Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring 2010 Catalog Tasting

Twice a year, prior to our spring and fall catalogs hitting the mail, I gather with our sales staff to taste through the entire catalog lineup. We used to do it all in one day! That would be 120+ wines in a marathon five-hour session. It proved to be too much, even for seasoned palates, so for our latest offering, we broke it up into three sessions. It’s gentler on the tongue and a lot more productive.

I wanted to share some thoughts from the spring 2010 lineup in terms of standouts, great buys and observations. While I think the lineup overall showed very well, there were inevitably a few gems and categories that made a special impression. Some thoughts with that in mind:

- Tor Kenward and winemaker Jeff Ames are on fire. We tasted both the ’07 Tor Mast Cabernet Sauvignon and its badass brother from Andy Beckstoffer’s To Kalon property in Oakville. These are a pair of truly superlative Cabs. Pay attention to what Tor is doing.

- Value from Italy! I made a concerted effort to unearth serious bang for the buck in name brand regions. A $30 Chianti Classico Riserva, a $40 Barbaresco (!) and a $60 Amarone that drinks like it has a triple-digit price tag. I truly love Italian wine, more so when I can afford it.

- California Pinot Noir has never been better. Both the ’07 and ’08 vintages – especially from the coastal areas – are fantastic. As a whole, farming and winemaking are coalescing in a way that has never happened on such a large scale. It’s to all of our benefit.

- I’m very thankful we got a catalog deal done with Luc Morlet before the Parker press hit the street. I knew the wines were going to get big scores, but everything he reviewed was mid-‘90’s. Monsieur Morlet is quickly entering himself into the conversation of California’s most talented winemakers, and his latest offerings are simply fantastic.

I’m boarding a plane tomorrow for my annual buying trip to Europe. We’re going to be using Burgundy, Sicily and Tuscany as home bases, and the focus is going to be on the ’09 vintage in barrel. Folks over there are as excited as I’ve seen in awhile over what they have in their cellars. I’ll be posting from the road with new finds and my impression of what’s happening on the Continent…

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

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