Roederer Estate 2004 L’Ermitage, Anderson Valley Brut

World famous Champagne Louis Roederer Group is best known for its Cristal Champagne, a cuvee created by special request of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1876. In addition to Cristal, Roederer produces several other tiers of bubbles including Burt Premier, their widely distributed flagship multi-vintage Champagne.

Founded in 1776, Louis Roederer remains one of the largest family owned Champagne houses. Jean-Claude Rouzaud, current Chairman of the Board is 5th generation descendant and grandson of Madame Olry-Roederer. He took over as President in 1979 and has subsequently handed over the reigns to his son Frédéric Rouzaud in 2006, continuing family control.

During his reign, Jean-Claude Rouzaud added several wineries from around the world to Louis Roederer Group’s portfolio, including California extension, Roederer Estate in 1982. Looking for ideal climate and terroir, Rouzaud finally settled on a 580 acre property in Anderson Valley. Roederer Estate’s sparkling wines are produced utilizing the same century old traditions of Champagne Louis Roederer in France – most specifically, complete ownership and control of vineyards and adding oak aged reserve wines to each blend.

Roederer Estate L’Ermitage debut in 1993 as their premium sparkler to critical acclaim and is only produced in exceptional growing years. The 2004 vintage blend is 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, plus 4% aged reserve wine, vintage 2000. Golden straw color, fine mousse. Pear, apple, citrus, brioche, slightly earthy. Fresh but complex, focused acidity. Absolutely terrific sparkling wine. Alcohol 12.3%. 5,800 total cases produces. Retail $47.


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Rivers-Marie 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

14.5% ABV | Price: $55

My first experience with Rivers-Marie was a few years back with their Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir; absolutely blew me away, prompting me to immediately join their mailing list in hopes for a future Pinot allocation. Then the email arrived…but not for the Pinots. I was offered an allocation of Cabernet Sauvignon with the promise of a Pinot allocation. With an initial reaction of disappointment, having had my experience with other so called “cult” wineries requiring purchase of substandard wine in order to get access to their flagship, I went ahead with the purchase. Why? Pedigree of winemaker. I indeed received a future allocation of their full lineup.

Rivers-Marie Winery is the brainchild of Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh. Although Rivers-Marie is best known for their critically acclaimed Pinot Noir, Brown is best known for his high-end Cabs as consulting winemaker for 15 wineries, including Outpost and Schrader – modern Cabs in style.

The 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a 12 barrel blend of 25% Oakville, 42% St Helena and 33% Spring Mountain from the Baconbrook Vineyard. 50% new French oak, 14.5% alcohol, 305 cases produced.

This is a sensual wine. Nose of dark fruit, spice, kirsch, cedar, and some vanilla. Seductive, silky texture, full bodied, plush mouthfeel. Flavors of red and black fruit, leather, cassis, menthol. Fine tannins, long, soft finish. Terrific experience.

Though $55 per bottle is not cheap by any means, this wine is a true value. Just have a peek at some retail/auction prices of Brown’s other wines.

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Vertical of Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC

Perseverance and longevity, two words that describe the Bertani brand as well as the Amarone variety. I recently had the privilege of sampling five decades of Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC – a blend of Corvina and Rondinella grapes, all from Bertani estate vineyards located in Verona, Italy.

Bertani was founded in 1857 by brothers Gaetano and Giovan Battista Bertani, vintners who had the wisdom to invest locally in fine vineyards. A storied history to follow.

Amarone is a very unique variety – after harvest, the ripe grapes loaded with sugar are laid out to dry on bamboo cane mats. Several months later, after losing approximately 60% of their water content, the grapes are ready for maceration followed by fermentation. The wine is then transferred to oak vessels for 5-8 years prior to bottling, another year in bottle before release. The resulting wine is bold, dry, full bodied, and intense with a remarkable capacity for aging.

