship with Syrah’s other parent, Mondeuse blanche, and Viognier though it is not yet clear which variety is the parent and which is the offspring–partly because the other potential parent of Viognier hasn’t been identified yet. This means that Viognier could be either a half-sibling or a grandparent to Syrah.

Aussie Shiraz vs French Syrah

Syrah was first brought to Australia in 1832 by viticulturalist and “father of Australian wine” James Busby as part of a collection of 75 different grapevine varieties from Europe. Known initially as Hermitage and then Scyras it was first planted in New South Wales before spreading westward.

Today it is the most widely planted variety in Australia, accounting for around 45% of the yearly harvest. It is planted across the country with the Barossa Valley known for having some of the oldest vineyards of Shiraz in the world–including many pre-phylloxera plantings on their own rootstock.

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

The Barossa Valley

Among these old vine Shiraz plantings include Langmeil’s 1843 vineyard in Tanunda and Turkey Flat’s 1847 parcel planted by Johann August Frederick Fiedler. In neighboring Eden Valley, Henschke’s Hill of Grace has Shiraz plantings dating back to the 1860s.

Pioneered by German Lutheran settlers from Prussia and Silesia (in modern-day Poland), the Barossa Valley is home to numerous 6th generation family wine growers. Often traditionally aged in American oak, the style of Shiraz here is characterized by James Halliday in his Wine Atlas of Australia as “…lush, velvety and mouthfilling with flavors in the black cherry to blackberry spectrum, the tannins ripe and soft.”

The soils in the Barossa are mostly sandy and clay loam which will have varying water-retaining abilities in the hot Australian sun depending on the percentage and type of clay. This tends to produce concentrated wines with lower acidity and higher pH that contributes to the powerful and lush dark fruit typical of Aussie Shiraz.

In contrast, the mainly granite and schist-based soils of the Northern Rhone (particularly in Côte-Rôtie) produces wines that John Livingstone-Learmonth notes in The Wines of the Northern Rhône tend to be “… less intensely coloured–red rather than black–and much more sinewed. Their fruit is more stone and pebbly in texture, their tannins more upright and raw at the outset. Pepper tones are drier and more evident…”

The Wine

Medium-plus intensity. Noticeable oak with coconut and cinnamon. Certainly dark fruit like black cherries but there also seems to be some faint red fruit like red plums on the edges. Red flowers like dahlias add some intrigue.

Photo by Dinkum. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-Zero

While the oak and dark fruits certainly play a prominent role in this wine, I was very intrigued by some of the layers of potential complexity suggested by the red floral notes like dahlias on the nose.

On the palate the oak is still quite pronounced with creamy vanilla mouthfeel and dark chocolate joining the party. However, medium-plus acidity does add enough freshness and a mouthwatering component to keep this from being jammy. The ripe medium-plus tannins are soft but well structured holding up the full-bodied fruit. On the moderate-length finish there is a subtle herbal note (maybe eucalyptus) that isn’t quite defined but does add some complexity.

The Verdict

Overall, I wouldn’t describe this as a stereotypical “Big, bombastic Aussie Shiraz” that seems to dominant the shelves of the American market. No one would ever confuse this for something from Mollydooker or Glaetzer.

While definitely oaky and fruit-forward, this is a little more in the Penfolds style with an element of elegance and additional layers that I suspect could become even more complex with a few more years of bottle age. With its juicy acidity and structured tannins, I can easily see this going another 3 to 4 years in delivering ample pleasure.

At $20-25, this is a well-made Shiraz that would certainly appeal to many New World drinkers who like their wines fruity and ripe but not sweet or jammy.

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

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

We head back to St. Emilion to look at some of the 2017 Bordeaux Futures offers from 4 of the 14 Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ — Clos Fourtet, Ch. Larcis Ducasse, Ch. Pavie Macquin and Ch. Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse.

In our previous jaunts to St. Emilion we examined the offers of Clos de l’Oratoire, Ch. Monbousquet, Ch. Quinault l’Enclos and Ch. Fonplegade as well as Ch. Beau-Séjour Bécot, Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière, Ch. Canon and Ch. La Dominique.

