The Eagle has Landed

While on a short, but much needed vacation I was made aware that Charles Banks was in fact leaving Screaming Eagle. I have readers who are particularly fond of the wines at SCREAMING EAGLE and I should point out an aside that if they would like to share those wines my door is always open. Most of my readers appreciate the buzz because it doesn't advocate spending your sons future tuition on high-end (and in this case SUPER high end wines), and turn their noses up on the idea that a dowry sized price tag on a single bottle of Napa Cabernet is about as ridiculous as Sarah Palin key note speaking at a Mensa conference... Have I had it? Yes and I think that it is absolutely sublime. Would I drive a Ferrari? Heck yes, if I had no qualms about money. What Banks did say about his parting ways with S.E. was that he wanted to go somewhere where he oversaw reasonable retail costs again.
I'm not rich by any means, I'm fairly sure I'd actually keep up with this blog if I had to work less on amassing a fortune great enough to keep up with my ferocity for wine; but I have to appreciate small gestures such as his. S.E. has gotten as glutted and inflated as formerly humble estates like HARLAN and OPUS ONE. Do I like those wines? I'd probably push a baby seal in front of a bus for a vintage Harlan Cabernet; but will I?
And thats the point Im trying to make. Most owners of successful and still filthy rich vineyards will SAY they want the prices to fall back down to reasonable numbers; but the honest truth is that they are just SAYING that. Banks stood up for the everyman, and those everymen couldn't have ever bought his wines to begin with. Before I get on my pedestal I must reiterate that he's not going to win a pulitzer prize, or get a ticker tape parade; but I hope that my audience out there goes wherever he sets his sights, and supports a shining beam of hope for an increasingly exclusive Appelation like Napa Valley. No you don't see a lot of charity and admiration for the every day wine drinker, not unless his everyday plonk has a price tag that looks like his phone number. Go out right now, and by right now I mean when you have a special occasion, and buy a bottle of HARTWELL: MISTE HILL. I love Ben Touqett, and I think his wines for the Hartwell family are some of the best if not THE best wines under $70 dollars. Succulent, off drying, rich but not overly obtrusive; his Cabernet Sauvignon is a parade of flavors for even the pickiest of wine enthusiasts. I'm a huge BARLOWE fan too, yes it's huge, but dang it thats what we Napa Nuts love the most; so deal with it.
If you take anything from this, its don't let someone tell you that the most innaccesible wines of the West Coast are necessarily WORTH IT; I mean hell even Charles freakin Banks took a stand. Go out there and find yourself a wine that suits YOUR budget. An associate of mine, and a cool dude, Todd Anderson sells his GHOST HORSE Cabernet Sauvignon at staggering heights; but I find the wine faultless. Did I pay for it? Heck no, but if I had the kind of money his clients do, I'd always buy faultless wines. What do I buy? I buy the best wines for my own budget, and so should you. Furthermore I buy wines and suggest wines with integrity, so again it is always a pleasure to see the little guy get a big supporter....


Cru-s Control

Greetings and a belated salutations; I have been all over the place this last almost year since my last posting, something that I will soon remedy.
As we approach the summer months, I am reminded of two things I hold dear; warm weather and the opportunity to buy futures in Bordeaux wines. A future is when you buy the wine, knowing ahead of time that it will be some time before you recieve that wine. Never fear, however, because in this increasingly young drinking(wine, as well as the age of the consumer) society it's probably safer in the hands of the Chateaus(yes I realize the french spelling is Chateaux) rather than in the hands of your impetuous social circles. It is in that vein that I am talking about the often lauded 'Premiere Crus' of Bordeaux's west bank.
2007 was an okay year for Bordeaux, and the artisans of their craft did make some generally above average wines out of sub average grapes- but the issue now becomes; why would we still pay such outlandish prices for just 'good juice'. I call it the 'Because We Say So' method of not just Bordeaux but of a good sized portion of Napa Valley as well. Chateau Latour, my favorite of the 2007 pluckings is just shy of $500, while the venerably lofty Chateau Mouton Rothschild is well over $700. Now these wines are far beyond a common market place good, but are they really worth the near mortgage payment price tags that they demand?
It's all relative to your budget, says the man who drinks a good deal for free, and I must tell you that I never buy them with my own money. There are too many good second and third cru class wines that are just as vibrant and expressive of the West Bank to even remotely consider a chapter 11 appetite. Will I buy a Premiere Cru future from 2009? It's hard to tell not having tasted the promises so many other critics have hailed as the best vintage in a generation, but one thing is for certain; I will buy the one I think stands up the best, not the rock star BS that the Rothschild shadow imposes. I will second that by saying that Rothschild wines can be good, even outstanding; but I will not be bullied into praising them above all others. I have had a few chances to try pre-1973 Mouton Rothschild(the year it was elevated to Premiere status) and I can safely say that when it was fighting for respect, it was just a darn better wine.
No stick to your guns when you buy these wines, and if you can try something like Chateau Carboneaux; affordable and surprisingly vivacious. Try investing in Chateau Gruad-Larosse; it's a fraction of the price with practically the same lifespan. Don't look at Premiere Cru as the head of it's class(no pun intended) unless it's willing to fork over the same explosive flavors and textures.