As you know, I owned Esquin Wine Merchants from 1969 to 1997. During those years European wines were the mainstays of our business: French, German, Italian, a bit of Spanish and Portuguese (Sherry, Port). Today, under the present owners, European wines play an important role and they do a great job with them. European wines were my first loves. Here are some wines from Esquin that we have tried recently and love.
2017 Jean-Philippe Fichet Rully Blanc ($36.99) - Iridescent lemon-gold colored, this Chardonnay from the Côte Chalonnais possesses floral aromas of pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The flavors are bright and vivid, with white fruits dancing on the palate, accompanied by notes of peach stones, pear skin and flinty minerals. The resonance continues on the back with poire William and pêche liqueurs, almond and lemon zest, followed by a lingering, persistently minerally finish. This is a real find. 19/20 points.
2016 Domaine Moutard-Diligent Chablis ($24.99) - From a respected grower in Chablis, this Chardonnay shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and typical Chablis aromas of Bosc pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and gunflint. The flavors are crisp and vibrant, with white fruits that are imbued with grape and pear skins and saline minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire and pêche liqueurs and lemon zest, followed by a dry yet finely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Regis Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($23.99) - From a grower in Marsannay at the north end of the Côte d'Or, this wine shows a brick red color and a typical varietal nose of wild strawberries, red cherries, red currants, red roses, tobacco leaf, fennel and whiffs of incense. The flavors are engaging as well, with supple red fruits that are imbued with red licorice, milk chocolate, medium roast coffee and earth. The back picks up gently pressed berries, mocha, fraise and cassis liqueurs and toast, followed by a slightly grainy moderate tannin finish. This is what the French call a vin du plaisir. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune Villages ($38.99) - From a respected Beaune negociant, this offers a brick red color and rich aromas of strawberry, cherry, red currant, red roses, sweet tobacco and sweet incense. The medium bodied flavors are deliciously rich and velvety, yet substantial, with definite Burgundian Pinot Noir character, accompanied by notes of red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and a touch of dusty earth. On the back, the wine fleshens out with sensations of fraise and creme de cassis liqueurs and toasted nuts, and then drifts into a satiny moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Domaine Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ($43.99) - Composed of cold fermented 45% Grenache Blanc, 30% Clairette, 20% Bourboulenc and 5% barrel fermented Roussanne, this shows an iridescent gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, white peach, honeydew melon, citrus, anise and white incense. The flavors are forceful yet finely tuned, with vivid white fruits dancing on the palate, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and cobblestone minerals. On the back, the wine turns richly textured, with sensations of poire and pêche liqueurs, marzipan, lemon zest and lees (from extended contact) followed by a lingering persistently minerally finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Pélaquie Lirac ($15.99) - Lirac is situated across the river from Tavel. This 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre combination shows a deep ruby color and and rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, black currant, black plum, black roses, mulberry, garrigue, cracked pepper and incense. The flavors are direct and generous, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast, earth and minerals. On the back, the wine thickens, with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, burnt charcoal, lanolin and a bit of leather, followed by a ripe sweet-dry tannin finish. Excellent value. 18+/20 points.
2017 Brotte Gigondas, "La Marasque" ($27.99) - Predominately Grenache with some Syrah, this shows a ruby-crimson color and enticing aromas of raspberry. pomegranate, black currant, black roses, tobacco, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with thick black and red fruits that are intermixed with licorice root, cola, roasted coffee beans and Dentelles de Montmirial minerals. On the back, a chewy texture emerges, with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, framboise and cassis liqueurs and touches of leather and charcoal, followed by a satisfying spiced moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Crous Saint Martin Châteauneuf du Pape "Hommage à l'an 1879" ($34.99) - This is a repeat from the posting of 17 March, but we liked it so much, we bought more. Ruby-crimson colored, it emits inviting aromas of blackberries, cherries, pomegranates, black currants, brambles, crushed roses, sandalwood and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and generous, yet deep and forceful, with lavish red and blue fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The wine thickens on the back with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, kirsch, crème de cassis and charcoal, followed by a long sweetish tannin finish. 80% Grenache, 10% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Tastes like a $50 CdP for $35. 19/20 points.
2017 Oliver Dumaine Crozes-Hermitage, "La Croix du Verre" ($27.99) - This North Rhone 100% Syrah displays a semi opaque ruby-crimson color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberries, black cherries, black currants, black roses, pipe tobacco, lavender, rosemary and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with bold, up front black fruits that are direct and true to variety, infused with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and riverside earth and minerals. The saturation continues on the back with macerated fruits, roasted nuts and burnt charcoal, followed by a savory sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba ($18.99) - This is a tasty young Dolcetto. It shows a typical purplish color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, tobacco, field herbs and incense. The flavors are pleasingly rich and generous, with red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and Alban hills minerals. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured, with pressed sweetish ("dolce") yet dry fruits and touches of almond paste and pencil shavings, followed by a ripe dry finish. A pasta and pizza wine. 18+/20 points.
2018 Vietti Dolcetto d'Alba, "Tre Vigne" ($21.99) - Purplish ruby colored, this wine emits rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry, currant, red roses, field herbs, anise and wood smoke. The flavors are ripe and fruit forward, with notes of red licorice, cola, black tea and hillside minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, roasted hazelnuts, cherry and currant liqueurs and a bit of graphite, followed by a sweetish ("dolce") yet dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Vietti Barbera d'Alba, "Tre Vigne" ($26.99) - This shows a deep ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed red roses, mulberry, tobacco, oregano and wood smoke. The red fruit flavors are bright and vigorous, with notes of red licorice, bittersweet chocolate and Alban hillside minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, tart cherries (a trait of Barbera) and roasted hazelnuts, followed by a juicy sweet-dry moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Vietti Barolo "Castiglione" ($58.99) - The Vietti single vineyard bottlings will cost you $200 a bottle, but this multi vineyard blend delivers a lot at a fraction of that. It exhibits a deep ruby-garnet color and an intoxicating nose of semi-dried fruits - raspberries, cherries, plums, figs, orange peel - with scents of crushed dried roses, tobacco leaf, road tar (a trait of Barolo Nebbiolo), sandalwood, dried violets and smoldering incense. The flavors are classically styled and medium full-bodied, with semi dried fruits that are infused with licorice root, bittersweet chocolate, espresso and Castiglione hills earth. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of dried berries, roasted hazelnuts, recurring orange peel, and graphite, followed by a long, long sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Marqués de Murrietta Rioja Reserva, "Finca Ygay" ($20.99) - This is another repeat, but I put it in here because it's such a great buy (regular: $25.99). Composed of 80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 6% Mazuela and 2% Garnacha, it shows a ruby-garnet color and rich, smoky aromas of raspberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with ample yet focused fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and earth. The back picks up roasted berries and touches of almonds and American oak, followed by a ripe, moderate sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
Dow's 10 Year Tawny Port ($34.99) - This comes from a highly respected Oporto House. Hold it to the light and it shows a distinct tawny edge. The aromas are rich and sultry, with scents of semi-dried fruits - cherry, plum, fig - dried roses and orange peel. The sweetish entry gives way to fruits that have gained complexity from the ten year sojourn in oak. On the back, the wine enriches with notes of roasted nuts, dried orange peel and dried cherries, followed by a long sweet-dry finish. 19/20 points.