You can also check out our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Valandraud and Ch. Fombrauge with more links at the bottom of the page featuring other estates across Bordeaux that we have reviewed so far in this series.

Clos Fourtet (St. Emilion)
Some Geekery:

Located on the limestone plateau, near the entrance to the town of St. Emilion itself, Clos Fourtet was first born as Camfourtet–a defensive fortification built during the Middle Ages to protect the village. Roughly translated as “Camp Fort”, vines were planted by the late 18th century when it was owned by the Carles family who also owned Ch. Figeac.

Photo by Ernmuhl at lb.wikipedia. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under : CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Chateau of Clos Fourtet.

In 1868, the estate’s owners, the Rulleau family, changed the name to Clos Fourtet. In 1919, the property was purchased by the Ginestet family–a powerful negociant family who owned several properties throughout the Bordeaux. They would own the estate until 1948 when it was “traded” to François Lurton in exchange for the Ginestets receiving his share of Chateau Margaux.

Under the Lurton family, the quality in the vineyards and winery steadily improved with François’ grandson, Pierre Lurton, taking over winemaking in the 1980s. Pierre would continue to manage the estate until 1991 when he left to manage Cheval Blanc. He was succeeded by Tony Ballu who is still managing Clos Fourtet today.

In 1999, the Lurtons sold Clos Fourtet to Philippe Cuvelier who made his money in the office supply industry. Cuvelier retained Ballu and brought in his son, Mathieu, to assist in managing the estate. Jean Claude Berrouet, the former winemaker of Chateau Petrus, and Stéphane Derenoncourt consult.

In addition to Clos Fourtet, the Cuveliers also own the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Les Grandes Murailles, Clos St. Martin and Ch. Cote de Baleau as well as the Haut-Medoc cru bourgeois Ch. Poujeaux.

All 20 ha (49 acres) of the estate are farmed sustainably with parcels being converted to biodynamic since 2010.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 86% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around 4,500 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-96 Wine Spectator (WS), 94-95 James Suckling (JS), 92-94 Wine Advocate (WA), 92-95 Vinous Media (VM), 94-97 Jeb Dunnuck (JD), 93-95 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

The 2017 Clos Fourtet is very good, but also very tightly wound. Powerful and tannic, the 2017 is likely to require many years to come in its own. Today, the 2017 is certainly less charming than some recent vintages and other 2017 Saint-Émilions. There is certainly no lack of depth or concentration. The dark red/purplish berry fruit, rose petal and lavender flavors are very nicely delineated. Clos Fourtet is one of the wines that improved over the two weeks I followed it. I won’t be surprised if it is even better from bottle. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $102
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $629.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $104.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $104.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $123 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $122 Average Critic Score: 95
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $98 Average Critic Score: 93
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $81 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

The 2014 Clos Fourtet was one of my favorite wines during the 2017 Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting highlighting the wines of the 2014 vintage. I ended up buying several bottles that night which are still in my cellar.

While I appreciate that the 2017 pricing for Clos Fourtet is tilting closer to 2014 instead of 2015/2016 pricing, I’m quite content sticking with the sure thing of the 2014s I bought so I will Pass.

Ch. Larcis Ducasse (St. Emilion)
Some Geekery:

The origins of Larcis Ducasse date back to Roman times when the hillside slope on the southern end of the St. Emilion plateau (near modern-day Ch. Pavie) was particularly prized by Roman viticulturists.

The modern history of the estate began in 1893 when it was purchased by Henri Raba. Through the female line of his descendants, the property has remained in the ownership of the same family for over a 120 years with Jacques-Olivier Gratiot managing the estate since 1990 when his mother and niece of Henri Raba, Hélène Gratiot-Alphandéry, passed away.

While the last half of the 20th century saw the quality level of Larcis Ducasse dip, things began to turn around when Gratiot brought in Nicolas Thienpont in 2002 to manage the estate. Well known for his work at fellow Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ estates Ch. Pavie Macquin as well as Château Berliquet, Thienpont began a series of extensive renovations in the vineyard and winery.

Photo by Isabelle Albucher, Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

Stéphane Derenoncourt consults for Larcis Ducasse as well as several other estates in St. Emilion.

