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Hi-Time's Top French Wines of 2014

12 Champagnes of Christmas Top 2009 & 2010 Bordeaux Top French Wines

The 12 Champagnes of Christmas

#1) CLAUDE CAZALS 2002 CLOS DE CAZALS EXTRA BRUT
BLANC DE BLANCS

The most famous vineyard in Champagne’s Côte de Blancs is undoubtedly Krug’s Clos de Mesnil, a walled vineyard which produces a Chardonnay Champagne that sells for more than eight hundred dollars a bottle-- when you can find it. Less than two miles north of this hallowed ground is another walled vineyard, Clos de Cazals, which is situated behind the village church in the Grand Cru village of Oger. As is the case with its more famous neighbor, its walls produce a wind shield effect that creates a warmer mesoclimate that results in riper grapes with more varietal character than produced in neighboring vineyards. In all, the Clos has nine acres of Chardonnay vines, but this limited (650 case) bottling is made from fruit drawn from a small parcel located in front of proprietor Delphine Cazals’ home. Planted in 1957, Cazals calls these vines her “garden.” A customer tipped us off to the Clos years ago but we could never find a stateside source for it until now. With so little wine it is understandable that Delphine was content to sell her treasure exclusively to private clients and select Parisian restaurants. As luck would have it, our debut Clos Cazals vintage is from the vaunted 2002 harvest. It is a wonderfully original Champagne that possesses a pale golden robe and a gentle mousse that releases a long parade of fascinating aromas that include lightly roasted almonds, honey, lemon curd, pears and hawthorn. A solid bedrock of acidity keeps things fresh and toned as well as providing the kinetic drive for one of the longest finishes we have ever encountered in a Champagne. A simply astonishing taste experience that was an easy shoo-in for our top Champagne release of the year.

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#2) ROEDERER 2006 BRUT NATURE PHILIPPE STARCK

This is the first time in the nearly twenty year history of the Twelve Champagnes of Christmas that we have included three cuvées from a single house. Roederer has been on an amazing roll lately, clearly deserving of this unprecedented trifecta. By the way, their 2006 Cristal, which didn’t make the list, isn’t too shabby either. All the vintage Champagnes made by this family-owned Grand Marque are made with 100% estate grown grapes. For their vintage lineup, Roederer’s efforts and thinking are really those of a conscientious grower-producer. This Brut Nature Champagne represents the firm’s first new cuvée in four decades. The concept for this Champagne was put forward by Roderer CEO Frederic Rouzaud in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2006 that chef de cave Jean-Baptise Lécaillon felt that he had grapes with the requisite quality and ripeness for such a demanding Champagne.

ANOTNIO GALLONI 93 POINTS - “All of the classic Roederer signatures are in place, especially in its utterly beguiling, expressive bouquet. Hints of lemon peel, pastry, wild flowers and Chamomile linger on the pointed, crystalline finish. The Brut Nature emerges from estate-owned parcels in Cumieres and Hautvillers, so it is a unique blend, totally different from any of the other wines in the range…The blend is 60% Cumieres Pinot Noir and 40% Hautvillers Chardonnay. 125 cases imported in the US. 93 Points.”

The nontraditional label and bottle motif by famed designer Philippe Starck really announces that this a ground breaking creation for the 21st Century. Limited.

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#3) VARNIER-FANNIERE BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CUVEE SAINT DENIS

Yes, we are featuring another astonishing Champagne sourced from a walled Côte de Blancs vineyard. This Varnier Fanniere expression is from a single parcel with 77-year-old vines called "Clos du Grand Père" located next to the viticultrual school in Avize. It is situated on flatter land that is endowed with a particular deep bed of chalk. This “St. Denis” is the best bottle of Varnier-Fanniere we have ever had, and importer Terry Theise calls it the single greatest value in his extensive portfolio. Peter Liem of Champagneguide.net, writes: “This edition is 60 percent 2009 and 40 percent 2008, and it seems to combine the best of both vintages: there’s a rich body and depth that’s very 2009, but this is also underlined by tense acidity and a sleek, energetic structure. Above all, it’s infused by an intense chalkiness, which contributes to its overall sense of refinement and finesse. Last tasted: 3/14. 2 ½ Stars.”

