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

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.

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