An existing coat closet under the stairs was converted into a small wine cellar that holds about 100 bottles. The racks in the cellar were milled out of 1x red oak and stained to match the cabinets in the residence. Back lighting was installed above the display as well as the racks below it. Rare wine box ends were applied to the walls and ceiling, then stained & sealed. The double doors were custom made and painted to match the Entry door and the wainscot matches the formal Dining Room. The granite top and travertine tile was provided by Gabe with ABC Granite who also did the entire residence.
However, the pièce de résistance are the bottles displayed below the glass racks:
On the left, one of the greatest wines ever made, the legendary 1982 Château Petrus. You can read the tasting notes later in this post. In 1855 at the Paris Exhibition, a classification of Bordeaux wines was established that still exists today. However, only wines from the Medoc region were considered, so Petrus, along with the rest of Bordeaux were excluded. There has only been one change to the 1855 Classification. There were originally only four wines that were classified as Premier Cru or First Growth but one more was added many years later. In 1920, when the Baron Philippe de Rothschild took over the family vineyard, he couldn’t accept the fact that his Chateau was rated a “second growth”. He thought it should have been classed a “first growth” from the beginning. So, at the bottom of each label was printed the words: “First I cannot be, second I do not deign to be, Mouton I am.” He fought for over 50 years to get to the top and so it was, that in 1973, Château Mouton Rothschild was elevated up to “first growth” status and deservedly so. He replaced his old motto with a new one: “First I am, second I was, but Mouton does not change.” Interestingly, 1973 was a terrible vintage for Bordeaux, the 73′ Mouton was not very good at all, just barely drinkable. However, the wine was still considered very collectible. Why? Since 1945 the Baron would have a different artist design the label for each vintage. Pablo Picasso designed the 73! In 1984/85 I discovered a bottle of it at a small wine shop in Alamo Heights but at the time I was unaware of it’s significance and because the 73′ vintage was so bad, I didn’t purchase it. The retail price was $50. You can see a picture of the bottle later in this post as well as the legendary 45′.
From left to right, the five first growths: 1988 Château Mouton Rothschild, 1986 Château Margaux, 1983 Château Haut Brion, 1988 Château Latour, 1988 Château Lafite Rothschild.
Two years stand out as the greatest vintages of the 20th Century in Champagne, 1969 and 1971. On the right, a very rare 1971 Salon “Le Mesnil” Cuvee Brut. And on the far right, the best Champagne on earth, Krug Grande Cuvee. In reality this is one of the best wines, red or white, you will ever taste, if you don’t mind dropping some coins. It is a blend of up to 120 wines coming from ten or more different vintages, some up to fifteen years in age. Three grape varieties are used, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It is re-created on a yearly basis. In total, over twenty years are required to create a single bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, including at least six years during which the bottle sits in the Krug cellars on the lees. Remi Krug (the Owner) says “the cuvée is my favorite because it’s mine. For the vintage, I have to share the credit with God”. An experience you won’t soon forget.
The other twelve bottles on display here from left to right are as follows: 2000 Joseph Phelps “Insignia”, 2005 Quintessa, 2010 Caymus “Special Selection”, 1985 Beaulieu Vineyard “Georges De Latour”, 1992 Opus One, 2007 Petrolo Galatrona, 1988 Chateau La Fleur Petrus, 1980 Chateau Margaux, 1989 Lynch Bages, 1989 Chateau Montrose, 1982 Gruaud Larose and 1990 Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron. These are some of the finest wines produced in the last 100 years or so.
The Five First Growths:
Some people think my last name is Petrus but the inspiration for the name should be obvious.
In April of 1985 when I started the company this had just recently been released from the Chateau and was retailing for about $800 a bottle, a little out of my budget at the time. After just a few months it had jumped to $3000 a bottle due to Parker’s 100 rating and tasting notes below. If you would have bought ten cases as futures in 84′ and sold it a few years later you could have netted a profit of around $340,000.00
As the French say- c’est la vie!
“The 1982 Petrus will no doubt be regarded as one of the great wines of this century. It embodies all of the greatest elements of legendary wines and legendary vintages of Petrus. Consistently “perfect” from the cask and bottle, words hardly do justice to such a rare achievement. First, the color is sensationally dark, the bouquet explodes upward from the glass within penetrating aromas of ripe mulberry, blackcurrant fruit, and spicy vanillin oak. The wealth of fruit overwhelms the palate with a luxuriance and richness that I have never encountered before. Even the considerable tannic clout of this monumental wine seems to be buried by what is simply a tidal wave of voluptuous, decadently concentrated fruit. In March 1983, when I first tasted this wine, I thought it was the most perfect and symmetrical wine I had ever experienced. Later that day, Christian Moueix called it his “legacy.” In an age when “the greatest ever” seems to lack significance and sincerity, this is truly the best wine ever produced for this remarkable property.”
Robert M. Parker Jr. From his 1985 book-“Bordeaux- The Definitive Guide for The Wines Produced Since 1961”
The table tops for the tasting room were made out of rare wine box ends as well. Since they were all different sizes & thicknesses many had to be planed down and all had to be cut in order to size them to fit the tables. Some were badly warped so also had to be saw kerfed every half inch, as you can see. Once they were glued on, it was stained and finished with an ultra thick epoxy coating. Before stain & epoxy above.
Finished tables, below.
Can you spot the six pack imported from Australia? No it not Foster’s but the 2008 Penfolds “Grange”! Wine Spectator gave it a 100 rating in August of 2013. Best Shiraz on the planet, if you don’t mind laying down $600 a bottle. The Caymus SS, rated at 95 is one of the best cabs to come out of Napa in 2013.
The bottles on the filing cabinet are an assortment of recent and older vintages from Bordeaux, unfortunately they have already been tasted. From left to right: 1976 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 2012 Chateau Pape Clement, 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 1986 Chateau Talbot, 1996 Chateau Leoville- Las Cases, 2009 Chateau Giscours, 1995 Chateau Calon Segur, and lastly, the legendary vintage of 89′: 1989 Chateau Pichon Longueville-Comtesse De Lalande, 1989 Chateau Pichon Longueville-Baron, 1989 Chateau Lynch Bages, 1989 Chateau Montrose.
Just a side note on the 45′ Mouton, the V at the top of the label was for victory at the end of WWII. At auction in November of 1995 this was going for 16,055. a bottle. Below are the tasting notes from the May 15th, 1991 issue of Wine Spectator: Rating 100
“Wine doesn’t get much better than this. From a legendary vintage, this was the best Mouton of the tasting. It started out very minty, but then brown sugar, chocolate, dried plum, tar and cedar notes kicked in to offer a remarkably balanced, complex Bordeaux that was both powerful and elegant. Still full of vitality, with the deep ruby and almost purple color of a much younger wine and enough tannins to last many more years.”–PM
Germany did however have some victories after 45′. Below are some examples:
Rarities from 75′, 76′, 80′ and 83′.
More images from the Tasting Room:
Eurocave: 57 degrees, the perfect temperature for sipping on red wine.
Richard and Marisol happened to be in San Antonio (Saturday 1/28/2017) and had a fantastic story to tell. A wealthy collector in Austin passed away recently and left his entire wine collection to the gardener! The gardener didn’t really like wine so he gave it all away to some of his casual acquaintances. Richard happened to be the one of the fortunate recipients. Included in the notable collection was a 1970 Mouton! Between 1961 and 1982 the 1970 vintage throughout the Bordeaux region was by far the best. He was kind enough to think of me and share the experience. Even though it was mid shoulder, the nose was incredible and the wine was very drinkable even after 47 years of enduring the South Texas summers. If you can find it, you better be prepared to part with several Franklins.
If you read the the story earlier in this post of how Mouton was elevated to a first growth in 1973, then you no doubt would like to see Picasso’s label. Unfortunately, the beautiful blue colors have faded along with the contents. This was also in the collection that the gardener gave away!
If you’d like to sample something, check out the wine list below and then drop on by. If it’s in the cellar I’ll uncork it! Hope you enjoyed your tour through Bordeaux, Napa Valley and the Rheineland. Chet
Chet’s Wine List
Key to Notes:
1st Line: WINE NAME, Wine type or area, Vintage, WS Rating, Price at release & Region.
2nd Line: Tasting notes exclusively by Wine Spectator.
3rd Line: Personal Notes: by Chet.
ANGELINE Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2014 85 $16 Region: Sonoma
Offers fresh hay and orange peel notes up front, with a light, juicy mix of grapefruit, green apple and lemon flavors.
ARMANI Pinot Grigio Colle Ara 2016 $17 Region: Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
(WS Notes & score pending)
ATALON Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2013 87 $21 Region: Napa
Citrusy and bright, with mouthwatering acidity supporting the Meyer lemon, tangerine and ruby grapefruit flavors, revealing fresh herbal notes on the finish.
BOUGRIER Sauvignon Blanc 2014 85 $8 Region: Vin de Pays, France
BRANCOTT Sauvignon Blanc 2015 90 $14 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Fragrant and juicy, with apple blossom, lime zest and chive blossom notes surrounding a core of intense and refreshing lemon and grapefruit flavors. -MW
Personal Note: Brancott was the first winemaker to experiment with Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough in the 1970’s. At the time, the south island was considered too cold to grow grapes. They proved everyone wrong and now the area is wall to wall with vineyards! This is a very tasty SB and an unbelievable value. If you buy six or more at HEB right now it comes out to $8.09 a bottle. I suggest grabbing as many as you can because even though they made 150,000 cases of this stuff it will sell out quick. Even at $14 this is a fantastic white wine. NZ is pumping out some great whites at the moment!
BRANCOTT Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $14 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
(WS Notes & score pending)
Personal Note: 2016 is another great vintage from Marlborough. This one is bursting with fresh peach flavors, medium acidity and great viscosity. Very hard to stop sipping on this stuff! Serve it ice cold. Rating- 90
CALERA Chardonnay Central Coast 1988 86 $14 Region: Other California
Very ripe, rich and intense, with plenty of toasty, buttery oak aromas, and ripe pear and pineapple flavor, but the flavors begin to taper off on the finish, bringing a sense of elegance and finesse.
CHÂTEAU DE CHANTEGRIVE Graves White Caroline 2012 89 $26 Region: Bordeaux, France
Shows thyme and tarragon notes out front, with a mix of apple and kiwifruit leading to a flicker of shortbread on the finish. –JM
CHATEAU ST. JEAN Chardonnay Alexander Valley Robert Young Vineyard 1988 90 $21 Region: Sonoma
The flavors are mature, ripe and complex enough to go with the creamy texture. Offers aromas and flavors that lean toward pear, butter, vanilla and smoky oak, and hints of mineral and melon emerge on the finish.
