As spring approaches, here is a variety of special wines to grace your table and brighten your day:
- Under The Radar Red and White Burgundies from two favorite producers
- The new spring releases from Ridge Vineyards
- Some California wines that offer really good value
This is the third year I have reviewed the Red and White Burgundies of Domaine Ballot- Millot after bottling. First was 2007 (click here ), then 2008 (click here ), and now 2009. All three vintages have produced outstanding wines both white and red.There is a great elegance and purity to the wines and the consistency is amazing.
Domaine Ballot-Millot is now on my list of White Burgundies to buy every year. (I am hopeful that they will not be plagued with the terrible Premox problem, but it is still too early to tell and that is my only caveat.) (To read my article on Premox click here ) In this regard, they join Pierre Yves Colin-Morey and the Clos de Mouchere from Jean Boillot as the most recent additions to my buy every year list. Since the late 1970s my buy every year list has included Raveneau, Coche-Dury, Leflaive, Ramonet, and DRC. My advice to all of you who are buying and cellaring wine is that when you find something you really like, buy it every year. Forget about vintages and forget about numbers. If you buy what you like, you can watch the evolution over time and, if the wines meet your expectations, you will be well rewarded. Certainly, the White Burgundies on my list have consistently met and even exceeded my expectations. The real surprises come in some of the off years (such as 1968 and1977) and some of the years that were proclaimed early on to not be capable of prolonged aging (such as 1982).
Located in Meursault, Domaine Ballot-Millot consists of some 30 acres of mostly Chardonnay with some Pinot Noir in Pommard and Volnay. Young Charles Ballot took over from his father, Philippe, in 2001. The wines have been consistently brilliant. Work in the vineyard utilizing severe pruning results in low yields and concentrated wines. The winemaking is unmanipulative and new oak is used sparingly. The result is wines that are pure and expressive with great finesse, balance and flavor. The quantities produced are small and the wines are still “Under The Radar.” They are wines to buy and represent real value in Burgundy. The wines of Domaine Ballot–Millot are imported by Atherton Wine Imports, Atherton, CA
2009 Domaine Ballot-Millot White Wines
2009 DomaineBallot–Millot Meursault Les Criots.
The vines here are 25 years old. This is a really tasty wine that is elegant and finesseful with great early appeal. It is light yellow in color with a faint golden hue and has a lovely perfume with floral citrus notes. With lovely fruit the wine is crisp with citrus and mineral tinges and a crisp finish – Highly Recommended. $43
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Meursault Les Narvaux.
Here the vines are 40 years old. This is consistently a wine with depth and balance. This 2009 is light yellow in color with a faint golden hue and it has a lovely perfume with floral citrus and mineral notes. There is gorgeous fruit that is accented with citrus nuances and the finish is long and crisp – Outstanding. $44
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Meursault Charmes 1er Cru.
The vines here are 40 years old. This 2009 is light yellow in color with a faint golden hue and has a lovely floral perfume with hints of peach and citrus. It has gorgeous pineapple tinged fruit with floral citrus nuances and is rounded and lush with a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding. $65
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Meursault Genevrières 1er Cru.
The vines in Genevrières are 65 years old and are the oldest vines in the Domaine. This is consistently great and this 2009 is no exception. It is light yellow in color with a faint golden hue and has a gorgeous floral citrus mineral tinged perfume with a faint honeyed nuance. The wine has wonderful balance and depth with lots of fruit accented by floral, citrus and peach nuances. Elegant and flavorful this is a wonderful Meursault – Outstanding Plus. $65
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Meursault Perrieres 1er Cru.
The vines here are 35 years old. This 2009 has a light yellow color and a stunning perfume with hints of citrus and mineral with an underlying faint exotic floral nuance. The wine has great fruit and lots of flavor with elegance and finesse. There is an underlying exotic citrus tinge and the wine has a wonderful persistence – Outstanding Plus. $67
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Red Wines
2009 Domaine Ballot-Millot Pommard Pezerolles 1er Cru. The vines here are 35 years old. This Pommard has a dark color and a lovely plummy perfume with a faint floral spiciness. It has very pure fruit with plum, spice, and floral notes. The wine is very flavorful, but needs time to open – Outstanding $60
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Pommard Rugiens 1er Cru.