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#4) ANDRE ROBERT 2006 LE MESNIL BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS

It is always a big deal when a great value discovery gets better. For two years the 2005 Andre Robert Blanc de Blancs was our “go to value play” for vintage Chardonnay-based Champagne. Well, we like their 2006 even more because it displays the ripe character we loved in the 2005 but with the addition of more overall freshness and firmer acidity. In the glass one encounters ebullient aromas of apple jelly, Wonder Bread and chalk dust. The palate is at once rich and lively with tangy flavors of apple sauce, pears and honey toned with undertones of Meyer lemons and limestone. A balanced and compelling bubbly that rivals vintage Grandes Marques Champagnes selling for sixty dollars and more a bottle.

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#5) TARLANT EXTRA BRUT CUVEE LOUIS

“Louis” is great example of a grand Champagne drinking at its zenith. It is named for Benoît Tarlant’s great-great-grandfather, Louis Tarlant, who began estate-bottling Champagne after the First World War. It’s a 100% barrel-fermented, single-vineyard Champagne crafted from vines over 50 years old in Les Crayons, a chalky parcel in in the village of Oeuilly near the Marne River that’s planted with a 50/50 mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Antonio Galloni tasted this February 2014 disgorgement back in May and inked this rave: “Apricots, dried pears, spices, flowers, honey and hazelnuts meld together in the NV Cuvée Louis. Warm, toasty and resonant to the core, the 1999 is built on gorgeous breadth and pure volume. Readers who like rich, oxidative Champagnes will love the Cuvée Louis. This release is based on the 1999 vintage, with 15% reserve wine from the previous release (1998, 1997, 1996), equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 94 Points.” Worth every penny.

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#6) PIERRE PETERS 2007 BRUT SPECIALE “LE CHETILLONS”

Le Chetillons is a prime example of an exquiste terroir nutured to perfection. Often called the Le Montrachet of Le Mesnil, Chetillons’ pure chalk is never more than 4 inches from the surface while its slope angle and exposition are ideal. The vines of the three Chetillions plots that the Peters family farms range from forty-nine to seventy years old. This is best 2007 Champagne we have had so far and we find this Le Chetillons edition to be more sleek and accessible than the prodigious 2006.

WINE SPECTATOR 94 POINTS - “Richly flavored, yet the glazed apricot, salted almond, brioche and spun honey notes are set in a svelte frame backed by firm acidity. A lively mousse carries the lasting, chalky finish of ground ginger and lemon confit. Disgorged January 2014. Drink now through 2027.”

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#7) ROEDERER 2008 BRUT ROSÉ

The completion of a new winemaking facility in 2007 provided the tanks and other infrastructure required for more precise rosé blending. At the same time, a new, more stringent pruning regime was implemented to decrease Pinot Noir yields down to a miniscule 30-35 hectoliters per hectare. The result is the best non-Cristal rosé we have ever had from Roederer. We love the way it meshes ripe berry essences with livery acidity and silken chalk tones.

WINE SPECTATOR 94 POINTS - “Firm and focused by ample acidity, this is fleshed out by the refined and creamy mousse and flavors of pineapple, blackberry, tangerine, grated coconut and creamed almond. Well-knit and elegant overall. Drink now through 2028.”

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#8) ANDRE CLOUET 2008 BRUT MILLESIME GRAND CRU

Jean-Francois Clouet broke into our Christmas Champagne “club” last year with his majestic Brut 1911 tribute bottling. This 2008 is a worthy follow-up to that masterpiece as it combines power, finesse and minerality into a seamless whole. A 50/50 Pinot Noir Chardonnay blend this millesime is the only Champagne in Clouet’s lineup that is isn’t 100% Pinot Noir.

