Category Archives: wine

Ninety Plus Cellars

Ninety Plus Cellars has taken an old concept and refreshed it with a twist. In essence, Ninety Plus Cellars is a negociant, same as such prestigious Burgundy houses as Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Leflaive. Ninety Plus goes about its business somewhat differently however. Ninety Plus Cellars focuses on wineries that have earned 90+ ratings from The Wine Spectator.

Literally, the buyer for Ninety Plus Cellars goes to these elite wineries and asks for some of their production. Ninety Plus then sells the wine under its own imprimatur. Selling wine under another label is not new. Keying on wines that have scored 90+ is new.

Why would wineries make their wines available under someone else’s label? In a word, economics. There’s nothing like cash flow to keep a business happy, especially in such a capital-intensive business as wine. Of course, Ninety Plus Cellars cannot tell you the provenance of their wines, that would undercut their suppliers. The quality’s in the bottle, whatever the name of it is. Reaction to the wines has been completely positive. That’s the point, finally.

You will notice that Ninety Plus Cellars offers more than just American wines. The wine buyer seeks value wherever it can be found. The determining factors remain simple: delicious wines, value priced. For a local note, the business is based in Boston.

Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), Lot 2 $9.99
From Marlborough, where New Zealand’s great sauvignon seemingly pour from fountains. Crisp, dry, citrusy, and a great, great price.
Riesling (Mosel) Lot 66, $9.99
The rollicking 2011 vintage produced lively wines with fine fruit and great acid balance. With grapes from the legendary Mosel River valley, this is a classic Mosel. That means crisp, refreshing, and delicious. If the situation calls for something light and fun rather than hefty, this is a top choice.
Chardonnay (Sonoma) Lot67, $13.99
Sonoma’s Russian River Valley produces classic California chardonnay. The wine is full-scale, the price is not.
Zinfandel (Sonoma) Lot 54 $12.99
Plenty of power in the ripe fruit flavors. A big rich wine that can be sipped alone or with spicy, meaty dishes.
Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) Lot 62, $15.99
Pinot Noir particularly likes the coastal climate of Sonoma Coast, where therre’s plenty of sun yet the Pacific helps keep temperatures cool in the vineyards. This allows the fruit to gain depth while retaining structure.
Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville) Lot 45, $24.99
Ninety Plus lists the source price for this wine—that is, what the supplier would sell it for—as $69.99. Is that a deal or what? And remember that our 20% case discount, which can be mixed, means a further whack at the price.

