By the time this missive reaches you Mike Parres and I will have been sloshing through Italy for a couple of weeks. We will have tasted more than 170 of the new 2001 Brunello di Montalcino—the sacrifices we make for you! If you haven’t heard before, this 2001 is The Vintage of the Millennium! Sure, it is only the second year of the millennium, true. All the levity aside, this will be a truly great vintage. This 2001 vintage will be a hybrid of the 1997 vintage’s ripeness, proclaimed by many to be the best, and the balance, length and focus of 1999, proclaimed by most Italian wine insiders as the classic vintage. A freeze hit Tuscany Easter Sunday, 2001, after a balmy early spring. Many vines had budded out, and the initial prognosis looked bad. But nature’s pruning actually made the wines more concentrated. A long growing season (without any global warming, month-long heat spells) allowed the wines to be balanced, showing incredible length and aromatic—sangiovese’s classic characteristics. For me 2001 is the single best vintage I have tasted. I loved many of the 1997s, but there were many overripe wines. I loved almost all of the ’99s, yet my palate leans toward the more balanced, and I balk at super ripe fruit without acidic balance. The 2001 vintage has everything: concentration, size, color (harder in sangiovese), classic aromatics, balance, length, aging ability and immediate appeal. You will see amongst the critics a more universal acclaim. Daniel Thomases who writes for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and whose palate generally leans toward the more classic style, wrote about “many flabby and characterless 1997s produced in Montalcino.” He will most assuredly give the 2001 wines high praise. James Suckling who writes for the Wine Spectator and whose palate leans toward the riper has already said this about the 2001 vintage: “They are rich and powerful yet show wonderful balance and length. They are a combination of the structured and tannic 1999s and the refined and fresh 1997s.” He has also thrown out a couple of handfuls of 95+ point scores to whip up the initial press frenzy. The Wine Enthusiast will be doing a big issue on this vintage as well, so be forewarned. The scores will be flying high! I don’t give scores but try and write about character and style. In the upcoming weeks I will be tasting almost the entire DOC. I will be writing my vintage report that will be available to you. I think it is important for most everyone to understand that while scores offer you some insight to the writer’s preference, it may not be yours. Best to talk with someone who knows! The initial offerings are just coming out now as I write this (February 3, incurring the ire of our crack newsletter staff by being a day late!), and we will have our first offering available in the middle of March. Anyone who is interested in receiving the first offerings and the vintage report that Mike and I will prepare please send an email to email@example.com, and I will get you our first offering. —Greg St.Clair
The extremely ripe 2003 vintage lead to lot of variability in the wines. However, there were a few domaines whose wine struck me as outstanding. One of these was Patrice Rion, in Nuits-St.-Georges. Somehow, Patrice’s wines, both domaine bottles and negociant, retained a clear sense of place as well as grace and balance, which only a handful of producers managed, in my opinion. This is so extraordinary a range that I visited Patrice directly to be certain I could get the wines! The 2003 Patrice Rion Gevrey Chambertin ($34.99) is meaty and rich, while the 2003 Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny ($34.99) shows delicate red fruits and transparency of fruit. The 2003 Patrice Rion Nuits-St-Georges , V.V. ($34.99) is so poised that Allen Meadows writes: “It’s rare to find a Nuits villages with this degree of style and grace.” The 2003 Domaine Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny, Les Cras ($36.99) is from Patrice’s own vineyard and is a complete standout for its Chambolle charm and lovely red fruits. The 2003 Patrice Rion Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru “Les Cailles” ($49.99) is another Burghound Key Buy, with punch and muscularity. The 2003 Domaine Patrice Rion Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru “Clos des Argillieres” ($51.99) is muscular and taut with power, minerality and elegance. Finally, the piéce de resistance, his 2003 Patrice Rion Chambolle Musigny, 1er Cru “Les Charmes” ($59.99) is so full of sweet, pure pinot fruit that it is just irresistible. Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg
Several of us here at K&L have been patiently waiting for these 2004 white Burgundies to arrive. Over the last several vintages winemaker Pierre-Yves Colin has been producing what could be some of the best values in Burgundy. A patient and meticulous man who farms as organically as possible but refuses to be hamstrung by dogmatically following any viticulture or winemaking philosophy, Colin wants the wine to speak of the vineyards from which they come. He uses only the wild yeast from each vineyard and keeps lees stirring to a minimum this vintage. If I try to characterize his 2004s, I’d say they are bright with charming fresh citrus and stone fruits and a driving persistence. Here are some wines well worth trying: 2004 St-Aubin, “Les Charmois,” 1er Cru ($29.99) 2004 St-Aubin, “Murgers des Dent de Chien,” 1er Cru ($29.99) The wines from St-Aubin could represent the “best value” in white Burgundy. Not a sexy appellation but these are the best vineyards made by one of the best vintners sold at a reasonable price. Les Charmois is located next to Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Chaumées, 1er Cru and has very Chassagne-like character, more open with a clean and bright pear and floral tone. The palate is fresh with a pleasant creaminess on the mid palate. Murgers des Dent de Chein is located next to Puligny-Montrachet, “La Garenne,” 1er Cru. From a spot higher in elevation, this wine is rich and posses a driving stoniness. 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet, “Les Encégnières” ($39.99) 2004 Puligny-Montrachet, “Le Trézin” ($39.99) The Les Encegnieres is “only a village vineyard located just below Batard-Montrachet, and shares the rich clay loam of the surface soil. Bright and long, this real estate gives this wine a rich and oily mid palate. The Le Trézin is one of the highest vineyards in the AOC, which makes the wine racy and stony. With its lovely floral tone, finely etched character and long finish, this wine is a real charmer. —Kirk Walker
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