Sunday, October 7, 2018

Pour Boys Wine Group Fall 2018 Dinner

Pour Boys Wine Group Fall 2018 Dinner

For the Fall 2018 gala wine dinner of the Pour Boys wine group we hosted and served beef
tenderloin and grilled salmon with scalloped potatoes and roasted vegetables - carrots, brussel sprouts and haricot verts. Before dinner featured the usual broad selection of fresh fruits, artisan cheeses and hor d'ovres. John brought his usual selection of fine rare cheeses including a 21 year old aged cheddar and smoked gouda. Lyle and Terry brought a gorgonzola infused with pickled mushrooms. Eric and Cathy brought shrimp with St Elmo's Steakhouse Tangy Sauce infused with horseradish.

Dr Dan and Linda brought and grilled some lamb and beef sausages along with a Brunello Montalcino and the Chateauneuf. Lyle and Terry brought the Barbaresco and Lyle's classic contribution, a port, tonight Fonseca Vintage 2003.

The wine flight this evening was exceptional as usual, more diverse and tending towards lighter style wines than many of our sessions where big and bold brutes are often the course or theme.

Dearest friends Eric and Cathy brought the Yates Family and Godspeed Mt Veeder Cabs that we discovered together during our Napa Wine Experience Mt Veeder Experience 2011. Two special guest couples attended, Tom and Melissa, and Jorge and Leslie and all contributed some very special wines, the Dominus and Clos des Saint-Denis, and Marcassin and Kongsgaard respectively. John brought his usual imaginative and carefully selected labels - Clos Les Champs, Finger Lakes Riesling and the Ridge Monte Bello. Ernie brought a wonderful vegetable cheese dip and two extraordinary wines - Ornellaia and the Chassagne Montrachet.

For dessert Linda prepared her chocolate mousse with homemade profiteroles, homemade rum cake cupcakes and a selection of artisan chocolates.

The wines:

The white flight:

Clos Lanscomb Champagne 2006
Petit Fleur Williamsburg Winery Virginia Moscato Ottonel and Vidal Blanc 2017
Boundary Breaks Vineyards Finger Lakes Extra Dry Riesling 2016
Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet Les Champgains 1er Grand Cru  2012
Kongsgaard Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012

The Burgundy, Pinot flight, Tom's Joseph Drouhin Clos Saint-Denis Grand Cru 2011 that they acquired at the winery during their trip to Burgundy, and Jorge's Marcassin, Three Sister's Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot 2009.

Italian, French flight:

Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello de Montalcino 1996 
Sori Paittin Barbaresco 2011
Ornellaia 2009
les Secret des Sabon Chateauneuf du Pape 2006

The  Bordeaux varietal flight: 

Yates Family Vineyards Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Godspeed Vineyards Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Ridge Vineyards California Monte Bello 1995
Dominus Napa Valley Red Blend 2000


The dessert flight:

Clos du Bourg Vouvray 1989
Doisy-Vedrines Sauterne 2005
Fonseca Vintage Port 2003

Friday, October 5, 2018

Ben Schild Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz

Ben Schild Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz

Schild Estate Ben Schild Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz (Syrah) 2008

Winding down from a grueling week traveling cross country to three cities, we settled in on Friday evening for spaghetti dinner and this hearty big bold wine, Ben Schild Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz.

There was a reason I picked up a case of this wine upon release and its profile and suitability for this type of drinking was it. While we enjoy big bold concentrated forward fruit, many such Syrahs (aka Shiraz) also have tones of metallic graphite or camphor. While I find this is not my preference, the body weight and big fruit matched with meat, cheese or chocolate is one of my favorite wine tasting experiences.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes. The colour of the Reserve was deep dark Ruby Red and inky purple. Huge aromas of black and blue fruits and violets give way to bright vibrant concentrated tongue coating flavors bursting with blueberry, black raspberry, ripe plum and chocolate, with tones of cedar, camphor, black pepper, spice, a bit of graphite, turning to nicely integrated oak on a long lingering tannin finish.

