It isn't often that I award a wine a perfect score of 100 points. I don't keep track, but over the past 25 years and the thousands of wine samples that have crossed my desk, I'd guess I've unloaded a 100-point rating a dozen times — two dozen at most.
I remember a vintage of the Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico from Italy and the Stelling Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Nickel & Nickel. The rest are something a blur.
I'm of the opinion that you don't find a 100-point wine — it finds you. I came to the 2013 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Bosche at one of my recent tasting sessions. I had just tasted the impressive 2013 Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot. I rated this wine from the storied Napa Valley vineyard 98 points. It'll be hard to top that, I thought.
I couldn't have been more wrong. The Freemark Abbey Bosche stopped me in my tracks. A 100-point wine tends to do that. The Bosche vineyard in Rutherford, California, is legendary but small, so perhaps it is not as widely known as the Three Palms. But its significance is important in the history of Napa Valley wine, beginning with the modern era in the 1970s. It was then — and to this day it remains — one of the Napa Valley's greatest cabernet sauvignon vineyards.
The price is $150, which may seem a bit high until you consider that an above-average classified growth Bordeaux can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,000. Both the Duckhorn and Freemark Abbey are reviewed in this week's tasting notes. Both are expensive luxury wines. There is certainly a price to be paid for perfection, or near perfection, but the price of these two awesome examples of Napa Valley greatness is relatively modest compared to that of the other great red wines in the world.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Bonterra 2015 Viognier, Mendocino/Lake Counties ($14) — When it's right, viognier can deliver as much goodness and pleasure as chardonnay, riesling or sauvignon blanc. All too often, viognier, especially from California, is made in a big, ripe style with too much alcohol. The Bonterra 2015 is one of the exceptions, and it's a good one. This vintage exhibits seductive notes of peach and honeysuckle, with mouthwatering acidity and inviting freshness. It is well-balanced and food-friendly. Rating: 88.
Freemark Abbey 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Bosche,' Rutherford ($150) — Ted Edwards is probably the most underrated winemaker in America, though he's been at the helm of one of the Napa Valley's most important wineries for about three decades. The Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon helped put the Napa Valley on the map. The winery's Bosche cab is from a small vineyard in Rutherford. Bosche cabernet sauvignon can age for up to 30 years. The 2013 is yet another in the winery's long chain of successes from this vineyard treasure. The soft-spoken Edwards has crafted another masterpiece, a monumental wine that is remarkably concentrated and powerful without being ponderous or heavy. Notes of cassis and blackberry, wood spice and beautifully integrated tannins make the 2013 Bosche irresistible even at this early stage, but it really needs another 10 to 12 years to really strut its stuff. Rating: 100.
Duckhorn Vineyards 2013 Merlot, Three Palms Vineyards, Napa Valley ($95) — The 2013 is another monumental merlot from the Napa Valley's Three Palms Vineyard, which is a national treasure and may be the finest merlot vineyard in America. The 2013 exhibits impressive depth and complexity with aromas of blueberry, plum and cassis, a hint of cedar and graphite, and firm but polished tannins. The length on the palate and the finish are classic for this wine from this vineyard. It's drinkable now, but don't look for it to reach peak maturity for at least another decade. Rating: 98.
Merry Edwards 2014 Pinot Noir, Klopp Ranch, Russian River Valley ($66) — Merry is the queen of California pinot noir. Long live the queen. The 2014 Klopp Ranch is a stunning wine that shows the remarkable ability of Edwards to make an elegant wine with muscle. That's a rare combination. The Klopp is firm with impressive depth, expressive raspberry and cherry fruit, and hints of earthy forest floor. Rating: 95.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Bru-nO at Pixabay