CHATEAU ST. JEAN Chardonnay Alexander Valley Robert Young Vineyard 1986 89 $18 Region: Sonoma
CHATEAU ST. JEAN Chardonnay Sonoma County 1988 86 $12 Region: Sonoma
Distinctive for its fruitiness, with tiers of peach, nectarine, honey and pear flavors that are enlivened by zingy acidity and a pleasant aftertaste.
CLOS FLORIDENE BLANC Graves 2014 91 $30 Region: Bordeaux, France
A lilac hint is followed by lightly steeped cherry and plum fruit. Subtle sanguine notes line the finish. -JM
COTTESBROOK Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $10 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
(WS Notes & score pending)
Personal Note: This is a good, a fantastic value for the quality. The 2016 whites from Bordeaux are now being offered as futures and are averaging between $50. to $150 per bottle! Seriously, who would pay that? You can get a case of this instead. Rating- 90
DRYLANDS Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $13 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Very floral and fragrant, with a burst of passion fruit notes, this is light and refreshing, presenting a juicy core of grapefruit and lemon. Crisp on the finish.–MW
EASTON Barbera Sierra Foothills Monarch Mine Vineyard 2012 89 $25 Region: Sierra Foothills
Trim and appealingly tart, with notes of dusty raspberry, dried thyme and pepper.–TF
EMMOLO Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $20 Region: Napa
(WS Notes & score pending)
Personal Note: I took this to Savannah’s graduation party, it went quick. The only other wines they had were tepid Rose’s. 🙁 Rating-89
FERRARI-CARANO Chardonnay Alexander Valley 1988 93 $18 Region: Sonoma
Has enormous concentration of fruit, with layers of melon, apple, pear, spicy nutmeg and subtle honey and toast flavors that add a pleasant dimension to the gorgeous fruit. The texture is silky smooth and the flavors echo long and full. WS Top 100 Year: 1990, Rank: 41
Personal Note: One of the best Chardonnay’s that I can remember tasting in recent decades. Wines of this quality from Burgundy are going for $500-$900 today. As an example see the five wines below that were just released in 2017. The price is per bottle, not per case! FC was at the forefront of helping to establish the rich, plush style of Chardonnay that many California producers strive to achieve.
OLIVIER LEFLAIVE Montrachet 2014 98 points | $886 | 20 cases imported | White This is saturated with flavors and aromas of nut oil, sweet corn, lemon verbena, citronella and toasted baking spices, married to a texture that verges on oily. Backed by racy acidity, this leaves a long, mineral- and spice-infused aftertaste. Best from 2021 through 2035. From France.—B.S.
BLAIN-GAGNARD Montrachet 2014 97 points | $830 | 40 cases imported | White A whiff of the sea makes the aromas enticing, while flavors of peach, apple tart, nut oil and stone follow through. Powerful and balanced, yet this needs time for all the components to find equilibrium. The intense finish is long, laced with apple, stone and toast notes. Best from 2020 through 2033. From France.—B.S.
LOUIS JADOT Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles 2014 97 points | $474 | 75 cases imported | White Plenty of ground coffee, toast and vanilla aromas announce this white, while flavors of peach, lemon and apple follow through. Young and a little disjointed, but all the parts are there. Finishes long and satisfying. Best from 2019 through 2032. From France.—B.S.
DOMAINE LEFLAIVE Bâtard-Montrachet 2014 97 points | $695 | 66 cases imported | White Intense, exhibiting lemon, apple and honeydew melon flavors over a backbone of crackling acidity. Linear and persistent, this resonates on the long aftertaste of spice and mineral. Has an extra dimension. Best from 2020 through 2032. From France.—B.S.
DOMAINE LEFLAIVE Chevalier-Montrachet 2014 97 points | $850 | 59 cases imported | White Vivid and tense, setting the stage for lemon verbena, green apple, nut oil, chalk and spice flavors. A hint of tannins is present on the long, bracing aftertaste. Racy and refined. Best from 2020 through 2032. From France.—B.S.
I rest my case.
FRAMINGHAM Sauvignon Blanc 2015 85 $20 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Tangy and bright, with plenty of lemon, green apple and grapefruit flavors that are crisp and clean on the finish. –MW
FRAMINGHAM Sauvignon Blanc 2016 89 $18 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
GOVERNER’S BAY Sauvignon Blanc 2014 90 $12 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Personal Note: Outstanding wine for a great price. Intense fruit with plenty of acidity and a good finish. After I tried a bottle of this from HEB I went to Total Wine and got two cases with the 10% discount. It came out to about ten bucks a bottle. If you have never cared for white wine it’s probably because you’ve never had anything this good. I’ve tried many $20-$25 bottles of SB and Chardonnay but very few have come close to this kind of quality. This stuff is just plain delicious!
GOVERNER’S BAY Sauvignon Blanc 2015 87 $12 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Personal Note: Not bad but not even close to the previous year. This has good acidity but tends to lean more to the herbaceous side and lacks the concentration of fruit of the 2014.
GOVERNER’S BAY Sauvignon Blanc 2016 $12 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
(WS Notes & score pending)
Personal Note: Another good vintage. Very similar to the 2014, just a tad lighter but still a fantastic white for the price. Rating- 89
IRON HORSE Chardonnay Sonoma County Green Valley 1986 83 $12 Region: Sonoma
A crisp, spicy Chardonnay with lively pear and apple flavors and reasonable depth. Shows a bit of wood, good acid balance and a medium-length finish. Fresh and attractive.
MERIDIAN Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 1989 87 $10 Region: South Coast
Intense and lively, with juicy Chardonnay flavor that echoes complex lemon, pear, apple, pineapple and spice flavors and keeps repeating them. There’s a pretty kiss of French oak, too, but it’s subtle and in the background. Very good length.
MER SOLEIL SILVER (CAYMUS) Chardonnay 2014 90 $20 Region: Napa
A seductive style that captures effusively ripe peach and nectarine flavors. Features a juicy texture that’s broad and layered. Despite using no oak, this leaves the impression of spicy, jazzy wood on the lingering finish.–JL
MONDAVI Fume Blanc 1987 86 $13 Region: Napa
OYSTER BAY Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 87 $15 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Shows good intensity to the crisp, lemony core, with lime, peach and melon accents and a note of lemon thyme.–MW
RODNEY STRONG Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2013 87 $22 Region: Sonoma
Pure and spicy, with an earthy citrus edge to the green apple and pear flavors, revealing hints of limestone and light oak.–JL
RODNEY STRONG Charlottes Home Sauvignon Blanc 2014 87 $17 Region: Northern Sonoma
Offers tangy grapefruit and lemon flavors accented by floral and smoke aromas, set on a light and refreshing body. Lime sherbet notes show on the finish.–MW
RODNEY STRONG Charlottes Home Sauvignon Blanc 2015 90 $17 Region: Northern Sonoma
Up-front peach and apricot flavors segue into a juicy lemon core, with whiffs of smoke and dried flowers. Finishes with a charming note of yellow raisin.–MW
Personal Note: This reminds me more of a good Chardonnay, nice and toasty. Excellent effort!
ROSEMOUNT Chardonnay Hunter Valley 1990 88 $9 Region: Australia
Flavorful and elegant, with spicy grapefruit and pear aromas and flavors and mineral overtones on the finish. Has plenty to offer for immediate drinking, plus the balance for developing in the cellar through 1993 or ’94.
SALMON Sancerre Vieilles Vignes 2016 $25 Region: Loire, France
(WS Notes & score pending)
Personal Note: A bit subdued but tasty. Complex nose, medium finish but could use a little more acidity. Good stuff but it’s hard to pay $25 for this when you can pay $12-$18 for some of the great wines out of Marlborough. Rating- 88
SPRING CREEK Chardonnay 1984 82 $10 Region: Washington State
SPY VALLEY Sauvignon Blanc 2014 89 $20 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Focused and refreshing, with a whiff of celery leaf complementing the stone fruit, citrus and fleshy melon flavors. Ample acidity surges on the finish.–MW
VILLA MARIA Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 2015 90 $13 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Light and crisp, with tangy lime, melon and peach flavors that are succulent and smooth. Finishes juicy, showing plenty of focus and intensity.–MW
VILLA MARIA Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 2016 87 $10 Region: Marlborough, New Zealand
Personal Note: Again, New Zealand is leading the way when it comes to producing some great Sauvignon Blancs for under $10 a bottle, or for that matter, any price! This wine is absolutely scrumptious. Great bouquet, tons of fresh peach and honeysuckle flavors with a medium dry finish. If all the 2016’s are this good it may be a good time to stock up on whites.
WENTE BROS. Morning Fog 2013 89 $20 Region: Livermore Valley
WENTE Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Riva Ranch 1990 90 $12 Region: Bay Area/Central Coast
A delicious wine that’s elegant and stylish, with rich, sharply focused pear, pineapple and tropical fruit flavors framed by subtle oak shadings that turn toasty on the finish.
WENTE Chardonnay Arroyo Seco Riva Ranch 1991 87 $12 Region: Bay Area/Central Coast
Fresh and fruity, with nicely defined apple, grapefruit, lemon and pear aromas and flavors that remain fresh and spicy through the lively finish. Appealing to drink now.
WENTE Grande Reserve Brut Arroyo Seco 1982 90 $8 Region: Bay Area/Central Coast
Personal Note: I bought a case of this in the mid 90’s. It came shipped in the OWC (original wood case) just like Bordeaux. It lasted for a decade or more. I have one bottle left but am afraid it is over the hill. Very good sparkling wine for the price.
Germany & Other Whites
BURG LAYER SCHLOSSKAPELLE Kabinett 1983 90 $11 750ML Region: Nahe
Personal Note: Excellent everyday sipping white with or without food and a great price for such quality. Made with the King of grapes in Germany- Riesling. Crisp, clean with just a hint of dry sweetness and a medium length finish. Perfect balance. I bought 2 cases of this in 1984 but it was so good it didn’t hold out to see 1985. Unfortunately, it was not available after that, but it sure was great while it lasted.
BURG LAYER SCHLOSSKAPELLE Auslese 1983 93 $15 750ML Region: Nahe
Dr. ZENZEN Rioler Romerberg Optima Beerenauslese 1989 90 $35 750ML Region: Mosel
EDELSTALER KAISERGARTEN Trockenbeerenauslese 1981 93 $60 375ML Region: Burgenland, Austria
GLEN ELLEN Selected Late Harvest 1985 88 $22 375ML Region: Sonoma Valley
HEINFRIED DEXHEIMER Eiswein 2008 90 $6 375ML Region: Rheinhessen
Personal Note: Mom found this at HEB for the very low price of six dollars in the clearance bin. She knew that I liked Eisweins so she bought two bottles. We drank it with some of her homemade strawberry pie after dinner one night in 2015. Superb! (The pie) I was surprised at the quality of the wine as well. It is made from the Silvaner grape which tends to be quite a bit lighter and less acidic than the Reisling Eisweins. Still, you can’t complain. Most Eisweins go for $50-$70 for a half bottle. She still has the other bottle left. (:
HERRNSHEIMER ROMERSTEG Trockenbeerenauslese 1983 95 $80 375ML Region: Rheinhessen
Personal Note: 1983 was one of the greatest vintages for Germany in the 20th Century. This one was no exception. Made from the Gewurztraminer grape, second only to the Reisling, this is full bodied, sweet, super ripe and opulent. It rolls over the palate with incredible finesse and ends with a velvety finish. Sorghum-like! Ultra rare wine from one of the best years ever in Germany.
