Close Menu

US releases on La Place – full tasting notes

Tasting his way through the US releases included in the September hors Bordeaux campaign, db’s Colin Hay finds some top notch wines – including a 100-point scoring Vérité Le Désir, 2012 and a 99-point scoring Morlet Coeur de Valléea 2020. Here is his verdict. 

Morlet was the top scoring US wine from the 2020 vintage

Californian releases (red)

Vintage Region 1st release? Rating
Morlet Coeur de Vallée 2020 Napa No 99
Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 Napa No 93
Inglenook Rubicon 2020 Napa No 94
Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Yes 96
Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Yes 98
Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour 2020 Napa No 96
Paul Hobbs Cristina’s Signature 2020 Napa Yes 98
Quintessa 2020 Napa No 97
Favia Coombsville 2020 Napa No 97
Favia Cerro Sur 2014 Napa No 96
Maya 2020 Napa No 97
Au Paradis (Peter Michael) 2020 Sonoma No 96
Les Pavots (Peter Michael) 2020 Sonoma No 97
Pym Rae (Tesseron Estate) 2019 Napa No 98
Vérité Le Désir 2012 Sonoma No 100
Vérité Le Désir 2015 Sonoma No 99
Vérité Le Désir 2019 Sonoma No 100
L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2020 Paso Robles No 96
L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2017 Paso Robles No 97
L’Aventure Optimus 2020 Paso Robles No 94
Quintessa 2014 Napa No NYT
Quintessa 2017 Napa No NYT
Pym Rae (Tesseron Estate) 2019 Napa No 98
Favia Cerro Sur 2014 Napa No 96
Vérité Le Désir 2012 Sonoma No 100
Vérité Le Désir 2015 Sonoma No 99
Vérité Le Désir 2019 Sonoma No 100
L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2020 Paso Robles No 96
L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2017 Paso Robles No 97
L’Aventure Optimus 2020 Paso Robles No 94
Oregon releases Vintage Region 1st release? Rating
*Appassionata Fortissimo (Ernst Loosen) 2012 Oregon Yes 94

* – an exclusivity of the négociant CVBG

Morlet Coeur de Vallée 2020 (Oakville, Napa Valley; 94% Cabernet Sauvignon; 6% Cabernet Franc; 15.7% alcohol). Just lovely and so utterly impressive in the context of the challenges of the vintage. Cedar. Rose petals freshly collected and pounded in a pestle and mortar to intensify their aromatic profile. Peonies too. Patchouli candles. Wow. The florality is fabulous. Sloes and damsons, fresh plums and plump brambles, blackberries and mulberries. A lovely complexity to the fruit signature and an exquisite texture in the mouth to match. Gloriously refined, soft, lithe and tense. Sumptuous, almost sinuous and with supreme elegance and finesse. One of the genuine stars of the September releases. 99.

Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (Rutherford, Napa Valley; 98.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 1.5 Merlot; 14.2% alcohol). Tasted twice, this note largely drawn from the second tasting. Very sunny. This feels immediately like a warm vintage new world wine. Initially, a little baked, but with aeration and, above all the second time, the saline notes lift this. More interesting on the palate and fresher, but still a little un-delineated. Big. Bold. Broad. Punchy. Iron-rich. Rather chewy and the tannins will need a long time to resolve. There’s just enough freshness here, but there’s no mistaking the heat of the summer. 93.

Inglenook Rubicon 2020 (Rutherford, Napa Valley; 91% Cabernet Sauvignon; 9% Merlot; 14.1% alcohol). Quite oaky on the nose. Rich and, again, lacking a bit of acidity. More taut and tense than the Cabernet Sauvignon and the tannins are softer and more refined. But the mid-palate remains something of an unresolved block. Black chocolate. Plum, plum skin and blackcurrant pips. The tannins grip well and give this much more shape in the mouth, despite the evident density and concentration. They achieve a certain layering and some complexity but there’s little sense of evolution and delineation over the palate for now. One senses this was a difficult vintage. Give this time and it will resolve but you’d rather have the 2019 I think. 94.

Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Napa; 77% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12% Petit Verdot; 8% Malbec; 3% Merlot; pH 3.78; 14.5% alcohol; first released in March). Plump and luxuriant, with damson, plum, red and black cherry fruit. Lithe and tense, quite floral and with a lovely wild herbal element too, a hint of bay leaf. On the palate this is gracious and nicely compact, with a well-defined central spine. This is sweet spiced with quite prominent oak influence. There’s incense, camphor and tar, but also a fresher green peppercorn note. Impressively pure, too, on the long and rolling intensely sapid tannins. 96.

Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2019. (Napa; 95% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Petit Verdot; pH 3.79; 14.5% alcohol; first released in March). Opaque at the core. So dense, compact and concentrated, but with no sensation of this having been pushed. A lovely florality – violet and lavender notes radiate from the glass and infuse the mid-palate too, which is, in turn, crystalline and velvety in texture. The oak use is more subtle and subdued, with just a delicate hint of expensive vanilla (a single pod in a glass tube). There’s a note of hoisin and some slightly ferrous mineral elements; crushed rock too – in short, nice terroir characteristics from this single vineyard expression. Above all, though, this is fabulous texturally, with lovely grippy, fine-grained tannins. The wine is built around a tight cool core of intense dark berry fruit. Top Napa in a top vintage. 98.

Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour 2020 (Napa Valley; 93% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7% Petit Verdot; 14.7% alcohol). Fine. A little closed at first. Leather. Cordite, tar and wood smoke (an explosive cocktail). Intense dark berry fruit. Lifted. Dense, compact and hyper-concentrated but lively and energetic too. I like this more than I used to. It builds and builds as it sucks in the air and gains in intensity. Massive but not tiringly so. 96.

Paul Hobbs Cristina’s Signature 2020 (Nathan Coombs Estate, Coombsville, Napa Valley; 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% alcohol). A new wine (or at least a new identity for this wine) and an exciting new release for la place from this Napa (and Mendoza) superstar. Oaky, yes. But. wow, what complexity! The parfumier’s essences of flowers – a little like Morley Coeur de Vallée – but with more rose and less peony. Incredibly concentrated. Very cassis. Liquorice – red and black. Earthy notes. A touch of sous bois. Raspberry purée. Very fine-grained and supremely gentle tannins. Tight to the spine and hyper-structured. Lovely grip, rippling the edges of the wine as it courses over the palate triggering, as it does so, the release of an intense sapidity. A truly exceptional wine, above all in the context of this vintage. It manages an almost delicate finish which is remarkable for a wine with such power. Vanilla in the empty glass. 98.

Quintessa 2020 (Napa Valley; 87% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7% Cabernet Franc; 4% Carménère; 2% Petit Verdot; 14.5% alcohol). Beeswax and lovely pure cedar and cassis notes. A nice sense of freshness and lift. Impressive. A fresh leafiness too. This is really fresh for the vintage and excellent with it. Nicely chiselled and contoured in the mouth and with a gracious transition to an ultra-sapid finish. Great intensity and not at the expense of the freshness. 97.

Favia Coombsville 2020 (Napa Valley; 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% alcohol). Oaky and quite sweet-tinged. Raspberry and loganberry, coconut and vanilla. Liquid chocolate. Spicy, incredibly compact and intense and very impressive in its density and purity. This evolves graciously over the palate and is very long on the finish. Incredibly fine-grained tannins. Texturally viscous but so fresh too. Such a baby but a monster too – baby Godzilla. 97.

Favia Cerro Sur 2014 (Coombsville, Napa Valley; 85% Cabernet Franc; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol; the winemaker here is Andy Erickson). This is expressive, elegant and yet quite delicate too. Despite the rather higher proportion of Cabernet Franc, this has almost something of a warm vintage Pomerol character to it. Rose petals, lilac, wilted blackberry and blueberry, tobacco leaf, a hint of chanterelles mushroom, white truffle and the dusty leather armchair in the corner of the staffroom. Cool and refined on the palate, with soft and gentle tannins and a voluptuous mouthfeel. This is absolutely ready to be drunk and rather lovely. 96.