Since 2005, the entire estate was converted to organic viticulture and, with the assistance of consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, wine production methods were changed to incorporate whole berry fermentation, micro-oxygenation and gravity flow movement.

Several prime parcels of the 11 ha (27 acre) estate are located next to the Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ estate of Ch. Pavie while others neighbor Ch. Pavie Macquin, Canon-la-Gaffelière, La Gaffelière and Troplong-Mondot.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc. Around 3000 cases were produced.

Critic Scores:

94-95 JS, 92-95 WS, 92-94 WA, 92-94 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 91-93 VM, 92-95 JD, 91-94 JL

Sample Review:

Blueberries, blackberries, violets, licorice and ample crushed rock notes all emerge from this medium-bodied, tight, firm 2017 Larcis Ducasse, which comes from a magical terroir not far from Pavie. It doesn’t have the density or depth of the 2015 or 2012, yet has beautiful purity of fruit, ripe tannins, and considerable elegance and purity. I suspect it will put on weight with time in barrel and evolve similarly to the 2008. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $69
JJ Buckley: No offers yet
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $69.97
K&L: $69.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $79 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $90 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $59 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

Larcis Ducasse is another estate that I bought several bottles of the 2014 vintage of. However, my experience with this wine and previous vintages is that it is going to need a bit more time in the bottle than typically what I would hope for with a “cellar defender”. The 2012 (Wine Searcher ave $68) likewise was charming and undoubtedly age-worthy though I fret I may only have a single bottle left of that vintage in the cellar.

I strongly suspect the 2017 will follow the same pattern. But with the 2014 and 2012 being much more attractively priced, I’m going to Pass on this offer in lieu of hopefully finding more of these older vintages on the market.

Ch. Pavie Macquin (St. Emilion)
Some Geekery:

Ch. Pavie Macquin was once part of the large Pavie estate that extended from the top of the St. Emilion plateau and down the southern slope. In 1887, Albert Macquin purchased the Chapus-Pavie and Pavie-Pigasse sections located on the top of the plateau to form the estate that now bares his name.

Macquin earned his fortune in the aftermath of the phylloxera epidemic pioneering grafting techniques to plant Vitis vinifera vines onto American rootstock. Noting the susceptibility of vines planted on limestone soils to develop chlorosis (a nutrient deficiency particularly impacting iron uptake), Macquin advocated for the use of Vitis berlandieri rootstock which had much more tolerance to lime-rich soils. Over the next several years, his nursery produced more than 1 million grafted vines to help replant the Libournais after the devastation of phylloxera.

Today the estate is ran by Macquin’s grandchildren, Benoît and Bruno Corre and Marie Jacques Charpentier. In 1990, the owners brought in Stéphane Derenoncourt to consult and assist with converting the vineyard to biodynamic viticulture. However, a particularly bad attack of mildew in 1993 caused Pavie Macquin to lose more than 2/3 of its crop and ended the estate’s experimentation with biodynamics. The vineyards are still farmed organically but without certification to maintain the flexibility of being able to respond if another viticultural hazard threatens a vintage.

In 1994, Nicolas Thienpont of the notable Belgian merchant family–whose extended members own such illustrious properties as the Pomerol estates Le Pin and Vieux Chateau Certan as well as the Margaux estate Clos des Quatre Vents–was brought in to manage the estate.

The oak leaves and noose on the modern labels of Pavie Macquin pay homage to the unique history of a large oak tree on the estate.

The 15 ha (37 acres) of Pavie Macquin are located above Ch. Pavie, next to Pavie Decesse, on the plateau with Troplong Mondot to the west and Ch. Trottevielle to the north.

