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stirring the lees with james molesworth

What Do Clos des Papes, Joh. Jos. Prüm and Château Tertre Roteboeuf Have in Common?

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 11, 2007 1:43pm ET

So Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. got into the Hall of Fame this week. I doubt there's anyone who denies they deserve it. They were both clearly megastars during their long playing careers, and are, by all accounts, upstanding citizens as well.

Meanwhile Mark McGwire, seventh on the all-time home run list, got a resounding "NO" in his first time on the ballot, with a percentage so low, it bodes poorly for his chances of ever becoming a Hall of Famer.

Gwynn, Ripken and McGwire can certainly be made into a wine analogy. There are wines that have great track records for 20 years, while others that flame in and out for just a few. There are wines that bat .310 every season, but with little power, while others are like the Mighty Casey—hitting homers and striking out with equal frequency.

For me, my Ripken wine has to be Clos des Papes, which I have back to '90. At its current rate, it might hit 2,632 consecutive outstanding vintages.

My Tony Gwynn is the Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr—I have the auslese back to '95, along with some spätlesen and gold cap bottlings. Anything from Manfred Prüm is a sweetly stroked, two-out RBI, opposite-field single every time.

My McGwire? Probably the '00 Château Tertre Roteboeuf, a property whose wines I'd never purchased before that, and haven't bought since. I don't know how the '00 got so good, so quickly, and I'm not sure I want to know.

So, which wines do you put in your cellar year in and year out? And which wines have you cherry picked when they had a career year?

Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  January 11, 2007 8:28pm ET
Great blog. Interesting way to look at one hit wonders vs consistant producers. I add wines from Kistler, WH Smith, Kosta Browne, JJ Prum, Concha y Toro (Melchor), Spottwoode, Caymus, Beringer, Rosenblum, Pine Ridge, Pride and others year in and year out. They never seem to disappoint, even in off years.The wines that have had one hit wonders to me are the 1996 E.J. Gallo Reserve (wonderful wine that I stocked up on after trying a bottle blind), 1999 Whitehall Lane (never been the same since), Marquis Phillips (great while they lasted), Domaine Alfred (not enough track record yet), Crocker & Starr Sauv Blanc (the greatest I have ever had and then...average), Every Silver Oak vintage since 1997ish and many many more.
Dan Rote
lancaster, pa —  January 11, 2007 9:41pm ET
I dont know how to put it any more simple...I have never drank wine! Period!! The references to me in anybodys blog is absolutely false! Sincerely, Raphael Palmero
James Peterson
San Antonio, Texas —  January 12, 2007 10:33am ET
James, you couldn't be more right about the Pr¿m wines. I am privileged to call them friends, and I recently sat and drank the 2005 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese with them. Wow. Get ready for the 2006, though, because there is no Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese (my perennial favorite) in what turned out to be a strange (but very good as usual) vintage. But only a single though? I believe Manfred's wines are more like inside-the-park homeruns--before you know what's happened you've reached home plate (an empty bottle). - Jim
Stephen Symchych
Boston, MA —  January 12, 2007 12:22pm ET
I was having a similar thought not too long ago re JJ Prum-- albeit without the stimulus of baseball reporting. After a recent flurry (some would say "orgy") of cellar expansion and experimentation, I'm thinking wistfully about a more focused "house wine" approach. You know-- a handful of flavors for any takeout meal or Sunday dinner. 2 or 3 favorite Bordeaux. One Julienas. A reliable Rhone. And a decent supplier of German white, which is too easy to forget. All stuff to buy by the case every time a halfway decent year rolls around.Anyway, Prum is my current go-to source of Rieslings, as they are first-rate and readily available. If Egon Muller ever cuts me in on his distribution that could change, but the Prum list is a great one. A few Kabs for summer, a core of Spatleses, and Ausleses for the odd special occasion. They even have halves and magnums now. Can I do better? Maybe. Does it really matter? Nope.
D Fredman
Malibu, CA —  January 15, 2007 12:33am ET
I'd vote for Raveneau as my Ripkin- the wines are consistent regardless of vintage, always making the most out of each vineyard, setting an example for its peers (such as there are) and remaining true to its heritage. Thierry Allemand's Cornas would be my Tony Gwynn; a consistent, often thrilling wine that is as interesting to newbies as it is compelling to the aficianados.As for my Mark McGwyre wine, there are too many to choose from! Viticulture and oenology have progressed so rapidly on an international scale over the past twenty years that it's difficult to know which part of the wine came from the ground and which part came from technological advances and abilities. As do you, I'd prefer to admire the prowess of their winemakers and not ask too many questions as to how they came to exist. It's been my experience that these wines don't age quite as well as more terroir-based wines (I'm looking for improvement and evolution when I cellar wines, not just the bragging rights inherent in owning older bottles), so I don't cellar these wines at all, preferring to buy them on an as-needed basis. Other wines that do go into my cellar annually are Vieux Telegraphe, Marc Olivier, Ritchie Creek, Paolo Bea, Andre Ostertag, and Marcel Deiss. Each is capable of knocking one out of the park at any given opportunity but on a daily basis have been tremendously consistent and have taken their places in my Hall Of Fame.
Thomas D Nichols
Houston, TX —  August 16, 2011 10:51pm ET
James, I first started drinking JJ Prum wines in the 1960s. They have a great history before that, which I have not personally sampled. The oldest I now have in my cellar are 1990: still strong. They are among the great treasures of this earth. I believe some could last 100 years, although they may need special care with wax over the cork, and obviously a cold cellar. They rank with Lafite, Latour, Ausone, Petrus and La Tache along with under appreciated Grange, Hill of Grace, and Gaja except that certain current wine buyers have not yet come to appreciate all the wines of the world. So buy Prum while we can.
They especially are the best buy of our times.
Thanks, Tom Nichols in Houston


James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  August 17, 2011 7:44am ET
Thomas: It's always interesting when someone digs up one of my older blogs. They're like looking at old pics of your elementary school year haircuts - sometimes not the best, but always fun to check out.

I do still buy Prum - you're right, they are some of the greatest Rieslings in the world...

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