The “Top Three Wines” of November includes one remarkable New World Mourvedre from California’s Central Coast sandwiched in between two Old World Bordeaux and Rioja showcase wines. I was unfamiliar with the claret from Saint-Estephe and the Rhone Ranger from Paso Robles until tasting them last month; both excellent new discoveries. Unfortunately, the oddball auction lot remains the only viable option to find this 1990 Bordeaux, but the bottle is worthy of reemphasis simply for its bottle age performance vis a vis its Cru Bourgeois status. The Rioja Gran Reserva is an undeniably classic production that wine lovers can rationalize parting with the $100 for in order to secure this extraordinary holiday cellar trimming.
1991 Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Gran Riserva ($100 *****)
Produced by the venerable Lopez de Heredia winery where tradition reigns supreme, this 1991 Rioja has only recently been released. It earns WineZag’s top rating of five stars as it tickles the sensual memory banks with secondary flavors and advanced aromas and mouthfeel more reminiscent of classic old Bordeaux. And instead of paying three figures for a newly released Medoc and laying it away for twenty years, you can walk into your wine shop and buy this Rioja today and pop the cork tomorrow night. This 12% alcohol Gran Riserva of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Grenache, and the rest Carignan and Graciano offers immense complexity and richness with a silky elegant mouthfeel that is a product of its nine years in barrel and extended bottle aging prior to release. If you are looking for that unique holiday gift for the special wine collector in your life (boy, I hope my friends and family are reading this), or even just for yourself (my fall back position), this remarkably classic wine will not be disappoint. It is a head turner. You can easily source this wine at Vintages.
2008 Denner Vineyards Mourvedre ($40 ****)
One of my favorite eateries in Atlanta is the Horseradish Grill on Powers Ferry Road in the Chastain Park neighborhood of Buckhead. The charming physical structure and setting produces this familiar laid back LA feel that is easy for me to slip into, a simpatico dose of traditional and rustic Southern comfort (it is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Atlanta), and an inventive but naturally and organically grounded menu that pairs well enough with the exclusively domestic wine list.
Run by Steve Alterman and family since 1995, the Denner (not previously reviewed here at WineZag) did not appear on the list and was a smart recommendation by Steve’s son and keeper of the wine program, Josh Alterman. The wine had more modern characteristics than Rhone Valley fans are accustomed to, but the luscious restraint exhibited by this well constructed and balanced wine is nothing short of remarkable. It was not what I expected, absent of absolutely any hard edges without hiding behind a wad of big California fruit. It is soft but packed with black cherry fruit richness that comes across with balance and elegance. I was taken by its “velvet kiss” attack. The wine finishes with impressive length. While it is not a comfortable stand-in for one of its varietal cousins hailing from France’s Southern parts it is one of, if not the most, impressive Mourvedres I have ever tasted from California. The wine refused to overstate its new world roots with excessive alcohol or extraction. It is a top buying recommendation. If you can not find the wine, here it is on wine-searcher.
1990 Chateau Le Terme ($30 on release ****)
It is somewhat futile recommending this wine since it is nowhere to be found. Still, the wine’s performance as a Cru Bourgeois after 17 years of bottle age is a strong lesson in cellar management. This Saint-Estephe was not Montrose or Cos d’Estournel, it was Le Terme, which you will be hard pressed to even find on the web. Buying wines like this in an outstanding vintage like 1990 is a proven sound strategy for laying away Bordeaux that won’t bust your wallet. Its value appreciation won’t put your kids through school or prove your social standing in Hong Kong or Shanghai, but hey, it’s all about the drinking experience….isn’t it? In 2005 or 2009 where great wine is to be found throughout the Medoc, this Le Terme cellaring experiment should inform value buying of unclassified growths to lay away for the longer term. The Le Terme boasted elegance, secondary aromatic and flavor magic, a silky yet well preserved construct, and lovely earthy and mushroom aromas to blend with the perfumed cherry fruit. It wasn’t even a touch dried out or tired, and was pure joy for less than the cost of a bottle of California Zinfandel. Who can argue with that?
I hope you can enjoy one or all of these wines, and let me know how you like them if you do.