2005 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet

Friday, January 23, 2009 3:56 PM

I’m not sure if I have ever written about Napa Cabernet for a Sunday email? Have I? I rarely write about domestic wines, because I like to look for that dynamic duo of quality and value which can be (though not always) oxymoronic in wines from the Golden State. I wondered whether I should let Napa take the spotlight on what could be my last (or 2nd to last) email, but this Dunn does offer exemplary value, and it sits at the top in terms of level of quality. I imagine Dunn will weather the current economic climate just fine, as their wines run between $60 and $80 per bottle while their competition has all inflated to over $100. These wines age like 2nd growth Bordeaux, they have so much soul that they stand out as individual/special in any company, and they’re priced like wines from the 90s.

I’m not going to go on forever about these wines, because they have a proven track record. You can look anywhere on the web to see that these wines age gracefully, they are always a favorite among Napa Cabernet drinkers and Bordeaux collectors alike, and it’s hard to compete with the praise heaped on them by critics like Robert Parker. Still, it should be said that the Dunn wines are benchmarks for California Cabernet. They are steeped in terroir, yet they bring all the power and energy we expect from Napa Valley. Almost every customer I talk to who is serious about California Cabs holds Dunn in high regard. They are one of 3 Napa producers that I allow into my personal budget for Cabernet. It should also be mentioned that 85% of the fruit for this bottling is sourced from Howell Mountain, and this wine is Dunn to its very core. If you want top quality Napa Cabernet from 2005, that is intensely cellar worthy as well as representing true value, then Dunn is for you. If you want a 10% discount off the already fair price of $64.98 (making it $58.48), then just order 6 bottles or more. Since it’s the season, I’ll mention it’s a great gift as well, whether you’re gifting friends and family or yourself. Wine will arrive by the end of the week. Special pricing available until December 25th. Ben Jordan

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Melons and Minerals

Monday, August 11, 2008 2:17 PM

I had a lovely wine Thursday night. It made sense for an email for at least three reasons.

1. It’s summer. It’s hot in most places. This wine is white. What’s more it’s a refreshing white. It is perfect for the next few months of warm weather. And it’ll be perfect for 12 months from now if you still have some left. Not that you can’t drink white wine in winter. I would never say something silly like that. Not that I would never say anything silly. I would never claim that, but this wine is perfect for summer. That is my only claim. For now.

2. It’s well priced. People seem to like value in their summer wines. This is a whole bunch of value.

3. I find it delicious. For a number of sub-reasons. It’s delicious in that if you put it in most anyone’s glass: your Chardonnay friend, your Muscadet friend, your martini friend, they all like it. That’s pretty cool, right? It’s also delicious in the “Man, I got a great deal,” way. There is nothing better than sitting with a glass and feeling happy about your wine-buying prowess. It just keeps getting even better with each sip when you’re thinking like that. Finally it’s delicious in “my way.” I love wines that exist in more than one dimension. It is easy to assume that everyday wines are simple because they don’t cost much, but luckily that’s not always the case. There are certain wines that offer more than just alcohol and fruit flavors, and those are the ones I am always looking for. This is a poster child. It has a mineral core that moves to and from the palate. The fruit is a clean, pure amalgamation of cantaloupe, honeydew, and some other melon that I have invented in my mind to match this taste profile. It is duality defined, and I can’t get enough of this kind of wine.

That’s where the melons and minerals title came from. Personally I love it when a wine achieves true minerality and charming fruit. You have Chablis and Muscadet which are undeniably stony and mineral. You have other wines that have delicious, ripe fruit. Rarely do you have both. Many times minerality comes at the expense of fully ripe fruit, or is it vice versa? Whichever, it makes for two camps of wine lovers. Those that love the dry smack of mineral and those who need lots of fruit (your Muscadet Friends and Chardonnay Friends, respectively.) And they don’t always get along with each other. But then one day the clouds part and a wine comes along that can bring these people together. Suddenly Zinfandel lovers are frolicking with Francophiles. Or not. The wine world may never find true peace and understanding, but this wine will at least bring a reprieve from the Old World snobbery and New World machismo. Until the bottle’s finished anyway. – Ben Jordan

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Pinot Noir for Now

Monday, July 28, 2008 2:17 PM

Let’s talk about weddings … again. This Saturday I will be officiating my friends’ wedding. I’ve never done it before, but I’ve been practicing quite a lot. I feel prepared, and I’m looking forward to it. Wine figures into the ceremony, so we’re going to use some 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that we made (still making, really) in their basement. The winemaking has been a group effort that their family and friends have been a part of, so it is appropriate in a symbolic way.


Since the wine isn’t actually done (it’s slowly and I mean slowly trudging through malolactic fermentation), or legal to sell for that matter, I can’t offer it here. It tastes pretty good though, so if anyone wants to meet me in a dark alley with an envelope of cash, I can offer you a small allocation on futures. In the meantime, I’ll pay tribute to the upcoming nuptials with this delightful Pinot Noir that recently landed in our warehouse. You may say it’s odd to honor such an event with e-commerce, but I’m complicated like that, that’s the way I roll, et cetera, etc. I am truly excited for them, they’re a terrific couple as well as great friends. It’s going to be both beautiful and a lot of fun.