Burgundies, the 2009s

The region of Burgundy has enjoyed two successful vintages, very fine to excellent. The 2009s have shown remarkable forwardness—many are quite drinkable already—yet critics have noted that the wines have the structure to age. The 2010s proved more troublesome for growers, with frost damage, poor fruit set, and damaging hail. A perfect September with cool nights and warm (not hot) days allowed grapes to reach optimal ripeness with good acidity. The legendary vineyards cost what they cost—it has been ever thus—but they reward with all the sumptuous drama that great wines can offer. The lesser appellations present the joys of the region in more affordable form.
The region of Burgundy enjoys renown for its cuisine. The wines from Burgundy are made with that in mind. From the little appellations to the grandest of Crus, the wines are to be enjoyed at the table.
Bourgogne “Les Sétilles”, Olivier Leflaive $19.99
At the median price for California chardonnay, a wine made from grapes grown in the famed villages of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. Seems like that right there provides enough sell for this wine. Add that Olivier Leflaive is a scion of the renowned Domaine Leflaive, and you ought to be even more intrigued. A superior value for a classically-styled burgundy. Precisely drawn fruit with the clear voice of the terroir where the grapes were grown. Highly recommended!
Chablis-Vaillons, Simonnet-Febvre $27.99
The Chablis vineyards suffered severe frost damage in 1985. Since then, prices have been stratospheric for the Grand Crus. The Premier Cru as well, but here’s an exception. English wine critic Jancis Robinson calls this wine “distinguished”, and indeed it is If you have never tasted Chablis, the ultimate shellfish wine, this is a great place to start. The combination of lemony, buttery fruit with racy mineral flavors provides an ideal match with shellfish, and with all manner of seafood.
Bourgogne Blanc, Tollot-Beaut $39.99
A small, respected producer located in Chorey-Les Beaune, this producer makes well-scaled, predominantly red wines. This impressive chardonnay shows that they have the handle on whites, as well. Full and rounded, with a defined mineral element, this is no ordinary Bourgogne. Tollot-Beaut typically performs green harvest during the summer. After fruit set, workers carefully removed bunches to limit production and concentrate flavor.
White
Meursault, Oliver Leflaive $41.99
The commune with the most vineyard acreage in the Cote-de-Beaune, the wines of Meursault appeal with power and ripeness. According to Leflaive, the chalky, calcareous soil adds to the aging potential of the wine. Being an 09, it already shows the lush drama of the vintage. A real treat!
Chassagne-Montrachet “Vergers”, Philippe Colin $79.99
Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeot”, Bruno Colin $79.99
It is typical of Burgundy that you will see repetitions of family names among producers. Philippe and Bruno are the sons of legendary producer Michel Colin. Michel gave parcels of his domaine to his sons. The tradition carries on in fine fettle with eye-poppingly delicious wines from two of Chassagen’s 1er Crus.
Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru, Oliver Leflaive $94.99
Fun fact: Charmes means communal land allowed to lie fallow, like a New En gland green. Fat, rich, and buttery, this is classic Burgundy from a great vintage. For the most special occasions.
Red
Cote de Brouilly, Potel-Aviron $17.99
This is a cru Beaujolais, but wait! Produced in the old style, it is a wine of Burgundian depth and distinction. The vineyards of Cote de Brouilly sit on an extinct volcano, Mt Brouilly. This wine comes from two separate parcels, one with 60 year old vines, the other with 40 year old ones. Those old vines do not produce prolifically but the resultant wines enjoy great concentration. The wines age in new and old oak for a year. Delicious now, it can cellar for 10 or more years, becoming more and more burgundian.
Bourgogne Rouge, Tollot-Beaut $39.99
Though the appellation suggests the extent of the region, Tollot-Beaut is only using fruit from a focused part of Burgundy. That is to say, the large négotiants may gather wines from all over, to produce a solid wine for daily enjoyment, small producers like Tollot-Beaut deliver from their own domaine, with the opportunity to assert local terroir. Really a great deal in red Burdundy.
Pommard, Drouhin $49.99
Ready to please you, this is Burgundy for the here and now. Not to say it lacks structure or aging potential, but this wine offers sparkling fruit and plenty of depth. Pommard is the classic Burgundy, not to stand in awe of, but to enjoy on a sumptuous table.
Chambolle-Musigny, G. Roumier $124.99
Vosne-Romanée “Les Beaux Monts”, J. Grivot $149.99
A couple of superstars of a superstar vintage. We have just a few bottles remaining. Replacement, if even possible, will be much more expensive. A gift for yourself, or others.

Greek Wines

Evidence of Greek winemaking goes back, oh, a mere 8500 years before Ernest and Julio were born. Greek wines have never made a major impression in this country, but Greece produces a lot of great wine. Happily, interest in wines from all over the globe has risen lately. And as with wines from everywhere else, technological advances have improved wine quality. Greek wines may just be the next thing.

Greek wines, for the most part, are made from varieties little known outside of the country. That’s not a bad thing. The ubiquitous planting of varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay threaten to produce a worldwide sameness in wines. Of course we love cabernet and chardonnay, but not at the risk of losing local traditions. Local wines, after all, were developed with local cuisine in mind.

