Early wine sales will soon be done; stock up now

March 11, 2023

The sales are still on. Here are more wines for the lamb, brisket, roasted beef and roast chicken. Soon, most of the bargains will disappear from the market. Nicolas Thienpont Chateau La Prade 2019, 85% Merlot and 15% Cab Franc, under $20, 91-plus McD, exceeds its price point. While it will improve, it is approachable. Aeration releases cassis, blackberry and plum, accented with rose petals, cedar and dusty earth reminiscent of a Rutherford Cab. The properly balanced palate repeats cassis and berries, and adds hints of chocolate, green pepper and tea. Thienpont, whose grandfather owned Troplong-Mondot and Vieux Chateau Certan, two of the top five in Pomerol, has gained his own reputation as proprietor/winemaker and introduced many to the new appellation Bordeaux, Cotes de Francs, a subregion on the outskirts surrounding St. Emilion. His holdings include Chateau Puygueraud, Chateau Laclaverie, Chateau Les Charmes-Godard and most recently Chateau Alcee Cotes de Castillon. His processes are more old school. Significant effort is extended to express terroir. La Prade is normally fruit forward and juicy with fresh acidity due to long, cool fermentation and maceration which moderates the tannins. The wine is aged 18-20 months in oak and bottled unfiltered. I search for his gems. Chateau Les Charmes-Godard Blanc 2021, 91 McD, is a delicious example of white Bordeaux at a very fair price. Again, the traditional approach of long fermentation (8 mos.) and batonage (lees stirring) delivers complex, rich-bodied wine with broad mouthfeel. Opens a bit grassy, but that will dissipate quickly. Remember, many white Bordeaux serve better at 55-60 degrees F. Peaches, cream, gooseberry and floral aromas lead to peach flavors and bright citrus acidity. Long, clean, mineral finish. These will age. 2019 was a difficult year in Bordeaux, but Thienpont proved himself up to the task. 

Round Pond Kith and Kin Napa Cab 2019, 92 McD under $33, is a good example of the value of shopping. The Round Pond Reserve Estate Reserve would set you back about $120, and their Estate label $75. Both are rated 90 points by several other critics who also agree with my 92. Sampled at a blind tasting. Aromatic of cassis, ripe red fruit and oak notes, leading to raspberry flavor modified by toffee, cocoa and crème brûlée, supported with moderate tannins and balancing acidity. (DC) has Tabor Limited Edition Cabernet Galilee; the 2017 and ‘18 both rate 91 McD under $60. Blackberry, black currant, cedar nose, with pomegranate, cherry, pie spice and licorice flavors; slightly elevated tannins and acidity lead to a long, clean finish. Add a mocha hint. Carmel Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (vintage specific) is a good example – 100% Cab, 88 McD, under $19; and their Carmel Appellation, a 60% Cab-40% Shiraz blend, 2017, 91 McD, $26, shows dark fruit, oak and sweet spice aromas, with black cherry, cocoa and barrel spice palate. Both are available, food friendly and ready.

Caveat emptor! Third-tier labels of Baron Phillipe Rothschild Mouton, and Barons Edmond and Benjamin De Rothschild are inexpensive but are trading on the famous Chateau Mouton and Lafite labels’ great reputation. I sampled a range, and none reached 87 McD. There are much better values.

Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2020, 93 McD under $60, is an excellent wine. I have read the 2021 is stunning but I have not seen any yet. Hobbs does an excellent job with Sonoma PN and his Napa Cabs are in the $200-plus range. Hobbs has gone scarcity method. Nevertheless, his product is usually top-notch. The best of it is only available by subscription. Hobbs was named the Steve Jobs of Wine by Forbes. He is owner and winemaker for Paul Hobbs Winery Crossbarn, Hillick & Hobbs in the Finger Lakes, and international partnerships with Viña Cobos, Argentina; Crocus, France; Yacoubian-Hobbs, Armenia; and Alvaredos-Hobbs, Spain. I had the good fortune to sample an ounce of swirl-and-not-spit Cuvee Agustina Lindsay Estate Vineyard PN 2015 and 2018, 96 McD around $175. Compares favorably with top red Burgundy such as Faiveley Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru at $330 or Louis Jadot Chambertin-Clos de Beze Grand Cru, $490, and Drouhin-Laroze Musigny Grand Cru, $895. I attended a tasting that included these and others; Agustina won.


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