Meerlust Estate: Rubicon 2007 Review

Meerlust Rubicon 2007 Label

Since 1756 and under the stewardship of eight generations of the Myburgh family the Meerlust Estate has been producing world-class wine in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It’s predominantly clay soils engender vines that are cooled by evening ocean air in the summertime, allowing for optimal growing conditions and slowly ripening fruit.

The idea to craft ‘Rubicon” on the estate, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, was inspired by Nico Myburgh’s time in Bordeaux. He identified that the terroir of the Eerste River Valley in South Africa was similar to that of Bordeaux’s Gironde River, being composed of clay and granite soils cooled by sea breezes. He sought to create his own Bordeaux Blend instead of the single-varietal wines that were typical of the region at the time. The result was the Meerlust Estate Rubicon, and today we are tasting the Meerlust Rubicon 2007.

Meerlust Rubicon 2007 Cork

Appearance: Dense dark ruby with slowly evolving legs

Nose: Subtle aromas of damp earth, spice, cedar and black fruit

On the palate: Dense and rich without being overpowering with some residual tannin gripping the finish. The wine is deliciously earthy and rustic in style with expressive notes of forest floor, black tea, vanilla, spice, eucalyptus and black fruit. It is surprisingly balanced considering it’s depth and structure.

Varietal Composition: 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc

Origin: Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Value Rating: 4.25/5       Price: $27-30

Score:   92

Meerlust Rubicon 2007 Full Bottle

Value Proposition

From the first taste you can tell that this wine is incredibly well-made and it’s old-world style is refreshingly different than what you might drink on a daily basis. It’s interesting origins in Stellenbosch, South Africa further add to the appeal. From the vanguard Nico Myburgh who sought to create a Bordeaux style wine to the vines of his families storied estate all lead me to expect a slightly higher price of entry. I think to be able to purchase a wine like this under $30 is more than a fair exchange. Luckily, however I picked this bottle up on a flash sale from Wine Shopper for the obscenely inexpensive price of only $15 and you can rest assured that I will be tweeting away should I see another deal like this in the future!

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Wine Country – Details of our journey to Sonoma and Napa including Round Pond Estate, Ladera Vineyards. and Beringer Vineyards including a great Garden to Table Brunch at Round Pond Estate.

Round Pond Estate

 

 

 

 

Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – This delicious red is rumored to be produced using declassified fruit from cult classic Harlan Estate!

Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Label

 

 

 

 

Wine in Korea – An inside look at shopping for wine in Korea with photos, detailed price comparisons and information on wine availability.

Wine in Korea

Tin Roof Cellars Merlot

Tin Roof Cellars Merlot 2009 Label

Sometimes you need a no-nonsense, wallet friendly wine that doesn’t require too much thought but still tastes good. Whether it be your weeknight wine or a great bargain red to pair with pizza, it can be challenging to find quality reds in the $10 and under category. Enter the Tin Roof Cellars Merlot 2009!

Tin Roof Cellars Merlot 2009 Cork

Appearance: Medium brownish red with some moderate to light leg formation

Nose: There’s a decent bouquet of burnt cherry, rose petal, lavender and leather

On the palate: Lush and medium bodied with plum, molasses and dried red fruit. There is subtle cedar and vanilla on the mid palate and it finishes softly and pleasantly with a mild finish

Varietal Composition: Merlot blended with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah

Origin: North and Central Coast, California

 

Value Rating: 4.5/5       Price: $7-10

Score:   87

Tin Roof Cellars Merlot 2009 Full Bottle

Value Proposition

When I look back at what I paid for this wine from Wine Shopper (a mere $5.00) several months ago I am shocked at the quality-price-ratio. This wine actually tastes like a half-decent Merlot and it costs $5? Needless to say I’m glad I bought a few cases of this offering. Recently, I’ve seen this for sale on Wine Shopper at a slightly higher price of $6.99 and a few retailers like Total Wine have it offered for the same price. At $6.99 this is still a terrific bargain. The Tin Roof Cellars Merlot 2009 is luscious, smooth, easy to drink and well worth the tariff!

Tin Roof Cellars Merlot 2009 Rear Label

You might also enjoy:

Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Napa Valley – A most unique and compelling value emulating the great Chateau Cheval Blanc in the heart of the Napa Valley.

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Front label

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007 – A great way to sample top-flight, well crafted Napa Valley Merlot without breaking the bank. Miles might even like this one!

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007

Wine in Korea – An inside look at shopping for wine in Korea with photos, detailed price comparisons and information on wine availability.

Wine in Korea

Swanson Vineyards Napa Valley: 2008 Oakville Merlot Review

Swanson-Oakville-Merlot-2008-Full-Label-3

Do you drink Merlot?

