Tasting Notes Contents Page
QPR Winner I give this award to wines that demonstrate an excellent Quality to Price Ratio. They are sometimes more expensive than the wines featured in my Best Buys section (which is cut off at $20), so while every Best Buy is also a QPR Winner, not every QPR winner is an official Best Buy. QPR winners are simply wines that are great values for a relatively reasonable price.
Bordeaux Calif/USA Dessert/Sparkling Germany Rhone/S/SW France
Bordeaux (except dessert/sparkling)
1990 Chateau Haut Brion
This is a typically elegant HB, but at least from this bottle it seems even older than its vintage date would suggest. While somewhat rescued early on by some bright vivaciousness, which gave it enough wherewithal to improve for 30 minutes, it slid downhill through the rest of the evening without being terribly impressive. All tertiary, all forest floor, all weeds and no freshness, it had its moments, but considering its status it is a bit of a disappointment. 88 points.
1990 Chateau Latour
This is a wine that lost its rich, young fruit fairly quickly in its life, showing tertiary notes in a hurry. But one thing it never lost was its dense, massive, concentrated demeanor. It still is all that, even without the bag of chips. If there is little in the way of fresh fruit here, it is intense, deep and complex, capable of evolving and improving in the glass. If there is little fresh fruit, it is still an impressive wine with many intriguing moments and multiple layers. 95 points.
1990 Chateau Lagrange
This underrated St. Julien is quite lovely and very muscular. It needed time and it has begun to express itself very well. Fresh (fresher, I think, than either the Latour or Haut Brion on this page), but mature, with a bright and tightly wound feel, this intense wine is nowhere near done evolving. It won't satisfy any urges for sweet and easy--quite the contrary--but it is impressive in its dedication to precision and structure. It is not yet at peak. 95 points.
California/USA (except dessert/sparkling)
An old favorite, this has seen some ups and downs from bottle to bottle that I have seen over the last few years, but this one was tremendous, one of the best bottles of it that I have seen of late. Powerful, intense and concentrated, it is focused and lingering, tightly wound and surprisingly youthful, although not terribly fleshy, easy or sweet. this was awfully impressive. This tasted a good 5-7 years younger than the last bottle that I recall. 96 points.
1991 Cabernet Sauvignon "Private Reserve" (Beringer)
This opened quite slowly, showing tertiary notes and little else, seeming a bit light. The longer it stayed the glass, the more it showed me. The score kept jumping with every 10-15 minute interval. When it hit peak in about 60-90 minutes, it was astonishingly good. A very nice Bordeaux ringer in some respects, at least showing the complexity and maturity of Cabernet to full advantage, it was silky and still intense, with grip and tension on the finish, yet very fine balance as well. The tannins were there but never took over. Despite the sleepy early opening, this woke up with a vengeance. 95 points.
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon "Hillside Select" (Shafer)
Ah, well..you wonder when it stops. This is listed at 15.5% and I think it shows too much. I remember when I considered Shafer a graceful wine. To be clear, I saw this initially without knowing the alcohol. I picked up the glass, tasted it and did a double take and quickly looked at the label. It seemed so ponderous next to the Beringer in particular because you could just feel the alcohol by comparison. Almost two full points higher than the Beringer (13.8%), saying it was noticeable would be an understatement. Granted, the rest of the performance was Shafer-esque. It had an elegant mid-palate and nice structure. On the whole, though, the Beringer quickly drained. The Shafer was half full. Yeah, it has a famous label. 90 points.
