Category Cellar Worthy

A Paul Hobbs Napa Cab Under $20?

November 21, 2012 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

Ahnfeldt Napa Cabernet 2009I've tasted several vintages of the Ahnfeldt Cabernet, and while I always thought it was a solid wine, I never found it particularly exciting... until they hired Paul Hobbs.  Hobbs is the Cabernet master (along with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Malbec).  Somehow every wine he makes, or consults for, turns out great.  At $19.95, this has to be the greatest value in Napa Cabernet.

Paul Hobbs is probably best known for his own label which produces Cabernet starting at $75 for the Napa Valley bottling and going up to $250 for the To Kalon Vineyard bottling.  The other part of Hobbs' business is consulting for several wineries from California to Argentina.  Wineries lucky enough to acquire his consulting expertise usually experience dramatic increases in the quality of their wines.

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A Serious 92 Point Barbaresco Under $30

October 12, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

We recently tried a restaurant called Davanti Enoteca in Chicago's Little Italy, so naturally we brought an Italian wine to enjoy with dinner.  I'll get to the wine shortly, but it's worth mentioning that the food and the service were both fantastic.  From the white anchovy salad, to the Mascarpone polenta with beef short rib ragu served on a wooden cutting board, to the braised rabbit cannelloni, the food was rustic but sophisticated and tasted outrageously good.  The style was similar to a meal I ate at Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles, but the food at Davanti was much better (and much less expensive).

On to the wine.  Such a delicious meal demanded an equally delicious wine and luckily we made a good choice.  The 2008 Giorgio Pelissero Barbaresco Nubiola is a Nebbiolo

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Robert Craig Affinity – High End Napa Cab Under $40

September 28, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End ValuesSpecial Occasions  No comments

Robert Craig's Affinity bottling really got on the map after Robert Parker awarded it 96 points in the 2007 vintage. I bought 4 bottles without tasting it. I've only had one and I'm very happy with the purchase. It's an exceptional wine.

That wine is long since sold out but, having drunk both pretty recently, I actually think the 2009 is drinking better today. Time will tell which ends up as the better wine, but today the 2009 is a massive Cabernet with a ripe nose of dark fruit with a background of oak. But where this wine really stands out from other Napa cabs in the price range is the velvet texture and exceedingly long, highly nuanced finish. A true Bordeaux-like elegance exists with Affinity, which makes since because it's grown just south of the Stags Leap District in a cooler

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Another Brilliant Wine from Eric Solomon (90-93 points)

September 14, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

Eric Solomon is an importer of mostly French and Spanish wines, who focuses on value above everything else.  Robert Parker says "Over the last twenty years, Eric Solomon has consistently been one of America’s finest small importers of handcrafted, artisanal wines."  20 years ago, I was nine, so I can't speak to his track record then, but every Eric Solomon wine I've ever had has been somewhere between good and great.

This one is great.   It comes from the Costieres de Nimes region in Languedoc Roussillon, France which somewhat confusingly was recently made part of the Rhone appellation rather than Languedoc.  Makes sense right?

If you tasted the 2009 Costieres de Nimes Lou Coucardie, which Robert Parker awarded 90-93 points from a barrel sample, you would get why Rhone decided to

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The Next Coming of The Prisoner: Coppola Director’s Cut Cinema

July 2, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments


I was a big fan of Orin Swift's "The Prisoner" when it came out.  So much so that it was the first wine I spent real money on.  The receipt below shows I spent $210.28 on a six pack at over $35 per bottle!


The price of The Prisoner has dropped since then, but in my opinion, so has the quality.  I thought maybe my tastes had just changed, so I opened my last bottle of the 2005 vintage The Prisoner earlier this year and confirmed I do indeed like that wine better than the last several releases (they are now on 2010).  As so often happens with popular wines, the temptation to increase production caused quality to diminish.

