No 8 on Wine Spectator's Top 100: 2012 Brewer-Clifton Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When Wine Spectator revealed the 2012 Brewer-Clifton Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir as their Number 8 wine of 2014 I jumped right on Wine-Searcher and tracked down a half case.

The category and metrics are right up my alley: A California Pinot Noir with a proven track record. 94 WS/$40/1,226 Cases Produced.

All of Spectator's Top 100 wines are worth considering, but the Top 10 in particular are very thoughtfully selected. They always seem to have that elusive confluence of quality and broad appreciation given the vetting process Spectator employs.

And given that the winemakers behind each of the Top 10 wines is invited to New York each fall for the Spectator Wine Experience they seem to think about whether they'd, y'know, like to have the folks behind the wine "over to their house" so to speak.

Spectator's landing page for this wine captures its essence very nicely. Check out the video where James Laube describes why they selected it.

Greg Brewer is the winemaker. He's also winemaker at Melville so you may already be familiar with his style even if you haven't yet tasted Brewer-Clifton. Wines under both labels showed very well for me at this blind tasting of 2009 Pinot Noirs.

Here are my notes:

2012 Brewer-Clifton Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% Alcohol
1,226 Cases Produced

This wine leaps from the glass with gorgeous, pure aromatics. At first they're fresh and primary. With time, ripe stem inclusion becomes evident and adds complexity. Translucent vibrant ruby color. Sweet cherries and pipe tobacco on the palate. The mouth feel reveals medium-full viscosity. Really quite spectacular and worthy of inclusion in the WS Top 10.

94/100 WWP: Oustanding

QPR-wise (though not necessarily stylistically) this wine reminds me of the 2008 Paul Hobbs RRV Pinot Noir. Great price point given the quality, and a wine that would be hard to over-purchase.

I'd highly recommend tracking some down while you still can (the Top 10 wines seem to disappear rapidly). I'm also inclined to check out other 2012 bottlings from Brewer-Clifton and Melville as well. Although 2012 was a tough vintage for California Pinot Noir overall quality winemakers like Brewer were able to produce tremendous wines. has the 2011 and 2012 Melville Pinot Noirs in stock in MA for $29.99 and $39.99 (affiliate links):

Massachusetts friends: I see this retailer has it for $44.99 and eligible for 20% as part of a mixed case purchase (add some affordable filler wines) and free shipping on $100+ orders.

Find it on Wine-Searcher
Learn more at
Follow @BrewerClifton on Twitter

Question of the Day: Have you had any of the Brewer-Clifton or Melville 2012s? If so what did you think?


No 26 on WS's Top 100: 2011 Emeritus Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Landing at Number 26 on Wine Spectator's recently released Top 100 list is the 2011 Emeritus Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir.

The wine immediately jumped out at me not only for its favorable metrics (93 WS/$42/11,100 cases produced) but for the Hallberg Vineyard fruit source.

The first time I tasted a wine with the Hallberg name on the label was at this Gary Farrell wine dinner at Blue Ginger in Wellesley. I tasted a bunch of great wines that night but the Gary Farrell Hallberg Pinot blew me away.

A few months later while on vacation in Michigan my cousin brought along a bottle to share at our family cottage. Wouldn't you know it was again a Gary Farrell Hallberg Pinot and it was once again absolutely spectacular.

Then earlier this year I was tasting at Radio-Coteau. I first discovered the greatness of Radio-Coteau's Pinot Noirs in the form of the 2006 Radio-Coteau La Neblina Pinot Noir. That wine was so amazingly pure and clear of any off notes I was astounded. I've enjoyed many subsequent vintages of RC La Neblina since but it wasn't until talking with winemaker Eric Sussman that I discovered the fruit source for the wine: Hallberg Ranch.

So when I spotted the 2011 Emeritus Hallberg Pinot on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list I did some searching and found this awesome vintage Wine Library TV appearance from Emeritus founder Brice Jones where we come to find out he was behind Sonoma-Cutrer before launching Emeritus.

I found the 2011 Emeritus Hallberg Pinot at a local retailer via Wine-Searcher and placed an order, picked it up today, and cracked it open tonight.

2011 Emeritus Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir
11,100 Cases Produce
13.8% Alcohol

Textbook California Pinot Noir with layers of classic aromatics and complexity. Baked cranberries, strawberries, orange oil, and brambly fruit. Silky complexion. Wonderfully pure.

