Spring 2017 Chairman’s Selection Preview

This was originally posted on PAWineTalk.

PAWineTalk recently participated in the PLCB’s Spring 2017 Chairman’s Selection preview tasting. We tasted 37 wines that are, or soon will be, available in stores and/or online. On the whole, the wines tasted were lower-end when compared to some past Chairman’s Selection tastings. That being said, there were some good values to be had among the wide variety of wines presented from many different regions.

A brief note to all the “big red” lovers. There have been a lot of 2011 California Cabernet Sauvignons in the program the last year or two, many of which were sharply discounted due to negative press  regarding the cold, wet year. The current releases from most wineries have since moved on to 2012, 2013, and 2014, all of which are far superior vintages. Wineries will have less trouble selling them, so we should not expect too many discounted Cabs from those vintages in the program. There were four Cabernet Sauvignons included in this tasting, one of which was from Napa, but unfortunately I can’t recommend any of them.

OK so forget about Napa Cabs for now, we found many other wines to like.

Within each section, wines are listed in the order tasted.

Best of the Bunch

d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2015 (PLCB # 78563) $9.99 –
They actually make white wine in Australia, who knew?!? Kidding aside, d’Arenberg has a great reputation, and this is a good Rhone-style white blend. It’s citrusy, has a fine balance between fruit and acidity, a lingering finish, and the alcohol is in check. I think it’s a great buy at $10.

Chateau Virant Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rose 2015 (PLCB # 78578) $9.99 –
Steve indicated that they’ve bought fourteen different Roses for the Chairman’s Selection program, a total of 22,000 cases! I can recall a day when they didn’t buy 22,000 cases for the entire Chairman’s Selection program. We tasted just three of those fourteen roses, and I thought this was the best of the bunch. It is a pale pinkish-gold color and extremely light and delicate on the palate. Some might find it bland, but I enjoyed it. Tavel it is not!

Zotovich Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills 2013 (PLCB # 78566) $19.99 –
This was tasted second in a flight of six Pinot Noirs (five domestic and one from France), and it showed very well.Medium bodied, typical strawberry/raspberry fruit, nice acidity and a decent finish, for just $20.

Buoy Ten Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2015 (PLCB # 78551) $19.99 –
This wine immediately followed the Zotovich and provided an interesting comparison of California and Oregon Pinots. I give the Zotovich a slight edge, but would be happy with either. Buoy Ten is very typical Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which is a good thing. It is part of a “label program,” that is, there is no actual Buoy Ten winery. We’re told it is the product of NW Wine Co. Not coincidentally, another 2015 Willamette Pinot Noir “label” wine from the same producer, called Ace & Able, was also included in the tasting. However that one will sell for $29.99, and while perhaps a tad bit better, it didn’t justify the additional $10.

Agnitio Pinot Noir Walala Vineyard 2014 (PLCB # 78554) $39.99 –
Easily the best Pinot Noir at the tasting, and also the most expensive. Funny how that works. This is the first release from their Estate Vineyard in the “True” Sonoma Coast. Presumably they’re having a hard time moving it, which is a shame for them but good news for us, because this wine was very enjoyable.

Ego Bodegas Marionette 2014 (PLCB # 78619) $10.99 –
A 50/50 blend of Monastrell AKA Mourvedre AKA Mataro, and Syrah, from Jumilla, Spain. You can think of it as a GSM blend without the G. Easy quaffer for a party.

Villa Cavallo Toscana 2006 (PLCB # 78562) $9.99 –
Here you have a quality ten year old Rosso Toscana, in pristine shape (just released from the winery), from a great vintage, for $10. Back up the truck! BTW we had a fun conversation with Steve about his “antique dust” phrase in the PLCB description of this wine, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get my camera rolling in time.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2015 (PLCB # 78579) $14.99 – I was not familiar with this producer, but the wine was very enjoyable. Off dry with a touch of citrus, good crisp acidity, and a lingering finish. 2015 was a terrific year in the Mosul.

Feudi di San Gregorio Privilegio 2008 (500mL) (PLCB # 78583) $19.99 –
The story here is that Palm Bay, the long-time U.S. distributor for San Gregorio, lost the account and wanted to clear out inventory. The state picked up just 61 cases and is selling it for 60% off the list price and nearly 50% below any other price in the country. This is a thick, sweet, syrupy dessert wine, but with offsetting acidity. Think sweet apricots and almonds. Comes in a “two-thirds size” 500mL bottle. If you enjoy dessert wines you should seek this out, it’s a steal.

On the Fence

Here are some wines where tasters had varying opinions.

Maison Philippe Viallet Savoie Rose 2015 (PLCB # 78569) $9.99 –
I like wines from Savoie. I like Gamay. And I like Rose. But I did not care for this, I just thought it was a bit flat. However, several others at the table looked at me like I was nuts and said they liked it.

Domaine des Ruettes Samur Champigny 2015 (PLCB # 78590) $10.99 –
I’m not generally a fan of Loire Valley reds, but this sample from the ripe 2015 vintage did not have any of the “green” or bitter flavors typical of the region. However, it is still characteristically dry and has a lot of tannin. Very good price.

Reserve de Bonpas Cotes du Rhone 2015 (PLCB # 78516) $8.99 –
This wine was generating a lot of buzz in the tasting room, and the general consensus was that it will sell well. I thought it was OK but simple. It’s a decent blend, from a good vintage, and a great price. Just don’t expect Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Wines to Avoid

Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Goldie’s Vineyard 2013 (PLCB # 78628) $12.99 –
Really spicy, peppery, and alcoholic. If this was a bit darker in color it would pass for a Zinfandel. I like Zinfandel, but this is supposed to be Pinot Noir, and I found none of the characteristics I like about Pinot Noir in this wine.

Caveau Bugiste Pinot Noir 2015 (PLCB # 78571) $14.99 –
I have to give Steve and Luke credit for venturing off the beaten path and bringing in a wine from Bugey, France, but this was rough, tannic, and bitter. Maybe time will turn it around, but I won’t be among those waiting to see.

True Zin Zinfandel 2015 (PLCB # 78574) $9.99 –
A Zinfandel from Puglia, Italy. Whaa? Clearly packaged for the U.S. market. You wouldn’t know it was from Italy unless you read the small print. My notes include the phrase “No no no.”

Havens Merlot 2014 (PLCB # 78622) $17.99 –
Most readers know I don’t generally care for Merlot, and this wine did nothing to change my opinion. No charm, no interest. That may be why it’s more than 50% off the list price.

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

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