Too much great wine around to waste time on inferior product

April 16, 2018

Cabernet Sauvignoneurs who don't wish to pay big bucks for wonderful wine and who have a wine shoppe pal willing to do a little work should look into 2014 Conner Lee Vineyard Reserve Cab Block 1029. This 40-year-old vineyard provides juice for many of Washington state's well-known producers. 2014 was a very warm year in the Columbia Valley, providing the highest-recorded tannin and color availability. Conner Lee Vineyard is a cooler site ensuring sufficient acidity to balance the warm, long growing season's pronounced ripe flavors. When this confluence occurs, Washington state Cabs show their mettle. Block 1029, is so purple, it is nearly black, and it has a black currant, floral, licorice and cedar bouquet. On the complex palate, blackberry, cherry and cassis flavors with barrel-driven mocha and vanilla. Drinkable now but will improve for a few years and cellar more than 10; 93 McD, plus price points under $30. These are several other wines I sampled that are sourced from CLV: J. Bookwalter Conflict CLV '14, 93 points; Arbor Crest CLV Cab Franc '14, 91; Ashan CLV '14, 90 points, a buttery chard; Buty CLV Chard '14, reminds me of grand cru White Burgundy. The 2011, 91 points McD, is wonderful now for those who enjoy more austere (Chablis) Chardonnay, a blending of stone fruit and tea leaf with cool-site acidity. Here are a few other wineries, whose wines I have not evaluated, that use CLV juice: Abeja Estate, Gorman Winery, Spoiled Dog (love the name). Based on those I have tried and the very large coterie who place CLV on their labels, it should be safe to buy any wine on which the name appears. But be careful, friends!

The winemaker is always key.

Believe it or not, there are "bad" Burgundy, Bordeaux, Napa and Sonoma wines out there, and not all Barolo and vintage Port cellars 40 years. I just don't write about those. Too much great wine to waste the print.

I touted the 2010 right bank Bordeaux St. Emilion Grand Crus over the 2009. Hope you bought some. The 2015 Bordeaux are ratcheting upward in price from opening around $60 to about $100. Some of this is driven by $ weakness but more by the quality that is starting to show. The 2016 are also killer and compare favorably to 2010, especially Pomerol and St. Emilion. Both the 2015 and '16 vintages are wonderful for those who enjoy Bordeaux profile. When a great year occurs, the Cru Bourgeois are also terrific. Smart shoppers will be able to locate great bargains. For the 2017, look at left bank, Paulliac, St. Estephe and St. Julien. That said, due to low yield, down 40-50 percent, and the dollar doldrums, you may want to look elsewhere.

How about some Italian white summer sippers under $20 to lay in for the porch, white fish and crab season? Attems, owned by Marchesi Frescobaldi, is from Venezia-Guilia IGT in Friuli. Paola, and others of the longtime reader contingent, may remember these under the Collio label several years ago. 2016 Pinot Grigio is nicely done. Attems consistently produces these in the 88-89-point range when the terroir allows, which is most vintages.

The 2016 is typically dry. Pale golden, it opens to acacia and citrus aromas. Crisp acidity supports some apricot and more acacia on the palate. Finishes cleanly, 89 McD under $20. Attems Sauvignon Venezia-Giulia IGT 2016, also from Friuli, Italy, is an interesting SB. I was surprised to find some apricot hidden away among the peach on the crisp, tangy palate. The cliff notes from the producer claimed there was tomato in the nose; I could not discern it. Perhaps it was colder than they recommend. The nose was slightly herbal but not that typical SB taint.

A very well-balanced fruit-to-acidity wine that went well with seared scallops and asparagus. I'm normally reluctant to pair with asparagus, but it was recommended by the producer. As you are well aware, the asparagus in our markets is young, thin and mild. They paired very well with Attems Sauvignon 2016, 88 McD.