On the property is a large solitary oak tree believed to be hundreds of years old. According to legend this tree was the site of criminal executions and the modern bottles of Pavie Macquin pay homage to this history with the image of two oak leaves and a noose on the label.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 80% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around 4,500 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

95-97 WA, 94-96 WE, 94-95 JS, 92-95 WS, 92-94 VM, 93-95 JD, 91-94 JL

Sample Review:

Delicate, soft, skillfully shaped tannins and mature, dark fruit proffer sweetness and lift at the core of this year’s presentation. Full bodied, lush and polished with juicy fruit characteristics, length and complexity, the vintage is about stylish refinement, vibrancy and purity of fruit. — Jeff Leve, The Wine Cellar Insider

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $73
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: $75 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $74.97
K&L: $74.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $89 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $94 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $69 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $50 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m just not very inspired at these 2017 prices compared to those of the still available and very delicious 2014 wines that are out on the market.

Like 2017, the 2014 vintage was an uneven year that was mostly saved by a nice Indian summer which led to a dry and warm harvest. Coming off the releases of the fairly rough years of 2013 and 2011–and then succeeded by the blockbuster 2015/2016–prices for 2014 have kept steady as the wines have made their way to market with a quality level that has surprised many.

2017 could also go own to surprise folks in the bottle but, for my money, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush so as long as the pricing for 2014s are more enticing I’m going to Pass on gambling on the potential of 2017.

Ch. Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse (St. Emilion)
Some Geekery:

Like neighboring Ch. Beau-Séjour Bécot and Ch. Canon, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse was once part of a large ecclesiastical estate that was tended in the Middle Ages by the monks of Saint-Martin de Mazerat.

In the 17th century, the Beauséjour half of the property (known as Peycoucou) came into the hands of the Gerès family who were the current Lord of Camarsacs. A descendant of theirs married into the Carles de Figeac family in 1722 with the estate bequeathed to the new couple as a dowry. It wasn’t until 1787 when the couple’s son, a general in the Bourbon army, rechristened Peycoucou as Beauséjour meaning “Good day”.

In the early 1800s, the wines of Beauséjour merited critical acclaim with Clive Coates noting in Grand Vins that they were often ranked 5th in the commune behind only those of Belair, Troplong Mondot, Canon and Ausone.

Eventually the estate passed to a cousin, Pierre-Paulin Ducarpe, who upon his death saw the estate divided between his two children with his son getting the half that would become Beau-Séjour Bécot and his daughter, who married into the Duffau-Lagarrosse family, receiving the other half.

Today Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse is still owned by the same family with Jean Duffau-Lagarrosse managing the estate. Since 2009, Nicolas Thienpont has been in charge of winemaking with both Michel Rolland and Stéphane Derenoncourt consulting.

The 6.5 ha (16 acres) estate is composed of one single parcel that spans the top of the St. Emilion plateau, west of the city, near Beau-Séjour Bécot and Canon and along the slopes near Clos Fourtet, Ch. Angelus and Clos Saint Martin.

The 2017 is a blend of 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. Around 800 to 1,200 cases are produced each vintage.

Critic Scores:

95-96 JS, 94-96 WA, 94-96 WE, 93-96 WS, 92-94 VM, 93-96 JD, 94-96 JL

Sample Review:

Very dark. Ripe, dark black plums and just a touch of red cherry. Then quite oaky on the palate, rich, firm, smooth, with chocolate on the finish from the oak. Needs quite a bit of time. Chewy on the second taste. No lack of fruit but the structure dominates at the moment. (16 out of 20) — Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $107
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $659.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $109.97
K&L: $109.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $121 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $153 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $89 Average Critic Score: 93
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $73 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

With pricing averaging nearly $20 more than the 2014 vintage, this offer for Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse already had one strike against it. Then couple it with a very oaky style that multiple tasting notes from critics suggest is going to need quite a bit of time and I have little reason to see this 2017 wine fitting my plans for a “cellar defender”. Pass.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

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

For the last several postings in our series about the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign, we’ve been skipping around Bordeaux to focus on the offers from different communes.

Today we’re going to take a break from that to look at some individual offers from the St. Estephe 2nd Growth Ch. Montrose and its second wine, La Dame de Montrose. Then we are going to head out to the Haut-Medoc AOC to check in on the 5th Growth Ch. Cantemerle before ending on the offer from another Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg estate with Ch. d’Aiguilhe in the Côtes de Castillon region of the Right Bank.

If you are new to our Bordeaux Futures series, be sure to check out my post on Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures as well as the our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley.

