When a wine gets too pricey, check out the neighbors

December 24, 2012

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve does not come to mind for most Champagne consumers. I was very surprised with its appearance online at $29, down from $37-$41. This is a great buy for holiday party givers who wish to pleasantly surprise their bubbly friends. Blended of Chardonnay 20 percent, PN 40 percent and Pinot Meuniere 40 percent, it is a brilliant, pale-yellow color with a lovely fine bead and creamy mousse. Opened to apple, pear and peach with a hint of curry, aromas evolved to citrus, biscuit and melon on the crisp palate. WS 90 by WA  92. It is the No. 1 seller in France of NV brut reserve and No. 3 in the world.

I say 92, if you buy it priced less than $32.

Pleasures Pinot Noir can be had at $9.99. The wine was recommended to serve with seared tuna. I am always circumspect about Cali PN priced under $20 but gave it a tumble. To say the least, this PN was a true bargain. Dark-red cherry colored, fruit forward with strawberry, cherry and sweet spice flavors. The wine ends with firm ripe tannins and a malt and toffee finish. A lot of PN for its price.

Chateau D’Yquem 1990 is on the market at $320, down from $370. Everyone rated it 100 or 99 on release. It is in its window now. Just had some and think it is around 96 points. At the same tasting, I preferred the Chateau Guiraud at 93 points priced under $100. Buy three bottles or, if you are really in tune, you should be able to locate an eight-bottle ladder of .375s. Any of these vintages are good buys: 1990, '95, '96, '98, 2003, '05, '06 and '09. The creme de la crème for my money is the 2003. You can find .375-ml bottles for $33. It has a complex bouquet of peach, apricot, honey, spun sugar and lily of the valley aromas, On the palate, unctuous but enough acid to clean, fresh citrus, apricot and toast. The wine has a very long, complex, clean finish that repeats the flavors. Keep in mind a normal pour on these dessert wines is 4 oz.

Remember Jean-Michel Cazes, the guy who has improved Chateau Lynch Bages? He bought Domaine des Senechaux in 2006 and RP has been on it for a while. Parker gave 95 points to the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. I was surprised. The wine I have sampled is 90 in 2005, '06, 2009, 10, an 88 in 2007 and 86 points in 2008. Senechaux does not move much in price but I ‘m guessing RP drives this price. Sit back if you are a fan. The price will return to normal by summer.

In the past, I have recommended looking at next-door neighbors when a wine gets huge points. Chateau Smith Haut Lafite is a case in point. The 2009 was rated 100 points by RP and skyrocketed from $75 to over $200. Right next door, Chateau Le Thil Comte Clary was rated 90 RP, 92 WS and 91 McD and is on sale under $240/case. Buy as much as you can consume 2014 through 2021 if you are a Cab fan. Very dark garnet, opens with plenty of aeration to a bouquet of cassis, blackberry, fennel, with graphite and licorice nuance .On the palate huge, round, supple and depth come to mind. Well balanced with supple tannins providing grip now. There is enough fruit and oak to let us know a few years in the cellar will help. I hope Chanukah was wonderful, Christmas is merry, Kwanzaa brings great joy and if I missed anyone don’t be offended. Write me an email and I’ll include you next year. Please, when you see me, holler out Happy Chanukah, or Kwanzaa or Merry Christmas. I won’t be offended, tear down your decorations,  frown, feel infringed on or lecture you on your beliefs. I’ll smile and accept it in the manner it is offered. Peace on Earth and good will toward men is not just a Christian tenet. In fact, it isn’t even a religious statement.

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