• Syrah's Top Value on the Globe:  2017 Faury Saint Joseph Vielles Vignes

    Syrah's Top Value on the Globe: 2017 Faury Saint Joseph Vielles Vignes

    Death, Taxes, & Faury Saint Joseph Vieilles Vignes.

    There are guarantees in life. Each year, Domaine Faury produces the single greatest value Syrah on earth: their Saint Joseph Vieilles Vignes, from vines planted in 1937.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 vintage for $46 per bottle. 

    For years I've made it no secret that this is the one bottle within the entire Northern Rhone Valley that demands everyone's first look. The value is simply unmatched. While other champions of Saint Joseph like Gonon and Chave are tipping over $100 per bottle, it only highlights the need to find equally compelling examples that deliver exceptional value. While these two names see prices increase drastically vintage after vintage, it's calming to know that Faury's cuvée featuring a selection of old vines still remains well under $50.

    In 2017, the Northern Rhône saw temperatures that surpassed 2015's, and the style of the wines are much more forward and open-knit in personality. While the VV will reveal many new layers during a recommended decant, the hallmark notes are even more obvious upon first pour than is customary. Olive tapenade, smoke, black pepper, and violets meet the tell-tale blackberry fruit. 2017 is simply a beast of a vintage for N. Rhône Syrah.

    Philippe Faury first took control of the domaine in 1979, a time when peach and cherry production was more common from these vignerons. That year marked a shift toward a newfound vineyard-first focus at the estate. New parcels were purchased on the steeply terraced granite vineyards of Côte Rôtie, Saint Joseph, and Condrieu. Today, Philippe works alongside his son Lionel who took the reigns in 2006. 

    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Santa Cruz Late Release:  2005 Ahlgren Bates' Ranch Merlot

    Santa Cruz Late Release: 2005 Ahlgren Bates' Ranch Merlot

    My fondness for the old school winemaking mentality that can be regularly found in pockets of the Santa Cruz Mountains is no surprise. Names like RidgeMount Eden, and more recently Arnot-Roberts have proved emblematic of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon's ability to show a more nuanced and earth-inflected tone in this ultra-cool zone of California. This is where my excitement for the variety reaches its fever pitch in America.

    There's always an element of mystery to these vineyards that have remained way off the radar as compared to Napa counterparts. Among the mysteries residing in the Santa Cruz Mountains, no winery elicits the same intrigue as that of the former Ahlgren Vineyards and their Bates Ranch bottlings.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the late release direct from the winery of Ahlgren's 2005 Merlot for $47 per bottle. 

    Val and Dexter Ahlgren had been producing wines from this Boulder Creek zone of the Santa Cruz Mountains since the 70's. Upon their relatively recent retirement they had sold all of their library stock to a favorite distributor of mine whom I've long turned to for everything from Soldera Brunello to Foradori Teroldgeo to Cedric Bouchard champagne. When they announced these Ahlgren wines would be poured at their portfolio tasting I was very excited to taste. The results in bottle were so impressive I took every bottle available.

    Now, I've painted the Santa Cruz Mountains with a broad brush in the past, describing a middle ground between Napa and Bordeaux for the Merlot-based wines. When we talk about Ahlgren we need to pull away from this simple analogy a bit. Ahlgren produces wines from Merlot with a transparency and light extraction that actually bears little resemblance to either Napa or Bordeaux. Ahlgren exists in its own category of style, and pointing to similar references wouldn't do these wines justice or accurately explain what you'll find in bottle. The 2005 Merlot pulls us further away from primary fruit and into a deeper emphasis on the tertiary, floral, and earth tones.

    For me, these late releases impress first and foremost in their soundness of fruit. These had been resting at the winery since initial bottling until their recent purchase.There's a singular sweet brown spice I find in the 2005 Merlot that's simply Bates Ranch. Tannin was never the basis of structure for these wines, interestingly enough from a variety that rarely has any shortage in that department. Instead, it's the acidity and freshness that serves as the wines' foundation today with bright red and black fruits pulsating with energy. There's a soft, drinkable quality that's at once fun and playful, yet lingers with dead-serious earthy inflection that puts terroir front-and-center.

    Late releases from wineries always offer something that's worthy of getting excited about. Especially in these more delicately constructed wines, the provenance is so critical in enjoying them at their apogee. Today's final release from Ahlgren Vineyards Bates' Ranch is one that sums up why this ultra old school zone of California warrants so much attention.

    Posted by Alexander Rosen