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A trip down memory lane for some vintage reviews

March 20, 2017

It’s interesting what some folks remember. A few weeks ago, while shopping for some trinkets for Barbara, I ran into Joe Valdimonte. He has been a regular reader since the column was allowed and frequently emails me with puffs or pans. I always enjoy feedback, but it is a special pleasure to be able to put a face to a name. I would like to ask, please don’t introduce yourselves with “Hey, aren’t you that guy?” It stimulates my amygdala and I’m getting too old to run or fight. Anyhow, Joe remembered a column about organics and biodynamic wine and asked me to review some again. Of those I previously reviewed, only Benziger Family Winery Sangiacomo Chard 2014, Frog’s Leap Chardonnay 2015 ($18), and Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky Number 9 (formerly 15th edition), $15 made the cut. Sokol won in a landslide again. I am prejudiced toward this wine because it is “chef” made. A lovely white blend listed as an American wine, which normally means the grapes came from more than one state, Evolution is the color of light apple juice. It opens to a complex bouquet generally not expected from a $15 bottle. These were made for food, a chef’s blend of varietal juice. Pale golden-colored, opens to tropical fruit, lychee, lime, lemongrass, and melon on an off-dry frame with enough body to stand up to hot and spicy, and enough refinement to enhance a light salad. Great food wine for the spicy or hot crowd.

Frog’s Leap has been in the organics biz for quite a while. They are regarded as a U.S. pioneer in employing biodynamic grape farming. Those in the know will dispute the claim.

Prior to the advent of the chemical industry, everyone was using “biodynamics.” Frog’s Leap Chardonnay was first introduced in 1981 and usually rated in the mid to high 80s. The 2012 were widely praised; many reviewers laid on a 90-point grade.

The folks who populate Cellar Tracker and Wine Searcher generally rate Froggy a couple of leaps above the scribblers. You are safe with any recent vintage except the 2013. For some unknown reason Froggy always rates better in readers’ polls. I’d rather tout a wine that folks like us enjoy than one whose ratings are impacted by celebrity or “good varietal genes.” I’ve always found it odd that Chianti, made of Sangiovese, rarely rates above 90. Toss in a little Cabernet, and voila, it’s a Super Tuscan and garners high praise from the grand muftis. Anyhow, here is a blurb from Frog’s Leap owner/winemaker John Williams, “I don’t like most Chardonnay from California. It seems the higher they are rated, the less interest I have in them.” Ya think the critics love this guy? Probably not. Those who have a real interest in Chardonnay should enjoy reading an article from The World of Fine Wine titled Terroir and Technique in the Cote D’Or (where most great white Burgundy originates); go to www.dropbox.com/s/6t4dmb1ej9fm0gg/Fine%20Wine%20-%20Terroir%20and%20Tech....

I suggested resellers, or those who search for unique, look into Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 40th Anniversary Edition, initially offered for 3L autographed bottles at $189 and 750s for $55. I guessed they would disappear and escalate in price rapidly. Those who followed my advice will be happy to learn the wine is on the market at auction for $480 for the 3L. Flat price offerings on the 3L are $750 to $1,000, $1,565 on eBay. The 750m ranges from $250 up.

When I first recommended these, I told all I had not sampled any yet, but subsequently I had the opportunity. Very dark purple-colored, the nose took some coaxing but as the wine warmed in the glass, a complex bouquet of blackberry, cassis, and oak-driven vanilla was released.

On the palate more complexity: mocha, plums, licorice and more oak plus plenty of smooth tannins to support the color. The oak and fruit said lay me down. Think of all the words to describe palate: tight, focused, full body, purity, voluptuous and persistence. If you can steal some 750s under $250, there is probably room to run to the upside. A bit rich for my taste, though.

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