Maya 2020 (Napa Valley; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). The second release of this wine on la place. Intensely floral. Violet and crushed, concentrated petals. Lithe. Tender and tense, with lovely freshness from the Cabernet’s leafiness. Picked just at the right point. Intense. Very harmonious, with a gracious sense of evolution as the cedar and floral elements combine and reinforce one another. This seems to manage the challenges of the vintage so well. 97.

Au Paradis (Peter Michael) 2020 (Oakville, Napa Valley; 96% Cabernet Sauvignon; 3% Merlot; 1% Cabernet Franc; 15.9% alcohol). From a rather warmer vineyard than Les Pavots on a rocky volcanic iron-rich soil that brings a distinct rich, spicy, saline and ferrous minerality to this from the outset. Very different from the more subtle and floral Les Pavots, this is much richer, more plump and intense but with the same precision and purity. The mid-palate is incredibly dense and compact and, for now at least, this feels a little foursquare. It just needs time, more so than its finer and more accessible sibling. Powerful stuff, but with Peter Michael’s signature poise and balance too. 96.

Les Pavots (Peter Michael) 2020 (Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California; 83% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% Merlot; 3% Petit Verdot; 15.7% alcohol). Soft, caressing and stylish on the expressive nose. There’s a lovely delicacy to the violet and peony florality generously woven around and intermingling with the blue and black berry and stone fruits. A little touch of wild rosemary too. All very enticing. In the mouth the tannins are incredibly gentle, ultra-fine-grained and yet not inconsiderable. The wine is deceptively dense and compact with the softness of the tannins serving to disguise the power at first. But in the end, and with more air, there’s no mistaking the sheer depth and concentration of this wine. It’s rather more Margaux aromatically and Pauillac on the palate! Refined and elegant despite its power and concentration, this is a most exciting new release on la place. 97.

Pym Rae (Tesseron Estate) 2019 (Mount Veeder, Napa Valley; 80% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Merlot; the vineyard is at an altitude of around 550 metres; 15% alcohol; certified organic and biodynamic). The fourth vintage of this wine and the first to be certified both organic and biodynamic. This is also, impressively, the product of dry farming, showing that it is possible even here. This is radiantly beautiful, incredibly elegant and profoundly floral on the nose. It seems delicate yet at the same time is intense and thoroughly captivating aromatically. In its earlier vintages the minerality seemed to dominate, drowning out the florality. We now a glorious equilibrium with all the notes in subtle harmony. Cherry and confit cherry, peonies and rose petals, candlewax and a touch of cedar. The tannins are sublimely soft, yet the grip and chisel the wine through the glacial and crystal pure mid-palate. The most exquisite expression of Napa Cabernet. So juicy on the finish and such an excellent advert for viticulture practiced here. 98.

Vérité Le Désir 2012 (Sonoma County; 64% Cabernet Franc; 24% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; 4% Malbec; the winemaker is, of course, Pierre Seillan). Part of a mixed case of 1 bottle each of Le Désir 2012, 2015 and 2019. There is also a similar historic release of La Muse from the 2013, 2016 and 2018 vintages (not tasted). Utterly beguiling and deeply sensuous as only Le Désir can be. Lovely cedary notes, lots of graphite and an incredibly fresh and vibrant Cabernet Franc florality. This seems so incredibly youthful. Grace, elegance and so much subtle disguise to its power. Just wonderful. Tender, taut and utterly brilliant. 100.

