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Feb 19, 2009 01:54 AM

Knock Your Socks Off White -- $100 ish

I'm looking for a knock your socks off white for a special occasion (Dad's 80th birthday). Don't want to spend much more than $100, but want something extraordinary.

Tend to favor French and Austrian whites over California, but that is because generally I drink mid-priced wines, so perhaps at a $100 price point you can get a decent California white. Although, again, I'm not looking for decent, but for great.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Beaucastel Blanc!

    The 2007 is just released and should be phenomenal. Otherwise, the 2006 is phenomenal and the 2005 is excellent.

    This would be my first choice as it is unique, pretty-much universall loved, well within your price range, French (which you know you like), and most importantly, excellent.

    My other first choice would be a Weinbach Riesling Schlossberg Cuvee Saint Catherine L'Inedit! These are phenomenal Rieslings -- perhaps my favorite off-dry Rieslings on the planet, though I tend to prefer Austrian Riesling to Alsatian, so that should say something. The 2005 should be outstanding and is also well within your price range.

    My third first choice would be an F. X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Kellerberg. '04 is awesome! So should be the '05 and '06. Along with the L'Inedit! mentioned above, this is tied for my second favorite non-dessert Riesling in the world. These wines have a concentration of minerality to them that is just remarkable. (My favorite white wine in the world, sweet or dry, is the F. X. Pichler Unendlich, but that is not in your price range.)

    It isn't that there aren't some (what some would call) great American white wines, but they are made in a completely different (and, imo, inferior) style from French and austrian whites, so I would stay away. (There are some exceptional white wines being made in Italy, particularly Friuli, but I think you are better off sticking with French or Austrian.)

    5 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Thanks! I am always so astonished about how much people on these boards know about wine. I'm still in the Justice Potter Stewart stage of wine appreciation -- i.e., what he famously said about porn - I know it when I see it. I know a great wine when I taste it, but can't articulate much more

      1. re: whiner

        Whiner, I assume Beaucastel Blanc is one and the same as Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc? If so, I found the 2006 available locally.

        As for the 2007, has something called "Chateau Beaucastel 2007 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes" but it has not arrived yet. Is that the one you are taking about?

        I will also check out the other suggestions.

        1. re: omotosando

          YEP! You've got it! The Roussanne Villes Vignes is sometimes out-of-this-world, but sometimes it is closed down for its first 5 years or so after release. Also, it is probably more than $100.

          The Chrteauneuf du Pape Blanc should be a bit under $100 ($90ish, maybe?) an I find it *exceptional* as well.

          1. re: whiner

            The Chateau Beaucastel 2007 Roussanne Vieilles Vignes is $125, but it won't be available by the birthday date and from what you are saying, even if it were, it might not be ready to drink yet.

            The 2006 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is $85 at my local wine store, or $75 if I want to trek out to the 'burbs (which I probably don't to save $10).

            1. re: omotosando

              Yep. You've got it all correct. The '06 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc is excellent. In fact, for drinking right now, I actually prefer it to the '04 and '05 Roussanne Villes Vignes!

      2. "so perhaps at a $100 price point you can get a decent California white."

        I’ve found that stylistically French and European whites generally are leaner and crisper than California whites. However the idea that if one purchases higher and higher priced white wine from California that it will get closer and closer to European style I haven’t found to be true. These are simply stylistic choices and not a sign of higher or lower quality.


        1. If you want to get him something truly unique, seek out the wines of Josko Gravner.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            Or Nicolas Joly. His Clos de la Coulée de Serrant (top of the line) is <$100

            1. re: Brad Ballinger

              Of course, in commenting of the white wines of Friuli above, I was alluding to Gravner (among a few others). However, those wines should come with a warning label as they are sufficiently different from the rest of white wine on the planet (except Radikon and Damajin) to warrant very careful consideration as to the tastes of the person on the recieving end. For these purposes I would probably advise against them. HOWEVER, they certainly are truly wonderful and unique wines.

            2. Oh so many choices. Whiner, Brad, and Ric all make great suggestions. If you like Austrian wines, you cant go wrong with F.X. Pichler. Alsace? I'd go with the Trimbach Clos Ste Hune.

              Given the abundance of choices presented to you, I'm inclined to break them down into two groups, each "great" in their own right.

              Conventional, crowd-pleasing wines that get high marks from just about everyone, and with good reason:

              Leeuwin Chardonnay, Art Series, Margaret River, Australia - in my book, the best Australian white, hands down
              Elena Walch Beyond the Clouds, Alto Adige, Italy
              Jermann Vintage Tunina, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy - the original super Friulian white
              Gaja Langhe Rossj-Bass, Piemonte, Italy
              Château-Grillet, Rhône, France - though this viognier apparently takes years to come to maturity.
              NV Krug Grande Cuvée - birthday needs bubbles!
              99 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses
              Raveneau Chablis
              Someone else can chime in with all the white burgundies, though finding something spectacular at $100 may be tough.