Led by Andrea Lonardi, Bertani Winemaker and Technical Director. the vintages sampled were 1964, 1973, 1981, 1990, 1998, and 2006. Surprisingly, each of these vintages are available for retail sale today – prices ranging from $130 to $450 per bottle. Definitely not cheap but we’re talking bottles that are 50 years old, and remarkably alive and well.

The 1964 is reminiscent of dried cherry, burnt orange rind, tobacco. A lean, elegant profile. The 1973, a hotter vintage, is rounder than the 64 with nice tannins and balance, nuances of cherry liquor and cinnamon. The 1981 has the spiciest nose, bit hotter on palate, flavors of chocolate, eucalyptus, chamomile, and black pepper. The 1990 has brighter acid, not as integrated as the older vintages but definitely a fresher profile – beautiful wine, a future stunner. The 1998, my favorite, synchronicity of flavor profile, structure, balance, a stunner. 2006 was a very good growing year, powerful wine but just a baby.

This was a wonderful experience, mind boggling that wines decades old can still have so much to offer. A testament to producer and variety.

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Frati Horn – Bahl Hornin’

Frati Horn
Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

14.5% ABV | Price: $29

Boontling is a language native to Boonville, California; largest town in Anderson Valley. Thought to have originated in 1875 as a way for the locals to communicate privately. Absolutely fascinating to hear the language spoken – have a look for translation of the lingo.

Frati Horn, meaning “Glass of Wine”, is a tribute to the history of Anderson Valley. Project is vision of George and Anne Coughlin, in partnership with John Phillips of Inspiration Winery and Custom Crush Grapes; grapes are sourced from small ultra-premium vineyards on the Boonville valley floor. 2009 vintage is a blend of Dijon Clone 777 and Pommard, open-top fermented, bottled after 12 months in 50% new French oak.

My initial thoughts revolved around the retail price of $29. Anderson Valley has established itself as a solid source of terrific Pinot Noir, with most bottlings selling for $40 and up. This was either going to be a super value or total letdown. Ruby red color, aromas and flavors of black cherry, cola, and cranberry, with subtle hints of sage and vanilla. Nice acid and structure with a medium length finish. Bottom line: very typical Anderson Valley Pinot Noir; steal at $29.

Only 50 cases of the 2009 were produced and is sold out. However, 2010 vintage is still available for the same retail price; different blend of Dijon Clones 115, 777, and Pommard from Ridley, Balo, and Londer vineyards. Bahl Hornin’ – “It’s good drinking!”

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Italian Pinot Noir

When I think back to great Italian wines I’ve had the opportunity to sample, Pinot Noir (Nero) does not make the list, nor does Oltrepo Pavese DOC. That all changed at the 2013 Tre Bicchieri tasting in San Francisco on February 7th, where I got to sample Frecciarossa 2008 Giorgio Odero Pinot Nero.

Oltrepò Pavese is located in northwest Italian region of Lombardy, bordering Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna. Approximately 4,000 hectares of Pinot Noir are planted, most of any region in Italy. The area is not generally known for high quality wine, with majority of the Pinot Noir used for sparkling wines or blended into other still wines; due to early ripening and clonal selection. That said, Oltrepò Pavese has become a region that is more consistently producing high-quality Pinot Noir.

Grapes are hand harvested, lightly destemmed, cold soaked in stainless steel tanks for 8-10 days. The wine is transferred to barrels to undergo malolactic fermentation, then transferred to a combination of new, one year old, and large format barrels to age for one year. After bottling, the wine is aged an additional two years before sale. 1,160 cases produced.

Ruby red in color with orange rim. Complex aromas and palate of dried red berry, plum, black currant, orange zest, earthy notes, herbaceousness, and integrated oak. Full bodied, juicy, moderate acidity; elegant with velvety tannins and a medium-long finish. Very nicely structured. 14% ABV. Not at all reminiscent of Burgundy or New World Pinot Noir but a unique, alluring expression in it’s own right.

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