Probably not if you’ve seen the movie Sideways.  Let’s assume that most wine drinkers have both seen the blockbuster movie Sideways starring Paul Giamiatti and Virginia Madsen and that they have had a glass of Merlot at least one time in their life. Those who saw Sideways might recall that the movie was not at all kind to this specific varietal. At one point during the movie, Paul Giamatti’s character Miles exclaims, “I am not drinking f****** Merlot!” Why don’t you tell us how you really feel, Miles! The statement was all the more impactful and persuasive because Miles’ character is a bit of a wine snob. The following three months after the movie was released sales of Merlot dropped 2% and a stigma surrounded those who ordered Merlot as being casual, uneducated wine drinkers.

Unfortunately for Merlot, it’s most redeeming qualities of being silky, luscious and approachable when young without the “bite” of Cabernet’s tannin are what eventually led to its overproduction. As more and more casual wine drinkers sought out Merlot because of its drink-ability and new-found popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s the market met this new demand for the fashionable beverage of choice with lots of cheap, lousy Merlot. Growers felt pressured to grow it, and winemakers felt pressured to have a Merlot in their portfolio.

The irony here is that not only can Merlot be quite good, but that the bottle of wine Miles covets in the movie is a Chateau Cheval Blanc, a pricey blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In fact, some of the most acclaimed and sought after wines in the world contain Merlot. Over on the Right Bank of Bordeaux in St. Emilion and Pomerol, Merlot is not just a blending component but actually the foundation for these esteemed wines. Petrus, one of the most expensive wines in the world, is almost entirely Merlot.

Swanson Oakville Merlot 2008

Since I am not prepared to part with $1,000 plus for one of the aforementioned Right Bank Merlot based superstars, I thought I would open something in a more reasonable price range that the winemaker himself describes as “reminiscent more of the Right Bank of Bordeaux than Napa Valley.” Let’s pop the cork on the Swanson Vineyard Napa Valley 2008 Oakville Merlot!

Swanson-Oakville-Merlot-2008-Full-Size-3

Color: Elegant dark ruby, the wine almost appears to have a somewhat deceivingly light body.

Nose: Strawberry and chocolate aromas dominate.

Taste: A thick, rich and concentrated Merlot. A ripe, well textured core of black cherry cola leads to strawberry and chocolate followed by a spicy, lingering finish.

Region: Oakville, Napa Valley, California

Winemaker: Chris Phelps, formerly of Dominus and Caymus

Varietal Composition: Merlot

 

Value Rating: 4/5        Retail Price: ~$38

Score: 92             

Swanson-Oakville-Merlot-2008-Rear-Label-3

Value Proposition

I couldn’t agree more with the winemaker. The style of this wine is very much like a Right Bank Bordeaux without the hefty price tag. The Swanson Oakville Merlot retails for $38 but I paid $27.99 at Total Wine. While not inexpensive I believe this is a great price for a wine of this caliber. The Oakville region of Napa has long produced distinctive, expressive red wines of great character and this one is no different.  This is a great opportunity to sample a wine by a great winemaker whose other offerings have been considerably more expensive in the past (Dominus and Caymus).

This Merlot is very well distributed so you should be able to get your hands on some in most wine shops. If you’re looking for a wine that’s elegant and smooth enough to be a crowd pleaser but with the complexity and unique style to impress your wine loving friends, I strongly recommend this wine. Miles might have even enjoyed this one given the opportunity. It’s also a great conversation wine as they will probably never guess its Merlot!

You might also enjoy:

Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Napa Valley – A most unique and compelling value emulating the great Chateau Cheval Blanc in the heart of the Napa Valley.

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Front label

 

 

 

 

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007 – A great way to sample top-flight, well crafted Napa Valley Merlot without breaking the bank. Miles might even like this one!

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007

 

 

 

 

Bodegas Alta Pavina ‘Citius’ Pinot Noir 2009 – Spain’s first 100% Pinot Noir produced with assistance from Claude Bourguignon!

Alta-Pavina-Pinot-Noir-2009-Front-Label-870x1024 (2)

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Napa Valley: Right Bank 2011 Review

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Front label

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards’ former winemaker, Mac Sawyer, sadly passed away recently. Working together with founding winemaker Todd Anderson (Mac was brought on when Todd created the ultra-exclusive Ghost Horse Label) the estate produced world class wines which earned high scores and were widely recognized for their exceptional quality. His legacy lives on in the wines being produced today. It was he who had interned at Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of the most famous wine producing estates in the world. Remember the wine Miles’ character coveted in the movie Sideways? It was a bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc. The irony here is that despite his profound distaste for Merlot, Cheval Blanc contains predominantly Merlot with about a quarter of Cabernet Franc rounding out its annual composition.