THE CHAMPAGNE GUIDE 96 POINTS -  “…this is a Champagne that captures finesse and poise, framing them in deep-set concentrations; the signature of Bouzy and Ambonnay. Fleshy white summer fruits, pear and grapefruit zest of considerable depth open out to notes of brioche and nougat, honed with Chardonnay precision, finishing long and focused. The depth of Chardonnay’s mineral expression, painted in the vivid colors of 2008, takes this cuvée to another level… 96 Points.”

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#9) BERECHE (2010) BRUT NATURE LES BEAUX REGARDS

Young brothers Raphaël and Vincent Bereche are rightly celebrated as part of the vanguard of small farmer producers that are transforming Champagne’s quality paradigms, and all their current cuvées speak eloquently of their expertise. Though we get more than our fair share of Bereche Champagne, as with most good things, there is precious little to go around. Les Beaux Regards is a great introduction to the house. It is a serious Montagne de Reims Chardonnay Champagne that is almost Selosse-like with its mineral-infused intensity and its oxidative barrel infections.

ANTONIO GALLONI 93+ POINTS - “…Beaux Regards pulses with energy and class. Lemon peel, crushed rocks and white flowers jump from the glass in a striking, mid-weight Champagne loaded with personality. A wine of crystalline purity and total grace, the 2010 is gorgeous today, but promises to be even better with more time in bottle…”

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#10) ROEDERER 2008 BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS

Accounting for just five percent of Roederer’s production, their vintage Blanc de Blancs manages to maintain a low profile. We, however, are big fans and have long found it to be a worthy rival of their lux “Cristal” bottling, especially when it is from a stellar vintage like this 2008. For his blanc de blancs Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon combines equal parts Mesnil-sur-Oger and Avize with a dollop of Cramant fruit that gives the blend an additional touch of acidity. Approximately 30% of the blend was fermented in neutral oak vats. It is also worth noting that Lecaillon has fashioned it with just 4 atmospheres of pressure (instead of the usual 6) which works to further enhance this Champagne’s luxuriant feel. Peter Liem of Champagneguide.net is spot on: “…It’s polished and sleek, contrasting a creamy texture with a racy undertone of acidity, and while it still feels youthful and taut, its components are beautifully integrated into a harmonious whole, finishing with subtle, chalk-driven fragrance and excellent length. 2 Star Rating.”

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#11) LARMANDIER-BERNIER EXTRA BRUT ROSÉ DE SAIGNEE 1ER CRU

While Roederer’s rosé (see above) exemplifies refinement and elegance, this Larmandier take is bold and boisterous with heaps of savory Pinot Noir richness. Australian Champagne authority, Tyson Stelzer, gushed over this 100% Pinot Noir Champagne: “…A profoundly vinous Champagne of full crimson-red hue, with a breathtaking display of gorgeous rose petals, understated black cherries, raspberries and strawberries. Minerality of mouth-filling dimensions surges and froths, charged with acidity both intense and refined. An exceptional finish upholds benchmark rose petal freshness at every instant. It’s as special as it is inimitable…96 Points.”

A festive Pinot Noir substitute at the dining table, this decadent fizz is perfect for Holiday feasting.

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#12) GUILLAUME SERGENT (2011) LES PRES DIEU EXTRA BRUT
BLANC DE BLANCS

A very auspicious début from micro producer Guillaume Sergent. Sergent owns four acres of vines in Vrigny, a Premier Cru village in the Montagne de Reims, a place his family has farmed since 1842. He cultivates his plots with an organic sensibility mixed with common sense: organic compost, herbal extracts and no insecticides. His winemaking is simple and precise: fermentation in barrels, no fining, no filtration and very little SO2. This hyper-limited (50 case) bottling was made using only Chardonnay from his two best parcels “Les Vignes Dieu” and “Les Pres.” The result is a rich Champagne with a handcrafted sensibility but one that manages not to be rustic in the least. Expansive aromas of apple sauce, pears and honey mark its inviting nose. In the mouth, the attack opens with vivid green apple and brown spice flavors that take on lemon-lime and chalk undertones in the mid and back palate. Bargain priced for the quality. We placed this last only because there is so darn little of it to go around.

