It's been a long time. Apologies, but I've been very busy in Poland. Back in Pittsburgh, I have tasted over the Holidays the newest bunch of Chairman's wines and I have the pleasure to offer you my reviews.
You may think that I have a Spanish bias, and that could be the case, but the present offerings from Rioja 2016, Bullas and Calatayud are not to be missed. The Chianti Riserva, a very affordable Alentejo, an intriguing Australian, and a relatively-inland Albariño are highly recommendable. And there is a good 2019 Bordeaux in there at a great price. You will also find other interesting wines from the usual suspects: US, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Chile and Argentina. 32 in total.
I hope you enjoy them.
CVNE Gran Reserva 2016, Tempranillo, Graciano - Rioja, Spain
Aroma of custard raspberry cake that you can only get from the very long oak aging of a Gran Reserva. It is such a distinctive aroma!
In mouth it has perfect acidity level and soft velvety tannins. Long and deep bouquet. Cinnamon notes in there.
In these times of fruity wines it is rewarding to go back to an old style that values bouquet and the results of long aging. Gran reserva Riojas are lone heroes standing for a wine style against the preferences of some of the establishment pundits. And this vintage was so powerful that the fruit is still there.
If it was a Bordeaux it would cost at least $80.
14% alc., 95 pts JS, 90 pts WS.
$19.99 My Rating: 94 pts.
Clemente VII 2018 - Chianti Classico Riserva, Italy
Aromas of cherries, grapefruit, tobacco, dark chocolate and vanilla. Medium to big body with felt-like tannins. A little bit of bitterness in the aftertaste that promised to be longer. Delicious the day after. The tannins had softened and were solid, dense but beautifully creamy. Great structure. 14% alc. 2018 was a pretty good slow-ripening vintage but it does not reach the heights of 2015 and 2016. Also grab 2019s when they become available since they should be very good. A quasi-permanent feature in Chairman’s Selection. 93 pts JS and 93 pts IWR.
$16.99 My Rating: 92 pts.
3000 Años 2017, Monastrell 50%, Syrah 50% - Bullas, Spain
The bouquet left the bottle and invaded the room as I opened it. It certainly had blackberry in there (ripe, almost jam) and dry fig. The 12 months of French barrel aging resulted in notes of chocolate, coffee, berry-cream pastry and, taking the risk of pushing some of you aback, oven-backed apples with a bit of caramelized sugar and cinnamon. All that was enveloped in an alcoholic ether. In these super-sunny Southern denominations, in order to allow the aromas to fully develop, you’ll have to allow the grapes reach high sugar content that will generate a high alcoholic grade. And that is in spite of the high elevation of the terroir and harvesting in early to mid-September. 15% alc. In mouth is showed good acidity level (necessary for this type of wine not to become overly sweet) in a dense, velvety, full body structure. Lots of bouquet and depth with long persistence in upper and lower throat. I tried it years ago and it was quite a surprise that brought to my attention this poorly-known appellation. See below a few pictures from the winery’s site showing the old Monastrell vines with thick tortured stumps and huge separation to allow sufficient water for “everyone” in this semi-arid realm. Also see historical Robert Parker’s Ratings. Definitely, if you like big reds, and do not mind the alcoholic level, try this one. It sells in Spain for €30. The PA store is offering it for a great price. 92 pts WA
$19.99 My Rating: 92 pts.
Ten of Life 2020, Cabernet Sauvignon - Alexander Valley, CA
Aromas of blueberry jam, apricot jam, anise, and vanilla chocolate.
In the taste it was creamy and showed some kamfor and fruit ripeness. Medium to full body with dense felt-like tannins and medium acidity and mouth-filling structure. Clean aftertaste with some depth. 14.5% alc.
$15.99 My Rating: 91-92 pts.
Château Mayne-Guyon 2019, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot - Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France
A very pleasant wine, … equilibrated. Typical Bordeaux aromas, including blackberry plus, according to a consensus of experts, chocolate and walnuts. In palate it showed medium acidity with powdery and pleasant tannins in a supple structure. Very clean aftertaste. I'd say more aroma than bouquet. 13.5% alc.
This appellation has grown tremendously in the last decades. It offers lower land price than in other older appellations and large extension occupying the entire Northwestern corner of the region. It must have a huge production with probably young to mid-age vines. It delivers very good quality to price ratio.