Inspired by their love for the wines of Saint-Émilion and at Cheval Blanc, Todd Anderson sought to capitalize on Mac’s experience and create a wine similar to Cheval Blanc right at home in the Napa Valley. Initially however, with the first vintage of 2001, the wine intended to be produced only for those fortunate enough to be attending Premier Napa. But on his annual visit to Anderson’s Conn Valley, Todd Anderson agreed to let Robert Parker taste the Right Bank 2001 only if he agreed not to publish any tasting notes. Parker was somewhat taken with the wine and unintentionally published his tasting notes in the Wine Advocate. The ensuing demand for the Right Bank to be commercially produced and distributed was so great that Todd agreed to make it part of Anderson’s Conn Valley’s annual portfolio. I tasted the 2009 Right Bank and fell in love with it while visiting the estate in October of 2013. Now let’s pop the cork on the newest vintage: Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards’ Right Bank 2011.

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Cork

Appearance: Medium ruby and slightly translucent with fine, slowly evolving legs.

Nose: The Cabernet Franc really shines on the nose lending itself to a wonderfully aromatic wine. Along with a gorgeous bouquet of roses and violets there are also notes of sweet stone fruits, truffles and earth.

On the palate: The first sip makes me forget I’m drinking a red from Napa Valley. The wine is medium bodied and more old world in style offering wonderful balance, acidity and length. The fruit is very much present but more understated and the alcohol is relatively low at 13.8%. There are notes of dried cherry, plum, strawberry, violets, earth and bramble. With air and time in the glass, the wine becomes richer revealing notes of licorice and espresso.  The tannins are finely grained and the finish lingers for 20+ seconds.

Varietal Composition: 78% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc

Origin: Napa Valley, CA

 

Value Rating: 4.5/5       Price: $60

Score:   94

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Foil

Value Proposition

Anderson’s Conn Valley’s Right Bank is obviously not the same wine as the Chateau Cheval Blanc, and it isn’t intended to be so. Rather it’s an interpretation of a wine styled after one of the great gems of Saint-Émilion. And unlike a bottle of Cheval Blanc, you and I are far more likely to be able to pop the cork on this Napa Valley gem.

I’m sure the Cheval Blanc is delicious, but I bet it’s not anywhere near 23 times more delicious than the Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank with its retail price of ~$1400 for the 2010 vintage. My recommendation is to stick with this world class producer from Napa Valley and to try their Right Bank 2011 Bordeaux Blend: This classy, elegant and unique offering might just be the best bargain in the Napa Valley!

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Rear Label

You might also like:

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007 – A great way to sample top-flight, well crafted Napa Valley Merlot without breaking the bank. Miles might even like this one!

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007

 

 

 

 

Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Napa Valley – This Cabernet was called one of the most underrated Cab’s in Napa by Robert Parker himself!

Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 Front Label

 

 

 

 

Bodegas Alta Pavina ‘Citius’ Pinot Noir 2009 – Spain’s first 100% Pinot Noir produced with assistance from Claude Bourguignon!

Alta-Pavina-Pinot-Noir-2009-Front-Label-870x1024 (2)

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Wine was submitted for purposes of review.

Seavey Vineyard Napa Valley: 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Review

Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 Front Label

On our recent trip to Napa Valley during harvest we made it a point to visit Seavey Vineyard. I’ve long been a fan of their under the radar age-worthy Cabernet’s and wanted to see their operation and taste their current releases, especially their flagship wine: The Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009.

I left Seavey with delicious estate Cabernet and Merlot to take home and enjoy. But that wasn’t all we took home. We had an intimate one on one experience with Dorie Seavey, the daughter of William Seavey who founded Seavey Vineyard. It isn’t everyday you get to visit and learn all about a winery you love at the hands of the daughter of the original proprietor. While this does happen elsewhere (Kristine Dunn of Dunn Vineyards comes to mind) it doesn’t occur often as consolidations and buyouts make for a slightly more sterile corporate experience in Napa Valley.

Seavey Vineyards Entrance Sign

After purchasing the winery from Dorie Seavey’s geometry teacher in 1979, William and Mary Seavey consulted Roy Raymond of Raymond Vineyards with replanting the vineyards that were originally planted by Swiss immigrant Charles Volper in the early 1870s. Instead of employing high-technology modern winemaking techniques upon revitalizing the estate, William and Mary Seavey set out to honor old winemaking traditions and to produce world class wines at Seavey Vineyard.

Seavey Vineyards Winery and Tasting Room

Essentially an old dairy farm, Seavey’s winery is located in a beautiful dairy barn which was originally constructed in 1881. The dairy barn was renovated and restored by the Seavey’s in 1989 to be their winery and tasting room and a second winery adjacent to the stone dairy barn was constructed in 2000 after the success of the first vintages under their own label.

