A Jewel in Chateauneuf – Bosquet des Papes Cuvee “A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere”

Captivating Chateauneuf

Captivating Chateauneuf

I adore Chateauneuf du Pape – the place, the wine, and everything about its history and local quirks (a municipal decree in ’54 banned the overhead flying, landing or taking off of flying saucers). The wines are beyond unique. For those who have spent time studying the world’s finest vinous treasures (I’ve been at it three decades plus) it usually comes down to a choice between Bordeaux, Burgundy and Chateauneuf – in terms of selecting a favorite wine from France. Sure, there are fabulous wines made by a handful of superlative growers sprinkled throughout the Languedoc, Roussillon, Loire Valley, and such, but overwhelming majorities of truly phenomenal wines are most often concentrated in the aforementioned Big 3. Burgundy tugs at my heart, but a glance at my collection clearly indicates my adoration for Chateauneuf.

And when it comes to selecting some of my favorites, consistency across vintages is part of my criteria. Nicolas Boiron and family – Les Bosquet des Papes – immediately come to mind. In this century alone, across all of their various cuvees and vintages, I can think of at least 20 individual bottlings worthy of the “outstanding” descriptor. These are wines of extremely high caliber, wines which scream of their cepage and terroir, and which may be identified from one another across vintages; they are not homogenous, uniqueness is their calling card.

At the top of the list for me is their pure Grenache cuvee, which honors current winemaker Nicolas Boiron’s predecessor. Grown in the Gardiole lieu-dit (sandy soils; which seem to produce a lot of my top choices) and fermented 50% whole cluster, Nicolas Boiron and family introduced this mind-bending offering in 1998. Parker has consistently lauded the wine, rendering the tiny production all the more difficult to acquire. Moreover, Jeb Dunnuck recently pegged it as a “Best of Chateauneuf” selection in his 2014 report (may not ever find another bottle, now).

Simply put, in the words of Parker,

“Consumers should be looking out for this domaine’s wines as the quality has soared even higher than it already was.”

 

2012 Les Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape

A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere

The finest vintage of this cuvee I’ve tasted, the inky 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape a la Gloire de Mon Grandpere comes from old-vine Grand PereGrenache vines planted in mostly sandy soils of the Gardiole lieu-dit. Aged in a combination of concrete tank and older, larger barrels, it’s a drop-dead gorgeous 2012 that reveals tons of sweet red and black fruits, lavender, pepper, licorice and hints of garrigue. Beautifully concentrated, seamless and textured, with extraordinary elegance and polish to its tannin, it’s up with the top 2-3 wines of the vintage and will have two decades or more of longevity.

97 points – (JD) Wine Advocate

This may take some special effort to locate (at a price that’s not outrageous), but it’s a truly special bottle from a truly gifted estate…

 

Bodegas Toro Albala – “Incredibly Elegant” – 1949 Don PX Reserva Especial

"You should drink it whenever you have the occasion." Advocate

“You should drink it whenever you have the occasion.”
Advocate

Niche wines are thrilling, I love hunting them down – even in tiny parcels. Especially these heady concoctions from Andalusia in Spain, where time seems to stand still.

Imagine the amazement; pulling a cork from the 1940s. Think of the history this bottle has witnessed.

This corner of Spain is literally the birthplace of not only Spanish wine, but likewise of Western Europe. This place – Andalusia, which includes Jerez, Montilla, and Gibraltar – once formed the center of the Western World.

The family behind Bodegas Toro Albala (producers of the Don PX) traces their local roots to the 19th century, forming their modern business in an abandoned electricity plant just north of Montilla in the ’20s. Theirs is Pedro Ximenez country – that grape destined for intense, sultry, broodingly deep, dark sweet wines that are becoming increasingly popular Stateside. The longer these treasures of time, place and history are allowed to age, the darker and more ethereal they become.

And their seemingly newly bottled 1949 Don PX Reserva Especial – at the ripe young age of 65 years – is a broodingly unctuous beauty; quite properly described by Luis Gutierrez as something “You should drink whenever you have the occasion.”

1949 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Reserva Especial

The 1949 Don PX Reserva Especial differs from the other old wines from the winery as it is less dark, it even has a (very dark) translucent tone compared with the others, maybe because it has 2% more alcohol. It feels incredibly elegant and balanced, fresher in comparison than the beasts from 1962 and 1946, medicinal, full of spicy notes of cinnamon, cloves, a touch of ash, and the smell of an antique shop. The palate is fluid, sweet and fresh. Putting a drinking window to these wines feels a bit silly. You should drink it whenever you have the occasion.

