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Category Archives: Expensive wine

Expensive wine 58: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2007

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Expensive wine 58: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 2007Most of the time, for most of the wines we drink, it doesn’t matter if the wine is too cold. Or if you don’t open it ahead of time. Or decant it. We drink them, we enjoy them (or not), and then we move to the next wine.

And then there are wines like the La Sizeranne ($125, sample, 13.5%), which require all the care and comfort we can give it.

That’s because this is an exceptional wine; if you don’t fuss over it, it will be that much more difficult to discover how exceptional. At first glance, it’s a classic wine from the Hermitage in France’s northern Rhone — made with syrah, featuring red fruit, mushroom earthiness, and some peppery spice.

But take care with it, and you’ll discover the sophistication that only great wines have, and which makes them so difficult to describe to those who haven’t tasted them. It’s like reading Hemingway. The Nick Adams stories are wonderfully written, but you can’t feel them — the fish on the fire, the chill of the early morning river, the northern Michigan wilderness — until you read them.

I know this because I didn’t take great care with this wine, mostly just opened it and drank it, and I didn’t realize what I was missing until it was almost gone. One day, the La Sizeranne will be powerful and intense. Today, it’s young and controlled, like a boy at a school dance who is afraid to talk to girls. But the promise is there of what could happen in another three or four or five years, and of what it could turn into in its prime, for years and years after that.

Expensive? Certainly. But given how many expensive wines are so disappointing, it’s not much of a stretch to say this delivers value. Just remember to fuss over it.

Expensive wine 57: Ridge York Creek Zinfandel 2009

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Dollar for dollar, the best winery in California may be Ridge Vineyards. This may seem an odd thing for the Wine Curmudgeon to write, given that none of its wines cost less than $25. But Ridge crams value in every wine, and I’ve long admired its commitment to quality and fair pricing.

How well run is Ridge? How about the York Creek ($28, purchased, 15.3%), made in a style that usually makes me hit the wine rant key on the computer. It’s Ridge’s version of a high-scoring Wine Magazine zinfandel, which means lots of alcohol, too much oak, and plenty of sweet black fruit, and in this often tastes more like port than table wine. The difference, of course, is that since it’s a Ridge product, the York Creek has structure, body, and tannins, and tastes like wine and not a novelty act. Look for some very nice herbal notes, too, something that seems almost impossible given all the alcohol.

Very nicely done, and if I didn’t like it as much as Ridge’s Lytton Springs zinfandel (which didn’t seem to be available in Dallas), that’s my preference and not a reflection on the wine. It’s well worth drinking, a prime rib wine for Christmas at about half the price of the Winestream Media’s over-the-top zinfandels.

Expensive wine 56: Torbreck The Steading 2009

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steadingOne of the surprises when I wrote this year’s holiday wine trends post was the resurgence in Australian wine. The Aussies have been down for so long, and seemed to have so far to go to come back, that it was one of the last things that I expected.

Yet, on reflection, I’ve seen evidence of that over the past year, on both the low (Yalumba’s $10 wines) and high ends (the d’Arenberg Dead Arm). These are wines that acknowledge the excesses of the past but have found a way to make Australian wine that tastes not like someone thinks it should, but as it should, given the terroir the country’s winemakers have to work with.

The most recent example is The Steading ($38, sample, 15%), a shiraz that mostly lives up to the hype on the winery website: “The Steading is perhaps the most important wine within the Torbreck portfolio. …” It’s powerful, but not offensively so, as was the style in the past when 15 percent shirazes didn’t care what they tasted like as long as they were 15 percent shirazes.

It’s a dark, earthy and peppery wine, and thorougly intriguing. Missing was the blast of black fruit that I expected, but it was still fruity (blackberry?), as a wine of this kind should be. And, though the label says 15 percent alcohol, it didn’t taste like it. This is a a big wine that needs food, and would not be out of place at most holiday tables.

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