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Category Archives: Expensive wine

Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Califa Chardonnay 2011

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Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Califa Chardonnay 2011One of the challenges with writing about California chardonnay, and especially the expensive kind, is that the Wine Curmudgeon is often in danger of wearing out his welcome. How often will visitors here read “over-oaked” and “too much alcohol” before they shake their heads, click the post closed, cancel their e-mail subscription, and hope someone tells me I need to get some help.

Fortunately, I was at a big-time tasting last week, and the Califa ($40, sample, 13.2%) was one of the highlights. It comes from the Edna Valley, which means winemaker Fintan du Fresne doesn’t have to deal with the expectations that winemakers do in Napa or Sonoma. That means he can take advantage of the region’s cooler temperatures (and it was very cool in 2011) to fashion a leaner, though still rich and elegant, white wine. Look for green apple and lime fruit, some amazing crispness, and just enough oak to let you know you’re drinking high-end chardonnay.

How nice was this wine? I preferred the Califa to Pine Ridge’s Dijon Clones chardonnay, also at the tasting, and there was nothing wrong with the Dijon Clones. The Califa wasn’t intent on impressing me with the first sip; rather, it’s as if it said, “Take your time. Drink a little more, and really get to know me.”

Highly recommended (though, sadly, with what appears to limited availability). This is a Mother’s Day gift for any mom who loves wine and wants to be reminded why California is one of the world’s great wine regions.

Expensive wine 61: Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2011

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Expensive wine 61: Adelsheim Elizabeth's Reserve Pinot Noir 2011The Wine Curmudgeon has long lamented the state of pinot noir, in which much of the expensive stuff doesn’t taste like pinot any more. And that the expensive stuff is way past expensive, priced so that only tech moguls and Chinese generals can afford it. And that many winemakers get annoyed when someone asks them about this, as if we’re questioning their ability.

Fortunately, there are still producers who can remind us of pinot’s greatness, and Oregon’s Adelsheim Vineyard is one of them. The Elizabeth’s Reserve ($55, sample, 13%) is beautiful and classic Oregon pinot noir. Look for elegant red fruit, a subtle but full middle that is almost coy, and tannins the way they should be in pinot noir — a hint and not a kick in the teeth. The oak shows through more than I would like, but that’s probably a function of youth. The wine is still a little young, and could use another year or two in bottle.

This is not necessarily a food wine, but would be even better with it, including and especially the classic pinot pairing of roast lamb. Highly recommended; in fact, I found another bottle after I drank this one. Don’t know where it came from, but I’m glad it did. I’m going to let the second bottle age and save it for a special occasion.

Expensive wine 59: J Vintage Brut Late Disgorged 2003

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Expensive wine 59: J Vintage Brut Late Disgorged 2003There won’t be a specific post for wine and Valentine’s Day this year, but I will cover the subject today, tomorrow (featuring Valentine’s Day suggestions from around the Internet), and Wednesday. I did a Valentine’s post last year because I wanted to emphasize sparkling wine, but that job is pretty well done. And I’m not a big fan of the holiday that must not be named, anyway.

I am, however, a huge fan of the J Vintage ($90, sample, 12.5%), price be damned.  Is “very yummy” too technical a wine term to describe it?

Look for layers and layers of complexity and flavor – some pear fruit, some yeastiness (but not overdone the way many French wines at this price are), and even some melon. Don’t often get that in a bubbly. In all of this, the wine is not as aggressive as J’s non-vintage wines, which means less citrus and more subtlety in the fruit flavors. But there are still lots and lots of tiny bubbles, for those of us who love that.

Is it worth nine bottles of a quality $10 Spanish cava? That all depends who you are going to share it with.

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