KIONA White Riesling Late Harvest 1989 88 $15 375ML Region: Yakima Valley, Washington
KREUZNACHER HINKELSTIEN Trockenbeerenauslese 1976 94 $99 750ML Region: Nahe
KREUZNACHER KRONENBERG Auslese 1983 91 $13 750ML Region: Nahe
MAXIMINER KLOSTERLAY Spatlese 1983 90 $22 750ML Region: Nahe
OSTHOFENER KLOSTERBERG Trockenbeerenauslese 1988 92 $65 375ML Region: Rheinhessen
PETROVARADIN Late Harvest 1985 89 $14 750ML Region: Austria
PROBSTDORFER GEISSENBERG Vollreiflese 1984 90 $40 750ML Region: Probstdorf, Austria
RAUENTHALER STEINMACHER Black Bottle Spatlese 1983 92 $18 750ML Region: Rheingau
ROBERT MONDAVI Late Harvest 1987 87 $18 375ML Region: Napa Valley
SATU NOU COLINE Neudorfer Rulander 1968 97 $38 750ML Region: Murfatlar, Romania
Personal Note: 20 year old beauty! Never tasted a chardonnay like this, it’s like honey, whipped cream, figs, dried apricots and honey roasted almonds all rolled into one. Crème brûlée-esque. On a cold night by the fireplace it doesn’t get any better this. This will age indefinitely, unfortunately, I didn’t give it a chance. Opened in 1988.
SCHNEIDERSCHE Wehlener Sonnenuhr Beerenauslese 1976 94 $60 375ML Region: Mosel
Personal Note: Opened in 1996. A great Reisling from a fantastic vintage. Along with 1983 one of the best years in the 20th century. Great acidity still after 20 years, which is not surprising because of the gravelly soil along the Mosel river.
SIEBELDINGER KONIGSGARTEN Auslese Eiswein 1980 90 $55 375ML Region: Rheinpfalz
Personal Note: This one is made with the Kerner grape, again not quite as good as the Reisling Eiswein’s but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. In 1985 Eric and I were skiing up at A Basin one day in early February. Wind chill on the mountain was -50 degrees below zero. After a long hard day on the slopes we enjoyed sipping on this while we soaked our almost frostbitten toes in the hot tub. We walked back to our condo which was about a quarter mile away, in our wet swimming trunks. The temperature outside was -18 degrees below zero! Dumb idea.
STAGS LEAP Selected Late Harvest 1986 88 $12 375ML Region: Napa Valley
SZEKESFEHERVAR STUHLWEISSENBURG Riesling 1972 98 $45 750ML Region: Szekesfehervar, Hungary
Personal Note: Fantastic! The best Reisling I think I’ve ever experienced. Rich, harmonious, light acidity and an extremely long finish. One of the best white wines I’ve ever had. I purchased six bottles of this in the early 80’s but it was so good I didn’t have the patience to let it age for the 30-40 years it would have took to reach maturity. It would have been greater than it already was. The last one was enjoyed somewhere around 1988, I don’t recall where.
THORNICHER RITSCH Auslese 1983 92 $25 750ML Region: Mosel
UNGSTIENER KOBNERT Auslese 1983 91 $18 750ML Region: Pfalz
WEHLENER MUNZLAY Trockenbeerenauslese 1976 97 $58 375ML Region: Mosel
WEHLENER SONNENUHR Beerenauslese 1976 94 $49 375ML Region: Mosel
WENDELSHIEMER ADELBERG QBA 1983 85 $15 750ML Region: Rheinhessen
WITTLICHER KLOSTERWEG Beerenauslese 1975 93 $55 375ML Region: Mosel
BOLLINGER Grand Annee Brut Champagne 1985 Magnum 94 $130
Classically styled; one of the all-time greats in standard vintage Champagne. Firm yet elegant, with plenty of smoke, apple and toast character, a fine, silky texture and great acidity.
Personal Note: We had this at our wedding in 2000. 60% Pinot Noir 40% Chardonnay. Memorable wine for a memorable occasion.
BOLLINGER Rose Champagne 2006 $140
(WS Notes & score pending)
Personal Note: I’m not too big on Rose’s but this is wonderful stuff! Rich, luxurious depth but still has great acidity and tiny, tiny bubbles that go on forever. The finish is full and long, reminds me a good 85′ Burgundy. Disgorged in 2017. Rating-96
KRUG Brut Champagne Grande Cuvée NV 97 $169
This is all about balance and the integration of power and finesse, with finely honed acidity supporting flavors of quince paste, dried black cherry, spun honey and candied orange zest, while rich notes of roasted walnut, coffee liqueur and toasted cardamom resonate on the finish. Hard to stop sipping.–AN
Personal Note: Absolutely the best Champagne on the planet and in reality one of the best wines, red or white, you will ever taste, if you don’t mind dropping some coins. It is a blend of up to 120 wines coming from ten or more different vintages, some up to fifteen years in age. Three grape varieties are used, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It is re-created on a yearly basis. In total, over twenty years are required to create a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, including at least six years during which the bottle sits in the Krug cellars. Remi Krug (the Owner) says “the cuvée is my favorite because it’s mine. For the vintage, I have to share the credit with God”. An experience you won’t soon forget. Christina got me a bottle of this for our 2016 wedding anniversary. Best anniversary gift ever!
LAURENT-PERRIER Brut Champagne Grand Siècle 1979 90 $80 A big, rich, toasty style that sacrifices elegance for power and strength. It’s a bit coarse but packed with complex pear, honey and toasty flavors that are fairly assertive on the palate. Finishes with a spicy vanilla quality.
LAURENT-PERRIER Grand Siècle “La Cuvée” 1973 94 $85
Personal Note: Opened in 1993. Fantastic depth and boldness for such an older vintage. After 20 years it was still very bubbly! Fortunately, it had been very carefully cellared. The balance between the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is perfect. Wonderful champagne! It’s almost impossible to find today but if you do it’s over $300 a bottle, and that doesn’t include shipping or ice.
LOUIS ROEDERER Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1979 94 $95
Soft and fruity, with lots of honey character. This gives it a feeling of richness without heaviness, making it refined, complex and delicious in a harmonious, delicate way.
Personal Note: Outstanding vintage for Chardonnay from the Champagne region. I’ve tasted several Blanc de Blancs from 79′ and they are all excellent. Unfortunately, few are still left.
LOUIS ROEDERER Brut Champagne NV 89 $25
MOËT & CHANDON Brut Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1971 94 $180
Light to medium body, this is an elegant, discreet and balanced Champagne that has a creamy, smooth mouth-feel and delivers some truffle, honey, lime and hazelnut notes. Refined finish.
Personal Note: Jim and Nancy (Jill’s parents) went all out and sprung for a bottle of this on her and Eric’s wedding night. I only got a sip but it was memorable.
MOËT & CHANDON Brut Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1982 93 $150
Seductive and wonderfully balanced, crisp yet it caresses the palate. Has a very complex toasted bread and buttery croissant character along with some nutmeg, spice, chocolate and vanilla notes. At its peak, so drink and enjoy.–PM
Personal Note: I took a bottle of this to Bret & Stella’s wedding at Mike & Kim’s home in Austin. I opened it up after all the house wine ran out and Bret, Bob and myself sipped on it to finish up the night. One of the best ever! Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the bottle as I usually do, it would have been a nice keepsake.
MOËT & CHANDON Brut Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1983 95 $97
Has oodles of Champagne complexity in a creamy, smooth package. Rich, toasty, creamy and elegant, with delicious nutty flavors that linger on the finish. Enormously concentrated, shows the full benefit of long-term aging on the yeast.
WS Top 100 Year: 1992, Rank: 42
Personal Note: Better than the great 82′. We were skiing at Copper Mountain one day in 87′ and I buried this bottle in the snow off one of the runs high up on the mountain. I retrieved it at lunch (almost couldn’t find it) and Joel, Terry, Steve and I enjoyed it with a turkey sandwich & Cheetos. When it ran out we chased it with a couple of Buds! Just another great day in Colorado.
MOËT & CHANDON Champagne White Star NV 88 $40
Rich and a touch sweet, exuding citrus and honey flavors on an easygoing frame. Medium-bodied, with moderate intensity, it picks up a mushroom note on the finish.–BS
Personal Note: This stuff is delicious or was, they stopped making it recently. In the 1980’s it was always discounted around Christmas time and you could get it for about $18 a bottle. I always kept a few bottles on hand for a special occasion. Not too dry but not too sweet, fantastic sparkling wine.
PERRIER-JOUËT Brut Champagne Fleur de Champagne Belle Epoque 1988 91 $80
One of the best ‘flower bottle’ vintages in years. Textbook top notch Champagne with fruity, liBght toasted aromas and flavors, full body yet a fine underlying acidity. Very long finish.
PIPER HEIDSIECK Brut 1979 88 $35
POL ROGER Brut Champagne NV 85 $35
Starts out with the rich, toasty aroma of well-aged Champagne, followed by floral, appley flavors and a soft texture that lets the flavors turn lean on the finish.
RUINART Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Dom Ruinart 1979 95 $150
Personal Note: As good as or better than DP. 100% Chardonnay. Awesome nectar!
SALON Le Mesnil 1971 95 $100
Personal Note: Chardonnay at its best! One of the two greatest Champagne vintages of the 20th century. (The other-1969) I bought half a case of this in the early 80’s and I am down to my last bottle. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s not what it used to be, the last bottle I opened was corked. Lesson: Better to open them earlier than later.
VEUVE CLICQUOT Brut Champagne NV 87 $50 Light and effervescent, with a floral, perfumed character and delicate yet firm structure. Its flavors evoke ginger and cherry. Try as an aperitif.–BS
CHÂTEAU ANGLUDET Margaux 1982 91 $20
From one of the owners of Palmer, Peter Sichel, this doesn’t pull any punches. Shows excellent concentration of fruit, with truffle and berry aromas and flavors, full tannins and a very tannic finish.
CHÂTEAU BARDE HAUT St. Emilion 2010 93 $38
Still a bit compact, with blueberry coulis, fig and blackberry paste notes tightly wound, backed by tangy black licorice, singed apple wood and tar on the finish, which features a very sleek structure and a buried iron note. This has good vivacity and should unwind nicely in the cellar.
