Following only one wine guru can be tricky

May 26, 2014

I was thinking about Memorial Day and some of my deceased and disabled veteran pals. The recent scandal in VA is a recurring theme that continues through each admin, regardless of who wins. My conclusion is: The problem may lie with the long-term, bureaucratic, entrenched minions, who are nearly impossible to correct, retrain or replace because they are protected by the unions and governmental labor management practices. The problem seems to recur regardless of which department is investigated. Sadly, the same situation is repeated in large businesses, as well. Think current GM problems and their ilk. Although management will rightfully take the blame, the workforce is also culpable. Those with an historical bent may wish to read FDR’s promises that federal government employees would never be able to unionize because “It is against the law of the land.” Makes one want to drink.

La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2004, WA 93, WS 94 and No. 22 of the top 100 for 2013, received a 17 of 20 from Jancis Robinson, whose palate very closely matches mine. It is a helluva great deal when priced under $26/bottle. Smart shoppers would afford a case priced under $295. Your friendly wine store pal can make a living as well. These are only produced in good years and are vintage sensitive. They are also available in 375 ml. The window is 2014-20. Blended of 80 percent Tempranillo with three years in new oak and Granacha 2 1/2 in old oak. Dark ruby, orange-tinted rim. Opens to a pungent bouquet of balsamic, oak-driven vanilla, coconut husks, black pepper and a vague hint of blackberry. On the palate, well-balanced acidity, alcohol, with silky tannins and nice structure. During the long, clean finish, blackberries come to the fore along with spicy woody notes. Tapas, especially charcuterie, Serrano ham, hard cheeses and barbecue love this wine.

Occasionally, I excerpt reviews for comparison of the folks I read, to point out the problems with following one guru. (Unless, of course, it is yours truly.) Following is a classic; all excerpted and paraphrased. They write much better. Tony Gallons in WA, 92 points, freshly cut flowers, violets, menthol, crushed rocks and dark red cherries. Balanced fruit, acidity and tannin is first-class. Jeff Laube, WS, 91 points, earth, classic dried herb, currant, anise and tobacco leaf. Ends up finishing like a classy Bordeaux. Stephen Tanzer, IWC, 90 points, cool, soil-driven aromas, blue fruits, licorice and underbrush, struck me as quite claret-like. Glyceral and fresh, bright tannins. Shows a distinct ferrous (iron minerality) quality. Finishes with building ripe tannins. I truly admire these guys, but how can I believe they all were reviewing Round Pond Estate Rutherford Cab 2010?

Round Pond 2010 came on the market in 2012 at $25 and rocketed to the $50 range. When I put together this price explosion and the wide disparity in expert description, I decided to search some out. It is available at the winery around $35 plus shipping but don’t you dare order any. The state government made it illegal. It is alleged, but unprosecuted, that they did so to keep the Delaware wholesaler contribution stream flowing. I drove up to New Jersey to sample some (also to visit my nieces and nephews). I found a dark-purple beauty with a complex bouquet of roses, sage, cassis, cloves and some of the forest floor notes often attributed to Rutherford Cabs. On the palate, good viscosity, nicely balanced fruit and acidity. The wine finishes clean with hints of cherries and a nutlike flavor I couldn’t specifically define.

Finally, the 2011 Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva, No. 36 in WS top 100, was awarded 92 points. The last two years, WS claimed Norton Reserva as the highest-rated Malbec ever. You all are aware I’m not a fan of Malbec. I prefer Jackie Gleason’s pal to most Norton. However without holding my nose, I had a sup. Deep purple, ripe, with plum, mesquite, violets, tobacco, some mocha, a bit of raspberry, chocolate and smoother tannins than most Malbec. Best of all, you can buy some for less than $15. The 2011 may change my mind about Norton. Thoughtful Memorial Day!