Vérité Le Désir 2015 (Sonoma County; 64% Cabernet Franc; 27% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 4% Malbec; the winemaker is, of course, Pierre Seillan). Floral, yes, but less vibrantly so than either the 2012 or the 2019. This is also a little more taut and a little more closed – it’s calling for your decanter, your best glassware and a little of your patience! The Cabernet Franc is rather more leafy than immediately floral – though there is a subtle hint of rose petal – and that seems to accentuate and underscore the plump juicy dark berry notes. There’s a little wild lavender and rosemary too and, of course, a touch of cedar. On the palate this unfurls at a glacial pace and has the most sublime crystalline clarity and precision – a mirror pool of cool Cabernet excellence. As that implies, this is fantastically fresh and gorgeously understated. Decant or hold a little longer, a wine to venerate. 99.

Vérité Le Désir 2019 (Sonoma County; 83% Cabernet Franc; 8% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Malbec; the winemaker is, of course, Pierre Seillan). Wow. Just wow. This is divine and exactly how one imagines Le Désir in its youth. Cedar. Graphite. The perfect fresh florality that immediately tells you that this is Cabernet Franc from the finest of terroirs and in the hands of a craftsman. Poise, balance, harmony but also a wondrous sense of structural detail. It’s broad at first, but then the finest of fine-grained tannins tempt and tease the fruit, drawing it back to the spine and in the process unleashing waves of succulent freshness and more and more of those leafy floral Cabernet Franc elements. I’ve tasted this before and I really hope to taste it again. So tender, so taut, so utterly special – and with that disguised intensity that is the signature of this wine. 100.

L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2017 (Paso Robles; 49% Syrah; 30% Cabernet Sauvignon; 21% Petit Verdot; 1800 cases produced). There’s actually less Syrah in the blend here but this is the spiciest of the three wines in the current release. Incense, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon and a lovely crushed and candied violet florality. There’s a touch of eucalyptus and fresh mint, blood orange and mandarin rind too. What is so impressive is how young this feels, the only indication of the age being the sense of integration of the various elements. The spicing gently reinforced the florality which, again, is note quite what you would imagine. Original, distinctive and captivating. Also a fabulous expression and quite a radical interpretation of its terroir. 97.

L’Aventure Estate Cuvée 2020 (Paso Robles; 45% Syrah; 40% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Petit Verdot; Michel Rolland is the consultant here and it was he who suggested the planting of the Petit Verdot). This is the first time I have tasted this and it’s not quite what I expected. The Petit Verdot seems to act as diplomatic negotiator between the Syrah and the Cabernet Sauvignon producing a wonderful kind of alchemy. This is more restrained and initially more closed than Optimus. But it is very elegant and refined. Cedar, violet, a little dark pen ink, graphite and assorted dark berry and stone fruits, just a little spice. The minerality is striking – hyper-saline with a little hint of the rusty gate too. There is impressive density and concentration in the mid-palate and very fine-grained glossy tannins. Tight. Taut. Impressive. 96.

L’Aventure Optimus 2020 (Paso Robles; 58% Syrah; 31% Cabernet Sauvignon; 11% Petit Verdot). Limpid and glossily textured, this is direct, plump, rich and spicy. This is smoky with plenty of mineral character. We have a little matchstick, maybe a hint of incense, nutmeg and cinnamon toast, grilled almonds and frangipane accompanying the baked plums, damsons and mulberries. A little cracked peppercorn too. Plump and plush on the palate, but never too ample or rich, the tight frame accentuating the sense of both shape and interest in the mouth and also the impression of depth and concentration. Chewy on the finish with the tannins showing their grain. The Petit Verdot brings a lot of additional interest to this. 94.

