VinopolPick Weekend – Prime Wine

January 17, 2015

Cedric Bouchard Champagne

Starting his house, Roses de Jeanne, in 2000 with a mere 1.09 ha of vines in the Aube and named Champagne’s finest winemaker by the Gault Millau in 2008, Cedric Bouchard remains one of the most fascinating grower- producers in Champagne. Bouchard’s philosophy is single-vineyard, single vintage, all Pinot Noir bottlings, eschewing traditional house blending style, and the result is a unique line of Champagne that give a new definition to the term terroir.

Each wine comes from very tiny parcels around the estate’s home Celles-Sur-Ources, the smallest plot being the Creux d’Enfer Rosé with 4 small rows of vines. Bouchard has grown his initial holdings by working 1.47 hectares of vines owned by his father, which he farms with the same meticulous care as his own parcels. Although his father’s holdings were originally bottled under the Inflorescence label, beginning in 2014 all cuvées are now bottled under the Roses de Jeanne label.

Bouchard practices dramatically restricting yields in the vineyard, which are farmed organically and picked at the optimum moment. Each wine is made in miniscule quantities, juice only from the first pressing is used to preserve the delicate flavors. Fermented only with indigenous yeast without any chaptalization, the wines go through malolactic fermentation and are racked only once prior to bottling. The wines are neither fined nor filtered and are disgorged with no dosage, producing a Champagne with smaller, finer bubbles, and allowing the underlying flavors to shine through. Handling the winemaking process meticulously in the cellar through all these steps, Bouchard’s terroir-driven wines listed below offer a remarkable combination of power, structure and transparency with each vintage.

Cedric Bouchard Champagnes Available Here Now

Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Cote de Bechalin NV (2007) 750ML ($119.95) $99 special, 4 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 93 points
“The 2007 Blanc de Noirs Côte de Béchalin, formerly known as La Parcelle, is a great choice for drinking now and over the next handful of years, as the flavors and textures are already softening and showing early signs of maturity. Apricot pit, citrus peel, almonds, white flowers and anise are all very much alive in a creamy, perfumed Blanc de Noirs that stands out for its immediacy and sheer appeal. The 2007 needs air to become fully expressive, but it is absolutely striking and a true pleasure to taste today.”AG

Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne La Haute-Lemblee Blanc de Blancs Brut 2010 750ML ($149.95) $139 special, 2 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 96 points
“The 2010 Blanc de Blancs La Haute-Lemblée offers shades of the magnificent 2004 in its finely-cut, chiseled fruit and crystalline purity. A stunner of a wine, the 2010 pulses with energy, delineation and class. Lemon peel, white flowers, mint and chalk wrap around the taut, super-expressive finish. There is so much to look forward to here once the wine softens up in another year or two. ” AG

Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Presle 2010 750ML ($179.95) $149 special, 1 bottle available
Antonio Galloni 94 points
“A fabulous debut, Cédric Bouchard’s new 2010 Blanc de Noirs Presle emerges from a steep hillside site planted with 15 different Pinot Noir clones. I saw the vineyard just after it was planted, but this is the first wine I have tasted off the site. The Presle is both the richest and most aromatically expressive of Bouchard’s Pinot Noir Champagnes. Pear, eau de vie and floral notes open up in the glass, but the Presle is above all else marked by a sense of pure phenolic weight the Bouchard Champagnes rarely show. The vibrant, pulsating flavors point to a bright future. I can’t wait to see how this ages.” AG

Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules Blanc de Noirs 2010 750ML ($119.95) $99 special, 2 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 94 points
“The 2010 Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules is all about textural breadth and volume. Gracious, silky and impeccably polished throughout, the Ursules stands out for its exceptional balance and harmony. White flowers, pears, mint and almonds meld into darker tonalities that become more prominent on the finish, where more red, Pinot-inflected nuances take center stage. This is the first release in which Les Ursules is a declared vintage Champagne.” AG

Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Val Vilaine NV (2012) 750ML ($79.95) $69 special, 22 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 92 points
“Slate, pear, crushed rocks and mint are some of the notes that inform Bouchard’s NV (2012) Côte de Val Vilaine. A very classic, Burgundian-inflected element of reduction is present in the aromatics, so the 2012 needs to be opened at least an hour or two in advance. With time in the glass, the flavors become more precise as the textures open up. This is the most vibrant of Bouchard’s Pinot Noir Champagnes.” AG


A Half or a Double – Champagnes

375ML bottles are an ideal size to end the work day and begin an evening.  We offer several great Champagnes in the half-bottle for under $30 and an exciting offering from Krug.

