Yes, New Year’s day is more than a week behind us, and in any event, the dawn of 2021 wasn’t a terribly celebratory event. But I have a bottle of something very special in front of me, and I have to announce it as my wine of the week, month, and year, all: Champagne J.M Labruyère Prologue Extra Brut. This is, without exception, one of the five finest Champagnes I’ve ever tasted. The winemaker Edouard Labruyère is heir to a fine wine empire, and this label is 100% Grand Cru and 100% from vines of Verzenay, a notable village in the Grande Montagne de Reims region. In fact, the fruit from these vines previously went into Dom Perignon wines. This…

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My 2020 wines of the year—a white, a red, a Champagne, and a rosé—are a slam dunk. Without further ado, here they are: WHITE: Gundlach-Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2019: This hits it out of the ballpark. Aromatic, balanced, crisp and rich, it’s dry unlike many Gewurztraminers. It’s a great food wine in the tradition of dry Riesling. But with spicy and Asian food you'll want to try a sweeter style. RED: Lingua Franca Avni Pinot Noir 2016. This surprisingly affordable medium-body Pinot is a standout, with raspberry and black cherry flavors, crisp with a slightly tart and spicy finish. From the domestic kingdom of Pinot Noir, Oregon’s Willamette Valley. If it’s sold out the 2017 is also outstanding. SPARKLING: Champagne…

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It’s June 16th, which means I’m supposed to be at the beach house of my friend Chucky, in Freeport, Bahamas. Between the scourge of Covid19 and last September’s horrible, terrible, tragic, and destructive Hurricane Dorian, which parked itself over the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island for almost three days, that trip didn’t happen this year. So, nevertheless, I’m contenting myself on my couch, with my handsome Pitbull boy Popeye looking at me warily, holding (I am, not Popeye) a lovely cocktail that I was introduced to during my first visit there four years ago: The St. Germain. This is about as simple as it comes—a base of sparkling wine, with a dose of St. Germain, a spritz of sparkling water…

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I’ve seen a lot of ads on Facebook lately for the Firstleaf wine “club.” The ad takes you to a 13-question quiz, kinda like a junior high “pop quiz,” (because you can’t really prepare for it) to “scientifically” determine the wines you like in order that Firstleaf can then send you wines you’ll want to drink. Evidently, it’s based on a “proven” algorithm…’cause, well, impenetrable and opaque mathematical formulas are always the way you should select wine. Evidently. The first question was a linear “slider” that asks you to select white wines at one end, red at the other, and “a mix” in the middle. OK. But what about Rosé wines? Ports and dessert wines? Sherries and Madeiras? Champagne, Prosecco,…

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Six lovelies from Last Bottle Wines

I’ve been a customer of Last Bottle Wines for years, and it’s been mostly a Love-Like relationship. It’s certainly been all Love lately, and I’ve gotten some really great stuff in the last few weeks alone including two Champagnes (+ my favorite Philippe Gonet), an almost-cult Napa Cabernet, three very diverse gems from Paso Robles, and a lovely Bordeaux that I gave as Christmas gifts (after saving only one for myself, sadly).

I have had a bit of an issue with their descriptions, and while my mantra is that wine should just be fun, some of their over-the-top narratives consume 40 exclamation points and they’re silly.  My real issue is that saying it’s “just fabulously awesome!!” and “a SCREAMINGLY yummy bottle!” simply doesn’t help the customer understand what they may be buying. Nonetheless, I’ve really enjoyed almost all the wines I’ve bought, with the exception, strangely, of Italian wines. And I do know and drink many Italian reds including Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino, Primitivo, and Nero d’Avola.  For some reason, I’ve had no luck buying them from Last Bottle.

As for prices, they range from pretty good to great. Occasionally—after I check them out on Wine-Searcher.com—I’ll find that their offerings are not quite as rare as advertised, nor quite as inexpensive. But most of the time they are real bargains, and wines that are rarely or not available elsewhere. And the variety of offerings is outstanding.