Appassionata Fortissimo 2012 (Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, Oregon; 100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% alcohol; from Ernst ‘Erni’ Loosen). I was initially a little sceptical about the holding back of this wine for a decade in bottle prior to release, but I’m much more convinced having tasted the wine – which is impressively, and remarkably youthful. That said, it seems a shame not to have been able to follow just a little the early evolution and better to understand the wine for so doing, but there is no mistaking the quality here. Rich, plump, deep, dense and round, yet fresh, lithe, refined and, above all, layered and complex. Baked plums, baking spices, oak smoke but also fresher notes of red and white currant, girolles and white truffle, pine needles and pine resin, eucalyptus and salty black liquorice. A fascinating wine, true to its fortissimo epithet but refined with it. Long and gently tapering on the finish. All of that said, I would have liked to taste this before the secondary notes had started to develop. It also feels to be, just a little, that the naming of this wine (as fortissimo) has perhaps contributed just a little too much to its style – is  fortissimo necessarily a virtue in itself in a wine, I find myself asking. But this is very good nonetheless. 94.

Californian releases (white)

Vintage Region New? Rating
Inglenook Blancaneaux 2021 Napa No 95
Quintessa Illumination 2022 Napa & Sonoma No 93

Inglenook Blancaneaux 2021 (Napa Valley; 43% Viognier; 30% Marsanne; 27% Roussanne; 13% alcohol). Philippe Bascaules from Château Margaux is the winemaking director which helps explain some of the elegance and finesse of this stylish white from Inglenook, even if there is none of Margaux’s famous Sauvignon Blanc here. Tasted in Paris just after what, for me, are the two best whites of the entire September hors Bordeaux series could have proved a challenge and I was expecting to redraft my first tasting note. But not so, or at least not significantly. This is an exquisite wine and not quite what I imagined it to be on seeing the assemblage. But Philippe Bascaules’ influence here is very clear. This is supremely lithe and fresh, absolutely bone dry (not often the case with French viognier-based wines today) and very elegant. It’s radiantly bright and sunny (‘solaire’) without any hint of sucrosity. The fruit is very pure – blood orange, mandarin, satsuma, white melon, pink grapefruit, homemade limeade and a glorious note of freshly plucked leafy thyme, a little hint of nettle too and subtlest of dusting of spices. The palate is compact and intense, that intensity reinforced by the fruit remaining tightly bound to a very linear spine and also the inherent salinity of the mineral component here. Long and very focussed, but in fact tapering little towards the finish – it’s more like a gentle fading of a pixilated image as the pixels start to blend together. Very fine indeed. 95.

Quintessa Illumination 2022 (60% from Sonoma and 40% from Napa; 50% Sauvignon Blanc Musque; 33% Sauvignon Blanc; 17% Sémillon; 14% alcohol; the winemaker here is the talented Rebekah Wineberg, her consultant is Michel Rolland). Bright. Lifted. Aerial. Pure, precise and with a nice sense of focus. Rich and full, certainly, perhaps just a little weighty. But this has just enough vertical energy to stop it becoming heavy. This is impressive but will need a little time for all the elements to come together. At the moment it feels just a little pointillist; as it ages I suspect we’ll find ourselves with something rather more ‘impressionist’ in style (from Seurat to Monet!). 93.

A note on the tasting notes:

As regular readers will know, Colin is the Bordeaux and La Place correspondent for the drinks business, whose specialism is Bordeaux, in particular, and northern Europe (especially Piedmont and Tuscany), secondarily. He argues that this should be taken in mind when it comes to his tasting notes for  regions with which he is less familiar and which he encounters primarily through La Place.

“My notes, as ever, are those of an enthusiast and a wine-lover and, for these regions above all, they are best read as such,” he says.

All of the wines were tasted either in Bordeaux at the offices of the courtiers or négociants bringing these wines to the international market, at the property itself, or in Paris, from samples sent directly from the property – and, in many cases, multiple times.

NYT – not yet tasted or re-tasting (with tasting notes to appear in a later article).

Click here for tasting notes by country: ItalySpain, France, Austria and Germany; the USA; Argentina, Chile and Uruguay; New Zealand, Australia and South Africa). 

Read more

The star releases of hors Bordeaux 2023: part 1 – The Drinks Business

The star releases of hors Bordeaux 2023: part 2 – a wake up for La Place

The star releases of hors Bordeaux 2023: part 3 – the myths, fragility and future

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No