375ML Champagnes Available Here Now

A. Margaine Cuvee Traditionelle Premier Cru Brut NV 375ML ($27.95) $24 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Spectator 92 points “Refined, with aromatic anise, almond and raisin notes that are finely layered with berry, cassis, candied lemon peel and smoke flavors. Lip-smacking acidity keeps this fresh and lively through to the mineral-tinged finish.” WS

A. Margaine Cuvee Traditionelle Premier Cru Demi-Sec NV 375ML ($27.95) $24 special, 10 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 90 points
“(made from 90% chardonnay and 10% pinot noir, with 32 g/l dosage; this has the same vintage breakdown as the Traditionelle Brut bottling; disgorged July, 2012): Light gold. A pungent bouquet displays scents of honey, poached pear, peach nectar and blonde tobacco. Sappy and gently sweet citrus and pit fruit flavors are given lift by gentle acidity and pick up marzipan and floral qualities with air. The pit fruit and floral notes linger on a long, spicy, clinging finish. This would be a great Champagne to serve alongside strong-smelling or salty cheeses.” ST
Wine Advocate 90 points “The NV Demi-Sec offers lively richness from the additional dosage (31 grams/liter) yet never loses its essential minerality and sheer brilliance. White flowers, spices, pears and citrus notes are layered into the generous, inviting finish. This is another strong showing from Margaine. The Demi-Sec is the same blend as the Cuvee Traditionelle, which is to say 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, 52% 2008 juice plus reserves spanning 2007 (20%), 2005 (8%), 2004 (12%), and 2000 (8%), the only difference is the dosage.”WA

Rene Geoffroy Empreinte Premier Cru Brut 2006 375ML ($31.95) $26 special, 1 bottle available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
“(76% pinot noir, 14% chardonnay and 10% pinot meunier, all from 2006; disgorged 05/12/11): Light gold. Musky citrus pith, redcurrant and pear skin on the nose, complicated by scents of licorice and spicecake. A broad, sappy Champagne that offers gently sweet blood orange and pear flavors, with hints of toasty lees and dried rose adding complexity. Finishes with strong thrust and noteworthy clarity, spiciness and energy.” ST

Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut NV 375ML ($37.95) $28 special, 13 bottles available
Burghound 93 points “A stunningly elegant nose of pure floral, Granny Smith apples, spice and freshly sliced lemon complements to perfection the intense and equally pure flavors that possess excellent punch like remain delicate and ultra-refined on the balanced and persistent finish. The supporting mousse displays a very find bead and the overall impression is one of subtlety and grace. Not only is this a wonderful effort but the value it offers it beyond stunning.” BH

Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV 375ML ($31.95) $24 special, 18 bottles available
Wine Spectator 90 points
“Subtle overall, offering a creamy mousse and a pleasing juiciness to the notes of apricot tart, slivered almond, orchard blossom and apple. Drink now.” WS
Stephen Tanzer 90 points “Light gold. Ripe pit fruits, orange pith and toasty lees on the nose. Toasty and velvety in texture, offering ripe nectarine and poached pear flavors with a bracing kick of bitter citrus zest. Finishes sappy and long, with lingering smokiness and a touch of sweet butter.” ST

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV 375ML ($31.95) $27 special, 14 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer–Vinous 90 points
“Light gold. Musky orchard fruits and dried fig on the mineral-accented nose. Fleshy and broad on the palate, offering smoky pear and nectarine flavors and a hint of honey. Finishes on a gently spicy note, with very good cling and a touch of bitter lemon pith. Things have definitely begun to turn around for this bottling, which had been lagging behind the winery’s vintage offerings for some time.” ST

J.L. Vergnon Conversation Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut 375ML ($29.95) $24 special, 32 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
“Light gold. Mineral-accented citrus fruits and white flowers on the fragrant nose and in the mouth. Shows impressive clarity and cut, with a smoky nuance emerging with aeration. Closes on a bright, stony note, with repeating smokiness and a hint of buttery brioche. Offers a nice blend of richness and nerve.” ST
Wine Spectator 91 points “A svelte version, with a lacy mousse, this shows finely knit flavors of slivered almond, spring blossom, yellow plum and chalk. Elegant, presenting a hint of anise on the finish. Drink now through 2019.” WS

Krug Grande Cuvee Brut NV 375ML ($99.95) $79 special, 24 bottles available
Wine Spectator 97 points
“This is all about balance and the integration of power and finesse, with finely honed acidity supporting flavors of quince paste, dried black cherry, spun honey and candied orange zest, while rich notes of roasted walnut, coffee liqueur and toasted cardamom resonate on the finish. Hard to stop sipping. Drink now through 2028.” WS


It’s an insider secret that magnums of Champagne often offer better wines than their 750ML counterparts.  It may be the slower evolution of the wine in the magnum bottle or just that winemakers direct their better barrels into magnums.  See for yourself!

Magnums of Champagne Available Here Now

A. Margaine Blanc de Blancs Brut Premiere Cru 2006 1.5L ($159.95) $137 special, 4 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points “Light gold. White peach, pear, smoky minerals and buttered toast on the sexy, highly perfumed nose. At once rich and lithe, with crackling minerality giving lift and verve to the wine’s intense pit and orchard fruit flavors. Sappy, fine-grained and pure, finishing long and precise, with hints of licorice and iodine.”

Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne Brut NV 1.5L ($119.95) $89 special, 6 magnums available
Wine Spectator 91 points
“Finely knit, with tea rose and ground anise notes wafting through flavors of white raspberry, glazed apricot, pastry dough and lemon peel. Balanced and well-structured by mouthwatering acidity. Disgorged December 2012. Drink now through 2020.” WS

De Sousa & Fils Reserve Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut NV 1.5L ($139.95) $89 special, 2 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
“Light, bright yellow. Exotically perfume of nectarine, poached pear, brioche, anise and chamomile. Deep, round and fleshy, with powerful orchard and pit fruit flavors braced by a jolt of smoky minerals on the back half. Smoothly blends richness and vivacity, finishing with excellent clarity and toasty persistence.” ST

Demarne-Frison Goustan Brut Nature NV 1.5L ($149.95) $99 special, 7 magnums available
Distributor note
“50% pinot noir from Les Clos de la Cote, 50% Chardonnay from Les Cotannes, and all from 2007. As the bulk of a tiny production from a new producer Goustan is a superb first effort, showing a hearty core with vibrant acidity.”

Demarne-Frison Lalore Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV 1.5L  ($149.95) $125 special, 1 magnum available
Distributor note
“Though rare, pure Chardonnay cuvées from the Aube bring out an exotic side. Here the texture and fine bubbles reveal a wonderfully herbal tinged mid palate. The soil inflection and resonance is reminiscent of the finest white burgundy. Thrilling to say the least, and only in magnum. All from 2007 and the single parcel of Les Cotannes.”

Deutz Blanc de Blancs Millesime 2007 1.5L ($159.95) $139 special, 2 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
“Light, bright straw. Lemon zest, green apple and chalky minerals on the fragrant nose. Dry and precise, offering energetic citrus and orchard fruit flavors that pick up anise and honeysuckle nuances with air. Closes stony and long, with lingering floral and iodine notes.” ST

Deutz Brut Millesime 2007 1.5L ($129.95) $109 special, 1 magnum available
Wine Spectator 91 points
“A sleek, minerally version, creamy in texture, with hints of chalk and smoke underscoring the subtle lemon meringue pie, crushed black currant and graphite notes. Drink now through 2022.” WS

Fleury Pere et Fils Symphonie d’Europe Extra Brut 1990 1.5L ($379.95) $299 special, 2 magnums available
Wine Advocate 94 points
“The 1990 Extra Brut Symphonie d’Europe (Pinot Noir) opens with the most extraordinary bouquet. Smoke, graphite, apricot jam and honeysuckle all burst from the glass. Floral notes develop later, adding lift and freshness, but this remains a rich, full-bodied wine endowed with stunning power and plenty of unbridled intensity. Honey, almonds and flowers are some of the many nuances that are wrapped into the layered, textured finish. This is yet another great showing from Fleury.”WA

Gaston Chiquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs d’Ay Brut 2005 1.5L ($179.95) $149 special, 6 magnums available
Josh Raynolds 91 points
“Green-tinged gold. Exuberant pear, white peach and honey on the nose, with anise, cherry pit and mineral qualities adding complexity. Zesty mineral-accented orchard and pit fruit flavors show very good depth and clarity, picking up a smoky element with air. Finishes sappy, broad and long, with repeating minerality and a hint of smokiness. Disgorged in October, 2013 and bottled exclusively in magnums.” JR

Gaston Chiquet Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs d’Ay Brut NV 1.5L ($149.95) $99 special, 3 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
“Pale straw. High-pitched aromas of lime and lemongrass, with chalky mineral and floral notes adding complexity. Taut, incisive citrus fruit and mineral flavors show impressive clarity and pick up notes of green apple and honeysuckle with air. Clean and nervy on the mineral-driven finish.” ST
Wine Spectator 91 points “A chalky version, with bright acidity and a lively bead framing hints of pineapple, pastry cream, glazed apricot and fresh ginger. Focused and finely knit.” WS

Gaston Chiquet Carte Verte Premier Cru Brut Tradition NV 1.5L ($99.95) $89 special, 5 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
“Light yellow. Suave, floral aromas of poached pear, blood orange, melon and honey. A dusty mineral quality adds lift to spicy red berry and citrus fruit flavors. Closes nervy and long, with resonating minerality and a touch of gingerbread.” ST

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Cuvee Fleuron Millesime Premier Cru Brut 2006 1.5L ($149.95) $119 special, 3 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
“Pale gold. Smoky pear and nectarine aromas are brightened by zesty minerals and deepened by hints of toasty lees and iodine. Intense orchard fruit and melon flavors stain the palate, picking up citrus pith and floral honey qualities with air. Turns firmer and more minerally with air, finishing with excellent lift and smoky persistence.” ST
Robert Parker 92 points “Intense golden yellow in color, the 2006 Cuvée Fleuron 1er Cru from 100% Chardonnay offers a deep, rich and complex aroma of ripe apples, quinces and other autumn fruits. Full-bodied, rich and intense on the palate, this excellent Champagne is also very pure, elegant, fine and well balanced and finishes with a stunningly intense and ripe aroma of ripe apples. This is not only a real character but also a great value Champagne.”