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Top 2009 & 2010 Bordeaux of 2014

#1) PONTET CANET 2009 PAUILLAC BIODYNAMIC

ROBERT PARKER 100 POINTS - "An amazing wine in every sense, this classic, full-bodied Pauillac is the quintessential Pontet Canet from proprietor Alfred Tesseron, who continues to reduce yields and farms his vineyards biodynamically – a rarity in Bordeaux. Black as a moonless night, the 2009 Pontet Canet offers up notes of incense, graphite, smoke, licorice, creme de cassis and blackberries. A wine of irrefutable purity, laser-like precision, colossal weight and richness, and sensational freshness, this is a tour de force in winemaking that is capable of lasting 50 or more years. The tannins are elevated, but they are sweet and beautifully integrated as are the acidity, wood and alcohol (which must be in excess of 14%). This vineyard, which is situated on the high plateau of Pauillac adjacent to Mouton Rothschild, appears to have done everything perfectly in 2009. This cuvee should shut down in the cellar and re-open in a decade or more. Anticipated maturity: 2025-2075."

WINE SPECTATOR 96 POINTS - "This is amazingly expressive now considering how huge it is, with stunning espresso and warm fig confiture aromas followed by lush layer after layer of blackberry paste, cassis and plum sauce. A terrific loam underpinning strides in on the finish, which is weighty but sports serious cut. Equal parts fruit and earth. Best from 2018 through 2038. 26,665 cases made."

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#2) LEOVILLE POYFERRE 2009 ST JULIEN

ROBERT PARKER 100 POINTS - "One of the more flamboyant and sumptuous wines of the vintage, this inky/purple-colored St.-Julien reveals thrilling levels of opulence, richness and aromatic pleasures. A soaring bouquet of creme de cassis, charcoal, graphite and spring flowers is followed by a super-concentrated wine with silky tannins, stunning amounts of glycerin, a voluptuous, multilayered mouthfeel and nearly 14% natural alcohol. Displaying fabulous definition for such a big, plump, massive, concentrated effort, I suspect the tannin levels are high even though they are largely concealed by lavish amounts of fruit, glycerin and extract. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2040."

WINE SPECTATOR 93 POINTS - "Solid notes of steeped black currant, ganache-coated fig and plum eau de vie pump along in this very dark red, but with well-integrated structure. Long and winey through the finish, with the grip extending everything nicely. Best from 2016 through 2026. 17,665 cases made."

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#3) CHATEAU PAVIE 2009 ST EMILION

ROBERT PARKER 100 POINTS - "Bottled the week before I arrived, the 2009 Pavie appears to have barely budged since I tasted it two years ago. Many experts consider this phenomenal terroir to be nearly as great as that of Ausone. Made from a classic blend of 60-70% Merlot, 20-25% Cabernet Franc and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, this inky/blue/purple-colored blockbuster reveals wonderful notes of blackberries, crushed rocks, roasted meats, spring flowers, cedar, blueberries, graphite and a hint of vanillin. With extravagant fruit and high extract as well as a hint of minerality, this structured, massively intense effort is typical of all the luxurious, perfect or nearly perfect Pavies produced under the Perse regime (which began in 1998). While built for 40-50 years of cellaring, the softness of the vintage and its flamboyant style is slightly less apparent in the 2009 Pavie than in some of the other Perse wines. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2050+."

WINE SPECTATOR 98 POINTS - "This is massively rendered, with powerful notes of dark fig, currant and blackberry fruit intertwined with ganache, maduro tobacco and tar. Yet the overall impression is both polished and driven, with a buried graphite edge and lingering spice notes that hint at the reward for extended cellaring. It's amazing to see the results when ambition and execution are equal. Best from 2020 through 2040. 7,080 cases made."

