Typically, when I’m out and about doing my wine thing, I’ll come across 2-3 wines that really impress me over a 3 week period. Those wines then find themselves in a Wines I’m diggin’ now write-up. When it comes to recommending wines, I feel no need to include every wine I’ve had that I’d rate >86 pts. Rather, I want people to be impacted by the recommendations that I make, not just a score, thus I try to be as objective as possible with the wines I publically rate. Be it an exciting Cabernet or a reintroduction to a forgotten varietal (for whatever reason) I want my readers to have a take-away that they can seek out and enjoy.
But ever now and again there are periods like these past two weeks, when the wines do all the talking. I was very impressed by eight wines during this spell, the most in a period that I didn’t participate in a trade tasting. Another exciting statistic, of the eight, six of them are readily available. To put things into perspective, these wines were so impressive that of the six readily available wines, four of them are contenders for my “Top 10” list at year’s end and two of them are legitimate contenders for “Wine of the Year.” Needless to say, it’s been a nice couple weeks.
With that being said, let’s check out the wines!
2005 Arnaldo-Caprai, Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano, Umbria (Italy) $42
Montefalco in Umbria is known more for its churches than its wines. Considering it fell under the rule of the Papal States in the mid-1400s this is understandable. Couple this with the fact that as there are so many indigenous grapes in Italy that one would either die of liver failure or spit in order to try them all (I’m not sure which is worse). However there’s one grape that sets itself apart from many of the other homogenous indigenous varietals. Sagrantino is a varietal with deep, lush, nearly rustic characteristics. In this case, the Sagrantino in discussion is from Collepiano, an area of production in Montefalco with gently sloping hills that translate well to wine, especially their indigenous Sagrantino.
The ’05 Arnoldo-Caprai Collepiano has a dense ruby color which tells you immediately that this wine means business. The prolonged maceration not only enhanced the visual component, but also the aromas and flavors as well, with copious amounts of rich cassis, blue and blackberry along with menthol and white pepper round out the aroma and flavor profile of this wine. On the palate, hearty yet even tannin provide tremendous structure, balancing near perfectly with the alcohol and acid. This wine will benefit from another 5 years in the bottle, no doubt; however it’s already a tremendous experience.
Senel Wine – 93 pts
2008 Vietti, Nebbiolo Perbacco, Piedmont (Italy) $26
Last year I had the distinct pleasure of tasting through the Vietti ’07 line-up with owner/winemaker Luca Currado. His charisma and passion for his family’s Piedmont winery was infectious at the time and I can look back at that moment fondly. The ’07 vintage was one that was dominated by the Barberas of Vietti. This time around, it’s time for Nebbiolo to step up take charge.
The ’08 Nebbiolo Perbacco is very much like Luca himself: charismatic, passionate and suave. Red fruit, primarily cherry plays wistfully with menthol to give the wine a high-end Ludents cough-drop character, which in this case is a wonderful thing. Possessing a medium body, the distinctive Slovenian oak imparted additional smooth tannin giving the wine an elegant mouthfeel. It could benefit from some additional time in the bottle, if you have the patience.
Senel Wine – 92 pts
2007 Montes, Purple Angel, Carmenère, Rapel (Colchagua Valley, Chile) $55
Chilean wines on the higher end are something to behold. Last year, one of the best wines I had was from Casa Lapostolle. That wine came from their Clos Apalta vineyards, so it should be of no surprise that that same area of Apalta has produced another prodigious gem. Montes has only been making wines since 1987; however since the beginning, they’ve been wowing everyone, especially those who have been lucky enough to enjoy their Alpha M. This time around it wasn’t their Bordeaux blend that captivated me, but rather a 92% Carmenère 8% Petit Verdot masterclass.
The ’07 Purple Angel had me at hello. Deep purple in color (surprise surprise), the aromas leapt from the glass. Dark fruit, chocolate, cinnamon, cigar box and mellow black pepper seductively lured you in for that first sip. Flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, vanilla and spice make sure that there’s no let down in taste after the aroma’s promise. Fabulous structure, round tannin and well-proportioned fruit acid provide seamless grace that lingers in a long finish. Wonderful…simply put.
