Walter Hansel is a star, so his wine prices jump

September 17, 2012

Today is answer some mailbag questions day. Paolo and Mario both wrote to ask about Super Tuscan Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli Badiola 2010. It took a while to search it out but was well worth the search. I found some priced under $15 and it was a pip. Readers should know that this is the direction Sangiovese, the grape that produces Chianti, is being driven by adding in Merlot and Cab. I like the idea because these additions bring dark fruit and enhance body that was noticeably absent in most Chiantis priced this cheaply. When a guy loves liver and favas, he’s looking for body in his wine as well. Mazzei provides black cherry and currant with violet highlights in the bouquet. It is dense and structured with good tannic grip. The wine finishes medium long with spice and mineral notes. WS rated it 92, RP 88. I give it 93 with 2 price points and I’m guessing Badiola makes the top 100 WS list. The 2010 are their best since 2005. Cellar one year; drink thru 2020. I do not recommend cellaring this wine now because it is large production and does not escalate in pricing. You can buy older vintages at or near initial release prices.

Bill has some 2007-08 wines in his cellar and asked about them. The list was extensive, so I decided to just name those whose drinking windows were ending. This is just my opinion based on my notes and recent events. Chalone Chard 98 Monterey; Cakebread 97 Cab; Cosentino the Poet Meritage 97 may reach 2015; as will Beringer Bancroft Ranch Merlot 97. The Clos Pegase, Caymus and Montelena Cabs are good through at least 2024 if properly cellared.

Suzanne asks about the surge in Columbia Crest Reserve Cab prices. Suzanne, these Columbia Valley wines from Washington are consistently rated around 88-92 and are decent. They are priced in the $35-45 range when ready to drink. My choice would be to look into Jordan Winery Cab in that range. Rob Davies makes wonderful wine and cellars it properly before allowing it to be sold. Jordan only produces Chard and Cab and they take great care. I have visited the winery and met Rob. The place is gorgeous, clean and organized. The equipment is in great condition, and the vineyards in Alexander and Russian River valleys are well-manicured and trellised. Jordan has a great rewards program as well for folks who join their list.

Eileen wanted to know about Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Cuvee Alyce Chardonnay. Hansel is a true star. He makes lovely wine and has a major problem. RP loves him and consistently rates him at the top. The result is the wine surges in price on release. Smart buyers will wait for the fog of the RP release to pass, when they slide back in price. Hansel makes wine for the cellar. If I were to recommend a purchase, Eileen, I would say look to the 2009. RP 95, Tanzer 93. Buy a case under $425 now or wait until next spring and save a few bucks. Vibrant yellow color, opens to grapefruit, lemon zest, mint and smoky mineral nose. Flower, citrus, apples and bracing mineral flavors ride a proper frame and repeat through the finish. I give it 93 plus 1 price point. This is not the same as Hansel Cahill Lane, an OK wine, but you can do better for the price.

Finally Rick asked, “How come you never have any high-rated cheap Cabs anymore?” There aren’t many around, Rick, but you may remember Mitolo’s the Jester Cabs from Australia. I just saw the 2007 on sale at $17/bottle. WS 89, RP 90, McD 92. Deep ruby, opens to a bouquet of blackberry, plum, earth, flowers and vague hints of licorice and pie spice. Full-bodied, good texture and balance with dark fruit, cassis and oak-driven spice. Ripe tannins and proper acidity provide structure on the lingering finish.

Here’s to a great week for all!

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