I would rate this higher were it not for that somewhat obtuse layer of non-fruit graphite, cedar and camphor.
RM 91 points.

As I have written earlier in this bog, when writing about this wine, I feel compelled to digress to talk about the producer and some of his past marketing practices.

This wine is dedicated to the producer patriarch Ben Schild who has been farming the Schild Estate Three Springs property in Rowland Flat Barossa since 1952. Today the property is farmed by second and third generation Schilds. Fruit for this wine is sourced from a single vineyard in the Hills overlooking Lyndoch where the elevated location and cooling winds helped temper the effects of a warm year resulting in earlier ripening thereby avoiding a late season heat wave that afflicted other growers in the Southern Barossa.

The remarkable interesting side note about Schild; this is not the same wine but it is the same producer and vintage as the Schild Barossa Shiraz that after receiving high reviews, 94 points, and placing in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of the Year in 2010, naturally subsequently quickly sold out. Schild then proceeded to purchase, blend and bottle additional wine from other producers, but still market such under the 'same' label. Extraordinary, unethical, deceptive, conniving, creative, but legal, none-the-less.

(Imagine buying a new Ford but finding out Ford ran low on engines and purchased and provided alternative replacement engines from some other supplier. (See Bait and Switch?; Schild Estate: Questionable Bottling Practices in 2008 Shiraz; What Makes a Wine a Wine?).

Only after being challenged by reporters did the winery affix an extra label to the secondary bottlings identifying them as a second blend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Walt Sonoma Coast Grgich Blue Beret Chardonnays

Walt Sonoma Coast, Grgich Blue Beret Chardonnays BYOB for Longboard's Lobster Fest

Passing through Orange County on my west coast roadshow, I stayed with Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill in Huntington Beach. We went downtown where they were holding their Tuesday evening festival.

We dined at the legendary Longboard bar where they are featuring Lobster Feast '18 for the fall. We picked up some Chardonnay up the street to take BYOB, Walt Sonoma Coast, and Grgich Blue Beret Napa, 2016's.

The Walt wine brand is from Hall Wines in Napa, named for Kathryn Hall's maiden name and her parents, Bob and Dolores Walt who were dedicated winegrowers. The Walt family produced six different varietals that they sold to several notable wineries.

We tasted a Walt Pinot Noir at the recent Kathryn Hall regional release tour in Chicago. That was a vineyard designated select label from Bob's Ranch vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. While this Chardonnay is designated Sonoma Coast, the rear label cites Bob's Ranch Vineyard as one of the sources for this bottling, a blend from numerous sources from the area.

Hall Vineyards Walt Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2016

The winemaker notes: "Our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay sources from cool climate vineyards located near the influence of coastal breezes within the Sonoma wind gap. Notes of lush tropical fruit and vanilla lead to a palate of stone fruit and citrus, bolstered by lively acidity and underscored by toasty oak."

This was bright lively and full bodied, ideal for pleasurable sipping, and perfect for the lobster fest dinner accompaniment.

RM 90 points. 

Our second wine for the dinner, this was lighter and less complex than the Walt. It might have been fine for the dinner but after drinking the Walt, it was diminished by comparison.

Grgich Hills Estate "Blue Beret" Napa Valley Chardonnay 2016

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich is a legend in the wine world and Napa Valley. He gained international recognition at the celebrated 'Paris Tasting of 1976' known as the Judgement of Paris, the historic blind tasting by a panel of eminent French judges did a comparison tasted of notable French wines opposite selections from upstart California Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked to learn they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich,  as the finest white wine in the world. The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world. The story chronicled in the book 'Judgement of Paris' and is told in a fantastic pop culture movie 'Bottle Shock'.

Thirty two years later, in 2008, 93 year Mike Grgich was was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in honor of his many contributions to the wine industry. He hallmark is a sporting blue beret. Hence, this whimsical 'Blue Beret' label designated Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay.

Curiously, I find no reference to this label on the Grgich wines website, nor even on Cellartracker with its five million labels, only several postings from restaurant winelists. Perhaps its too early in its release cycle but wouldn't you think the producer would at least feature it? Its invisible in web postings to date. All I can think is that they consider this their 'generic' Napa Estate Chardonnay, but the Blue Beret is prominently featured on the label in a branding effort, that is clearly falling short in promotion and execution.

