One of the modern-day legends of California’s Rhône Rangers, Saxum’s founder, Justin Smith, has revolutionized the quality and expression of Paso Robles wines. The 2018 James Berry Vineyard Bone Rock (released earlier this year) is through-the-roof good. The brightness and intensity of this wine genuinely speak of perfect conditions to produce a perfect wine! And then came another jaw dropper…
The story of L’If
In 2010, Jacques Thienpont, owner of the illustrious Pomerol property Le Pin, did something unexpected. He bought a small, unlikely vineyard of around five hectares located on the backroads of Saint-Émilion. The estate was formerly known as Château Haut-Plantey; not that many had ever heard of it. Situated next to a run-down barn, the vines were in a poor state. But Jacques saw more than future potential here. He heard a calling from his past.
2019 Cru Bourgeois
In the Médoc, if you were passed over by the great anointing sword of the 1855 Classification, it can be challenging to get noticed, no matter how good you are in terms of quality or value. This was an impressively consistent showing, with nearly a hundred Cru Bourgeois wines from the 2019 vintage, not just because this is such a great vintage, but because the Cru Bourgeois designation is starting to mean something.
The 2018 Pym-Rae takes full advantage of the more extended, cooler growing season and slow evolution of flavor ripeness the year brought. It’s a vintage which kicks the layers up a notch. It’s impressive how each year of this new estate brings out the singular nature of its remote site, yet the wine’s earthy restraint speaks clearly of Mount Veeder.
There will be more to say about the extent of the smoke taint issue in Californian wines in 2020 when I produce the largescale reports on California Central Coast and Napa Valley later this year. But as offers on the 2020 wines are starting to emerge, we wanted to give consumers a heads-up.
Vine Hill Ranch 2009-2019
Vine Hill Ranch was a vineyard which in the 90s had gained an enviable reputation as a supplier to some of the greatest, most expensive labels in Napa Valley. Then one day, Bruce Philips’ father handed his son the seed of a thought. “Imagine what we could do with this fruit,” his father said, “Imagine if.” Today, here is one of the most spectacular expressions of Napa Cabernet.
Château Beychevelle 1995-2021
Tasting the evolution of Beychevelle over 27 vintages was an uplifting experience. It is a joy to see this great estate finding its sea legs among changes in management and fresh investment. It has gained an impressive consistency over the last decade, at last making the most of its exemplary terroir.
Château Fontenil 2001-2020
The unlikely vineyard in Fronsac was a massive all-or-nothing undertaking for Dany and Michel Rolland. Realizing its’ potential has been their passion over the last 36 years. Fontenil has never been made to formula; it is led by the heart, constantly striving for better.
The Penfolds Collection 2022
Peter Gago held a reveal party in Bordeaux last month, featuring a lineup fronted by a very impressive, decadently showy, epically long-lived Grange that die-hard collectors will not want to miss. Penfolds’ unveiling of “The Collection,” is one of Australia’s most anticipated annual wine events. And, true to form, it wouldn’t be a Penfolds Australia portfolio tasting without something new to show for the first time.
Château Quintus 2011-2020
In June this year, Jean-Philippe Delmas set up a tasting for us encompassing all the vintages of Quintus and Dragon de Quintus made thus far. It’s clear to see that Quintus is reaching a stage where it is a sum greater than its parts. It is beginning to take flight with a whole new wine personality under it’s wings. The most recent vintages are perfumed, hedonic powerhouses.
Bordeaux 2005 Retrospective
We’ve assembled a comprehensive view of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest vintages of the 21st Century (so far). Many top names turned out to be as impressive as suspected and a few others surpassed expectations. In particular, Clos Fourtet, Rauzan-Segla, Smith Haut Lafitte, and La Gaffeliere shimmered as real jaw-droppers with a long life ahead!
Barolo and Barbaresco, 2017, 2018, & 2019
Recent vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco represent a golden era for the Piedmont region and to the consumer these vintages create a happy buying situation. A sea change has been going on here of late. Especially, but not only, among young producers. The results are exciting and extremely positive. It is nothing less than a quiet revolution in style.
Additional notes added for Armando Piazzo, Gabutti Boasso, Broccardo, Luigi Giordano, Brovio, Renato Ratti, Cristian Boffa, Grasso Tiziano, La Fusina, Raineri, Luigi Vico, Crissante Alessandria, Reva, E. Molino, Fontanafredda, Pasquale Pelissero, Ruggeri Corsini, Colla, Arnaldo Rivera, Amalia, Fogliati, Culasso Piercarlo, Gheddo, and Domenico Clerico.
Cloudburst’s New Releases
In 2013, I was covering the wines of Australia for The Wine Advocate. During one of my largescale tastings, I stumbled across a new Margaret River Chardonnay that was so singular, so good, that I vowed to pay a visit to the vineyard on my next trip to the area. There can be no denying that these wines are not only of outstanding quality but, more importantly, they are unique.
