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05.23.2006

Tasting Wilson Daniels' European Portfolio

The average wine drinker doesn't think much about distributors and importers. And why should he? There's not much need to interact with the folks behind the scenes who are responsible for getting wine into stores and restaurants where the public gets a chance to try them. Despite a lack of familiarity with this whole tier of the wine industry, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of different kinds of wine distribution companies. Just as there are different kinds of wine retailers, from the corner liquor store to the highest-end wine retailer on Madison avenue, the range of service, product quality, and focus can be vast.

Of course, just like wine stores, there are distribution companies which become renown for their selection and service, and it is to these distributors that the finest restaurants and retailers turn when they want upper echelon wines. Many of the world's finest wine estates have relationships with only a select few distributors around the world, so often there is just one go-to company for a top-end wine, at least here in the United States.

Wilson Daniels started in 1978 as a small collaboration between Win Wilson and Jack Daniels, two wine industry veterans who wanted to help smaller Napa wineries with marketing and distribution. After a few years of operation they expanded their rapidly successful portfolio to include some European estates in Burgundy. With a reputation for attention to detail and quality, as well as offering to do much more for their clients than a normal distributor (they sometimes even handle packaging, labeling, brand marketing, PR, and pricing) they have gradually established a portfolio of some of the world's greatest wines.

So. When a firm like Wilson Daniels holds a tasting event for journalists and members of the wine trade, it's always a good idea to go, if only to get an opportunity to taste wines that you might never be able to get your hands on, let alone afford.

I recently spent a rainy Spring afternoon tasting through a group of wines from a majority of their top European estates (sadly minus Domaine de la Romanée-Conti), and thought I'd share my tasting notes with you.


SPARKLING

1996 Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $300.
1999 Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Champagne, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $79.
NV Delamotte Brut Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Non-Vintage, Champagne, France. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $43.
NV Delamotte Brut Rosé Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Non-Vintage, Champagne, France. Score: 8.5. Cost: $70.


WHITES

2004 Morey-Blanc Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $55.
2003 Morey-Blanc Meursault Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $39.

2004 Morey-Blanc Meursault Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $54.
1999 Domaine Leflaive "Les Pucelles 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $222.
1999 Domaine Leflaive "Les Combettes 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $187.
2001 Domaine Leflaive "Folatières 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $143.
2001 Domaine Leflaive "Clavoillon 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $93.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet" Montagny, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $21.
2000 Morey-Blanc Morey Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Georges Faiveley Chardonnay", Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $17.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Les Villeranges" Rully Blanc, Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
1999 Domaine Leflaive "Clavoillon 1er Cru" Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5. Cost: $132.

2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Andlau" Riesling, Alsace. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Kastelberg" Riesling Grand Cru, Alsace. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Wiebelsberg" Riesling Grand Cru, Alsace. Score: 9. Cost: $38.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Moenchberg" Pinot Gris Grand Cru, Alsace. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $38.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Lerchenberg" Pinot Gris, Alsace. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Kritt" Pinot Blanc, Alsace. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $19.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Kritt" Gewürztraminer, Alsace. Score: 8.5. Cost: $27.
2004 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Clos Rebberg" Pinot Gris, Alsace. Score: 8.5. Cost: $39.

Just an additional tasting note about the Kreydenweiss wines above -- I found them all a bit low in acidity. Great flavors on most of them, but they would have been more exciting if they had more of an edge.

2004 Mastroberardino Radici Fiano, Fiano di Avellino, Italy. Score: 9. Cost: $24.
2004 Mastroberardino "NovaSerra" Greco, Greco di Tufo, Italy. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $24.

2005 Royal Tokaji Wine Company Furmint (dry), Hungary. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $14.

REDS

2004 Domaine Pierre Morey "Perrières 1er Cru" Meursault, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $110.
1998 Maison Faiveley "Les Vignerondes" Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $59.
2001 Domaine Pierre Morey "Les Tessons" Meursault, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $52.
2004 Maison Faiveley "La Combe aux Moines 1er Cru" Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $31.
1998 Maison Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $50.
2004 Maison Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $50.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Les Vignerondes" Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, France. Score: 9.5. Cost: $59.
2004 Maison Faiveley "La Framboisière Monopole" Mercurey, Burgundy, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $26.
2004 Domaine Pierre Morey "Monthelie," Burgundy, France. Score: 9. Cost: $33.
2004 Domaine Pierre Morey Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $18.
2004 Maison Faiveley "Joseph Faiveley" Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $17.
2004 Domaine Pierre Morey "Aligoté," Burgundy, France. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $14.

2003 Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss "Perrières" Red Blend, Costières de Nimes, France. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $13.

2003 Mastroberardino "Villa dei Misteri," Pompeian, Italy. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $217.
1999 Tenimenti Angelini Tenuta TreRose "Simposio" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $46.

2001 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi. Score: 9.5. Cost: $41.
1999 Tenimenti Angelini Val di Suga "Vigna Spuntali" Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9.5. Cost: $86.
2003 Tenimenti Angelini Tenuta TreRose Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9.5. Cost: $22
1999 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $77.
1997 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $80.
2001 Tenimenti Angelini Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $52.
2003 Tenimenti Angelini Tenuta TreRose "Simposio" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $53.


DESSERT

1999 Royal Tokaji Wine Company True Essencia, Hungary. Score: 9.5. Cost: $536.
1996 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "Nyulaszo" Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos, Hungary. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $83.
1995 Royal Tokaji Wine Company Aszu Essencia, Hungary. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $166.
1999 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "Betsek" Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos, Hungary. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $67.
2000 Royal Tokaji Wine Company "Red Label" Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, Hungary. Score: 9. Cost: $32.

Anyone interested in purchasing these wines would do well to check with Wilson Daniels to find out the limited retail offerings of many of these wines. You can also search for some of these wines using Wine Searcher to find Internet retailers for these wines, of which there are a few, depending on the producer.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.