In Today’s Newsletter:
New Whites from de Montille
Heavy Hitters Go Another Round
Alto Piemonte Part II: Sperino
February Clearance Sale: West Coast Highlights
Balthazar Cornas: Rising Star Rarities
The Unicorn Champagnes of Marie-Noëlle Ledru
Collector’s Corner: Screaming Eagle and Coche-Dury
New Arrivals in White
From de Montille
Domaine de Montille may be best known for their reds, but they’ve quietly been making some incredible whites from some of the best vineyards in the Cote d’Or. These are wines that have the minerality that you’d expect from the storied domaine. We just got a bunch of the reds in, as well, (just see the weekend newsletter) but wanted to highlight these new arrivals that tend to fly under the radar.
Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Blanc 2015 750ML ($49.95) $39 special
Domaine de Montille Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune 2015 750ML ($249.95) $199 special
Stephen Tanzer 93 points “Medium yellow. Very spicy but youthfully subdued on the nose. Plush, silky and concentrated, with its strong dry extract giving the wine an impression of solidity. Highly concentrated citrus and ginger flavors are complicated by a saline mineral element. Plenty of alcohol here yet this grand cru comes across as quite suave, with its fat leavened by firm, harmonious acidity. Finishes round and horizontal.”
Domaine de Montille Le Cailleret, Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru 2015 750ML ($219.95) $189 special
Stephen Tanzer 91-93 points “(25% new oak): Bright pale yellow. Vibrant nose combines lemon, crushed stone and gingery spices. Fine-grained, energetic and youthful, conveying a distinctly primary quality to its lemon and mineral flavors. This tightly wound wine finishes dusty and adamantly dry, with repeating mineral lift. My style of white Burgundy.”
The Heaviest of Hitters:
99 and 100 Points,
Back for One More Round
There is not a whole lot of introduction needed for these two—Opus remains one of the most prominent, sought after names in California wine and Valdicava is the Tuscan equivalent. Both have re-arrived after a long absence (it’s always tough to source more, but we’re here for you) and quantities are predictably limited. Both are as well reviewed as they come and in-stock now.
Opus One, Napa Valley 2013 750M ($349.95) $319 special
James Suckling 100 points “The greatest Opus ever. Terrific aromas of crushed black currants, blueberries and flowers with hints of sweet tobacco. Roses continue to exude opulence and class. Full body, superb balance of ultra-fine tannins and vibrant acidity. Complex aftertaste of black fruits and citrus fruit. Extremely persistent. So approachable now and enjoyable. But will be even better in 2019 and beyond. 79% cabernet sauvignon, 7% cabernet franc, 6% merlot, 6% petit verdot, 2% malbec. This will always be beautiful to drink.” (01/2016)
Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany 2010 750ML ($149.95) $119 special
James Suckling 99 points “Absolutely stunning aromas of nectarine, orange peel, sweet black cherry, plum, flower, licorice and mushroom. Full body with layers of ultra-fine tannins and hints of tangy acidity. Such beautiful length and beauty to this wine. It’s powerful and structured but shows a gorgeous finesse and length. Truly wondrous. So long and refined. The texture is phenomenal. Better in 2016.”
Wine Spectator 96 points “Effusive aromas of incense, green olive, sweet strawberry and cherry, licorice and leather mark this structured version. The tannins are on the beefy side, but this finishes long, with enough fruit and spice for balance. Best from 2018 through 2032.”
The response to our feature on Cantalupo yesterday was enthusiastic enough that we wanted to follow up and highlight another top producer—the impeccable Proprieta Sperino, in Lessona. Sperino makes a number of incredible wines from the Lessona DOC in Alto Piemonte. The flagship wine is their Lessona, a compact Nebbiolo that offers incredible value relative to counterparts in Barolo and Barbaresco, but the Uvaggio (a blend of Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Croatina) offers a glimpse into an earlier time when the wines of the region were blends. Finally, their awe-inspiring L’Franc is a Right-Bank Bordeaux in Piemontese clothing. Although expensive, it’s an incredible wine that is worth every penny, especially if you are after old-school, soulful Bordeaux.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Alto Piemonte region, know that it’s one of the best places in the modern wine world to look for value in ageworthy Nebbiolo. Alto Piemonte was famous in the 19th century and into the 20th but has become more obscure since WWII. The big advantage the region has on its side right now is the changing climate. In an older climate paradigm, you couldn’t always count on the northerly regions in the Piemonte to get fully ripe every year, so often you had very light wines with very stern tannins. Now? It’s like Lessona and co. have hit the jackpot.
