Have you met Juan Gil's big brother?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sandwiched between the Juan Gil silver label ($16 release price) and El Nido Clio ($45) is an interesting wine. The blue labeled Juan Gil 18 Meses (months) carries a release price of $35.

While visiting Spain last summer I saw this bottling at several restaurants but I never had a chance to taste it. Although we tasted at Juan Gil, and El Nido, and at a couple of restaurants where wineries would bring their wines I never got a chance to try the blue labeled Juan Gil.

I sensed that was due to production levels (15,000 for the silver label vs. 2,500 for the blue label) as much as QPR proposition. By QPR I mean - if this is just a bigger/better version of Juan Gil why pay twice as much for it? Especially if you can get Clio for just a little more?

But I had a chance to try the Juan Gil 18 month blue label recently and I was impressed.

The composition is more similar to El Nido than Juan Gil proper. Whereas Juan Gil silver label is 100% Monastrell, El Nido Clio is 70% Monastrell/30% Cabernet. Juan Gil blue label is 60% Monastrell, 30% Cabernet, 10% Syrah. And it comes together brilliantly. The 18 Meses denotes the 18 months the wine spends in oak barrels (vs the 12 for the silver label and 4 for an even more affordably labeled wine that sees no distribution in the US). And whereas some old vine Monastrell can come off as raisiny and/or pruney this wine never goes anywhere near that territory. It's a gorgeous effort.

Here are my notes on the 2010 blue label...

2010 Juan Gil 18 Meses Blue Label
$35 Release Price
15.5% Alcohol

Gorgeous nose of expressive rich blackberry, vanilla, and blueberry. Deftly avoids veering into boozy territory, especially on the palate, as it reigns it in with a clean, taut mouthfeel that's not overly plump yet still velvety. Really hard to do and something I've seen Juan Gil/El Nido Clio do well consistently. An extraordinarily finely crafted wine.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding


Conclusion and Recommendations

Definitely give the Juan Gil 18 Meses blue label a whirl if you can catch this in the mid-$20s. I think this is a very nice member of the Juan Gil family that fits squarely between the ever-delicious Juan Gil silver label in the $10-$15 range and the amazing El Nido Clio you can find in the mid-$30s.

Do you like hearing about great value wines like this? I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press so we can keep in touch.


Free Shipping to the Northeast from Liquid Discount

Monday, February 24, 2014

WWP Site sponsor Liquid Discount has kindly offered up an exclusive discount code for your consideration.

Receive free shipping on orders totaling $123 or more shipped to states in the northeast with code: wwpfreeship123

In case you missed it here's a really nice piece they shared with their email list discussing the wwpQPR method for assessing wine values. I hear it stirred up quite a ruckus among their subscribers!

Here's a few of their wines in stock that jump out at me:

91 Wine Spectator, $24.95
No personal experience but I like the metrics and have heard good things about the producer.

92 Wine Spectator, WS Top 100, $39.95
I've tasted this vintage a number of times and it's been consistently better than the 100-point rated (Parker) 2009. 101 points? ;)

93 Pinot Report, $21.95
I've thoroughly enjoyed this wine every time I've tried it. Love the guilt-free price point too.

2012 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
91 points for me, $30.95.
The 2012 California Pinot Noirs I've tried have been a little disappointing relative to expectations. But this one held up its end of the bargain.

Enter the wwpfreeship123 coupon code on the check-out page to receive free shipping on your $123+ order to states in the northeast through March 15, 2014.


Lifetime QPR Achievement Award: Honig Sauvignon Blanc

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We're flying back from Naples, Florida right now after a spectacular President's Day weekend visit. The differential in weather this time of year between Boston and Florida is amazing. Going from Boston's heavy grey slush and waves of commute-disrupting snow events to Florida's 80F, palm trees, and cloudless skies in a 3 hour flight always feels like magical time travel to me.

This was our second time to Florida in the last few months and each time the warmer weather inspired me to check in with one of my go-to white wine QPR favorites: Honig Sauvignon Blanc.

Honig Vineyard & Winery is a Napa producer focused on the sustainable production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Louis Honig started farming 68 acres in Rutherford in 1961, but the winery started in earnest in the eighties when Michael Honig and other family members began producing high quality Cabernet. Today Winemaker Kristen Belair oversees production with an emphasis on sustainable practices as a family winery.

They do make a couple of other bottlings sold mostly at the winery but I do think their focus on two grape varieties helps them to do a particularly good job crafting a consistently outstanding product.