CHÂTEAU BARDE HAUT St. Emilion 2012 92 $26
Offers lovely purity and mouthfeel, with notes of velvety plum, boysenberry and cherry preserves gliding easily. Features anise and ganache hints, with light charcoal and tobacco details on the finish. Shows well-integrated grip, and should cellar well.–JM
CHÂTEAU BOYD-CANTENAC Margaux 1985 90 $27
Sweet, rich and elegant with plenty of ripe plum and cassis fruit, framed by toasty oak. It’s rich without being heavy, the flavors open up on the finish.
CHÂTEAU CALON-SÉGUR St. Estèphe 1995 95 $30
Incredible nose of crushed berries, flowers, spices and nuts. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long, long finish. Powerful and solid. Builds on the palate.–JS
CHÂTEAU CANTENAC BROWN Margaux 2012 93 $44
This red offers beguiling aromas of bergamot, roasted sandalwood and black tea, before giving way to a well-endowed core of plum, blackberry and raspberry reduction notes. The structure is remarkably fine-grained, showing seamless integration through the long finish. A really great showing.–JM
CHÂTEAU DE CHANTEGRIVE Graves 2010 90 $27
Dark and winey, with lots of steeped currant and crushed blackberry fruit wrapped with tarry grip. A licorice root edge frames the finish, which stays fleshy and muscular. Very solid. Best from 2014 through 2022. –JM
Personal Note: Awesome Bordeaux for under $30. Deep purple (not the group) color and very viscous with ample enough tannins and plenty of decadent fruit. This is very drinkable now but can age well for the next 5-6 years. You may want to grab a case of this marvelous liquid before it sells out! 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot.
CHÂTEAU COS-D’ESTOURNEL St. Estèphe 1985 93 $71
Dark, rich and deeply concentrated. California-like, with its opulent coffee, herb, cedar, currant, coffee, mineral and spice flavors. Reaching a nice drinking plateau, but has substance, depth and a long, full finish.–JL
CHATEAU COTE MONTPEZAT Castillon 2010 90 $22
Shows good vivacity, with loganberry, boysenberry and fig notes coursing along, offering lots of mouthwatering spice and a well-embedded licorice streak on the finish. The polished structure and ample length bode well for the cellar. Drink now through 2018.–JM
CHÂTEAU D’ARMAILHAC Pauillac 2012 89 $38
There’s a lightly dusty, singed sandalwood feel to this red, with plum and blackberry fruit laced with toasted vanilla and loam hints. Features a light twinge of plum skin on the finish but remains approachable overall, presenting a lingering tobacco whiff. Drink now through 2021–JM
CHÂTEAU D’ISSAN Margaux 1985 88 $28 Plenty of flavor, leather, spice, meat and ripe plum and cassis, rich and elegant yet framed with thick tannins. Flavors linger on the finish.
CHÂTEAU D’ISSAN Margaux 1986 83 $22
Light and elegant, with flavors running to red cherry and cedar, modest in scope and intensity, but the flavors are attractive and persistent.
CHÂTEAU DUCRU-BEAUCAILLOU St. Julien 1983 87 $42
Big and intense aromas of tar and black licorice; a full body with firm tannins that lacks a bit of charm at the moment. Needs time.–JS
CHÂTEAU DUCRU-BEAUCAILLOU Croix de Beaucaillou St. Julien 2011 90 $43
Offers a vivid bolt of dark currant and blackberry fruit, lined with briar, ganache and tar notes that drive the finish along. Packed but sleek, showing good energy overall. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Best from 2016 through 2027.–JM
CHÂTEAU FERET LAMBERT Bordeaux Superieur 2012 86 $17
Tangy, with a good iron streak running through the core of red currant and plum fruit flavors. A floral hint adds cut on the finish. Drink now.–JM
CHÂTEAU DE FERRAND St. Emilion 2008 91 $28
This focused red shows real intensity, with blackberry, fig, dark chocolate and graphite flavors that drive through the midpalate, supported by firm, well-integrated tannins. Not thick or muscular, but balanced and long.
CHÂTEAU GABY Canon-Fronsac 2009 91 $25
A broad, fleshy, smoky style, with dark plum, currant paste, braised fig and baker’s chocolate notes that hang on the muscular finish. A gutsy style, but should be tamed a bit by cellaring.
CHÂTEAU GISCOURS Margaux 2009 93 $65
This is alluring, with lots of incense, warm espresso and roasted mesquite notes leading the way for a sleek core of mouthwatering black currant and blackberry fruit. The long finish lets the mesquite edge linger, with well-embedded grip. Rock-solid. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
CHÂTEAU GISCOURS Margaux 2012 90 $50
This has a noticeable pepper and charcoal backdrop, but the core of black tea, crushed plum and warm currant confiture holds sway overall, while refined tannins carry the finish. Should fill out a bit more with cellaring.
CHÂTEAU GRUAUD LAROSE St. Julien 2010 93 $85
This is distinctive, with an aromatic roasted alder wood streak leading the way, quickly followed by dense but sleek blackberry cobbler, currant paste and warm plum sauce notes. Well-polished through the finish, offering deeply embedded acidity. Best from 2015 through 2030.–JM
CHÂTEAU HAURA Graves 2012 90 $23
Features a solid core of plum cake, blackberry paste and fig fruit, lined with a graphite structure and backed by bramble and tar notes that are well-integrated on the finish. Ripe, focused and well-built. Drink now through 2019. Tasted twice, with consistent notes.–JM
CHÂTEAU HAUT-BAILLY Graves 1985 91 $28
This estate produces classy, fine wines and the 1985 is no different. Cherry, tobacco and chocolate aromas and flavors. Full-bodied and very firm, with wonderful tannins and a long, voluptuous finish. Drinkable now.–JS
CHÂTEAU HAUT-BRION Graves 1983 88 $70
Wonderful to drink now with rich, already mature character. This is flavor-intensive with decadent character of lead pencil, tobacco, chocolate and mint. Very fine tannins. –JS
CHÂTEAU HAUT MAILLET Pomerol 2010 91 $34
Dark and nicely packed, with lots of crushed fig, boysenberry and cassis notes. Shows some solid depth on the finish, with ample but velvety tannins and a dark spice element.–JM
CHÂTEAU DE LA HUSTE Fronsac 2012 89 $20
The ripe raspberry and plum fruit is laced with a brambly structure, ending with lively anise and savory notes. Mouthwatering acidity lines the finish. Not big, but fresh and engaging.
Personal Note: This is an extremely good wine for the price. Hard to find a Bordeaux these days for $20 that tastes this good. This should age well for a couple more years. 90% Merlot.
CHÂTEAU DE LA HUSTE Fronsac 2014 89 $20
A restrained style, with a tobacco leaf frame around a core of gently steeped cherry and plum fruit. Offers a light charcoal edge on the finish, revealing a touch of latent grip. Should unwind nicely in the short-term.–JM
CHÂTEAU LA FLEUR-PÉTRUS Pomerol 1988 92 $32
Coffee, blackberry and tanned leather on the nose. Full-bodied, with soft and round tannins and a decadent fruit character, with hints of tar. Complex and fascinating.–JS
CHÂTEAU LAFITE ROTHSCHILD Pauillac 1976 92 $48
One of the best wines in a vintage in which other wines are now beginning to go past their prime. Extremely rich and wonderful. March 31,1989–JS
Personal Note: I picked this up at a small liquor store on San Pedro near Oblate around 1988/89. It wasn’t bad but I was expecting a lot more. I had a couple of small glasses and kept waiting for it to come around but it never did. Assuming it had not been stored properly, I took it back half full. The owner pulled out a glass, tasted it and said it was fine. He offered a full in store credit so I got four bottles for it, not a bad deal at all!
CHÂTEAU LAFITE ROTHSCHILD Pauillac 1988 94 $60
Beautiful and subtle on the nose, with mineral, berry, licorice and dark chocolate. Full-bodied, with super silky tannins and a pretty balance of fruit and mint. Long and caressing. Real claret here. Everyone talks about 1989, but this is very close in quality.–JS
Personal Note: If you could equate Bordeaux with cars then Mouton & Margaux would be a Lamborghini Egoista. This wine as well as Chateau Latour is the exact opposite, more like the Bentley Mulsanne, quiet and refined, reserved but powerful, classic but unobtrusive, subdued but luxuriant. Lafite is just one of the most fascinating wines you will ever experience. Opened in 1994.
CHÂTEAU LAFON-ROCHET St.-Estèphe 1982 90 $26
Very tight and closed, with loads of tannins and fruit. Not giving much now; needs an enormous amount of time.–JS
CHÂTEAU LA POINTE Pomerol 2010 93 $43
This has power in reserve, but stays remarkably restrained for now, with a torrent of boysenberry, fig and raspberry fruit held in check by charcoal-studded grip and well-embedded acidity. The long, dense smoked apple wood finish should let this cruise nicely in the cellar.
CHÂTEAU LARCIS DUCASSE 2012 93 $60
Dark and winey, with steeped currant, macerated plum and warm boysenberry coulis flavors, laced with licorice snap and roasted apple wood notes. The charcoal edge is buried on the finish, with a lingering minerality. Lots going on here. Needs time.–JM
CHÂTEAU LATOUR Pauillac 1988 96 $80
So minty, with loads of subtle ripe fruit and eucalyptus undertones. Full-bodied, with ultrafine tannins and a long, long finish. Caresses every inch of the palate. It’s the quality of the tannins that’s impressive here. What a great and beautiful wine. Should improve for many years to come.–JS
Personal Note: Very understated and sublime. Distinctive lead pencil nose and the color is almost black. It needs quite a bit of time in the decanter to fully open up but the more you sip on it you start to realize just how rare and wonderful Latour can be. Over the last 100 years the most consistent of the five first growths.
CHATEAU LATOUR SEGUR St. Emilion 1986 84 $22
CHÂTEAU LATOUR Pauillac 1984 84 $30
A slightly unripe wine, but still good. Amber-red color. Aromas of peat, iodine and tobacco. Medium-bodied, with tea, herb and tobacco flavors. Light finish.–JS
CHÂTEAU LA VIEILLE CURE Fronsac 2010 92 $26
This takes a modern approach, with a noticeable dose of dark, roasted espresso and chocolate up front, but remains grounded in the appellation’s textbook racy chalk and charcoal profile. The core of lush fig, plum and blackberry fruit sits in reserve, and the finish is polished and long. Impressive.–JM
CHÂTEAU LILIAN LADOUYS St. Estephe 2010 89 $25
Features firm chalk and charcoal notes along the edges, with a mix of crushed plum and red currant fruit at the core. The bright, fresh finish lets the minerality meld with the fruit. Pure and focused, but shy on depth, this is a step back from this estate’s recent progress. Drink now through 2021.–JM
CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE LAS CASES St.-Julien 1983 87 $28
A deceptive Bordeaux which shows extremely gamy, roasted, ripe fruit character, medium body and a silky, slightly austere mouthfeel.–JS
CHÂTEAU LYNCH BAGES Pauillac 1984 90 $35
CHÂTEAU LYNCH BAGES Pauillac 1985 97 $37
Rich and massively concentrated, with layers of plum, anise, black cherry and tobacco, firm acidity and structure and thick, chewy, balanced tannins. Beautiful, elegant and stylish. One of the greatest Lynch Bages ever made; will improve with five or more years in the cellar.