Château La Pointe 2004-2020
La Pointe is a solid expression of Pomerol that remains well-priced. On an upwards swing, it’s worth taking advantage of the latest releases. Recent improvements to the vineyard management can be seen in the ripeness of tannins and fruit intensity, offering downright delicious drinking and greater ageing potential.
Rudd Estate New Releases
I found Rudd Estate’s 2019 line-up bright, energetic, and nuanced. Simply delicious and with considerable aging potential, the Leslie’s Blend from the Mt. Veeder vineyard is a stand-out natural beauty. What I particularly love about this wine is its singularity, possessing a lot of muscle while revealing the earthier, more restrained side of Napa.
Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2011-2018
In an “old” world region like Bordeaux, it is easy to be dismissive of change. Today the rate of change has accelerated. Cellars are demolished and rebuilt, the winemaker merry-go-round, vineyards sold and tacked onto other châteaux names, and here comes another foreign investor. This constant flux is par for the course in Bordeaux and seldom impacts more than those directly involved. What is interesting, however, is when the wine changes. Dramatic style and quality shake-ups impact us all.
Léoville Poyferré 2000-2017
Compared to the other two more serious, strait-laced Léovilles, Poyferré is the out-of-the-gate gorgeous, enticingly flamboyant sibling. If this is your style, these are vintages of Léoville Poyferré at its finest that you will not want to miss!
Napa Vintages 18, 19 & 20
2018, 2019, and 2020 are three very different Northern California growing seasons, producing wines of distinctive stylistic signatures, revealing three deliciously different faces of Napa Valley. Intensity and depth. Rock solid structures. Fruit to fore. Stellar and age worthy. Take your pick.
Château Pontet-Canet 2010-2020
The signatures that shine through each of these years are brightness, energy, and the purity of fruit, creating a singular expression of Pauillac that hovers above the crowd. And yet there remains a firmly structured classicism about the 2019 vintage, instilling a sense of regionality and a gravitas. A Pauillac paradox, today’s Pontet-Canet is both timeless and ahead of its time.
Château Brane-Cantenac 2000-2018
Positive changes are happening at Château Brane-Cantenac. There’s no jarring difference in style here, such as a trend correction veering abruptly towards a new ripeness/harvest philosophy or a flashy winemaking makeover. The stylistic changes in recent vintages are cleverly subtle.
Harlan Estate and Bond New Releases
It was business as usual at Harlan Estate, tasting with the whole gang: Bill Harlan, Don Weaver, Bob Levy, Will Harlan, and winemaking director Cory Empting. About a year ago, the reins were handed over to Bill’s son, Will Harlan, who is now managing director over all the Harlan estates, but there are no dramatic changes in style here, which is not to say there are no changes.
La Conseillante 2009-2019
The velvety tannin texture which is the signature of this vineyard is more evident than ever and the wines are at a new level of consistency since the fifth generation of the Nicolas family stepped into managing the estate in 2003. It’s an iron fist in a crushed violets glove.
Sauternes 2019 in bottle
2019 was an outstanding year for Bordeaux red wines. Still, the necessary weather conditions for the forging of the region’s high-quality reds are counterproductive to great Sauternes and Barsac production. Much of the 2019 growing season was warm to hot and dry. By the end of September, the prospects for significant noble rot—the beneficial face of Botrytis necessary for producing truly great sweet whites—were looking quite bleak. It had thus far been too warm and dry when cooler, humid/wet conditions are required to kickstart the measured infection of the fungus.
Chateau Figeac, 1979-2019
Not to be different, but Thierry Manoncourt was different. Unashamedly bucking trends, questioning the status quo, unafraid to speak his peace – different. With an eloquent, gentlemanly demeanor that belied his stubbornness, Manoncourt certainly wasn’t short on opinions nor passion for his vineyard.
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Dominus latest releases
Coming up to the spring releases of 2019 Napanook and Dominus, Lisa Perrotti-Brown took the opportunity in March to taste with the estate’s director of viticulture and winemaking, Tod Mostero. They also discussed amongst other things why the consistency of quality at Dominus, particularly over the last two decades, is so impressive it’s almost annoying.
Promontory’s 2016 release
At the very pinnacle of wine culture, what we drink should be equal parts deliciousness and captivation. Case in point; In the 80s, Bill Harlan went hiking and stumbled across an abandoned prohibition-era bootlegger’s cabin and a small vineyard amidst the remote wilderness…
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Château d’Yquem’s new release
2019 was one of those nail-biting vintages for Yquem. Come mid to late September, no botrytis. Pickers’ thumbs twiddled over their secateurs, anxiously awaiting an appearance from their mercurial fungal friend. But the growing season had thus far been too dry to spark its presence. Lisa Perrotti-Brown reviews Yquem’s new release.