1866 Port "Adelaide Tributa" (Quinta do Vallado)
This old wine was acquired by Quinta do Vallado and said to be an 1866 Colheita (although Francisco Spratley Ferreira of the winery tells me he can't honestly say for sure if it is a true single-vintage Colheita, which is why it is marketed just as "Tributa"), pre-phylloxera vines. It was bottled for Antonia Adelaide Ferreira's 200th anniversary--a woman who built a lot of Douro and was the ancestor of Vallado's owners. Francisco told me (with some typos corrected) that "we think it is a true colheita, but it's impossible to be sure... We bought this wine and the owner said to me that [he] never touched ... this wine last 50 years! We believe that with this concentration and baume (13,5), this is really very old and wasn't "refrescado" (add young wines to fill the barrel).... At same time it' s amazing the acidity, especially thinking in this baume! The wine only was bottled last weeks!" I've run into my share of really old Ports recently--1863 Niepoort, Sequeira, the NV Wine and Soul "5G"--all were exceptional and all were very different. This would be my winner of that group. If you are really loaded, keep reading. Very dark in color and far thicker than the 5g (although not, perhaps, as vibrant), this is remarkably thick and viscous--there seems to be no question that it is old and concentrated. It is very complex, too. Laced with molasses and dark chocolate, and a touch of charcoal, it is enlivened by a big hit of acidity. The texture is quite caressing and sexy. Its age shows mostly in its thick demeanor. It reminds me of some century old Moscatels I've had in Southern Portugal. It is remarkably sweet and fresh in most other respects. It is a wonderful experience. There is bad news. You could predict this, huh? There were 1,300 bottles produced--and they are coming in special decanters running around $3,000 per 750ml bottle. (No, I didn't get one of those bottles, but I did get a sample taste!) 99 points.
2008 Late Bottled Vintage Port (Quinta de la Rosa)
This beautifully elegant LBV is graceful, focused and flavorful, precise and pointed. It is not the deepest or the most powerful, but the flavors become more expressive with aeration and the wine expands nicely. It was pleasing and crisp, but understated. It did not develop much more with extended aeration. Yet, it was such a pleasure to drink that I have to lean up a bit. 88 points
1999 Riesling Spatlese "Urziger Wurzgarten" A.P. #2 576 162 46 00
I first tasted this auction bottling (270 bottles of 750ml made, plus 18 mags) when it was young, nearer to release, from magnum. It seemed rich, sweet and far too youthful. I said, "Give it a decade." Tasting it roughly a decade on from 750ml, I'd suggest that it needs another. It is still so youthful, fresh and sweet that it needs to be open for awhile before you notice the structure underneath--and it is there, hidden by the initial richness. This is quite lovely, but wholly unevolved, almost startling in its youthfulness. 93 points.
2002 Riesling Spatlese "Abtsberg" (Maximin Grunhaus)
Much to my surprise, this keeps getting better! Once, it seemed shrill. Once, it seemed destined to be a bit underwhelming. Today, it is perfectly balanced, fresh and harmonious, singing in perfect pitch. There is nothing truncated, shrill or underwhelming about it. It is simply lovely and it has improved dramatically with cellaring. Its fine balance now is one of its key features. 90 points.
Rhone/South/SW France (except dessert/sparkling)
2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Da Capo" (Pegau)
When I first tasted this nearer to release, what distinguished it from the ordinary CdP was its pure tannic power. It seemed very much like the Reservée until they both come out and open up. Then, the pure power here asserts itself. Tasted now, it was shockingly sweet and cloying on opening, syrupy and candied. I was more than startled, both because it seemed so different and because it was more than a little off-putting. Just as I was some years back, I was surprised again by its evolution. The fruit integrated, some sweetness blew off, the structure popped out and it again showed itself to be powerful and pointed. It is a massive CdP. While that is not always my definition of great, th brilliant structure and depth here creates an ageworthy wine, still seeming youthful and reeking of its continued potential. I confess that the syrupy opening created a little bit of doubt of in my mind, but it once again won me over. 97 points.
give this award to wines that are particularly good values, even
if well beyond bargain wine pricing. They are not "best
buys," which I define as under $20 wines. Every Best
Buy is a QPR winner, but the reverse is not true.
wines tasted at trade shows and the like generally will be displayed with
ranges, as it is more difficult to get a good read on a wine
in those conditions. Also, many notes on the E-Zine often come from food
and wine events, rather than classic, controlled conditions.
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