At the bottom of page are links to the offers of other estates that we’ve reviewed so far in this series.

Now onto the offers.

Ch. Montrose (St. Estephe)
Some Geekery:

Photo by Rosendahl. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-author

The vivid pink color of heather flowers in bloom on the hill that would become Montrose could be scene by sailors on the Gironde.

Founded in 1815, Ch. Montrose was the youngest estate to be classified 40 years later in the 1855 classification. However, the history of the land dates back much longer when it was part of the historical Calon-Ségur estate that was once owned by the Marquis de Ségur–the “Prince of Vines” who also owned what would become the First Growths of Ch. Latour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild.

The descendants of the Marquis sold Calon-Ségur in 1778 to Etienne Théodore Dumoulin. His son, also named Etienne Théodore, took interest in an unplanted hill on the property near the Gironde known as La Lande de l’Escargeon that was covered in heather, stunted trees, gorse and bramble. Underneath this growth was a croupe of gravel soils that Dumoulin suspected would be ideal for grape growing.

Dumoulin cleared the hill and renamed it Montrose (hill of pink) with the name likely alluding to the pink (rosé) heather flowers that were visible to sailors on the Gironde when they were in bloom. While Dumoulin would later sell Calon-Ségur in 1824, Montrose would stay in his family until 1861 when it was sold to an Alsatian businessman, Mathieu Dollfus.

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that Dollfus was a very progressive employer for his time–building housing and a well for all his winery and vineyard workers, offering them free medical care and paid maternity leave as well as dividing 10% of the profits between them on top of their salaries.

When Dolffus passed away in 1887, the estate was sold to the Hostein family who owned Ch. Cos d’Estournel. In 1896, it was passed to Louis Victor Charmoule who was born at Ch. Figeac in St. Emilion and married into the Hostein family.

The Charmoule family would own Ch. Montrose for more than 100 years until 2006 when it was sold to the Bouygues brothers who made their fortune in the construction and telecom business.

Photo by BerndB mailto:cassandros@cityweb.de  Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

A bottle of 2000 Montrose, one of the last few vintages of the Charmoule family.

Under the Bouygues ownership, Herve Berland–formerly of Ch. Mouton-Rothschild–was brought in to manage the estate and Jean Bernard Delmas, previously of Ch. Haut-Brion, was coaxed out of retirement to oversee the winemaking both at Montrose and at the Bouyques’ neighboring sister property of Ch. Tronquoy Lalande.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Around 15,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

96-99 Wine Advocate (WA), 96-97 James Suckling (JS), 94-96 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 94-96 Vinous Media (VM), 91-94 Wine Spectator (WS), 97-99 Jeff Leve (JL), 93-95 Jeb Dunnuck (JD)

Sample Review:

This has more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year, the highest level since 2006, because the Merlot didn’t quite make it through the September rains unscathed. The wine is correspondingly powerful with a robust accompanying acidity that promises a long life. The fruit character is savoury, succulent and extremely persistent, with fleshy blackberry alongside touches of redcurrant and a pulsating freshness that keeps on coming. Harvested 12-29 September with twelve days spent actually picking, compared to sixteen days over the last few years, with more hands on deck. They have never been affected by frost, as far as they can remember, and 2017 was no exception. The wind is always such a benefit here. (96 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $133
JJ Buckley: $132.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: $138 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $839.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $134.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $129.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $197 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $177 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $141 Average Critic Score: 95
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $98 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

Montrose is a stalwart in my cellar but even though I know the style has been changing to make the wines more approachable younger, I never want to touch a bottle until it has at least 15 years of age on it. A couple years ago, I opened up a 2005 with just a little over 10 years of age and it was heartbreaking how tight and not ready that wine was–especially since that was my only bottle and it is now fetching over $200. Lesson learned.

Needless to say that means that even though this will undoubtedly be a tasty bottle and a solid value with pricing under 2014 levels, Montrose’s style doesn’t fit with my personal objectives of finding early-drinking “cellar defenders” from this 2017 vintage. So while this will be good buy for other Bordeaux fans, it will be a Pass for me.