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Blanc de Blancs ‘Millesime de Collection Vieilles Vignes de Chardonnay’ 2005 1.5L ($249.95) $168 special, 3 magnums available
Antonio Galloni — Vinous Media 94 points
“The 2005 Brut Vintage Collection, tasted from magnum, is stunning. Intense, layered and drop-dead gorgeous, the 2005 covers every corner of the palate with layers of mineral-infused fruit. Smoke, slate, crushed rocks and flowers appear later, adding gorgeous dimensions of pure nuance. Still young, the 2005 appears to have a bright future. This is one of the best 2005 vintage Champagnes I have tasted. The 2005 is 100% Chardonnay from Cramant, Chouilly and Cuis. This bottle was disgorged in January 2013 after spending 84 months on its lees.”

Krug Grande Cuvee NV 1.5L ($449.95) $319 special, 2 magnums available
Wine Spectator 97 points
“This is all about balance and the integration of power and finesse, with finely honed acidity supporting flavors of quince paste, dried black cherry, spun honey and candied orange zest, while rich notes of roasted walnut, coffee liqueur and toasted cardamom resonate on the finish. Hard to stop sipping. Drink now through 2028.” WS

Aubry Premier Cru Brut NV 1.5L ($119.95) $89 special, 8 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
“Bright straw. Pungent aromas of Meyer lemon, pear and fig, with a gingery accent adding lift. Sappy, penetrating citrus fruit and floral flavors are given a refreshingly bitter character by notes of pear skin and peach pit, with a waxy note coming up on the back half. A smoky nuance lingers on the finish, which shows very good clarity and length.” ST

Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Blanc de Blancs Cuis Premier Cru Brut NV 1.5L ($149.95) $119 special, 9 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
“80% 2010 wine, 10% 2009, 4% 2008, 5% 2007 and 1% 2002; disgorged in May, 2013 after 30 months on its lees): Green-tinged yellow. Intense, mineral-accented aromas of orange zest, pear and white flowers, with an iodiney quality building in the glass. Chewy in texture and nicely concentrated, offering precise citrus and bitter quinine flavors and a strong topnote of dusty minerals. Finishes clean, bright and very long, with lingering chalkiness. This would make a superb match with fresh oysters or crab.” ST

Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut 1.5L ($149.95) $119 special, 7 magnums available
Wine Advocate 92 points
“The NV Brut Cuvee de Reserve is striking. It shows fabulous cut and definition in its fruit, expressive aromatics all backed up by plenty of underlying structure. A bright, mineral laced finish rounds things out in style. This is superb entry-level wine from one of Champagne’s top producers. The Cuvee Reserve is 100% Chardonnay. This year’s release is based on 2008 (60%), with reserve wines going back to 1988, precisely 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1995-2007 (except 1999 and 2003). “WA

Rene Geoffroy Extra Brut Millesime 2002 1.5L ($319.95) $279 special, 3 magnums available
Josh Raynolds–Vinous Media 94 points
“Light, bright gold. Peach nectar, poached pear, passion fruit, smoky lees and white flowers on the perfumed nose. Chewy orchard and pit fruit flavors are broad and palate-staining, with a late note of Meyer lemon adding lift and cut. Finishes with lingering honey, lees and vanilla notes and excellent clarity.” JR
Wine Advocate 92 points “The 2002 Extra Brut Millesime is a rich, broad shouldered wine graced with tons of fruit. Vinification in French oak barriques gives the wine considerable depth, volume and spiciness. Layers of ripe, expressive varietal fruit flow from this rich, dramatic Champagne. A caressing, multi-dimensional finish rounds things out in style. As good as this is – and it is outstanding – I prefer Geoffroy’s wines made in steel. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier, with 2 grams per liter of dosage”WA

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV 1.5L ($149.95) $119 special, 3 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer–Vinous 90 points
“Light gold. Musky orchard fruits and dried fig on the mineral-accented nose. Fleshy and broad on the palate, offering smoky pear and nectarine flavors and a hint of honey. Finishes on a gently spicy note, with very good cling and a touch of bitter lemon pith. Things have definitely begun to turn around for this bottling, which had been lagging behind the winery’s vintage offerings for some time.” ST

Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier d’Or Premier Cru Brut 2007 1.5L ($299.95) $228 special, 1 magnum available
Wine Spectator 94 points
“A skein of ground spice unravels through flavors of black cherry coulis, crème de cassis, honeycomb and brioche in this elegant version. Mouthwatering acidity and a lightly chalky texture push through to the lasting finish. Drink now through 2025.” WS

