Hello friends. Something we like to do early in the year is reoffer some of our most popular wines of the previous year, one more chance to access these beauties before they sell out. I know many of you opened a lot of bottles over the holidays, so hopefully you now have personal impressions to supplement our own notes.
Originally offered October 21, 2016. In that offer I predicted this would end up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and sure enough it did, landing the #43 spot. Excerpts from the original:
Normally we offer this a little later in the year, but the November 15 issue of Wine Spectator is going to include the following review, and I don’t want to take any chances: Wine Spectator (James Molesworth): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
This is a noteworthy review because it is the strongest Spectator has ever bestowed upon Louis Barroul’s CdR. The ratings of previous vintages, from 2006 through 2014: 90, 90, 88, 90, 90, 90, 89, 89, 90. First off, that is an amazingly consistent track record for a decade’s worth of vintages. And second, this 2015 is the first to break through above a 90pt review. I believe this also sets it up as a slam dunk to wind up on Spectator’s Top 100 list, and I want us to grab our wine and be long gone before that happens. The last time this wine landed on the list was the 2009 vintage on the 2010 list. That 2009 was $18 | 90pts | 3,000 cases. Today’s 2015 has a lower release price ($16), a stronger review (91pts), and more than 8x production (25,000 cases). Yikes.
Now then, what is rare (and in my view, exciting) about Saint Cosme’s version of Cotes-du-Rhone is that it’s 100% Syrah. Most CdR’s are majority-Grenache, but we already know where Louis Barroul’s Grenache goes: into Little James Basket Press (another list favorite). So that leaves us with 100% Rhone Syrah at a price point that cries out for exploration. It comes from two of Cosme’s holdings – one in Vinsobres (a bit cooler, on limestone and sand) and one in Gard (warmer, on large terraces of medium-to-large rolling stones) – and it’s done entirely in concrete. The ’15 clocks in at 14% listed alc and begins with a nose of blueberry fruit and mineral, cracked black pepper and hoisin sauce. While the texture is kind of an old-world/new-world tweener, the savory wild flavors are Rhone through and through. There is noteworthy balance between fruit and structure here (which helps explain why this always ages beautifully for an inexpensive wine), and that structure takes both the form of nervy/electric acidity and robust/pleasingly rustic tannin. The depth and complexity, the overall sense of balance and class at this tag: unusual for sure, and the reason why we’ve offered every vintage of this since 2011.
Here is how the always-entertaining Louis Barroul describes this vintage: This wine epitomizes what should always be the essence of a true wine. One of the two properties from which grapes are sourced is owned by a childhood friend and the other belongs to my cousins. We have been working together on this wine for 15 years now. Trust and friendship form its basis. The blend of Syrah from Vinsobres with Syrah from Villafranchian terraces in Gard always produces wonderful balance, fleshiness and finesse. You may get to know the 2015 vintage through this wine – the oxblood colour, the depth, sappy character and wonderful round tannins for instance. You can easily sense the intensity with which fruit was imbued in 2015, a truly superb vintage. Successfully ripened grapes combined with freshness and our Syrah vines loved a hot July in 2015. This is exemplified in the magnificent wines produced in 2015 in the northern Rhone valley. The whole point of our Côtes du Rhône is to offer an early drinking wine that also has very good ageing capacity. I recently tasted the 2007 again which was really complex and still young. Welcome to 2015, the finest vintage since 2010. Blackcurrant, camphor, truffle, rose and blueberry.
Originally offered September 14, 2016, this wound up as one of our most popular offers of 2016, and a huge target for reorders. No wonder: finding classy estate grown Red Mountain Cab for sub-twenty bucks is rare indeed. Here are excerpts from September:
I’ve come to believe, over many years of wine tasting, that there are no black swans. No inexplicably excellent wines. Every excellent wine is excellent for a reason. Better yet, a number of reasons. Or better still, a number of perils avoided. Winemaking is a Houdini escape act, with danger around every corner, and when someone pulls it off successfully, you can only give them the slow clap they deserve. How this applies to my tasting for Full Pull: when I taste a wine that seems inexplicably outstanding, the job becomes clear. Research until I understand why the wine is as good as it is.