92/100 WWP: Oustanding

I'd highly recommend tracking some of this down if you an find it and I'd have little hesitation accepting vintage substitution. I've got a feeling these guys know what they're doing.

I'm adding Emeritus to my list of producers to visit. Brice seems like an amazing personality and the wines speak volumes for themselves.

Find it on Wine-Searcher
Follow @EmeritusWines on Twitter

Question of the Day: Have you had Emeritus Pinot Noir before/ If so, what did you think? If not, how about wines sources from Hallberg Ranch?


Heads Up: Billecart-Salmon Tasting at The Urban Grape

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Urban Grape is having a free Billecart-Salmon tasting at their locations in the South End (Wednesday November 19th) and Chestnut Hill (Thursday November 20th).

I went to a tasting they offered in Chestnut Hill over the weekend and was reminded why they're one of my favorite retailers. I discovered some really delicious wines from Slovenia. We got to try Vallin wines for the first time.

Remember, in 2010 I said the 2005 Cigliuti Serraboella Barbaresco was my wine of the year? Well the 2010 is out now, and they had it at an amazingly good price. Seriously - I bought everything they had in Chestnut Hill. Definitely check on the shelves in the South End if they have it (and let me know if they do!).

As I was perusing the shelves I found tons of wines that are among my absolute favorites. Kosta Browne Chardonnay. El Nido. Radio-Coteau. Littorai. More than anything, since they opened their doors in 2010 (first look) I find I leave the store with a tremendous mixed case of wine that's both reliably delicious and interesting.

Anyway - Billecart-Salmon is seriously amazing stuff and this is a tremendous opportunity to taste it. I remember when I was interviewing local wine experts for this piece on Celebratory Holiday Wines - Billecart-Salmon (specifically the brut rosé) was a name that came up again and again.

I served Billecart-Salmon to guests as part of a blind tasting comparing it to a much more affordable domestic sparkling brut rosé. Guests with familiarity with sparkling wines could definitely tell which was the more expensive wine. Hint: Look for the fine bubbles, silky mouthfeel and overall elegance.

So head on over to The Urban Grape tonight or tomorrow if you're in the area. Keep tabs on their events page for upcoming tastings.

And follow @UrbanGrape on Twitter for more information.


Ways for Wine Consumers and Retailers to Maximize AmEx Small Business Saturday

Sunday, November 16, 2014

American Express Small Business Saturday is coming November 29th, 2014.

Here's how it works:

First, you have to register each American Express card you have in order to take advantage of the offer. Do this now because registration will fill up before the 29th.

Once registered, each American Express card can receive a $10 statement credit for up to 3 in-store transactions of $10 or more at qualified small businesses on November 29th. That's a total of $30 per card.

Keep in mind that each American Express card can and needs to be registered. This is where this can potentially be quite a bonanza. Authorized user cards qualify. And certain prepaid cards (like Serve and Bluebird) qualify. I just registered 10 cards so I'm positioned to spend (and receive statement credits for) $300.

Once you've got your cards registered, search for qualified retailers near you.
Make sure you confirm retailer participation
Not all wine retailers are small businesses!

Wine retailers: This is where you come in!

The way this offer is set it up conjures up images of families strolling down main street visiting one little shop after another, spending $50-$100 or more at each with their precious American Express card. And earning $10 statement credits for each of these larger purchases.

But that's not the best way to play it. What I'd like to do is spend all of the money at a single retailer that I really like rather than driving all over town. To do that I need retailers to make it easy.

First, be willing to split a transactions across multiple cards. For example, if I bought $32.40 worth of wine I'd like to split it up into 2 $10 transactions and one $12.40 transaction, effectively paying just $2.40 for $32.40 worth of wine after statement credits.

But even better than allowing split transactions is if a retailer sells $10 gift cards that can be combined on future orders. Set up a cash register or two just to process gift card sales. If a retailer I like is willing to do that (many are!) I'd drive straight there and swipe my 10 cards 3 times each for $300 worth of gift cards I could use on future transactions.

And wouldn't it be nice if retailers offered some sales to coincide with this deal? Like for example having a bunch of wine for sale at exactly $10? With no tax in Massachusetts this could be a terrific way to optimize the deal.

Here are the terms:

Note that the terms say the purchases need to be in-store (not online).

Two Questions of the Day...

Consumers: Where/how are you shopping on the 29th?
Retailers: What are you doing to make it easy for consumers to shop with you this Small Business Saturday?

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