I have never tasted a wine quite like the early versions of The Prisoner until now.  And, it came from an unexpected source:

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Finally, A Great Napa Cabernet Under $25

June 5, 2012 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

Now that the economy is thawing out, it's getting much harder to find good Napa Cabernet under $25.  In fact, the last one I wrote up was on November 1st of last year.  As a point of reference, I've written up several Bordeaux and Rhone blends under $25 since then.  So I was thrilled to taste White Oak's 2007 Napa Cabernet.

With most wineries realeasing 2009s, I'm not sure why this '07 is still around but I have an idea.  2007 was such a great vintage (arguably the best of the decade) and the economy was in the crapper.  So there were an excess of great values on the market at the time.  Fast forward to today and the economy has improved and two good, but not exceptional, vintages have been released (at higher prices).    How do those '07s look now?

This is super dense and

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Chateau Lilian Ladouys – 2009 Bordeaux Exemplified ($24)

May 18, 2012 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

I've decided to take a position on 2009 Bordeaux.  The only problem is my cellar is almost full.  My building's parking garage is climate controlled but I don't think it's exactly kept to 55 degrees year round.  Anybody in the Chicago area have a some extra cellar space?

I haven't been disappointed in a 2009 Bordeaux yet.  In fact, they keep getting better.  This 2009 Chateau Lilian Ladouys, from the Medoc's Saint-Estèphe appellation (next door to Pauillac), is off the charts for the $23.95 asking price.  This wine reminds me of the first time I had the 2005 La Vieille Cure.  It's chocolatey and rich with ripe flavors and copious sweet oak. The finish is 25+ seconds and it's extremely concentrated as well.  But as opulent as it is, this wine is also balanced and focused with firm

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Central Coast Continues Its Rise: Rusack ’09 Syrah

May 14, 2012 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

My first exposure to the Rusack brand was during a weekend trip to Catalina Island in the summer 2010.  We heard from several islanders that the Wrigley/Rusack family was preparing to release the first ever Catalina Island wine.  Later that year, we planned a trip to Santa Barbara County wine country and remembering the Rusack name, I decided to look them up and visit their beautiful Ballard Canyon location.

I haven't heard much more about their Catalina Island wine, but their estate wines from Ballard Canyon are fantastic.  Stolpman has put Ballard Canyon on the map as one of the top spots in the country for Syrah and Rusack's last couple of Syrah confrim that.  Their 2009 Ballard Canyon Estate is a dark brooding wine that pours a deep, almost black color, and shows huge concentrated

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Second Wines Rock – Napa Cabernet Edition

April 25, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

If you read Wine Spectator's March issue, you're aware of the outstanding values the second wines of Bordeaux's top Chateau.  Napa has a long history of copying (and often improving upon) French winemaking, so it comes as no surprise that some of the Napa Valley's top labels also produce some fantastic second wines.

Here are some of my favorite second wines, in no particular order, with first/flagship wine in parenthesis.  When possible, I linked wines that are available for purchase .
Darioush Caravan - $37.95 (Darioush Signature - $88)
Since the 2007 vintage, this has not only been a great second wine, but one of my favorite Napa Cabernets, period!  It's a huge, complex wine that completely destroys most Napa Cabs both on quality and value.  The price has gone up from $30 since the

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2008 Hartwell Miste Hill – Stag’s Leap Greatness Continued

April 18, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

Anyone remember which appellation put Napa Valley on the map?  It was a little area on the east side of the valley called the Stags Leap District.  A bottle of 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon beat out the likes of M0uton-Rothschild and Haut -Brion to win the Judgement of Paris in 1976.  Lucky for all of us, the entirety of the Napa Valley has continued that momentum, but it's wines like this 2008 Hartwell Miste Hill Cabernet that remind me what makes the Stags Leap District such a special place for growing Cabernet.

Hartwell Miste Hill is one of my absolute favorite Cabernets.  I've been hoarding my last three bottles of the 2006 vintage and, though I have many more expensive bottles, this is the one I think about most often.  When it came time to celebrate my birthday

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