Personal Note: In 1988 Wine Spectator began it’s Top 100 List where they categorize the most exciting wines from thousands they have tasted during the course of the year. The 85′ Lynch was at the top of the List! Not bad for a fifth growth, this is right up there with the big boy’s. I paid $30 for this one in 1988, at the time, a lot of money for a bottle of wine . Coming in at #2 on the List was the 1985 Chateau Margaux with a 99 rating, which at the time, you could have purchased for $60. Unfortunately, I was on a beer budget so I couldn’t stock up on these once in a lifetime beauties. As the French say- c’est la vie!
CHÂTEAU LYNCH BAGES Pauillac 1986 94 $40
A first-class wine with a powerful backbone. Displays inky color and smoky cherry aromas; full-bodied and balanced with a long finish.
Personal Note: Overshadowed by the great 85′ but still a classic in it’s own right. As of 2016 it’s still rated at 93 and is currently retailing for around $204 a bottle.
CHÂTEAU MALESCOT St. EXUPERY Margaux 2011 92 $60
A bit woodsy in feel now, with a youthfully raw edge, as singed sandalwood and alder notes liberally frame the core of dark cherry, plum and black currant fruit. This has length and drive, with a smoldering feel echoing. Should be among the top examples of the AOC in 2011 after it settles in fully.
CHÂTEAU MARGAUX Margaux 1986 98 $70
An absolute classic; incredibly concentrated, complex, elegant and firm without a hint of hardness. Layers of blackberry, cassis, plum, cedar, vanilla and spice, yet there is also a sense of reserve, indicating this has plenty of room to grow. Best from 1995 through 2000. –JS
Personal Note: I opened this one up one night in 1998. Steve Solomon had come over for a few games of chess and we ended the night sipping on this. It was powerful with plenty of fine tannins but just blew us out of the water with it’s opulence! At one point Steve went to move a piece and knocked over his glass which he had just filled. What a shame. I never invited him back after that faux pas! This wine today, sells for around $600 a bottle and after all these years is still rated at 95 from Wine Spectator.
CHÂTEAU MARGAUX Margaux 1980 89 $60
Margaux is unquestionably the best wine produced in this vintage. A wine of uncommon power, concentration, richness and beauty, the Margaux is deep in color, deep in fruit extract and shockingly long on the palate. Medium bodied and moderately tannic, this wine has no challengers for the best of 1980.-RP
CHÂTEAU MEYNEY St.-Estèphe 1986 88 $19
CHÂTEAU MOUTON-ROTHSCHILD Pauillac 1988 100 $60
A magnificent wine that’s ripe, powerful, seductive and amazingly deep. Massively concentrated and bursting with currant, plum, berry, cedar, chocolate and all sorts of exotic spice flavors, yet it keeps its balance, never going to excess. Lingers on the finish for minutes. A classic.-JS April 30, 1991
Personal Note: I bought this at Don’s & Ben’s on West Ave. near Loop 410 along with a bottle of 1988 Latour and 1988 Lafite. They had them all three displayed in a glass case under lock & key. The price including tax was just under $200 for all three bottles. (Just about my entire paycheck that week) Today’s cost would be around $1900 for those three bottles. The early 90’s was a great time for quaffing on First Growth and not spending a fortune. This is in the top five of the greatest wines I’ve ever experienced. I sipped on it for almost a week! (Not exactly quaffing.)
CHATEAU NENIN Pomerol 1979 84 $25
CHATEAU NENIN Pomerol 2010 92 $64
This is deliciously plump, with blackberry and plum fruit at the core, studded with lightly toasted spice and framed with a roasted vanilla bean note. A lingering cocoa edge chimes in on the finish. Best from 2014 through 2023. –JM
CHÂTEAU PAPE CLEMENT Pessac- Leognan 2012 94 $81
Densely packed, with lots of dark steeped currant, fig and blackberry fruit, slowly melding with muscular licorice snap, bramble, singed bay and ganache notes. The long, dark, ganache-coated finish isn’t shy, but an enticing rusticity keeps this honest. A large-scaled wine that has really powered up since the barrel tasting. Best from 2018 through 2027.–JM
CHÂTEAU POTENSAC Medoc 2010 90 $35
Solid, if a bit chunky, with cocoa and ganache coating a core of black currant and blackberry fruit that hangs through the muscular finish, where a warm paving stone note rings out. A touch austere, but the stuffing is there for cellaring. –JM
CHÂTEAU PICHON LONGUEVILLE LALANDE Pauillac 1985 95 $40
A massive wine, rich with currant, leather and spice, chewy texture, concentrated and complex, yet immediately likeable, it’s so delicious.-JS WS Top 100 Year: 1988, Rank: 17
CHÂTEAU PICHON-LONGUEVILLE BARON Pauillac 1990 97 $70
Very dark ruby color. Beautiful aromas of berries, minerals, cherries and chocolate. Full-bodied, with very rich yet ripe tannins and a long, long tobacco, cherry, berry aftertaste. Goes on and on. Always been superb; in fact, it keeps getting better.-JS
CHÂTEAU PONTET-CANET Pauillac 1986 89 $21
A rich, elegant, complex and well-proportioned wine with layers of cedar, plum, currant and spice that are intense and deep. Finish is long and elegant.
CHÂTEAU POUJEAUX Moulis 1985 87 $18
A firm, tightly packed Bordeaux. Spicy, slightly herbal aromas with solid fruit flavors that fight to the front. Tobacco and cedar notes add complexity.
CHÂTEAU ROUGET Pomerol 1989 87 $42
CHÂTEAU TOURNEFEUILLE Lalande de Pomerol 2010 90 $26
The boysenberry, fig and warm currant confiture notes are layered seamlessly and lightly, while dark tea, singed alder and bay leaf notes fill in on the finish. Shows excellent depth and refinement.–JM
CLOS DE L’ORATOIRE Saint Emilion 2011 91 $30
Offers a bright, brisk core of damson plum, bitter cherry and red currant, with racy apple wood and iron notes driving the finish. Not superdense, but shows serious definition and length. –JM
APEX Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 92 $30 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Supple, open-textured and generous, with pure currant and blackberry flavors on a deftly balanced frame. Violet nuances linger against powdery tannins on the finish.
BEAULIEU VINEYARD Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve 1984 92 $28 Region: Napa
Elegant and understated, warm, rich and seductive, with soft tannins and fine depth. Pretty integration of fruit flavors.–JL March 31,1991
Personal Note: I was in the Don’s & Ben’s store on the corner of West Ave. and Patricia one day in 1987 just browsing the wine selection which was extremely limited, and a Rep from Glazer’s noticed I was drooling over a bottle of 84′ Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. He suggested I try this wine which I did and it was so good I bought a case. It was $28 a bottle then, it averages around $150 now. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. They don’t call it the good ole days for nothing.
BEAULIEU VINEYARD Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve 1985 82 $28 Region: Napa
With its raw tannins still dominant, this is a tough-edged wine, with mineral, sour cherry and cedar notes, but it lacks harmony and finesse.–JL
Personal Note: Awesome wine! One of the best I’ve ever had. James Laube must have gotten hold of a bad bottle because in February of 2000 he gave it a 95 rating.
BEAULIEU VINEYARD Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve 1987 91 $35 Region: Napa
Generous, soft and big, with a dark ruby color and mint, plum and smoke character. Full-bodied and very velvety, with lots of ripe berry and chocolate flavors and a long, long finish.
BERINGER Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Appellation Collection Reserve 1999 89 $50 A big, dense, concentrated effort, with chewy tannins hugging earthy currant, coffee grounds, herbs, pencil shavings, mocha and exotic spices. A bit chewy, with anise and licorice, it needs some cellaring to mellow.–JL Region: Sonoma
BERINGER Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Private Reserve 2012 93 $108 A classy style that combines firm, ripe, dusty blackberry, currant and wild berry flavors with dried herb, cedar and tobacco notes. On the finish, the tannins are fine-grained and the flavors flow through in an elegant manner.–JL
CARNIVOR Cabernet 2013 90 $15 Region: California
Personal Note: What it lacks in elegance it makes up in density. Unusual, a little heavy and brutish, but not bad. In a blind tasting I wouldn’t guess it’s a cab, maybe Syrah.
CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 90 $11 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Fresh and expressive, deftly balanced and juicy, with raspberry and cherry flavors supported by hints of cinnamon and pepper. The finish persists against nubby tannins.–HS
Personal Note: Outstanding cab for eleven bucks! If you are tired of paying $40-$50 for mediocre cabs from Napa & Sonoma try this one and Columbia Crest. Year in and year out they are both near or at 90 points.
CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Horse Heaven Hills Canoe Ridge Estate 2012 89 $28 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Sleek, focused and appealing, with smoke, black cherry and currant flavors gliding into a finish that picks up hints of coffee and spice.–HS
COLUMBIA Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2013 90 $16 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
This dense and focused red plays its coffee and mineral-accented blackberry flavors against a blanket of fine tannins, coming together smoothly on the purposeful finish.–HS
COLUMBIA CREST Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2012 90 $6 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Polished, plush and vibrant, with a core of plum and black currant fruit welling up seductively against hints of sweet spices and cream. The finish lingers beautifully.–HS
Personal Note: This is a fantastic wine, Costco had it for six bucks for a while until the ratings came out and then it was gone quickly. Best Cab I’ve ever tasted for under $10, I should have bought 20 cases. I checked 4-5 HEB stores in the area and rounded up about ten more bottles that were mixed in with the 2013’s. I still have a few left, very good stuff!
COLUMBIA CREST Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2013 87 $6 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Fresh and inviting, with plum and currant flavors on a fine-grained frame. Finishes with modest intensity. Drink now through 2018.–HS
Personal Note: Another very good wine from C.C. You will not find a wine anywhere in the world, much less a cab, that tastes this good and that only cost’s six bucks. If you do, let me know. I didn’t get a chance to try it, but interesting to note that their 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was the Wine of the Year in the 2009 Wine Spectator’s Top 100. It received a rating of 95 and the price at release in 2007 was $27. Unbelievable. These guy’s know how to make good cabs and you don’t have to pay an arm & a leg for it!