97 points – Wine Advocate (LG)

This is a slow, sweet, intentional drink; do not be in a rush, do not take it all in at once… These are the types of vinous experiences which come along very, very rarely…

 

Xavier Vins Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme – One of the Best & Latest Released 2007s

Xavier

Xavier, the man behind the late released, phenomenal “Cuvee Anonyme”

Along with Henri Bonneau and his notoriously difficult to acquire, always last to market Reserve des Celestins, Xavier Vignon’s Cuvee “Anonyme” requires immeasurable patience on the part of passionate Chateauneuf lovers. This stuff is legendary – for those lucky few to have tasted it. The 2007 vintage was (and remains) the greatest vintage for the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape in generations. Parker declared it was “the vintage of a lifetime.” Following up with his in-bottle summary, “this is a truly historic and profoundly great vintage.” (emphasis his)

Taking full advantage of the bounty set before him, Xavier Vignon patiently nurtured his top cuvee for a full 36 months, allowing the elevage to take place in a combination of demi-muids and seasoned, small oak casks. So complex is the cuvee for “Anonyme” that Xavier prefers to discuss the cuvee by parcels – no less than 120 individual plots contribute to the blend; many vines from the best sites have seen their 100th birthday. This is very truly and without exaggeration one of the most unique, difficult to acquire and staggeringly exotic wines ever made in Chateauneuf.

It’s no wonder Xavier is as famous and in demand as Cambie. Some of the most famous wines in the village would not be what they are today without Xavier – Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Usseglio, Beaurenard – all these domaines utilize Xavier’s direction as consulting winemaker. Once the 2007 “Anonyme” caresses your palate, it will all make sense…

Except for Henri Bonneau’s 2007 Reserve des Celestins (which is still in barrel), the last 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape to be released will be Xavier Vignon’s Anonyme. This sensational wine spent three years in a combination of demi-muids and small oak. It boasts an inky/purple color along with a sweet nose of underbrush, garrigue, licorice, blackberries and black currants. Full, thick, unctuously textured and even flamboyant, this stunning 2007 should drink well for another 15-20 years.

96 points – Robert ParkerAnonyme

This may require a special effort to acquire; I’ve got mine, you should have yours…

Brunello di Montalcino 2010 & The “Best Ever” Wines of Mastrojanni

Brunelli 2010 - "Vintage of A Lifetime" JS

Brunelli 2010 – “Vintage of A Lifetime” JS

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino hosted the Benvenuto Brunello event this year on January 22 in San Francisco at The Fairmont – an indispensible opportunity to taste (first hand) roughly 40 producers and more than 80 bottlings. The most important offers by far were the 2010 Brunelli, Rossos and older Riservas went virtually unnoticed. With much anticipation, I made my way through the crowd, tasting diligently and critically – determined to build the case for (or against) these much-hyped Sangiovese beauties.

In the end: I was floored! These are quite possibly even better than originally billed. And the top wines? So much perfection… Allocations are going to dwindle; prices will soar… What was the recipe for so many successes?

More than one winemaker I spoke to echoed the sentiments of Francesco Ripaccioli the young winemaker of the historic Canalicchio di Sopra estate:

“2010 is a success as a result of the rare combination of power and elegance, which are two qualities that are seldom found in a single vintage of Brunello.”

Of all those tasted, one of the most sought after, nearly impossible to acquire wines of the 2010 Brunelli campaign, Mastrojanni took my breath away. Offering multiple crus – all stellar – Mastrojanni has long been the darling of classicists. Perfectionists to their core, Mastrojanni will declassify a vintage (sending it to the distillery) if conditions fail to meet their standards. The 2002 vintage, with its universally green tannins and under-ripe conditions is an example. Mastrojanni maintains their enviable placement and reputation, willing to sacrifice harvests in their search for perfection.

Two 2010 crus – unique, individual – topped the charts (professionally and for yours truly) Chez Mastrojanni :

  • Brunello – Traditional barrel aging for 36 months (larger barrels: Allier oak barrels of 16-33-54 hl). Finished in bottle for 6-8 months.
  • Brunello “Vigna Loreto” – Cement fermentation before traditional barrel and bottle aging as with the Brunello. The newest (ca 2007) Cru for Mastrojanni. Built to age.

2010 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino

What a tightly knit wine this is with so much fabulous character of dried meat, orange peel, berry and spice. Dried and dusty earth too. Full body, sweet fruit character and ripe tannins but loads of structure and intensity. Structurally intense and dry at the finish. It goes on for minutes. Best ever. Better in 2018. ~ 98 points – James Suckling

2010 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto

I love the savory character and silky texture to this wine. Full body, chewy tannins and a juicy and delicious finish. A baby still. Needs three to four years to soften. Better in 2017 ~ 97 points – James Suckling

These are among several darlings of the vintage, their scarcity speaks to the trend for 2010…

Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle 2013 Riesling Grosses Gewachs – Monumental Riesling, Monumental Vintage

WA95pt “Vintage’s Finest” Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle Riesling

WA95pt “Vintage’s Finest” Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle Riesling

Possibly the first piece I’ve published to the blog on this subject, yet I’ve consumed dozens of the greatest Rieslings across every known QmP and beyond. Find these 2013s… Make Hermann Dönnhoff tops on that list…

Two hundred years ago the Dönnhoff family landed in Germany’s Nahe region, beginning life as humble farmers, evolving into the most prominent wine makers in the region.