Now, how about some analogical fun comparing this wine to the ideals of marriage? Yay! My favorite. In marriage we seek purity and honesty; we want to be true to ourselves, and it’s nice if we provide happiness along the way. We want the same from Pinot Noir. While some varieties such as Chardonnay take well to the morphing and molding of the winemaker, Pinot Noir must remain true to itself if it is to be successful. It also has to taste good. It’s time to stop drinking Pinot Noir just because it is Pinot Noir. That’s why we buy less and less in the $10-$15 range for our store. It’s no fun to make excuses for a wine whose only virtue is its price point. Luckily Chauvenet-Chopin is making Bourgogne. Peter wrote about the 2005, which was great, and now I’m charmed by the classic 2006. This is pure and honest Pinot Noir, true to itself and its lineage in Burgundy. It wins me with its lovely aromas, supple texture, and a light-on-its-feet quality. These are the tendencies of Pinot Noir, and this wine succeeds because it embraces them. While the 2005 needed some time to really strut, and many of you are probably holding some of it for a few years, the 2006 is ready to go. It is Pinot Noir for now.

When customers come asking to see our selection of Burgundy Pinot Noir under $25, sometimes I wish I had a little puppet that I could pop out laughing hysterically. If I, a human, started pointing and laughing at someone, it might be considered rude. But for some reason a puppet can get away with more. These ideas aside, I’m generally polite when I inform people they are dreaming the impossible dream. This time I don’t have to be a jerk, and I don’t have find a nice way to say ‘no’. I can say, “Right over here. This is true, this is good, and this is the fabled under $25 Burgundy … and you will like it.” Lest you think I forgot about the wedding angle, I had an epiphany while writing this: Wouldn’t my friends’ love it if a puppet pronounced them husband and wife? – Ben Jordan

2006 Domaine Chauvenet Chopin Bourgogne
Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$24.99
  Add to Cart
$21.24 per bottle with case discount.

 

Tasting Notes
People talk about the delicate nature of Pinot Noir, but that’s hard to believe when you taste some of the dark, high octane, chewy versions that we sometimes find in our glasses. This Bourgogne is a case study in Pinot Noir the way the grape wants to be. The aromas are lively, juicy almost, with all that cherry and strawberry jumping around with red flowers and orange peel. The juiciness continues on the palate. It’s a lively wine not meant for tastings and points, but rather for tables and the meals that rest on them.

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2007 Unstoppable

Thursday, July 10, 2008 2:22 PM

2007 Andre Brunel Domaine Becassonne Cotes du Rhone Blanc
White Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$15.99
  Add to Cart
$13.59 per bottle with case discount.

 

This wine is unstoppable. I was writing about it for the snail mail newsletter, and that phrase ran from my brain, to my fingers, to the screen in front of me. At first I balked, wondering if it was too much of a World Wrestling Federation sort of statement, but I decided I like it. Especially because I think it works, and not only is it describing white wine, but it costs$13.59 per bottle with the case discount. No, this is not a $300, big points, status symbol cabernet, it’s an everybody-pleasing Rhone white that is completely affordable. And it just happens to be unstoppable.

To be more specific: the vineyard is unstoppable. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the winemaker, Andre Brunel, but I think the best thing he does to this wine is he lets it be exactly what the vines produce. It is not a winery-made wine, it is a vineyard-made wine. One sign of a great vineyard is quality across vintages. Good wine every year. I see this very clearly with the Becassonne vineyard: this wine impresses pretty much everyone every vintage. I served the 2006 at my wedding, I recommended it whenever I could, and many a customer was sad to find it sold out. There are enough wines out there that I could avoid writing about new vintages of wines I’ve already featured, but I would be ignoring high quality/high value wine in this case, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. So here I am with the 2007, because this vineyard just keeps going, producing great wine every vintage. Brunel knows it, and unlike his other Rhones in this range, he pays homage to the site-place and bottles it under its name: Becassonne.

We don’t usually talk vineyard specifics with wines in this price range. That’s because many are blended from multiple sites. Vineyard designates are reserved for more expensive wines from famous names like Chambertin and To Kalon. Here, we have Brunel’s limestone vineyard planted primarily to Roussanne with some Granache Blanc and Clairette. The result rivals many of the whites made in Chateauneuf du Pape, but since it doesn’t have the C-d-P words on the label, it’s no where near as expensive. If I were the owner of the Becassonne vineyard, I would take pleasure in the fact I could produce such outstanding wines and share them with everyone, not just an affluent few. Also, I would be happy that I didn’t have to include in my budget the salary for a Luxury Lifestyle Director. I’m pretty sure those people are expensive, and I guess if you want to charge $100 for Napa Cabernet, it is industry standard to employ someone with experience in pairing wine with sports cars and private helicopters. Lucky for you Andre. You don’t have to worry about that. You’ve got a great vineyard producing great wine at a great price, and you get to sit back and watch it fly out the cellar door.

