Yes, I sometimes drink a wine (or two) before its time

August 13, 2022

We enjoyed Bodegas La Val Albariño 2020, which comes from estate-grown, 25-plus-year-old vineyards. Kept on lees nine months, which rounded its mouthfeel and provided body, no oak. Spring straw-colored, with a complex bouquet of apple, citrus, peach, melon and floral nuance. Long, dry finish shows fruit, spice and a touch of salinity. La Val Albariño goes great with oysters, most sushi, grilled sword, monkfish scampi style, and chicken on the barbie. La Val is a lovely porch sipper as well. Best of all, this 89 McD will only set you back about $14.

Walter Hansel Cuvee Alyce RRV Chardonnay 2019 is wonderful for those who enjoy the bigger, buttery chardonnays, 93 McD. I had some smuggled in to an undisclosed location from Canal’s in New Jersey, and the evidence is gone. Hansel Alyce has scored a skein of 92-93 McD since 2011. Currently, the best bet is the 94-point 2018. It entered its window in 2020 and is still easily findable under $45. I also had the happy opportunity to drink Cuvee Alyce Pinot Noir 2019. It has cherry, plum, cedar, lavender and eucalyptus bouquet, very big PN, the color and balance said it needs time. I think 94 McD, ready 2024 and more. The 2016 is the place to go now. Medium ruby, black cherries, pomegranate and cranberry with hints of rose, herbs and damp earth supported by mineral acidity. Long, clean, minerally finish.

Hess Collection, owned by Donald and Ursula Hess since 1976, is known as Hess Persson Estates since 2021. It has been run by son-in-law Tim Persson and daughter Sabrina since 2017. This is part of one of Napa’s oldest vineyards, originally planted 1876-84. It has a storied history worth reading. In addition, Hess owns six vineyards and two wineries in Argentina, and Mac Phail vineyards in Sonoma County, which produces several Pinot Noirs of good repute. Anyhow, some longtime pals gifted a wonderful 2018 Hess Collection Mount Veeder Estate Grown Cab. I was expecting to wait on it, but a Portobello and NY strip dinner beckoned, and it was close at hand. Showing absolutely no restraint, I proceeded to open it and poured some glasses to let it breathe. It was drinking beautifully, 93 McD points. Made with 76% Cab, 22% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, the blend spent two years on oak. Shows dark-ruby color, bouquet of black currant, violets, plum, barrel spice and cocoa segues into a juicy, slightly tannic (yeah, my fault), more dark fruit, cassis, more oak spices and chocolate palate. I am buying a few more bottles for 2024. Found some under $60, 93 McD and 1 price point. We went from there to a Sullivan Rutherford Coeur de Vigne Cab 2017, which was the same blend but had an entirely different profile. Dark garnet-purple, opens to blackberry and cherry, damp earth, some black olive and barrel spice. Also slightly tannic with good body and proper acidity. Needs two years, but after resting in its glass, it was definitely drinkable. The long, clean finish shows leather, black pepper and tobacco; $100, 92 McD. Go with the Hess if you can locate some.

This last bit is for collectors and those who wish to find limited-edition and older Napa wines. I was exposed to the idea by a W. Blake Gray article last November. I’ve been following the drift since to explore its values for you. The Premiere Napa Valley Build Your Collection website alphabetically lists a wide selection of wines of high reputation, low availability and as you may suspect, elevated pricing. An example, the Three Palms Merlot from Duckhorn, 2019, pre-sale is $174.95. In fairness, many of these bottlings were done especially for the Napa Wine Auction. In most instances, they are 10-case-or-less productions and therefore have an enhanced value for collectors. The non-special edition is available in many locations under $100, plus shipping.

By the way, Paul hasn’t left yet. He’s still moving “Sideways” and killed a great, approachable varietal wine’s reputation. I think “Billions” showed him in a more accurate portrayal as a nasty, vindictive, dishonest, greedy, perverted NYC DA. Ever wonder what would have happened to Chardonnay sales?

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