Buehler 2008 Napa Cab

Buehler Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet SauvignonThe first time I had the Buehler Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was the 2001 vintage, an excellent year for Napa Cabs. Wine Spectator gave the 2001 Buehler 91 points, and said it would drink until 2012. Our case is long gone, so I can neither confirm nor deny this prediction. I remember it as a solid wine — not on par with some of my favorite reasonably priced cabs like Chappellet and Whitehall Lane, but very enjoyable just the same.

Buehler is a relatively small producer — typical production is only a couple thousand cases. And so, for whatever reasons, I just haven’t come across it since. Then about a week ago I received an email that the 2008, another great California Cab vintage, was on special at WineShopper for $15.99. In August 2011, Robert Parker gave it 90 points:

A real steal and one of the greatest sleepers I have tasted from Napa (the Mecca for expensive Cabernet Sauvignons) is Buehler’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from their vineyards in Napa Valley. There are only 1,800 cases of this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, so this offering is likely to disappear quickly from the marketplace. It offers a dark ruby/purple-tinged color, abundant black currant, licorice and smoky tobacco leaf characteristics, medium to full body, a supple, velvety style and impressive purity, texture and length. Consume it over the next 10+ years.

As I recall I paid more than $16 ten years ago! So I figured I’d pick up half a case and re-acquaint myself. All I can say is wow! This is a terrific wine for the money. I should have bought a case. If you can find some, give it a try.

Latest Wine Finds

Sometime in March, the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits stores sent an email advertising “March Gladness” specials. All the specials were available for order on the internet only, but then delivered to your local retail store at no charge. Among the discounted items were two absolute bargains.

Whitehall Lane Cabernet SauvignonThe first bargain was the Whitehall Lane 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (California). Whitehall Lane is a perennially good cabernet. Normally it retails for between $35 and $45 a bottle, and so, for obvious budgetary reasons has not made too many appearance in my wine cellar since becoming a Ph.D. student. However, discounted to $19.99 a bottle, it is an absolute steal. Although 2004 was not a crowning achievement for Whitehall Lane, there is nothing disappointing about this wine. Expecting it would be worth every penny, I splurged and picked up a case — we have not been disappointed.

In some ways, my second bargain was both a bigger leap into the unknown, and yet, an even safer bet. The Rolf Binder 2004 “Hales” Shiraz Barossa Valley (Australia) normally retails in the $25 to $30 range, though you can find it discounted for $18 to $22. However, the state store was offering it for $7.99 a bottle. Robert Parker rated the wine 90 points, and described it as:

An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. It was aged for 12 months in French and American oak; 10% of the latter was new. It offers an enticing bouquet of wood-smoke, earth, bacon, and blueberry. Supple-textured, plush, and friendly, it has gobs of flavor, excellent grip and length, and enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years. Drink it through 2016. (Source: Wine Advocate, August 2008 as cited on WiredForWine.com)

Rolf Binder "Hales" ShirazA Robert Parker 90 point wine for $8!?!? Despite never having tasted other vintages of Rolf Binder, I settled on 2-1/2 cases — enough in case it was good, not too much in case it wasn’t all that. Suffice to say I should have bought more like 5 cases. This is an amazingly complex and well integrated wine. It has a very lush mouth feel, a long finish, and lots of fine tannins. For $8!?!? Amazing. Also, as I know some people who are not huge fans of shiraz, it is worth mentioning that this wine feels more like a cabernet than a shiraz.


Altaïr Sideral Rapel Valley Chile 2003

Altaïr Sideral Rapel Valley Chile 2003
$16.99 — 88 ST | 91 WA

Source: AltairWines.com
Source: AltairWines.com


The Altaïr Sideral Rapel Valley Chile 2003 is a gorgeous blend comprised of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 6% Shiraz.  This wine is big all around.  The color is an intense and opaque dark red.  On the nose there are aromas of charcoal, spice and cigar tobacco.  On the palate the wine has a lush and full feeling with nice tannins and a hint of oak.  The finish is long and complex.  Overall this is a well-integrated wine that is drinking very well right now — and one that I suspect would be quite amazing if you could manage to keep it around long enough to find out.

However, that could be difficult!  Indeed, after picking up a case of this wine at the local Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits store about a month ago, we’ve already gone through the first half a case!  And we have not been disappointed.  At $16.99 this wine is on the high end of what I like to spend for everyday drinking, but given the increasing difficulty of finding wines with a Robert Parker / Wine Advocate rating of 91 points under $20 I decided it was worth the splurge.  By comparison the best price I could find on Wine Access was $23.99 at Gary’s in Madison, NJ, a well-known discount wine merchant. 

Bodegas El Nido Clio 2003

Bodegas El Nido Clio 2003
$78.99 — 92 ST | 96 WA | 90 WS

Bodegas El Nido Clio 2003

Bodegas El Nido Clio 2003

The bad news is that the wine cellar is in desperate need of a multi-case infusion of wine. The good news is that lurking in the nooks and crannies are some forgotten gems.  Specifically, last night in my quest for something interesting, I rediscovered a stash of Bodegas El Nido Clio Jumilla Spain 2003.  As best I can recall, it has been at least 2 years since I last had a bottle of this fabulous wine.