COLUMBIA CREST Gold Grand Estates Limited Release Columbia Valley 2013 90 $13 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Polished, focused, generous and ripe, with soft-textured black cherry, licorice and floral flavors that sing smoothly into the long and expressive finish. Cabernet Franc and Merlot. –HS
COLUMBIA CREST Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills H3 2013 91 $10 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Supple, focused and distinctive, with a core of ripe plum, currant, sage and floral flavors, mingling effectively and harmoniously on the long, expressive finish. The tannins are nicely shaped.–HS
CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 2010 96 $130 Region: Napa
A seductive style that’s openly fruity, showing supple plum and black cherry notes, with floral scents and spices, turning creamy and gaining a mocha-espresso vanilla scent that’s enticing. Finishes with a smooth texture, fine-grained tannins and then another burst of fruit.–JL
Personal Note: Christina and I enjoyed this one at Hugh’s Cellar Steakhouse in Vegas on the old strip under the Four Queens Casino. Great food with a very great Cab! This will even be better in a few more years if you have the patience.
WS Top 100 Year: 2013, Rank: 83
CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 92 $65 Region: Napa
Rich, smooth and creamy, with vanilla, mocha, dark berry and licorice notes, offering a compelling mix of sweetish flavors set in a graceful, supple texture.–JL
DAVID BRUCE Cabernet Sauvignon California Vintner’s Select 1983 79 $13 Region: California
DOMINUS ESTATE Napa Valley 1984 83 $40 Region: Napa
Supple, balanced and offering complex, mature coffee, gamy currant and cedar flavors; this is a complex wine that’s drying out, clearly on the downside.–JL
DOMINUS ESTATE Napa Valley 1985 85 $45 Region: Napa
Rich and evenhanded. A touch of barnyard funk, but also some complex cedar, dried currant and mulchy Cabernet flavors that will appeal to some more than others. The tannins turn dry and leathery on the finish.–JL 2005
Personal Note: This wine is owned and made by Christian Moueix who also owns the great Chateau Petrus. In 1989 James Laube gave this one a 95 rating and called it a masterpiece. When I opened it in 1990 it was wonderful. Unfortunately, 15 years later, it has started to decline badly. Still drinkable but not what it was. Happens to the best of them.
FORMAN Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1985 88 $18 Region: Napa
Dark red garnet, with a touch of earth, leather, forest floor and dried currant. Rich and mature on the palate, with good depth, focus, complexity and length. Tannins have mostly been resolved, ending with just a slight bite.–JL
FREI BROTHERS Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Reserve 2012 92 $27 Region: Sonoma
Combines firm, dark fruit and chewy tannins with a measure of finesse and refinement. Ends with gripping, cedary tannins, bolstered by good length and depth.–JL
Personal Note: I tried a bottle of this when it was released in 2014 and was very impressed. HEB had it for $18 so I went back and cleared the shelf. I still have 4-5 bottles left. Should age well for the next few years. Great cab from a great vintage.
HALL EIGHTEEN SEVENTY THREE Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013 94 $80 Region: Napa
Ultrarich, layered and tightly focused on a dense core of meaty blackberry, currant, loamy earth, anise, crushed rock and graphite notes. For all the flavor and depth, this features a persistent finish that folds in smoky, toasty oak, adding an extra dimension of texture, flavor and aroma.–JL
HEITZ Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1983 85 $20 Region: Napa
INTRINSIC Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2014 85 $25
Firm in texture, brimming with raspberry, black cherry, violet and herb flavors that come together harmoniously on the finish against refined tannins. Offers presence and persistence.–HS
Personal Note: Not impressed.
THE HESS COLLECTION Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1987 96 $35 Region: Napa
Massively flavorful, with chewy tannins and gobs of currant, plum, blackberry and cedar aromas and flavors, echoing anise and other spices on the long finish. Enormously fruity, with smoothly integrated tannins that should be marvelous around 1996 to 1998. 700 cases made.–JL
Personal Note: Unfortunately, I have no tasting notes on when I opened this one up or how good it was but when James Laube uses the words massively and enormously it must have been great. This was opened most likely in the early to mid 90’s. As I’ve stated before, those of us who were fortunate enough to be alive at a time when masterpieces such as this were being made should count our blessings to have been able to experience such great wine at such a reasonable cost. Comparable cabs from Napa today such as Dana, Colgin, Promontory, Bond, Schrader, Bevan, Abreu, Araujo, Harlan and the like are fetching $300-$900 a bottle in the good vintages. I recently saw a Magnum of Screaming Eagle- the asking price? $6000. No, I didn’t leave out the decimal point, that’s six thousand dollars for 1.5 liters! California may pull out of it’s recession if enough people keep buying these wines. My mom always told me, a fool and his money are easily parted. These cabs and a few others are a prime example that there are many fools in today’s world. Sorry guy’s, but it’s just plain dumb.
JAMIESON RANCH Double Lariat 2013 92 $35 Region: Napa
Personal Note: Beautiful deep crimson color, good nose & legs that take forever to dissipate. Very tannic however, could use a few more years. All in all, fantastic cab for a reasonable price!
JANUIK Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2012 91 $40 Region: Washington
Firm in texture, with a layer of fine, nubby tannins wrapped around a sleek core of black cherry, raspberry and sassafras flavors, finishing with intensity and deftness. –HS
JOSEPH PHELPS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1984 91 $14 Region: Napa
Distinctly minty and chocolatey with rich, elegant cherry-berry flavors, smooth supple tannins and a rather woody finish. Its understated elegance and intensity suggest cellaring.
JOSEPH PHELPS Insignia Napa Valley 2000 92 $137 Region: Napa
Deftly balanced, with dark color and rich fruit. Elegant, with tiers of currant, mocha, blackberry and espresso bean. Firms up at midpalate and flexes its tannic strength on the finish. Best to cellar a year or two. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
Personal Note: Richard Decker had given me this bottle as a gift and I kept it for a little while but since it was 13 years old and I wasn’t sure how it had been stored, I decided not to chance it. Armando and I enjoyed it one night in 2013 over a couple of games of chess at his home. One of the best older cabs I have ever experienced. (Excluding Bordeaux of course) Aged perfectly!
JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 1995 87 $20 Region: South Coast
Firm in texture, nicely packed with black cherry and currant, and shades of tobacco and herb. A harmonious wine with lovely flavors that echo nicely on the finish. Approachable now.–HS
JUSTIN Isosceles Reserve San Luis Obispo County 1991 84 $23 Region: South Coast
Big and ripe with bright black cherry and plum flavor. Picks up earthy tannins along with a gamy metallic edge on the long finish.
KENDALL-JACKSON Cabernet Sauvignon California Proprietor’s Reserve 1986 85 $24 Region: Other California
Not nearly as ripe and opulent as the 1985, this one starts off very smooth and silky, with ripe plum and red cherry aromas and flavors, turning a bit herbal and vegetal on the finish.
KIONA Cabernet 1988 88 $12 Region: Yakima Valley, Washington
KIONA Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley Tapteil Vineyard 1989 89 $12 Region: Yakima Valley, Washington
Offers a nice array of rich, intense, complex, ripe currant, black cherry and olive flavors, framed by spicy oak and finishing with firm, gripping tannins. A striking wine that packs in lots of flavor, but one that will require patience.
Personal Note: I got a case of this in the early 90’s and it lasted well past a decade. Fantastic value for a solid cab. It sounds like a broken record but again, Washington State rocks!
MARK HEROLD Cabernet Brown Label 2012 93 $100 Region: Napa Valley
MASCOTA La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 89 $15 Region: Mendoza Valley
MAYACAMAS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1982 77 $20 Region: Napa
Personal Note: I waited too long to open this one up and paid the price. Besides, the 82′ vintage was a spotty year for Napa and Sonoma.
MELKA CJ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 96 $70 Region: Napa Valley
Personal Note: A massive young red, the highly aromatic nose explodes from the glass. Dark cherry, chocolate & mint flavors are great but the tannins dominate at the moment. This should really be good in 5-10 years.
MONTEVINA Barbera Amador County Reserve 1990 $15 82 Region: Sierra Foothills
Tart, lively and flavorful, with bright currant and raspberry flavors and a nice touch of toast.
OPTIMA Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 1986 91 $22 Region: Sonoma
Rich, deep and concentrated, packed with ripe currant, cherry and plum flavors that are complex and fairly tannic. The texture is smooth and elegant, with suppleness that gains on the finish. Plenty of flavor on the aftertaste.
QUINTESSA Rutherford 2005 88 $135 Region: Napa
Elegant and supple-textured, with earthy currant, mineral, sage and dusty berry flavors that end with a touch of herb and cedary oak. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.–JL
Personal Note: Not a bad wine, but for the price you would expect a lot more. This bottle was given to me as a gift so I can’t be too critical.
QUAIL RIDGE Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1999 89 $50 Region: Napa
Concentrated, with intense flavors of black currant, black cherry, herb, chocolate and integrated toasted oak. Tannins are ripe and firm, lingering through the finish.–JL
RADIUS Cabernet 2014 $10 89 Region: Walla Walla, Washington State
ROBERT MONDAVI Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Unfiltered 1991 87 $18 Region: Napa
Dark, with a rich, plush texture and a tasty array of soft chocolate, currant, cedar and plummy berry flavors that are very well-focused. On the finish, gives the same flavors that it started with.–JL
ROBERT MONDAVI Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1986 86 $47 Region: Napa
Has a fine structure, with firm, ripe red currant and dried berry flavors that are focused. The tannins provide a nice firm aftertaste.–JL
Personal Note: I’ve tried several Mondavi Reserves from the great Napa vintages of 1984-1987 but none were outstanding. I guess I expected a little more for the price.
SPRING MOUNTAIN Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1984 89 $15 Region: Napa
A very good wine, one of Spring Mountain’s finest, with beautifully focused black cherry, currant, anise and plum flavors that are rich, supple, fleshy and elegant. Has the depth and structure for mid-range aging. Coarse on the finish.
STERLING Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1987 91 $14 Region: Napa
Broad and generous, offering ebullient blueberry, raspberry and plum aromas and flavors, with its firm tannins lurking just beneath the surface. Balanced and smooth already.
TERRA ROSA Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1990 89 $9 Region: Napa
Starts off lean and austere, but expands on the palate to show some appealing currant, spice and toasty oak aromas and flavors, finishing firm and lively. Best to drink after 1996. A blend of 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc.
Personal Note: I stocked up with two cases of this 1997 and it held out pretty good for about an eight year stretch. Great Cab for the price!
TRAPICHE Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Oak Cask 1993 $9 87 Region: Mendoza, Argentina
A nicely matured, rich red that’s brimming with plum, berry and chocolate flavors that unveils appealing notes of spice on the finsh. It’s ripe, generous, well-balanced, and affordable.
