Cuvee de Pena Pyrenees Orientales 2009 not to be missed

December 31, 2011

Please put down the paper, call your favorite local wine store and have them find Cuvee de Pena Pyrenees Orientales 2009. You may remember my recommendation on the 2008 and the writeup from Schildknecht of Wine Advocate.

He uses wonderful prose in his critiques. The reason I’m asking you to move quickly is the 2009 production received the highest rating yet, and production was down from 22,000 cases to about 3,000. At a case price of $144 and a 90-point WA rating, this should fly from the shelves.

This Grenache blend from  Roussillon, France, is  rich ruby-colored with cherry, raspberry and plum bouquet.

Careful snorting, swirling and evaluating reveals smoke, tea, pie spice, roast nuts and gravelly minerality.

The palate picks confirm the bouquet, adding a juicy, clean, concentrated finish riding a palate-cleaning, acid-balanced frame.  Mr. Schildknecht advises inserting this gem into a tasting of well-known names to trick the “wine snobs.”

Although I agree with the insertion, I prefer to use it as a learning experience and a paean to wine makers who don’t gouge the public when a good rating occurs.

This is a wonderful house wine for meat eaters.

Happy New Year to my upscale Chardonnay-drinking readers.  May require some work, but the 92-point Far Niente Napa Chardonnay 2009 can be found priced under $45. The 2009 is complex and multi-layered, more to my remembrances of older-style Chardonnay, of which I am a fan.

A lovely pale golden color with very slight greenish tint, I detected the pungent aromas of lemon, honeysuckle and melon. The melon came through on the palate accented by toasted hazelnut, apricot and some tropical fruit.

Although the alcohol is a bit elevated at 14.4 percent, there was enough frame to carry it and no heat. The long finish was clean with the proper acid balance.

It has been a while since I proselytized for Alsatian Gewurztraminer. For some reason this is always a difficult sell. However, I’ve never had a naysayer who didn’t come around when sampling a glass with spicy food, especially goose, turkey, smoked ham or wurst, sauerkraut and nutmeg potato dumplings, Szechuan or an Indonesian rijsttafel. “Gewurz” is made for those dishes. For my taste, Trimbach is one of the best producers of Gewurztraminer, and for that matter Pinots Blanc and Gris as well.

This winter, lay in a few bottles of the 2001 Trimbach Gewurztraminer Cuvees des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre. The wine made from old vine, hand-selected grapes is produced during the best vintage years only.  It will cellar through 2030. Trimbach bottle ages the wine for several years before release. The 2001 is a pretty golden color with aromas of smoked meat, cloves and flowers. Although it is completely dry, it presents sweet due to the rich and fruit-filled aromas. Huge with 14.5 percent alcohol. A big Gewürztraminer, with lots of ginger and clove.  Not for consumption with flounder! Can be bought under $32.

Joey C., a longtime reader, asked about the 2006 Barolo Mascarello Monprivato.  Senor Mascarello, an honest winemaker, eschewed bottling his renowned Riserva Ca d’Morissio in 2007 because he claims there was little difference between it and the Monprivato, opting for a less expensive bottling. So WA ups and rates the release 97 points. That’s where the noise is coming from.

Generally his Monprivato bottlings come in around 91-94 points. They do not escalate in price as much as the Riserva. So I always advise ordering them when ready and paying a small premium.

As an example, the 2006 rated 92 points can be had for $101 plus shipping and needs a few in the cellar.

The 1999, rated 93 points, sells for $120. If you are going so far upscale, the extra $19 is worthwhile.

When you get to this point, another year is ending. Best wishes for your wildest expectations in every aspect of your life. Happy New Year!

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