In a wine world where current release First Growth Bordeaux sells for well over $1,000 per bottle, $100 is a ridiculously low price to pay for a great bottle of wine. Still, it’s not the kind of money most of us can spend very often on a bottle of wine. It’s also extremely rare to find American wines in that price range that aren’t made on the West Coast.
Sagaponack’s Wölffer Estate Vineyard has had a $100 wine in its portfolio for many years – its flagship wine, once known as Premier Cru but now named Christian’s Cuvée to honor the winery’s founder Christian Wölffer, who passed away in late 2008.
I can’t tell you if Wölffer Estate Vineyard 2012 Christian’s Cuvee Merlot ($100) is worth its price tag or not, that’s really between you and your bank account. But I can tell you that I’ve bought it before, though not often. I’ve had the pleasure of drinking these wines back to the 2000 vintage and they are wonderfully balanced and age-worthy. This isn’t a brand or marketing creation. It’s the crown jewel in an impressive lineup of wines.
The 2012 vintage was fermented in a 6,000-gallon upright French oak barrel that is reserved for this wine and made of 96.5 percent merlot, with 3 percent cabernet sauvignon and .5 percent petite verdot. All told, the blend spent 19 months in French oak, but only 60 percent was new (the strongest oak) and that amount of oak seems just right.
There is a lightly toasty, cedar-y edge to the nose, but mostly you’ll find ripe black cherry, blueberry and fig notes accented by star anise and dried flowers.
Mouth-filling and lush, the palate is fruit forward with flavors that closely match the nose. There are also layers of loamy earth and spice here, with plush, smooth tannins and a long, vanilla-tinged finish.