Here the vines are 40 years old. The wine has a deep color and a stunning perfume of exotic tinged plums and cherries with a very faint underlying spiciness. There is a lot of flavor and depth and the wine is beautifully balanced. This Pommard is a wonderful Burgundy with great finesse and style – Outstanding Plus. $65
2009 Domaine Ballot–Millot Volnay Les Taillepieds 1er Cru.
The vines here are 30 years old. This is a very elegant and tasty Burgundy with a seamless texture. It has a deep color and a gorgeous floral berry perfume with hints of green olive and spice and a very faint smoky undertone. There is a lot of fruit and faint spice and green olive nuances. A wine with great charm and finesse this is a great expression of Volnay – Outstanding Plus. $55
DOMAINE FRÉDÉRIC ESMONIN
This small domaine in Les Estournelles, Gevrey-Chambertin has approximately 10 acres of vineyards. The average production of each wine varies from 75 cases to 300 cases. Most of their holdings have very old vines. Prior to 1987 the wines were sold to negociants such as Leroy and Jadot. In the very early years the wines seemed to lack consistency. But, for many years now they have been at a very high level of quality. The 2009 Red Burgundies from this “Under The Radar” producer were excellent. (To read that review click here) 
And, likewise, the 2010s are gorgeous. I tasted these wines over a period of several days. They held up beautifully and showed no sign of decline with several of the wines opening significantly in later tastings. They are remarkable for their great purity, finesse and balance and the wines are impressive across the entire range. They represent very good value in Burgundy and are wines to buy. The wines of Frédéric Esmonin are imported by Atherton Wine Imports, Atherton, CA.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits.
Wow! This is a really gorgeous Bourgogne. It is light in color and has a lovely floral berry perfume with a very faint smoky nuance. The wine has lovely crisp raspberry tinged fruit with great purity and finesse. With early appeal, this is a delicious, affordable Burgundy – Highly Recommended Plus $21 Best Buy
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Prieur.
The vines in Clos Prieur are 50-60 years old. This is a relatively unknown wine with more class and breed than anyone would suspect. It is capable of aging for a very long time (I have a few bottles from 1949 that are lovely). It is a real sleeper and a great value. This 2010 has a deep color and a gorgeous floral berry perfume tinged with spice. It has great purity and is seamless with great flavors and impeccable balance. This is simply a terrific under the radar Burgundy and a great buy – Outstanding. $31 Best Buy
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Les Jouises Vieilles Vignes.
This is a very nice Burgundy that benefits from decanting several hours before serving. Then the wine opens to reveal a lovely floral tinged perfume with hints of green olive and a tinge of spice. The wine is balanced and has lovely fruit with a floral undertone and a nice crispness – Highly Recommended Plus. $36
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champonnets 1er Cru.
The vines here are 55 years old and the parcel is small with average production around 100 cases. This 2010 is gorgeous. It has a deep color and an intense floral perfume with underlying hints of berries and cherries. The wine is supple with very pure fruit and has depth and complexity with exquisite balance and a long finish. This is a delicious Burgundy and a real sleeper – Outstanding Plus. $47 Best Buy
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Estournelles St. Jacques 1er Cru.
The vines here are 45 years old. This is a terrific Burgundy that is stunning and a great value. It has a deep color and a gorgeous perfume with a myriad of fruits and a faint floral spice nuance. With air it develops a lovely exotic note. The wine is loaded with fruit and is rounded with impeccable balance and a long lingering finish – Outstanding Plus. $49 Best Buy
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques 1er Cru.
The vines here are 45 years old. This 2010 is lovely. It has a deep color and lovely perfume with a faint hint of spice. The wine has very pure fruit and is rounded yet with good underlying structure. With flavor and finesse this is a really nice Burgundy – Outstanding. $49
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Mazy-Chambertin.
This Mazy is produced from a very small plot of vines that are 50-60 years old. The wine has a deep color and a lovely perfume of berries and cherries with a touch of spice. It has lovely fruit with depth and richness and is balanced with a long finish. This is probably the most backward of all the 2010 Esmonins and really needs lots of air at this stage in its evolution. But, with 5-10 years bottle age it should blossom – Outstanding Plus. $95
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertin.
This Ruchottes is produced from a plot of vines that are 50-60 years old. This 2010 is like the great 2009 in the sense that it has the combination of intensity and depth of flavor wrapped in a seamless package with great style and finesse. It is stunning. The color is deep and there is a gorgeous perfume with berries and cherries accented by floral spice notes and a faint exotic nuance. There is great purity with lovely floral spice tinged fruit and the wine has great length. This is one to buy – Extraordinary. $95
SPRING RELEASES FROM RIDGE VINEYARDS
The wines reviewed here represent the spring releases from Ridge Vineyards. Some were reviewed last year out of barrel. (To read those notes and a major feature article on Ridge Vineyards including its wines and history click here ) When it comes to quality and consistency, Ridge Vineyards is amazing. These 2010 and 2009 wines are simply terrific and are wines to buy.