Personal Note: I bought a case of this when it was released, not bad for nine bucks a bottle. Just a good everyday sipping cab.
ALBINO ARMANI Valpolicella Ripasso 2009 87 $22 Region: Veneto
Ripe boysenberry and strawberry fruit notes mix with hints of candied cherry, anise and red licorice in this fresh, open-knit red.
ALLEGRINI Palazzo della Torre 2011 88 $20 Region: Veneto
Gushing with dried oregano, spice and juicy sun-dried berry and cherry fruit, this tangy red is highly aromatic and framed by lightly grippy tannins. Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese.
ANTICA CORTE Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2012 88 $25 Region: Veneto
A well-balanced red, with plush tannins and a subtle mix of crushed black cherry, ground spice and mocha notes. Offers a clean, mineral-tinged finish.
CANTINE BONACCHI Chianti Classico Tesoro della Regina 2012 90 $18 Region: Tuscany
Rich and round, boasting black cherry, black currant and floral aromas and flavors. Tightens up, but the fruit persists, balancing the dusty tannins and spicy, earthy accents.–BS
CASALOSTE Chianti Classico 2015 94 $21 Region: Tuscany
A beauty, silky and packed with dark cherry, leather, iron and earth aromas and flavors. Harmonious and long, with a well-integrated structure and a mineral-tinged aftertaste.—B.S.
Personal Note: The best Chianti I’ve ever come across. You’d better grab a case or two before the price doubles or worse.
CASTELLO BANFI Brunello di Montalcino 2010 92 $75 Region: Tuscany
Aromas of eucalyptus, baked plum, leather and licorice complement the chocolate, leather and tar flavors. On the savory side, with dusty tannins finishing balanced and long.
PETROLO Toscana Galatrona 2007 98 $120 Region: Tuscany
This has a great color, with fabulous aromas of crushed blackberry, violet, toasty oak and black olive. Full-bodied, with powerful, ripe tannins and amazing flavors of blueberry, dark chocolate and toast. Lasts for minutes on the palate. Reminds me of the 1989 Pétrus. A stunning Merlot.–JS
Personal Note: I’ve never had a chance to taste the 89′ Petrus because it’s going for about $4000 a bottle right now, but it can’t be much better than this. James Suckling gets to enjoy wines like this all the time whereas mortals like myself only come across it once in a lifetime. Simply one of the finest wines I’ve ever tasted, maybe the best. I have one more bottle left. This stuff is impossible to find! If you come across it, let me know and I’ll come over and keep you company.
MONTE CHIARO Terre Della Grigia Primum Vinum 2012 86 $NA Region: Tuscany
Personal Note: Rene & Janie Gonzalez recently took a two week vacation in Italy and he brought this back as a gift. It comes from a very small winery in the Tuscan hills where the Griccioli family has been making their own wine since the mid 1300’s. Very cool history and very tasty wine!
RENIERI Brunello di Montalcino 2010 90 $50 Region: Tuscany
Cherry, strawberry, sandalwood, leather and tobacco notes cling to the taut, racy structure, while the vibrant acidity drives them to a lingering conclusion. This has balance, in a lean, athletic way.–BS
RENIERI Toscana Invetro 2011 89 $16 Region: Tuscany
Rich and broad, with cherry, spice, underbrush and tobacco flavors aligned to a firm, skeletal structure. Features dusty, mouthcoating tannins on the finish. Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. –BS
RENIERI Toscana Re di Renieri 2011 89 $35 Region: Tuscany
A fruity style, displaying black currant, blackberry and spice flavors, tinged by earth and leather notes. Beefy, with a long, sage-infused finish.–BS
RENIERI Rosso di Montalcino 2012 87 $20 Region: Tuscany
There are attractive cherry and currant notes here, along with firm tannins.–BS
RIONDO Amarone della Valpolicella 2009 87 $35 Region: Veneto
Dry and herb-laced, with a smoky base note to the flavors of dried cherry, grilled plum, pekoe tea leaf and ground pepper, followed by a dusty finish.–AN
SALADINI PILASTRI Pregio del Conte 2010 89 $16 Region: Marche
TOMMASI Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2011 90 $26 Region: Veneto
Elegant and well-meshed, with a pretty note of tea rose wafting through the flavors of dried strawberry, pekoe tea leaf, red licorice and spice box. Light to medium bodied, ending with a long smoke- and spice-tinged finish.–AN
TOMMASI Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2012 90 $30 Region: Veneto
A juicy red, offering lovely balance and a pretty mix of ripe cherry, boysenberry, vanilla, dried marjoram and espresso notes. Light tannins show on the expressive finish.–AN
Personal Note: After the Regional Convention in 2015 we enjoyed some of this with Gabe and his family at Paesano’s on the River. We paid $58 at the restaurant but HEB had it for $18 so I grabbed six! Still have a couple left, very tasty stuff.
ZENATO Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa 2011 90 $30 Region: Veneto
A velvety red, offering fine tannins and a pleasing palate of plump cherry, dried fig, espresso crème and baking spices. Juicy and well-balanced.–AN
Personal Note: This is better than many Amarone’s I’ve tried which are usually around $70-$80 a bottle.
Burgundy & Pinot Noir
CALERA Pinot Noir Mount Harlan Mills 1988 89 $30 Region: Bay Area/Central Coast
Dense and austere, but has plenty of stuffing. The black cherry and currant flavors are tightly wrapped in tannins now, but it should evolve into a very attractive wine.
CHALONE Pinot Noir Chalone Reserve 1990 88 $48 Region: Bay Area/Central Coast
Elegant, and distinctive for its earth, pepper and spice notes, ripe cherry and berry flavors. Still crisp and tannic, but ready to drink.–JL
CARNEROS CREEK Pinot Noir Los Carneros 1983 92 $13 Region: Carneros
Personal Note: Outstanding Pinot Noir! This kind of wine was abundant in the mid 80’s for very little money as you can see. Unfortunately, a lot of people caught on and now they are asking $75-$100 for good Carneros Pinot. Don’t even look at Burgundy unless you want to spend $300 a bottle or more. I recently saw a 750ML bottle of 2005 DRC Romanee Conti for $20,600. (Yes, just one bottle) I paid less than that for my 2007 F-150 pickup. Insane!!!
CHATEAU DRAPIER & FILS Cote du Beaune 1978 85 $18 Region: Burgundy
DEALUL MARE VALEA POPII GROSSBERGER PFAFFENTAL Edelbeerenlese Blauer Spätburgunder 1968 99 $90 Country: Romania
Personal Note: Awesome, could age for a lifetime! Sweet raspberry and strawberry fruit with light tannins. As good as Pinot Noir gets from Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, at the time I could only afford one bottle of this ultra-rare find. My wine tasting buddy, Steve Dienger had just recently got married and was busy with other interests so I had to enjoy this one all by myself. This is in my top five all-time best.
DOMAINE HENRI GOUGES Nuits St. Georges Les Pruliers 1993 90 $45 Region: Burgundy
DOMAINE JABOULET-VERCHERRE Gevrey Chambertin 1988 87 $35 Region: Burgundy
Personal Note: For such a good vintage it’s a bit light, but fruity and very drinkable.
EGERVIN VARHEGY BURBERG Pinot Noir 1983 95 $22 Country: Hungary Region: Hungary
Personal Note: Very sweet, smooth, delicious pinot from late harvest of 1983. I bought a case but should have got three or four at that price!
JABOULET-VERCHERRE Chassagne Montrachet 1986 86 $23 Region: Burgundy
Personal Note: Austere and past it’s prime. Probably not stored properly. Tasted in 1998.
JOSEPH DROUHIN Gevrey-Chambertin 1985 91 $33 Region: Burgundy
PRIEUR- BRUNET Beaune Clos du Roy 1993 89 $45 Region: Burgundy
SANDORFALVA ALEXANDERDORFER Ausbruch 1976 95 $75 Country: Hungary Region: Sandorfalva
Personal Note: I bought two cases of this in 1985 after a tasting on a river barge in downtown San Antonio, fantastic European pinot noir! Medium bodied, long finish. Very elegant. This could last forever, wish I had more but it’s all gone.
ANDRONICUS RED BLEND 2012 $30 Region: Napa Valley
(Notes & score pending)
BODEGAS Y VIÑEDOS SANTIAGO GRAFFIGNA Cabernet Sauvignon San Juan Centenario Reserve 2008 84 $13 Region: San Juan, Argentina
A polished mix of black currant and blackberry notes is woven with light herb, spice and graphite hints.–NW
BODEGA RUCA MALEN Malbec Mendoza Reserva 2011 91 $19 Region: Mendoza, Argentina
A big-shouldered red, with plenty of muscle behind the well-structured dark plum, blackberry and tobacco leaf flavors. Creamy midpalate, featuring a dense core of mushroom and savory herbal notes. Finishes with plenty of grip.–KM
CHARELS SMITH The Velvet Devil Merlot 2013 89 $12 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Fresh, vivid and appealing, with floral overtones around a polished core of currant and cranberry flavors, lingering deftly.–HS
CHARLES SMITH Columbia Valley Boom Boom! 2013 90 $15 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Fresh, lively and sleek, with red berry, raspberry and spice box flavors in a neat package, lingering expressively.–HS
CHATEAU BEAUCASTEL Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 96$120 Region: Southern Rhone, France
Dark, dense and very closed now, this has a tremendous core of crushed plum, linzer torte and blackberry confiture waiting in reserve. Ample singed cedar and mesquite, warm paving stone and black tea notes lurk in the background and glide through the finish. Features serious grip, but wonderful integration. Should cruise in the cellar. –JM
Top 100: 2013, Rank 8
CLOS DES PAPES Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 97 $135 Region: Southern Rhone, France
A stunner, with a gorgeous cassis aroma that soars from the glass, reinforced by a core of cherry and plum pâte de fruit, hoisin sauce, warm ganache and well-roasted apple wood notes. Hefty, but suave and seamless. The finish lets graphite and licorice elements glide through. The structure is dense, polished and perfectly integrated, resulting in lovely length. Should be a beauty after cellaring. –JM
Top 100: 2014, Rank 7
DIOS ARES Riserva 2008 88 $18 Region: Rioja, Spain
COLUMBIA CREST MERLOT Grand Estates 2012 89 $7 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Velvety, focused and generous, with black cherry and coffee flavors, hinting at dark chocolate as the finish extends.
COLUMBIA CREST MERLOT Grand Estates 2013 87 $7 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Broad and generous, with expressive cedar, blueberry and cream flavors that glide over polished tannins into the long, precise finish.
