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Distinctive New Wines

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GREAT DISTINCTIVE NEW WINES – RED, WHITE, AND ROSÉ

John Tilson • 6/7/21        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

GREAT DISTINCTIVE NEW WINES – RED, WHITE, & ROSÉ



Below are notes on some terrific new wines including the really extraordinary new releases from Bonny Doon Vineyard (white, red, and rosé), a great 2018 Oregon Pinot Noir from Nicholas-Jay which is one of the best Pinot Noirs I have ever tasted, and two very special 2020 Rosés that are the best I have tasted so far this year.

Bonny Doon Vineyard

Founded in 1983 by Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard still seems to be under the radar. But make no mistake, Bonny Doon Vineyard is making terrific wines as reflected in their new releases . In fact, as a group –  White Wines, Rosé, and Red Wine – they are really amazing. And there is even more great news. They are all priced at $14.99 per bottle through retail stores which makes them some of the best wine bargains on planet earth! I have added these wines to my cellar and look forward to drinking them over many years. Don’t miss them!!

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2020 Picpoul Monterey County “Beeswax Vineyard”
Picpoul literally means “lip-stinger” and is a grape that originated in Southern France that is known for its brisk acidity and ultra savoriness. It is unusual and rarely seen here, but nonetheless this is a very distinctive and special white wine. It has a very light yellow color and lovely pineapple tinged perfume with an exotic floral undertone. On the palate it is brisk and crisp with pineapple tinged fruit underneath which is accented with citrus and is very flavorful with depth and richness – Outstanding Plus.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2020 Vin Gris de Cigare
Randall refers to this wine as “Pink Wine of the Earth”. It is made from southern Rhône varieties from cool climate sites on the Central Coast. It has a great floral and berry perfume with exotic spice nuances. On the palate this rosé is very elegant, supple, and finesseful with faint suggestions of apricot and peach intermingled with a very slight citrus tinge. Beautifully balanced and very tasty it is a really delicious rosé  and ranks with the very top of all the 2020 rosés I have tasted (see notes on those rosés at the end of this article) – Extraordinary.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2020 Le Cigare Blanc
Randall refers to this wine as “White Wine of the Earth” It is made with 60% Grenache Blanc, 32% Vermentino, and 8% Clairette Blanche this is a very distinctive wine with the great character of the Vermentino, which I love, showing through. It has a gorgeous perfume of citrus, fresh herbs, and pineapple and on the palate it follows through with a creaminess overlaying citrus, pineapple, and fresh herbs flavors and along crisp lingering finish. This is a stunning white wine – Extraordinary.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2020 Le Cigare Volant
This wine which Randall refers to as “Red Wine of the Earth” is made with 56% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 13% Syrah, and 1% Petite Sirah and in recent vintages the percentage of Cinsault has been increased. Randall Grahm has this to say about the change: …the original inspiration of Cigare Volant was Châteauneuf-du-Pape; we seem to have landed approximately 381 km. to the north (the distance from Avignon to Beaune). And, indeed the wine is very harmonious and seamless with a distinctive Burgundian quality. This is truly an extraordinary and very distinctive red wine with a dark color and a great perfume showing plum and cassis with hints of spice and cedar. On the palate it has a myriad of red and black fruits – cherry, plum, and cassis – and it is supple and balanced with a faint exotic undertone. Bravo – Extraordinary.

 

Nicholas-Jay

Nicholas Jay is a partnership between celebrated Burgundian winemaker Jean-Nicolas Méo of Domaine Méo-Camuzet and renowned music executive Jay Boberg. They are making Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and their first wine was released in 2014. In 2018 they decided to do a selection of the top barrels and create a Grand Cru-level contender for the Williamette Valley. That wine is L’Ensemble. And, make no mistake about it they have achieved their goal. It is stunning and we can all look forward to the future and more great vintages.

I remember many years ago my long time good friend Ed Lazarus, who was also Assoiciate Editor and a regular contributor of articles for the original print edition Underground Winletter, and I met a group of Oregon winemakers at an event in Los Angeles. They were talking about how they were making Pinot Noir in Oregon that was as good as Burgundy. When we questioned this premise they asked us what we knew about Burgundy. So we introduced ourselves and The Underground Wineletter and told them about our history with Burgundy. They responded with a challenge for us to do a blind tasting of Burgundy versus Oregon Pinot Noir. We agreed and they then proposed that we bring some Burgundies to Oregon and they would provide a range of Oregon Pinot Noirs to do a blind tasting. Ed and I talked it over and finally agreed to do it. Later in Oregon the wines were presented blind. Ed and I sat together at a table and the wine makers sat together at a larger table in the same room. Ed and I decided to smell the wines first and separate them and then taste them to do the final separation. After the first separation the winemaker’s expressions changed (they knew the identity of the wines) and after the second separation the winemakers conceded that we had gotten them right and were very disappointed. I responded by saying that they should not be disappointed. And, continued to explain that no one will ever make Burgundy anywhere else except Burgundy and what they should try to do is make the best Oregon Pinot Noir that they could. And, because it was a relatively new endeavor to make Pinot Noir in Oregon that they should expect that it would take time to find the best vineyard sites, have the right vines planted, and experiment on harvesting and making the wine. And then some years after doing all this it would be time to taste the wines again and see how they compared with the first ones. The bottom line: It was time and process that would determine their success. I have not tasted too many Oregon Pinot Noirs in the intervening years but the ones I have tasted were certainly nice wines but not great. With the release of this 2018 Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir L’Ensemble that has changed for me. And, as I said earlier, this wine represents the pinnacle of what I think Oregon Pinot Noir can be. Bravo!