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#4) PAVIE DECESSE 2009 ST EMILION

ROBERT PARKER 98 POINTS - "Bottled the week of January 16 (a week before I tasted it), the 2009 Pavie Decesse (from a tiny 9-acre vineyard on the limestone slopes above Pavie) is an uncommonly fat, succulent, rich, 1,000-case cuvee with 14.3% alcohol. It boasts an inky/blue/purple hue along with notes of incense, spring flowers, roasted espresso, chocolate, licorice, blackberries and blueberries. Even though it is aged in 100% oak, the wood is virtually non-existent. An inky blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, the wine exhibits a flawless integration of acidity, alcohol and tannin. This opulent, viscous, thick, juicy St.-Emilion will be accessible in 5-7 years and last for three decades."

WINE SPECTATOR 96 POINTS - "Terrifically rich yet beautifully rendered, with precise linzer torte, currant paste, fig sauce and pain d'épices aromas and flavors that cascade through the voluptuous finish. Beautifully polished, with a huge core of pure fruit in reserve that should blossom with extended cellaring. Best from 2016 through 2031. 0500 cases made."

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#5) PICHON BARON 2010 PAUILLAC

ROBERT PARKER 97+ POINTS - "Administrator Christian Seeley thinks the 2010 is the greatest Pichon Longueville Baron he has ever made, equaling some of the estate’s colossal wines from vintages such as 1989 and 1990. It was certainly showing well when I stopped by the chateau in January. Opaque purple, with loads of charcoal, licorice, incense and some exotic Asian spices along with abundant cassis liqueur, blackberry and hints of roasted coffee and spring flowers, it is full-bodied and opulent, with relatively high tannins, but they have sweetened up considerably and seem less aggressive than they did from barrel. The oak is clearly pushed to the background by the wine’s wealth of fruit, glycerin and full-bodied texture. This sensational Pichon Longueville Baron needs 5-6 years of cellaring, and should keep 30+ years."

WINE SPECTATOR 95 POINTS - "Solidly built, with a roasted edge to the steeped fig, blackberry and black currant flavors, quickly followed by brambly tannins and notes of bay leaf and espresso. Stays dark and tarry through the finish, with superb drive and verve. Best from 2017 through 2030."

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#6) DUHART MILON 2010 PAUILLAC

ROBERT PARKER 96 POINTS - "Dense purple, with classic notes of cedar and lead pencil shavings as well as gobs of back currants and licorice, the wine has a full-bodied mouthfeel with fabulous precision and density. It also possesses a long, silky finish with moderately high tannins, but they are ripe and well-integrated. The wood is clearly pushed to the background in this dense, full-bodied Pauillac, which should drink beautifully for 30+ years."

WINE SPECTATOR 91 POINTS - "Well-polished, with sleek edges to the fleshy plum, cassis and blackberry fruit, while the finish is embedded with black licorice and violet notes. Approachable now, but the stuffing is there to cellar this for a bit. Drink now through 2025."

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#7) PETIT CHEVAL 2010 ST EMILION

2nd LABEL CHEVAL BLANC
ROBERT PARKER 93 POINTS - "The best second wine I have ever tasted from Cheval Blanc is the 2010 Le Petit Cheval. This wine is essentially three-fourths Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. Rivaling the brilliant 2009, thirty percent of the production from this monstrously sized estate made it into this wine, which offers up plenty of white chocolate, cassis and mulberry as well as a hint of roasted herbs. With fleshy, round flavors, full-bodied texture and an amazing finish, this is no second wine, and considerably better than some of the Cheval Blancs of the 1960s and 1970s! Drink it over the next 15 or so years."

