The Argentine winos are at it again

April 7, 2014

Try reading “The Lily, Evolution, Play and the Power of a Free Society” by Daniel Cloud. I needed my Merriam-Webster close at hand. However, I found the underlying philosophical comparisons addressed both compelling and thought-provoking. A relatively short essay that could provide hours of careful reading and digestion.

Those Argentine winos are at it again. Sampled some lovely blends priced under $20 and rating 90 or better. Michel Rolland (you should recognize this name) Clos de los Siete is an excellent example of Malbec 48 percent, Merlot 28 percent, Syrah 12 percent and Cab 12 percent, all whipped up into a delightful glass of wine. You can buy the 90-point 2009 under $16 and the 2007, 93 points, under $20. Dark, nearly opaque ruby-colored, it opens to a bouquet of red currant, blackberry and cherry. On the palate flavors repeat nose, nice minerality, good balance but not as grippy as so many Malbec-driven wines. Rolland is consulting with a wine group in Tunuyan, Argentina, and as I have written on several occasions has the magic touch.

Sean Thackrey is an art broker. He is also a self-trained, hippie, wild man winemaker from Marin County in Cali and a vocal critic of the UC Davis proclivity toward moving everything to the middle of the scale, but very lucrative part of the market. Regulars are aware I have been beating that drum for years. The MBA winemaking technique is taboo. You can read an interview here:

I learned of Thackrey’s wine by sampling Andromeda Devils Gulch Ranch Pinot Noir several years ago. Next I tried a lovely Viognier Lyra Noble Vineyard Knights Valley that I bought for $35 and rated 92 points. The 2011 are definitely Rhone-style Viognier with a huge floral nose of peach, apricot, melon, licorice and a hint of beeswax. It opens to an opulent mouthful of tropical fruit, honey, some kiwi and oranges. The 2011 is a very rich wine, with proper acid support to allow for a balanced, crisp, dry finish. Recently I sampled Pleiades Red XXIII, which was very interesting with a kinda Burgundy nose of cherry, pomegranate, raspberry and roses followed by hints of licorice, chocolate and pie spice on the palate. A delicious, layered wine riding a balanced frame with medium body and a pretty, clean finish.

Screaming Eagle Second Flight 2010 is $350/bottle for a second label. Talk about brazen effrontery. I guess if you are selling front line at $1,400-1,500/bottle and your first release (1992) is going for $7K-plus you get a little crazy. Those on the mail list could get a bargain three-pack of SE itself for “only” $2,230. The best of Second Flight are the 2007. They came on market at $225 and are selling for $510. Sorry, folks, although I think they deserve 93 points, I am compelled to knock off 4 price points. QPR is abysmal.  The 2009 and '08 are 91 and 90 points respectively and are on the market in the $460/bottle range, even worse buys. From my perspective that is dementia in the extreme.

If you are a big-buck buckaroo, wrassle up four bottles of 94-point Kathryn Hall Napa Cab 2010 instead of tourist class Second Flight. Buy Hall between $100 and $120. Ready to drink next year and good through 2025 at least. Whales may buy a case of the Kathryn instead of a bottle of SE. For those who pay attention to detail, directly across the street from Eagle is Rudd Oakville Estate. Careful searchers can better buy 2001, rated 95 by RP and 94 by WE, with a window of 2005-20 for less than $150/ bottle.

If you enjoy top-flight Cali Chardonnay ask your local wine store to order you a mixed case of Hyde de Villaine Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay. Ask for two 2004, two 2005, two 2006, and three each of '08 and '09 All are rated 92 points or better, and all are available. A fair price would be $600. Pay no more than $660.

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