Perhaps the two most famous Greek wines, Retsina and Mavrodaphne, give folks the wrong impression of Greek wines. Retsina, uniquely, is flavored with pine resin, a holdover from when resin was used to seal wine amphora. Mavrodaphne is a sweet, red, port-like wine unlikely to be served with the main course. Though grape varieties in Greek wines may be strange to us, the styles of the wines will be familiar enough.

Skouras is a modern-minded producer making wines with character and distinction. Skouras’ wines also give value to your dollar. At $10.99 a bottle (less than 9 bucks with our case discount), both make fine anytime bottles to open.

Skouras White

This wine is a blend of two major Greek varieties, roditis (pronounced ro-DEE-tees, if it comes up in conversation) and moscofilero (mos-co-FEE-le-ro). Both grapes have pinkish grey skins, like pinot grigio, but produce white wines, mainly, and sometimes roses. Skouras White presents crisp floral and citrus tones in its aroma. Moderate skin contact adds grip to the flavors, which again show floral and citrus notes. Certainly a perfect accompaniment to Greek salads (feta, yogurt, and olives), poultry, and fish. Pour it like a pinot grigio, which is to say, it will serve any occasion, casual or gourmet.

Skouras Red

Skouras Red claims a modest 5% cabernet sauvignon. The rest of the blend is Agiorghitiko (pronounced ah-yor-YEE-ti-ko). The name means St. George, and that is how it is usually called in English. The cabernet supplies structure upon which tasty fruit tones hang. Full-flavored but not over ripe or heavy, the wine will carry the day with lamb. It will also serve nicely in most any red wine situation.

Tuscan Reds, A Small Sampling

Tuscany provides us with perhaps the world’s most iconic red: Chianti. Such familiarity may cause undervaluation; Chianti can stand with the best red wines from anywhere. Like many Old World wines, Tuscan wines have seen quality improvement due to modernization in winemaking techniques.

Many people remember the straw-covered bottle called fiascho, from the Italian for flask. One rarely sees Chianti in such bottles anymore. Stronger glass and improved packing materials have diminished their necessity, unless you have a red and white checked tablecloth and need a candleholder. We carry a one liter fiascho, 09 Terre di Poppiano ($16.99), just right for a spaghetti feast.

Chianti has always starred the magnificent Sangiovese grape. Its bright cherry tones and smoky/spicy aromatics tantalize, to say the least. Sangiovese wines bestirs the appetite like few others. The other grapes in the Chianti show traditionally were lesser known varieties, including white ones. Regulations now allow producers to use more familiar varieties like Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah to flesh out and highlight Sangiovese’s charm.

Wines simply labeled Chianti DOC provide the most basic form of Chianti. These wines can hail from anywhere in the region. Those labeled Chianti Classico come from one of seven subzones in Chianti and represent the region’s historic center. Since 1996, the white grapes in Classicos have been given the bum’s rush and are restricted from the blends.

To earn Riserva status, a Chianti must be aged at least two years before release. All Chianti are ready to drink on release. The finest can be cellared 5-10 years, or even more. Yes, Chianti goes well with tomato-based sauces, but need not be restricted to such usage. Chianti matches with roasts of all sorts, grilled meats, and cheese, as well.

Chianti

07 Riserva, Tomaiolo $10.99

10, Ruffino $11.99 The best selling Italian red in the U.S. Also comes in 1.5l bottles ($19.99).

08, Monastero Classico $13.99

08, Savignola Paolino Classico $14.99 95% Sangiovese, with the traditional Chianti variety Canaiolo for structure.

08 Riserva Classico, Tomaiolo $14.99

06, Monsanto Classico $24.99 No, not that Monsanto.

07 Colli di Senesi, Poggio Salvi, Caspagnolo $17.99 From the hills surrounding Siena, one of the seven Chianti subzones.

07 Reserva Ducale Classico, Ruffino $22.99

09 Isole e olena Classico $24.99

One of the great younger Chianti producers.

08 Pèppoli, Antinori Classico $26.99 Produced exclusively from Antinori’s prized Pèppoli vineyard. A small amount of Merlot and Syrah and the use of vanilla-toned American oak produce a unique and engaging Chianti style.

