PA Chairman's Selections for Fall 2013

11 years ago by Tim

I once again had the opportunity to taste through upcoming Chairman's Selections. Befitting the cooler weather, the wines are predominantly red and in general offer great values at all price points.

I've included my notes for all of the wines tasted. The notes are largely in order of tasting with a few exceptions, as I tried to group the "Value Reds" (prices under $20) and "Premium Reds" (prices under $20 or quoted price above $30).

To make things easier to navigate, I've included a short list of my most recommended wines below. As an extra bonus, I'm going to include some other upcoming Chairman's Selections that I'm excited about but were not included in this tasting.

Highly recommended wines, in order of tasting not preference:

Whites & Sparkling

2012 Shannon Ridge High Elevation Sauvignon Blanc. This is a very typical Sauvignon Blanc, dominated by grapefruit. Not a special wine, but a good buy at the price.

2012 Jermann Pinot Grigio. Jermann produces some of the greatest white wines in Italy. This is an excellent wine, with meyer lemon, stone fruit and hazelnut notes on the nose and great acidity. If you’ve dismissed Pinot Grigio in the past for being too simple, try this and I think you will be surprised at the complexity. A real treat for wine geeks and novices alike.

2012 Torres Verdeo Verdejo. Lots of green apple and citrus fruit, particularly lime, and some floral notes on the nose, all backed by an underlayer of crisp acidity on the palate. This may fall into most folks’ “summer sipper” category, but I think this is a great food wine that can be enjoyed year round.

2011 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay. This was my least favorite of the whites. This wine was matured in a mixture of new and used French, European and American oak barrels all at medium-plus toast levels, and it really shows. It’s also aged sur lie, which means the wine was left in contact with its lees, and then gently stirred in order to add complexity to the wine. Tropical fruit is present on the nose and palate, however the oak and the marshmallow and sour cream notes (from the lees stirring) sadly overpower the fruit component in this wine. For me, it’s a little over the top but it’s a style many will enjoy.

2012 Vigilance Chardonnay. This is a vast departure from the MacMurray – crisper and more balanced. There’s a lot of stone fruit and apple, more so than tropical, and the oak influence is subtle. A portion of the wine is put through malolactic fermentation which gives it a creamy richness, but there’s still good good acidity and balance. It’s a great buy.

2010 Chateau St. Jean Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay. This wine falls somewhere in between the last two Chardonnays. There’s a lot of oak here, but it’s a balanced and structured wine. There’s more going on here than the Vigilance - and while I still prefer the raciness of the Vigilance, this is an excellent buy compared to what’s typically on the shelf at this price point.

2012 Domaine Ehrhart Gewürztraminer Herrenweg. I wanted to like this more than I did. It’s a little sweet, and while it does finish dry, I wish it had more acidity. It’s fairly typical for the varietal otherwise, with lots of lychee, rose water and spice. Worth trying if you enjoy slightly off-dry wines. $14.99, quoted at $22.00.

1998 Cornaleto Franciacorta Pas Dose Riserva. Franciacorta is a favorite region of sommeliers for a reason. Made in the traditional Champagne method, this wine has lots of autolytic aromas (i.e., yeasty, biscuity) and shows its age with bruised apple and pear notes. There's zero dosage, so it’s very dry, but age has made the wine a little less austere than it probably was in its youth. There is a little funkiness on the nose, but not in an unpleasant way. Overall, I think this is a great sparkling wine for the holidays and will pair well with traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas fare. $29.99, quoted at $49.99.

Value Reds

2010 Coli Chianti Classico. Made in the “Ricasoli formula” with Sangiovese plus Trebbiano and Malvasia. I’m actually not sure how this blend is classified as Chianti Classico, as white grapes were prohibited in Chianti Classico beginning in 2006. In any case, the inclusion of these white grapes does make for an interesting wine. There’s a definite floral lift, and the wine is a little more aromatic than many examples. Light in color, with lots of red fruit and black cherry on the nose along with the distinctive licorice and anise notes found in many Italian wines. An enjoyable wine for this price. $9.99, quoted at $16.99.

2010 Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir. 75% of the grapes for this wine are sourced from Carneros and 25% from Russian River Valley. You can definitely taste the RRV influence - this is a plump, round wine with a distinct cherry cola element so prominent in wines from this region. It’s hardly a great wine, but enjoyable. Considering how hard it is to find enjoyable Pinot, especially from CA, under $15, I would recommend this for parties and "mid week" drinking.

2010 Garnet Pinot Noir. Less rich, and more tart, than the Chateau St. Jean offering, this has more cranberry and strawberry notes. This is a simple, but good, Pinot for the price. It’s also meant for everyday drinking, but I would probably recommend spending $2 more for the Chateau St. Jean.

