Red wine warms away wet-weather woes

October 8, 2022

Rough, rainy, refreshing weather and the arrival of several red wine samples helped warm up my weekend. Let’s start today with 2018 Etude Fiddlestix Santa Rita Highlands Pinot Noir: ruby with garnet highlights, opens to pomegranate and raspberry accented with oak-driven pie spice. Nicely balanced, framed by bright acidity and slightly elevated tannin; long, clean finish. New release should be on shelves soon, 90 McD under $50. I also had an Etude Heirloom PN Carneros 2016 to compare to. This is a slightly upscale version that I bought on a Wine Advocate RP tout a few years ago for $40, 94 McD. Others claim the new-release 2018 is comparable. Their Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros PN 2018 label is a good entry look under $33 in D.C., 89 McD. It opens with raspberry, black tea, toasted barrel spice and forest floor aromas. The palate shows a finely balanced fruit concentration, smooth tannins, bright acidity, full-bodied, a lot of legs for PN. Reminds me of well-made Burgundy. The long finish shows a hint of smoke, game and damp earth. An excellent example of cool-climate, Petaluma Gap area of NW Carneros PN. GBR is also different for its well-drained volcanic upland soils. Much of Carneros is clay bottom land similar to our local soils. 

Aperture Cellars Cab Alexander Valley 2018 is a wonderful look into their line of highly rated Cabernet Sauvignons, 94 McD around $65. RP said 97 and J. Robinson only gave a 16. I finally disagree with Ms. Jancis. This compares favorably to their $150 bottlings: Del Rio vineyards, Oliver’s Vineyard and the $171 SJ Ranch Chalk Hill 2019. When it comes to value, this Cab blend wins hands down. Blended with Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, it shows dark ruby, opens to cherry, bacon, anise with lilac hints. On the palate, a juicy cherry/berry center, well supported with silky tannins, integrated oak and proper acidity. A long, complex finish repeats the palate and shows some stony minerality. This is winemakers’ art on high.

Just in, parts of the following were filched from a great Sept. 22 article by Kathleen Wilcox, titled, Fine Wine Buoyant in a Turbulent Market: “The Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report combines data from Alcohol Industry compliance software company, SOVOS ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics: sales overall are down 9 percent, but the value is up 3 percent to $1.95 billion year-over-year. Sales on bottles of wine at $100 or more were up 34.2 percent in value and 36.1 percent in volume, while sales of wine at $30 or less were down 9.4 percent in volume and 8 percent in value.” I was surprised at the magnitude of the numbers but not the trend. I still think well-chosen wine will be a worthwhile investment for those who can cellar.

From another service, Enolytics and Wine Direct, luxury wines priced $90 and up enjoyed a 32 percent bump in sales, while bottles priced $20 and lower were down 1 percent. The article did mention the numbers are slightly skewed by across-the-board price increases and bargain sales respectively. If you decide to venture into cellaring, keep in mind my caveats: A cool, dark, dry space with lay-down shelving constitutes a cellar for beginners; buy small production, under 500 cases; well-known names, generally not conglomerates, and 94-plus ratings by well-regarded writers with established credentials. Longtimers will recognize that I tend to search for best quality/price ratio buys for nearby consumption unless stipulating cellar buys. David Parker, founder of the rare wine buyer and seller Benchmark Wine Group based in Napa wrote: "When the stock market goes up rare wine tends to rise more, and when stock goes down, rare wine may go down a little, but not nearly as dramatically.

There are several ways to invest in wine, Parker explains: through wine stocks or ETFs like LVMH, through wine investment funds like Vinovest, or through individual acquisitions of blue chip wines.

"Which you'll obviously want to buy by the case," notes Parker. 

 I have been following and advising this for many years, with no complaint letters. Next week I will review some possible choices. Anecdotally, I can’t remember a time when well-curated cellars lost price appreciation. The only issues have been inflation, drinking great wine before its time, and children. 

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