Fall 2016 Chairman’s Selection Preview

(Originally posted on PA Wine Talk)

The fall Chairman’s Selection preview was held last week. There were 41 wines in all, but we are only writing about those that stood out in one way or another. The goal is to point out the good ones and help you steer clear of the duds. So let’s get to it.

Wines you really should try

Ardoris Maris Albarino 2015 (PLCB # 78246) $10.99 – From a great vintage in Spain. Pale yellow, steely and crisp, really nice acidity and a moderately long finish, at a nice price. A welcome alternative to several middling Sauvignon Blancs we tasted. You could think of this as a good summer wine, and it is, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it the rest of the year as well.

Montague Family Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (PLCB # 78295) $9.99 – A Russian River Pinot Noir, from 2012, for just 10 bucks?!? I’ll go on record saying this is not only the best $10 Pinot I’ve ever had, but it’ll probably be the best $10 Pinot you’ve had (that was purchased post-Sideways). Can it hang with the big names? No of course not, but it blows every other $10 – and many $20 – Pinots away. Apparently this is a relatively young winery that has had a hard time establishing a marketing plan, and the PLCB came in and bought their whole (remaining?) vintage of 776 cases. The tasting book we were given says this is 13.1% ABV, but the bottle says 14%. Feel free to research the discrepancy while I’m out buying whatever remaining bottles I can lay my hands on. (Hint: It’s already flying out the doors.)

Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard 2004 (PLCB # 78431) $99.99 – We’ve had two previous vintages of Martha’s Vineyard in the program, 1998 and 2000. Those were both much less expensive than this, in keeping with their less-renowned vintages. This wine is very good, smooth and understated as with many other Heitz Cabs. It is not a “Wow” wine. It got a 93 point rating from Wine Spectator, and has a 92.7 community average on Cellar Tracker which is actually higher praise. The state’s stash came straight from the winery, where it was presumably stored under ideal conditions, and the wine did not show its age at our tasting. Whether or not it’s worth spending $100 for this is up to you, but for the record the lowest price currently on wine-searcher is $160.

Wines you may want to try

Comte de Saint Aignan Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (PLCB # 78308) $9.99 – Pale color, great nose, nice flavor if a bit thin on the mid-palate. Arguably the best of five Sauvignon Blancs we tasted from France, California, and New Zealand. The relatively low 11.5% alcohol is a plus. This is a blend of fruit from the Loire Valley and Bordeaux and thus carries the generic “Vin de France” appellation, formerly known as “Vin de Table” or table wine.

Terlato Pinot Gris 2014 (PLCB # 78336) $11.99 – Decent Pinot Gris from the Russian River Valley. The finish drops off more quickly than I’d like but for the price it’s reasonable. It has a pair of 88 point scores from two different national publications.

Montague Family Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2012 (PLCB # 78336) $11.99 – Light and airy on the palate while still managing to be creamy and oaky, which is an interesting contrast. Not the same screaming deal as the Montague Pinot Noir, but the PLCB should have no trouble moving this out either.

UPDATE: We were not aware at the time of the tasting but there are actually two different Montague Chardonnays, both from 2012. We tasted the Russian River Valley, but there is also a Sonoma County which sells for $2 less and was not tasted.

Raimat Castell de Raimat Rose 2015 (PLCB # 78314) $9.99 – This Rosé from Spain is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. Light in color but heavier on the palate, this was a pleasant surprise.

Clair Diamant Cotes de Provence Rose 2015 (PLCB # 78250) $12.99 – A typical Provençal Rosé. Unfortunately this tasted relatively light and thin following the Raimat and probably should have been tasted first.

Edict Pinot Noir 2013 (PLCB # 78309) $24.99 – The main issue with this wine is that, while it’s a bit better than the Montague, it is 2.5 times the price.

Havens Meritage H Luxury Collection 2012 (PLCB # 78292) $8.99 – We had a flight of five inexpensive, new world fruit bombs. None of them really stood out, but this one was the cheapest. It has lots of dark fruit, and an anise component that some people liked. Then one person mentioned sulphur and almost immediately everyone starting saying “Yeah! Sulphur!” Some great dialog at our table:

Taster #1: There’s an unresolved green thing going on with this wine.
Taster #2: I think you’re tasting the cheapness.

Tenute Nicosia Etna Rosso 2013 (PLCB # 78195) $14.99 – This is a blend of two Sicilian indigenous grapes, Narello Mascalese and Narello Cappuccio. Pure old world, dry, acidic but not overwhelmingly so, medium tannins, and worth a try if you’re into the style.

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 (PLCB # 78239) $14.99 – A new vintage of this repeat Chairman’s wine. The price has been slowly creeping up, but again, I have no doubt the state will be able to move it.

Tenute Ca ‘Botta Cerviero Rosso 2013 (PLCB # 78218) $14.99 – I thought this was an interesting blend with decent complexity for the price.

Clos du Bois Marlstone 2012 (PLCB # 78321) $24.99 – Another Chairman’s repeat, and we’re not complaining. This is a decent, fairly priced Bordeaux blend, and doesn’t have in-your-face fruit or tannins. However I’d still recommend sitting on it for a few years before drinking.

DeLille Cellars D2 2013 (PLCB # ?) $26.99 – D2 is the second wine from this producer. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from Columbia Valley. This wine is typical of a new world Bordeaux style blend, fruit forward and with grippy tannins. Some folks will find it enjoyable now, but patience (say, 5-10 years) will be rewarded. Lowest price outside of PA is around $40 so this is a good deal.

Sbragia Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Godspeed 2012 (PLCB # ?) $59.99 – Everything you should expect from winemaker Ed Sbragia – big fruit, oaky, heavy tannins, and high alcohol (15.3%).

Wines worth mentioning but not necessarily worth trying

Scotts Creek Shiraz Retreat 2015 (PLCB # 78243) $11.99 – Very grapey and sweet, like grape juice. The best part about this wasn’t the wine itself but the food pairing that was recommended in our tasting books: “Grilled Kangaroo seasoned in teriyaki, done rare.”

Wines you probably should not try

Von Strasser Sauvignon Blanc Rudy 2014 (PLCB # 78299) $12.99 – If you really like California Sauvignon Blanc then you might like this. I found it to be heavy, alcoholic, and boring.

Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee 2012 (PLCB # 78288) $12.99 – Imagine you’re eating a jelly donut and a blob of filling squirts out onto a plate. Then you use your finger to scoop it up and into your mouth. That’s what it’s like to drink this – just a sweet fruit blob, with no structure or acidity. This was a big disappointment after a couple decent wines in the program from Gundy Bundy over the years (including their memorable 2005 Pinot Noir). How they scammed 87 and 88 point reviews from national publications for this is beyond me.

Wines we didn’t try but would’ve liked to

Cairdean Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena (PLCB # 78433) $29.99 – Steve said this is a big ripe style of Cabernet, not sure of the vintage but likely 2012 or 2013, marked down from $70.

Maynard’s Port Sampler (PLCB # 78365) $39.99 – Steve and Luke were excited about the presentation of this port sampler, which will come in a folio resembling a leather bound book. It will include six (6) 50mL bottles, one each of ruby, tawny, white, 10-year, 20-year, and 30-year. It will be in stores in time for the holidays and would make a nice gift. Maynard’s parent company is Barao de Vilar, which is also the parent of Feuerheerd’s, and all three are currently represented in the Chairman’s Selection program.

[Disclosure: PAWineTalk was invited by the PLCB to a free tasting of these wines, and lunch was also provided.]

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