06 Marchese Antinori Classico, $33.99 Produced from Antinori’s exclusive holdings, including the Pèppoli and Tignanello vineyards.

Elsewhere in Tuscany

Hard to say elsewhere when speaking of wines like Brunello di Montalcino, which can be numbered among the great wines of Italy and the world.
• Brunello di Montalcino features 100% Sangiovese. Fuller in body and more intense than most Chianti, they are long-lived, intensely aromatic, and supremely delicious.
• Rosso di Montalcino, basically Brunello with less aging. More forward and less expensive than Brunello
• Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, made largely with Sangiovese under its local alias, Prugnolo. Unrelated to and finer than Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo.

07 Brunello di Montalcino, Capanna $49.99 The Wine Enthusiast rated the vintage at 95 points and the wine itself at 97 points. The math works out to an amazing wine experience.

09 Rosso di Montalcino, Sabazio $14.99 Savory and ready to drink. Exceptional value!

07 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Poliziano $29.99 Sangiovese with some Canaiolo, built in a meaty, impressive style.

Super Tuscan

Extending the modern vision of Chianti, many producers in Tuscany bottle what are popularly called Super Tuscans. These developed when creative producers started experimenting with unorthodox grape varieties or methods. Originally, these often astoundingly fine wines could only carry the lowly vino da tavolo designation. Authorities put in place a new designation, Indicazione Geographica Tipica, to indicate that the wines meet certain quality standards.

07 Villa Antinori $24.99 Great value for a beguiling wine. Sangiovese enriched with Cabernet and Merlot. Villa Antinori routinely receives 90+ ratings. Well-evolved and ready to drink, yet with the promise of further development.

99 Tignanello, Antinori $99.99 One of the first Super Tuscans, and one of the best. Tignanello originally sold itself as a Chianti. In the mid 1970s, the always innovative Antinori removed the white grapes from the blend, disqualifying it as a Chianti. In 1982, the blend switched to Sangiovese with Cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet franc. The results are super-charged. Fully-knit with boundless depth, Tignanello is a magnificent achievement, as the critics constantly aver.

Champagne

May begins a season of celebrations. Weddings and graduations, for sure, but also Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or just that two weeks’ respite from work. How better to celebrate these events than with Champagne? Champagne creates celebrations, if you don’t have one ready. A customer once chose Champagne over less expensive alternatives for his wedding reception, saying, “You only marry for the second time once.” Champagne maximizes every occasion.

Champagne’s aura of history, elegance, and glamour certainly adds to its appeal. The wines themselves, however, carry the field. The backbone of every Champagne house is its non vintage wines, particularly the brut. Producers blend these wines to produce a consistent style. Vintage bottlings appear in exceptional years, much like how Port producers offer their vintage wines.

You cannot go wrong with any of the Champagne houses listed below. Quality is high among them all. Preference for a particular house style will determine your choice. Winston Churchill, for instance, favored edgy yet full-bodied Pol Roger as his daily pour, along with brandy, and the inevitable cigar. Even during the dark years of World War II, he kept himself fortified. Mentioning that allows us to offer one of Winnie’s wicked remarks, of which there are many. We presume that his favorite Champagne inspired his remark: A woman at a party said to him, “Why Winston, you’re drunk.” He replied, “That may be so, madam, but tomorrow I will be sober and you will still be ugly.” Game, set, match.

You may not drink Champagne daily as Churchill did, so what should you look for in a Champagne?

  • Fine and persistent bubbles. Champagne flutes are designed to maximize bubble creation. Soap residue can interfere with the bubbles so wipe glasses with a cloth before pouring.
  • A full, yeasty, complex aroma. Champagne sits on the less—dead yeast cells—for extended periods.
  • Crisp yet deep flavors.