RM 88 points.

Afterwards, we picked up some artisan chocolates and took home to enjoy with an after dinner big red wine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Williamsburg Winery Wessex Hundred Vineyard Wiliamsburg, VA

Williamsburg Winery, Wessex Hundred Vineyards in Williamsburg, VA

Returning from OBX, the Outer Banks, the North Carolina Atlantic barrier islands, we passed through Williamsburg,Virginia and visited Williamsburg Winery, one of the largest wine producers in the State. 

Williamsburg have about 40 acres of vineyards, designated the Wessex Hundred Vineyards, on the 300 acre Estate just outside Williamsburg. 

They also source grapes from numerous vineyards around the state of Virginia, and source some juice from the Central Valley in California. 

Williamsburg produces about two dozen labels, a complete line-up from light whites to full bodied Chardonnay, to a flight of full bodied reds and several dessert and 'specialty' wines. 

On the Estate they grow Bordeaux varietals, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec as well as a selection of white grape varietals; Viognier, Traminette, Alborino, Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay

They are replanting older vines and increasing their vineyard plantings on the expansive property. The Williamsburg Estate vineyards layout and compositions are shown in the image graphic.

Williamsburg has an Estate Winery with tasting room, a Connoisseurs Club VIP center for Wine Club members, and an area for special events.

Also, on the property is the Gabriel Archer Tavern and Restaurant, named for Captain Gabriel Archer who commanded the
Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed ships that landed on the shores of Virginia in In 1607. After exploring several sites along the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the colonists, fearing pirates and Spanish competition, decided to explore further inland and settled on the site where The Williamsburg Winery now stands.

There is also Cafe Provencal, (left) a fine dining bistro restaurant founded by Wessex Hundred Founder Patrick Duffeler, which brings the style and culture he experienced from extensive travels in the South of France, to showcase the output of Virginia farms, and those in surrounding states, and the fruits of the vines to create a true farm-to-farm dining experience.

The Williamsburg hospitality center has a tasting room that offers two tasting flights, a standard selection of five different wines, and a 'Reserve' flight offering one's choice of seven different wines.

We chose the 'Reserve' flight and selected the five 'big reds' along with one white, their Estate Grown Chardonnay, and one dessert wine, a White Muscato and Vidal Blanc blend.

All in all, the whole experience including the wines exceeded my expectations. This is a serious operation that sets high standards for fine wine and earnestly strives to produce a range from good value, high value QPR entry level every day wines, up to premium priced fine wines.

At the high end, they lack the fruit driven richness and fullness of California or Washington State or French wines, and frankly make the Washington Columbia Valley wines from our recent trip, our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour,  out there look really good, with great value. Never-the-less, this probably represents the best of Virginia wines, certainly from our limited exposure, and offers a wide range of options from the casual sipper to collector selections.

The servers in the tasting room were knowledgeable and could speak to each wine and its sources, compositions and style.

Our wine tasting flight:

Williamsburg Winery John Arundell American Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Estate wines are those where at least 75% of the grapes in the bottle are grown on the property of the producer. They carry on the label the appellation or AVA, the American Viticultural Area in which the vineyards lie. Wines that are not appellation specific will carry the name of the larger designation region in which the grapes are grown. Wines that are a blend of grapes from a broader region will carry a broader designation accordingly. This is the first wine I have recall ever seeing that designates American as the designation of the source of the grapes. 

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Lodi AVA in the Central Valley of California about seventy miles east of Napa Valley. 

This is a simple easy drinking every day wine, garnet colored but light-medium bodied with black raspberry fruits accented by bright acidity, notes of mocha, earthy floral and hints of vanilla. Its not sophisticated or complex but then it is under $15 thereby a reasonable value QPR wine at this sub-$15 price point. 

RM 87 points.
Williamsburg Winery Barrel Aged Virginia Claret 2016

This is a blend of Bordeaux varietals: 37% Petit Verdot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 31% Cabernet Franc. 

