News center
Excellent quality at unbeatable pricing

Top 15 US releases in hors Bordeaux 2023

Aug 16, 2023

There were over 100 releases in the September edition of La Place’s hors Bordeaux campaign, and more than 20 brand new labels. Here is db correspondent Colin Hay‘s pick of the best from the US, including wines from Napa, Sonoma and Oregon.

* – 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.

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.

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.

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.

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; first released in March). 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.

There were over 100 releases in the September edition of La Place’s hors Bordeaux campaign, and more than 20 brand new labels. Here is db correspondent Colin Hay‘s pick of the best from the US, including wines from Napa, Sonoma and Oregon.