Vilmart & Cie Coeur de Cuvee Premier Cru Brut 2004 1.5L ($419.95) $379 special, 2 magnums available
Stephen Tanzer 95 points
“Light, bright gold. Exotic aromas of poached pear, smoky minerals and iodine are complemented by a sexy floral nuance. On the palate, incisive, tangy flavors of candied citrus and orchard fruits, ginger and minerals gain flesh and weight with air. Finishes on a seductively sweet note, with outstanding juicy persistence and strong mineral cut and grip.” ST

Vincent Couche Brut Millesime 2002 1.5L ($119.95) $79 special, 4 magnums available
Wine Enthusiast 91 points
“With vineyards in the southern vineyards of the Aube, Vincent Couche makes a rich style of Champagne. This 2002 vintage, now maturing well, is ripe “almost opulent” in character. Its peach and apricot flavors shine at the fore, extended on the palate with a brisk, nervy texture.” WE


Prime Time Wine

One of the greatest, and hard to find, experiences, is a wine aged to its perfect expression. Below we have offered two wines from two great vintages in Spain, made with the well structured grape Tempranillo and going through the classic long term aging times in oak barrels, these Rioja Reservas are extremely age worthy wines. Classically made Rioja can be shelved for decades depending on the style, with Reservas averaging a prime drinking window of 12-20 years. A beautifully stored expression, these wines can show flavors of dried fruit,herbs,nuts, and spices that would not be present in their youth while retaining firm structure and acidity. With the value Spanish wines are loved for, these Riojas, offered below, provide a chance to try mature reds for a fraction of the price of similarly aged Bordeaux, Barolo or Burgundy.

Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Reserva, Rioja DOCa 2005 750ML ($27.95) $17.70  special, 3+ cases available
Case-12 Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Reserva, Rioja DOCa 2005 ($299.95) $189 special, 5 cases available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
“(90% tempranillo and 10% graciano): Deep ruby. Highly fragrant scents of redcurrant, cherry, dried rose and spicecake, with hints of smoke and pipe tobacco. Packs a punch, displaying very good vivacity to the cherry preserve and floral pastille flavors. Finishes sappy, focused and long, with silky tannins and lingering sweetness. This elegant wine is drinking well now but has the balance to age.” ST

Bodegas de la Real Divisa Marques de Legarda Reserva de la Familia, Rioja DOCa 1995 750ML ($99.95) $79 special, 15 bottles available
Producer note
“Bodegas de la Real Divisa are some of the oldest wineries in both La Rioja and Europe, belonging to a family legacy, which boasts the noble, family name of Marqués of Legarda.  Bodegas de la Real Divisa also produce highly expressive wines, created from the older vines: Draco and Marques de Legarda Reserva de la Familia. These wines are only elaborated during year, when the grapes are of optimum quality, as much so in the plant’s general health as the grapes’ organoleptic characteristics.  [The Reserva de la Familia is produced from] grapes originating exclusively from the bodega’s own vineyards.  Each variety of native red grape gives different values to wines: Tempranillo brings power, elegance and aromas, Graciano produces wines of great color with spicy aromas [and] Mazuelo produces wines that bring freshness.”



“…true quality is that which succeeds in surprising and moving us. It is not locked inside a formula. Its essence is subtle (subjective) and never rational.” –André Ostertag in Inspiring Thirst

A pioneer, a revolutionary winemaker, an environmentalist… so many terms can be used to describe André Ostertag, the owner and operator of his family’s 14 hectare Alsacian domaine.  After training in Burgundy, he drastically improved estate practices by introducing such grape-growing and winemaking techniques as reducing yields and converting to biodynamic.

André Ostertag does not confine himself to the traditional Alsatian way of treating the varieties he has in his vineyards, instead producing 3 levels of wines; fruit-driven (Vins de Fruit), terroir-driven (Vins de Pierre) and time-driven.  The 2011 Riseling Vignoble d’E is his completely dry, fruit-driven expression of the grape.  It showcases the varietal character of the grape.  It is sourced from over 30 year old vines grown in gravelly soil.

Robert Parker calls Ostertag’s wines “some of the most distinctively delicious and thought-provoking wines in Alsace,” and he is not alone in considering Ostertag’s wines true works of art.

Domaine Ostertag Riesling Vignoble d’E 2011 750ML ($29.95) $19 special, 3+ cases available
Wine Advocate 93 points
“Ostertag’s 2011 Riesling Vignoble d’E displays a remarkable combination of lushness, glycerol-richness and textural tenderness with clarity and exuberantly bright refreshment. Representing as usual the first grapes of this variety that he picked, which was however not until September 30. Luscious white peach and honeydew melon are mingled with nut oils and saliva-drawing saline-sweet, iodine-tinged lobster shell reduction, garlanded in peony, and dusted with invigoratingly biting white pepper, leading to gloriously mouthwatering and vibrantly interactive finish. It’s hard to imagine a village-level Riesling getting much more exciting than this phenomenal value. Plan to revisit it through at least 2020.” WA



Jerez has been a center of viniculture since wine-making was introduced to Spain, with records of Sherry production going back as far as 711 AD.  The “Jerez-Xérès-Sherry” Denomination of Origin lies in what is called the “Sherry triangle” that is formed by the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the province of Cadiz.  Palomino is the primary varietal for Sherry wines, and it thrives on the unique “albariza” chalky white soil of the region, the nature of which is very absorbent; vital due to the small amount of rainfall the Jerez region receives. Pedro Ximénex (aka PX) is also grown in smaller scale, and used for sweetening dry sherries or for the production of its own single-varietal, aged, naturally sweeter sherry.