Following the discussion above about specificity of the geography from which the grapes are sourced, this label is designated 'Virginia' Claret. It is a blend of Bordeaux varietals sourced from different sites across the State of Virginia. 

The notation on the promotions for the wine cite it is "Made from a combination of grapes sourced from Wessex Hundred and from our partner growers from around the commonwealth." We're told the Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in northern and central Virginia while  the other varietals, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are sourced on the Estate.

This is a lighter more opaque ruby colored wine with raspberry, and cherry fruits with notes of black olives, soy, tea and hints of vanilla and  oak with moderate soft tannins on the lingering finish.

Williamsburg Winery, Wessex Hundred Petit Verdot 2016

This is another Bordeaux varietal: 100% Petit Verdot, a vineyard designated label, Estate grown fruit from the property. 

Bordeaux producers use Petit Verdot to add structure and color to their wines and this certainly exhibits those qualities of the varietal. 

This is dark inky blackish purple garnet colored, full bodied, firm structured with bright expressive black berry and black raspberry tones accented by dark coffee, earth and hints of cocoa, cola, leather and fig with whisper of charcoal turning to pronounced cloying but approachable smooth tannins and tones of oak on the lingering finish. 

This could well be WW's best wine, or their best quality value wine. In any event, it is likely the best expression of the terrior or fruits produced on the estate. This was Linda's favorite of the flight of wines. 

Reserve Wine Flight 

Gabriel Archer Reserve Red Blend 2015 
This wine is named for the historic Founder of the property, and is only produced in the finest vintages. The Reserve wines represents the signature style of the Williamsburg winemaker. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Crozet vineyards in the center of the state while the rest of the fruit is Estate grown on the property.

This is a blend of traditional Bordeaux varietals: 36% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 7% Malbec.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, black berryand black cherry fruits are accented by notes of cassis, mushroom and hint of eucalyptus with earthy leather and herbs turning to hints of oak. 

RM 88 points;  90 points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate (August 2017)

Adagio Red Wine Blend 2015

This is the flagship wine of Williamsburg Winery, a blend of Petit Verdot (58%), Merlot (15%), Tannat (15%), and Cabernet Franc (12%). It is packaged in a large heavy oversize bottle with a very large bung, with painted labeling on the front, with a traditional paper label affixed to the rear. It is priced at a premium price-point of $75 per bottle.

This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex black berry fruits with notes of vegetable, wood and charcoal, tones of dark chocolate mocha and hints of menthol camphor and floral turning to cloying tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 90 points. 90 + points - Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate (August 2017).

Williamsburg Winery Petite Fleur Muscato 2017
This is a blend of two white varietals: 56% Muscat Ottonel and 44% Vidal Blanc. The Muscat Ottonel is sourced from partner producer growers in Charlottesville, VA; the Vidal Blanc is sourced from the Wessex Hundred Vineyard on the Estate in Williamsburg, VA. This is another wine designated as a 'Virginia' wine.

This was an interesting, pleasant drinking wine, nicely balanced, straw colored, medium light bodied, white peach flavors with notes of apricot and pear accented by tropical fruits, with notes of vanilla on a nice acidic viscous finish. 

RM 89 points. 90 Point Rating – Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Le Yaca Restaurant Wine and Dine Experience

Le Yaca Restaurant Williamsburg Wine and Dine Experience

During our weekend getaway to historic Williamsburg, Virginia, we dined at Le Yaca fine dining French Restaurant.

The Le Yaca story dates back to 1964/65 in the little village of Le Praz in the French Alps.

In 1968, a second “Le Yaca” opened in the southern French coastal town of Saint-Tropez. In 1980, the third Le Yaca moved to the United States and opened in Williamsburg, VA.

Daniel Abid was one of the first chefs at the Williamsburg location who was instrumental in growing the popularity and reputation. Abid acquired Le Yaca in 2001. A fourth location opened on High Street in Williamsburg in 2014.