Dorie gave us a tour of the winery and the grounds nearby, explaining some interesting facts about Seavey Vineyard while we enjoyed a glass of Seavey’s 2010 Merlot:

  • As much as 70% of Seavey’s wines are sold directly to Wine Club members
  • Seavey is one of only a handful of wineries in Napa who uses the whole grape fermentation method and never presses their grapes. Winemaker Jim Duane later explains that Seavey’s wines have enough tannin and structure and that pressing the grapes is not required.
  • The estate is approximately 200 acres with 40 of those acres planted to vine.
  • Wines are aged in 100% French oak, 50% of which being new.
  • Annual production is approximately 2000 cases.
Seavey's hillside vineyards can be seen in the background

Seavey’s hillside vineyards can be seen in the background

Hoping to see freshly harvested grapes being sorted and processed we quickly made our way to the winery when we saw a truck hauling grapes heading in it’s direction.

Seavey Winemaker Jim Duane explains the even ripening of the 2013 vintage

Seavey Winemaker Jim Duane explains the even ripening of the 2013 vintage

Grapes being prepared for sorting

Grapes being prepared for sorting

Dorie Seavey and Winemaker Jim Duane

Dorie Seavey and Winemaker Jim Duane

After seeing the small but very efficient winery in action, we made our way to this table located just outside of the main tasting room to take in both the wines and the gorgeous weather we were having that day.

DSC_0749

During our visit, we tasted the Merlot, the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon and their delicious and more approachable “Caravina” Cabernet, which is like a second wine for the estate. Since I was only taking mental notes of how much I was enjoying the wines, I decided to revisit the Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 at home where I could better evaluate it:

Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 Cork

Appearance: Wonderfully dark and rich without becoming entirely opaque. The thick long legs meet a dark crimson at the rim. 

Nose: Sweet and expressive with lavender, kirsch, cherry liquor and molasses.

Taste: Expansive and rich without being over-ripe, it coats the palate with smokey vanilla, dark red fruit, cassis and chocolate covered strawberries at the core. It then finishes with cedar, molasses, violets and essence of lavender. The wine is impeccably balanced with excellent acidity, minerality and finely grained tannins. Each sip reveals another exciting nuance from this well crafted Cabernet Sauvignon.

Region: Napa Valley, CA

Varietal Composition: 95.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Petite Verdot

 

Value Rating: 4.5/5          Price: $95

Score: 96             

Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 Full Bottle

Wow! I had high expectations for this wine considering my admiration for the producer and my experience with their well crafted iterations from previous vintages. Despite those expectations, this wine far exceeded them and was even better that I remembered at the winery. Doesn’t the opposite usually happen?

The Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 is entirely estate grown and resulted in a mere 630 cases of production. This is top flight Cabernet Sauvignon that is built to last and I recommend picking some up here before they run out. The price has increased slightly to $105 as it is now considered a library wine and will likely only increase in price with time.

A quick search on Wine-Searcher reveals a few retailers still priced in the low $90′s. While this is still a lot of money for a bottle of wine, it is all relative. There are far more expensive cult Napa Cabernet’s who remain shrouded in a veil of mystery. Interested in visiting? Good luck. Interested in tasting? Unless you’re a wealthy collector or a wine journalist: good luck. Interested in buying? You probably need to be on the mailing list, and good luck getting on it.

The Seavey Cabernet is world-class under the radar wine from a family owned boutique winery where you can taste their current releases with a Seavey. It’s off the beaten path and away from the crowds of Highway 29. Robert Parker himself has even described Seavey as potentially being the most underrated producer of Cabernet in Napa Valley!

Dare I posit that instead of celebrating over-hyped and over-priced cult Cabernet’s that we instead celebrate estates like Seavey that spend money on improving wine-making rather than marketing budgets, while they still exist? In my opinion, the Seavey Cabernet Sauvingon Napa Valley 2009 is worth every penny.

Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 Rear Label

You might also like:

Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Napa Valley – A most unique and compelling value emulating the great Chateau Cheval Blanc in the heart of the Napa Valley.

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Front label

 

 

 

 

Pine Ridge Encantado Red Blend Napa Valley 2010 Review – This isn’t the second wine from this prestigious Napa Valley winery but the same juice at under $20!

Pine Ridge Encantado Red Blend Napa Valley 2010

 

 

 

 

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007 – A great way to sample top-flight, well crafted Napa Valley Merlot without breaking the bank. Miles might even like this one!

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007

 

 

 

 

Wine Country – Details of our journey to Sonoma and Napa including Round Pond Estate, Ladera Vineyards, and Beringer Vineyards including a great Garden to Table Brunch at Round Pond Estate.

Round Pond Estate

 

 

 

 

Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – This delicious red is rumored to be produced using declassified fruit from cult classic Harlan Estate!

Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Label

 

 

 

 

Bodegas Alta Pavina ‘Citius’ Pinot Noir 2009 – Spain’s first 100% Pinot Noir produced with assistance from Claude Bourguignon!