Their holdings are classified Erste Lage – Grand Cru to you and I – and are the equivalent to Burgundy’s Le Montrachet, Batard and Chevalier Montrachet; when you’re standing in a Dönnhoff-owned parcel of Riesling-planted ground, you’re standing on hallowed dirt. The most grand of their Grand Cru holdings is the slate and volcanic sedimentary rock covered Nahe masterpiece, Hermannshöhle.

For more than a century, Hermannshöhle has retained its classification; simply put: no other Nahe vineyard yields such uncompromising Riesling beauties. Named for cave (or mine) in the center of the hill – Höhle – this mountain in Nahe also bears the name of the ancient Greek Messenger Hermes – altered here to Hermann – indicating by some accounts this may have once been a mountain of worship.

For all its history, today – in the hands of Dönnhoff – Riesling from this treasured Grand Cru of Hermannshöhle is a beverage to behold!

Stephan Reinhardt has quickly become one of my favorites over at Parker’s Wine Advocate:

The 2013 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewachs is breathtakingly clear, piquant and flinty on the nose, highly deep and complex but bright, with lime and grapefruit flavors. The palate is powerful, rich, dense, juicy and piquant, very salty, like melting minerals or stones, tension-full. A great dry Riesling, a monument.

95 points – (SR) Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Might be a tough one to find, and be very certain that you get PRECISELY the correct label…

Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Cuvee Edmund 2012 – The Greatest Sancerre of All Time?

sancerre-alphonse-mellot

 

A plethora of outstanding Eastern Loire Valley dry white wines have graced the pages of Parker’s Wine Advocate over the years. I’m speaking of all the appellations – Sancerre (and her most well-known sub district, Chavignol), Pouilly-Fume, Pouilly-sur-Loire, and Menetou-Salon.

Perhaps I’ve tasted slightly fewer than the expansive collection available to readers via Wine Advocate, but this is a favorite region of mine so I’ve sampled several dozen of each from dozens of vintages. Spanning all those vintages, across all regions, districts and cuvees – to include the biggest names: Neveu, Reverdy, Dagueneau, Riffault, Cotat, Crochet, Vacheron, Vatan, Blanchet, Bourgeois – there has never been a higher rated, more cult-like cuvee of wine from this corner of the Loire Valley (my book OR Advocate’s) until now.

Dedicated to his father Alphonse Edmund, produced from centenarian Sauvignon Blanc grapes growing in what must be the most coveted slice of calcareous marl soils in Europe, Advocate call this the “most precise expression of the kimmeridgian terroir”.

 

2012 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Edmund  

Aromas of limes, yellow citrus, crushed stones, herbs, chamomile and honey lead the 2012 Sancerre Edmond to a refreshingly mineral, profund and pure palate of great expression and a stimulating length with citrus flavors…there is nothing more on the nose than ripe fruit aromas (nectarines again) based on and powdered with rock flour. This exceptional Sancerre was fermented and aged for 11 months in wooden vats and new demi-muid barrels, which initially seemed to add a further layer to this already very complex wine. However, the oak was completely absorbed by the minerality, which shines through even clearer the second day when Edmond became significantly more pure, transparent and “naked.” Its length, complexity and tension, though, remains unrivaled. This is a really powerful and expressive Sancerre but does neither lack purity nor finesse, thrill nor aging potential. I would definitely buy it to give it 8-10 years although it is already accessible.

96 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Antinori Solaia 2011 – Double 96 Point “Super Exotic” – The Sunny One does it again!

Thanks to terroirs.ie for the barrel shot!

2011 Antinori Solaia | Double 96pts! | “Super-Exotic”

 

Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin calls it,

“The most prestigious wine within the Antinori stable.”

Only days ago, Galloni crowned it 96 points, gushing,

“Another super-exotic, racy 2011 from Antinori, Solaia is supremely beautiful…. Ripe and flashy to the core.”

Perhaps Italy’s most revered critic, Suckling also bestowed this beauty a whopping 96 points, defining it as

“A big, rich wine [with] lots of brightness and beauty at the same time…”

The Antinori family knows how to build excitement for their prized selections, and “The Sunny One” remains their most precious commodity.

Solaia was born from Tignanello. In 1978, from the sunniest portion of the limestone and calcareous clay hillside already known as the Tignanello estate, the Antinori’s culled their first blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Cab Franc, appropriately named Solaia – Sunny One. The blend was repeated once more, altered over subsequent vintages to suit the variations of Mother Nature, and has sense been produced exclusively in exceptional vintages.

In terms of excitement, its release tops just about any other in the collector’s realm today. The 2011 was one of the most anticipated and difficult to secure.

 

Being released this week

with a special price for those who sign up to receive the offers:

http://www.b-21.com/     thanks huffpost for the btl shots!