Sunday, January 19, 2020

Family Celebration Dinner Features Birthyear Vintage Wine

Family Celebration Dinner Features Birthyear Vintage Wine

We held a gala family dinner to celebrate the engagement of son Sean and Michelle at our neighborhood trattoria Angeli's Italian. To toast the celebration and accompany the dinner I brought BYOB from our cellar a Limited Edition red magnum of Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne, a magnum of Chateau Ste. Michelle "50th Anniversary Edition" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and a bottle of Sean's birth-year vintage Chateau Cos d' Estournel.


The Champagne was a concensus highly rated selection being among the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2019 at #95. The Winemaker Notes for this release: "The Brut NV represents the epitome of the Piper-Heidsieck style: a classic, well-structured, and fruit forward champagne.

We also served this for our gala family Christmas dinner when I wrote, "Piper-Heidsieck carefully selects fruit from more than 100 of Champagne’s crus to blend the Brut NV. This adds great complexity and dimension to the wine and allows the bold Piper-Heidsieck style to shine through.'

A majority blend of Pinot Noir provides structure to the composition while Pinot Meunier expands the wine with its brilliant fruit expression and fleshiness and Chardonnay bring elegant tones and acidity. The precious reserve wines create a consistent flavor profile year after year.'

"This Champagne teases and allures us with its festive, light-drenched, pale gold shimmer and joyful display of neat, lively bubbles. Notes of almond and fresh hazelnut accompany the precise ascent of its bubbles. It is lively, subtle and light, leaving a deliciously incisive sensation of smoothness, marked by the pureness of fresh pear and apple and a delicate hint of citrus fruits. A harmonious mixture of bright, crunchy pomelo, blonde grapes and juicy white fruits creates the delightfully surprising sensation of lightness embraced by the structure and depth from the Pinot Noir; all beautifully balanced."

This release achieved Critical Acclaim having been awarded WS 92 points by Wine Spectator, 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck and 90 points each by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast.

White-golden straw colored, balanced, fruity, fresh and elegant, medium-bodied, stimulatingly fresh and well-structured blend with gorgeous fruit and a clean, persistent finish, a mineral edge and final fruitiness, beautifully textured with a solid mid-palate, good density, and a clean, crisp finish.

RM 90 points

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2651727

Chateau Ste. Michelle "50th Anniversary Edition" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

A whimsical tribute to daughter-in-law to be, we served this namesake bottle from magnum. We took this wine to a dinner she hosted in the fall and it was well received. This received 93 points from Decanter Magazine. 

This is a complex Bordeaux style blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Syrah, 1% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot crafted from fruit sourced from Columbia Valley vineyards in eastern Washington including the Cold Creek, Canoe Ridge Estate, and Indian Wells vineyards.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, rich extracted complex concentrated black and red berry fruits, tightly would with a firm structure that is accessible style and approachable with moderate smooth tannins on a lingering finish. A great complement to the beef tenderloin with brown marsala sauce or the horseradish creme sauce.

RM 88 points.

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2017/07/chateau-ste-michelle-50th-ann-special.html
 
Château Cos d'Estournel St-Estèphe Bordeaux 1985

Lastly, from our wine cellar collection, a wine from Sean's birthyear. Our cellar is known for the horizontal collections of wines for the vintage birth-years of our kids and grand-kids, especially many in large format bottles. Indeed, our large format bottles were the basis of our cellar being featured in the Collecting column of Wine Spectator magazine back in June, 2001.

We visited the historic iconic Chateau Cos d' Estournel during our visit to the Medoc last summer.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel is a Second Growth Bordeaux from the Bordeaux classification of 1855. The estate is located on the border as one leaves Pauillac and enters St.-Estephe, adjacent to and looking across the vineyards at Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The historic iconic Chateau sits atop the hill and emerges in full view as one rounds the bend on the D4 route. The chateau is surrounded by 160 acres of vineyards planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot.


Founded in the 18th century by Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, the chateau’s wines were admired and in demand all over the world from the 19th century. The chateau was bought and sold many times during the late 19th and 20th centuries, and in 2000 it was acquired by Michel Reybier, who has managed it and maintained it's excellence.

Robert M. Parker Jr. has noted that Cos d’Estournel “has been particularly successful in difficult vintages” and “remains impeccably managed.” Some 200,000 bottles of the signature Cos d’Estournel are produced each year. 