We dined at the High Street location.  I took advantage of the Chef's Five Course Tasting Menu and selected the chef's wine pairing with each course (shown below).

Linda chose the LE SAUMON D’ECOSSE, poached filet of fresh Scottish salmon. Her dessert selection was the LA VERSION FRANÇAISE DU TIRAMISU, Chef's version of tiramisu, served with Espresso ice cream (shown below).

For her wine accompaniment we ordered from the winelist Ramey Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2014.

The Chef's Tasting Menu and Wine Pairings:

Menu Dégustation

diver sea scallop
maine lobster tail
truffle vinaigrette
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve, Champagne, Non-Vintage

magret duck breast
seared foie gras
caramelized white peach
port reduction

Château Puy-Servain Haut-Montravel Terrement 2009

(Substituted for the Petit Guiraud Sauternes, Borde
aux, 2012)

Rosé sorbet granité

classic brown butter sauce

Domaine des Gerbeaux Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, 2015


 and ... 

La Fleur D;Or Sauterne 2013
And finally for the dessert course, this decadent, over-the-top ...

Grand Marnier soufflé

Pineau des Charentes (Rosé)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dunham Cellars 'Trutina' Columbia Valley Red Wine 2009

Dunham Cellars 'Trutina' Columbia Valley Red Wine 2009

Following our recent trip to Woodinville, Washington to taste Washington State wines in our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour, wines we continued our exploration by opening this Trutina Walla Walla Red Blend from our cellar. It was perfect with grilled sirloin steaks and scalloped potatoes with haricot verts.

We have a vertical collection of Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Blend going back a dozen vintages to the nineties. How delightful to discover these Bordeaux varietal wines from Columbia River Valley in Washington, not well known for being a Bordeaux varietal region.

This was our first vintage of Trutina, a second label from Dunham at a lower pricepoint that offers great QPR (Quality to Price ratio) in this complex and expressive red wine blend. We're finding many of these Columbia Valley Reds have great quality and aging ability and offer great value over their French and California counterparts.

While not as complex or polished as the flagship label, Trutina was very impressive going on a decade of age. This showed bright garnet and inky purple color, medium full bodied with huge aromatics of floral and lavender with full forward bright vibrant flavors of black currant and black cherry fruits with a layer of sweet caramel mocha on a full cloying lingering tannin finish.

The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Syrah, and 4% Malbec.

RM 92 points. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Matthews Yakima Vally Red Wine Red Bordeaux Blend 1999

Matthews Yakima Vally Red Wine Red Bordeaux Blend 1999 

We continued our exploration of Columbia Valley Bordeaux varietal wines, following our recent trip to Woodinville, Washington to taste Washington State wines in our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour. We drove by Matthews Cellars' tasting room and it was on my shorlist of spots to visit but it was especially crowded each time we passed. As with the other tastings from that trip, this reflects significant QPR - Quality Price Ratio, especially relative their French and Northern California counterparts.

For midweek grilled beefsteak dinner, I pulled from the cellar this almost twenty year old Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend, the last remaining bottle of a lot I bought at auction, and the oldest  remaining bottle of similar labels from this era. Much of the fun or intrigue of wine collecting and tasting is comparing a label over time as it ages, and comparing it with its' peer group, bottle from the same appellation - Yakima Valley AVA - same terrior, soil type and climate, and from the same price range.

Often, typically tasting notes will be similar, subtle bottle variations aside, show gradual signs of aging, amplified as they reach their apex and go beyond their prime on the aging curve. Since I acquired this lot of bottles at auction, its impossible to determine the provenance of each of the bottles, where they were sourced and how they were stored over time. Hence it is not surprising to find subtle bottle variations. This lot was the case as three of the four bottles were consumed in the year they were acquired, each showing slightly differently.

This bottle was held another eight years and was consistent with the median of the other tasting experiences. 

This was a blend of Bordeaux varietals, 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc.

Our last tasting of this wine was back in December 2011 when I wrote; "Surprising over-achiever for our gala Christmas beef wellington dinner - this was more polished than earlier tastings, full bodied, complex, vibrant and expressive with layers of blackberry, black currants and cherry fruits, a layer of spice, black tea and cassis with hints of tar, leather and tobacco on the lingering moderate tannin finish."

