2007 Liberty School Central Coast Cuvee ($12). A well-known practice among European wine estates is “declassifying,” or taking juice that would normally go into the grand vin and putting it into lesser wines in the portfolio – either because the vintage wasn’t up to grand vin standards or because there was more of the good stuff than they could use. Could Austin Hope have done some declassifying here to launch his newest Liberty School – a Rhone blend using grapes that would normally go into his estate Syrah or the Treana blend? “Cuvee” is seriously good wine that could compete with top-end Gigondas. It is rich and big and earthy with the essence of black raspberries, dark chocolate, anise, earthiness and mocha that is long on the palate. What’s more, with its balance it will age for a decade or two, even though it is not highly tannic. Will the 2008 be as good? Do you want to wait and take that chance? Buy.
2006 Clos de Haute Combe Juliénas ($16). A nice everyday Beaujolais with good fruits and acids reminds me of a good everyday Cotes du Rhone – a pleasant wine companion to take to the table, one that has something to say but won’t dominate conversation. This is such a wine. Consider.
2006 Olivier Leflaive Montée de Tonnerre Ier Cru Chablis ($50). A very good wine with mellow fruits and meadow flowers laid over a chalky base with good acidity that brings everything back to earth. Who could ask for more? Buy.
2008 Jackson Estate “Vintage Widow” Marlborough Pinot Noir ($32). What I love about New Zealand winemakers is they don’t try to make wines that taste like the wines of anyone else. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t try to mimic Loire Valley, and their Pinot Noirs don’t ape Burgundy. In fact, except for the nose, this wine might even make you question whether Pinot is the grape, as the flavors are similar to fresh Grenache. It’s almost spritzy in its raspberry freshness, yet it has balancing weight and gravity. For all that, it is a very nicely made and interesting bottle from a secondary NZ Pinot region. Consider.
2007 Neirano “Pitule” Moscato d’Asti ($12). Moscatos are seldom great wines, but they are interesting wines. The ones from Asti have bubbles, but low enough pressure that they can be stoppered with a regular cork. Alcohol is low, around 7%. They are generally lightly sweet, but have good acidity and can easily be used as food wines, especially with poultry. This is a nice one with floral aromas and tastes of almonds and meringue. If you aren’t familiar with these wines, give it a Try.
Note: I will be on assignment in Bordeaux on Friday, February 5, so look for the next posting of The Friday Lineup on February 12.
Until next time...