Château Cos d'Estournel St-Estèphe Bordeaux 1985

Our Cellartracker records indicate we still hold a half dozen vintages of this label from the eighties and nineties. We still hold a half case of this vintage release.

My previous and last tasting note of this vintage was way back in 2001 when I wrote: "Very refined and polished - a robust nose filled with ripe blackberry and currant. This is a deep and complex wine that has a long and chewy aftertaste."

This vintage release was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Vinous. 

Parker said "it was one of the most forward wines from Cos". WS said, "This bottle constitutes the best example of the 1985 that I have encountered."

Initially a bit funky, after ninety minutes the fruit emerged, the color seemed to clear up and it opened up to show true St Estephe Cos character.  

We acquired and have held this bottle in our cellar since release - the foil and label are like new, the cork was intact with the lower quarter starting to saturate. Again, evidence our cellar conditions are suitable for decades aging fine wines.

Garnet colored with a slight tinge of brown rust bricking, medium full bodied, complex, concentrated, rich black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of leather, tobacco, coffee, herbs, spice and hints of cedar with lush tannins and crisp acidity on a long aromatic finish. 
RM 93 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/barcode.asp?iWine=13153

https://www.estournel.com/en/ 
 


Friday, January 17, 2020

Lewis Cellars Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay


Lewis Cellars Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2004

Perfect complement to Friday night dinner lobster tails. Ideal drinking window for this is five to ten years. At sixteen, this is  past its apex and showing its age turning from golden straw colored to honey brown, and the fruits are starting to take on notes of smoke. This was delicious none-the-less, but time to drink.

This is clearly crafted in the California versus the classic Burgundian style with layers of big rich oak, straw color turning dark to honey, medium bodied, note of of creamy vanilla, otes of nut taking on hints of smoke, nice acidic balance for crisp pleasurable drinking. Its density calls for drinking with food and was perfect with our buttery lobster.





Downgraded from 90 points at last tasting to 88 points due to signs of aging diminution.

https://www.cellartracker.com/barcode.asp?iWine=1072448

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2018/06/lewis-sonoma-rrv-chardonnay-2004.html


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bogle Merlot Cugino's Italian Lansing Michigan

Bogle Merlot at Cugino's Italian Dining in Grand Ledge, (Lansing) Michigan

Visiting client State of Michigan in Capital city Lansing, we dined in nearby town of Grand Ledge at local favorite, Cugino’s Italian Restaurant.

I ordered the Fettuccine Florentine,  Fettuccine alfredo sautéed with spinach, combined with mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan cheese, spices and topped with grilled chicken.

From the modest winelist I ordered BTG (by the glass) Bogle Merlot, a classic reliable California high QPR (quality price ratio) Central Valley and it was a perfect complement to the entree. A delightful dining experience in a lively setting and great value pricing.

Bogle California Merlot 2016

From Bogle Vineyards, located in Clarksburg situated minutes from Sacramento in the California Central Valley, this offers great value and good reliable every day drinking at this pricepoint. 

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, moderate berry fruits accented by tones of mocha, tobacco, cedar and hints of oak in this basic moderate pleasant sipper.

Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator both give this 86 points.

RM 86 points.


https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3022763

Cugino’s Italian Restaurants
 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at Italian Village Chicago

Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at Italian Village Chicago

Mid-week business dinner with colleague Jeff L, (shown with Jared, left) we dined at my usual dine-site, Italian Village, Chicago.

Jared Gelband, wine buddy and wine director pulled from the cellar this recent acquisition, Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, to which he was introduced by me when we took producers Todd and Carie Alexander to the Italian Village Restaurant in Chicago and introduced them to Jared.

That was during producers Todd and Carrie Alexander release tour to Chicago a couple years ago. Jared has been stocking and offering Force Majeure ever since.

This was especially fitting for this evening as my guest, colleague Jeff L, heralds from Seattle and is an avid collector of Washington State wines. 

Our visit to Force Majeure vineyards was one of the inspirations for and objectives of our Walla Walla Wine Experience 2018. As mentioned above, we first met Force Majeure winemaker Todd Alexander and marketing, distribution and branding exec Carrie Alexander during their Chicago stop of their promotion tour in 2016 when we hosted them at Italian Village in Chicago. Since then we've acquired a respectable collection of Force Majeure wines.

We tasted and acquired this wine when we visited the Force Majeure estate during our Walla Walla Wine Experience year before last.  