A few more points to remember about Champagne:

  • Rosés often represent the finest offering from a champagne house. They are dry, complex, and absolutely delightful. Don’t let a rosé prejudice keep you from enjoying these great wines.
  • Champagne absolutely goes with food, including soups, main courses, desserts, and cheeses. An article in the New York Times recently recommended Bollinger Special Cuvée and Billecart Salmon Rosé as perfect accompaniments to pizza. Make your own rules.,
  • The bubbles do tickle your nose.

Nicolas Feuilatte $34.99—The number 3 bestselling champagne in the world!
The Wine Spectator, 92 point
Pommery $35.99
Perrier-Jouet $39.99—the famous “Flower Bottle” (impressive gift!)
The Wine Spectator, 90 points
Ayala (375ml)$29.99
Ayala (750ml) 44.99$
Roederer $44.99
Robert Parker 90 points, The Wine Spectator 90 points
Henriot $47.99
The Wine Spectator, 93 points
Moët & Chandon $49.99
Taittinger $49.99
Billecart-Salmon Brut $59.99
Moët & Chandon Brut 1.5L $99.99
Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Réserve $55.00
Veuve Cliquot Brut $57.99
The Wine Spectator 90 points, Wine & Spirits 90 points
Veuve Cliquot Demi-Sec $57.99
Bollinger Special Cuvée $59.99
The Wine Spectator 93 points, Wine Enthusiast 93 points, Robert Parker 91 points
Roger Coulon $59.99
Paul Bara Rosé $74.99
Gosset Rosé $75.00
Wine & Spirits 91 points, The Wine Spectator 90 points
Billecart-Salmon Rosé $99.99
Krug Grand Cuvée $229.99—Simply amazing!
The Wine Spectator 95 points, Robert Parker 94 points
Roederer Cristal $250.00

Barbaresco

The Piedmont in northern Italy produces two world-class wines made from the Nebbiolo grape: Barolo and Barbaresco. The dynamic power of Barolo seems to overshadow its hardly less powerful neighbor. Let us focus some on a few great Barbaresco.

The Piedmont enjoys a long growing season, which gives Nebbiolo time to ripen fully. Harvests typically go well into October. The grape gains great depth of flavor from this long season. In addition, cool nights and morning fog allow the grapes to gain good acid structure, and plenty of tannins for aging. In Barbaresco, Nebbiolo’s tannins soften more quickly than in Barolo, and the wine can be enjoyed at a younger age.

If you have never tried one of these noble wines of the Piedmont, Barbaresco offers a good introduction. Flavors offer an odd but beguiling contrast of earthy tarry notes, and perfumed, floral fruit. It stands as a classic wine at the pinnacle of Italy’s best.

Regulations require barrel and bottle aging before Barbaresco can be released. Vintners generally aim for a more forward style now, highlighting the opulent flavors and sweet, flowery aroma. The following all have reached prime drinking.
Bruno Rocca Barolo

Bruno Rocca

Rabajà $99.99
Coparossa $79.99

Bruno Rocca stands as one of the stars of the appellation. The wines ferment in steel, to keep the freshness of the fruit. Half the wine ages in new oak, the rest in older barrels so that the fruit does not become overcast by wood. Time in bottle allows the elements to mellow and merge. Mindblowing seems like the right adjective to describe the complex of opposing elements apparent in these wines. The Rabajà vineyards stands as one of Barbaresco’s jewels. The Coparossa consists of grapes from several vineyards.
Barbaresco

Colli dei Venti

Tufo di Blu $29.99
Great value for Barbaresco. This wine shows you the very real splendor that the appellation offers, but not at the price of a collectible. 90 Points from The Wine Spectator.

Monte degli Angeli

Barolo $24.99
A Barolo, yes, but comparable to Barbaresco in its readiness to please even now. No disrespect meant, this is Barolo with training wheels. That is to say, made in a delicious forward style. Nothing wrong with that! For a Barolo it is light at just under 14% alcohol. Smoky, spicy, and floral, with plenty of punch, this terrific value offers a fine glimpse at the marvels one can find in Barbaresco and Barolo. Roasts, hearty stews, or an array of cheeses would be superbly matched with this wine.

