I am a bargain shopper. I love the hunt. In my personal life, I like to search on-line classifieds, scour local thrift and consignments stores and frequent estate sales. For me, it’s a sport. This need of mine to find the best deal also applies to my professional life. Nothing satisfies like when I find a wine I can say is a super bargain. These days it is harder and harder to find one from California, but we try and we do, which leads me to my wine pick of the week: 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir.
Wonderwall is a secondary label for Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones. Jones is a vine nursery fieldman who moonlights as a winemaker. He claims to have stood in almost every vineyard in the Central Coast. The guy knows the area and he knows vineyards. With Wonderwall, Jones focuses on Pinot Noir from cool climate sites. For his 2015 Pinot Noir, two vineyards were sourced for fruit: Spanish Springs and Jespersen. Spanish Springs is only 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean, just northeast from the seaside town of Pismo Beach. The vineyard is at 900 ft elevation with temperatures rarely exceeding 80 degrees. The proximity to the ocean keeps the vineyard cool and free of disease and its favorable south-facing slope ensures long, ripening hang time. You might recall that Evening Land Vineyards used Spanish Springs for their single-vineyard program a few vintages back, receiving high praise and scores for it. Jespersen is also in the Edna Valley AVA. It is four miles from the ocean and, like Spanish Springs, enjoys a long, cool growing season.
Partially de-stemmed, the 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir was aged for 7 months in 100% French oak; only 15% of it new. I was struck by its joyous cherry fruit flavors and subtle notes of baking spice and brown sugar. The tannins are rather soft, so the structure suggests drinking this one in the near term. At $17.98 a bottle, the whole point is to drink and enjoy it right now! There is a similarly priced Pinot Noir out in the market that begins with “M” and ends in “i” that is wildly popular. This wine has a production of a quarter million cases. Now I’m not suggesting that wine can’t be any good, but consider the difference between making a few barrels of wine versus nearly a million cases! It’s like trying to make an intricate dish for 200 people instead of 4; something gets lost in the scaling up whether it is the execution, the ingredients or both.
I don’t normally comment on labels, but I have to this time. I think in some instances, customers have purchased a bottle of 2015 Wonderwall Pinot Noir solely for the label only to return a few days later because of its contents. The label has a famous photograph of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí holding his pet ocelot, Babou, on it. I admire Dalí’s work, I even have a signed lithograph of one his paintings hanging on my wall that I earned selling art back in high school – now that’s a whole other story! Overall, this is a delicious wine in a whimsical package made by a talented winemaker using excellent fruit for well under $20. A super bargain!– Anya Balistreri
||Basic Facts for those of you who are new to the program: Every two months we select two Burgundies, one red and one white. We include write-ups detailing the background of the grower, the vineyard source, and the wine. Finally we knock a significant percentage off the prices of the wines, making the Sampler price $89.98. If you would like us to add you to the Sampler Club and receive the wines regularly, please notify us in the comments field, and we will charge your card accordingly. If you would like us to ship faster than the standard ground service, please specify this as well.
2014 Chablis Grand Cru Valmur Maison Dampt
As we have mentioned before, The 2014 vintage for white Burgundy was stellar. The growing season was cool and, at times, wet. This was beneficial as the vines produced grapes with lively acidity. Warm weather took over in September, ripening the fruit leading up to the harvest. Up in Chablis, the Dampt family has enjoyed a solid reputation for producing wines of serious quality for very fair prices. Or as Allen Meadows of Burghound puts it, “They are screaming bargains.” Maison Dampt was started in 2008 by Daniel Dampt’s two sons, Sébastien and Vincent. Together with their father, they purchase grape must from three Grand Cru vineyards and bottle them using the Maison Dampt label. Aging these Grand Crus in older oak barrel gives the wines added dimension and texture. This 2014 Grand Cru Valmur is full of life. It’s big, dense, and powerful, with aromas of minerals and citrus. This willl need some time in the cellar, and should be best from 2020 – 2030.