WINE SPECTATOR 93 POINTS - "This is rather backward, with a thick coating of bittersweet ganache over a massive core of roasted fig, blackberry confiture and kirsch, backed by a long, charcoal- and tar-coated structure. The finish is broad, deep and very dark, with plenty of power in reserve. An impressive second wine. Best from 2015 through 2025."

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#8) CLARENCE DE HAUT BRION 2010 PESSAC-LEOGNAN

2nd LABEL HAUT BRION
ROBERT PARKER 93 POINTS - 'The second wine of Haut-Brion is now called Le Clarence de Haut-Brion, and the 2010 is among the finest I have tasted there. It is a broad, powerful and more muscular wine than its cross-street rival, La Chapelle de la Mission, but all the same, it is wonderfully fresh and precise, with notes of blueberry and boysenberry as well as hints of smoke and wet stones. Endowed with gorgeous fruit, texture, purity and elegance, this relatively dense second wine demonstrates how draconian the selection process has become for the top estates in Bordeaux in recent years. The blend of this wine is 52% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest mostly Cabernet Franc with just a touch of Petit Verdot. I would expect it to last at least 20 years, which is remarkable."

WINE SPECTATOR 93 POINTS - "Intense, with a bold, roasted apple wood note out front and anise-infused plum and blackberry fruit surrounding the core. Lots of bramble, tar and warm stone accents course through the finish. Displays impressive range and grip. Best from 2015 through 2030."

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#9) CHATEAU RIEUSSEC 2009 SAUTERNES

ROBERT PARKER 97 POINTS - "The team at Chateau Rieussec have conjured a stellar wine in 2009. There is a little reduction at first that fortunately blows away, revealing thickly layered scents of honey, Danish pastry and quince that appear to gain vigor with every passing sip. The palate is stunning: very viscous in the mouth with tangy grapefruit, honey and white peach. It is still primal, but the acidity is perfectly judged and there is a life-affirming sense of precision and tension towards the finish. Exceptional. Drink now-2045."

WINE SPECTATOR 92-95 POINTS - "Lemon peel and pear tart on the nose. Full-bodied and medium sweet, with good acidity, lemon meringue flavors and a spicy finish."

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#10) SUDUIRAUT 2009 SAUTERNES

WINE ADVOCATE 96-98 POINTS - "Pale gold colour. The Suduiraut 2009 has a delectable bouquet with wonderful delineation with scents of pineapple, almond paste, lemon curd and Kaffir lime, the new oak still prominent and demanding time to subsume. The palate has a slightly viscous entry with clear honey, nutmeg, mandarin that leads to a thrilling, almost spicy finish. Great length with a rounded, patisserie finish. There is a lot packed into the Suduiraut that is unruly at the moment, but is sure to evolve beautifully in bottle. This is simply a sensational Suduiraut. Tasted February 2011."

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Top French Wines of 2014

#1) CLOS DES PAPE 2012 CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE

#7 WINE SPECTATOR 'TOP 100' 2014
WINE SPECTATOR 97 POINTS - "A stunner, with a gorgeous cassis aroma that soars from the glass, reinforced by a core of cassis, cherry and plum pâte de fruit, hoisin sauce, warm ganache and well-roasted apple wood notes. Hefty, but suave and seamless. The finish lets graphite and licorice elements glide through. The structure is dense, polished and perfectly integrated, resulting in lovely length. Should be a beauty after cellaring. Best from 2017 through 2032. From France."

ROBERT PARKER 95-98 POINTS - "Tasted from multiple foudres, the 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape is stunning! Showing surprising depth and concentration in the vintage, with full-bodied richness and texture, all of the samples showed perfumed, complex aromatics, fantastic mid-palates and serious back-end structure. Less forward than the 2011, with plenty of oomph, it will most likely require short-term cellaring to come around, and have a broad drink window."

