Explore some Greek whites; revisit French chablis

July 30, 2018

I just sampled the new release 2016 Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, blended of 84 percent Cab, 10 percent Petit Verdot, 2 percent Merlot, 2 percent Petite Sirah, and 2 percent Malbec. Remember, Cali law states when 75 percent of a varietal juice is used in a blend, the wine can be so designated. 2016 was a dry year, causing concentrated wines in Napa. H&H kept the 2016 in 25 percent new French oak. As a result of this confluence, the wine needs cellar time. I remembered sampling the 2014 and decided to take a look-see to learn how it was performing. We bought at $31 and it is selling at $40. The 2014 can be bought and is ready to drink. A good buy would be six of the 2014 and six of the 2016. The 2016 can be found under $300/case. Made with Oakville-area juice, the 2014 shows blackberry, currant and cocoa aromas. Nice balance with still a little oak and tannic grip. Combine with the dark color, and it says not yet. The 2016 shows cherry, cassis, barrel spice and smoky oak nose; it is fruit forward (appears slightly sweet but is dry) and supported by sufficient acidity and tannin backbone. I say 87 MdD points at $30.

Sadly, Peter Mondavi, the true farmer and winemaker of the family, is no longer with us. He was a crusty fellow but warm-hearted to his friends and family, and a friendly host when you visited. He and brother Robert were quite different in their approach to the wine biz. Peter was usually on the farm, while Robert was more a promoter and salesman. Peter’s family still controls their biz. The Robert Mondavi label is still around, but the company was acquired by Constellation Brands for about $1 billion in 2004. One of the Peter Mondavi labels is Charles Krug. The Charles Krug Generations Napa Estate Grown 2014 is blended of 60 percent Cab, 20 percent Merlot, 10 percent PV and 10 percent Cab Franc. You will note it is not named Cab. After fermentation, it is aged 12 months in French oak. Dark, ruby-purple with a pleasing bouquet of plum, cherry, currant and a hint of coffee. Juicy, ripe berry palate with some barrel notes, finishes with silky tannins and caramel tones, 90 points under $50. The 2010 is still around and favorably priced at $56. This wine is excellent now. It won double gold at SF Chronicle Wine Comp. It was labeled Family Reserve at this time; I give it 93 McD due to 2 price points awarded. Plum, blackberry, floral, cedar and gravel aromas. Drinking great now; should cellar through five more years, at least. 

Let’s go out of the box a bit with two interesting Greek white wines. Keep in mind this is one of the oldest wine-producing regions. Alpha Estate Malagouzia Single Vineyard Turtles 2016 is designated Protected Geographical Indication Florina. This wine is stainless fermented and stirred on lees for two months before bottling. Key to this is the floral, citrus, spicy fragrance. Good fruit concentration and clean finish with peaches and pears. Unoaked, 13.2 percent alcohol, 88 points under $20, drink now. It won two bronzes and a silver in 2017. The GAI’A Monograph Moschofilero 2017 is a dry white, 12 percent alcohol, pairs well with flounder, crab and Asian recipes. Floral nose, look for roses and spice, maybe a citrus hint. Bright acidity says hold the lemon; clean, refreshing finish. This should sell under $12, 88 McD. Another nice Moschofilero is the Boutari 2016. Lemon, orange blossom and rose aromas with citrus and melon flavors, $16, 90 points. By the way, Moschofilero and Malagouzia are varietal types, and each of these wines is made of 100 percent, then fermented in stainless with skin contact.

Last but far from least, let’s revisit Chablis. Verget Vieilles Vignes des Minots Vaillons Premier Cru Chablis 2015 is barely ready now and will cellar through 2025. It is a righteous white Burgundy that won’t break your wallet. Many fall into the trap of paying up for Grand Cru Chablis and overlook the fair value Premier Crus. Pale golden-colored, opens smoky with apricot, lemon, spice and mineral bouquet. Round and concentrated with citrus and chalky minerality (saline?). On the palate, crisp acidity balances the fruit and cleans up the palate over a long finish. Finished sur lie for seven months, which provides a pleasing mouthfeel, 93 McD in low $30s.

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