2014 Pommard 1er Cru Les Charmots Domaine Gabriel Billard
Gabriel Billard was a 6th generation winemaker in Burgundy. He passed his domaine down to his two daughters, Laurence Jobard and Mireille Desmonet in 1989. You may recognize Laurence’s name as she had been head enologist at Domaine Joseph Drouhin for some 30 years. Laurence believes that great wine is made mostly in the vineyard, that good grapes from a good place will yield world-class wine with minimal intervention. The sisters now entrust Laurence’s daughter, Claudie Jobard to make their wine, and the family’s winemaking tradition continues. Their parcel in Les Charmots was planted in 1929 on the steep hillside. This 2014 Pommard is powerful and concentrated with complex aromas of wild berries, forest floor, earthy minerals, and a hint of spice. Again, the 2014 vintage for red Burgundy was a very good one with plenty of sunshine leading up to the harvest. Decant this wine should you open it before 2019, and it should drink well for at least a decade thereafter. – Peter Zavialoff
It always happens. During our Anniversary Sale, the distractions are everywhere. Case in point; one of our regular customers who always participates in the Anniversary Sale popped in for a few special bottles today, and after he gave me his parameters, I quickly whittled down my mental list to a trio of contenders. He wanted something red and I had one red Bordeaux, one red Rhône, and a red Burgundy all set to recommend. Then I physically walked over to our Burgundy section. Oh, if price signs could talk …. Actually they were talking to me. All of them. But there was one in particular. I immediately replaced the 3 bottles in my head with the one in my hand. “You want something nice. A red wine from France. Something that can be laid down and drink well in 5 years’ time. Something special, but less than $75, right? This is it right here.” That is what I said to him. What was the bottle? The 2012 Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Faconnières from Stephane Magnien.
A little background on this. When I was a budding wine taster/collector, I worked for a guy who was less than pleasant to work for. In true “there’s an exception for every rule” fashion, this dude must have gone into a fine wine shop and asked a staffer to recommend two very nice bottles of red wine. He gave those two bottles to me during the holidays as a thank you. One was a Corison Cabernet and the other was a Clos Saint Denis from Domaine Dujac. At the time, I knew nothing about either one, and I’m sure that my benefactor didn’t either. I graciously accepted the gifts, and years later, when I opened the Dujac, I was overwhelmed. That was my introduction to Burgundy. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to have tasted something more affordable as a first Burgundy experience, but what can you do? That was all I knew about Burgundy at the time, and that led me to taste more wines from Morey-Saint-Denis and its environs. So let’s say that the village is a particular favorite for me.
A few years ago, when I found out that David had signed up Stephane Magnien to TWH stable, I was thrilled to see some Morey-Saint-Denis (and Clos Saint Denis!) in our bins. We don’t get to taste fancy wines like those often, but when we do, the occasions are memorable. Of his Premier Cru wines, I usually favor Stephane’s Les Faconnières. All I can say is that I like the other wines as well, but there’s an expression there that just fits with my palate and olfactory senses. Having tasted several 2012 red Burgundies over the past couple of years has solidified my opinion that it is a vintage to have in my cellar. In fact, a while back while researching the vintage for A Taste Of Burgundy write-up, I stumbled upon a note from Clive Coates, MW, “But in the end – quality-wise – 2012 has turned out, not merely ‘all right’, but really very good indeed, if not perhaps even very fine. I have already heard the wines refered to as ‘classic’. There are some who regard the potential of 2012 reds as superior to anything recent, and that includes 2010, 2009, 2005 and other years.” I don’t know about you, but if Clive Coates says something like that, I take note. A serious note.
As one can see, Les Faconnières lies just below the Grand Cru vineyards in Morey-Saint-Denis. As a matter of fact, you can draw an equilateral triangle whose three points would be in Clos-Saint-Denis, Clos de la Roche, and Les Faconnières. That’s some special sod, indeed. The wine is already showing its potential, but after another 5 years of cellar time, I anticipate it will be entering its optimal drinking plateau and staying there for many years. Its aromas express dark red berries, herbs, a healthy dose of earthy mineral and tar, and a kiss of vanilla bean. The palate is sturdy, yet balanced. The fruit is part of the package, which at this time is coiled, needing either aeration or a few more years of cellaring, but there’s no question that the fruit is just waiting for the structure to back off one small step for it to shine. The mouth feel is medium bodied with fine tannins, and the finish is balanced and all in line. The wines from Morey-Saint-Denis can be very expressive, and this young Morey has the ingredients to become a great wine some day in the not too distant future. Did I say it can be enjoyed now? Sure, but I highly recommend decanting for 90 minutes.
I’m hoping that you all are enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend! It has been a fun one for me. Of course I continued my Thanksgiving tradition of giving thanks and enjoying some fine Sauternes … or in this case, Barsac. ‘Cause that’s how I roll. You can probably guess the chateau. But with two months of special days ahead, there will be occasions for fine red wine as well. I see an opportunity to slip a 2012 Morey-Saint-Denis Les Faconnières from Stephane Magnien! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments on Thanksgiving, our 39th Anniversary Sale, Bordeaux, Barsac, or English Football: peter@wineSF.com