FORCE MAJEURE Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

This estate Cabernet Sauvignon is grown primarily along the south-west ridge of the Force Majeure  vineyard, in soils that are deep and loamy but contain many small rocks of fractured basalt, concreted ash and granite from Missoula flood erratics. 

The 11 year old vines produce small berries with lots of power and concentration. This wine spent 22 months in 75% new French oak barrels, 340 cases were produced.  This is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot,1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot.

This wine was awarded 99 points by Jeb Dunnuck who wrote; The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain Estate is a thrilling effort from winemaker Todd Alexander that rates with some of the most monumental wines to come out of Washington State.  It reveals a saturated purple color that's followed by a rich, primordial bouquet of crème de cassis, espresso roast, crushed rock, and graphite. It needs considerable air to start to show its potential yet is a full-bodied, powerful wine that has subtle oak, plenty of sweet tannins, and a huge, layered finish that won't quit. It's the tannin management that's truly spectacular. This brilliant wine needs to be forgotten for 4-5 years and will keep for 2-3 decades.”  

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this 93+ points.

Dark garnet purple colored, rich, concentrated, full bodied, bright expressive ripe sweet black berry and black raspberry fruits, notes of creme de cassis, mineral, spice and dusty sweet oak on a long full flavored finish. Needs a couple years to settle and integrate the bold bright aggressive flavors.

RM 93 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3006827

https://forcemajeurevineyards.com/


Monday, January 13, 2020

Chateau Buena Vista Napa Cabernet

Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

I drove all the way up to the Binny's in Bloomingdale to pick up a case of wine that was out of stock in the other stores. I got into a protracted discussion with wine consultant Don Rauba and one thing lead to another resulting in him sharing a taste of this wine remaining from an earlier tasting. I liked it and bought some but didn't recall at the time until I came home and checked my blogposts that we tasted this wine when visiting out east last summer when I wrote this note.
At that time, Alec has picked this up at the local wineshop in Westport, CT. From the legendary Buena Vista Winery with arguably one of the more colorful histories of the wineries in California with its founder, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy, an eccentric pioneer of California wines.

We visited the Buena Vista winery estate during one of our first visits to the Napa Sonoma wine country back in the mid-eighties. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista was one of California’s first premium wineries. The legendary brand is being re-born today under the vision of owner Jean-Charles Boisset. The estate and winery is located just outside the town of Sonoma, the original winery is now a California Historic Landmark.

The Count immigrated from Europe in 1840 in pursuit of opportunity in the burgeoning American West. Following the spirit of the forty-niners in search of gold in the hills of Northern California, Haraszthy sought “purple gold” – the perfect ‘terroir’ where he could grow grapes to make exceptional wine. He ultimately settled in Sonoma, birthplace of California and capital of the short-lived California Republic, where he founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857.

In the 1860’s Buena Vista covered more than 6,000 acres that ran up into the foothills and past the Mayacamas Mountain range into what is today Napa County.

In 1861, founder Count Haraszthy journeyed to Europe in search of the finest grapevines. In Bordeaux, he obtained Cabernet Sauvignon and brought choice cuttings back to California where he planted them at Buena Vista, thereby bringing Cabernet Sauvignon to the Napa Valley.

The inaugural release of this new label offering, Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon, was in 2013 as Buena Vista returned to Napa Valley. In recent history, Buena Vista has generally been considered and known for Sonoma Valley wines, based on its popular historic winery and cellar near downtown Sonoma.
 
This new addition to the Buena Vista portfolio is packaged in a large oversize heavy bottle of a premium wine but is moderately priced for a Napa Valley Estate Cabernet thereby offering good QPR (Quality Price Ratio). At $40, this drinks like wines tasting half again to two times more.  

Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
 
This 2016 release was sourced from Oak Knoll to St. Helena, from vineyards along Napa Valley’s eastern slope. The backbone of this is grapes from 10 acres of the Bartalucci Vineyard just south of St Helena, in Napa Valley near Raymond vineyards, a recent acquisition for Boisset. 