Their Napa-designated Cabernet was their first wine I discovered. It carries a release price of $45 and at 15,000 cases produced it's widely available and can be had for just over $30 if you look around. Spectator ratings have been on the rise especially lately - but their Cab is almost always rated 90+. I remember trying it for the first time about 8 years ago in a blind tasting at The Hingham Wine Merchant. Proprietor Dick Graham included this in the line-up of more famous and expensive names and when I tasted the Honig I was like "man - that's what Napa Cab should taste like". It's always has this signature combination of plush fruit and supporting savory notes I adore in a wine.

The Sauvignon Blanc has a release price of $17. 50,000 cases of the 2012 were produced and it's one of my favorite sub-$15 white wines year-in and year out. You can usually find it for around $13-$14 at discount retailers. Spectator usually rates it 87-89 but I think that's more a reflection of the category than the quality. I recall Gary Vaynerchuk once exaggerating that "all of the Sauvignon Blanc in California should be torn out of the ground". If that actually happened it would be a shame because Sauvignon Blanc like Honig's are some of my favorites.

I had the 2012 Honig Sauvignon Blanc for the first time at Todd English's Blue Zoo within the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel (my TripAdvisor review of the Walt Disney World Swan here). It may have been the complimentary childcare and company speaking, but I thought the meal and wine were spectacular that night. Along with a 2010 Domaine Serene Evenstad (probably the best Oregon Pinot Noir I've ever had) that meal alone re-ignited my interest in focusing on pairings and exploring more white wines in the coming year.

For me, the Honig wines find that precious intersection of quality, crowd-pleasing deliciousness and value. And the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is as good as the wine has ever been. Grab some for when the weather finally warms up...

2012 Honig Sauvignon Blanc
13.5% Alcohol
50,000 Cases Produced
$17 Release Price

On the nose I get a grapefruit, passion fruit and pineapple. On the palate just a hint of stony acidity - but mostly luscious tropical goodness. This wine is a reliable QPR favorite around here and 2012 is as good as its ever been.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding


Check 'em out:
Honig Vineyard & Winery

Question of the Day: Have you tried Honig Sauvignon Blanc lately? What are some of your go-to summery white wine QPR favorites?


A Visit to Total Wine and a Value Alert: 2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I stopped in at the Total Wine in Naples, FL yesterday to replenish my mother-in-law's wine stash. You might recall I wrote up a shopping list of affordable value plays for this Total Wine location recently; this was the first time I'd visited the store.

I'm not really sure what the wine community's position on Total Wine is. I imagine there's a lot of different viewpoints. If someone is adverse to big box chains they probably don't like Total Wine. For those who don't really care whether they buy from a large or small retailer - so long as they get great prices on wines they're looking for that are well cared for - I'd consider Total Wine a fun place to shop. They've got so many SKUs it's hard to imagine you won't be able to find a few bottles you'd enjoy at good prices.

It's been a while since I visited a Total Wine location so the assortment remains novel to me and it's fun to poke around each section.

Based on my experience yesterday, which was mostly positive, I've only got two knocks on them:
  1. Their mark-up is highly variable so you can't reliably say everything is a good deal
    For example they had 2011 Williams-Selyem appellation Pinot Noirs for $98. At a $49 release price (and ho-hum 88 point Wine Spectator ratings across the board) these present an abysmal value and restaurant-like markups.
    It's this kind of thing that makes me wonder what other wines they're marking up more than street price. Not that I'm overly concerned about someone's wallet if they're buying $100 Pinot - but it gives me pause telling my mother-in-law everything there is well-priced.
  2. The case discount policy is confusing and poorly signed
    While walking around the store I quickly found 6 domestic reds I thought were nice values. Then I realized I hadn't even checked their Spanish reds nor picked up a couple white wines.
    Someone else was asking what the mixed case discount was on 6 or 12 bottles. I thought I overheard it was 10% so I started working my way towards 12 bottles. Before I checked out I asked someone working the floor again what the case discount policy was and he informed me it was only on straight 12 bottle purchases. No mix and match. And no discounts on wines whose price ends in a "7".
    So, I put the $52 2012 En Route Pinot Noir and a couple of other spendier wines back and focused on the well priced every day drinkers. It would have been nice to see the case discount policy more clearly laid out in signs around the store. I'm sure it's a question they're asked frequently.
I remember thinking the 2010 Alto Moncayo at $36.99 was a nice value play when I was shopping online. Empire Wine in Albany, NY seems to have the best price on the planet on this wine and a seemingly endless supply. It's fun to watch retailers bash each other over the head trying to maintain the best price on Wine-Searcher. But that doesn't do me much good here in Florida. 

