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2004 Lenz Cuvée – North Fork

This svelte sparkler from the North Fork is 100% Pinot Noir, with a bready nose, hints of baking peaches, and golden delicious apples. It has very delicate bubbles and lots of minerality—seashells all over the palate. This is a zippy wine, with lime zest and lots of acidity to balance the creamy notes of marzipan and hazelnut. That bit of toasted nuts is just a whisper, though: this wine is mostly fruit and light, a juicy bite of bosc pear and a squeeze of lime. The only hesitation is a hint of bitter pear peel and grass at the finish. Serious, refreshing wine, perfect to serve with steamed clams piled on pasta.
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2004 Carmen Winemaker’s Reserve Red – Maipo Valley, Chile

Slightly vegetal green hints are clear tell-tales of wine from Chile, but they do not overwhelm the nose. It also has loads of menthol, black fruit, and a touch of coconut. Blackberries, menthol, tobacco and green pepper are bound by tight tannins. The second night, it still shows telltale Chile-green. Tannins are smoother but the additional time brought the wood, rather than the fruit, to come to the fore. Vanilla and brown sugar overwhelm blackberries and blueberries in a green pepper cup. Not recommended.
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2004 Domaine Leflaive Mâcon-Verzé, France

There is a solid chalky streak along a touch of brine up front, under a mild butterscotch flavor. The butterscotch gives way to lemon on the midpalate. The finish falls off quickly, but at this price point that is not a surprise. Tasted blind this is pretty good. Weighted for QPR, it is very good.
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2004 Château Léoville-Poyferré Saint-Julien, Médoc

A total of 240,000 bottles were produced from a harvest that stretched from September 30 to October 18. The nose is earthy and is already showing some cigar aromas—this wine is starting to mature. Quite a smooth texture on the palate but it lacks the richness of 2005. Drink 2012–17. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. More wine writing by Stuart can be found on his blog, Worcester Sauce.
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2004 Yannick Amirault Bourgueil La Coudraye

What a difference a couple of years can make. When I originally bought a bottle of the 2004 La Coudraye by Yannick Amirault, an acclaimed vigneron from the Loire Valley, this natural-yeast fermented cabernet franc was a pretty tightly wound thing. So much so that it was a little difficult to enjoy, as a fair bit of tannin stuck to your teeth and the aromas struggled to break free. Now, as the 2007 has become the current release, the 2004 has opened up nicely, showing up a nice dose of slowly-cooked, sweet red bell peppers, still structured by tannins that have, however, become much smoother as the wine has calmed down a bit. Not terribly complex, but well balanced and worth the price. Went down nicely with some thick, juicy pork chops served with gnocchi and green beans.
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2004 Groom Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Wonderful nose with coffee, cherries, oak. Cherries, chocolate, blackberries and tar on the palate. Long dry finish, with fruit, plum skins, and toasted coconut. Extraordinary. I would put this up against any $75 big name Australian Shiraz and have another bottle left to drink later. Maybe the key was 25% new oak, rather than the 100% new oak of the big blowsy fruit bombs floating over from the land down under these days.
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2004 Dry Creek Vineyards Endeavour Cabernet Sauvignon

A fantastic wine that will beat the pants off of Cali Cabs with significant price multiples. A strident example of a wine achieving balance between fruit and earth and short-term drinkability versus long-term cellaring. The complex nose of blackberry, dusty earth with hints of soy and mint gives way to a total palate experience with dark fruits, chocolate, graphite and an earthy, incredible finish. Now is the time to buy this one—discounts galore on the Internet make finding one of the bottles from just 749 cases a screaming opportunity.