CONUNDRUM 25th Anniversary Red Blend 2013 $25 Region: Napa (Notes & score pending)
- GUIGALChateauneuf du Pape 2001 93 $40Region: Southern Rhone, France
Old-fashioned, this full-bodied traditional wine seduces with its decadent game, saddle-leather, plum and sautéed wild mushroom aromas. No hint of fancy oak, just a mouthful of Châteauneuf character that swirls around to a long, sweet finish. Another great négoce red from Guigal.–PM WS Top 100: 2003, Rank 41
FINCA FLICHMAN Paisaje de Tupungato Mendoza 2012 88 $18 Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Offers a concentrated mix of dried berry, cedar and spice flavors, supported by medium-grained tannins and fresh acidity. Smoky notes show on the firm finish.–KM
GRGICH HILLS Zinfandel Sonoma County 1981 80 $10 Region: Sonoma
HAHN GSM Central Coast 2014 90 $12 Region: Central Coast, California
Offers plenty personality, with aromas of cherry, white pepper and smoky herb leading to zesty flavors of raspberry and licorice. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.–KM
HARDYS Shiraz South Australia Eileen Hardy 1990 86 $20 Region: Australia
Attractive for its full, rich, minty currant flavors that stay with you from start to finish.–JL
JAMISON’S Shiraz 1990 88 $12 Region: McClaren Vale, Australia
KAIKEN Ultra 2013 90 $18 Region: Mendoza, Argentina
This is loaded to the brim with effusive Asian spice and chocolate mousse accents, delivering blackberry pie and plum tart flavors. The firm finish is long and rich, with enticing savory and slate notes.–KM
KURTZ FAMILY Boundary Row Barossa Valley 2005 91 $20 Region: Australia
Smooth, round and generous. A supple mouthful of black cherry, plum and subtle spices that waxes and wanes through the long, soulful finish. Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro.–HS
LE LION D’OR Red Table Wine 1988 88 $9 Region: Vin de Pays, France
Personal Note: Vin de Pays always delivers very good value for whites and reds. Medium bodied and good length.
MARQUES DE RISCAL Gran Reserva 1976 90 $42 Country: Spain Region: Rioja
MERIDIAN Syrah Paso Robles 1988 91 $14 Region: California, South Coast
Meridian’s first Syrah is dense, dark and rich, with spicy, cedary, and focused blackberry and wild raspberry aromas and flavors. A tough wine with a soft heart. Long and elegant, turning complex and especially delicious on the finish. Drinkable now, but cellaring until 1994 couldn’t hurt. WS Top 100 Year: 1991, Rank: 72
Personal Note: This was the very first time I tasted a Syrah and it just blew me away. Since then, I have been on the lookout for this style of wine and have had many good ones. Check out the notes on the 2013 Pundit from Tenet below, again from Washington State. Great Syrah at a great price.
MICHEL GASSIER Costières de Nîmes Château de Nages JT Red 2011 90 $20 Region: Southern Rhône, France
Very fresh, with a lovely violet note leading to the core of damson plum and cassis fruit. The racy, iron-tinged finish shows lift and length.–JM
MICHEL GASSIER Syrah Costières de Nîmes Les Piliers 2012 89 $15 Region: Southern Rhône, France
Modestly fleshy, with a note of white pepper framing the plum and blackberry core, presenting a thread of ganache and some warm tobacco leaf hints. Offers a slightly gutsy feel.–JM
MIBRANDT Traditions Merlot 2012 89 $13 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington
Lithe and spicy, with a cedary edge to the blackberry and purple plum flavors, coming together with point on the refined finish.
MILTON PARK Shiraz South Australia 2012 88 $13 Region: Australia
Fresh, focused and taut, with firm tannins around a lively core of blueberry, currant and mocha flavors, persisting against the texture. –HS
RIDGE Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 1993 91 $19 Region: Sonoma
A wonderfully complex and concentrated Zinfandel-based blend from California. Deliciously ripe, rich and supple, offering intense, jammy cherry, plum, tar and spice. A long, plush aftertaste keeps pumping out the flavors. Drinkable now, but should improve.
RODNEY STRONG Merlot Sonoma County 1996 85 $16 Region: Sonoma
Firm, with a core of plum, cherry and currant flavors balanced by an earthy note. Smooth on the finish.–JL
Personal Note: When this was released in 1998 James Laube of Wine Spectator rated it at 96. It was a huge, powerful wine but very drinkable, even at a young age. I bought a case and soon went to get another one but it had sold out quickly. Except for Chateau Petrus and Petrolo Galatrona, the best Merlot I’ve ever encountered. At a wine tasting at my home for our one year anniversary in 2001 several culprits who I won’t mention by name, got into my cellar, which I had inadvertently forgot to lock and killed off 4-5 bottles that night. That hurt. I never made that mistake again!
ROSEMOUNT Shiraz South Eastern Australia 1991 89 $10 Region: Australia
Ripe, rich and intense, packed with a solid core of plum, prune and black cherry flavors wrapped in warm, spicy, vanilla-scented oak. A complex wine that’s balanced to drink now.
SOBON ESTATE Zinfandel Fiddletown 2014 $17 Region: Amador County
STAGS’ LEAP WINERY Merlot Napa Valley 1986 84 $17 Region: Napa
Distinctively Merlot, with ripe cherry and spice notes, an herbal edge, a supple oak texture and firm but soft tannins. It’s nearing its peak. Probably best to drink now through 1996.
TENET Syrah Columbia Valley The Pundit 2013 92 $25 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
This shows nice tension between the ripe, dark flavors and crisp, lively structure, featuring a sleek core of plum and smoky tea flavors that carry easily into the long and deftly balanced finish. A little cellaring should soften the tannins.–HS WS Top 100 Year: 2015, Rank: 34
Personal Note: Awesome Syrah. Wines of this caliber from the Rhone are selling for $100 a bottle and up.
VIGNERONS DE CARACTÈRE Vacqueyras Domaine Mas du Bouquet 2010 90 $30 Region: Southern Rhône, France
Plump at the core, but racy on the edges, with a mix of anise, plum sauce and boysenberry fruit offset by graphite and black tea notes, with a long finish.–JM
YUBA FOOTHILLS Petite Syrah 1986 90 $10 Region: Central California
Personal Note: Unfiltered decadence! This was packed with so much stuffing it was amazing, if you don’t mind a little sediment with your wine. At ten bucks a bottle I bought 2 cases and after many years it had not changed a bit. Not very elegant but huge. Delicious! Unfortunately there is none left.
14 HANDS Red Columbia Valley 2013 88 $10 Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State
Smooth in texture, with a plush feel to the meaty black currant and spice flavors, finishing with gentle intensity. Merlot, Syrah and other red varieties.–HS
FONSECA BIN 27 Port NV 85 $16 A little rough, but this is juicy, rich and youthful. Vivid, ripe berry and peppery character and rather undeveloped tannins. Better with a year or two of bottle age. –JS
FONSECA Vintage Port 1963 98 150.00 A grand slam. Deep ruby with a slightly red edge, intense black cherry and raspberry nose, full-bodied, with masses of fruit, full tannins and an extremely long finish. This can age indefinitely. –JS
Personal Note: I invited several friends over for some chess in 2013 and after everyone left Armando and I enjoyed sipping on this beauty, 50 year old perfection! I purchased two bottles of this in 1990 for $130 each. The average price today is $370 a bottle.
FONSECA Vintage Port 1966 97 85.00 This is still a monster that needs time. Deep ruby, with a ripe, meaty cassis and berry nose, full-bodied, with tons of velvety fruit flavors, full tannins and a very long finish.–JS
Personal Note: In 2004 I had Richard, Manuela & Jeff over for a nice meal and of course a few glasses of wine. We ended the evening with this one. Simply fantastic! This could still last many more decades. I gave the bottle to Richard when I found out that they were both born in 1966. Hope he still has it.
FONSECA Vintage Port 1970 96 70.00
Some people may enjoy this wine’s rather fat, rich and powerful fruit now, but I still find it too young for drinking. Deeply colored, with smoky mint, tar and fruit aromas, full-bodied, with concentrated fruit flavors and plenty of tannins. –JS
FONSECA Vintage Port 1985 93 $32
Very dark and youthful ruby-purple. Very intense aromas of blackberry and black licorice. Full-bodied and lightly sweet, with chewy tannins and a rich licorice, blackberry undertone. Still tight. Drinkable now, but it needs a few more years.–JL
FONSECA Vintage Port 1983 90 48.00 This is a rough-and-tough wine for laying away. Deep, dark purple-ruby, with an intense, ripe raisin and mint nose, full-bodied, with raisin flavors, full tannins and a long finish. –JS
FONSECA Vintage Port 1977 100 $70 What a Vintage Port. Dark ruby center, with a dark garnet edge. Aromas of flowers, blackberry and licorice. Subtle and complex. Wow. What a palate. Full, concentrated and rich, yet balanced and beautiful. Solid and sleepy. Still not giving all it has to give. This is just coming around. Gorgeous and classy. Love it.–JS
Personal Note: Simply the finest port ever made in my lifetime and the one before. I recently enjoyed sipping on the last bottle I had of this in December of 2015. Made it last about a week. Unbelievable wine, especially since I only paid $70 for it in 1990! It’s going for $240 now.
GRAHAM Vintage Port 1955 94 $120 A big, rather brutish wine packed to the brim with fruit. Medium ruby-garnet, with a licorice and violet nose, full-bodied, with tough tannins and a balance of generous sweet fruit flavors. Will improve with age. –JS
Personal Note: We shared this rare bottle at a wine tasting at Rey & Elsa’s in the mid 90’s. It was still fairly youthful & vibrant for its age. I paid $120 for it around 1990, the average price today is $430. Still holding up well I imagine.
GRAHAM Vintage Port Malvedos 1986 85 NA
Very well structured, showing attractive, balanced, firm tannins and pleasant fruit flavors. Deep ruby, ripe blackberry aromas, full-bodied, with medium tannins and excellent sweet berry flavors. –JS
HUTCHESON Vintage Port 1977 88 $35
TAYLOR FLADGATE Vintage Port 1963 97 NA
A big wine with superb balance, a shining example of this exuberantly fruity vintage. Deep ruby, with violets and coffee on the nose, full-bodied, with dried cherry flavors and plenty of tannin, balanced and long on the finish. –JS
TAYLOR FLADGATE Vintage Port 1977 97 $70
Good ruby color still. The nose is fresh, with lots of crushed berry and plum, with a hint of piecrust. Full-bodied, with firm tannins and a caressing texture. This delivers loads of complex fruit and spiciness. Medium-sweet. A beauty. Will improve for decades, but why wait?–JS
Personal Note: Still waiting… I purchased this in 1990 and have been holding on to it for 27 years. I think I’ll open it up this year on it’s 40th year anniversary. Patience is a virtue!
All ratings and tasting notes provided exclusively by Wine Spectator. Personal notes by Chet.