Sherry starts its life as a dry-fermented white wine and is then fortified with the addition of grape spirit. A unique feature in sherry winemaking is the solera system of aging, which is essentially a blending system of casks that hold wines of different ages, resulting in all the casks holding a portion of the oldest wine ever made at the bodega.  The amount of time and how the sherries are aged from that point on varies depending on the style of Sherry that is being aimed for. There are four basic groups of Sherry, ranging from lighter Fino to sweet, rich Pedro Ximenez.

There are two distinct groupings of styles, biological (non-oxidized) and oxidized, as well as a few that fall somewhere in between.  The initial amount of fortification helps determine whether the wine will oxidize and what type of sherry will result.  Lighter, unoxidized styles of Sherry, such as Finos and Manzanilla, are fortified to a lower 15%.  These Sherries will develop a layer of protective yeast known as flor as they age which helps shield the wine from oxidation.  The flor imparts saline and yeasty aromas to the fairly neutral and very crisp white wine.  The resulting Finos are generally light and crisp and pair well with salty or fried snack foods or tapas.   Manzanillas are Finos made exclusively in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.  Their coastal upbringing imparts a briny and clean oceanic quality.  They are some of the lightest Finos.

Sherries fortified to 17 percent or higher will not develop flor because the alcohol content is too high.  Flavor development takes place as the wine ages and oxidizes in barrel; this process can also add body and mild tannic structure to the wines.  Oloroso is an oxidized style that can range from dry to sweet.  Sweet Olorosos are typically referred to as Cream Sherries.

There are several variations on these two basic sherry styles, such as Amontillado and Palo Cortado.  These wines are considered “intermediate” styles, as they undergo both biological and oxidative aging. Amontillado is basically a fino Sherry in which the flor has been allowed to die and the wine continues to age oxidatively, producing something that is similar to Oloroso in body and density but still maintains the distinctive briny qualities imparted by flor. Palo Cortado is a rarer style that is said to have historically occurred rather than be created, beginning as a Fino wine that has diverged from the expected profile and becoming something entirely its own under oxidative aging. These wines tend to have a richer body while maintaining many Fino-like flavors.

Sweet Sherries, such as Cream and PX (Pedro Ximénez), are fascinating dessert wines.  Cream Sherries are excellent on their own or with lighter desserts.  The oxidative aging imparts nutty, caramel-like aromas.  PX Sherries are produced from PX grapes which have a high residual sugar content and are sun-dried to concentrate the sugars before being pressed. Flavors that one can expect from PX are the thick raisiny, sweet flavors of fig and molasses.

Sherries Available Here Now

Alvear Pedro Ximenez de Anada 2011 375ML ($79.95) $47 special, 26 half-bottles available
Case-12 Alvear Pedro Ximenez de Anada 2011 375ML ($999.95) $479 special, 5 cases available
Robert Parker 100 points
“Alvear’s 2011 Pedro Ximenez de Anada is the most amazing Pedro Ximenez I have ever tasted. It may also be one of the first to be vintage-dated. The grapes were hand-harvested in September, then allowed to dry in the sunshine until they began fermentation, which is ultimately arrested by the addition of spirits. The wine spent six months in large American oak prior to being bottled. It is an amazing effort that looks like molasses. Notes of macerated figs, chocolate and caramelized tropical fruits emerge from this full-bodied, unctuously-textured wine. While sweet, it has enough acidity to balance out its richness. This astonishing 2011 Pedro Ximenez will last as long as any reader of this newsletter.” RP

Bodegas Tradicion VORS 30 Years Old Amontillado NV 750ML ($79.95) $69 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Advocate 96 points
“The NV Tradición Amontillado VORS, certainly has the more complex and subtle nose of all these VORS and is on average 45 years old. It has a very clean nose, with elegance and complexity, powerful but subtle notes of hazelnuts, honey and even some dates. The medium-bodied palate shows a sharp wine with strong salinity, it has the power and the lightness, in a very difficult combination. Drink 2013-2020.” WA

Bodegas Tradicion Cream VOS 20 Years NV 750ML ($79.95) $69 special, 10 bottles available
“This is the most recent addition to the portfolio (so new that it has yet to be reviewed) and completely transcends the Cream category. It also represents the only blend bottled by the bodega with 70% coming from 35+ year old Oloroso barrels and 30% from young 5 year old PX barrels. Here the intensity of old Oloroso blends seamlessly with the dried fruit concentration of the Pedro Ximenex, creating a wine that appeals to both dessert wine drinkers and those seeking a pairing for sturdier main dishes. Being a VOS, it is certified by the Consejo Regulador to be greater than 20 years average age at bottling, an extremely rare Cream sherry indeed.”–Importer Notes.

