Top-rated Red Burgundy wines can be found at affordable prices

November 26, 2022

Did all enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving holiday? I’m compiling my column on Sunday in an effort to help the hardworking editorial folks with the logjam that occurs whenever a holiday conflicts with deadlines.

Alavida Malbec, along with its fair price, delicious aromas and flavors, has a lot to recommend it. USDA Certified Organic label, unlike Euro and S. American certifications, demands that absolutely no sulfites can be used in the winemaking process. it is also Kosher, nice for Chanukah season. Inky purple, opens to florals, black fruit and subdued barrel spice aromas. Round and rich, the fruit and spice notes repeat, supported by vibrant acidity through a long, clean finish.

Ancient Peaks Winery at Santa Margarita Ranch abuts the Central Coastal range where constantly shifting fault lines provided five distinct microclimates. Back in the 1990s, winemaker Mike Sinor advised planting 14 of the best-suited varietal clones and was smart enough to choose the proper terroir for each. Although Mike is still involved, Stewart Cameron, winemaker since 2013, has continued their success. Their Cabernet and all the grapes associated with Bordeaux blends make up the largest share of the 857 acres planted. Their Oyster Ridge, 92 McD under $48, with 75% Cab Sauv, 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec, 5% Cab Franc and Merlot, shows a black plum, cranberry nose with a subset of charcoal (not smoke taint) and barrel spice. On the palate, tart red fruit, leather and toasted herb.

Gary Farrell Russian River Selections Pinot Noir 2019, 91 points, and 2020, 92 McD, both $40, spent 10 months on 35% new French oak. The ‘19 opens to a complex bouquet of roses, geraniums, cherries and red raspberry, with barrel spice. The rich palate shows cranberry, tea, vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate and ginger supported by bright acidity and incorporating tannic grip. Search out Rams Gate Cellar Note Sonoma Coast PN 2018. It spent 11 months in 30% new oak. The coastal cool climate drives bright acidic freshness. Blackberry, currant and plum, with lavender and anise aromas. On the palate, black fruit repeats along with some barrel spice. Both are in their window. Keep in mind these did not become available until late 2020. While I’m on Pinot Noir, I’d like to debunk a canard that there is no reasonably priced, top-rated Red Burgundy to be had. I checked out Bill Sokolin’s store, where son Dave is the wine pal. Each year, the store puts out a lovely, slick brochure with top-flight pix. The first and last few pages show wine priced from high hundreds to $7K-9K bottles. Those prices/bottle even for 100-point wines probably scare quite a few off. Those who decide to window shop, big-buck buckaroos and the well-informed are delighted to find great, highly rated, inexpensive selections nestled within the middle pages. In the intro, Dave mentions that Jean-Michel Cazes, owner of Lynch-Bages, a renowned Bordeaux producer, in his recent book, mildly put down Bill: “Travels the Medoc to conclude business without intermediaries for advantageous purchases.” Dave’s retort, slightly truncated: “That made me laugh. Since the ‘60s Dad has been buying the most sought-after, while pioneering the greatest unknown values.” This led to the store’s motto, “The most rare wines in the world and the least expensive that taste like them.” Here are some examples: Domaine Elodie Roy Santenay Premier Cru Les Gravieres, $43, Robert Parker 92 points; and Domaine Rapet Pere et Fils Corton 2019, 94 RP, $76. 2019 was a great year in Burgundy, especially Corton, both red and white. It needs some hang time, likely has 25 years’ longevity or more.

Right Bank Bordeaux is also superb. La Prade 2016, 93 RP, $25/bottle and drinking well already; Charmail, it’s a Cru Bourgeois designation, holding down its price to $27, Decanter 94, McD 93 with a price point. To show no hard feelings, page 3 had a case of 1990 Lynch-Bages at $7,788. The back page showed a Salmanazar (9L) of 100-point Cos d’Estournel at $7,775 and a Balthazar (12L) at $9,995. The fillip was both were in their original wooden cases. Big whoop for collectors. Sans-culottes s’en foutent.

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