Posted June 1, 2016
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's (PLCB) traditional Chairman's Selection spring preview tasting was held in May, a month or two later than in previous years. PAWineTalk once again had a seat!
Steve Pollack, head buyer for the Chairman's program, had polled wine specialists in stores across the state and asked for nominations of Chairman's Selection wines that they would like to taste, or taste again. The most popular choices were included in the tasting along with a selection of upcoming or newly released Chairman's Selections. The good news is that most of the chosen wines could be considered better, or higher-end, wines, which don't always get included in these tastings. The result was a higher quality, more enjoyable tasting event. One side effect was a noticeably longer tasting - roughly an hour longer than in the past - with a total of 46 wines tasted.
There were two flights of whites and seven flights of reds, including an entire flight devoted to Pinot Noir, and an entire flight devoted to Napa Cabs! And not a single Merlot! (It was like heaven...) The most Merlot to be had was blended in a left-bank Bordeaux, though the exact amount was unclear as our books contained a misprint.
On a side note, a number of older Chairman's Selections will be marked down beginning on June 27. Specific wines we tasted that will be marked down are noted below. There will almost certainly be others as well, more details TBD.
Unfortunately, we aren't offering second opinions on any of these wines as we have in the past - Admin was on his own! So let's cut to the chase.
Secondo Tempo Pinot Grigio Valdadige 2015 (PLCB # 78230) $8.99 - Pale color, decent Pinot Grigio, but a short finish. OK for the price.
The Steven Kent Winery Sauvignon Blanc Winemaker's Selection 2015 (PLCB # 78175) $13.99 - This Chairman's Selection standard is obviously a hit with casual buyers, as it returns for the fourth straight vintage. Keen program followers however should spend their money elsewhere.
Claudie Peguet Pouilly-Loché 2014 (PLCB # 78039) $19.99 - Steve and Luke (Ashton) jumped on board with this negociant last year, bringing in several reds and whites from various appellations. The wines marketed under the Roger Peguet name are vinified by Benjamin and Cyril Peguet, who represent the third generation of the family in the wine business. Wines marketed under the Claudie Peguet name - Claudie was their grandmother - are selected by the Peguets, but presumably vinified by someone else. At the tasting Steve admitted that many of the wines have been a tough sell, and it's easy to see why - an unrecognized name, no reviews from the national press, and wines mostly from lesser-known appellations. This particular white Burgundy is soft and a bit flabby, and could use more acidity. The price is being reduced 20% starting June 27. But don't judge all the Peguet wines based on just this one - keep reading!
Henry Fessy Pouilly-Fuissé Sous La Roche 2014 (PLCB # 78097) $17.99 - You may not recognize this as a Henry Fessy wine, as the label does not feature their iconic cartoon mustache, but this is a nice summer white. It is definitely preferable to the Pouilly-Loché tasted right before it, and costs $2 less.
Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet Les Truffières 2011 (PLCB # 33931) $49.99 - This is a nice white Burgundy, although clearly not from the greatest vintage, and it doesn't really live up to the 93 point Wine Enthusiast rating. Personally I'm more on board with Wine Spectator's 90 points. It's a little scary to recognize that, at $50, it is attractively priced for a Premier Cru. The good news is that it too will be 20% cheaper starting on June 27.
Stonestreet Chardonnay Bear Point Vineyard 2012 (PLCB # 33830) $29.99 - Like the Latour Puligny-Montrachet, this was a re-taste of a wine initially offered in the program last year. A sledgehammer of a Chardonnay, it's no surprise that a high profile lover of the style - Wine Advocate - gave it 95 points. I had some a while back and woke up the next morning with a bitchin' headache. There isn't a ton left in the state, but if you can find it and like the style, it too will be 20% cheaper starting June 27.
Jermann Red Angel On The Moonlight 2012 (PLCB # 78103) $19.99 - Pinot Nero (AKA Pinot Noir) from a famed Pinot Grigio producer. This is on the lighter side, with a touch of sour cherry on the finish that Acorelli would likely find pleasant.
Martinelli Pinot Noir Bella Vigna 2013 (PLCB # 78272) $29.99 - Steve was excited to get Martinelli in the program for the first time; in addition to this Pinot they also bought two Zins. This wine shows what's right, and wrong, with California Pinot Noir. Quote of the day, by Steve Pollock: "There's a typo in the books, the alcohol content of this wine is only 15.2%." (The book said 16.2%.) This wine is not as heavy as implied by the (still) high alcohol, and is actually quite pleasant and a nice buy. But be ready for the buzz.