Alta-Pavina-Pinot-Noir-2009-Front-Label-870x1024 (2)

Bodegas Alta Pavina Citius Pinot Noir 2009

Alta-Pavina-Pinot-Noir-2009-Front-Label-870x1024 (2)

What do you get when you grow the revered and fickle Pinot Noir varietal in the now overachieving wine growing region of Spain under the auspices of legendary wine consultant Claude Bourguignon? I present to you the Bodegas Alta Pavina Citius Pinot Noir 2009.

Spain is a wine producing region that was once known more for the volume of wine it produced rather that the quality of the wine it produced. Fortunately for us wine consumers, that has significantly changed and Spain has been a consistent source of high quality values for years.

Alta Pavina Pinot Noir 2009 Neck

That being said it is not known as a region where Pinot Noir thrives. It’s most popular varietal, Tempranillo, is a sturdy grape that thrives in a hot climate much like Cabernet. That’s what makes this bottling so interesting. It doesn’t just contain Pinot, it’s 100% Pinot Noir and the only 100% Pinot Noir of it’s kind produced in Spain.

Located near the Duero River, the 29 acre vineyard in the district of La Parilla is located at ~2,950 feet above sea level. The high altitude provides the cooler climate Pinot Noir needs to survive. Let’s pop the cork and see how this tastes!

Alta Pavina Pinot Noir 2009 Cork

Appearance: Medium garnet and somewhat translucent in the glass.

Nose: The wine is very aromatic. There are bright cherries, cloves, mushrooms and a nice floral earthiness.

Taste: Quite burgundian in style with a subdued yet still present fruit profile. There are nice cherries and truffle notes to be found. Considering it’s light body I am impressed with the elegant mouthfeel and structure of the wine. It finishes with a blistering acidity and a lovely earthiness. The wine begs you for another sip and would be a great wine with dinner.

Region: Castilla y Leon, Spain

Varietal Composition: 100% Pinot Noir

 

Value Rating: 4.25/5        Price: ~$26-35

Score: 93             

Alta Pavina Pinot Noir 2009 Full Bottle

Value Proposition

Claude Bourguignon is also the technical adviser to the vaunted and perhaps most famous wine producer in the world: Romanée-Conti. The wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can easily set one back thousands of dollars per bottle. I think when you get to taste a wine that he has had a hand in producing and you consider that this wine is produced with the most care of any of their wines at Bodegas Alta Pavina (meticulous grape selection, vine care and aging in French Oak for 18-24 months), the retail price is a very reasonable tariff for the experience.

The Bodegas Alta Pavina Citius Pinot Noir 2009 is yet another excellent example how Spain is pushing the envelope and expanding their reach in the wine world. In my opinion Bodegas Alta Pavina is truly a vanguard for it’s role here, and I sincerely hope that their wines bring even more credibility to Spain as a wine producer, not only of fine Cava and Tempranillo, but of Pinot Noir as well.

Alta Pavina Pinot Noir 2009 Rear Label

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Espelt Garnacha 2010 Label Final

 

 

 

 

Finca Villacreces Pruno 2010 – This blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet scored 94 Points with Parker and cost ~20!

Villacreces Pruno 2010 Label

 

 

 

 

Rondel Brut Cava NV – At under $10 this Spanish Cava is likely to become your bargain go-to bubbly!

Rondel Brut Cava NV

 

 

 

 

Costco Kirkland Signature Malbec Mendoza 2011 – Is this Malbec from Costco’s impressive Kirkland line good enough to be your new go-to bargain Malbec?

Kirkland Signature Malbec 2011 Mendoza

 

 

 

 

Pine Ridge Encantado Red Blend Napa Valley 2010 Review – This isn’t the second wine from this prestigious Napa Valley winery but the same juice at under $20!

Pine Ridge Encantado Red Blend Napa Valley 2010

 

 

 

 

Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Napa Valley – A most unique and compelling value emulating the great Chateau Cheval Blanc in the heart of the Napa Valley.

Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2011 Front label

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Wine was submitted for purposes of review.

Chateau Figeac 1990

Chateau Figeac 1990 Front Label

In this edition of “Great Wines with Great Friends” we take a look at a nice mature Bordeaux from an interesting Right Bank producer. With 40 hectares of vineyards, Chateau Figeac is the largest producer in Saint-Émilion and one of the most well known estates. It is not to be confused with the other 151 Chateau throughout France whose name includes “Figeac”. It’s wine carries the Premier Grand Cru Classé (Class B) classification within the Saint-Émilion ranking system.

Interestingly, unlike most of its compatriots within Saint-Émilion, its wine is composed of predominantly Cabernet Sauvingon. In an area where most estates produce mostly Merlot from cooler clay and chalky soils, it’s gravelly soils lend itself to the Cabernet Sauvingon grape. Additionally, unlike many of the “Garagistes” winemakers in the area, it’s winemaker prefers to pick the grapes a bit early. This winemaking approach results in less ripe, lower alcohol, higher acid wines which are built for age-worthiness rather than early drinking pleasure.

