Sparklers to suit every taste and pocketbook

November 12, 2022

I took the 95-point Jeb Dunnock reminder for Lewelling Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Napa Valley 2019, and I’m glad I did. Stopped following them two years ago for no reason. I rate it 93 McD around $60. Not quite ready but drinkable now. Cassis, black currant aromas accented with floral and barrel-driven cigar box, espresso and graphite notes. On the round, full palate, slightly elevated tannins say it will keep. Fruit/acidity balance is excellent. Lewelling Wright Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, also rated 93, was quite good but at $90, I did not see the value by comparison. Lewelling is a go-to, though, because both labels have consistently been rated 92-94 since 2012. These are for drinking, not price appreciation.

Promised more sparklers this week. Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence NV, under $330/case of 12, under $30/bottle is a fine buy. Toast and fallen leaves on the nose. Unripe nectarine acidity supports cherry, nectarine and rhubarb flavors, and a toast repeat in the finish. Louis Roederer Collection Brut 242 or 243 Champagne, around $50 or $270 for six, is a fine buy. The numbers denote the vintages blended into the cuvée. This is another idea some slammed as being an inventory clearance. I say 92 McD and a fine way to sample true French Champagne NV without breaking the bank. The blender is doing a great job. Those who prefer magnum bottles (size of two 750 ml) will pay about a $3 premium. Regarding Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut Anderson Valley Calif., I have not sampled 2016 recent release, but reviews and long-term track record are good. 2015 rates 93 McD, under $290/six-pack or around $50/bottle. These cellar well. In November 2021, Jancis Robinson rated the 2000 18/20; high praise indeed. The 95-point McD 2012 just entered its window, 2020 thru 2030, and can still be found by wise, curious shoppers under $70 plus shipping. Here are several others worth shopping: Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut NV - citrus, barrel spice, ginger, almond, flinty minerality, $50. A tough find, but one I enjoy. Gran Moraine Brut Rosé Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley, $50, 92 McD, shows spring florals, hawthorn and green apple nose. Orange citrus and slaty minerality without the petrol hints one would find in German Riesling complete the package. Iron Horse Classic Estate Bottled Sparkling from Green Valley was the first sparkler house Barbara and I visited in the early ‘80s. I just broke the last engraved flute recently. Classic Brut 2016 gets 94 McD points. The 2017, 95 McD around $45, is top drawer. I’m a bit stingy; others rated them 96 and 97. Blend of 70% PN, 30% Chard, very pale gold, tons of tiny bubbles, stone fruit, hazelnut and marzipan aromas. The nose and the palate of citrus and oyster shell are supported by bright mineral acidity. New release 2018 is OK, 90 McD. Another Sonoma gem we visited on our last trip was Inman Family Wines. Really nice folks and extremely hospitable. Kathleen toured us personally. We sampled their Olivet Grange Vineyard (OGV on the label) Estate Brut Rosé 2012 and were hooked. This 250-case production takes a bit of work to get.

Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay 2019 is 92 McD, a great buy under $30. Pale yellow with lemon, yellow apple, chalk aromas, it moves to lemon curd and apples with almond, honey, gingerbread and chalk dust back notes riding a lush, creamy, complex, balanced wine supported by crisp acidity through a long, clean finish. The 2018 was rated 95 and is no longer around. If you bought some, hold until next year. Farrell’s Rochioli-Allen Vineyards PN 2018 opens to strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate aromas with dark earth, tea and forest floor appearing on the crisp, silky mid-palate retro nasal senses. It has a lovely, long, clean, spicy finish. Farrell sold his label in 2004. Theresa Heredia, an extremely accomplished and well-educated chief winemaker since 2012, has continued the winery’s relationships with RRV’s top vineyards, i.e. Rochioli, Hallberg, Bacigalupi, Allen and Durell, winning numerous awards and 90-plus ratings.

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