Antonin Rodet Nuits-Saint-Georges Clos de Thorey 2010 (PLCB # 33885) $44.99 - Hard to believe this is the same grape variety as the previous Pinot Noir. This Premier Cru Burgundy shows earth, tannins, and acidity covering the red fruit. Alcohol is listed as "11-14%" which is still lower than the Martinelli. Wine Enthusiast also gave this wine 93 points, and again I don't see it. But it too is being reduced 20% on June 27. I think for less than $40 a pop, it may be worth burying a couple bottles in the cellar for 5-10 years to see what happens. It's also worth pointing out that the first bottle opened at the tasting was flawed - but that's why you don't bury just one. (Right, Stacy?)
Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin 2012 (PLCB # 33923) $39.99 - The price of this wine has been a moving target. Initially offered last year at $49.99, after a short time it was lowered to $39.99; apparently the PLCB learned that their original $49.99 price wasn't so special after all and negotiated the lower price with the supplier. Well, we're happy to report that the current $39.99 price will be further discounted by, you guessed it, 20% beginning on June 27. No need to add to the reviews already entered on PAWineTalk. Grab it while you can.
Roger Peguet Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2014 (PLCB # 78035) $139.99 - After the disappointing Claudie Peguet Pouilly-Loché, I was very interested in trying this Grand Cru. In a word, WOW! It's hard to say that a wine which costs $140 is worth it, but man, this one makes a really good argument. The state only brought in 50 cases of this late last fall (total production is around 300 cases), but it's been selling slowly and was included in our tasting to try to generate some interest. It worked with me! Steve said that they are "not going to take a big shot with Burgundy any more, we just don't do well with it." That's a shame, because this wine, especially for being so very young, smelled and tasted bright and fresh, with intense, complex flavors that danced across the palate. It could be enjoyed now but will certainly improve with age. Unfortunately we did not get to taste the 2014 Clos Vougeot from the same negociant, which is selling for $10 less.
Louis Latour Corton Clos du Roi Grand Cru 2011 (PLCB # 78127) $79.99 - Two Grand Cru Burgundies in a row! I think that's a first for a Chairman's Selection tasting. But the differences are many: this is Côte de Beaune while the Peguet is Côte de Nuits; this is 2011 vs. 2014; and while the Peguet was open for business, this wine was a bit burly and clearly needs time. Wine Spectator says this will be best from 2017 to 2030, and based on our sample I'd recommend waiting until the latter half of that window.
Vite Colte La Luna e I Falo Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2013 (PLCB # 78232) $12.99 - It's a tough act to follow Grand Cru Burgundy, but this is a decent Barbera for the money.
Baldetti Syrah Cortona Crano 2011 (PLCB # 78089) $17.99 - I'll admit to being skeptical of the idea of a Tuscan Syrah, but this was a pleasant surprise and actually better than the 86 point Wine Enthusiast rating. Worth a try if you like Syrah.
Reserve des Oliviers Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 (PLCB # 78054) $21.99 - This is the third vintage we've had of this wine in the Chairman's Selection program, and probably the least appealing. But it also features a lower asking price so the QPR may be similar. I found this to be very dry and rustic, and unfortunately lacking fruit. Not sure if the tannins are smothering the fruit, in which case time will help, or if there just isn't enough fruit to begin with, in which case the outlook is gloomy.
Carte Blanche Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (PLCB # 78067) $69.99 - This was the first in a flight of six Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. In introducing this wine, Steve said "We tasted an awful lot of 2011s that were terrible." The implication is that this was better than many other 2011s they tried. I thought it was just OK and I'm on board with Wine Advocate's 88 point review. Not a bad wine overall, but if you're spending your own money, there are many, many less expensive options that are just as good.
Vine Cliff Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (PLCB # 78126) $39.99 - Relative to the Carte Blanche which immediately preceded this in our tasting, I thought this showed better, and it's $30 less. Buy.
Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (PLCB # 78128) $39.99 - This was more like the 2010 Vine Cliff than the 2011 Carte Blanche. It may not be wine of the year but I thought it was decent for the money.
Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon Oso Vineyard 2011 (PLCB # 78134) $27.99 - This wine is proof - PROOF - that Wine Enthusiast is on the take. They gave this middling Cab which includes 13% Petit Verdot (13%!) 93 points and called it a "Cellar Selection." This was the low point of the Napa Cab flight, and while it was also the cheapest, my advice to you is the same as I often give to my kids: Save up a few more dollars and then get something nice.
Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (PLCB # 78125) $67.99 - There were no national reviews of this wine offered, so either they don't exist or they aren't very good. I actually thought this was a pretty good, typical Napa Bordeaux-style blend. I'd also like to think it's a bit overpriced, but I have no doubt that they'll sell it; I suppose the name carries some cachet. There was talk that the PLCB tried to get Mr. Ming himself in for a bottle tasting and he supposedly showed interest but couldn't work it in to his schedule. There are only 50 cases of this wine available across the state so if you want some get off the bench.
