Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere – Drop Dead Gorgeous!

“The finest vintage of this cuvee I’ve tasted… it’s a drop-dead gorgeous 2012…” Wine Advocate

I adore Chateauneuf du Pape. I love 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 homogeneous, 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 Grenache 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 – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

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2010 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet – A Showstopper – “Greatest Since 2007”

“Perhaps the greatest Beringer Private Reserve since the 2007, 2005, 2002 and 2001” — RP

 

Back in the 1970s, California Cabernet – indeed the world of wine – was a very different beast. Winemakers were finding their way, vineyards were young, parcels had yet to be identified and professional wine critiquing was seemingly light years away. Even the great Oxford Companion to Wine was two decades from its first release.

But Beringer was there, securing Cabernet vines and experimenting with cuvees that would eventually establish benchmarks for an industry. Beringer’s first purchase from the old Lemmon Ranch in 1977 – a parcel which would eventually become the Chabot Vineyard – was an intense set of grapes by any standard. In the early days of Beringer, the Lemmon Ranch bottlings were 100% Cabernet, beauties in their own right.

In those days Myron Nightingale was still in charge, Ed Sbragia his assistant, and they knew they had something special on their hands. That first batch of Cabernet spent 24 months in French oak barrels and didn’t budge – it was as dark and brooding as ever. By 1981, time in bottle barely tamed it – it floored the judges at the Orange County Fair. They had most likely never encountered anything like it.

That limited batch would become the very first Beringer Private Reserve. By 1986, Beringer’s Private Reserve took the #1 spot in Wine Spectator. A legend was born. For 2010 Beringer once again topped the charts, “Greatest since 2007” according to Parker. And once again I’m very proud to announce this masterpiece and encourage readers to seek it out; the 2010 will make old bones as well as immediate friends.

2010 BeringerCabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve

The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve is built from completely different sources. Sixty-six percent came from the St. Helena Home Ranch, 18% from the Chabot Vineyard, and the rest from Beringer’s estates in St. Helena, Rutherford and Coombsville. It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that came in at 14.6% natural alcohol with a pH of 3.8. Perhaps the greatest Beringer Private Reserve since the 2007, 2005, 2002 and 2001, the 2010 offers up notes of lead pencil shavings, creme de cassis, subtle smoke, wet rocks and background oak. Full-bodied, rich and impressive, it can be drunk now or cellared for two decades.

Jerome Bressy’s Incredible Rasteau – Gourt de Mautens – So Decadent!

Incredible & Decadent – A True “Must-Have”!

Jerome Bressy is my kind of dude! This guy has pulled out all the stops here in the Southern Rhone towards producing the single greatest wine you’ll ever float across your palate. The rules don’t matter to him – unless they’re HIS rules.

His estate is located in Rasteau; that much we know. At roughly 15 miles NE of Chateauneuf du Pape, Rasteau gained its original AOC for fortified sweet wines back in the 1940s. The dry reds in those days – built on a similar blend as found in neighboring Chateauneuf – were designated as Cotes du Rhone Villages. But the growth of high quality producers ushered in a new status for the wines by the 1990s.

By 1996, the village name – Rasteau – was allowed as an addendum; Cotes-du-Rhone-Village-Rasteau was born. This was about the time Jerome Bressy arrived and took over at Gourt de Mautens. He converted to organics; painstakingly, passionately tending parcels of 90 year old vines. Yields were already low, but under his watch they plummeted: Bressy’s yields produce a mere barrel per acre!

And here’s the final chapter in the Rasteau story. With Bressy now in full control – mastering Gourt de Mautens’ terroir, Cepage, yields and vinification – Rasteau was formally elevated to full appellation status in 2010 (retroactive to 2009). The catch? All producers must adhere to the “Rasteau recipe”.

Bressy calls faute. His will be labeled “IGP Vaucluse” henceforth.

Love this guy!

Do what you can to locate this vintage; it’s SO worth the hunt. But if it’s too difficult to track down, his subsequent vintages (labeled Vaucluse, just as heady) will also reward (the 2012, for example, is another 95 pointer).

2009 Gourt de Mautens Rasteau

Also incredible, the 2009 Rasteau has a similar, decadent feel in its black raspberry, licorice, smoked earth, chocolate and saddle leather. A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% other permitted varieties, aged in a combination of demi-muid, foudre and concrete tank, it has full-bodied power, massive, yet sweet tannin and blockbuster levels of depth and richness. Drink it anytime over the coming decade or more.