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#2) GUIGAL 2011 HERMITAGE BLANC

WINE SPECTATOR 95 POINTS - "Viscous in feel, featuring citrus and hazelnut oil notes that weave around a core of white peach, verbena, creamed Cavaillon melon and glazed pear flavors. Long and honeyed through the finish, with a thread of bitter almond offsetting the opulence. Drink now through 2029. 2,000 cases made." –JM

ROBERT PARKER 92 POINTS - "Along the same lines, and the same blend/elevage, the 2011 Hermitage Blanc (there was no Ex-Voto produced in the vintage) is a rich, voluptuously textured effort that has knockout purity and focus. Citrus blossom, vanilla creme, white currants and quince all flow to a full-bodied Hermitage Blanc that has great acidity and serious length on the finish. As with the 2010, it will drink nicely for over a decade."

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#3) MAISON PASCAL MARCHAND 2010 CORTON GRAND CRU

STEPHEN TANZER 92 POINTS - "(from vines in Le Corton and Rognet; just 10% vendange entier): Deep red-ruby. Captivating nose combines pomegranate, espresso, ginger, wasabi and cardamom; strong torrefaction notes emerge with air. Silky and pure on entry, then very intense but not yet especially complex in the middle palate, with lovely definition to the flavors of red berries and sweet spices. Spreads out impressively on the very firm finish. With its powerful tannin/acid spine, this wine is likely to require a good decade of bottle aging."

WINE SPECTATOR 91 POINTS - "A pure cherry element lies at the core of this red, encased in a coating of oak that yields notes of vanilla, licorice and caramel. Very suave and balanced, with a fresh finish. Best from 2015 through 2032."

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#4) PONTET CANET 2011 PAUILLAC

ROBERT PARKER 93+ POINTS - "Proprietor Alfred Tesseron-s 2011 Pontet-Canet is packaged in an engraved, heavy bottle, which only adds to the attractiveness of this beauty. A dense purple color is accompanied by notes of forest floor, acacia flowers and creme de cassis in this full, rich, and unequivocally classic Pauillac. With soft but noticeable tannins as well as a complete, full-bodied mouthfeel, this 2011 will benefit from 3-4 years of cellaring, and should age effortlessly for 15-20 years. Bravo!"

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#5) CLOS ST JEAN 2011 CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE V.V.

ROBERT PARKER 94 POINTS - "More rich and layered, with fantastic notes of blackberry liqueur, strawberry, garrigue and lavender, the 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes (85% tank-aged Grenache and the balance Syrah and Mourvedre, fermented with some stem inclusion) is full-bodied, beautifully concentrated and has pure, polished tannin framing the finish nicely. It’s a gorgeous, even elegant, 2011 that will drink well for 12-15 years. Drink now-2027."

WINE SPECTATOR 97 POINTS - "A stunner, with a gorgeous cassis aroma that soars from the glass,reinforced by a core of cassis,cherry and plum pate de fruit, hoisin sauce, warm ganache and well roasted apple wood notes. Hefty, but sauve and seamless. The finish lets graphite and licorice elements glide through. The structure is dense, polished and perfectly integrated, resulting in lovely length. should be a beauty after cellaring. Best from 2017 through 2032."

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#6) MALESCOT ST EXUPERY 2011 MARGAUX

ROBERT PARKER 90 POINTS - "This small estate (only 130,000 bottles were produced in 2011) has been on a qualitative tear for a number of years. A fragrant perfume of spring flowers, black raspberries, blueberries and cassis is followed by a wine with medium-bodied, juicy flavors, sweet tannin and a broad, generous mouthfeel. A terrific 2011, it should be at its peak in 2-4 years, and last for 15 or more. Bravo!"

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#7) ESPRIT DE PAVIE 2009 BORDEAUX

One of the best parts of my job as French Wine Buyer at Hi-Time is that I have been lucky enough to travel to France once a year for the last five years. While I try to visit many regions while I am there, Bordeaux is always the main reason for the visit. My colleagues and I taste barrel samples of the very young current vintages but also seek out wines already in the bottle and ready for the glass. In April this year we were lucky enough to taste and fall in love with 2009 Esprit de Pavie.

