Baron de Ley 2010 Rioja Reserva, Decanter 95+, $18.97

Due to its 95-point score at just $18.97, we've had this one targeted for tasting since discovery. It certainly has not disappointed and, at under $20 this wine way over delivers. I'd be impressed by this wine in the $30 - $40 range.

From a decanting perspective, I'd recommend being on point at 25 minutes to nose the wine and take a few test sips over about 10 minutes to the 35 minute mark when I'd start slowly enjoying the wine.

We poured this wine in a decanter and violently agitated it washing-machine-style for about 5 minutes to get it going. The initial nose sported cold dry chocolate, blueberry, blackberry, pencil lead, and cool dry herbs (not quite spearmint or wintergreen, but slightly cool). On the palate, there's a generous delivery of blue and black fruits along with notions of the other mentioned components.

25 minutes in, there's are additional components of chalk and black plum skins with a very slight tartness that allude to a slightly red-fruit aspect. 

At 32 minutes, the wine is really opening, becoming a harmonious melding of the aforementioned scents and flavors while offering up new complexities. If you are not into this wine by now, you're late to the party.

Plum, cedar, blackberries, and violets are stirring around the nose as the aforementioned scents and flavors are melding with slightly raisinated black plum with slight hints of red brightness emerging and taking the complexity of fruit to an extremely liberal range. Eventually, I become convinced that the red-fruit nuances are convicted in offering up a dark cherry that puts the fruit range of this wine in a truly dynamic range spanning the entire red-blue-black spectrum.

The generous multi-faceted complexity of fruit, herbs, wood, mineral, floral, and other components is beyond impressive for the price. The delivery of flavors in the mouth is expansive, the concentration is impressive, and, again, complexity is beyond what you'd expect.

This is a big winner...

- Tasho Katsaboulas & Jimm Brumley tasting.

This article was published on April 29, 2016

Aquinas 2013 Pinot Noir, Napa, 95 Points Wine Review, $21.98

Pinot Noir this impressive is beyond rare around $20. Jimm and I (Tasho) were amazed as the 2013 Aquinas Pinot over delivered with extreme excess making many Pinots at two to three times the price look bad! 

Importantly, it can't be stressed enough that this wine demands 35 minutes of decanting before it will begin delivering its riches. Immediately after pouring the wine into your decanter, please set an alarm for 35 minutes because you won't want to miss any stage of this dynamic wine! At 35+ minutes, this wine remarkably broadens and becomes intensely aromatic. 

The initial slightly darker fruit flavors of black raspberry, plum, and black cherry begin to work themselves into a high-pitched frenzy of bright red-fruit flavors featuring cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, and cranberry skins delivered with a sensational citrus-fruit juiciness that's like Mandarin orange! The incredibly bright acidic energy results in some of the fruit flavors displaying a tartness that interestingly contrasts a slight sappiness similar to that of candied-apple coating (wine is dry). Plus, an incredible array of aromas and nuances make this an absorbing wine. Roasted vanilla, eucalyptus, purple flowers, graphite, spice (distant clove), fine French oak, and a pleasant earthiness are all delivered on the long mouth-watering finish! For those patient enough to allow full development, blueberry flavors further complicate the array of red-fruit flavors after an hour and fifteen minutes or so. 

This wine is the epitome of a holiday-food-friendly wine; however, the wine is so nuanced that it's a shame to introduce the distraction of food flavors. Importantly, because this wine demands 35 minutes of decanting followed by very slow enjoyment over the next 45+ minutes to allow full development, it's best enjoyed alone or with one friend. If you taste with four, get a couple of bottles and decant them simultaneously in a large decanter.

Because this wine retails for just $21, I was skeptical of Wine Review's 95 point review. However, this dominant Pinot delivers a spectacular parade of flavors with remarkable energy, a silky mouthfeel, and a long elegant finish that has me on board! I would love to see this Pinot in a blind tasting against this year's very best $50+ Pinots.

-Tasho Katsaboulas

This article was published on December 10, 2015