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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 60: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2011

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Expensive wine 60: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2011Year in and year out, regardless of wine trends, fads, and the latest critical darlings, Grgich Hills is a model of consistency. Want quality wine at a fair (if expensive) price? Grgich rarely disappoints. My notes for previous vintages are amazingly similar: Classic. Rich. Tasteful. Balanced.

The 2011 chardonnay ($42, sample, 13.5%) is no exception. It’s everything one expects of a Napa chardonnay at this price — oak and vanilla balanced by apples and pears that play off each other; a rich mouth feel that doesn’t overwhelm, which is not easy to do; and a long finish that has you swallowing for many seconds after the wine is gone. In other words, classic and tasteful.

This is wine for celebration, whether birthday, anniversary, or even a dinner with someone you care about and want to share a great wine with. In this, it proves something that I learned a long time ago — wine isn’t about price or scores or trying to impress someone else, but about who you drink it with and where you are when you do.

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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