Gerard Perse renowned owner of Pavie, Pavie Decesse, Bellevue Mondot and Monbousquet has put together a stunning wine for a stunning price. Gérard has now created "Esprit de Pavie", bearing the Bordeaux appellation. Esprit de Pavie comes from a great diversity of terroirs situated on the south-facing slopes of the Dordogne Valley and enjoys the same care and attention in winemaking as its illustrious siblings to ensure each bottle's high level of quality. The heady, perfumed nose seamlessly blends violets and night florals with assorted blue and purple fruits and cocoa. When compared to all the other wines in Perse’s stable it’s an unbelievable bargain. The fruit is sourced from his entire range of properties. Properties that include Pavie $359 (100 points Parker in 2009), Pavie Decesse $235(98 points Parker in 2009), Bellevue Mondot $400 (100 points Parker in 2009) and a few other Right Bank properties. We are proud to be one of only two retail stores in California to offer this exceptional value from an exceptional vintage.

Primarily Merlot (65%, with 20% Cab Franc, 15% Cab Sauv), this wine definitely bats fourth in the lineup: it's a powerhouse! Lush in the mouth, with notes of cherry kirsch, toasted earth, red licorice, a touch of dark savory spice and dried meat, both the acidity and tannins are king-sized. Red meats, aged cheeses will beg for this one. Big, brash, bold, beautiful wine.

$23.99 750ml [333819] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

#8) PITHON PAILLE 2011 ANJOU BLANC MOSAIK

For me wine is about people and the experiences you have while enjoying a glass. So, when I had the chance to visit Pithon- Paillé in the spring I became an instant fan. It doesn’t hurt that I also love Chenin Blanc. Joe Pithon and Joe Paille represent what I love in wine. The passion for their craft and their love for the land (all organic) that gives them their livelihood shows in every bottle they produce. Every time I open a bottle of Pithon-Paillé it takes me back to their dinner table, laughing, eating and enjoying the company of some truly special people. Take home a bottle or two and make your own memories with the ones who are truly special to you.

Winemaker's Note- On the nose, this pale gold wine has an autumnal apple character, sweet and relaxed, and yet also quite vibrant and pure in style. At the edge there is a lifted bright, green-apple-skin note. But on the palate it is certainly more perfumed and fleshy than green, showing a sweet flavour reminiscent of pink-fleshed apples. This comes with a lovely substance. Quite solid and yet bright, giving the wine a rather bold feel at times. Also a touch grippy, although very approachable, with its solid apple-flesh character. Delicious freshness and brightness here.

$23.95 750ml [322901] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

#9) BARON MALLERET 2010 HAUT MEDOC

In this second wine of Château de Malleret, fruits comes to the fore without being overbearing. Its aromas are graceful on both nose and palate, and the finish is superb. Its tannic, rounded structure reflects on the nobility of its origins. In the nose we find a nice complexity, merging dark red fruits,  charred earth, campfire, autumn spice, forest mushrooms and night florals. The palate showcases forward fruits, cherry and loganberry, with strong, balanced tannins and acidity leading to a finish of fruit leather and subtle earth. Rack of lamb? Yes, please!

$18.95 750ml [333823] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

 

#10) DOMAINE CABIRAU 2011 COTE ROUSSILLON

ROBERT PARKER 91 POINTS - "Brightness and invigoration from tart skins and crunchy seeds render the fresh blackberry and black raspberry delivered by the Cabirau 2011 Cotes du Roussillon Malgre les Functionnaires proof against any negative effects of its nearly 15% alcohol. Tar, Latakia tobacco and black pepper incisively accent this smoky, rich blend of Grenache with roughly 20% Syrah and 15% Carignan, leading to an infectiously juicy and positively mouth-shaking finish. Here is a wonderful example of the vivacity and energy that can be conveyed by ripe Roussillon fruit, not mention an exceptional value. I expect it to drink well through at least 2017."

$12.99 750ml [333912] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

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