Cheers, everyone! May your holiday be as bountiful and filled with friends and family as mine will be; I wish you well. Expect postings of the standout wines from this year’s festivities sometime in December…
The 2008 “Petit Amour” VdP de Vaucluse offers everything one could possibly hope for in a “house wine”: a friendly label, a blend of familiar varietals (Grenache, Merlot, and Syrah), and a cheapness bordering on the obscene. It is an excellent party wine, and pairs with a variety of foods. It is not deserving of undue attention, certainly, but merits mention here as another example of great value at a rock-bottom price.
A nice garnet red in the glass, with aromas of black cherries and currants, with hints of earthiness and dried leaves. This leads to more red fruits cloaked by a hint of oak in the mouth, slightly coarse tannins, and a quick finish. The final impression is of an uninspiring but definitely approachable rustic table wine, good as a go-to; great considering its price at $5 a bottle.
When I first tasted this, the wine intrigued me. Later on, however, getting the details proved an embarrassing moment in my career as a wine drinker. This wine rested in a bin full of standard Burgundy when I bought it, and so of course I assumed that “Bourgogne” meant “Pinot,” as usual. But the bright aromas on the nose and tart palate told me otherwise. I assumed it was just an eccentricity of the wine, however, and treated it as Pinot. A Pinot even lighter than normal, dancing with crisp acidity in the mouth, almost biting, meaner than most. But I knew my stuff! This was normal Burgundy. Definitely.
And then! lo and behold, truth erupted onto the scene when I mentioned the wine to a knowledgeable staff member at Astor Wine & Spirits (where I happened to buy this bottle). She informed me that this was no standard Burgundy (aka, Pinot Noir), but rather was Gamay, the red grape of Beaujolais, in its current incarnation from Didier Montechovet, an oddball producer – working very close to Pommard – whose wines are always brilliantly expressive, if somewhat challenging. The appellation on the label, “Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire,” is a general appellation that is no longer used, with normally very low requirements for wines produced under its category – as the name implies, the wines with “BGO” status are considered very plain compared to AOC wines; however, there is nothing plain about this one.
The 2008 Didier Montechovet Bourgogne “Grand Ordinaire” shows pale brick red in the glass, with a nose packed with cranberry and strawberry aromas tinged with distinct orange peel elements, and a bit of spice and minerality. This in turn rushes into a mouthfeel defined by sharp acidity, especially in the midpalate, balanced to more juicy red berries and mineral; the wine is light-bodied at 10.5% alcohol, with a clean finish. Absolutely the strangest expression of Gamay I have ever encountered, and apparently extraordinarily lean this year; this might be a wine to watch for in the future. $15.
Today’s post concerns the single best American Chardonnay I have ever tasted. Better than Morgan, better than Heitz, easily the match for Kistler. This Chardonnay is the 2006 Ramey Wine Cellars Chardonnay, produced from grapes grown in the Russian River Valley, California. Beautiful. Just beautiful wine, comparable to almost any white Burgundy in its price point.
A gorgeous yellow gold in the glass, with flinty citrus and green apple aromas combining with hints of spice, flowers and honey on the nose. The mouthfeel is supple, silky, with tangerine and grapefruit bursting into ripe peach and mineral flavors, the body definitely showing some extended lees contact in barrel. It is moderately oaked, has vibrant acidity for a Chardonnay so rich, and ends with an unctuously long finish. This wine can be purchased by the half-bottle (375 mL) for the middling price of $22.
I am a fan of Burgundy, but great Burgundy is, as every aspiring wine snob knows, “mad expensive.” So I turn to the cheaper, still-tasty alternative producing nations, such as New Zealand, the United States, and Chile. For domestic Pinot, I generally turn to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, or cooler mesoclimates in California like the Carneros Valley. These regions can produce Pinot with finesse and grace.
The 2007 Primarius Pinot Noir, bottled in Walla Walla, Washington but sourced from good vineyards in Oregon, is an example of domestic finesse, and also has great intensity. Good bang for the buck. A light ruby red in the glass, decent clarity, with a nose of ripe red cherries, floral and vegetal notes, aged meats, and a slight smokiness. This follows with a silky mouthfeel, expressing nice vanilla and spiciness, tinged with mineral. Very well-balanced, long finish. $14.