Some (but not all) expensive wines are worth the price

July 5, 2019

Happy Independence Day+1. I’ll be working on the Fourth, and the traffic on my ride home may be awful on Route 1 at 11 p.m.  As a veteran and proud flag-displaying American, I’m OK with that. Our founders risked all to secure freedom. Most of them had a lot to lose. Including their lives.

Chateau Larose Trintaudon 2015, $23, and Chateau Poitevin Medoc 2016, $15, are two good buys for those who drink Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux. The 89-point Larose is ready now. Pale crimson, well balanced, medium body, good fruit nose, clean finish. The Poitevin rates 87 plus 2 price points; it’s a decent wine. I would prefer you find the 90 +2 PP 2015. Plums, black currants and some leather, cedar and tobacco notes precipitated by 14 months on oak. Finish shows dark chocolate and fruit sweetness, although it is completely dry. Tannins will support for laying down but it is drinking well now. An excellent value.

Here are two from good ol’ USA. Long Meadow Ranch 2016 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a 100 percent PN, shows dark ruby with floral nose, mostly roses, plus some herbal notes. Black cherry and barrel spice on medium palate. Subdued tannins and clean finish, 91 points around $40. Their Napa Valley Merlot 2015 is a blend of 95 percent Merlot plus Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot and Cab. I was intrigued when reading this blend. It opened a dark-red color with Merlot-driven plum and currant aromas. As it bloomed, raspberry came through plus a touch of oak-driven vanilla and mint. Great with caveman steaks and BBQ. Oh, and by the way, forget about those two idiot characters in the movie “Sideways.” Merlot done well is terrific. Try a little Petrus from Moueix or Duckhorn Three Palms. The Hall family, a Rutherford Valley producer, is a fully integrated farming enterprise. The 2015 Cab, one of their best recent efforts, is lovely. Cherries, currants with a violet, cedar and dark chocolate subset. Expect to pay $75 and worth every penny. 

Big-buck buyers have likely heard of Kata Beckstoffer Bourn Vineyard Cabs. Many scribblers wrote 96-98-point reviews. I had the opportunity to sample a 2011-15 vertical recently. The 2013 was best for my taste. However, these are more a “story” wine. First, everything that comes from Beckstoffer Vineyard is usually top drawer. Their excellence depends on vintage. The terroir is ideal and rarely driven by weather vagaries. Now add in a Lyonnaise aspiring winemaker and current darling of the wine media, Benoit Touquette, for the perfect storm. Touquette, after attending U. of Bordeaux, spent time under the wing of Andy Erickson. BBB will recognize Andy as the principal behind Screaming Eagle, Ovid and Arietta, three of the best-regarded and more-overvalued wines from Napa, the Teslas of the wine world, in my opinion. Great product, not worth the cash. Several observant Cali producers figured out how to squeeze more cash from consumers by Burgundizing Napa, causing very small production levels and exclusivity. I realize this is a jaundiced view, but that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

While I’m a big believer in terroir and talented winemakers producing wonderful wine, the greatest palate can’t discern wine from row six vs. row seven, which is exaggeration for effect. Kata comes on hot and remains at the same price. Ovid 2009 came in at $330, is selling for $313.  The Screamer, 1999, 94 points, opened at $3,152; today under $4,000/bottle. By comparison, I purchased a case of 1986 Chateau Mouton, 95 RP and 18 JR, for $870, planning on 12 years of birthday wine. It is selling for $10K today. We drank a bottle on Maggie’s b-day.  It was excellent and still has shelf time, maybe four years. Terroir, great winemaker, proper storage, price and time equal value, not hype and fake scarcity. All Kata I’ve tasted are well-made, delicious wines. Napa provides  better value and opportunity for drinking or price appreciation. Check out these 2010s: Cade, Louis Martini Lot 1, Frank Family Reserve, St. Supery Dollarhide Estate Vineyard. Or how about this old name – Inglenook Rubicon Red 2003, 94 points, $197, or Stags’ Leap Cask 23 2012, around $200. Try ‘em; you’ll like ‘em.

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