96 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Among The Most Ethereal Wines Of Gevrey Chambertin – Domaine Geantet-Pansiot

Vincent Geantet & Friends – True Artisans in Gevrey Chambertin

 

My most recent trip to visit the Côte was to attend the Grand Jours de Bourgogne, a week-long event where more than a thousand wines are made available for tasting through day-long events at venues from Marsannay to Meursault and from Chablis to the Mâconnais. It was – and always is – a thorough (and thoroughly exhausting) event; thousands of people from around the globe descending upon my beloved Côte – a farming community, to be honest – to taste their most sought after Montrachets and catch a glimpse of the “rock-star” who bottles their must-have Musigny.

For me, it’s a chance to say hello to long-time friends, standing quietly at their booths, unencumbered by the masses jammed together like sardines in a can at the Mugnier table. These are the real Burgundians, the men and women who capture the attention of Burgundy drinkers. They are the winemakers who work their vineyards, and have done so for generations, to produce the most authentic, layered, terroir driven, soul stirring wines of their respective villages. They are the quiet types who make Burgundies for folks like me – and most likely for folks like YOU, too.

Vincent Geantet – of Domaine Geantet-Pansiot – is one of them. He said hello to me as I approached his table at the Maison de Marsannay, his wines ready and waiting for tasting. I’ve been collecting the wines of this domaine for a decade, visited the vineyards a few years back during harvest. Everything is done by hand here. Each row of vines was being hand-picked by a group – perhaps extended family; they seemed to know one another in a familial way – on the day of my visit. The grapes were the deepest, darkest purple, almost black; the domaine’s parcels some of the oldest vines in the region. As they hand clipped each bunch of berries, another was there to sort out all by the finest berries. By the time everything reached the sorting table, everything looked like glass; the berries headed into the crusher glistening in the light.

Vintage 2012, as many of you may know, was a vintage of greatly reduced yields. Mother Nature threw everything she had at the vignerons, and then came through again for a second round. Therefore, the availabilities of Domaine Geantet-Pansiot wines are drastically reduced; one fifth of what they could normally offer. So locating these treasures could be difficult. Take it from someone who knows first-hand, the hunt is worth it! The magic is there in every wine Geantet-Pansiot bottled for 2012.

And just in case you haven’t heard, I’m not alone in my adoration for this family’s tremendous offerings,

“I have been impressed with the Geantet wines over the past 4 to 5 vintages and 2012 definitely continues this run as the wines are terrific.” — Burghound

My favorite for 2012:

2012 Domaine Geantet-Pansiot Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru

(From 50+ year old vines)

While not as elegant as the Poissenots this is not without its appeal as there is excellent layering to the mix of red and dark berry fruit liqueur aromas that see added breadth in the form of pungent earth and discreet spice notes.  The energetic medium weight plus flavors possess an opulent mouth feel as they brim with palate coating dry extract that buffers the robust but not rustic finish that delivers outstanding depth and length.  Note though that this will not be an early drinker and thus moderate patience is required.

93 points – Allen Meadows, Burghound

Ridge Monte Bello – An American Premier Cru Classé

America’s Premier Cru Classé

 

My times spent tasting with Paul Draper are among the most memorable in a lifetime spent tasting the world’s finest wines. No matter how hectic his schedule, Paul always took the time to personally usher me through his top selections of any given vintage. He was always happy to open verticals of his most profound wines without blinking an eye.

And so it was one warm spring afternoon that I spent a few hours exploring multiple vintages of California’s Premier Cru Classé, the Ridge Monte Bello (unofficially classified to match the great Growths of Bordeaux by practically every professional critic this side of the pond). Beginning with the 1974, we would taste through multiple precious, perfect, unmatched Monte Bello’s, finishing off with the 1992, one of the last vintages Draper produced before a new team joined him in the cellars – as we all know, Draper would finally retire at the age of 80, a few years after this tasting.

There have been countless incredible bottlings from the Monte Bello vineyard, first planted in 1885 by Osea Perrone, a San Francisco doctor, originally from northern Italy. Much like other California Heritage sites, this special location was terraced without the assistance of modern-day machinery, the rugged, jagged Santa Cruz hillsides a formidable foe.

And we all know the famous tale of the Judgement of Paris, where the ’71 Monte Bello toppled all others; California Cabernets and top Cru Classé Bordeaux alike. Those were Draper’s early years – he arrived in 1969 – and the work he performed with this site is historical. Today, Draper’s legacy is in the hands of Winemaker Eric Baugher, Ridge COO since 2016 and Monte Bello winemaker since 2004.