Bodegas Tradicion Fino NV 750ML ($49.95) $39 special, 8 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points
“The NV Fino Viejo Tradición is purchased from suppliers, it averages 12 years old, and is used to feed their Amontillado, but the (limited) market demand for this kind of wine has convinced them of producing 1,500 bottles now, and they will bottle another 1,500 in October. Unfiltered, unfined, this would have been considered a Fino Amontillado in the past. Golden color, pungent and powerful nose, with flower notes, it has a big palate, but it’s still a Fino–a fine wine– it’s old, extremely complex, low in acidity, but keeping the freshness, a little saline with the typical bitter end. This should have an interesting evolution in bottle. Drink 2013-2016.” WA

Bodegas Tradicion VORS 30 Years Old Oloroso NV 750ML ($84.95) $71.90 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points
“The single vintage wines are different, but they are not necessarily better than the solera wines. In fact I preferred the Oloroso VORS to the two single-vintage; I found it more complex and fluid, while the single vintages were more concentrated and powerful, but not as nuanced. I’m talking about the NV Tradición Oloroso VORS, on average 45-50 years old, which gives the wine a concentration of glycerin and dry extract that is amazing. Silky, very interesting to see the wine that has been blended over the years is more complex. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove, it is full-bodied, and still follows the same, clean, elegant, precise line of the rest of the wines from Tradición. Drink 2013-2025.”

Bodegas Tradicion VORS 30 Years Old Palo Cortado NV 750ML ($109.95) $89 special, 7 bottles available
Wine Advocate 94 points
“The NV Palo Cortado Tradición VORS, averages 32 years of age, which they consider the correct age for Palo Cortado, so it is not just an old Sherry. Light amber-colored, the nose has a sweet sensation, apricots, and almonds but then the mouth is very dry and saline, fine and light, with flavors of hazelnut, a little varnish, very elegant, intense, pungent, a little spirity. It has a delineated palate, superb intensity, and very long finish. Classical, elegant, clean, intense and delicate could be common descriptors for all their wines. A textbook Palo Cortado. Drink 2013-2019.” WA

1830 Bodegas El Maestro Sierra Amontillado NV 375ML ($99.95) $81.90 special, 2 half-bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points
“Next in sweetness is the light amber colored non-vintage (Vinos Viejos) Amontillado 1830 VORS, which has been aged at least 50 years in the solera system. It is racy and intense and would work well with lobster bisque” WA

Bodegas El Maestro Sierra Vinos Viejos VORS Oloroso 1/14 NV 375ML ($99.95) $81.90 special, 2 half-bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points
“The (Vinos Viejos) Oloroso 1/14 VORS is medium amber and spicier than its predecessor, with just noticeable sweetness, complex flavors (toffee and caramel come to mind) and outstanding length” WA

Bodegas El Maestro Sierra Vinos Viejos Palo Cortado NV 375ML ($99.95) $81.90 special, 5 half-bottles available
Producer note
“It takes a skilled capataz, or cellar master, to recognize an unruly sherry; sherry that chooses its own path to aging. These aren’t Amontillados, and they’re not Olorosos. They are something unique and all their own, they are Palo Cortados. 100% Palomino from Albariza or chalk soil.  The Solera is over 70 years old.”

Fernando de Castilla Antique Fino NV 500ML ($29.95) $23 special, 20 bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points
“The NV Antique Fino is eight years of average age when bottled; it’s fragrant and perfumed, feminine and subtle, with dry flowers and a rare balance between old and young. The palate shows a much more serious wine, pungent, intense, saline, sharp and at the same time delicate, complex and long, most probably because it’s fortified to 17% at the time of bottling, something that was common in the past, but that almost nobody does anymore. A most unusual old-style Fino. Bravo! 4,000 bottles produced yearly. Drink 2013-2018. Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla were created in 1972, but had a history going back to 1837. In 1999 the company was sold to a group of investors lead by Norwegian Jan Pettersen, who had worked previously at Osborne for 16 years. In the end Pettersen took control of the company, enlarging the business and taking the quality of its wines to the very top. This is a small- to medium-sized bodega (1,000 botas, capacity for 200,000 liters and selling 250,000 bottles per year), clearly focused on quality. The Antique range that I have tasted here, sold in half-liter bottles, represents their top of the range, and even if it has no official age certification, the wines are certainly old. All wines, regardless of style or category follow a clear line; they are all on the elegant side, balanced, clean and easy-to-understand wines.”

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Palo Cortado Wellington VOS Aged 20 Years NV 500ML ($49.95) $38 special, 2 bottles available
Wine Spectator 91 points
“A clean, racy style, with almond and hazelnut husk notes backed by toasted corn, walnut and singed sandalwood accents. A touch of dried persimmon echoes on the very dry finish. Drink now.” WS

La Cigarrera Manzanilla Pasada NV 375ML ($49.95) $39 special, 1 half-bottle available
Producer note
“Aged for over 20 years in the solera, the Manzanilla Pasada is one of the family heirlooms kept in the bodega’s Sacristia. For many generations this wine has been Ignacio’s family’s sherry of choice.”

Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Reserva Especial 1949 750ML ($249.95) $219 special, 2 bottles available
Wine Advocate 97 points
“The 1949 Don PX Reserva Especial differs from the other old wines from the winery as it is less dark, it even has a (very dark) translucent tone compared with the others, maybe because it has 2% more alcohol. It feels incredibly elegant and balanced, fresher in comparison than the beasts from 1962 and 1946, medicinal, full of spicy notes of cinnamon, cloves, a touch of ash, and the smell of an antique shop. The palate is fluid, sweet and fresh. Putting a drinking window to these wines feels a bit silly. You should drink it whenever you have the occasion. Drink 2013-2040.” WA

A.R. Valdespino Cardenal Palo Cortado VORS 375ML ($169.95) $159 special, 3 half-bottles available
A.R. Valdespino Cardenal Palo Cortado VORS NV 750ML ($299.95) $279 special, 3 bottles available
Wine Advocate 99 points
“The NV Palo Cortado Cardenal VORS, like the whole VORS collection from Valdespino is outstanding. It is fed from the solera of the Palo Cortado C.P. where the Palomino grapes come from the Macharnudo Alto vineyard, fermented in American oak botas. It’s 22% alcohol and has nine grams of (undetectable) residual sugar which makes it very drinkable. It’s a monumental wine of dark mahogany color with a green edge, a complex, ever-changing, concentrated, clean and delineated nose of spices, dark chocolate, Cuban cigar and balsamic notes of incense, and a sharp, saline palate. It is highly concentrated, powerful and clean, with an eternal, lingering aftertaste. Deciding between Coliseo and Cardenal might be splitting hairs, and as much as I love Coliseo, I felt Cardenal was just one notch above. At the quality helm of Palo Cortado. Drink 2013-2025.” WA
Peter Liem– “Its palo cortado counterpart is the Cardenal, a wine of similar age and equally multi-faceted complexity, although, with its richer girth and more velvety texture on the palate, it comes off as less forbidding. It essentially represents the ultimate conclusion of Valdespino’s expression of the Marcharnudo vineyard.”

A.R. Valdespino Coliseo Amontillado VORS NV 375ML ($249.95) $199 special, 1 half-bottle available
A.R. Valdespino Coliseo Amontillado VORS NV 750ML ($399.95) $349 special, 1 bottle available
Wine Advocate 99 points
“The NV Amontillado Coliseo VORS, is an extremely old (much older than the 30 years certified by the VORS classification) and concentrated wine. It is unique, as its origin is from Sanlucar de Barrameda, mainly from the Pago Miraflores, which produced very sharp wines. Dark mahogany colored, with a bright green border, is very aromatic, balsamic and complex, with wild herbs, candied orange rind, spices and dates. The palate is extremely concentrated, dry, and intense but it has no edges, with lively acidity and an eternal finish. It’s an extreme wine, some might find it too much, but it’s certainly unique and among the greatest wines in the world, to be sipped slowly and in tiny quantities. One of the greatest Amontillados in existence today. Drink 2013-2025.” WA
Peter Liem–“A complex demanding wine averaging over 60 years of age. This actually originates as a manzanilla, spending 15 to 20 years in Sanlucar before being blended and aged in Jerez. The result is an amontillado of tremendous finesse, balancing its vivid concentration with a stelly, racy structure”

A.R. Valdespino Don Gonzalo Oloroso Viejo VOS 375ML ($26.95) $21.90 special, 5 half-bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points
“The NV Don Gonzalo Oloroso 20 Anos VOS, produced with Palomino grapes from the Carrascal vineyards, is fermented in stainless steel and aged for over 20 years in oak botas. It is a very serious Oloroso, even if it’s not totally dry. It offers bitter almonds, hazelnuts, incense, Cuban cigar ash, and dark chocolate as well as a complex, a very intense, round and ample palate. This wine really fills your mouth. Very intense and with great acidity, it represents very good value for the quality it delivers. A tamed beast. Drink 2013-2019.” WA.”

A.R. Valdespino Viejo C.P. Calle Ponche Single Vineyard Palo Cortado 750ML ($41.95) $36 special, 9 bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points
“The NV Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. produced from Palomino from the Macharnudo Alto is feed with specific casks of Fino Inocente and Amontillado Tio Diego. It was traditionally aged in the Calle Ponce (Ponce Street), and if has kept the C.P. initials since then. It’s not age-certified, but the average age of the bottled wine is 25 years. The color is old gold or light amber, and the nose hints at a relatively old wine, with plenty of lactic notes, sweet vanilla, iodine, bitter oranges and spices. The palate is clean and delineated, subtle and on the elegant side of Palo Cortado, ending very dry.”