Chateau Figeac 1990 Full Bottle

I love trying new wines and especially any wine that stands out from crowd, and the Chateau Figeac 1990 certainly fits that bill. While out in Park City, Utah on vacation we visited a friend at his beautiful new home for a casual laid back dinner amongst friends. He has mentioned earlier that we would be drinking a nice bottle later that evening. I was pretty excited when he pulled the Chateau Figeac 1990 from his cooler, the bottle a gift for his recent birthday. Being that this wine was likely fully mature or even slightly past it’s peak I was very curious to taste it. Let’s see how it stacks up!

Chateau Figeac 1990 Cork

Appearance: Clear signs of bricking with a light reddish brown color thinning out at the edges of the glass.

Nose: Leather and tobacco dominated with minty undertones initially. After about 30 minutes in the glass the nose evolved with glycerin, sweet red fruit and a bit of dustiness.

Taste: Initially elegant and easy going with a bit of red fruit hiding in the core. Nice secondary flavors of leather, earth and tobacco emerged followed by mint, eucalyptus and wood on the finish. Initially the wine didn’t seem terribly complex but was very enjoyable to drink. After about 30 minutes in the glass the wine clearly evolved and filled out a bit, displaying much richer flavors with fully resolved tannin.

Region: Saint-Émilion, France

Varietal Composition: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot

 

Value Rating: 3/5               Current Retail: ~$200

Score: 93

Chateau Figeac 1990 Neck and Foil

Value Proposition

Since we were expecting this wine to be fully mature and/or slightly past it’s prime, we did not decant it, as this can result in the opposite of the intended effect with mature wines. However, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed with how the wine developed in the glass after about 30 minutes. It seems that this wine was not past its peak, only close to approaching it. The best way to buy and enjoy a wine such as this is to purchase it on release and to age it yourself, as you clearly end up paying a premium for a wine that has been properly cellared and is ready to drink. A quick search on the 2008 vintage of Chateau Figeac shows the it can be found for ~$75.

I only wish I could drink mature Bordeaux from storied estates more often, but that’s why today’s post falls into the “Great Wines with Great Friends” category. Wines like the Chateau Figeac 1990 are best enjoyed with great friends and family. If you’re able to properly store wines for aging, try laying down a few of these. I doubt you’ll be disappointed!

You might also like:

Pine Ridge Encantado Red Blend Napa Valley 2010 Review – This isn’t the second wine from this prestigious Napa Valley winery but the same juice at under $20!

Pine Ridge Encantado Red Blend Napa Valley 2010

 

 

 

 

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007 – A great way to sample top-flight, well crafted Napa Valley Merlot without breaking the bank. Miles might even like this one!

Hall Merlot Napa Valley 2007

Wine in Korea

WineGallery

When I began this blog my intention was to share as many exciting wine experiences as possible with a focus on value. Few things are more exciting to me than finding an extraordinary wine with a merely ordinary price. With that being said: When I encountered the complete opposite end of the value spectrum while shopping for wine in Korea, I felt compelled to share that experience as well.

On my recent trip to Seoul, the bustling and energetic Capital of South Korea with a population of over 10 million, I was shocked at the limited availability of wine and the prices commanded by what was available. It seemed that finding a wine shop or even a store that carried wine was a challenge in itself. My unfortunate conclusion: I couldn’t afford to drink Napa Cabernet, Spanish Tempranillo, Italian Nebbiolo, Australian Shiraz, Bordeaux from the left or right banks, and especially not any Burgundy.

To illustrate I took some photos in a wine store located within the local mall. I will share what I was able to capture. I wanted to photograph what was in the temperature controlled “cellar” section of the store but when I asked politely if I might take photos I was told rather abruptly that I could not. To give you an idea of what was available and the corresponding prices, here is what I was able to capture:

Veuve and Moet 375ml

The 375ml Veuve Clicquot price: 53,000 Won ($46.40). Average Wine-Searcher Price: $23

The 375ml Moët & Chandon price: 43,800 Won ($38.34). Average WS Price: $20

Lynch Bage Chateau Camensac Chateau Pontet Canet

Chateau Lynch Bages 2008 price: 340,000 Won ($297.63). Average WS Price: $119

Chateau Pontet-Canet 2007 price: 300,000 Won ($262.62). Average WS Price: $90

Chateau Camensac 2010 price: 150,000 Won ($131.31). Average WS Price: $30

Chateau Talbot 2008 price: 200,000 Won ($175.08). Average WS Price: $62

1961 Latour

There was a glass display case outside of the cellar which I was able to take some photos of. Inside were high priced, blue-chip collectibles including everything from top shelf Burgundies to a vast mouth watering selection of First Growth Bordeaux with some serious bottle age. Since I couldn’t afford to drink these beauties at home in the US they were no more within reach at this wine shop in Seoul. A few price comparisons:

Chateau Latour 1961 price: 25,670,000 Won ($22,829.95). Average WS Price: $5,788.00

Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2003 price: 5,500,000 Won ($4,891.50) Average WS Price: $1,403

DSC_0107 (2)

Chateau Haut Brion 1959 price: 9,980,000 Won ($8,875.84). Average WS Price: $2,994.00

Chateau Margaux 2005 price: 3,980,000 Won ($3,539.67). Average WS Price: $1,191.00

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2009 price: 3,500,000 Won ($3,112.77) Average WS Price: $1,104.00

DSC_0106 (2)

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron Romanee-Saint-Vivant 2010 price: 1,500,000 Won ($1,334) Average WS Price: $341

Wine Shop in Korea

Wine in Korea DRC

A display of the vaunted Domaine de la Romanée-Conti which must be so expensive that no prices are being displayed.

While I didn’t make any wine purchases at this wine shop, I did inadvertently happen upon one in another mall a few days later. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in their store, but I did make a purchase! This shop’s prices were only marginally lower but unlike the first wine shop, this store had a clearance section!

There was a selection of wine gift packs being discounted and amongst them was something from Baron Phillippe de Rothschild (of Mouton Rothschild) himself, only somewhat more pedestrian and affordable: The Cadet d’Oc 2011 Cabernet Sauvingon and Syrah. I was able to pick up this two pack of quaff-able easy drinking reds which proved to be quite enjoyable and well worth the price paid of 24,000 Won, including a corkscrew and foil cutter. That works out to about only $21.34 for both bottles and the wine accessories: I had succeeded in finding a wine deal while shopping for Wine in Korea.

Cadet d'Oc Cabernet and Syrah 2011 Wine in Korea

Fortunately this was not the only wine in Korea I was able to enjoy. If you look past imported wines, there are truly exceptional local wines available everywhere at very reasonable prices. While prices and brands vary widely, there were various types I tried and enjoyed:

Makgeolli: Made from a mixture of wheat and rice, this traditional beverage once enjoyed mostly by farmers has become very popular and mainstream in Korean culture. Don’t let it’s milky off-white appearance turn you off, as it is light, slightly effervescent and absolutely delicious.

Korean Rice Wine: Unlike traditional American and European wines which are made from the fermentation of naturally sweet grapes, Korean Rice Wine is made from the amylolytic fermentation process of rice starch into sugars. Rice wine typically has a higher alcohol content ranging from 18-25% ABV rather than about 9-16% in that of traditional wines. Rice wine varies in style from those that taste somewhat similar to a Vodka to those which are lighter and infused with herbs and ginseng like the popular Baekseju.

Wine in Korea Local Wines

This example of a selection of local wine in Korea features Makgeolli on the lower section and Soju or Korean Rice Wine in the upper sections.

Imported wine consumption and enjoying wine in general is certainly a luxury here in South Korea. While selection for top international wines with strong brands is good once you are able to find a wine shop, the prices are not so good.

Being here and seeing the different prices and availability certainly lends a certain perspective I hadn’t had before. In doing a bit of research into why the prices were so high I discovered that any wine that is imported faces a steep tariff which local wines aren’t subjected to. Import taxes have a similar affect closer to home in Canada, although not quite to the extent as they do in South Korea.  So next time you find yourself debating whether to splurge on your favorite bottle, remember that we are very fortunate to have the selection and prices which we have in the US. That same bottle might cost you three times as much in South Korea, if you can find it.

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 Espelt Garnacha Old Vines Emporda 2010 -This Spanish gem is well worth your $10!

Espelt Garnacha 2010 Label Final

 

 

 

 

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*Average prices are based on Wine-Searcher results and conversion rates are based on currency exchange rates between July 5, 2013 and July 14, 2013.

Espelt Garnacha Old Vines Emporda 2010

Espelt Garnacha 2010 Label Final

I’ve been thinking that I want to share more wines around the $10 price point that I feel offer great value. While some of the wines I’ve featured in recent posts have been bargains in their own respect, they may have been a little out of reach as an everyday drinker. Wines around the $10 price point don’t have to be insipid and devoid of character, but they sometimes are. Half of the fun is experimenting with new bottles from different regions and different producers to find the diamonds in the rough. But sometimes you might need to make the right decision before having the opportunity to experiment. For this reason you might find yourself here or elsewhere on the internet searching for reviews. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for stopping by and to assure you that the Espelt Garnacha Old Vines Emporda 2010 is well worth your $10.

Espelt Garnacha 2010 Full Size 2

For this not so princely sum, you get a wine that is entirely organically and bio-dynamically farmed from 93 year old Garnacha vines grown on slate and granite soils in the northeastern coastal region of Spain known as the Costa Brava. Aged in new French Oak for three months, the wine is 100% Garnacha and fashioned by Jean-Marc Lafage who is widely recognized as a truly great winemaker. While his family had been growing grapes for six generations, it was he who took the initiative to found his own domaine and produce his own wine. Specializing in old vines, Domaine Lafage was founded in 1996.

