Atoning for plonk poured on neophytes

July 30, 2012

Most stringent gun control: New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis and Baltimore. Highest crime rates according to FBI as reported in U.S. News and World Report, terrible to appalling. Cleveland, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Baltimore, Miami, Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham, Chicago, Atlanta and St. Louis. Highest murder rate, Chicago.

My friends, stopping desperate acts by desperate people won’t come from gun control. Packing the poor, the mentally ill and the under-educated into cities so it is easier for the welfare state to provide transport and services is a major root of this issue. History is filled with empires that followed the practice and failed. Bread and circuses or stadium sports and subsidy programs, there is little difference. Stopping nut jobs, like the Aurora shooter, is impossible. The guy fit no profile and could make bombs from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Difficult to write about wine this week, for me. Too many very serious distractions, but here goes.

A recent article was touting older Inglenook Cab, and it prompted me to remind you that often the best bargains come from the big jug guys when they bottle a reserve wine. Back in the day, EJ Gallo’s Reserve Cab was always a big winner. I named these Karma wines. The big-gallon boys made them to atone for all the plonk they poured onto the heads of the neophytes.

Try to find some older bottles of EJ Gallo, Beaulieu, Inglenook or Sebastiani and verify my statement. They can be wonderful. I just had the last of a 1978 BV Georges De Latour Cab Private Reserve. Still wonderful. The lineage at BV says it all. Winemakers: Andre Tchelistcheff, total iconic Cali winemaker; followed by Joe Heitz; then Mike Grgich; next Richard Peterson, now with  Atlas Peak Winery; and current Thomas Selfridge, president of Beaulieu. Do you think any of those mentioned made any plonk? Probably yes. People gotta eat, and wineries are marginal operations.

Chard drinkers, Gary Farrell Russian River Chardonnay is around at $31, rated 93 points, WS. Pale straw color, complex bouquet, flavor pack of creamy pear, apple, spices and white flowers, oak, yeast - it’s all there. Finish is acid bright, clean and peachy. Drink through 2020 Maybe his best ever. A steal under $35; it rivals the 2007, which I rated 94. Bouchard Pere et Fils Monthelie les Duresses Premier Cru 2008 is a great deal priced under $28 for those who enjoy lean and austere Burgundies. Les Duresses is on the mark. A complex nose of Pinot, subtle earthen and rose petal notes. Don’t look to be blown away. Look for subtle, refined, with intense, on-point blackberry flavors in the finish. Off its highs around $38 in late 2008-09.

Remember the story on Chateau Monbousquet? Run down, refurbished by the Querre family, bought up by grocery mogul Gerard Perse who subsequently bought up Chateaux Pavie, Pavie Decesse and La Clusiere. Monbousquet was elevated to Grand Cru classe in 2006. Perse hired Michel Rolland to consult and it skyrocketed into the big time. The 2009 are on sale now. Toasted oak, vanilla, black and red fruits, barbecue, espresso and chocolate ride sweet tannin and a fine acid-fruit balance. RP, who loves the Perses, raved on and on, driving the price, but it is back in the realm now, having fallen from $75 into the $45 range. I rate it 89 points though. The Perses must have invited RP for a stay-over. Average ratings run closer to me, although Jancis Robinson slammed it at 80. Tanzer and Gault Millau agreed with me at 89-92. Buy now; this looks like bottom to me.

Here’s hoping for some good news this week. Last week really has me down in the dumps.