Thursday, July 24, 2014

Researching the less-expensive 100 point (Parker's rating) wines on the market in the US:

Here are (IMO) the best choices for the wines rated 100 points by Robert Parker. (I omitted many on his list because they are either much more expensive, or I couldn't find them available on the retail market.)

Old World:
1. 1990 Montrose $500 (at this age, this is a good choice)

2. 2009 Montrose $319 (only 1 bottle left)

3. 2009 Clos Fourtet: $295 (needs 5 years of cellaring, then it keeps for 50 years; this is a good choice)

4. 2009 La Mondotte: $395 (2015-2045)

5. 2009 Leoville Poyferre: $250 (2018-2040--very tempting and a Second Growth)

6. 2009 L'evangile $395:

and the older Bordeaux that I can still find are much spendier:

7. 2000 Lafleur: $1699
8. 2009 Le Pin: $3600
9. 2005 L'Eglise-Clinet: $769
10. 2000 Cheval Blanc: $600

New World:

1. 2005 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cab: $250 K&L (now-2033)

2. 2007 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cab: $275 (2017-2037)

If I went New World, I would get one of the Quil Creek cabs. 

And here are the Napa cabs (ignoring the utterly ridiculous prices):

3. 2005 Colgin Cariad Proprietary Red: $375 (hold until 2015)
4. 2007 Colgin Cariad Prop Red: $500
5. 2002 Dalla Valle Maya: $585
6. 2007 Harlan: $940
7. 2007 Kapcsandy State Lane Cab: $400 (2012-2042)
8. 2008 Kapcsandy State Lane Cab: $400

Finally, there is also a Cayuse '08 Impusivo Tempranillo. Haven't been able to find it yet in the market, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our almond habit is sucking California dry:

Fascinating Mother Jones story.

Seriously? Farmers are spending a million dollars to drill each well to 2500', in order to get enough water to grow almonds? This is drawing down the aquifers faster than they can replenish themselves. The San Joaquin Valley is dropping 11 inches per year.

A similar story is in West Texas, where the industrial-sized cotton farms are so thirsty that the aquifer there is going dry.

That is not sustainable. That is treating the Earth like it is a throwaway resource. Until our space travel capability gets much more advanced, this is nuts, pardon the pun.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Improving the Quality-Price Ratio (QPR)

QPR, in its simplest form, is a great concept but if you consider it even slightly, it quickly falls apart. It is clear that it's an inferior measure of wine value.

Consider an 85-point wine selling for $11 (whose QPR is 85/11 = 7.7) and an 91 point wine selling for $17 (QPR = 5.3). Does anybody really think that the $11 bottle is a 45% better value simply because it has a 45% higher QPR? Nope; in fact, the $17 bottle is likely the better value.

Clearly, something is wrong with QPR.

So I've been reading about different ideas regarding improving the QPR calculation. I borrowed one part of a solution offered by Robert Dwyer in this blog post: He notes that wine value increases exponentially as they rise through the 90-100 point range, and that makes a lot of sense to me, as the scores lie along a bell curve of distribution, so a 99 pointer is much, much rarer (and more valuable) than a 93 pointer (assuming that there is agreement on those two scores for two different wines).

I don't care for the proposed formula that Mr. Dwyer offers, but I borrowed one element from his article: I used the following factors as "weighting factors" to multiply by a wine's score:

90 points: 1.0 x (no effect on quality)

93 points: 2x
96 points: 4x
99 points: 8x

To take a couple of real-life examples: 2010 Chat Leoville Las Cases has average professional score of 98.3, so its QPR is: 98.3 x 7.3 weighting factor / $340 = 2.11.

A 2013 Lafite has average score of 93.5, so its QPR is 93.5 x 2.4 weighting factor / $480 = 0.47.

96-98 point 2013 Mouton at $360 (higher score and lower price) was hardly better, with a score of just 0.65. 

But 2013 Montrose (from a poor year, but it gets a great average score of 94 and the price is right at $90) gets the highest Bordeaux score in my 20-wine sample: 2.61. 

If you are choosing between the first two wines for investment purposes, the Leoville Las Cases (a Super Second Growth) looks like the far better choice. The Lafite might appreciate more, on a percentage basis, over time, but it has a higher starting price to overcome, so I expect its ROR to be less than the LLC, over time. We shall see.

I'm not sure if this revised method is close to accurate, but I think it's a huge improvement over regular QPR. I just used it to make a wine purchase.

What does this tell us? I think it suggests that First Growths on the market today are overpriced for the wine quality they bring. That's not shocking, but the corollary is a bit shocking: If you invest in the Super Second Growths (Pichon Lalande, Montrose, Leoville Las Cases, and a few others), you might do better over time than with the Firsts. Particularly in an off year where the prices are down but your target wine gets great scores. 

I think that, twenty years from now, people won't look at my 2013s and think, "oh, no! those are from a poor year." I think they will see the wine's age and its high scores, and buy those bottles. As I say, time will tell. Collecting Bordeaux is a Great Experiment. 

In a great year, the First Growths have CRAZY prices, and, via my revised QPR calculation, pretty lousy QPR, So I think my days of buying First Growths may be over. 

Life is all about finding, and exploiting, value. Let others overpay for wine; it is the easiest thing; any idiot can do it. Finding the best wines at the lowest cost--now there is a trick.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Scary news: Duckhorn is planting a vineyard in our precious Red Mountain (WA) AVA

In my humble opinion about this news, I hope Duckhorn doesn't screw this up. Every time I've had Duckhorn's CA wines, I've disliked them, and they are certainly not worth anywhere near their exorbitant prices. I view Duckhorn as a winery which screws over ignorant consumers with low quality and high prices, covered with an unfortunately-opaque marketing gloss. The wine world would be better off without them. So it was with not a little trepidation that I read that Duckhorn is horning in on one of America's best winegrape sites: Red Mountain AVA (near Benton City WA). It would be great if such fantastic land could be saved for winemakers and winery owners who know how to make good wine and are willing to sell it for a fair price.

Holding my breath . . .

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