2011 Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir. This Sonoma Coast Pinot is suprisingly quite round and some would say even a tad bit "showy," with loads of red fruit and even some dark plum elements. There’s also a noticeable greenness to the wine, probably attributable to the cold 2011 vintage and 20% whole cluster fermentation. On the whole, it’s a very nice Pinot if you want to spend a little more than the previous two discussed. At this price, it’s definitely worth trying, though I would say it’s lacking the complexity found in many peers I’ve tasted at or around the original price. $24.99, quoted at $35.00.

2011 Paul Dolan Deep Red Pinot Noir. Partially done in American oak barrels, the coconut and dill notes are very prominent in an otherwise light wine. Strange indeed. Overall, I did not find this to be an enjoyable wine and would not recommend. $15.99, quoted at $40.00.

2009 Columbia Winery Merlot. Plum, fruitcake and some purple flowers on the nose, and rich red and blue fruit on the palate with a hint of dark chocolate. Overall, this is a solid but kind of a boring wine - the type of wine you might expect to have triggered Miles’ infamous Merlot rant in Sideways. Still, at this price, it’s a great option as a holiday party wine. I doubt anyone will love this wine, but I’m also pretty sure no one will hate it. $9.99, quoted at $17.00.

2010 Cesarini Sartori Rossobastardo. This Umbrian red is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet and Sagrantino, and is done in stainless steel vats, cask and glass. The end result is a fresh, bright wine with nice acidity, dominated by cherry and licorice notes. It’s balanced and zesty, and a modest 13.5% ABV. I was pleasantly surprised by this wine and I would certainly recommend trying this. $11.99, quoted at $17.00.

2010 Pratale. A Super Tuscan, this is 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot. Think baked cherry pie with hints of cocoa – it’s a perfectly fine, if uninspiring, wine. Another one that would probably be a good buy for holiday parties. $10.99, quoted at $19.99.

2010 Sassello Bolgheri. This Super Tuscan is made predominantly from Cabernet Franc grapes, blended with Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Red and black fruit dominate, again with the distinctive anise and licorice notes, but the Cab Franc also brings some peppery and spicy notes to the wine. This is a very nice wine, with an exceptionally long finish. I would definitely recommend this one. $13.99, quoted at $19.99.

2011 Carpineto Rosso di Montepulciano. A blend 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo (typical of many Chianti) and aged in stainless steel. This is a light wine, with lots of cherry and red fruit. It’s sort of simple, but has some grip and medium acidity. It’s a good pasta/pizza wine. It’s a decent wine that I would probably recommend, however I think it was a bit overshadowed by the Sassello and Cesarini. $12.99, quoted at $19.00.

2008 Vina Eguia Crianza. Crianza wines are aged a minimum of one year in oak and one year in bottle. Dark fruit, leather and coconut and dill notes from the American oak on the nose, along with some varietal spiciness. 100% Tempranillo. It also comes with 91 points from Wine Advocate (87 from Wine Spectactor). For the price, it’s really a great buy. $8.99, quoted at $15.00.

2010 Durigutti Reserva Malbec. 98% Malbec with the remainder Cabernet Franc. This is a rich, tannic wine with a bright purple color typical of the varietal. Lots of dark red and blue fruits, mocha and some herbal notes on the nose. I don’t have a lot of say about this - it’s a well made wine, but not something I would typically buy. $15.99, quoted at $24.99.

2007 Attilo Ghisolfi Barbera d’Alba Maggiora. This might have been my favorite wine of the day. Bright and fresh, with great acidity, this is food friendly red at its best. Red fruit, dark plum, chocolate and earthiness on the nose and palate. Very well balanced, has some tannic grip but also refreshing acidity. This was the wine that had the tasters asking for seconds. Highly recommend. $14.99, quoted at $25.00.

2009 Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva. This is a really nice, rich Chianti. It’s a plush, ripe wine with black cherry, raspberry and licorice and ample structure. Drinking very well right now. I’d definitely recommend trying this, and preferred this denser style to the Coli Chianti Classico. $13.99, quoted at $22.00.

2011 Santa Julia Magna. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Malbec, with the remainder Syrah. Noticeable oak from the 10 months it spends in new and second-use French oak, there’s lot of vanilla and baking spice along with black and red fruit, tobacco and chocolate. The oak definitely softens what would undoubtedly be ripping and unpleasant tannin. Very enjoyable, and another great value red in the fall lineup. $10.99, quoted at $18.00.

2009 Bodegas Triton Tridente. This Tempranillo from Castilla y Leon drinks like a very good Ribera del Duero. Distinctly Spanish, but made in a very modern style with prominent oak influence. Cherry, vanilla and baking spice on the nose with great depth and a long finish. Well crafted, and very balanced. Highly recommend. $11.99, quoted at $20.00.