Value Wines–Some Options

We all take pleasure in finding wines that satisfy us yet do not strain our budget. We can happily return to these wines. Such wines serve our needs and please family and friends.

Canny winemaking occurs everywhere, and it can create surprising wonders even in grapes of putatively little distinction. Wine quality is greater than ever now. Really! The sciences of winemaking and grape growing have increased the knowledge base, giving producers more tools for making great wine. No need for a wine to sit in barrel till it loses all zest. Save the barrels for wines that need the oak element, and use stainless steel vats for those wines that depend on youthful freshness.

In addition to technological advances, regions that formerly made the plonkiest of plonk have realized the economic advantage of producing better wines. Prime case in point: prior to the 1990s, Argentina’s wine industry consisted almost entirely in the production of low-quality wines for local consumption. That seems incomprehensible now with all the wonderful wine the country exports today.

And so it goes throughout the world. So let us introduce you to a smattering of well-priced wines that can be enjoyed any time.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Dragani (Abruzzo) $5.99

Montepulciano is a workhorse grape in Abruzzo, producing much of the locally-consumed wine. Deep fruit character offsets a dark, tarry aspect. The style is gulpable with an affinity for meaty dishes, tomato sauces, and pizza. Lay in a supply: wine emergencies do occur, and this versatile wine can meet them.

Creme de Lys Chardonnay

Chardonnay, Crème de Lys (California) $10.99

We were surprised at this nifty value in California Chardonnay. Typical chardonnay lushness of fruit, but with more oak complexity than you would expect for the money. The wine has a creamy texture and makes you feel, happily, like you got a good deal.

Rioja Crianza, El Coto (Rioja) $11.99

Crianza indicates a wine aged for at least 2 years, one in oak. Here’s where modernization of winemaking shows its fruit. Not so long ago, you’d often find Rioja that have spent too much time in oak. Here you taste the complexity of oak without losing the tempting flavors of the tempranillo grape. A versatile wine, the winery suggests serving it with cod.

Le Drunken RoosterGrenache-Syrah, Le Drunk Rooster (Languedoc) $11.99

Le French government dislikes seeing French and English mixed. We, however, do like to see Grenache and Syrah mixed. From Southern France, this is a power-packed yet delicious wine. Grenache provides heady richness while syrah adds its own robustness plus earthy complexity. Roasts, stews, hearty cheeses, or by itself. You need not sacrifice power for value.

Sauvignon Blanc, Oyster Bay $11.99

Pinot Grigio, Kris $11.99 (Italy)

Sauvignon blanc has long been a second choice after Chardonnay, now Pinot Grigio has pulled up to provide affordable white wine options. We pair these two familiar but not exactly comparable whites because both have dropped significantly in price. The Oyster Bay has commanded popularity with its zippy citrus flavors, the Kris with its fresh and inviting fruit. You’ll love them both.

Shiraz, Shoofly (Australia) $12.99

Rated a top value by The Wine Spectator, this is classic Australian Shiraz. Big, peppery fruit, rounded with dusty tannins and plenty of flavor. Just plain delicious.

And not forgetting two lines of solid wines at everyday prices. The U.S. has long been recognized as having very high standard for inexpensive wine. Australia is drawing alongside in that top spot. Both countries produce a lot of well-priced and delicious wines to serve everyday. The following, for sure, rank among the best, if you need reminding:

Woodbridge $8.99 (750) / $14.99 (1.5)

From Robert Mondavi, this label offers tasty, reliable Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot grigio, Riesling, and Moscato

Yellow Tail $7.99 (750) / $13.99 (1.5)

From Australia, these eminently drinkable and popular wines include Chardonnay, Cabernet sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Merlot, Moscato, Shiraz, Cabernet/Merlot, Pinot Noir/Shiraz.