 

 2018 Nicolas-Jay Pinot Noir L’Ensemble

Here is what the founders Jean Nicolas Méo and Jay Boberg had to say about L’Ensemble: Meaning ‘the whole” and “together” in French, L’Ensemble brings those special vineyards together – an ode to creating a cuvée that is  greater and more cohesive than its parts. “Ensemble” is also a musical term, mostly used in classical and jazz orchestras, and is a nod to Jay’s roots in music. L’Ensemble, then, speaks to the harmonious and collaborative nature of the craft, where all players come together to create a wine.
Always in pursuit of excellence, we are evolving, learning, and improving every step of the way. L’Ensemble encapsulates that evolution while also channeling our excitement for the finest vineyards in the region.
Dark in color the wine has a gorgeous black cherry perfume with exotic floral undertones and a tinge of spice. On the palate it is beautifully rendered with layers of black cherry fruit and is very full, lush, supple, and flavorful with a faint exotic spice undertone. Without question this is a real tour-de-force and a great Pinot Noir by any standard. And, it is for sure, the best Oregon Pinot Noir that I have ever tasted and a candidate for the best Pinot Noir that I have ever tasted – Extraordinary.    $70
I have bought this wine for my cellar and if you love Pinot Noir and great red wine I strongly advise you to follow my lead. It is going to be really interesting to follow this wine’s evolution over many years into the future! But, without question,  it is destined to be a classic!

 

2020 French Rosés

Great rosés are made in France every year. But as I continue to taste more and more of the 2020s I am finding some that really stand out. Below are notes on two extraordinary rosés that are the best I have tasted so far this year.

2020 Miraval Rosé

Château Miraval is a château and vineyard located in the village of Correns, just north of Brignoles, a village in the south of France. The site was first inhabited in pre-Roman times. The château, in a modest vernacular style, has thirty-five rooms. It is surrounded by gardens with a moat, fountains, ancient aqueducts, a pond and a chapel, and by its vineyard. The château hit headlines in late May 2008 when it was revealed that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had leased it for three years with an option to buy, after surveying prospective properties by helicopter, with the intention of having the twins they expected born in France. It is now owned by Pitt and Jolie, who were married in the château’s chapel in August 2014.

Miraval Rosé is made from primarily Grenache and Cinsault with some Syrah and Rolle. The 2020 Miraval Rosé is very special. Miraval Rosé is a favorite of mine every year, but this 2020 may very well be the best yet! It has a very pale pink color with a golden hue and a gorgeous floral perfume with a faint hint of exotic spice. On the palate it is very elegant, finesseful, and beautifully balanced with floral notes intermingled with a faint cherry undertone and a kiss of spice. This is a really special Rosé with great definition, flavor, complexity, and balance and it is absolutely delicious – Extraordinary.      $24       Imported by Vineyard Brands   Birmingham, Alabama

 

2020 Triennes Rosé

Two of Burgundy’s greatest names – Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac, and Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – are the partners behind this pioneering property in Provence, northeast of Marseille and due east of Aix-en-Provence. Over the years, they have transformed this stunning 46-hectare site into one of the top wine estates in Southern France.
Made with primarily Cinsault grapes, blended with Syrah and Merlot, this 2020 Triennes Rosé has a pale golden orange pink color and a great perfume with hints of orange and pineapple with an underlying exotic floral tinge. With great style, finesse, and definition it has lovely flavors of peach and orange with floral undertones and finishes with a nice underlying crispness. This is the best Triennes Rosé I have ever tasted – Extraordinary.      $17       Imported by Sorting Table Inc  Napa, Ca

 

 

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  • jtilson says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    Thanks Frank. That was a long time ago. How are the McClellands? Glad you have enjoyed The Underground. It is hard for me to believe that it has been over 40 years since I started it! Regarding your question about the Pinot Noir and its aging potential there is really no way to know since this is the first wine and it will take some time for it to develop a track record. But what I know from tasting countless wines from barrel and bottle for some 50 years is that wines that are balanced from the beginning age very well. And a red wine like this should have a long life ahead. How long and how much change it will show remains to be seen. However, my guess in that with proper storage it will evolve over many decades. However, if not properly stored under ideal conditions all bets are off! Too often I taste older wines from different cellars that are in decline. Those same wines in my cellar are still evolving!
  • Frank K says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    Thanks as always John for the excellent info. I met you years ago with the McClellands (my parents-in-law) for a Ridge vertical wine tasting in your lovely home. Since then I have taken your input to help shape my own pallet & cellar (as well as recommend the UWL to others!). Regarding laying down Nicolas-Jay bottles- any input as to how many years an Oregon pinot will last? I am interested in age-worthy wines to enjoy and share with my kids in the future.
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