La Dame de Montrose (St. Estephe)

Some Geekery:

La Dame de Montrose is named after Yvonne Charmolue, mother of Jean Louis Charmolue who created the wine in the 1980s. In January 1944, more than a year before World War II would come to an end, Yvonne’s husband, Albe Charmolue, passed away leaving just Yvonne to care for the estate and her young son.

During this time, Montrose was still recovering from having the chateau and several of the winery’s buildings occupied by the Wehrmacht artillery with portions of the vineyards used as a rifle range by the German soldiers. The unit’s presence and its location near the Shell petrol refinery in neighboring Pauillac made the area a frequent target for Royal Air Force bombers with several bombs that overshot their targets hitting the vineyards and creating huge craters.

Photo by BerndB; GNU free licence; mailto:cassandros@cityweb.de;. Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

A bottle of 1953 Montrose–one of several post war vintages that the widow Yvonne Charmolue would oversee the production of.


With only the assistance of Marcel Borie, owner of the 5th Growth Ch. Batailley and mayor of Pauillac, Yvonne single-handedly managed Ch. Montrose for the next 16 years until Jean Louis was ready to take over in 1960.

In 1982, around 30,000 cases a year of the Grand Vin of Montrose was produced. With the introduction of La Dame de Montrose in 1984 as well as the reintroduction of a mostly restaurant-only third wine, Le Saint Estephe de Montrose, in the 2000s that number has been halved to around 15,000 cases a year of the Grand Vin being produced from the 95 ha (235 acre) estate.

Today a little more than half of the crop is declassified with La Dame de Montrose getting around 30% of the total crop and Le Saint Estephe de Montrose getting about 20%. The remaining fruit is sold off in bulk.

The 2017 is a blend of 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Around 10,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

91-92 JS, 89-91 WA, 88-90 VM, 90-92 JD, 89-91 JL

Sample Review:

Deep crimson. Much more scented than the Tronquoy-Lalande, lovely dark fruit on the nose. But still with that savoury graphite quality of the grand vin. Fully ripe but not sweet. Even a touch floral. Silky texture, tannins are so supple. Lightish but juicy on the mid palate and with a good balance between fruit and freshness even in this lighter mode. (16.5 out of 20) — Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $38
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $221.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $39.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $41 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $46 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $40 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $36 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

While I’m a huge fan of Montrose and I adore the story of La Dame, this is another second wine that has never really wowed me–even though it remains a decent value as the prices of other second wines keep jumping. There is nothing offensive about the wines but for the same $40-50 price point, I can find plenty of other Bordeaux wines that deliver more pleasure for my money.

I wouldn’t be opposed to purchasing this at a restaurant but even with pricing below 2014, there is nothing very compelling about this wine to entice me to buy for the cellar. Pass.

Ch. Cantemerle (Haut-Medoc)
Some Geekery:

Ch. Cantemerle is one of the oldest estates in the Haut-Medoc with a history dating back to the 11th century when the property belonged to the Lords of Cantemerle. Unlike the other vassals who were seigneurs of the powerful Lords of Blanquefort, Cantemerle were direct vassals of the king and had many privileges.

From a private postcard collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-OLD

Ch. Cantemerle circa 1900-1920.


In 1575, the estate came into the hands of the Villeneuve family who would own Cantemerle for over 300 years and count Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, author of Beauty and the Beast, as an extended member.

In the 19th century, the wines of Cantemerle where held in high esteem and regularly ranked as 4th or 5th Growths. But its entire production was sold almost exclusively through Dutch merchants so when the local merchants and brokers of Bordeaux put together the original 1855 Classification, Cantemerle was omitted.

When the owner, Madame Caroline de Villeneuve-Durfort, heard about this slight, she barged down to the offices of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce while the Paris Exposition unveiling the classification was still taking place. With over 40 years worth of receipts, she argued successfully to the head of the broker’s union that the wines of Cantemerle had a long track record of fetching prices on par with many of the wines that were included in the classification.

For her efforts, Cantemerle was added to the original document listing the estates of the 1855 classification, albeit clearly in a different handwriting than the other estates.

