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Every year, just before Thanksgiving, the Wine Spectator offers up its feast of the Top 100 Wines in the World list.
Over the past decade of so the menu has been slim; Chateau Latour, obscure wines from California wineries which product 500 cases, that kind of thing.
Over the past few years the Wine Spectator as become more “democratic” in that many wines under the stratospheric monetary level are featured in the” Top 100. ”
Unfortunately there is the reality that the top 10-20 wines are still wines which are not necessarily over the top in terms of expense, but are either two vintages past or the next vintage, neither of which our distributors have in stock !
However, this year we were able to catch four wines which , in relative terms, are a good bang for the buck.
Shafer Relentless, which was last year’s #1 wine, has reappeared in the 2010 vintage and is rated at #72, with a 95 point rating.
From Argentina, the Norton Malbec reserve also made the list at an impressive #36, and was awarded 92 points.
And from California Chateau St. Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc made the list at an affordable price, and rated #.68, rated 90 points.
Finally A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir was listed at #55 and rated 90 points by the Wine Spectator.
While I don’t drink points, it’s nice to know that in my cellar are tucked away several world class wines.
However, It is a bitter sweet moment .
Bitter, because when I drink them for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they will be gone .
Sweet. Because I can being to anticipate next years Top 100 List.
Wine, we all should realize by now, is an emotional affair. Enjoying a pleasant glass and not quite realizing why is part of the mystery and great attraction of the fruit of the vine.
It is indeed irrational.
However we try and pin points, stars, or bottles on a wine as a rating, it is still is a primeval read, somehow, like the color of her hair in the sunlight, or the way he smiled on their first encounter…
It makes no reason…nor should it make any reason. It is primitive and yet so very human.
Wine is very much like love; when it’s good, it’s great. When it’s mediocre, we compensate. When it’s bad we delude ourselves that it’s not so bad…until the headache begins its pounding penance.
In such a circuitous way, I introduce Caymus Vineyards for this month’s Connoisseur Club selection.
Early on it was one of my very favorite cabernet sauvignons; full bodied, long finish, great color. And the taste , to paraphrase a line from a movie, “ a wine which tastes like you being poured into a glass which is never empty.” It was enchanting. Probably for the memories it conjured up over the years.
So much for the nostalgia. Wait…one bit more. We went to Napa Valley in 1992 to scout the area and happened to come upon an old pickup truck, parked in front of the Caymus tasting room. Getting out of the truck was an older man with a couple of dogs. He was wearing a straw hat , with a farmer’s gait. I recognized him immediately ; it was Charley Wagner, owner of Caymus. We got out, I greeted him and asked him if the tasting room was open.
He said it was not. My companion gave out a little shrug of disappointment and we were in.
The tasting room was a shed, not bigger than my office.
Mr. Wagner was clearly irritated that he had to open up for us; He told us the tasting was $5.00 each, but we got to keep the glasses. He poured us a glass of sauvignon blanc, then of Liberty school chardonnay. Nice but not real Caymus .
He was clearly bored but my lady friend started to make small talk, got him to smile, asked about his family, his wife, small human talk. Then the wine merchant in me piped up that “we came all the way from Cleveland and can’t taste your reds?”
He was about to tell me where to go, but the lady friend said she had never tasted Caymus before (a casual lie to be sure…)
Immediately two clean glasses were produced, Caymus Napa Cabernet was opened which was followed by the Caymus Special Select. Charlie was suddenly moving swifter than he previously had been moving. He told us how he and his wife had scouted out this area for a winery, how the cabernet was the best produced in Napa and the Select would beat out all of those French wines we kept hearing about. We each had a couple of glasses…Charlie was feeling pretty comfortable, chatty, then noted the time. It was Saturday, and they closed at 6. It was 7 and he was late for dinner. Lorna would have his head if he didn’t get home.
So he thanked us for coming all the way from Cleveland to visit his humble winery, gave us the two bottles of red wines to “take home” and never charged us for the tasting. We kept the glasses.
Wine had never tasted that good nor have I tasted it in better company than that Saturday afternoon.
Charlie Wagner died in February 2002. His wife, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner died on October 2, 2013 at the age of 97. Caymus Vineyards continues under the auspices of his son Chuck Wagner.
So in somewhat of a tribute for a winery which has come full circle over the past 20 years for me at any rate, this month’s connoisseur Club will pay homage to the Caymus family of wines.
Wine, after all, is an emotional affair. If it doesn’t work to stir our memory of the past or stimulate our current imagination, it’s merely fermented grape juice. We might as well have a glass of apple juice.
At the Gold Level we will be offering the Napa Valley 2011 Cabernet, as well as their Pinot Noir, Meiomi. At the Silver Level we offer the Caymus Cabernet and Caymus Conundrum, a curious blend of several grapes. And at the Bronze Level we will offer Conundrum and Meiomi Pinot noir, a great complement for Thanksgiving feasting.
This month we will be revisiting the south of France, presenting several venerable red wines from two outstanding producers, Etienne Guigal and the ancient Ch Valdieu, founded in 1767.
As you recall Avignon was the location of the Papacy in the 14th century. What court can exist without good wine ? And so the town was rechristened Chateauneuf-du-Pape , new town of the Popes , with superb wines to go with the churchmen and their entourage. After a hundred years the popes went back to Rome, but the vineyards surround the city remained and flourished.
Ch Valdieu dates back to the eighteenth century and after the phylloxera crisis of the 19th century was one of the only 4 wineries capable of producing 2300 cases of wine in the region ! Today the vineyards covers some 60 hectares of vineyards and over 180,000 vines.
Guigal is a world renowned Rhone wine producer and their 2007 has just been released and already receiving high marks from wine experts such as Robert Parker, who gives their 2007 Chateauneuf a 93, commenting that it is a "classic example of both Chateauneuf du Pape and Provencal viticulture."