Furthermore, the pricing of the wines hasn’t caught up with the current climate reality. Sperino makes some of the best wines in the region and their flagship Lessona sells for less than $60. This is a wine to stock up on and age, before wine consumers world-wide realize that these are such good deals and go all-in.
Proprieta Sperino Lessona, Piedmont 2012 750ML ($69.95) $59 special, 12 bottles in stock now
Wine Advocate 92 points “The 2012 Lessona is a wine that is heavily shaped by the sandy soils that characterize the appellation. This vintage is a little shy and demure with a slightly undertone or softly spoken manner. The wine is extremely elegant and polished with light touches of wild berry followed by ash, cola and finely etched mineral nuances. There is a touch of rusty metal or aromas of dried blood. The mouthfeel is very long and finely textured.”
Wine Advocate 93+ points “This wine is named Uvaggio in reference to the fact it represents a blend of three grapes: 80% Nebbiolo, 15% Vespolina and 5% Croatina. Some of the fruit for the 2013 Coste della Sesia Uvaggio is harvested from parcels with sandy soils that give the wine more perfumed characteristics and other fruit is harvested from granite-rich soils that give the wine more structure and fiber. This is a deep and authentic red wine with balanced red fruit aromas that saturate a long and silky mouthfeel. Savory tones of spice and leather give the wine staying power. In all, the 2013 vintage is delicate and nuanced in nature.”
Bin End Sale !!!
Antonio Galloni 91 points ” “The 2009 L’Franc, 100% Cabernet Franc, is a new wine from Sperino. Over the years, Paolo De Marchi has proved he has the magic touch pretty much with every grape. You can add Cabernet Franc to the list. Here in its debut vintage, the L’Franc possesses remarkable varietal definition and finesse from start to finish. Violets, lavender, plums and mocha add further shades of nuance as the 2009 opens up. Amazingly, this fruit was not harvested until late October and into early November. In my view the 2009 is a bit overoaked, but that will simply require a small correction in future vintages. Superb Cabernet Franc in Lessona? Yes, at Proprietà Sperino, it is possible.” AG
Wine Advocate 96 points “A Vino da Tavola, the 2010 ‘L Franc is a pure expression of Cabernet Franc made from the acidic, sandy soils of Alto Piemonte. Only 1,000 bottles were produced. This is a stunning red wine with profound depth and vast horizons. The wine’s appearance is incredibly dense and dark but the bouquet is refined and elegant—almost lightweight or ethereal. You get back fruit, exotic spice, powdered mocha, licorice and cured tobacco. The wine carries an evidently important level of dry extract, but it does so with the utmost grace and transparency.”GU
West Coast Clearance!
There are 47 wines in our February Clearance Sale and only 7 more days to shop them. You can click here to head to our website and see the full list of wines on sale from around the world, but if you want the west coast highlights, just look below. These prices are only good through the end of the month, so act quickly if anything looks appealing!
Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2009 750ML ($149.95) Was $99, Now $89 special
Antonio Galloni 93 points “The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve is a beautifully balanced wine. Firm yet well-integrated tannins frame a core of dark red berries, flowers, mint, spices and licorice. The Reserve shows lovely inner perfume and mid-palate juiciness. It should drink well with a minimum of cellaring. The main vineyards in the 2009 are Home (37%), Lampyridae (23%), Vogt (14%), Chabot (11%) and Rancho del Oso (9%). Each lot was aged separately for about two years before the final blend was assembled.”
Now it’s even lower!
Robert Parker 94 points “The deep ruby/purple-colored 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Georges de Latour is BV’s flagship wine. It boasts sweet notes of charcoal, burning embers, vanillin, tar and copious quantities of blackcurrant fruit. In keeping with this generously endowed vintage, the wine is supple, full-bodied, multidimensional and opulent. It will drink beautifully young and last for 20-25 years.”
Robert Parker 96+ points “This first-growth estate in St. Helena has produced a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. It is certainly one of the wines of the vintage. Gorgeously opaque purple, it offers up notes of spring flowers, blueberries, blackcurrants, some baking spice and graphite. It is full-bodied, concentrated and rich, with layers of fruit. The wine builds and builds on the palate, with a great finish of 45+ seconds. This is a sensational 2014 to drink over the next 20+ years.”
Antonio Galloni 96 points “Spottswoode 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is striking. Black cherry, plum, graphite, spice and menthol are some of the signatures. Intensely mineral and savory, the 2014 comes across as a slightly restrained version of the 2013. The flavor and tannin profiles are both quite similar, but the 2014 is a bit smaller-scaled in all of its dimensions. That is not a bad thing, as the 2014 will be ready to drink sooner. This is an impressive showing.”