Senel Wine – 96 pts
2008 Januik, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (Washington) $30
Prior to reading about Januik in Wine Spectator, all I knew was that Michael Januik was at one point the winemaker at Stimson Lane (now Ste. Michelle). Now, I’m aware of what this man is capable of. Granted, 2008 was a sensational year for Washington reds, but a $30 wine that may go down as the greatest value ever?! That speaks to the winemaker, not just the vintage.
Januik’s gem is bright and vibrant from the onset and sets the stage for wonderful complexity. Bright red fruit is joined by deeper blue fruit and plum skin, as well as an accent of green pepper. Slight secondary notes of sage are present and then you begin to notice the mouthfeel. This is a big wine without feeling laborious. The tannins are firm but sweet and will lend themselves nice to aging. If you give this wine a few more years it will develop a few more secondary notes; however as it stands now, it’s fabulous! This just goes to show you that a truly great Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
Senel Wine – 95 pts
2008 Papapietro Perry, 777 Clones, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley (Sonoma, California) $70
Earlier in the year, I had a wonderful experience with a ’07 Papapietro Perry RRV Pinot that opened my eyes to what Cali Pinot Noir can truly be. Fast forward a couple months and Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry have bowled me over again. This time it’s their 777 clones that have set the bar even higher.
This muscular pinot exhibits big, red fruit, clove and other spices on the nose, truly enticing. On the palate ripe cherries, nutmeg, spice and lively acid provide a wonderful sensation, with well-integrated and comforting alcohol providing a warming conclusion. Another spectacular wine from one of California’s best kept secrets.
Senel Wine – 94 pts
2008 Caymus, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa (California) $70
Easily the most recognizable name in today’s line-up, Caymus is the beacon of consistency. When Robert Parker put together his book The World’s Greatest Wine Estates he omitted one that certainly merits inclusion. Personally, I can’t think of any other producer that year in and year out produces such even and identifiable wines at such a high level of quality. The best part, their second wine, Caymus Cabernet is typically better than most premier wines from Napa, as is the case today.
The ’08 Caymus is a wonderfully supple and aromatic. Aromas and flavors of plum and blackberries immediately great you and then are joined by anise and other spices. This wine also has a very pleasant minerality to it that I found surprising for a wine this young (I’ve found this to be a characteristic that develops over time with big cabs). As always with Caymus, terrific balance of alcohol, acid and tannin provide wonderful structure to this wine. Considering how approachable this wine is now, drink up!
Senel Wine – 93 pts
2008 Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa (California) $40
Honig was another winery to benefit from the longer growing season of 2008; however unlike Caymus, they seemed to go in a slightly different direction than years past. I feel as if in ’08 they relied a little heavier on oak than in the past. The wine was still delicious, just different.
The ’08 Honig cab is very aromatic, with dark red fruit and sweet cream aromas that also transition to flavors on the palate where they are joined by blueberries and mellow spices. The 18 months in oak with 1/3 in new oak showed; however it wasn’t overbearing just present. The overall good balance and ripe fruit make this a very enjoyable wine. It’s exceedingly approachable now and doesn’t have a pressing need for age.
Senel Wine – 90 pts
2009 Emmerich Knoll, Rosé, Wachau (Austria) $28
The Knoll estate is located in the town of Unterloiben in the Wachau, Austria. It has been run by an Emmerich Knoll for several generations and currently makes roughly 30 different wines. The sheer breadth of the line-up would make one wonder how enough attention could be paid to a lowly rosé to justify its inclusion on this amazing list of stars?! It’s simple, terrior.
To say this ’09 Rosé of Blauer Burgunder (Pinot Noir) is terrior-driven is somewhat of an understatement. From the boysenberry and strawberry fields present in the glass, to the zincky, wet limestone that evokes images a recent rain on the hills of where these grapes were grown, I’ve never experienced such character and finesse in a rosé before. I’m befuddled. This is in many ways an artisan wine; whereas most roses are afterthoughts. $28 may seem like a lot for a rosé, but luckily your not buying a rosé (and all the prejudice it carries), your buying a terrific wine.
Senel Wine – 93 pts (highest ever rated rosé)
If you’ve had any of these wines, let us know what you thought!