As some of you may know, the Clio is the lower priced sibling of the Nido. Although the Nido has a release price of more than $130 a bottle, at its release the Clio usually runs between $35 and $40, and is typically rated only one or two points lower. In other words you get nearly all the bang for way less buck. And this is a wine that perenially wins high marks from Robert Parker and others.  For example, Robert Parker / Wine Advocate ratings for the 2002, 2004 and 2005 vintages have been 93, 97 and 95 points respectively.

No exception to this trend, the 2003 was rated a whopping 96 points. According to my records I paid about $35 a bottle several years ago (that was before life on a Ph.D. budget). Today, I found it in stock at Wine.com for $79 a bottle, and elsewhere for $99 to $119 a bottle.  It appears that “wine” may be the single best asset class I own in terms of five-year return on investment 🙂

Anyway, the wine is 70% Monastrell (61 year old vines) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon (26 year old vines) and a huge 15.5% alcohol.  According to Robert Parker, the Clio spent 26 months in a combination of French and American oak.  The Clio 2003 has a deep, thick and intense purple color.  Aromas are of creme de cassis and licorice, along with some toasty/leathery notes. On the palate the wine was lush and opulent, very complex, and still full of fruit. This wine is a real mouthful. And the finish was easily over 30 seconds. The wine is drinking very, very well right now, and shows no signs of running out of life.

I plan on having another bottle tonight in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  Cheers!

3 Wines Under $10

Over the holiday I took three wines, each of which cost $10 or less, to one of the family gatherings.  The wines included:

Arthur Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles California 2006 — $9.99

Nine x Nine Zinfandel Lodi California 2006 — $9.99

Bodega Norton Malbec Barrel Select Mendoza Argentina 2006 — $8.99

I had high hopes for all three, especially the Arthur Hills, as finding a decent California Cab for $10 has become almost impossible. Unfortunately, my search continues. The Arthur Hills was by far the worst of the three wines. It had a bizarre nose — think some combination of rotting organic matter and petrol. On the palate it was watery thin with flavors of strawberries — but of a decidedly artifical nature. At any rate, not what you want from a Cab. In short, this is one of the worst wines I can recall drinking in a long while. After a few sips, it went down the drain. It looks like the Gun Bun Cab gets to retain its title as the best California Cab under $15.

Next up was the Nine x Nine Zin. I was hoping for perhaps an alternative to Renwood or Dancing Bull. Certainly for $10 I had no expectations of Ridge… Alas, for me, this wine was also a disappointment. Mind you, it was not so visibly flawed as the Arthur Hills, but it was still just a bit beyond the borderline of acceptable. Of course, in wine as so many other things opinions vary; one of the other wine enthusiasts at the party thought it wasn’t so bad.

The third of the three turned out to be the best. The Norton Malbec was fragrant on the nose and full and lush in the mouth. It would benefit from a bit more grip on the palate and a little less ripenness, but overall, this was a drinkable wine. I have also recommended this wine to some friends who reported back that they enjoyed it very much. Although the Norton will never be mistaken for Kaiken, it is perfectly adequate for social gatherings and everyday drinking.

Two To Try

In addition to the Gun Bun Cab, we had two other noteworthy wines this past weekend.

Kaiken Ultra Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2006
$12.99 — 91 WA | 90 WS

Kaiken Ultra Malbec

Source: KaikenWines.com

First, the Kaiken Ultra Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2006 ($12.99).  A-ma-zing.  Robert Parker rated this wine 91 points.  Loads of fruit and a long long finish.  At $13 this wine is a screaming value.

“The 2006 Ultra Malbec was aged for 12 months in French oak. The oak influence is apparent in the attractive perfume which also has notes of violets, black cherry and a hint of chocolate. This is followed by a structured wine that will benefit from 2-3 years of additional bottle age. The fruit is mouth-filling and has good depth and the firm finish lasts for more than 45 seconds.”  Source: KaikenWines.com

In addition to the 91 points from Robert Parker, the Kaiken Ultra Malbec also scored 90 points from Wine Spectator.  Visit the Kaiken Wines website for more reviews.

Second, our neighbors Wes and Michelle brought over the Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Alexander Valley 2005.  This was another outstanding wine.  Everything you expect from a California Cabernet.

Gun Bun Cab 2005

Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Sauvignon Block 13 Sonoma County California 2005

Gun Bun Cabernet Sauvignon Block 13

Gun Bun Cabernet Sauvignon Block 13

We had the Gun Bun Cabernet Sauvignon Block 13 over the weekend.  Wow!  This is the best California Cabernet for under $15 I can recall having in a long while.

BTW, next time you are touring Napa or Sonoma, I highly recommend that you include Gundlach Bundschu on your wine tasting itinerary.  The setting is idyllic and the people are decidedly inviting.  When we lived in Cali in the late 1990s they hosted a summer Shakespeare festival on an open air stage.  People would bring blankets and picnic lunches and drink lots of Gun Bun wine.