Big-buck Cabernet or good-value Chardonnay, take your pick

December 17, 2018

If great, expensive Cabernet is your metier, vice or nirvana, there is an anomaly in the market. Kapcsandy Family Winery State Lane Vineyard, Napa, both Roberta’s Reserve and Grand Vin 2010, rated very high 90s by everyone, are selling for as much as $100 less than the equally vaunted 2008 and 2012. It is rare that Tanzer, JR, Galloni and RP see eye to eye on wine, but they were ecstatic on these. I don’t like to lead with a $300 bottle, but these are worth both the search and the price.

How about a creamy Sonoma Chard for $25? Sonoma Loeb is smooth, buttery, a bit of oak, a smidge of vanilla, balanced fruit/acid, a good value, 88 McD. WS gave their Reserve 2016 90 points; add a little body, some salt air tang and a pleasing hazelnut finish for about $7 more.

Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chard 2016 has a diverse bouquet: pear, lemon, brioche, and roast nuts with floral nuance. On the palate, key lime pie and butterscotch supported with green apple acidity, and hints of apricot and lemon. Finishes cleanly with hazelnut and more butterscotch. D-G farms over 80 unique vineyards around and in Green Valley; they vinify separately then blend to get the best results.

A consistent winner since 1998, they’ve come in at 88-90 points and priced under $35. 2013-16 all get McD 90 points. Mount Eden Vineyards Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is another consistent producer, past six years 90+; the 2013 is best at 91. Deep gold, citrus, apple, a little butter and some barrel notes give way to bright acidity, mango cream, a medium palate with mineral finish, $30 or less.

This is not the $60-$65 Mount Eden Estate Chard, best vintages 2011, ‘12 and ‘13; it is a second label and IMO a better value. Lutum Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay, N. Coast Sonoma, gets 92 McD for each 2013-15.

The ‘16 looks above average also but needs a little cellar time, 93 McD. If you find any under $50, buy it. The 2014 was best of the others. Stone fruit and lemon nose with ginger and oak back notes. On the palate, citrus flavor has a strawberry-peach nuance with bright acidity, hints of sage and white pepper. Winemaker Gavin Chanin, Forbes 30 Under 30 and San Fran Chronicle Winemaker to Watch, is one I hope you follow. Talented fellow.

Final Chardonnay review for 2018, Hilt Chardonnay the Vanguard Santa Rita Hills 2014, 94 McD under $60. For a change, I’m on board with RP on a Chardonnay.

This comes from the northern, arid, ocean-facing vineyard, a tough terroir for farming that stresses vines. To paraphrase, “It takes a tough terroir to make a tasty wine,” and this proves the point.

Redolent of apricot, peaches, toast and floral notes. Smooth, elegant with medium weight; look for brioche, vanilla, peach flavors supported by lively acidity and finishing cleanly with a bit of flinty minerality.

Rob asked, “Aren’t there any good buys on French Red Burgundy? You’ve stopped reviewing them?” There are others in Burgundy that haven’t lost their minds with pricing, but it takes a patient search to find them. Few are written by RP, Cho Lee or WS writers unless you check the back-page listings. As a matter of fact, Louis Jadot Clos des Ursules Premiere Cru 2013 just came on sale at $64, the 2012 at $53.

That’s like stealing. 2013 has split the critical personality. Jeannie Cho Lee, 80 points, and her acolytes hate it, and Galloni 89 and JR 17.5 love it. Regular Readers and pals know in whose camp to find me; Tony G and Ms. Robinson are on the money. She writes, “Pale ruby. Rusty pale rim. Very light impact on the nose. Very pure and well etched. Notably fine. Lots of lovely ripe fruit in the middle. A real success and only Burgundy could have produced it. Not a heavyweight but really beautiful balance. Good aftertaste – really appetizing and tasty.” - Jancis Robinson. BTW, in case you missed it, JR ratings are times 5 if you wish to compare with 100-point scores.

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