James Suckling 96 points “Amazing burnt-orange and currant aromas with tar and lead pencil. Blackberries, too. Changes all the time. Mesmerizing. Full-bodied and powerful with super-polished tannins and a long and intense finish. The polished and fine tannins coat your mouth. Glorious. Needs three to four years to soften.”
Robert Parker 98+ points “From their steep hillside vineyards on Pritchard Hill, the 2014 Proprietary Red IX Estate is an old-fashioned Médoc blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, but with some Cabernet Franc (rarely seen in the Médoc these years) as well as Merlot and Petit Verdot. Striking aromatics of violets, forest floor, loamy soil nuances, blueberry, black raspberry and blackberry soar from the glass of this spectacular 2014. The acidity seems reasonable but on the lower side, the texture is magnificent, and the overall purity and equilibrium flawless. This is a wine pushing, even demanding, a three-digit score once again, but I’m holding back – at least for now. This magnificent effort from Colgin should drink beautifully for 25-30 years.”
Winery notes: “Our second coolest micro-climate is our five-acre Gravelly Meadow vineyard. Originally a pre-historic river bed, this stony, gravelly soil drains rapidly and the vines struggle for moisture. Gravelly Meadow is our lowest yielding vineyard. The wines are described as “earthy, cedary, jammy and ripe blackberry with a spicy expansive finish.”
This is the lowest listed price on the West Coast today!
Winery notes: “Red Rock Terrace, a warm microclimate, is 7 acres of north facing vineyard. The red tinted soil is high in iron content. The wine from Red Rock Terrace is the most accessible and earliest drinkable of all our wines. Our winemaker describes Red Rock Terrace as “having velvety tannins, rich and well balanced, medium dark ruby color with cherry, mint and black currant flavors.”
Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2015 375ML ($149.95) Was $125, Now $99 special
Winery notes: “Volcanic Hill is comprised of 8 acres of south facing hillside vineyard. It is the warmest of all our micro-climates. The color of the soil is gray, and the consistency is that of fluffy, volcanic ash, originally deposited from the eruption of Mt. Konocti 8 million years ago. Volcanic Hill is the longest lived of our wines. Our winemaker describes these wines as “full bodied, loaded with intense ripe berry fruit, cassis, violets and a smoky richness, finishing with good length and firm tannins. The Volcanic Hill bottling includes a small amount of the extra-ordinary Petit Verdot grape.”
This is the lowest listed price for a half bottle in the USA today!
Robert Parker 95 points “The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is 75.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, aged in 89% new French oak. The wine displays the great fruit that is possible from these two sites owned by the Jacksons. It has an opaque purple color, a big, sweet kiss of crème de cassis and blackberry with a touch of lead pencil shavings, vanilla and incense. It is full-bodied and dense, with moderately high tannins but beautiful sweetness and fruit. Drink it over the next 25-30 years.”
Wine Enthusiast 91 points “Chocolate-covered raspberry forms the luscious core of this fairly priced wine that’s medium-bodied, moderately naked in its oak use and soft in its approachability. Rich, dense and luxurious, it will pair well with any grilled meats.”
James Suckling 95 points “Aromas of blackberries, walnuts and light chocolate. Full-bodied, tight and beautiful. Fine and polished tannins. Fabulous length and beauty. Impressive fruit but there’s tension and firmness. Better in 2021, but already enticing to taste.”
Antonio Galloni 92-95 points “The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Pedregal Vineyard is another hugely promising wine from David Ramey. Exotic in its aromatic profile, with tons of depth, the 2014 is exceptionally beautiful, layered and nuanced. This is a gorgeous and highly nuanced wine with a bright future.”
Wine Advocate 95 points “The 2014 Chardonnay Platt Vineyard has expressive pink grapefruit, warm peaches and brioche notes with hints of praline and ginger. Medium-bodied with great richness and depth in the mouth, it has a lovely creamy texture offset by a wicked backbone of freshness, finishing long with mineral and savory/yeasty layers.”
Antonio Galloni 95 points “The 2014 Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard is the most exuberant and layered of David Ramey’s Chardonnays. It is also stylistically the wine that is closest in style to past. Rich, sumptuous and layered, the Ritchie expresses intensity in all of its dimensions. Even with all of its richness, the 2014 confers aromatic intensity and freshness. This, too, is very nicely done.”