Decanter gave this wine 95 points and gold medal in the 2022 world wine awards. #1 in Vivino’s affordable wines sold in PA right now. If you're approaching this wine based on those accolades you may be disappointed but, once you forget about that and focus on what you're getting for the price, I'd say it is a great deal and a very good opportunity for the layman to approach Bordeaux.
Great price/quality ratio! I got several bottles.
91 pts JS
$9.99 My Rating: 91 pts.
Breca Rosé 2021, Garnacha - Calatayud, Spain
What an incredible aroma! I was able to detect the expected cherry but also prickly pear and a lot of the thyme that grows in the hills of that inhospitable region. But there was another aroma that I struggled to identify. It was very powerful and ended up overcoming the others. At times I imagined red cold spray, at times glue, but then tomato paste came to my mind and I could not get rid of it. It might have been something else but that was the closest I could get. If you are able to identify it, please let me know what it really is. I would imagine that this wine was crafted to capitalize on the huge success attained by Provence Grenache rosé. “You’ve got Grenache … well, we got Garnacha and this is where it came from. Let me get a piece of the game”. But in my opinion Jorge Ordoñez’s team has arrived to a different place. This is not a good imitation. This is original and quite interesting. 91 pts JS.
If you want to learn more about this harsh and fascinating wine region, the crib of Grenache, visit my post in the pull down menu Wine Trips.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (from a person not very fond of rosé)
$9.99 My Rating: 91 pts.
Voché 2016, Tempranillo, Graciano - Rioja Reserva, Spain
The bottle shape and label made me uneasy but I saw 2016 (great vintage) and the WS and WE ratings and decided to try it.
The aroma showed cherries, lilium, orange peel and croissant from oak aging so typical of Reserva Riojas.
Medium body (more than what I expected on a Reserva) with medium acidity and velvety tannins. 14% alc.
This is an “author” wine … a good and affordable opportunity to taste a solid and well-crafted wine from 2016.
93 pts WE, 93 pts WS
$13.99 My Rating: 91 pts.
Annick Bachelet 2020, Gamay - Morgon, France
Aroma of ripe cherries with notes of nutmeg and chesnut. In mouth it has a perfect acidity level and very mild tannins in a body that is medium to light but far more consistent than a common Beaujolais. Deep bouquet with good persistence. 13.5% alc.
Morgon is a roughly 4 Km2 (1000 acre) area with such quality that it deserves its own appellation within the Beaujolais. Also, this wine is aged, as opposed to the high-quantity Nouveau Beaujolais that is consumed weeks after being harvested.
Very, very pleasant. It can offer Pinot Noir lovers a way to get a good alternative option at a lower price.
92 pts WE
$14.99 My Rating: 91
Ancient Wisdom 2019, Merlot - Paso Robles, CA
Back label: Cocoa, ripe boysenberry, freshly cut herbs. Flavors of black cherry cola, rhubarb pie filling, a touch of black pepper, soft and supple tannins. I could not agree more. 14% alc.
I selected this one for the 1st Osher @ CMU French v. California competition and compared it with a Bordeaux right bank twice as expensive. Ancient Wisdom obtained significantly more votes. By the way, the competition result was CA 3 – France 1.
I have also used their Cab in another Osher @ CMU course, and I can say that this brand, wherever they source the grapes from and whatever they do to them, produces delicious wines with amazing value.
$12.99 My Rating: 91 pts.
Water Wheel 2020, The State , Syrah, Grenache - Bendigo, Australia
Intense aroma of raspberry jam that came out of the bottle as I opened it. Chocolate and (according to the experts) mint notes.
In mouth it is big, huge, with dusty tannins, thick structure, with a little hint of sweetness and some bitterness. Very alcoholic. 16.4% alc.
These grapes come from a very late harvest in a sunny place and have been hardly pressed to extract as much as possible. It's an extreme wine that would stand up to a goulash or a wild bore stew in wine and fruits sauce. It also has the potential to improve with cellaring. Some people will love it while others will find it excessive. Because of that, I am assigning it a wide a rating range. Please tell me your rating.
$14.99 My Rating: 88 - 93
Vinha da Coutada Velha 2020, Aragonez 30%, Trincadeira 30%, Syrah 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10% - Alentejo, Portugal
Very intense aroma that invaded the room when I opened the bottle. According to Sofía blueberry yoghurt and candied orange or grapefruit peel. I also perceived ripe pomegranate and licorice in there. 13% alc.
Medium to full body medium acidity and soft powdery tannins. Dense, ripe and rich.
Only part of it is aged in oak and the barrels are used. This practice preserves the fruit as well as a low winemaking cost.