2011 Maison Bouachon Les Rabassieres Vielle Vignes Cotes-du-Rhone. I don’t have a lot to say about this wine, good or bad. That’s not meant to be an indictment - it’s a perfectly fine Cotes-du-Rhone for the price, but it’s just sort of unremarkable. A fresh, fruity style with some herbal notes. $9.99, quoted at $14.99.

2009 Veramonte Primus Cabernet Sauvignon. Not evaluated, possibly flawed. There was a strong, unpleasant chemical odor on the nose, possibly high levels of volatile acidity or ethyl acetate. Either way, the wine tasted fine but it was really hard to get past the nose. It’s possible we had a flawed bottle, as the published review from Wine Spectactor and Wine Enthusiast didn’t mention this, but as we tasted, I can’t recommend. $12.99, quoted at $20.00.

2010 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon. A fairly typical Sonoma Cabernet, with good complexity, balance and finish. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better Cali Cab for this price - and certainly a better option than many of the supermarket brands on the shelf at this price. $15.99, quoted at $27.00.

Premium Reds

2006 Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Grenache.A very nice, elegant wine, but showing signs of age. Ruby, almost purple in color at the core, but tawny on the rim, and some slightly oxidative notes. There’s a lot of "stink" on the nose at first pour, but this cleared out quickly with some time in glass and gave way to rich raspberry, spice and eucalyptus notes. It’s a silky wine, and though I was concerned at first, this actually improved over the following several days. Long finish. I would definitely recommend this wine, but might caution against extended cellaring. I think it’s probably reached its peak, and won’t be getting any better. Drink now. $34.99, quoted at $65.00.

2008 Goose Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Plum, mocha and coconut (from 35% American oak), this was kind of like drinking a liquid version of an Almond Joy candy bar. I know what you're thinking - that sounds remarkably unpleasant, however this wine was a very enjoyable, solid wine for the price. It might benefit from a little age, but I would recommend drinking now. $19.99, quoted at $35.00.

2011 Flowers Perennial. I wanted to hate this truly unique blend of 48% Pinot Noir, 44% Syrah, 4% Pinot Meunier, 3% Dolcetto and 1% - but I loved it. It’s a very well made wine from an excellent producer, and in the hands of a less capable winemaker it would probably be a mess. Instead, it’s a unique but truly lovely wine with the color and transparency of Pinot Noir, but the characteristics of a GSM blend. Some prune and licorice notes were noticeable as well, which surely come from the inclusion of Dolcetto. Highly recommended for casual drinkers and wine enthusiasts alike. $19.99, quoted at $38.00.

2010 Clos du Bois Marlstone. The last vintage of Marlstone offered in the Chairman’s Selection program was the 2007. The 2010 is back at the same price. If you want to spend a little more than the Chateau St. Jean, you’ll get a very nice Alexander Valley Cabernet. Plum, cassis and blue fruits on the nose, with nice balance and soft and silky tannins. I might describe this as a bit flabby, which would be a bigger deal at the quoted price. At this price, however, it’s hardly a fatal flaw. I liked this wine. $24.99, quoted at $49.99.

2009 Conway Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the inaugural vintage of the Conway, from the same producers of the Deep Sea Red and White that were in the Chairman’s Program earlier this year - favorites of many, including us. A rich, dense wine with dusty tannins typical of the Rutherford appellation. This is a very nice wine, though personally I will be spending $10 more for the Heitz. $39.99, quoted at $77.00.

2001 Heitz Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I have always enjoyed Heitz wines, and the 2001 Trailside is no exception. There’s exceptional balance and restraint in this wine. Black cherry, plum, cassis and spice, with a distinct minerality and some herbal notes on the palate. There’s a long life ahead of this wine, and it would probably benefit from a couple more years in the bottle. I will be buying, and recommend this as highly as I did the 2000 Martha’s Vineyard. $49.99, quoted at $90.00.

2010 Renwood Boucard’s Zinfandel. A rich, dark, spicy Zinfandel with red and blue fruit and refreshing acidity for such a lush wine. I really enjoyed this wine and I think it’s a great buy for Thanksgiving at this price. Overall, I’ve been very impressed with recent wines from Renwood. $17.99, quoted at $39.99.

2008 Terre da Vino Essenze Barolo. Dense red and black fruits, with violet and tar typical of Barolo. Of course, there is a lot of coarse tannins that give this wine serious grip, but it’s not overbearing and this might be a Barolo you can enjoy in its youth (preferably after double-decanting and with food). A good price for a very good wine. $29.99, quoted at $60.00.

2007 Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino. A really nice wine for the price. It’s a rich, chewy wine, with lots of secondary notes - earth, mushrooms, spice and a bit of nuttiness. This is a complex wine with a lot going on, though unfortunately it might have been overshadowed by some of the big hitters in this flight. $17.99, quoted at $34.00.

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