Way Too Early Holiday Edition 2 – Weekend and Splurge Wines

18 Nov

binganddavidI’ve been remiss over the last few months in not including my usual splurge wines. And the year end holidays are getting closer when you might like a couple around the house. We know they are close because stores are playing Christmas tunes. I actually heard Bing and David butta, bum, bumming each other (excuse the image). Or, is it rutta, tut, tumming? They do look uncomfortable, don’t they? Bing in his 40 year old cardigan, David thinking to himself, “Is that pipe tobacco and scotch I smell on Bing’s breath? And why are his children bruised and cowering under the Christmas tree?” And, let’s not forget the scenes of our American friends crashing Target at 5:00 AM to get one of the 3 available 40 inch LED TV’s advertised for $1.50 (that’s $1.54 CAD). Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

A challenge for me is getting to taste wines in this price range. You may not have noticed but I’m not one of the wine writing crew in Ontario that gets invited by the mother ship to taste each release’s wares. Not until you bombard this site and get my numbers up, anyway. So, I have to buy these wines or sample them at a tasting. Starting to understand the lack of splurge wine recommendations? To quote Omar of The Wire, “Ya’ feel me?”

crognoloItalian wines? Why with the Italian wines all the time? Paraphrasing Tony The Tiger, “‘Cause they’re great!” When you get a chance to pick up a Toscana that smells like leather and tastes like love.  OK, overdoing it? Anyway, when the 2010 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo #727636 $31.95 opens up, it smells of that leather that you get from Italy and seldom in abundance from anyplace else. It has loads of red fruits and a sense of the wood used on the nose. It’s got a great hit of acidity but not a long finish. I think you’d want food with this wine.  I’d say if you like the Tuscan take on using international grapes (in this case Merlot) with Sangiovese, this is for you.

09-elderton-command-shirazWhen I started this journey of discovering and appreciating wines, I bought a ton of Aussie reds in the $20 – $40 range (St. Hallett’s Old Block, Penfold’s Kalimna Shiraz, Penley and Parker Coonawarra Cabernet). I don’t buy as many Aussie wines as I used to and probably don’t recommend as many as you would like, given the feedback I’ve received. Well, some of these wines are still bringing it in the premium category. You’ll always see the consistently great d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz on the shelves, several Penfold’s Bins (389, 407) and the Kalimna Shiraz (Bin 28) that I love in most years. But, one wine that I’ve always favoured is the Elderton Command Shiraz. If power and Aussie sensibility (always wanted to say, ‘sensibility’ and have it not fit, like when I see others use it) is what turns you on, this is the Shiraz for you. I bought several vintages when they were less lofty price-wise and they still lurk in the cellar (throat clear……basement). The 2009 Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz #716142 $89.95 – power in this wine isn’t to be confused with soaring alcohol (although it is at 14.8%), chewy tannins and over-extracted fruit. “Well, what the hell do you mean by power, then?” I mean that the wine is big in the glass (nose) and big in the mouth. This wine fills the glass with dark swirly fruit, some oaky nuances, and one of the most pronounced chocolate scents I’ve experienced in a Shiraz. When you get to drinking it, that Shiraz spiciness, pepper, and the oak come through. It’s pretty balanced now but I’d say wait awhile to allow the oak to take a back seat and it will be even more velvety. I guess I need to bring up and pop the 2002 now. Anybody want to join me?

chmontelenaAnother region that I under-recommend, I’m told, is California. It makes some of the best wines for pop and pour standing/sitting around. And, heavens knows, we like to pop and pour and stand around drinking wine. My old standby for splurging without reading reviews, pouring over tasting notes of stooges like me is Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. This venerable winery makes some of the most consistent Cabernet in both the regular cuvee and the estate offering. There are plenty of bottles of that regular cuvee 2010 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon #718452 $59.95 left on the shelves. I couldn’t resist and picked up, popped and poured one of these recently – all in the service of my readers of course. This is as good as it gets – opaque, solid, structured and balanced – acidity, fruit, tannin, and alcohol all working together. It’s bigger this vintage than, say, it’s 2009 version but I never find that this wine carries that label of BIG CAB. Smelling of herbs and red fruit, tasting of darker fruits like cassis and some herbs with a finish that lasts seemingly forever. So, I’d say make sure that you have some food with this – some serious food. This wine will keep for a decade and a half, if their record is any indication. This might be a good yearly purchase for those that have a vacant slot in their wine rack and love California reds (Craig? Bob?). Or, red wine lover on your Christmas list? This will do the trick.