Wine Advocate 95 points “Youthfully mute at this primary stage, the 2014 Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard offers suggestions of lemon curd, white peaches and white grapefruit with underlying notes of honeyed toast and butterscotch. The palate is full-on seduction with an appealingly oily texture and tons of peaches and cream flavors, finishing long with a lively lift.”
Antonio Galloni 94 points “The 2014 Chardonnay Woolsey Road Vineyard is a powerful, intense wine with real phenolic intensity. This is an especially rich, deep and layered wine with exquisite finesse and pedigree. Readers should be prepared to cellar the 2014 for at least a few years. This is a special Chardonnay in the making.”
Wine Advocate 93 points ‘The 2014 Chardonnay Woolsey Road Vineyard has exotic jasmine, pineapple and guava notes with hints of crème brulee and croissant. Medium-bodied with plenty of finesse in the mouth, it gives a nice balance between the fruit and savory flavors, with a silken texture and finishing long and toasty.”
Wine Advocate 95+ points “A blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Pedregal Vineyard has a deep garnet-purple color and nose of ripe black berries, crushed black currants, pencil lead and dried herbs with hints of dark chocolate and menthol. Medium to full-bodied with a great intensity and harmony, it has a solid backbone of firm grainy tannins and great length. Still very youthful and primary, give it another 2-3 years in bottle and drink it over the next 20+ years.”
Antonio Galloni 95 points “The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Pedregal Vineyard has turned out beautifully. It is also much more accessible young than I expected, despite its considerable size. Bright red stone fruit and pomegranate notes are pushed forward. There is plenty of tannin, but it is nearly buried by the sheer intensity of the fruit. There is plenty of stuffing and potential here.”
Antonio Galloni 95+ points “A weightless, translucent wine, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon exudes class. Vibrant and finely sculpted, the 2014 possesses striking nuance from start to finish. Scents of lavender, rose petal, mint and sweet spice notes give the 2014 its brightness and sense of energy. Today, the 2014 is a bit compact relative to how it showed from barrel. I expect the wine will put on a bit more weight during its aging. Readers should plan on cellaring the 2014 at least a few years. Even today, though, the 2014 is a very pretty and pure wine.”
Wine Advocate 96 points “The 2015 Syrah la Cote Rousse is a blockbuster Syrah from Red Mountain that’s from the Ranch at the End of The Road and Ciel du Cheval vineyards. It’s a mix of four different clones and is brought up in barrel. This deep, inky, seriously black Syrah gives up Hermitage-like notes of scorched earth, charred meats, graphite and licorice. It’s a big, concentrated effort that’s going to benefit from short-term cellaring and keep through 2035.”
February Clearance Sale wines by clicking here!
“Over the last decade, the soft-spoken Franck Balthazar has emerged as one of the most consistently top-notch winemakers not just in Cornas, but in the entire Rhone Valley. Winemaking here is very traditional, utilizing whole clusters and only 10% to 15% new oak ‘just to maintain the usual rotation of wood, not for aroma or flavor.’ Balthazar’s Cornas bottlings are some of the most elegant of the appellation, but their light touch can be deceiving. They have also proven to be excellent cellar candidates even though they show a highly seductive character in their youth.” –Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media
Franck Balthazar Cornas Sans soufre ajoute, Rhone 2015 750ML ($79.95) $69 pre-arrival special
Josh Raynolds–Vinous 92-94 points “Deep ruby. Ripe blackberry, cherry liqueur, licorice, woodsmoke and olive on the deeply perfumed nose. Concentrated and powerful but energetic as well, offering expansive black and blue fruit, bitter chocolate and spicecake flavors that are given spine by a core of juicy acidity. The impressively long, sappy finish features supple tannins, a touch of candied flowers and lingering smokiness.”
This is the lowest listed price on the West Coast today!
Josh Raynolds 94 points “Glass-staining ruby. Suave, mineral-accented aromas of boysenberry, cherry liqueur, violet and allspice, and a smoky note that expands in the glass. Offers palate-staining red and blue fruit flavors complemented by notes of spicecake and candied flowers. Powerful but also lithe and precise, finishing with outstanding clarity, a sexy floral note and silky tannins that come in late.”
This is the lowest listed price on the West Coast today!
Josh Raynolds 93-95 points “Vivid ruby. Pungent and expansive on the nose, displaying heady scents of dark berry liqueur, licorice, olive, incense and minerals. Sappy and precise on the palate, offering concentrated but energetic black and blue fruit, floral pastille and spicecake flavors complemented by a suggestion of peppery spices. Becomes sweeter and fleshier with air with no loss of vivacity. Harmonious tannins add shape and grip to the spicy, extremely long finish.”
