Royalty in the Room! Prime Minister on the Deck! TEN-HUT!

Nothing quite like popping the cork on a First Growth Bordeaux to liven up the meal. The appearance of a member from this class of pedigreed wines is both rare and notable. Pull a cork on 1996 Barolo or a Chambolle-Musigny from any vintage – both of equal breed – it is a simple fact that more people will recognize the Bordeaux as the extra special wine that turns heads with its arrival. The President of the USA versus the richest man in Russia. Extra rare generic versus extra rare “who dat”.

And the timing was perfect. ‘Tis the season to break out the good stuff. Between Christmas Day, a belated Hannukah and the annual New Year’s Eve parties the wine selections over this season proved to be exceptional. When you are keeping company with your favorite pals and even family members it is always good to match the relations with wines of equal depth and warmth.

Here is a list in no particular order of the 2010 seasonal highlights – the rare, the unusual and the predictably wonderful.

1997 Chateau Margaux $340 to $700 (online): Pulled from the Big Mur cellar before he knew what he had done. Good for us! Wow. A Bordeaux First Growth that is held in the highest regard by Bordeaux collectors. Right up there with Lafite, Mouton and Latour. The other and fifth First Growth, for the record, is Haut-Brion. There is no mistaking this Cabernet-Merlot blend with a Napa “first growth” [ed. Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Boreme and Snoozer]. Way back when tBoW used to drink mega-oodles of Bordeaux the question often put to the tasters was which do you prefer, Napa or Bordeaux? And it still holds. Which is best? Which do you prefer? The answer remains the same…Bordeaux. Especially today when there are more Napa wines in the pricing penthouse than there are First Growths; all well north of $100. If there is one unmistakable mark that distinguishes Bordeaux it is the “pencil lead” nose. Like graphite. And it is unmistakably here. Wines from the Margaux appellation are typically softer and not as fruity as those from St Julien (Gruaud Larose) or powerful as those from Pauillac (Latour and Mouton). This bottle is perfectly balanced, soft and smooth with subtle richness. Chateau Margaux is the definition of wine elegance. And look at the alcohol level. Truly special. 12.5%

1996 Sori Paitin Barbaresco $35: If you could find this online – as we have – and actually purchase it – how frequent the disconnect between online wine locators and in store availability – you should buy it. At this price or near it you would be getting a “perfect” Barbaresco from an outstanding vintage. Elegant (again) and transcendent. Opens over an hour. Rainbow of flavors and aromas. The 1996 vintage has proven to be consistent almost across the board. Such vintages in premium regions, such as the Piemonte, are rare. We have had other vintages from this producer that have only proven memorable in their lack of distinction. What better evidence can there be for 1996 as a uniformly distinctive vintage? Even Sori Paitin made great wine. 13%

2005 Adastra Syrah $45: This is the first release of Syrah by this 90s era winery in the Carneros appellation. Purchased at the winery. Not received well by the tBoW tasting team. One taster suggested wearing a cup when tasting. Another heard the calling “I am here. Have you seen my horse?” Those were the printable comments. The wine is big and juicy and contrasts sharply with the preferred flavor profile of this crew which is lighter, more delicate and nuanced. The winery name means pervasive spirit. We hope this winery pursues a toned down style as the region is known for lighter terroir driven wines that we prefer immensely. 14.1%

2009 Domaine Perraud Macon Villages $14: The U20 winner of the holiday. Macon Villages is the back door to premium white Burgundy [ed. Chardonnay]. This is a North Berkeley Wine pick that lives up to the hype; for the vintage, by the store, and for the masses – that’s us! Fresh, rich, good acid. This is not your big ticket Montrachet with the oil and bone marrow. As Dotor√© would say with Churchill-esque resolve, “we need more of this.” 12%

It was a long Holiday with many parties! This is only the first installment. More on the way. Please stay tuned.


  1. Wavatar
    Bacchus says:

    A brief comment about label alcohols – these are less accurate than the fuel consumption sticker in a new car’s window.

    ’97 margaux is probably closer to 14% than 12.5%, if not over 14%

    ’96 paitin is probably between 13-14% but might even be over 14%

    ’05 adastra when it says 14.1% on a calif wine that is often a red flag and occasionally a euphemism for ~15%

  2. Wavatar
    doctore says:

    Expect to be hearing from my attorney about the scabrous and entirely unauthorized use of my image. I shall fight you on the land and on the sea and I shall prevail. Otherwise, another exceptional post.

  3. Wavatar
    mouse says:

    My two <$20 wines from the season were both roussannes. The first, admittedly, was caught on sale at The Wine House for $19.99, the 2007 L'Avion from Stolpman in Santa Ynez. As good as any domestic I've had. And, do try the 2008 Line Shack from San Antonia Valley, also $20 at Wades. Creamy and not hot. Fruit in the middle, just like Rex Ryan. Cheers.

  4. With gas prices and inflation, we may need to re-think <$20 to <$22 — Jesus, what used to be a $1.75 venti brew at Starbucks is now north of $2.10… Meaning more change in my pockets, and thus lost in the singularity that is my car's drivers seat… Anyway, paid $21 for a fine, interesting, and complex little Anderson Valley Pinot — Lazy Creek '08. As for whites… crisp, fruity, hints of rich vanilla… overtones of pear — great paring with crab or white fish — still one of my faves is: ALBARINO 08 MARTIN CODAX — at High Times Cellars… Under $12 and draws a nice contrast to those wonderful Torrontes varietals from America-down-under. — The Large.

    • Wavatar
      Bacchus says:

      That Lazy Creek vintage is corrected to 2009. Although it would be interesting to try the 2008 smoke bomb just to see. tBoW covered a stop at Lazy Creek in late Spring 2010. See the post here.<a href="“>

Got something to add?