              And all the other whites that will challenge you to rethink everything you thought you might have known about white wine:

              Gravner Breg Anfora - barrel fermentation of ribolla(?) in large clay amphorae, buried in the ground.
              Damijan Ribolla Gialla
              Radikon Ribolla Gialla
              Movia Lunar, Slovenia
              Nicolas Joly Savennières Clos de la Coulée de Serrant
              Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - the guy still crushes by feet!

              Have fun!

              1 Reply
              1. re: mengathon

                Foot-crushed wine? You are making me want to start a wine cellar!

                I may have to start a new thread on whether that Eurocave SoWine Bar Wine Preservation System works. I would so love to come home from work and have a glass of great white wine, but even at $45 a bottle, that is very pricey for one glass.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. A little over the $100 price, Sine Qua Non.
                  2005 The Petition
                  2006 Hoodoo Man

                  1. re: Strawman

                    I was going to say, no mention of Sine Qua Non? Great call! Some great Kistler chards out there as well. -mJ

                    1. re: njfoodies

                      well if you're going in that direction (big CA chards) perhaps some Aubert or Marcassin? that said, there have already been some pretty darn good suggestions.
                      given my fondness for champagne though, I was pleased to see mengathon toss in a couple of suggestions.
                      with the still wines, and spending in the $100ish range, unless you specifically seek out an older vintage, you are quite possibly going to end up with a wine, that while quite good, perhaps astonishing, it will simply be too young. consequently, my suggestion would be to go for a very good champagne.

                      1. re: ibstatguy

                        Hmmn. I already have a bottle of 1985 René Collard Cuvée Speciale Rosé Brut for the occasion. The white wine was going to be in addition to the champagne! Perhaps we should go for a red with the champagne. Given the amount of alcohol that is being planned, I'm thinking a very leisurely lunch - French-style. It always feels deliciously wicked to drink during the day.

                        1. re: omotosando

                          omotsando - That is an excellent wine! (The Collard)... I would have reccomended a Collard had I known you had availability. Did you purchase the wine from K&L? Both red and white would work well after that Champagne, but it is a cheesy, slightly oxidized wine, so a lighter bodied white would be a bit off... of course, none of the wines anyone has suggested have been in a lighter mold, so, you're safe.

                          If I were to choose a red for an old world palate but with limited experience with $100 wines, my selection would be the 2001 Begali Amarone Monte Ca Bianca that you can order here: -- this wine is a restrained and elegant dark monster. OR I would chose the 2005 Chapoutier Chateauneuf du Pape Barbe Rac available here: -- this is a more medium-full bodied beautiful wine with Provencal herb notes... my one reservation on the CdP is that some 2005 red Chateauneufs have closed down and are no longer as beautiful as they once were and I have not had this bottle of wine in about a year.

                          The most striking red wine I've had in the past several months is the 2004 Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero which is available at the Rare Wine Company in Sonoma for $55 or at Biondivino in SF for $68. I have never smelled a more perfumed wine. It is a much lighter style of winemaking than what I think of when I think "knock your soks off" -- it is a beautiful and elegant wine with notes of violets, roses, strawberries, and fresh herb oils. It is deffinitely the type of wine a person would either *love* orbe a bit annoyed by. So I cannot reccomend it for your purposes, but I thought I would throw that out there.

                          1. re: whiner

                            Whiner, glad to hear that the Collard is worthy. I picked up a few bottles on a whim at K&L as New Year's gifts. Did not get one for myself, but gave a bottle to my father - since he hasn't opened it, we thought we would open it on his birthday.

                            Also glad to hear that a white with a champagne is not gauche. I'm either leaning toward the Beaucastel Blanc, which I can pick up locally, or the 2005 Chapoutier Chateauneuf du Pape Barbe Rac, which ships from nearby Pasadena so I know I can get it here in time for the event. The event is in one week, so I had better make up my mind.

                            1. re: whiner

                              Whiner, I ended up ordering the Chapoutier Chateauneuf du Pape Barbe Rac from Vins Rare.

                              I would still like to pick up the Beaucastel Blanc, but I wanted to have a backup on hand in case I got too busy to head out to a bricks and mortar wine store. The Chapoutier sounded intriguing, the shipping was reasonable and since it is being shipped from a local warehouse, I knew it would arrive in time. I certainly didn't want to be in a position of being rushed and having to head out to the closest wine store to pick up what they recommend -- even though my closest wine store is a high-end well known one (not K&L, which is across town - on the high end, I have enjoyed most of the wines recommended by K&L, although not some of their cheaper wines), I am generally disappointed by their recommendations and inevitably feel I have wasted good money on so-so wine.

                              Anyway, I was curious about your statement that the Chapoutier might have "closed down." I must admit that I don't know enough about wine to know what that means. Also, the Vins Rare website claims the Chapoutier is best between 2010 and 2025. I hope it isn't closed down already!

                              Also, I was wondering if you had ordered a lot from Vins Rare. Since the shipping is reasonable and many of their choices seem interesting (they have Sancerre and Vouvray which I adore, probably because the first time I ever had wine was in the Loire Valley), I thought I might order from them again in the future.

                              1. re: omotosando

                                I have not done much business with them, but I know people who have and have liked them. I was specifically looking for that wine to reccomend to you and used wine-searcher to locate them.