Shipping is great, fast, and secure. The containers are typically strong cardboard boxes with custom inserts made of a kind of fabric-y recycled cardboard that hold the bottles securely in place. I’ve gotten a few shipments over the years that use styrofoam, which I’m not fond of for environmental reasons, but these have been almost exclusively for Champagnes, or for orders made in summer months. And in the warm months, the bottles automatically come with a cooling insert that works pretty well. Deliveries do require an adult signature, so it’s wise to send them to your office (unless your employer frowns on that), or if you’re in an apartment, alert your super to sign for you.

And ordering is remarkably easy once you have an account. You’ll typically get at least one email a day with the offer, description, and price—typically showing the discount you’re getting. If you’ve got an account set up, all you have to do is select the number of bottles, and in three mouse clicks, or three screen touches on your iPhone, your order is on its way. Generally, if you order six or more bottles, shipping is free, and for fewer, it’s just a few bucks. You cannot beat the convenience. And they have a warehouse on each coast.

The bottom line for me is that this is a “tremendous!!!!” service with great convenience and value.

 

Here are some great sparkling wines from France, Italy, USA, Argentina, and South Africa. I drink them all (not at the same time)...and so should you! Philippe Gonet Extra-Brut 3210: Bone-dry on purpose. The label “3210″ means 3 years of aging, 2 terroirs, 1 grape variety, and 0 dosage. About $70 if you can find it. Try! (My favorite Champagne in the world.) Pere Ventura Tresor (Treasure) Cava Brut Rosé: A subtle wine that doesn’t bowl you over with strawberries, nicely dry, made with 100% Trepat grapes. $14-17. Mionetto Prosecco Brut DOC: Dry, crisp and light-bodied. A bargain at $12-15. Champagne Palmer & Co. Brut Reserve: Much more widely available this year than before. $40. Marc Hebrart Selection Champagne Brut…

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  This piece is a few years old, but I'm re-running it because I think #Champagne is the PERFECT drink for the holiday season--Christmas, Kwanza, and Chanukkah all. I'm a subscriber of Last Bottle Wines, and a few days ago they sent an email offering a Brut from this Champagne house. So I bought some, which I'm eagerly awaiting, and wanted to tell you all about this producer and their great wine. Some time ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chantal Bregeon-Gonet, who with her brother Pierre Gonet run the Champagne House Philippe Gonet. This house specializes in Blanc de Blancs made entirely from Chardonnay, and their annual production is only about 200,000 bottles or about 17,000…

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There is bad wine. Some wine is not good, which means it’s bad—poorly made, and it has flaws. It might be cheap, but it might also be expensive.  It doesn’t make you a snob to think a wine is bad. Not all expensive wine is good. You aren’t a low-class rube if you don’t drink $100 bottles all the time.  There is good wine that isn’t over-the-top expensive.  It’s not all about price. Some good wine is expensive. It IS sometimes about price...or more accurately, some good bottles do cost a lot. But $$$ doesn’t make it good just because it's costly. Sometimes you just need a beer.  Wine drinkers drink a lot of wine.  Just have a beer some…

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Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, which represents about 11% of all wine exports from Spain, has just upped its game with a new classification—an ultra-premium offering called “Cava De Paraje Calificado.”  There were already three classifications of this sparkler that use grapes you’ve probably never hear of, traditional Cava, with 9 months aging in bottle; Cava Reserva, with 15 months; and Cava Gran Reserva, with at least 30  months in bottle.  This new classification goes to a whole new level, with strict rules that require hand-harvesting, limit the yield per hectare/acre, require minimum aging of 36 months in bottle and vinification on the estate, and can only be made in the Brut/Ultra Brut style—no sweet wines need apply. And the…

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In my continuing quest to visit and support New Jersey wineries and the state’s wine industry, I recently visited Old York Cellars in Ringoes.  Old York is a small winery – only about 3,600 cases a year, which in Napa would be the rough equivalent of a “garage” winery.  Previously it operated as Amwell Valley Vineyard, which was first planted in 1978 but closed in 2005 and reopened under its new name in 2010. An interesting thing I've noticed about some New Jersey wineries again reared its head when I saw the wine menu, and counted 1, 2, 3…16 wines, including a “Port” made from Marechal Foch, a white “Port” made from the virtually-unknown Vignoles (also known as Ravat 51),…

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