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…

2014 La Jota Cabernet Franc – Jackson Family’s Treasure – Finest Cab Franc in Cali

It is the finest Cabernet Franc made in California — Robert Parker

The history of La Jota is one of the great America tales of our time. The land, high atop Howell Mountain, originally settled by the Wappo Tribe ages ago, eventually became the property of a North Carolina pioneer, receiving his land grant from a Mexican general. The first winery was erected by a Swiss immigrant. He commissioned an Italian mason to design the estate, which was built stone by stone from volcanic ash-rock quarried on the property by Chinese laborers. Completing the American melting pot story, the vineyards were planted to French varietals.

All this history is packed into the La Jota Vineyard Co., which was founded by Frederick Hess in 1898. An active member of the community, he first launched a German-language newspaper in San Francisco before turning his sights to Napa. Rancho La Jota – 327 acres of a Mexican land grant – became home to Hess’ new venture. In addition to the stone building which housed his winery, Hess also fashioned fermentation tanks from the coastal redwood forests abutting his estate. Self-sustaining before it was en vogue, La Jota was organic from day one.

Success soon followed, as the wines from Napa’s Howell Mountain began earning tremendous praise – as well as medals – in one Paris Exposition after another. Unfortunately, Prohibition destroyed Howell Mountain’s burgeoning wine industry, leveling the majority of estates, turning even the finest to “ghost” wineries. By 1933, everything was gone.

La Jota’s first savior arrived forty years later, when former oilman Bill Smith acquired the “ghost” vineyard known as La Jota Vineyard Co. in 1974. He would formalize the paperwork and bond the company a decade later. Cabernet and Cabernet Franc were his primary varietals

California’s greatest businessman and man of the vine Jess Jackson arrived in 2005. Upon Jackson’s arrival, La Jota was in need of its next savior. Jess, and his wife Barbara Banke purchased La Jota and the rest – as they say – is history.

In his first reviews of Jess Jackson’s La Jota Cabernet Francs, Robert Parker declared, “I have been buying this wine over recent vintages, and frankly, I can’t get enough of it. It is the finest Cabernet Franc made in California, but, unfortunately, only 350 cases are produced.”

Parker continued heaping amazing – and deserved – praise on La Jota’s Cabernet Francs; the wines just kept getting better. With the release of the 2014 – highest rating EVER from Parker – we now have, “the greatest set of wines to emerge from La Jota Vineyard Co,” in the sage words of Robert Parker.

2014 La Jota • Cabernet Franc

The 2014 Cabernet Franc, aged in 70% new French oak, comes from relatively new plantings of Cabernet Franc in both the La Jota and W. S. Keyes Vineyards. La Jota had made some incredible Cabernet Francs in the 1990s…. This wine is sensational. Black purple, its incredible nose of truffles, asphalt, forest floor and white flowers is followed by blueberry and black raspberry fruit, a multi-layered texture, full-bodied richness, and a killer finish. This magnificent Cabernet Franc rivals some of the best being made in Northern California.

96 points – Robert M. Parker, Jr., Wine Advocate

Perfection in Saint Estephe – Parker’s Pick for 2010 and Beyond – Stunning Chateau Montrose

Perfection in Saint Estephe – Perfection In 2010!

 

I’ll never forget my first opportunity to taste and purchase this masterpiece – the 2010 Montrose. I was in attendance at the 2010 en premier tasting where this garnered throngs of curious Sommeliers, professionals buyers and personal collectors. Each had their glasses lifted for a thimble full of what Delmas announced as the greatest achievement Chez Montrose in his tenure.

Octogenarians back in America confirmed the 2010’s place alongside the 1945 and ’47, and Robert Parker pulled no punches – rating the ’10 a near-perfect 99 points once bottled. Multiple tastings later – one summer not too long ago the most recent as well as most exciting – the 2010 officially joined the ranks of perfection.

Ranked alongside such coveted treasures as the 1929 and ’59, Montrose 2010 will go down as the stuff of legends.

I wonder how many of you were gifted with the same foresight as I was when I first tasted it. How many of you purchased a half case to stash away for a long as humanly possible?

2010 Montrose St Estephe

This is considered to be among the greatest vintages ever made in Montrose, right up with the 1929, 1945, 1947, 1959, 1961, 1989, 1990 and 2009. Harvest was October 15 to 17. The wine has really come on since I last tasted it, and it needs at least another 10 years of cellaring. The blend was 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. The wine is opaque black/blue, with an incredible nose of blueberry and blackberry liqueur, with hints of incense, licorice, and acacia flowers. Tannins are incredibly sweet and very present. The wine is full-bodied, even massive, with great purity, depth and a finish that goes on close to a minute. This is a 50- to 75-year-old wine that will repay handsomely those with good aging genes. (Note: The Chateau Montrose website gives an aging potential of 2020-2100.)

100 points – Robert Parker

 

2012 Rippon Pinot Noir Mature Vines of Central Otago – New Zealand’s Very Best

New Zealand’s Finest!

 

I first began drinking Rippon’s phenomenal Pinots with the early 2000s, continuing my enjoyment and the consumption of their finest juice a few years ago with the release of their 2010s and sensational 2003s. My adoration is well documented in these pages.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate is on record as well, referring to Nick’s wines as

“…Pinot Noirs that rekindled memories of those glorious 2005 Burgundy’s”.

I was also quite impressed to hear the news a few months back that Nick Stock, Senior Editor for James Suckling.com, in the New Zealand issue of “The Top 50 New Zealand Wines of 2016,” ranked Rippon’s 2012 the #7 Top New Zealand Wine for 2016!

The fruit for Rippon’s Pinot Noir Mature Vines is culled from an ancient parcel on the estate’s north-facing, steep, eroded slope. It’s a meeting point of glacial deposits: ancient soil, rock and coarse gravels, all based in schist, where Central Otago’s earliest vines were planted. Rippon’s Mature Vines cuvee is issued from all of the fully developed Pinot vines growing in this expansive parcel. This is where it all began for Rippon, and the fruit of the vine from this parcel bears witness to the perfectionist style Nick Mills (and his father Rolfe Mills before him) is renowned for.

For those new to these pages, I like to remind everyone just how vital Nick’s training has been to the continuity of these world class Pinot Noirs. Not only are these the oldest plantings in the region, but they are tended by a man who spent his formative years working the soil and terroirs of Burgundy; he knew how vital his understanding of such things would be. To that end, Nick tenured with de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) , and spent time with Jean-Jacques Confuron, Lucien Jacob, Alain Meunier, Nicolas Potel and Domaine de la Vougeraie as well. His are truly the wines of a master craftsman.

2012 Rippon Pinot Noir Central Otago Mature Vines

This is the mature-vine assemblage of the entire property and has a more granitic, schist, wet-stone and rock edge as well as delicate perfumes and hints of pepper, not to mention poached raspberries and cherry fruit. Great depth and weight and good phenolic concentration. It’s all saturated in dark cherry flavors and plenty of tannins. No compromise in detail. Best from 2018, but will grow well past that.

96 points, Nick Stock for James Suckling.com