Earlier that year in Sept 2011 I wrote: "I found the fruit to be moderate upon opening but brighter and more expressive the second day; complex and polished; blackberry, black currants and cherry fruits, and eucalyptus with a layer of spice, black tea and cassis with hints of tar, leather and tobacco on the lingering moderate tannin finish.'

And, earlier that year in Feb 2011 I wrote; "Dark inky color - medium - full bodied - firm black berry and black raspberry fruits are giving way to a tar, leather, cassis and hint of tobacco as this wine is passing its prime."

This week the wine was consistent with the latter two tasting notes, with slight diminution of the fruit and structure as the non-fruit tones of leather, tea and tobacco were starting to be more predominant over the bright black berry and black cherry fruits.

Same rating as the earlier two tastings, RM 88 points.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Uriah Spring Valley Vineyards Walla Walla Red Blend

Uriah Spring Valley Vineyards Walla Walla Red Blend

Following our trip to Woodinville, Washington to taste Washington State wines in our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour, wines we took this Spring Valley Vineyard Washington State Columbia Valley Red Blend to our favorite Italian Trattoria BYOB for Saturday night dinner.  We hold close to a dozen vintages of this label and for tonight's dinner I pulled this 2004 vintage release, the oldest, to cycle our collection accordingly.

We know this wine well having tasted numerous vintages over the years so it was good taste it again after our tasting numerous other labels from the region recently. We gained further appreciation for the quality of Columbia Valley red wines and the state of the art there in producing wines comparable to the top labels from Bordeaux and Napa Valley.

This is a single vineyard designated wine, with 100% of the fruit from the Spring Valley Vineyard. Like many of the other wines we tasted from the region, including the wine from our nieces in-laws that we wrote about in our recent posts, Spring Valley wines are family owned and operated. The  land that has been farmed by the Corkrum family for five generations and this vineyard was planted in 1993. We wrote about our delight with our wine discovery and a family connection to a multi-generation family owned and operated Walla Walla producer in our blogpost Den Hoed Andreas Walula Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is from the Columbia Valley, Walla Walla appellations. Like many of the other wines we tasted in our Columbia Valley tasting, this forty acre vineyard is planted in Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Syrah.

The terroir has been determine and has proven to be an excellent environment for growing Bordeaux varietal grapes. The elevation lies between 1,200 and 1,500 feet, on south-southwest facing hills where the vines are planted to follow the north-south slope of the hills in vertical rows to provide the vines optimal sunshine, cold air, drainage, and takes advantage of the reflective nature of the surrounding hills.

As I wrote, these wines rival the wines from Bordeaux and Napa Valley but are available at a fraction of the price for comparable wines, providing great QPR - Quality Price Ratios. This gap will most assuredly close as they gain more attention and notoriety in the years ahead. 

This is a serious wine, a red blend in the Bordeaux Right Bank style, meaning it is a blend of Bordeaux varietals predominantly of Merlot. The blend is 60% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Petit Verdot. It was aged 16 months in 95% French oak and 5% American oak barrels.

Serge Laville, the winemaker wrote in his release notes: "Aromas of ripe blackberry, plum and harvested wheat introduce a complex palate with flavors of currant, cherry and hints of liquorice and leather. Powerful and firm tannins resonate on the long, elegant finish.

In my tasting note from 2009 I stated this needed more time. In my last tasting note in 2017 I said, 'Its time!" Tonight, this wine has matured and improved with further aging and was better still, consistent with my recent tasting back in May of this year when I wrote below.

"Much better, smoother and more approachable than last tasting five years ago when I said it needs more time. Its time! Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, smooth polished forward aromatic black currant and black berry fruits give way to hint of nicely integrated oak turning to tones of minerality, black cherry and dark mocha chocolate with hints of anise and tobacco."

