Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wine Correspondent's Top 25 Wines of 2011; A Special Report by Ralph Del Rio Wine Correspondent

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

As I often say to folks; How good can a wine be if not many people can taste it or afford it. That's a double edge sword. There are many wines that the only way you will be able to taste is to go to your neighborhood wine tastings or to go to wine conventions and things like that. You have to be on the lookout.

Sometimes you have friends or corporate parties you can go too. Another way is to read your wine magazines and see what looks like it might be of interest and buy a bottle or two and take notes. Accessibility is key and the abilty to be able to write down sme good notes and if you can get the feedback from others who are tasting with you.

There are different approached to scoring some rely on telling you about the terroir and the soil and what the year was like for the wine, what the winemaker did to make the wine shine and also comparing it to previous years. Other reviewers go straight for the the aromas and flavors.

I like to consider the wines feel and overall makeup including the nose, aromas, tastes and finish. Whether the wines are actually available for purchase. I like to hit what I like to call the 'mezzo territory' that often happens when you taste, looking at the amplitude versus the smallest nuance, so the average person can say 'Yeah, I understand where your coming from'. As with any list there's always things that get left off, nevertheless...without further delay, my top 25 wines for 2011.

2007 – Stag Leap Wine Cellars Cack 23, Cabernet SavignonA well-rounded wine with good cigar box and oak. The fruit sits on layered tannins with big dark stewed cherries, It’s savory with cool earth tones.

2008 – Le Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla ValleyThe wine gives off smokey coffee notes, it’s complex, meaty yielding grill mark flavors to red fruits It’s rounded with metallic iron, powerful and yet refined.

2007 Fransiscan Estate Napa valley Cabernet SauvignonBetter than the 2000 & 2002 which I have re-tasted. This is a classic Napa Cab. Blueberries and Blackberries, plummy, jammy, and racy. It’s full of toasted oak with the edges chopped off. This can age better in the bottle.

2008 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Monte Bello Vineyard Cabernet SauvignonIt makes me think of forest floor. A musky Robin Hood feel to it. It is herbaceous like thyme with oak, graphite and cassis. Earthy & silky goodness. Another classic.

2009 Mitolo Jester, McLaren Vale South AustraliaExcellent nose on this Shiraz wine; blackberry jam, perfumed aromas of five spices, olives and plums. It is crisp, chewy and concentrated.

2009 Chateau St. Cosme Gigondas ValbelleVery focused with good body, good mouth feel. Black cassis fruit with crème flan notes and oodles of anise. It has a good fruit palate.

2008 Mount Eden Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Cruz MountainsAn intense wine that is concentrated with smoked oak and floral-like jasmine, very rich and layered–quite a mouthful. It’s a Chardonnay that stands on its own.

2007 Modus Toscana Ruffino IGTThis is what I call I great Super Tuscan wine, to use an overused term. But it’s a fact. Rich and powerful; cherry notes some roses and black fruits. There are spice aromas along with leather. An integrated tannic finish which is sleek .

2008 Dr. Loosen Bros “Dr. L” Mosel RieslingA real straightforward excellent Riesling. It has it all, in the right places. Minerality, balance, stoney & bright.

2007 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti RiservaAn excellent full bodied wine. Exotic cherry and mocha notes and spice with richness.

2009 Chateau St. Michelle Dr. Loosen EroicaGreat citrus and tropical flavors. This wine is lively and jumpy. It has great acidity and very light petrol. Year in and year out the Eroica exhibits good character.

2004 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva RiojaAn earthy wine. Fine structure. Juicy but still has that dryness. Delicious dried fruits, cocoa sweet tobacco with a leathery nose with toasty vanilla spices.

2008 Storybook Mountain Maycamas Range ZinfandelStrong powerful blackberries, good tannins that is concentrated yet stylish. Nice white pepper flashes and mixed wild herbs feel to it along with hints of strawberry. A fine layers of flavor.

2008 Chateau Beau-Sejour-Becot 1er Grand Cur ClasseFruit is dead center on this wine. It is fleshy. With good oak grainy tannins spicy, some mint and feels very fresh. It is well rounded. It will only get better which is scary.

2004 Chateau Haut–Bages LiberalThis Bordeaux stands out with its firm black current, backberry and cassis flavors. The earthiness is big and complex. Truffles and Muddy. A totally concentrated bottle of juice that is just plain good.

