Two new sparklers for the holiday season

December 16, 2013

Just sampled two wonderful sparklers I hadn’t reviewed before. A 92-point Duc de Romet Brut Prestige NV priced under $27 can probably be brought in under $30 if you buy a case. Made from Pinot Meunier (75 percent) and Pinot Noir, it is light golden with a bouquet of citrus, apple, ginger and brioche. Has lovely, creamy bead, clean finish with a touch of chalky minerality. Cellar through 2019, ready now.

The next is a Cava Crémant style. Now, don’t get nervoso! Cremant is not just “cheap Champagne.” It means wines using methóde Champenoise, produced outside the Champagne region. There are seven Crémant regions in France and one in Germany. To place Crémant on the label, producers follow these rules: 1. Grapes must be harvested by hand, in amounts not exceeding the set amount for their AOC. 2. They must be aged a minimum of one year. Those from Burgundy must be a combination of 30 percent Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris grapes. Aligote may be used in scant amounts.

Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Cava Riserva is terrific and reminds me of the best NV brut French. It can be found under $20. If you are planning a wedding and wish to provide an excellent “Champagne toast,” this should be looked into. I tasted it blind with several “other “commonsewers.” None named it a Cava. Very fine bubbles, dry as a bone, bright lemon and yeasty bread dough with just a touch of minerality in its long, dry sophisticated finish.

Las Hormigas Malbec Reserve 2011 was recommended here and added to Grove wine list back in April, when it was selling for $14. Now over $19. It was recently selected No. 42 on WS top 100 for 2013. If you follow the winemaker, as I do, you would expect as much from Antinori’s former winemaker, Alberto Antonini, who became a partner at Las Hormigas in 1995. The first bottling was 2007, and the wine shows his expertise and patience. Twelve years with no product is a lifetime. I expect a long skein of successes to follow.

Like big reds? Hahn GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) 2012 won gold this year in the San Fran International show. Still priced under $160/case. Check this out. The Rhone Rangers put on Wine & Swine, A Pairing of American Rhone Wines and Bacon. And that’s why I follow them. Big, beautiful and inexpensive. Keep alert for Alta Colina, a family-owned and family-run winery. They recently took on Jeff Cohn as a consultant. Jeff made his bones at Boordy in Maryland, then Rosenblum and now his own JC Cellars. Since 2005, JC has produced 37 wines that scored 90 or above.

BTW, Boordy is worth the trip to visit. Maryland’s oldest winery is located just outside “Balimur hon” on the Civil War battleground known as South Mountain Battlefield. Proceed east on I-695 to Exit 29 (Cromwell Bridge Road). Turn left and go 2.9 miles, then bear sharp left over the bridge onto Glen Arm Road. Continue 3.2 miles to a four-way stop. Turn left onto Long Green Pike and follow 2 miles to the winery entrance on the left.

The “hold your fire” admonition on Columbia Crest Reserve Cab 2009 worked. No sooner did WS and WE bestow 91 and 92 points than it leapt from $37 to $47. Crafty buyers can buy this delicious Reserve Cab for less that $350 per case and maybe avoid shipping costs. Just as a reminder, a few years back I wrote up the 2005 and compared them to Quilceda Creek, a small boutique Washington winery. Both were comparable, but QC is a darling of the wine snobs, while CC is a very large-scale producer. Big can be beautiful, and the 2005 shows us the reason. The CC was going for $27. It is still dark purple but turning red. Opens to a subdued bouquet of blackberry, cherry and oak-driven spice. On the palate, blackberry, currant, and chocolate. Full-bodied with good acidity, the tannins are mostly incorporated. A very long, clean finish. Its current price is $150/bottle.

The QC was a RP 100-point wine, Tanzer 94; it came on at $185 and is now going for $295. Wise guys who bought a case of CC could easily have consumed half and still made a profit of $600 or so on a $300 purchase. Few could afford a case of QC. You be the judge.

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