This is wonderfully classy white Rhone wine. A perfect companion to summer evenings and their meals. The Roussanne frames the limestone minerality with just the right amount of succulent fruit. I don’t know if Andre Brunel knew what he was creating when he planted this vineyard in 1978 (I suspect he had an inkling, he’s a smart guy), but 30 years later: this little point on the planet named ‘Becassone’, you can’t stop it. No reason to even try. – Ben Jordan

 

2007 Andre Brunel Domaine Becassonne Cotes du Rhone Blanc
White Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$15.99
  Add to Cart
$13.59 per bottle with case discount.
A Full Case of the 2007 Becassone for $13.59 per bottle. Save $28!
$163.08
  Add to Cart

 

Tasting Notes
I mentioned minerality earlier, and this has it. Not the sulphur-driven stuff you find in some Sancerre and other high acid screechers, but a more subtle, round, limestone minerality like we find in the Meursaults and the Chassagne and Puligny Montrachets. There is also a fresh-ripened stone fruit component to it that is lively, refreshing, and clean. ‘Class’ is the operative word here, as the wine is very comfortable in its harmony. If anyone is looking for a poster child for Roussanne based blends, this is both representative and impressive.

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Love Potion

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 7:39 PM

2003 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Trassegum Rouge
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$21.99
  Add to Cart
$18.69 per bottle with case discount.

 

AKA the man with the strawberry and bacon salad.
We’ll get to the salad later. Let’s address “love potion.” Trassegum means love potion. It’s funny that a staff favorite has so many less-than-pronounceable words on its label. The 2003 d’Or et de Gueules Trassegum Rouge. Feel free to just ask for the love potion. Feel free to ask in a husky voice.

Regardless of the difficulty of pronunciation, these wines are some of these best that we offer. Anya gave up a staff secret when she wrote up their “Select” (the red and gold wine), and that sold out faster than we could secure our stashes. We are trying to get more. The Trassegum sits at a higher level, and beats most every Rhone wine in this price range.We are the only ones in the country selling this blend of Syrah and old vine Mourvedre and Carignane. It is the chateau’s prestige level wine, which they don’t release until it has rested for the appropriate time in bottle. 2005 Chateau Margaux has hit the United States, yet it won’t be ready to drink for decades. Diane Puymorin, who is as close to a rock star as a winemaker can get if you ask me, ages this wine at her estate, at her own expense, and as a result we get something lovely.

There are a lot of good reasons to drink this wine, and I will go into some (not all), but the main reason is that it is exceedingly delicious. Seriously. If you like anything about Rhone wine and its myriad of flavors, this is for you. Another reason is that Diane is exactly the type of person we want making wine. She has strong beliefs and opinions, and she’s out there going for it, no matter what people say about big production and money making. She is on the cutting edge, yet there is an intuitive simplicity to the way she works. For example this wine sits in cask (no new wood) for a year in order to develop the mouthfeel. Then she racks into tank, where it sits for two more years, as she wants the wine to age before release, but she doesn’t want too much wood influence. Makes good sense, right? But this is not normal protocol. It’s something she figured out based on what she wanted from a wine. And it shows. The wines give genuine flavor with the fine texture that you expect from the well bred. When a winemaker is truly progressive, and her wines work, I want to support her.

Another reason is the sheer breadth of flavor and character. When you smell this, as it washes across your palate, immediately your brain starts running around looking for descriptors. It reminds me of speeding through beautiful countryside. There are many details that are no doubt very interesting, and you can try to concentrate on specific points in your panorama, but it’s much better if you take in the view as a whole. That saidthere are two flavors that really stuck with me. A beautiful ripe strawberry fruit accompanied by savory meatiness. It’s such an intriguing combo, I am always in danger of drinking too fast when this is in my glass. I wonder how a strawberry and bacon salad would taste? Not strawberries and bacon on salad. The two together, maybe with a light dressing, but that’s it. I think that sounds good. But I know better than to trust myself here. I’m the one who served my wife a balsamico Martini. That didn’t work. Not that it couldn’t, but when a martini looks like it is dosed with iodine, you should rethink your presentation. So I’ll stick with wine and leave the hipster salad and martini making to those gifted in these fields.

The point of the strawberry bacon comments is to point out how wine can pull off ultra-dynamic flavors. Even with top Ferry Building Farmer’s Market real estate, I bet the bacon-strawberry-salad man would have a hard time, cursing his creativity as shoppers mull past muttering, “Weird” and “Let’s get a chicken.” Wine is lucky in its freedom. Wine is also lucky to have Diane Puymorin as a creator and Trassegum as a representative. While I can’t promise your date will fall in love with you with this in their glass,they will fall for the wine. You just have to keep giving them more. –Ben Jordan

 

2003 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Trassegum Rouge
Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$21.99
  Add to Cart
$18.69 per bottle with case discount.

 

Tasting Notes
As I mentioned, specific tasting notes are not what this wine is about. It is a full Rhone experience. If you like the flavors of Gigondas, Chateauneuf, and Cote Rotie, this amalgamates them. I was worried that the wine would be too 2003, oversized and brooding, but Diane has a deft touch. She has the components working in unison. There is tannin, but it is rounded by age, and it melts into food. And the wine smells beautiful. Overall the experience well outpaces the price, making this a great buy.

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