Brandlin Henry's Keep Proprietary Red Mount Veeder 2011 (PLCB # 33926) $49.99 - When we tasted this last year I said it was easily the best 2011 Napa Cab that I'd had to date. I've had more 2011s since then, and while this may no longer be the best overall, it's still up there. It doesn't have the structure for extended cellaring, but I think that's what makes it so enjoyable now. And you know what? The price is coming down 20% on June 27. I'll be on it.
Chateau Martin Saint-Estephe Cuvee Coutelin 2013 (PLCB # 33870) $29.99 - Watery, lacks concentration. Pass. (Price also coming down 20% on June 27, but who cares.)
The PLCB bought two wines from Tenor which were made for their wine club, but apparently they made too much. One is a left-bank Bordeaux blend in a white bottle called 1:1 (Tenor Wines 1:1 Red 2011 (PLCB # 78132) $49.99). The other is a right-bank Bordeaux blend in a black bottle, called 2:2 (Tenor Wines 2:2 Red 2011 (PLCB # 78131) $29.99). [Click on the links for the respective blends.] Both wines are good, and which one you prefer will be a matter of taste. The 1:1 sports 94 and 90 point ratings, while the 2:2 has a 92 and a 93. There are just 100 cases of the 1:1 available, while there are 250 cases of the 2:2 and it is $20 cheaper.
Celler Vall Llach Vall Llach 2009 (PLCB # 78129) $57.99 - We've had Priorats from this producer in the program before, but this is the first time we've had their self-named flagship. It's big (15.5% alcohol), dry, and tannic, but experience with this producer shows that if you cellar it for 10 years or so you'll probably be happy. Delayed gratification.
San Polo Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (PLCB # 78096) $49.99 - We had the 2006 from this maker in the program previously for the same price. I liked it then and I like it now. It's made in a modern style, smooth and easy-drinking. Cellaring could improve it but that isn't absolutely necessary.
Tenuta Rovecciano Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (PLCB # 78090) $39.99 - This had a lot of brett on the nose, and not surprisingly, came across as more rustic than the San Polo. If you want to drink it now you should give it a decant, but better would be to wait a while. The finish was shorter than the San Polo.
Carini Captain Fantasy NV (PLCB # 78156) $19.99 - Carini continues to play by their (his) own rules. This is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon from various regions and years in California. It's rather oaky - also not a surprise for Carini - and interesting. Worth a try at $20.
In addition to the Pinot Noir described earlier, the PLCB bought two Zinfandels from Martinelli. They are the Zinfandel Vigneto di Evo 2013 (PLCB #78273) for $21.99 and the Zinfandel Vellutini Ranch 2013 (PLCB #78271) for $44.99. They're both big, high alcohol (15.6% and 16.2% respectively) fruit bombs. Zin fans should be happy. I don't think the second wine justifies a price double that of the first.
Even though I was a good boy and spit through much of the day, by flight 8 my palate was tiring out. So here are brief comments on some of the final wines.
Sardo Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 2011 (PLCB # 78267) $38.99 - Dry and rustic. Big points from Wine Enthusiast but we've already shown what those are worth.
Ca'Ferreri Amarone Della Valpolicella 2009 (PLCB # 33877) $29.99 - Big alchohol (17%), not bad. Price coming down 20% on June 27.
Secoli Amarone Della Valpolicella 2012 (PLCB # 33973) $27.99 - I preferred this to the Ca'Ferreri. Price also coming down 20% on June 27.
Dal Forno Romano Valpolicella Superiore 2008 (PLCB # 78133) $59.99 - Dark, hard, tannic. Sit on it for a while.
Mastroberardino Taurasi Naturalis Historia 2007 (PLCB # 33668) $44.99 - Already reduced from the original Chairman's price of $59.99, this is coming down another 20% on June 27 which will make it a really good buy.
Roger Peguet Hermitage 2010 (PLCB # 33668) $37.99 - Another wine from Peguet, this also has been selling slowly but nonetheless has its fans. They will be pleased to hear that the price will be dropping to $24.99 starting on June 27.
Offley Porto Tawny 30 Year Old (PLCB # 33524) $69.99 - Apparently Luke can't help himself and bought another Port. This is orange-gold in color, thick, rich and ready to go. At $70 it's the least expensive 30 year tawny available via the PLCB, and by a good margin. Comes in a nice box. Only 150 6-packs in the state.
[Disclosure: PAWineTalk was invited by the PLCB to a free tasting of these wines, and lunch was also provided.]
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