2009 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec Mendoza ArgentinaThis Malbec was a favorite. It’s juicy deep and intense. It’s very focused. You can appreciate the smoke and the spicy black fruits, currants. It is rich and full bodied; fine stuff.

2009 Mollydooker The Boxer Langhorne Creek South AustraliaA bright bouquet with deep cherried, black pepper, eucalyptus, and plenty of oak. Animal notes, bacon fat; it’s an integrated wine with a lot of backbone to it.

2009 Morgan Chardonnay Monterey Metallico Un-oakedA Bright wine, but not creamy. It is clean and fresh like cut flowers. You can taste the fresh ripe honey due melons and the pleasurable fruit. It is a long wine. Many seconds of pleasure.

2010 Cave de Lugny, Macon Villages Burgendy FranceA great Chardonnay. It’s better than the 2009 and 2007 which were great. It is a great value too. It’s oak less and pure tasting. The wine has a dry chalk fresh taste of lemon & apricots. It’s long it’s racy quick mouthful of awesomeness really good.

2007 Condado De Haza Ribera Del Duero, SpainA fresh classy wine generous fruit. Flavors that suggest very ripe sweet strawberry, mocha, tobacco, and leather. It has nice grainy tannins with and iron minerality, good acidity and stuff that reminds me of wet stones.

2008 Chateau St. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet SauvignonA consistently solid wine that just overachieved this vintage. So much that it really turns heads. The wine is accessible. It is earthy, chocolatey, big and a little complex. It opens up well. The length is uncanny.

2009 Sebastiani Chardonnay Sonoma CountyAn intermixing of great flavors, honeysuckle and smooth buttercream, banana with a tinge of granny smith apples, it’s there all framed and balanced. Super value too, unreal.

2008 Archery Summit Willamette Valley, Premier Cuvee Pinot NoirA deep pinot noir. It has good flavors. A Big taste of chocolate & black plums. There is a smokey wood spice going on. There are a lot of dark scents; burnt cherry pits and a little tomato. It is earthy even mushroomy. It screams for wild salmon, charred vegetables and seasoned pork loin.

2007 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes 375MLVery harmonious Sauternes. It’s better than last years. Powerful and lively, dried pineapples and apricots full bodied. The citrus cuts through. You taste the honey, graham crackers, caramel & spice. It’s a big winner.

2009 Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte – LiracA rich blend of granache, syrah and mourvedre. Really deep, black plum, cassis, fig and smoked ham. Whiffs of gardenia. It’s ripe and complex with excellent acidity. Tarry but rolls like velvet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chinese Millionaires really like their brand name wines...Is Bordeaux risking losing its' customers?

As this year is ending we are learning that the Chinese millionaires really like brand name or “Icon” wines. So much so, that they are buying up all the famous first growth wines says Malcolm Moore a reporter for the Telegraph in Shanghai. He quotes Xavier de Eizaguirre, who manages Chateau Mouton Rothschild, one of France’s five “Premier Cru” estates, who says it has been a “huge struggle to stay fair” to his customers. “When the Chinese are willing to buy your entire year’s production, it is difficult to resist,” “We have to take the opportunity to do business… Eizaguirre also says politically that he has to be careful with the rest of buyers worldwide; “After all, one day we might get kicked out of China and then, when we return to our old customers, they will ask us why we deserted them when they needed us.”

Apparently, the five Premier Cru estates, which also include Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Haut-Brion, produce only 180,000 bottles to 200,000 bottles of wine each year, (which sounds low)and there is only so much to go around.

Of course all of this has caused the prices of all Premier Cru wines to skyrocket even during the financial crisis and deep global recessions. Prices have tripled or quadrupled worldwide in the past year which does not make any sense economically. Even substandard years such as 2007 and 2008 which normally would have made Bordeaux wines more affordable have been inordinately overpriced. I think this has a lot to do with the catapulting rise of new world wines and the absence of French Premier Cru’s on annual ‘Best of” lists. The folks are really getting a chance to see, taste and buy these new world wines alot more, earning loyalty. Producers and winemakers are filling the gap with great wines at a better price.

Case in point… a case of Lafite sold for about $5,000 ten years ago in New York or London and now fetches as much as $64,000 and in Asia $72,000. Gosh, I hope my figures are wrong!