By Rick Riozza
It’s almost maddening! So much wine—and where is the time!? Over a thousand wines have just been released since the new year; a plethora of new bottles are arriving on shelves as we speak, it’s mania—craziness, well—it’s madness!
And do you think we can taste through them all and recommend our favorite ones? Hey—we can try.
And as this column is wont to do, we march on not only to recommend some fabulous juice but also to bring attention to the best deals of the day—or rather, of the month of madness. Unfortunately, this column cannot review that many wines. Even if we took over this month’s entire CV Weekly publication pages, we’d fall short.
So, I guess we’ll have to settle on a couple of world class wines that may well take all of your month’s wine budget in one spring swoop. And then we’ll finish with a couple of best buy recommendations:
2020 Château Fuissé, Pouilly-Fuissé Les Brûlés ($130). For those folks who say they “hate” Chardonnay and/or belong to the “ABC Club”—aka Anything But Chardonnay, may well have not yet enjoyed a stellar Pouilly-Fuissé, a white Burgundy made with 100% Chardonnay.
But let’s first remind our readership that forty or so years ago, a lot of cat-owning American women could not properly pronounce this wine in French [POO-yee fwee-SAY], but would tell their sommelier or wine steward something like, “I’ll have that fussy pussy wine please.” Everyone loved it and had fun.
Anyway Pouilly- Fuissé is a straightforward rich and complex wine. It is often compared to a Chablis—the difference is that Chablis is usually un-oaked, whereas the Fuissé is oaked, but, with a lot more acidity and balance than a California Chardonnay—generally speaking. It has a characteristic hint of minerality which allows it to partner well with king prawns, lobster, sushi, crayfish, as well as foie gras.
With acidity and smoothness so nicely in balance, it goes well with white meats such as veal or poultry in cream sauce, as well as many varieties of goat’s cheese. Its aromatic power means it can also match spicy and perfumed exotic dishes such as couscous, fish tajines, or sweet-and-sour Indonesian fare.
The south facing slope of “Les Brûlés” (as in “Burnt” slopes”) dominate the Château de Fuissé estate. Its rich clay soil mixed with small calcareous pebbles give minerality and richness, characteristic of a great Chardonnay from South Burgundy. Since the 2020 vintage, Les Brulés has been recognized as a 1er Cru.
This white Burgundy is opulent and expressive, and complex—yet completely balanced with well-integrated acidity. Butterscotch, vanilla, and buttered pastry along with peach and lemon tart. Great spicy finish. This is world class Chardonnay. And it will probably be the most expensive Fuissé we’ll ever pay for—such a treat!
Our next fabulous recommendation is a red wine: 2020 Clos des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($135). Most of you folks know that Châteauneuf-du-Pape means new castle of the Pope. It’s when the pope at the time had had it with Rome (or vice-verse) so he took off to Avignon in the South of France, where he planted 13 varietals to make his new wine.
These days it’s pretty much a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvèdre. It’s of course world famous with its sturdy glass bottle showing the traditional logo of the pope’s papal insignia.
The 2020 Clos des Papes wine is one of the best of the vintage. But I’m picking this producer because I indeed own a 3-liter bottle of the 2005 Clos Des Pape, which was deemed the Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator when it was released in 2008. The wine has been in cold storage over at the Wine Vault in Palm Desert; and the wine has now aged perfectly to enjoy. You restaurateurs out there who wish to prepare a fabulous dinner to pair with this wine—let us know. We’ll pick some of our readers and go eat and drink at your place.
Anyway, I’m still waiting for my sample bottle of the 2020 vintage—and holding my breath. Wine Spectator already got their sample and this is what they wrote: “Beguiling, with a plume of black tea and incense leading off, followed by black cherry reduction, cassis, melted black licorice, warm earth, singed tobacco and garrigue accents.”
And now: some best deals of the month: 2018 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot Columbia Valley ($9). It’s got blackberry and toasty mocha notes with a nice touch of tannins to keep everything interesting. It’s a good buy and you’ll probably want more once you’ve tasted it.
I hate to bag on the Chardonnay haters, but these following two California Chardonnays are wines that the haters will continue to hate (as opposed to the Pouilly- Fuissé where we think the ABC’ers will actually like). These are very tasty Chards at very good prices—but again, you must be mad to love Chardonnay.
2021 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($18). This is a very plush wine for the price with pear, nectarine, and apple pastry. The excellent acidity keeps the glasses coming. The fan base of this wine is madly staggering and may sell out sooner than later.
2021 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($15). Chalk Hill was always the quiet Chard in the background for so many years. Now there is so much going on with this wine that you’ll see it everywhere. You’ll find Bartlett pear, Fuji Apple, lemon blossom mixing it up with a savory touch of toasted sesame seeds. It’s light and fresh. March on—it’s a winner! Cheers!