Interesting blend with Aragonez (a.k.a. Tempranillo), the very local Trincadeira (whoch provides herbaceous aromas and tannic content) and standard French varietals.
Alentejo is a humble wine region in Southern Portugal, with vineyards close to the Spanish border, that has been delivering in the last years ever-improving quality at very reasonable price.
92 pts and Best Buy WE.
$9.99 My Rating: 90-91 pts.
Torre de Ermelo 2021, Albariño - Rías Baixas, Spain
Very aromatic with cantaloupe, lemon peel and oregano. Medium body. 12.5% alc. Very good price for an Albariño of that quality.
Albariños from Rías Baixas tend to smell more like eucalyptus instead of oregano as well as more salty. Also, they are of a lighter texture than this one which showed a semi-creamy medium body. Please excuse me from bragging but I am so happy! I told Sally, this wine is from a place more in-land than the usual ones from Valle do Salnés we find in the PA stores. I then reached out to the bottle and saw in the back label O Rosal. Then I looked for the location of the vineyards and they are by the L letter of O Rosal in the map below.
I believe the Rías Baixas denomination of origin would benefit from subdivision to reflect its different terroirs. I am going to send the Consejo de Denominaciôn an email with my recommendation. Get ready to see it happening 😊!
90 pts W&S
$11.99 My Rating: 90 pts.
Romero de Aranda 2020, Tempranillo - Ribera del Duero, Spain
Intense aroma of cherry paste with hints of a flower (lilies? hyacinth? …), and red hot peppers.
The immediate feeling with the first sip is of nice acidity and dense dusty-drying tannins coating every surface of the mouth. Not much depth in the aftertaste, as expected from a 2020 “Roble” with only 3 months of oak aging. This wine has excellent potential for aging in bottle. Drink one now, write about it, keep several for a few years, and compare notes. 14% alc.
Good price for a decent Ribera.
90 pts W&S
$11.99 My Rating: 90 pts.
Celene Cuvée Royale NV - Crémant de Bordeaux, France
Very lively appearance with lots of small bubbles forming a permanent crown. Very herbal (e.g. bay leave, basil, …), lots of lemon and some apple in the nose. Very clean in mouth and aftertaste.
I thought it was a bargain and went to the store for more. It has been the sparking of our Holidays. Most French appellations are adding sparkling wines to their portfolio. They are called Crémant and they are crafted with the traditional method. They present an ever-growing challenge to Champagne given the significant price differential.
90 pts WE.
$12.99 My Rating: 90 pts.
Generala Bersano 2017, Barbera - Nizza, Italy
Very intense aromas as soon as I uncorked the bottle. Very ripe cherries and flowers, I’d say geranium and rose, with a bit of spice … maybe nutmeg? A hint of tar, to be expected in Barbera’s elder brother, Barolo. I am so glad I was able to pick it!
In mouth the first sip was unbearably acidic, but the second was fine and unveiled lots of evaporation to the upper palate, unctuous structure with silky tannins and a pleasant and long-lasting aftertaste. I was hoping perhaps for a deeper bouquet. 15% alc.
Nizza is a very small denomination of just 12 villages that was carved out from Barbera D’Asti that surrounds it because of its distinctive personality.
90 pts WA.
$16.99 My Rating: 90 pts.
Le Breubage 2021, Viognier - Pays D'Oc, France
Aromas of green apple candy, grapefruit peel, white flowers and Mediterranean herbs.
In mouth it displays medium to full body that combines well with perfect acidity to keep it refreshing. Very pleasant, … a low cost alternative for French Chardonnay lovers at a great price!
Pays D’Oc is a region with very large production of often humble wines but it is so diverse that it offers patches of great price to quality ratio. You just need to discover them! Viognier is their white wine hallmark but you can find in there Grenache Blanc, Picpoul de Pinet, Marsanne, Rousanne and many other interesting varietals.
91 pts IWR
$9.99 My Rating: 89-90 pts.
Domaine Pitault Landry 2020, Cabernet Franc - Bourgueil, France
I agree with John Hull on the aromas of red currant, tobacco and pepper, but I also would propose blackberry juice and cherries. 14% alc.
In mouth it was rather acidic. The tannins were very much alive, rusty. That was a surprise and it wasn’t. Let me explain why:
- Cab Franc was the real McCoy, before it was hybridized with Sauvignon Blanc to produce the softer, more aromatic and ubiquitous Cab Sauvignon.
- The color, in the light side and rather translucid hinted a lighter tannin structure.