                                This is my tasting note for the Chapoutier from last spring:

                                Awesome. While Chapoutier totally misfired on their Cote-Rotie Mordoree in 2005 -- which they ought to make very well -- they hit the bullseye on both of thier upper-level CdPs. The Croix de Bois is what it is supposed to be -- a controled Grenache fruit bomb -- and this is what it is supposed to be; a more classicly styled CdP. The second wine fully consumed of the evening. Deep complex red-black fruits. Classic CdP notes of Provencal herbs, but not too much wet dog/barnyard. This may shut down, but right now it is second only to the 2001 Pegau as the best young CdP I've tasted. 94(+?)

                                ... The issue is that Chateauneuf du Pape tends to drink very well when young, and very well when aged a bit. But some times, in some vintages, it can go through a period where the fruit just doesn't show through. For example, the 2001 Pegau, upon release, was a 94+ point wine, imo. 2 years later, while I could tell there was potential, I thought it was a 90 point wine. Big difference. I have tasted many (maybe even the majority) of the top 2005 Chateauneuf du Papes. All of the top CdPs that I tasted in late '07 and early '08 I scored at least 93 points, with a handful, such as the Chapoutier, being better than that, imo. The *highest* I've scored a 2005 CdP since this past September, however, is also 93 points. Sadly, I have had not one single overlapping wine. By that I mean, I haven't had the same CdP in both early '08 AND late '08. Based upon track record and professional reviews, the wines I had a year ago should have been no better and no worse than the wines I had half a year ago. According to my palate, this was not bourne out and the wines I had last year *were* better. But I have no way of knowing if it was just luck that the wines I preffered were those I had earlier on, or if the vintage, as a whole, is going through an akward phase at the moment. As I said, that Chapoutier was absolutely brilliant when I had it -- it was only slightly bested by a $450 Burgundy tasted next to it, and the two were really close in quality, so that should give you some idea...

                                1. re: whiner

                                  Thanks, Winer. My Chapoutier arrived overnight for Vins Rare for only $10 shipping! That is definitely service I can believe in and beats me driving around.

                                  1. re: whiner

                                    Whiner - well, today was the birthday celebration and we ended up with the Chapoutier. I don't think I have a sophisticated enough palate to know if the wine had started to close down, but we all found it lovely, and my dad greatly admired the bottle with Chateauneuf du Pape etched into the glass. Thanks for the recommendation. By the way, my dad wanted to know what grape was used for the wine, but I couldn't tell him. (I see online that 13 different grape-varieties may be used for Chateauneuf du Pape).

                                    The 1985 René Collard Cuvée Speciale Rosé Brut was a vast disappointment. Flat, blah, not special at all. Perhaps it had "closed down." Sorry I bought it other than the nice color.

                              2. re: omotosando

                                I think you already have the wine you need...

                              3. re: ibstatguy

                                Re: CA wines. While I run hot and cold on Sine Qua Non, like Kistler, love Aubert, and go bonkers over aged Marcassins, *NONE* of those wines has any remote similarities to French or Austrian whites. (Maybe Aubert can come off as a Corton-Charlemagne on steroids, but even then that is a serious, serious, streatch).

                                I'm not a huge fan of NV Krug nor of the '99 Clos de Goisses (the '90, however, rocks my world). *IF* I went the Champagne route, I would go for a 1985 Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie, which should still be findable for about $130 or, for less money, the 1995 Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne which should be findable under $100. (The '96 Duval-Leroy Femme should be nice, too, but I haven't had it).

                                Regarding still whites, generally, it depends on which wine you are talking about. All three of my suggestions above drink well young and Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc is *best* young. (And I view Riesling like I view Champagne: unless it is really old ond over the hill or, in the case of Champagne, super-young and too tightly wound, it never really gets any better or worse over time, it just gets different and it is up to an individual's palate where he prefers to drink it.)

                                1. re: whiner

                                  Just as an ammendment to my above post. It isn't that I don't like NV Krug or the '99 Clos des Goisses. It is just that I find them both a bit too expensive for the quality they deliver. Then again, I just noticed the '99 Clos des Goisses for $105 at JJ Buckley, which does seem closer to where I would value it.

                                  Still, though, I gotta say, that '85 Collard Rose that OP picked up -- I probably prefer that to either. And it is only $80 at K&L.

                                  1. re: whiner

                                    Good point about the prices. I've found the '99 Clos des Goisses for $100, and the Krug Grande Cuvée at $120. Would I buy either at $140 or $165, respectively? You're right, probably not.

                                  2. re: whiner

                                    whiner - I agree with you that the Aubert and Marcassins aren't at all like French or Austiran whites, I was just taking off from the prior post that suggested SQN. I'll stick to my suggestion re champagnes though. I won't debate the still wine/aging issue as you have made some valid points but I think that the subject could be worthy of further discussion.

                                    regards, Tony

                                    1. re: ibstatguy

                                      for calif...i do agree with sqn. just had hoodoo man and loved it!
                                      also love aubert and kongsggard!