Top wines of the month handsomely represent the southern and northern Rhone Valley with perfect scores and then cross an entire ocean and continent with a winning California Cabernet. WineZag’s “top three wines of the month” section is reserved for a short list of the most compelling wines I have tasted over the previous thirty days and strongly recommend for buying and drinking. While all three of March’s wines are worth buying on the primary or secondary markets, sadly none are under $100. I have miserably failed the many folks that have repeatedly asked for this section to represent low cost values. So, you will find an “olive branch” link to a couple of lower priced, value wines tasted over the previous month in an attempt to satisfy that request. While this month’s stars will add a dent to wallets, I will not recommend a wine in this section if the price is unsupportable by the drinking experience.
Words can not really do this wine justice. I bought a case for myself on the secondary market after tasting it at Troquet in Boston. While the wine is not selling for less than $400, Troquet has it on the list for $175 since Chris Campbell purchased the Rayas on release and continues to keep it within sensible reach of enthusiasts. The wine has a brick tinged garnet color. An indescribable and ethereal nose with hints of eucalyptus, anise, and exotic incense combining with a fully packed wine of berry fruit producing an uncanny silky texture and soft tannins leading to its elegant mouthfeel that I have rarely experienced in young Chateauneuf du Pape wines. It reminds me of the way the 1989 Beaucastel is now showing itself so perfectly light on its feet, but adds exotic aromatics to the mix that the Beaucastel never showed at this early stage. Honestly, this is a perfect wine and gets a full five stars. It is worth driving 300 miles to Boston to drink some at Troquet for $175.
***** 1983 Chave Hermitage, Rhone Valley $300
Thanks to my friend Malcolm for graciously transferring this wine from his cellar to mine so I could inspect its progress. It did not sit on my racks for long, taking it to an amazing Cambridge restaurant that I can’t mention here since they do the sensible thing for winos by allowing us to drink our great cellared wines with their advanced food preparations despite Massachusetts state law obstacles. The Chave was totally in tact, with a sweetness to the fruit and aromatics that combined with serious secondary flavors and aromas that meshed with the sweet fruit lusciousness. With enough structure and fruit to last another ten years (at least) there was not a hard edge left in this wine. It had a gorgeous silky mouthfeel with an elegant and classy finish. It apparently blew away some really fine vintage Bordeaux that the proprietors had tasted at another table that evening. The wine has reached mystical classic quality levels, I could easily confuse it with a 1960’s vintage Bordeaux and is exactly what I look for from a twenty five year aging commitment. When you think about the cost of a bottle of , say, 1966Palmer, 1982 Lafite, or 1961 Latour….this is a complete value if you play at this level. It is the finest 20+ year old wine I have tasted in a very long time.
I have backed off from new release $100+ California Cabernet, only buying some at the $75 level when the quality supports it. This wine can make me reconsider that strategy. While I recently tasted the 2007 Realm Farella Vineyards in a blind tasting and was less impressed, the Dr. Crane is completely silky, middle weight, luscious,and elegant. It offers a graceful fullness with flavors of black licorice, and black cherry. It boasts a meaty and gamey nose combined with incense, and Asian spices. It has some sharp tannins suggesting that a half dozen to ten more years of cellaring just might be the best approach. But, all the components are integrated and tightly knit to produce a mind blowing flavor and drinking experience right now. It is completely worth buying.