Like this earlier tasting, but sweeter than I recall or reported, this was bright garnet colored, medium full bodied, rich and opulent with intense structure, slightly obtuse, rich aromas and flavors of sweet ripe black berry, black cherry and black currant with notes of milk chocolate and touches of spice and licorice, fine-grained tannins that are soft with a full-bodied mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3304073

https://buenavistawinery.com/

Friday, January 10, 2020

Arn's Napa Valley Melanson Vineyard Syrah 2010

Arn's Napa Valley Melanson Vineyard Syrah 2010

Friday might, end of week dinner we went to Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria and took this, one of our favorite Syrahs BYOB.

As I have written in these pages before, we have been long time fans of Arns and their Napa Cabernets so we arranged a visit and private tasting with producer John Arns at the estate on lower Howell Mountain during our 2013 Napa Wine Experience.

John's wife Sandi Belcher is the winemaker. It was during that visit that we discovered and acquired this single vineyard designated Syrah made with fruit sourced from the Melanson Vineyard on Pritchard Hill which I write about in an earlier blogpost.

This wine is so good, I almost don't want to let out the news for fear I'll create more demand and have to compete for it in the marketplace. Supplies are limited as for this vintage of this Syrah, only 80 cases were produced. Arns is available directly from the winery, in select stores in Napa Valley, and at Bassin's MacArthur Wines in Washington DC, (as I explain in separate Arns blogposts) which is where I first discovered it. I pick some up every trip to DC.


We acquired this label at the winery, then reordered more, and actually acquired this bottle when we picked up an entire lot on Winebid.com.

This is serious juice. The 2010 vintage was aged in one year old French oak for three years. The concentrated extracted fruit is apparent as soon as you pour the dark inky purple juice into the glass.

Full bodied, huge aromatics explode from the bottle as soon as the cork is pulled, thick, concentrated black and blue fruits are accented by a pronounced layer of sweet spicy oak laced caramel that turns to black licorice on the rear pallet with smooth sinewy tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 93 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=1809227

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2017/11/arns-melanson-napa-syrah-08.html

http://arnswinery.com/





Thursday, January 9, 2020

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve 2013 at Pazzo's Chicago

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve 2013 at Pazzo's

For a team dinner including our specialists in from Australia, Europe and North America, we dined  at Pazzo's Restaurant at what I call the 'wedding cake' building at 311 South Wacker in the south loop adjacent the historic Sears Tower, now called Willis Tower. I call it this due to the distinctive architecture and prominence of the lighted tiered tower at the pinnacle, highly visible in its high profile location and a landmark on the spectacular world class Chicago skyline. This is a convenient location just two blocks from out office.

Pazzo's is a popular daytime lunch restaurant in the elegant and picturesque sunken lobby, but is usually nearly empty at night as it was this evening. As a lunch site rather than dinner site, Pazzo's is  less elegant and not necessarily 'fine' dining but rather more pedestrian. With the standard Italian cuisine, they offer a modest minimalist winelist primarily of basic Italian labels supplemented by a handful of American labels. We selected from the winelist this Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve is the premium label offered but an excellent one if you're going offer but a few selections. Its interesting but strange that with such a limited selection, they're pouring a seven year old aged vintage of this label.

Tapestry is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon based Bordeaux Blend . I consider it a go-to wine, readily available and a safe reliable choice for easy drinking or special occasions, approachable when young but capable for aging. If your overwhelmed or intimidated by the plethora of wines available and not sure what to choose or take to or serve, Tapestry is a safe choice.

Our Cellartracker records indicate we hold more than a dozen vintages of this label dating back to the mid-nineties.  This is a classic Napa Valley label that provides high QPR - Quality Price Ratio for a Bordeaux Blend. Its another one of those high production label that I believe does a remarkable job achieving and maintaining the level of quality in high volumes and is approachable when young but also has significant aging capability for cellaring. James Suckling says this is "A wine that harkens back to its traditions.”

The 2013 release is a Bordeaux Blend anchored by Cabernet Sauvignon half sourced from the famous western benchlands of the Rutherford American Viticultural Area (AVA) and the balance from the Stags Leap District, St. Helena and Calistoga AVAs. The Merlot sourcing was split between BV Estate vineyards in the warmer parts of Carneros and the Rutherford Bench. The Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec came from estate vineyards in St. Helena and Calistoga. 

The blend is produced from select specific blocks of reserve-quality grapes that give Tapestry what they cite as combined attributes of fruit expression but also soft tannins for relatively early approachability.