We drank half the bottle with dinner last night, and it was even better today with grilled tenderloin for our Sunday afternoon dinner! Its showing elegance and finesse and smooth polished texture with velvety tannins on the long finish. This is definitely as its apex in its fourteenth year!

RM 93 points.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Kathryn Hall Vertical Tasting - Hall Wine Release Tour 2015

Kathryn Hall Vertical Tasting and Hall Wine Release Tour 2015

Kathryn Hall and the Hall Wine Club and marketing team hit the road this week to celebrate and promote the release of the flagship Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon for the 2015 vintage.  They conducted two tastings, a vertical tasting of Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 through 2015, and a tasting of select labels from the 2015 vintage release. Fellow Pour Boy, Dr Dan and me and our two Lindas attended the Chicago event held at the W Hotel, conveniently located a short walk from the office.

A highlight of the main event was the chance to meet Kathryn Hall, and to have her sign a copy of her and husband Craig's New York Times bestseller book, A Perfect Score

The book chronicles Craig and Kathryn Hall's twenty year journey from amateur winemakers to the ultimate achievement, recipients of an almost unheard-of perfect score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

A PERFECT SCORE tells the tale of their meteoric ascendancy in Napa Valley restoring the historic St Helena winery into the site and tourist attraction it is today, the building of their Rutherford facility and the tug-of-war between Napa Valley localism and tourism. Its an enchanting tale of the Halls' account of the art, soul, and business of a modern winery.

We appreciate it when producers come to our fair city and try to support such activities. It shouldn't be surprising since Chicago was recently recognized as “best restaurant city in America” by Conde Nast Traveler. The declaration was from the magazine’s list of best restaurants in Chicago.

Hall Wines have gained great notoriety and recognition since they acquired the historic St. Helena Bergfeld Winery in 2003. That historic winery in St. Helena was once the home of the Napa Valley Co-Op, producing 40% of Napa Valley’s wines.  Today it is the site of the Hall St Helena winery and hospitality center.

Previously, in 1995, the Halls acquired the legendary Sacrashe Vineyard in the hills of Rutherford which today houses their private residence, state of the art winery and magnificent caves and tasting room.  The caves double as an art gallery. Our visits to the Hall Rutherford site have been highlights of several of our Napa Valley Wine Experiences including our trip in 2013 and again in 2017.

I enjoyed sharing with Kathryn, that we have held, (and since drinken) Sacrashe Vineyard single vineyard select Cabernet Sauvignon dating back to their early days with the 1998 vintage.

It was also an honor and privilege to be able to briefly compare notes of common acquaintances from my days in national security intelligence and Kathryn's time serving as the Honorable US Ambassador to Austria.

Today, Hall’s estate vineyards encompass more than 500 acres of classic Bordeaux varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The wine flight selections for the 2015 release tour were a family affair, for labels named for
Kathryn, the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, and Walt 2015 Pinot Noir, named for Kathryn's  family maiden name, Walt.

Such release events are an important part of our wine collecting strategy since we collect specific horizontal collections in the birthyears of our kids and grandkids, as well as vertical collections of select signature labels for each of them. Indeed, these birthyear collections and our large format bottles for such were the subject of our feature when our cellar was featured in Wine Spectator in the Collector column in June of 2001.

Also served was the 2015 release of “Jack’s Masterpiece,”  an annual release of signature Cabernet Sauvignon named for Hall’s former winemaker and current President, Mike Reynolds, and the label artwork created by Mike’s then 18-month-old son Jack, as a Father’s Day gift, back in 2012.

We have fun with these wines, selecting the Sauvignon Blanc and one of the premier Cabernets for our holiday Christmas packs, with card coined, deck the Halls!

Last year, I helped source for son Alec and his leadership, the spectacular Hall Exzellence ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon for their holiday client recognition appreciation gift. 

Tonight's release tasting flight:

Hall Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (not shown)

Hall Vineyards Napa Valley Jack's Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Hall Vineyards Walt 'Bob's Ranch' Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2016

Hall Kathryn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Additionally, the Hall team hosted a separate, SOLD OUT vertical tasting of the classic flagship namesake Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon showcasing the vintages from 2011 through the current release 2015.