I haven’t tasted these but will try and see if I can swing the splurge:

kistler2012 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay #183921 $84.95  I read a great piece some time ago by Eric Asimov about Kistler and their natural evolution to a more restrained style of chardonnay – one that reflects the place from which they come. I’d suggest that people coming to our house and trying to impress Arlene might want to go big or go home with this wine. BTW, I’d enjoy it too.

2010 Domaine Rijckaert Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champgains #355909 $69.95 Staying with chardonnay, this wine in earlier vintages was special and 2010 was magic in the right hands. If you like Meursault and Michael does, this is a good pick for your special dinner over the holidays or keep for a few years and see how it develops. Or…….why not do both? I mean aside from spending all that money on yourself? Note to Michael: Not as buttery or muscular as the Meursault’s that you like usually are, I bet. Although they do speak of oak and medium weight. Perfect turkey wine!

A red super splurge wine deserves an installment of Bill’s Story Time. Back when I really worked, I had an invoice paid while I was overnight in Toronto. It was burning a hole in my pocket. My client asked me if I could host a reception at a conference on their behalf – i.e. buy all the stuff that they didn’t want to be seen buying and bury it in my invoice. I said, sure. So, I had someone get some munchies and I trundled to the liquor store to get wine. While there and after picking up a couple of cases of entry level reception-worthy whites and reds, I decided to splurge for my best friend, Bill. After all, I did just get paid. I love Tuscan wine and particularly Bolgheri reds. Who doesn’t? So, I bought a bottle of the iconic Ornellaia. The price doesn’t matter now but let’s just say that it was well north of anything I had purchased before or since (with the exception of the Blvd. Saint Germain Burgundy Escapade). I laid out the wines, someone helped with the munchies and people started to arrive at the reception. It was an informal kind of thing with people getting their own drinks and food. About halfway through the evening, I noticed that someone was standing and reaching behind the television to grab the Ornellaia (that I had stupidly hidden there). It was one of those slow-mo moments from a nightmare – me shouting above the crowd but not being heard, moving but seemingly my feet anchored in cement. “No. no. not the Ornellaia!” He grabbed a corkscrew. “No, get the hell out of my way!” I shouted, as I shoved through inconvenient guests. And, and …………he opened the bottle. Well, there goes the Ornellaia. I slowed, approached, gently took the bottle from him before he could replenish his glass, and suggested that he might prefer the Cline Syrah – ya’ I actually pulled that one off – and took the Ornellaia, stashed it in my hotel room, and surreptitiously asked a couple friends to join me after everyone left. We drank my only ever Ornellaia from hotel room tumblers (after removing the cellophane, of course), while eating leftover veggies and dip. Was it good? Oh yeah too good. It might have had more to do with the friends. I’ve been there, done that, but if you want to pick one of these beauties up 2010 Ornellaia #335497 $189.95 make sure you call me over. I’d like it in real glass this time. With a stem. Doesn’t have to be Reidel.

6 Responses to “Way Too Early Holiday Edition 2 – Weekend and Splurge Wines”

  1. Oenophilogical November 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    First,that image of Bing and Bowie is just amazing. I can’t even find the words. But for the wines … you have two of my favorite houses listed. While I haven’t had anything from Chateau Montelena or Kistler recently, I can say that they have always proved solid performers every time I have sampled their wares. Nice post!


    • Duff's Wines November 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      Thanks for dropping by. I read your post on the Barbera. Love those and the price is great too. You took a bit of a hiatus this year. Good to have you back.


      • Oenophilogical November 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

        Yes, I took a break. Not a planned vacation. Life (work, mostly) got crazy. lol


  2. armchairsommelier November 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Every time I buy a bottle of Chateau Montelena I think about the movie, “Bottle Shock”. Did you see it? I love that movie . . . because Severus Snape is Steven Spurrier. Salud!!


  3. wino2wineknow November 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    First – YES, they DO look uncomfortable!

    Secondly – Glad to hear that I’m not the only wine blogger without a cellar. And since I live in the desert where we don’t have basements (as silly as that sounds), I don’t even have a basement. But I do have electricity feeding the cooling element to my wine fridge.

    Third – Thanks for the recommendations on schmancy wines. Next time I’m in the market for spending beyond my normal bottle price range, I’m going to refer to this list!



  1. Way To Early Holiday Edition 3 – The Red Daily Slosh | Duff's Wines - November 20, 2013

    […] release (November 23) is full of very pricey wines. I’ve spoken about a few of them this week. There are names from California – Dunn and Pahlmeyer. From France – Beaucastel and Dom […]


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