Of Marie-Noëlle Ledru
Peter Liem: “Marie-Noëlle Ledru’s tiny, perfectionist grower-estate is known only to a handful of champagne connoisseurs, yet today she is making some of the best wines in Ambonnay. The estate has existed since 1946, and Ledru has been making the wines here since 1984. [Her (now) two hectares] of the vineyards are planted with cover crops and tilled, and she uses no herbicides or insecticides, seeking to work her vines as naturally as possible. The same sensibility extends to the cellar, where she makes the wines without filtration, without cold-stabilization and without any sulfur at disgorgement. Fermentation is all in stainless steel and enameled steel tanks, for their neutrality, and the malolactic is allowed for all wines. The wines are aged for a respectably long time on their lees, averaging about three years for the brut sans année and five years for the vintage wines, and all disgorgement is done by hand. These are vinous, terroir-expressive champagnes, and with their combination of richness, complexity and finesse, they demonstrate why Ambonnay is such a heralded grand cru.”
More notes from Peter Liem “The outstanding non-vintage wine is available in two versions: Brut and Extra Brut, the latter of which is non-dosé. Both express a deep, soil-driven intensity, and while there is usually a little Bouzy in the blend, the dominant soil signature is quintessential Ambonnay. The same base wine is used for the non-vintage rosé, blended with ten to 15 percent of Ambonnay rouge, as well as for the demi-sec, which has between 35 and 40 grams of sugar per liter. The non-vintage blend is composed of 85 percent pinot noir and 15 percent chardonnay, and the same proportions are used for the vintage-dated brut; a portion of the vintage wine is also held back for late release as a brut nature.”
Marie-Noelle Ledru Cuvee du Goulte Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Brut, Champagne 2011 750ML ($179.95) $149 pre-arrival special
Peter Liem “Ledru’s top champagne is called the Cuvée du Goulté, named for a word in the local dialect that refers to the first juice to come out of the press, considered to be of the highest quality. The Cuvée du Goulté is selected from Ledru’s finest parcels on the mid-slope of Ambonnay—it’s sometimes cited by wine writers as a single-vineyard champagne, but Ledru prefers not to commit to that. She acknowledges that in some vintages it can occasionally be from a single parcel, but it’s usually a blend of several, depending on the year. In addition, while the Cuvée du Goulté is typically a vintage-dated champagne, it doesn’t always have to be—the 2001, for example, included a small percentage of reserve wine.”
Marie-Noelle Ledru Grand Cru Brut, Champagne 2009 750ML ($149.95) $119 pre-arrival special
Marie-Noelle Ledru Grand Cru Extra Brut, Champagne NV 750ML ($119.95) $99 pre-arrival special
Arriving ETA Early March:
Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2015 750ML ($2499.95) $2199 pre-arrival special
Wine Advocate 98-100 points “Blended of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon reveals a medium to deep garnet-purple color and nose of crushed blackberries, black cherries and wild blueberries with notions of fragrant earth, garrigue, lavender, Sichuan pepper and dried leaves. Medium-bodied with signature elegance and finesse, it’s the incredibly fine, oh-so-pixelated tannins that help to define the signature of this vineyard, beautifully supporting the elegant fruit, finishing with great poise. This is a very sensuous, pensive style and not for those seeking a full-on blockbuster but rather will greatly pleasure lovers of wines with quiet intensity and subtle depth.”
Arriving ETA February 28th:
Coche-Dury Meursault, Cote de Beaune 2015 750ml ($699.95) $599 pre-arrival special
Wine Advocate (Antonio Galloni) 98 points “The 2010 Corton-Charlemagne is every bit as remarkable from bottle as it was from barrel. In the glass it is vivid, multi-dimensional and wonderfully alive. At once powerfully vibrant yet also seamless, the 2010 has everything; expressive aromatics, nuanced fruit and taut, incisive minerality. I only hope to have a chance to taste it again in a few years’ time. Today, it looks like Coche’s 2010 Corton-Charlemagne is headed straight for icon status. It may very well be the wine of the vintage. If it isn’t, it is among the top 2-3. Anticipated maturity: 2020+.”-AG
Stephen Tanzer 97+ points “Bright pale yellow. Lime, crushed stone and steely minerality on the nose. Totally unevolved in the mouth, showing powerful mineral austerity and great cut to the flavors of liquid stone, white flowers and white truffle. This outstanding expression of calcaire is all corners today, but it’s still an infant. Finishes with explosive length. Forget about this wine for at least 10 or 12 years. This and the Perrieres will be fascinating to taste side by side in 2025: don’t forget to invite me over.”