This is the paradigm of Bourgueil, in the Loire Valley region, and in certain ways an intermediary between Bordeaux and Burgundy.
On the personal taste side, I have only once had a fulfilling Bourgueil that Allen bought for me. This one was a bit too acidic.
91 pts and Editor’s Choice WE
$12.99 My Rating: 89
Selection de la Hante 2020, Gamay - Chénas (Cru Beaujolais), France
Complex in the nose with different aromas taking over as I smelled it. Dry cherries and cranberries dominated at the beginning but then I noticed lots of pepper and some tobacco notes.
In mouth it was rather dense for a Beaujolais with drying tannins and bright acidity. Not much persistence in the aftertaste though. 13.5% alc.
Chénas is a small appellation, roughly 1x2 Km (500 acre). I do not remember trying one before. It was worth it. I also seldom review Gamays and we have two in this post. I thought the Morgon was bolder and had deeper bouquet. A key takeaway is: There are pretty good wines in small appellations within Beaujolais and not all Beaujolais have to be that frivolous light-colored forward fruit with not much substance that we drink when the Beaujolais Nouveau arrives every Fall.
$13.99 My Rating: 89
Green Quartz 2022, Sauvignon Blanc - Casablanca Valley, Chile
Green apple, lemon blossom, grass, rolling stone and, according to Sam, candied peach. In mouth it is acidic, mineral and clean reflecting the granitic soil. 13% alc.
The Chilean wine closer to NZ wine I’ve ever tasted. Probably because of the climate of Casablanca Valley only 12 miles from Pacific Ocean.
It’s a 2022, yes! And one might think: Grapes collected last Fall. Really very young! But remember, in the Southern hemisphere they do the vintage in their Fall (March or April).
$9.99 May Rating: 88 pts
Naversur 2021, Verdejo - Rueda, Spain
Aromas of straw, bread dough and fermentation process (clearly noticeable if you’ve ever made white wine), very typical of this denomination. Dry and mineral. 13% alc. Humble but different and therefore interesting.
$10.99 My Rating: 88 pts.
Clay Shannon, El Coyote 2020, Chardonnay - Lake County, CA
Aromas of banana, orange blossom, cucumber and ripe lemon. Sofia added yellow apple and pineapple.
In mouth it was (as the legs promised) buttery, oily, dense. The effects of the American oak aging were evident in the cake bouquet. Slightly bitter finish with medium persistence in the aftertaste. 14.3% alc.
This is close to a prototypical CA Chardonnay but it lacks the honey and pinewood notes that so much bother me.
This wine belongs to the same winery as Shannon Ridge that has been a star in the Lake County during the last decade. I remember at the start of COVID, with the PA wines stores closed, I purchased several cases of their wines through the internet and distributed them to my friends. I loved their Ovis story with lamb feeding from the clover between the vines, fertilizing them and actually becoming an icon in San Francisco restaurants. I have shown that video to many people. They seem to have come up with an upscale version of their wines called Clay Shannon, using the owner’s name. However, to my surprise, I enjoy much more their lower price Shannon Ridge Chardonnay than this wine. I guess it’s a matter of winemaking, or maybe the vintage. I think they will improve and will give them a new chance next year. Clay, be careful about marketeers - Be faithful to your origins.
$11.99 My Rating: 88 pts.
Domaine des Carteresses 2021, Grenache - Tavel, France
Jan Stetler’s review: Dark rose color...a deeply colored rose... Nice nose...red plum...ripe fruit...concentrated...quite enjoyable... A full-bodied entry on the palate...red berries... blackberry... cherry...ripe and extracted...good acidity... there are fine tannins here, which support the overall balance of this wine...this wine has a lot of power for a rose...long finish of ripe red berry fruit...Delicious... As you see above the vines are of a respectable age, and the yields are not excessive... This is a well vinted wine...with lots of character...the ripe bold fruits, with solid extraction, make for a very enjoyable experience...will be very food friendly with a wide range of dishes. 13.5% alcohol.
92 Points and 'Editor's Choice' Wine Enthusiast, August 1, 2022
Tavel is probably the most prestigious rosé wine from Côtes du Rhône. It has deeper color and more intense flavor than the neighboring and ultra-famous rosé from Provence.
$13.99 My Rating: 88 pts.
Villa de Moreschi 2021, Pinot Grigio - Delle Venezzie, Italy
Aroma of sour papaya, orange blossom, Belgian endive and fennel. So vegetable that I would have it with crudités and yoghourt. It just passes through your mouth in a simple, refreshing and harmless way. 12% alc.