So I would have been up for buying a bottle of Alto Moncayo but sadly they were sold out.

But I spotted the 2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton for $24.99. Although I've developed a reliable friend in Alto Moncayo proper and the 2010 is phenomenal (even better in my book than the 2009 Parker rated 100 points) I've never tried the Veraton.

If you're not familiar with the Alto Moncayo line-up, they produce 3 wines:
  • Alto Moncayo Veraton - $28
  • Alto Moncayo - $45
  • Alto Moncayo Aquilon - $155
I can't imagine what the Aquilon does to take it to the next level beyond Alto Moncayo (though if I see an offer for a 2010 Aquilon for $99 I don't think I could resist the splurge!).

The Alto Moncayo wines are made in a partnership between Bodegas Borsao, Super-Importer Jorge Ordonez, and Australian winemaker Chris Ringland.

You can think of Alto Moncayo's bottlings as similar to Gil Family Estates and Clio with this analogy:

Bodegas Borsao : Alto Moncayo :: Gil Family Estates : El Nido

So the Veraton and the Alto Moncayo are the wines to consider for regular enjoyment like Clio is the wine to cherry pick from the El Nido line-up. I think they're all tremendous values. And don't forget to check out wines from Bodegas Borsao and Juan Gil if you want to nibble at the edges before going for a $25-$40 bottle.

Here are my notes on the 2010 Veraton...

2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton
15.5% Alcohol
$28 Release Price

Before this I'd never tasted Veraton. Alto Moncayo proper has been a reliable mind-bending-value friend and - going only off price point and esteem - what I was hoping for with the Veraton was a slightly lighter bodied version of Alto Moncayo with a similar (or same!) flavor profile. This wine delivered that and more. That perfect combination of perfectly ripened fruit with supporting savory characteristics. This stacked up just the way I hoped it would. These 2010s from Alto Moncayo are mind-blowing values. I don't think I've ever seen a bottle of wine disappear as quickly between 3 people as this one. Keep this on hand as a guilt-free alternative to Alto Moncayo, and while you're at it think how favorably the price point of these wines compare to your favorites from California.

92/100 WWP: Outstanding

Read community notes for this wine on CellarTracker
Search for retailers offering this wine on Wine-Searcher

Bottom Line: If you can find this wine south of $25 I'd highly encourage you to give it a try. If you can find it for close to $20 I'd back up the truck.

Question of the Day: Have you tasted through the Alto Moncayo line-up? Does the Veraton deliver similar enjoyment as Alto Moncayo proper? Is the Aquilon worth the splurge? 


Sweet Basil's David Becker and Joanne Chang of Myers + Chang at MFA Benefit

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two of my absolute favorite restaurants in the Boston area are David Becker's Sweet Basil in Needham and Myers + Chang in Boston. I thought this event was worth mentioning for those in the area. Becker is opening a second restaurant and it's going to be in our fair Wellesley!

To the press release...

Joslin Diabetes Center Hosts “A Spoonful of Ginger” at MFA
10th annual event benefiting Joslin’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative

WHAT: On Monday, March 17th, A SPOONFUL OF GINGER will offer guests the opportunity to taste the cuisine of 24 of Boston’s most celebrated restaurants for a spectacular evening sure to delight even the most discriminating taste buds at the beautiful Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts!

Guests will enjoy an evening of gourmet dishes prepared by some of Boston’s most renowned chefs, including David Becker, Joanne Chang, Andy Husbands, Kevin Long, and Jasper White.

Proceeds benefit Joslin Diabetes Center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI), which strives to enhance the quality of life and health outcomes for the rising number of Asian Americans living with diabetes, as well as working with Joslin in their commitment to finding a cure.

This year’s event will honor the Director and Founder of the AADI and Joslin Diabetes Center’s Director Research, Dr. George King, for his contributions to the AADI’s mission and his active role within the Asian American community.

COST: Tickets are $250 per guest

WHEN: Monday, March 17th, 2014
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

WHERE: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Art of the Americas Wing
465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115

FOR TICKETS: Call 617.309.2512, e-mail Kevin.Hudson@joslin.harvard.edu or visit: www.joslin.org/ginger



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