I recently tasted the 2014 and can tell you that if you’re a true, die-hard fan, one taste is all you’ll need – you’ll know immediately why Baugher is in charge. You should seek out this monumental effort if you’re a Monte Bello lover. It’ll make the same old bones as that 1974 and 1992 I enjoyed back on that awesome spring afternoon.

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Colle Vecchio, Offida DOCG Pecorino – Worth Your Search

there’s Pecorino; and then there’s Pecorino!

With one whiff and my first taste, I contacted a buddy of mine who is also a big time Italian-wine-lover. I told him, with probably more excitement in my voice than usual, “We’ve had lots of Pecorino, my friend; there’s Pecorino; and then there’s Pecorino!”  I tasted some seriously delicious Italian wines recently thanks to a delivery from my Empson representative. These were not your run-of-the-mill daily sippers, by a long shot. These were wines based on exotic varieties, the types of wines Neil Empson specializes in. And the Pecorino stopped me in my tracks.

A fantastic grape, Pecorino was all but extinct, abandoned decades ago by grape growers and wine makers throughout Italy due to its natural tendency for low yields. By chance, on a high hill – 3,000 feet above sea level – in the Marche region of Italy, Guido Cocci Grifoni discovered a crop of abandoned vines in the tiny municipality of Arquata del Tronto. There, on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, Guido Grifoni struck gold.

It was 1982 and Grifoni had no idea what he was about to launch. Through painstaking work, analysis and vineyard care, by 2011 he and his vineyard achieved the much coveted DOCG status for the tiny zone of Offida. To put that in perspective, DOCG status is Italy’s top designation, limited to her very finest wines, to include the likes of Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Chianti Riserva, etc.

The Tenuta Cocci Pecorino is so strikingly head and shoulders above and beyond any other Pecorino that I’ve encountered that it’s difficult to describe. There’s an unmistakable spicy, floral aspect to these aromas: acacia and jasmine joined by licorice wafting from the glass. The palate is tropical without being flabby, strikingly pure and taught with acidity. You’ve got to try this; it’s a discovery you’ll be very glad you made.

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Colle Vecchio, Offida DOCG Pecorino

Straw-yellow with strong green highlights. Lovely fresh nose redolent of white flowers, white stone fruits and dried herbs, nicely complicated by menthol and citrus nuances. Enters bright and fresh, with lively, harmonious acidity and a pretty mineral underpinning adding bounce to the citrus and yellow apple flavors. Finishes long, with a mouthwatering quality and a hint of mint. This is an outstanding example of Pecorino from an estate that has dedicated itself to native grapes like this one over the years (they have worked long and hard with passerina as well), as opposed simply to jumping on the native grapes bandwagon recently, as quite a few others have done in Italy.

90 points, Antonio Galloni’s Vinous

Argiano Non Confunditur – Super Tuscan at Rosso Pricing – Not to be Mistaken

For 2015, Not to be Mistaken Indeed!

 

In the deep, cool and very humid cellars of Argiano, just before you enter the ancient doors leading to a collection spanning hundreds of vintages, the old family crest is prominently displayed above. You have to look closely at the details, and if you do, you’ll make out the initials “NC”.

Since taking over the 16th century Argiano estate in 1992, Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano was considered the driving force behind the renaissance at Argiano. She may have subsequently sold the property to follow her dreams abroad, but before doing so, she launched a formidable company. One of her precious jewels was the wine known as Non Confunditur, which she dubbed her “Baby Solenga”.

She commissioned a bottle design with the initials NC very prominently displayed in the center of the label. Clients as well as critics world-wide were convinced these were her initials (NC: Noemi Cinzano). She kept the secret close to her vest, preferring to discuss the classic blend: primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with Sangiovese comprising the bulk of the balance and Syrah finishing things off with a dollop of Merlot. So that, until recently, the fantasy behind the label held true.

But for those of us who’ve followed Argiano for a few decades, we recall the old family crest. “NC” has been around for quite some time. Translated into English it means “Not to be mistaken”, “unmistakable”…  So whether NC tells the tale of the glamorous Noemi or reflects Argiano’s ageless position as that unmistakable brand, be certain that for 2015 Non Confunditur will certainly stand out in the crowd!

Noemi would have been proud to sign her name to this version of her namesake…