$9.99 My Rating: 87-88
Evening Shade 2020, Chardonnay - CA
The first smell was of Sulphur. Then, yellow apple, jasmine, ripe pear and banana. In mouth it was lighter than most CA Chardonnays with sandal leaf flavor. The right acidity and light body made it refreshing. 13.5% alc.
To me it was one of many but Sally loved it! Hence the rating range. We should remember to take a bottle next time we visit Kim, our CA Chardonnay expert, to help us narrow down the range.
$9.99 My Rating: 86-89
Punto Final 2021, Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina
Typical Argentine Malbec aromas of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and violets, all in the shy side. Medium body, right acidity level and domesticated tannins. An uncomplicated pleaser but far from the 91 pts JS.
See JS’s tasting notes: attractive, savory nose of raspberries, lemon peel, oyster shells, wild mushrooms and thyme. It’s medium-bodied with silky tannins and fresh acidity. Wild and juicy finish. Vegan.
I need to expand my horizons!
Inés, my Argentine expert friend, what is your opinion?
$9.99 My Rating: 87 pts.
Geyser Peak 2020, Chardonnay - CA
Aroma of pineapple accompanied by ripe banana and orange blossom. Far less oaky than an average CA Chardonnay but as buttery and dense. Medium acidity and medium persistence. Pleasant and worth the price for a daily informal wine. 13.5% alc.
Kim, let me know what you think.
$8.99 My Rating: 87 pts.
Mazza 2019, Riesling - Finger Lakes, NY
Aroma of lime skin cucumber and a cooking herb (oregano or dill). In mouth it is acidic and simultaneously semi-sweet and bitter. 12% alc.
$9.99 My Rating: 84 pts.
Hook or Crook 2021, Chardonnay - Lodi, CA
Very shy aroma and mouth that tastes like something but I could not identify what. Perhaps a slight hint of ginger? I may be losing my skill!
Medium body, non-aggressive aftertaste but I just did not find any attribute that would make me rate it close to the 92 pts WE.
$9.99 My Rating: 83 pts.
Fumées Blanches 2021, Sauvignon Blanc - IGP Côtes de Gascogne, France
Aromas of lemon peel and dill. Very fresh and mineral in mouth with medium body, low complexity but pleasant pass through the mouth and clean mineral aftertaste. A simple wine, a little vinous, with no sharp edges. 11.5% alc.
François Lurton is also known as “the vagabond winemaker”. From a prestigious Bordeaux family he decided to discover the world and established wineries in Argentina, Chile, Spain as well as many locations within France. Most of his wines are in the affordable range. His Website contains very interesting information: https://www.domainesfrancoislurton.com/en
$9.99 My Rating: 83 pts.
Valdihuete 2021, Verdejo - Rueda, Spain
Aroma of ripe pear, lavender and, according to Sally, cleaning product. Some sweetness feeling in mouth. Sort of vinous.
Wondering how it got 90 pts JS.
$8.99 My Rating: 80 pts.
Domaine Força Réal, Schistes 2018, Grenache Noir 60%, Syrah 30%, Mourdèvre 10% - Côtes du Rousillon Villages, France
Extremely shy nose. It was difficult to smell anything coming out of this glass of wine. In mouth overripe red fruits were all over the place with no room for other things except perhaps a little bit of bitterness. Medium body with evolved tannins. Minimal aftertaste. I’d say this wine has been made with grapes that have seen a lot of sun. 14% alc.
The name of the wine could mislead people since it sounds very Portuguese.
91 pts WS, 90 pts WA.I could not understand those ratings. I will be interested in your thoughts.
$13.99 My Rating: 79
Ottosoldi 2021, Cortese - Gavi, Italy
This is what JS wrote: Perfumed and floral Gavi with aromas of jasmine, daffodils, pear drops, lemons and white peaches. Medium-bodied with tangy acidity and a succulent, refreshing palate. Creamy finish. From organically grown grapes. 13% alc.
Sally and I saw a wine with a suspicious color that smelled like overripe yellow apple and tasted the same. We discarded it. My only explanation of the discrepancy with JS is that the bottle we bought might have been transported or stored in poor conditions. If you see this one in the store look at the color before buying it.
$10.99 My Rating: 50? pts.
Bon Vivant NV Sparkling Rosé - CA
Overripe red berry, ripe apple and honey. It seemed oxidized and tasted overly sweet. 12.5% alc.