To wit, today’s wine. I recently had a chance to sample Kiona’s Washington State Cab, and the scribbles in my notebook show baffled pleasure: “why is this wine $20??!?!?”; “legit Red Mtn power; how much of this is estate juice?”; “black black black: blackcurrant and black plum and black olive; dark chocolate and loads of earthy soil”; “expensive oak swaddling?”; “real richness and power and generosity”; “serious toothsome finishing chew, fine dusty tannins – what the hell is going on here??!?”
So yeah, I was surprised in a majorly positive way. Not because it was Kiona of course; we’ve offered many a wonderful Kiona wine previously. Two main reasons: first, because you expect certain things of certain varieties at certain price points, and this exceeded just about every axis of evaluation. And second, because they labeled this Washington State, which made me assume it was a pan-Washington mix of some house-vinified fruit and a bunch of cheap bulk wine.
That assumption was wildly incorrect, as I discovered when I dug into the research for this wine. I can guess at Kiona’s reasons for labeling this Washington State (perhaps wanting to keep options open for future vintages, perhaps for ease of selling out of state), but the fact is, this is 100% Red Mountain fruit, and it’s 87% estate (split between 53% Kiona Estate and 34% Kiona Heart of the Hill). It saw some luxe treatment, too: an 80/20 split of French and American oak, 60% new, the remainder once-filled.
So let’s think about this. We’re essentially looking at estate-grown, estate-bottled, carefully-coddled Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, from folks who have been growing grapes and making wine on this mountain about as long as anyone. That the result is an outrageously good sub-$20 Cab no longer seems so shocking. The price itself remains a little shocking to me (release price was $25 – still too low for the quality – and our price is about as good as I can see nationally), but every winery has its reasons, and I’m sure as hell not going to recommend that anyone make the wines we offer *more* expensive! Instead I’ll just stop and say thanks to JJ and the whole Kiona gang for this little beauty.
Originally offered May 15, 2016, this recently earned fine reviews from two tough scorers: Stephen Tanzer of Vinous and Sean Sullivan of Wine Enthusiast. That’s putting sales pressure on an already-short vintage, so I’m going to say this is likely last-call time for Coda.
Vinous (Stephen Tanzer): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
Wine Enthusiast (Sean Sullivan): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
Excerpts from the original:
Coda is an incredible value, year in and year out. Why? Well, Ben Smith makes exactly four single-vineyard wines for Cadence, all from Red Mountain. Two come from the estate Cara Mia Vineyard, one from Ciel du Cheval, and one from Tapteil. And that’s it. Ben carefully crafts the blends for those high-end ($45-$60) wines, and then whatever barrels aren’t included during those blending trials end up in Coda. What that means for Coda is that it’s always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot, always a blend of Cara Mia, Ciel du Cheval, and Tapteil, and always barrels that were raised with the exact same care as the higher-end bottles. And we get all of that for a tariff that is about half the single-vineyard wines.
The blend in 2014 is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot, and it clocks in at 14.4% listed alc. The ’14 is much more reminiscent to me of the structured, serious 2012 than the more charming, approachable 2013. It kicks off with a glorious nose, all perfumed and exotic with its notes of star anise and juniper over dark blackcurrant and black plum fruit. The palate balances the richness of the vintage with Ben Smith’s deft hand and somehow still conveys textural elegance and earthy minerality, even in the warm year that wanted to be all fruit. But it’s the structure that really shines on the palate. “ROBUST tannic structure,” says my notes, and I tend to use all-caps sparingly. But truly, this is a muscular, powerful wine, without question cellar-worthy. The long, long finish is awash in black-tea tannins, a final grace note on a deeply impressive wine.
First come first served with no upper limits, and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.