Start your new year with some side-by-side tastings

January 2, 2021

2021 at last. Bright-eyed optimists have provided reams and terabits of statements that the new year “has to be better than 2020.” As we sat huddled in our wine cellar or “COVID cave” (we actually have a full, in-ground cellar in our home, which may have been built by former owners to protect from a different end-of-earth calamity), and while awaiting summons for my shots, another reason for cellaring “to our wondering eyes did appear.” Although the supplies of rice, beans, canned Spam, paper goods and sanitizers are rapidly waning, it appears we will have enough to slake our thirst until the 2021 release. I hope your Christmas was as merry as ours. We did roll the dice a bit and gathered with our 10 immediate family members. So far, all are well.

Here are a couple of ideas for shoppers/cellarers. Wine Spectator recently released its top 100 list, and the new-release price for No. 3, 95-point San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucere 2018, leaped to $199 on the news. Wise shoppers can find the 96-point 2010, in the heart of its drinking window, for $169. Kistler RRV Vine Hill Chardonnay 2017, No. 6, 96 points, came in at $90 and has leaped into low orbit. The 2017 and ‘18 are being billed as the new lean look, and writers are falling over the term. I am a bit suspicious and think it is possible the grapes may have been harvested early due to weather or fire-related issues. Winemaker Jason Kesner is top flight and rolled with the climate change, producing a good food wine. I’d rather you buy the 2014 Cuvee Cathleen around $170, if you are going big buttery and pricey. RP said 99 and Tony Gallons 96 with a 2017-24 window. 

Yes, I know! Here are some pocketbook winners also. Massolino Barolo DOCG 2016, No. 8, 95 points, came in at $50. I think that score a bit high but the value is great. Massolino produces several labels, so make sure it reads DOCG. McD 94 points, but it is ready this year to 2030. Don’t look for price appreciation unless you get into their Vigna Rionda Dieci Anni Riserva or the 95 McD 2011 Vigna Rionda Riserva, which I saw on sale for $140 at West Palm Wines.

No. 18 Hall Sauvignon Blanc Knights Valley 2018, 94 points around $35, and No. 21 Joel Gott SB 2019, 90 McD points, $9-$12, complete today’s reviews. With ahrsters at their best, Gott’s SB is a terrific inexpensive bottle. Also goes great with white fish and crab dishes. I can’t believe the raters let it in. A no-pedigree, blenders’ SB under $12 with a great rating – Wow! Tropical fruit, lime and grapefruit aromas, mango, peach and pineapple with citrus acidity balancing all. Here is an inexpensive way to look at your palate versus value. Buy one each of Gott and Hall SB, gather some pals and some oysters, or steam some clams if you aren’t an oyster/raw fan, and give it a whirl. 

“Nattering nabobs of negativism,” as described by a crooked pol, are invading the wine scribe biz. Many are writing of the huge gap between the rich and the poor wine bibbers, as though it is a new phenomenon. Although I am in agreement with some of the underlying flack, a fairly well-known, old-time wordsmith named Goethe had this to say, "The rich want good wine, the poor, plenty of wine." Still sound marketing advice to live by. Paying attention to famous folks known by their last name is wise. The thinking goes that most of the money in wine is made in $10-$25 retail, referred to as restaurant labels. An article with the subhead “Will the relentless drive toward premiumization survive C19,” written by James Lawrence, explores many of the issues. Go to RRs may recall I’ve occasionally pushed back on the specific-vineyard, limited-production, and Burgundian and Napa Cab wonder wines. Start the new year by doing a few side-by-side tastings. Enjoying wine is subjective. Wine daily or once a week may be a budget issue. Are those $100, 95-point buckaroos really eight times better than most 90-point $12 bottles? Is the pleasure worth the price? Wishing all a terrific New Year!

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