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Category Archives: Expensive wine

Expensive wine 65: Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2003

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Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-MusignyThe Wine Curmudgeon long ago accepted the fact he would never get to taste most of the world’s great wines. Even if I could afford them, what with prices like $500 for a bottle of Cheval Blanc from an ordinary vintage, availability is difficult.

Which is why I’m always grateful when The Big Guy brings a bottle of Burgundy to the house. These French wines — the red is pinot noir and the white is chardonnay — are his favorites, and we always have a terrific time marveling at how well the Burgundians put them together, and always seem to get a whole that is greater than the parts.

The Hudelot-Noellat ($60, purchased, 13%) is no exception. The producer is one of the most respected in the region, one of those family businesses that make Burgundy We tasted it about 18 months ago, and it was still young and lively, with a zingy, almost tangy fruit aroma and a wonderful burst of red fruit (strawberry, as hard as that is to believe) in the middle. He brought another bottle over last month, and the wine had calmed down quite a bit. It’s probably ready to drink; the fruit is starting to become part of the wine, and isn’t something that stands out. It’s a wonder of oak and tannins, a lesson in how to use oak in pinot noir and how to craft tannins that give the wine structure but don’t overwhelm it.

This is an elegant, subtle wine, one that is gone before you notice what has happened, and then you wonder why there isn’t any left. It’s a reminder of just how good red Burgundy can be, and why it’s so expensive.

Expensive wine 64: Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Caymus cabernet sauvignon 2012The Wine Curmudgeon has a surprisingly long history with Caymus, considering how much its wines cost and that I don’t usually write about wines that cost that much. First, there was this, involving Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as well as a big-time lunch last year when I tasted the 2003 Special Select, which someone mentioned sold for around $300 a bottle (assuming you could find it).

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was asked to participate in a Twitter tasting for the Caymus 2012 cabernet sauvignon ($60, sample, 14.6%), honoring the winery’s 40th anniversary. Which I agreed to do, and then had to cancel because I forgot I was judging the Critics Challenge that weekend and couldn’t do both.

Which would have been fun, because this is an intriguing wine — full of fruit and oak in a style I don’t usually like, but put together with such passion and honesty that even I can appreciate it. In fact, I tasted the wine with The Big Guy and L. Kleinpeter, and each was raving: “Intense.” “Well integrated.” “Rich and luscious.” And, perhaps the biggest compliment: Both would buy the Caymus, and these are two people who spend a lot of time drinking cheap wine with me.

The Caymus is very young, and the dark fruit (black cherry? blackberries?) practically jumps off the glass when you put your mouth over it, though it should age gracefully over the next couple of years. This is a wine loaded with sweet fruit, as these wines almost always are, but the fruit is part of the whole, and the tannins are fine and almost tasty, something that is not easy to do. In this, it is a wine that is exactly what people who appreciate Napa cabernet want, and done impeccably.

Expensive wine 63: Volta Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

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Volta Cabernet Sauvignon The email was straightforward: Would the Wine Curmudgeon review the Volta cabernet sauvignon ($60, sample, 14.5%), even though it wasn’t the kind of wine usually featured on the blog? “A review in your monthly expensive wine feature would be great if that works out for June,” wrote the winery representative. “I wouldn’t dare insist it be a positive one, only that you share your true thoughts with your readers.”

Which is what the Wine Curmudgeon does anyway, so a few considerations about the Volta cabernet sauvignon:

• It’s a good example of this kind of pricey Napa Valley wine, rich and full with a burst of sweet berry fruit, very smooth tannins, and a chalky finish. The grapes are top quality, but you’d expect that from a wine at this price. The oak is relatively subdued, and it’s not as over-extracted and over-ripe as many similarly priced and styled wines from this part of the world. Having said that, it’s not subtle, either, and is firmly part of the post-modern wine movement.

The wine is hot, which means the alcohol shows more than it should. It’s most noticeable when you smell it, when there is a whiff of something that isn’t fruity; and on the finish, when it’s almost like a sharp bite. This isn’t unusual for this kind of wine, because it’s made with very ripe grapes that have more sugar to be turned into alcohol during fermentation. I don’t like hot wine, but many people consider it a good thing. I don’t know any, but I do know they are out there.

• This bottle did not hold up well after we opened it. After 30 minutes in the glass, the wine started to fade and it lost much of its fruitiness. I don’t know if it was just this bottle, or if the vintage has started to get old. This style of wine, given the grapes’ ripeness and the techniques used to make it, doesn’t always age well.

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