2010 Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay Estate.
This is a classic California Chardonnay made from estate grown grapes on Monte Bello Ridge. It is light yellow in color with a golden hue and has a gorgeous perfume with hints of honeysuckle citrus and pineapple with a kiss of spice. Rounded with tropical tinged fruit accented by hints of citrus peach and apricot, the wine is lush yet retains an underlying crispness. This is a gorgeous fruit driven Chardonnay that is a pleasure to drink. It is all about fruit, flavor and complexity and balance, balance, balance – Outstanding Plus. $40
2009 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate.
Blended with 23% Merlot, this Cabernet is dark in color and has a deep haunting perfume of plum, cedar and cassis with a hint of chocolate. It has great fruit and intensity and is balanced, lush and rounded. The flavors are complex and varied with plum berry and cassis fruit intermingled with cedar and faint spice nuances. This is a terrific Cabernet that literally is a chip off Monte Bello. In the major league Cabernet derby, this wine is a real value – Outstanding Plus. $40
2009 Ridge Vineyards Merlot Estate.
This is a lovely Merlot with great structure and balance. It has a dark color and a deep cedar tinged cassis perfume with a touch of mint. It has lots of supple fruit and is very pure and flavorful with a long finish – Outstanding. $40
2010 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville Sonoma.
This 2010 Geyserville is a field blend with 64% Zinfandel, 20% Carignan, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouchet, and 2% Mataro (Mouvedre). It has a deep color and a stunning perfume with spice tinged berries and plums accented by faint hints of exotic chocolate. The wine has gorgeous complex fruit flavors with spicy nuances and is well structured with good backbone and a nice zesty finish. Give this wine at least 3-5 years to achieve its potential. This is yet another terrific Geyserville which is one of my all time favorite blended wines. The extremely old vines here produce magnificent fruit year after year and the wine evolves over a very long period of time – Outstanding. $37
2010 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Paso Robles.
This wine is 100% Zinfandel from the Benito Dusi Ranch in San Luis Obispo County. The year 2010 had the coolest growing season here in 40 years. The resulting wine is stunning with a great fresh fruit quality. The color is dark and the wine has a deep perfume of blackberry fruit with faint spice and briary nuances. It is packed with fruit and is lush, deep and concentrated – Outstanding. $30
2010 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel East Bench Dry Creek Sonoma County.
This wine is 100% Zinfandel and is a real mouthful. It has a dark color and a deep olallieberry perfume with a briary spice tinge. Rich, full and concentrated with intense fruit the wine remains balanced despite the intensity – Highly Recommended. $28
VALUE PRICED CALIFORNIA WINES
In today’s wine market, values abound in California wines. Here are some that are recommended for quality and value. A short while ago I recommended Chardonnays from Laetitia and Qupé. (To read that article click here)  Now we have a Pinot Noir from Laetitia and a Syrah from Qupé. In addition, there is a lovely Sauvignon Blanc from Patianna Estate Vineyards. All of these wines represent really good value.
2010 Laetitia Pinot Noir Estate Arroyo Grande Valley.
This is a lovely Pinot Noir with a deep color and a floral berry perfume with a hint of green olive. It is flavorful with berry fruit and underlying green olive and herbal notes. Nicely balanced this wine is rounded and very easy to drink – Highly Recommended. $21.49
2010 Patianna Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino.
This is a really nice Sauvignon Blanc with a decided Kiwi influence. It is pale yellow in color and has lovely perfume of grapefruit with floral undertones. It is very crisp and clean with predominant grapefruit flavors and a hint of peach. Tangy and bright, but with a sappy fruit quality this is a very food friendly wine – Outstanding. $10.49
2009 Qupé Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley.
Qupé is known for making wines that are balanced and food friendly, but also with the ability to age. (To see the article on Qupé click here ) This 2009 Syrah is a great example. It is dark in color and has a deep perfume of mulberry and cassis with a touch of smoke and spice. The wine has gorgeous fruit hinting of berries and cassis and is rich and rounded with a very faint spicy smokiness. This is a really nice Syrah to drink now or keep for an extended period – Outstanding. $18.99