In the 20th century, the property came into the hands of the Dubois family who owned Cantemerle until 1981 when it was sold to the French insurance group SMABTP with the Cordier family (of Ch. Talbot and the notable negociant house fame) managing the vineyard and winemaking.

Today Cantemerle is still owned by SMABTP where it is part of a portfolio that includes the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Haut Corbin, Ch. Grand Corbin and Ch. Le Jurat. In 1993, Philippe Dambrine replaced the Cordiers as estate manager and is still responsible for production today.

The 2017 is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 92-94 WE, 89-91 WA, 89-92 VM, 87-90 WS, 87-89 JD, 90-92

Sample Review:

The 2017 Cantemerle is deep, fleshy and wonderfully expressive. Savory herb, tobacco, menthol, licorice, dark red cherry, smoke and incense run through this super-expressive, pliant Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé. All the elements simply meld together effortlessly. Rose petal, lavender and a host of floral notes add perfume to the finish. The 2017 should be one of the finer values of the year. Tasted two times. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $29
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $179.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $31.97
K&L: $29.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $34 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $34 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

Sourced from http://www.tenzingws.com/blog/2015/5/28/original-handwritten-letter-of-the-1855-classification-of-bordeaux

The inclusion of Cantemerle under Château Croizet-Bages in the original 1855 classification is noticeably smaller and in a different handwriting. Source


The history geek in me loves the story of Cantemerle and particularly the feisty Madame Villeneuve-Durfort who wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I look at photos showing the shaky and hastily added Cantemerle to the 1855 classification, I chuckle thinking of Madame Villeneuve-Durfort hovering over the shoulder of the scared broker and his pen.

However, despite that love and affection for the story, outside of the 2010 Cantemerle (WS Ave $55), I really haven’t found much in the glass to excite me. The pricing is certainly intriguing because there aren’t many classified growths being sold for less than $40–much less under $30–but I prefer to take a wait and see approach with Cantemerle. I may get a bottle when it hits the market (likely around the $35 price point then) and see if there is finally something there worth getting excited about. Till then I’ll Pass.

Ch. d’Aiguilhe (Côtes de Castillon)
Some Geekery:

While wine has been produced at the estate since the 1700s when it was owned by the Leberthon family, the modern history of Ch. d’Aiguilhe (meaning “needle”) began in 1989 when it was purchased by Stephan von Neipperg.

Von Neipperg, who also owns the St. Emillion Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ estates La Mondotte and Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière as well as Clos de l’Oratoire, Ch. Peyreau, Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, the Sauternes Premier Cru Ch. Guiraud, Capaia in South Africa and Bessa Valley in Bulgaria, brought in his longtime consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and began renovating the estate and vineyards.

All the vineyards are farmed organically with many parcels biodynamic.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Around 20,000 cases a year are produced though with close 60% of the production being lost to frost in 2017, that number will be much lower this vintage.

Critic Scores:

90-93 WS, 89-90 JS, 88-90 WA, 85-87 VM, 91-93 JD, 90-92 JL

Sample Review:

Brought up in 30% new barrels, the 2017 Château d’Aiguilhe offers a gorgeous perfume of framboise, blueberries, strawberries, and flowers. Possessing medium body, fine, silky tannin, impeccable balance and obvious minerality on the finish, it’s seriously good Côtes de Castillon that over-delivers. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $22
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $23.97
K&L: $22.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $24 Average Critic Score: 90 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $26 Average Critic Score: 90
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $26 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $20 Average Critic Score: 87

Buy or Pass?

As I noted in my reviews of the 2017 offers for Canon-la-Gaffelière and Clos de l’Oratoire, I strongly equate the wines of von Neipperg and Derenoncourt with very New World-ish, Napa-like styles. While that is a style that I tend to avoid during more highly regarded Bordeaux vintages (where I’m looking for more classical and age-worthy Bordeaux), this more lush and fruit forward style fits perfectly into the mold of short-term consumption “cellar defenders” I aim for in vintages like 2017.

And the value is always there as well with it being very difficult to find sub-$30 Napa wines drinking to level of Château d’Aiguilhe. While I’m not going to spring for cases, this is an easy Buy for several bottles.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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