Oh and did I mention this wine received glowing accolades from Robert Parker himself? He described it as a “magnificent” and “stunning red” and even awarded it with a more than respectable 92 point score. Now if I haven’t set the bar too high, let’s try this for ourselves!

Espelt Garnacha 2010 Cork Final
Appearance: Medium garnet, the wine is dark in the glass yet somewhat translucent with decent legs.

Nose: Nicely perfumed offering lots of sweet fruit: raspberries, strawberries, plums with a nice black licorice element coming through. 

Taste: This medium bodied wine coats the mouth with rich sweet fruit consisting of raspberries, black cherries and plums. It is relatively complex with good texture and a nice mineral component. It finishes long with a bit of wet earth and a lot of good acidity. 

Region: El Empordà, Costa Brava, Spain

Varietal Composition: 100% Garnacha/Grenache

 

Value Rating: 5/5                 Price: ~$10-14

Score: 92             

 

Value Proposition

This wine is simply excellent for the price paid of ~10 and I highly recommend that you seek it out and try it for yourself. The Wine Library currently has this on sale for only $9.98 and according to them this is one of their most popular wines. I can certainly understand why and this is one of many reasons I think everyone should look to Spain for excellent wines at great prices.

This could serve as an excellent house wine or even make a nice bottle to share with your loved ones when you’re on a budget. As a fun experiment, I would recommend buying your run of the mill $10 grocery story wine and taste testing it against this Spanish gem at the same price to see which one you prefer. My bet is on the Espelt Garnacha Old Vines Emporda 2010, but then again beauty does lies within the eyes of the beholder.

Espelt Garnacha 2010 Rear Label Final

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Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 Label Final

I must admit I have high expectations for this wine. The Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 not only received a 96 point score from The Wine Spectator but they also recognized it as the #1 Wine of their annual top 100 in 2008. It is from one of the best recent vintages in Chile’s Colchagua’s Apalta sub-valley and Wine Spectator has even credited Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta bottling with establishing Chile as a premier red wine growing region. How could you not be curious about this wine with such glowing accolades?

Part of the allure to this wine is also the value it represents, as the prices haven’t crept up much despite constant refinements and improvements at the winery such as: fermenting in smaller lots, hand destemming and even constructing a gravity flow winery.

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 Neck

This wine was a birthday gift from a good friend. He brought me a 2006 Dominus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvingon and the Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005. He recommended that we lay one down and open one tonight to enjoy and review. What a great idea! Now faced with a tough but exciting decision, I decided that the Dominus, being predominantly Cabernet, could probably use more time in the bottle. I had also recalled the press surrounding the Clos Apalta including the recognition from Wine Spectator and I was really interested to see what all of the buzz was about. Let’s find out!

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta Cork

Appearance: Dense and opaque with a violet tinged rim follow by long legs on the glass.

Nose: There’s a nice floral component with violets and roses as well as rich dark fruit. Behind the burnt black cherries are wood and cedar notes.

Taste: The wine is initially quite rich with chewy and sweet (but not syrupy) black licorice. The sweet fruit on the mid palate evolves with black cherry and strawberry flavors. The smooth finish lingers for 30+ seconds with tar and roses and dusty well integrated tannin laced with a streak of minerality.

Region: Chile’s Colchagua’s Apalta sub-valley

Varietal Composition: 42% Carmenere, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot.

 

Value Rating: 4.5/5            Release Price: $75

Score: 95             

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 Full Size

Value Proposition

I first opened the Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 and poured off a glass for myself and a glass for a few friends and allowed it to breathe for about an hour and a half. Our initial impression was that this wine was quite good, but not quite “Wine of the Year” good. At this point my rating would have likely been ~92. It was distinctive yet seemed lacking in complexity.

Not giving up on this highly acclaimed wine, I left a glass in the bottle and saved it to taste after having more time to open up. I’m glad I did and I only wish I had given this more time to breathe initially. As my tasting notes describe, this wine was quite complex on day three and was a real pleasure. While I don’t get to taste nearly as much wine as the folks at Wine Spectator, I can see why the Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 received the recognition it did.

Unfortunately, The Wine Spectator press has pushed the price of this wine up considerably over it’s release price. K&L Wine Merchants currently sells this for $129 with a limit of one bottle per customer. 5987 cases of this wine were produced. If you can find the 2005 near release price stock up, otherwise it might be worthwhile to seek out newer vintages from this producer.

Does this wine represent value? Absolutely. While even the release price might seem steep, one must consider what top wines cost from other well known wine producing regions. Top wines from California and Bordeaux frequently top several hundred dollars per bottle and there are plenty of wines that cost thousands per bottle. When you look at it from that perspective, this top wine from Chile is a total bargain. I only wish I had more to cellar and taste again later!

Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 Rear Label

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