Some readers might consider the phrases “reasonably priced” and "burgundy" an oxymoron. Add “aged burgundy” and “premier cru” to the mix and many of you would melt into laughter.
We were of the same state of mind until we came across a Domaine Menand Pere et Fils
Mercurey 1er Cru 2005 that was available for $45. The Menard Mercurey exhibited complex, aged burgundy characteristics of ripe cherry, mushrooms, and a distinct earthiness. Drinking beautifully now, this red wine still had plenty of life.
Presented by Tom Cox of Siema Wines, a wholesaler in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., we were amazed by the availability, price and quality of this 12-year-old burgundy.
Cox said that this importer, Exclusive Wine Imports of Alexandria, Virginia., could source other aged burgundy at favorable prices and, oh by the way, would we like to taste them? He arranged a tasting with Jim Ungerleider to taste some of the limited production estate wines in their portfolio. Jim and Stephan Murray-Sykes founded Exclusive Wine exports in 2007, with Stephan sourcing the wines in Burgundy where he has lived and served on many professional tasting panels over the past 20 years.
Exclusive Wine Imports originally sourced wines from Burgundy, and according to Jim, “sourced winemakers who didn’t have a presence in the U.S.” They now import between 6,000 to 8,000 cases per year from all over France.
Ungerleider said many of their older burgundies are part of the original stocks of Burgundy imported in 2007 immediately before the economic calamity of 2008-2009 when luxury wine-buying ground to a halt. Instead of selling them off at fire-sale prices, they kept them because
“they’re only going to get better, and in any event we can drink them."
Among the white burgundies, we especially enjoyed the Domaine Feuillat-Juillot, Montagny 1er Cru Les Coeres 2010 ($38). This seven-year-old white wine is just beginning to develop the honey and caramel notes of its next stage of development. Nice minerality and good acidity make this wine a very attractive package.
Two red wines from the somewhat overlooked 2006 vintage proved quite different. The Bertrand Machard de Gramont, Nuit-Saint-Georges Les Vallerots 2006 ($79), is from a 1.2-acre vineyard that yields only two tons per acre. This wine was somewhat reticent with wild cherry notes just beginning to emerge.
The Bertrand Machard de Gramont, Nuits-Saint-Georges aux Allots ($79) was more evolved, showing well now. Deep ripe cherry notes are readily apparent in this delicious example, but this wine is still in its youth and will do nothing but continue to develop complexity.
We also tasted two Pommard vintages from Albert Boillot’s 1er Cru En Largilliere vineyard that were a bit more expensive at $82 per bottle. The 2006 was still showing pretty firm tannins and dried cherry fruit notes, and needs a bit more time for this lesser vintage. The 2005, a much
riper vintage, exhibited more mature cherry fruit, and blossomed in the glass after 10 minutes.
Both of these wines will evolve beneficially for at least 10 more years, but we give the edge to the 2005.
Bodegas d'la Marques Valserrano Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 ($32). This is an extraordinary reserve tempranillo blend that can be enjoyed now or aged a good decade. Ripe blackberry fruit flavors with lead pencil aromas and serious oak and vanilla. Delicious.
Paolo Manzone Dolcetto d'Alba "Magna" 2015 ($18). We have had plenty of insipid dolcettos from Italy that gave us doubt. But this is not one of them. An extraordinary, intense and rich dolcetto, Manzone has knocked a homerun here. Bright red color, floral aromas, and an intense palate of red berries. We're buying more.
Ruca Malen Malbec Reserva Mendoza 2014 ($19). With malbec all the rage today, we found this Argentinian example that really impressed us. Very pure blueberry and black raspberry nose and flavors wrapped in a spicy vanilla package. If you're curious about Argentinian malbec, give this a try.
Fortress Knight's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2013 ($40). A pleasing blend of 88 percent cabernet sauvignon, and a dash of petite verdot, malbec, and merlot. A modestly intense and sophisticated red wine with a blackberry and cassis nose and flavors, some spice, and a tad of sweet vanillin oak.
WindVane Carneros Chardonnay 2015 ($40). We loved this luscious chardonnay from a region that benefits from the cooling maritime breezes. Aromas of peach and pineapple give way to a flood of peach and orange flavors with a dash of cinnamon and toasty oak.
Patz & Hall Jenkins Ranch Pinot Noir 2015 ($60). We loved the silkiness of this luxurious Sonoma County pinot noir. Excellent, pure fruit character with earthy undertones, raspberry and cherry notes and a hint of vanilla and chocolate.
Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($40). This is a good value for reserve cabernet sauvignon. From Alexander Valley fruit, the wine has a rich mouthfeel, floral and dried herb aromas, blackberry flavors, and hints of vanilla and cocoa.
Alamos Malbec 2016 ($13). A reliable malbec producer whose wines are relatively easy to find, Alamos makes a classic Argentine malbec with sweet, ripe plum flavors and hints of spice and vanilla.