This vintage release was awarded 94 Points by James Suckling and 90 Points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, nicely structured and balanced, complex aromas and flavors of predominant sweet ripe black raspberry and blackcurrant fruits accented by notes of tobacco, cedar, hints of cassis and what Robert Parker calls 'fruitcake and soil undertones', with very fine tannins and a polished, refined, textured finish.

"Vintage Notes The 2013 vintage yielded highly concentrated grapes that became generous, intense wines with muscular tannin structure. A very low-rainfall winter was followed by a dry, warm spring and nearly ideal summer, which led to an early harvest. These factors resulted in balanced vine canopies, excellent fruit set and small, concentrated grapes. Perfect weather throughout the harvest fostered intensely expressive and beautifully balanced wines.'

"Winemaking Notes We tailored the winemaking for each varietal to best capture the personality of both the vintage and specific vineyard block. Cold soaking of the destemmed grapes, gentle punch-downs in open-top fermentors and in-barrel malolactic fermentation all contributed to this wine’s richly textured flavors. Aging in 50 percent new oak barrels balanced the wine impressive depth varietal expression with toffee and spice nuances."

The winemaker's tasting notes say: "Our 2013 Tapestry reflects the 2013-growing season with its dense, powerful aromas and flavors, with bold structure. This is a wine that shows the artistry of blending five Bordeaux-heritage grape varieties, which contributed layer-upon-layer of flavor complexity. Cabernet Sauvignon gave the wine its generous core of briary blackberry and cassis expression, while we increased the amount of Merlot this year to tame the tannins and add plush mid-palate texture. Malbec contributed deep plum notes, while Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot completed the blend with nuances of rose, forest loam and graphite.'

RM 92 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2198809



https://www.bvwines.com/en-us/wines/reserve-wines/tapestry/2013

https://www.pazzoschicago.com/



Monday, January 6, 2020

Château Gruaud Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1989

Château Gruaud Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1989

Inspired by the aged vintage three decade old St Julien Bordeaux we had last week, I was eager for an encore and pulled from the cellar this 1989 Gruaud Larose to enjoy with Linda's beef stew dinner.  
Linda and Rick at Château Gruaud Larose

Our visit to Château Gruaud Larose was another one of the highlights of our trip to the Bordeaux Medoc region and the St Julien appellation this summer. 

Our Cellartracker records show we still hold seven bottles from the OWC - Original Wood Case of this label we acquired upon release back at the time. 

Thankfully, tonight's experience was equally rewarding, another well preserved and aged fine Bordeaux that was drinking at its apex, even at thirty years of age, showing no diminution whatsoever from age. 

Like the Ducru-Beaucaillou we consumed the other night, we still hold several cases of this label from ten vintages dating back to the birthyear vintages of our kids, 1981, 1982, 1985, and several vintages since, including several in large format magnum (1.5l) and double magnum (30l).

While we hold several older vintages, we chose the 1989 due the multitude of bottles we have from this vintage. As part of cellar management, I pulled the bottle with the lowest fill level however all seven bottles were nearly identical, not surprising since they all came from the same case and had the same provenance.

The fill level was at lower neck level with intact and prime condition foil and label. The cork was very saturated for the lower half but came out intact using an ah-so two pronged cork puller

Château Gruaud Larose Grand Cru Classe St Julien Bordeaux 1989

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, concentrated, bright, expressive black plum and currant fruits accented by pronounced brilliant violet floral and cigar box notes turning to tangy sharp tongue puckering tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.  


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Chateau St Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling 2017

Chateau St Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling 2017

Sunday night dinner at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria, we drank from the winelist this Chateau St Michelle Riesling. We were looking for something simpler and lighter and thought a Riesling would be appropriate. Wrong, this is was not indicated on the winelist as Sweet Riesling which turned out to be quite sweet and much fuller and heavy than a light crisp dry Kabinett style.

Part of our selection was based on the whimsical naming as we were dining with son Sean and daughter-in-law to be, Michelle. Also, we visited the Chateau St Michelle estate in Woodinville during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour last year. 

Lastly, I seem to recall that Chateau St Michelle are one of the world's largest producers of Riesling, which may have lead to the naming confusion or lack of precision in labeling this wine (on the winelist) due a preponderance of Riesling selections from this producer.

In any event, it was a suitable and fitting selection for the seafood pasta entree selections and Angeli's delicious Mussels in white wine sauce, the best ever and a favorite selection and regular pick when dining there. But, the sweet riesling is a selection we would not do again next time.

Chateau St Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling 2017

As noted above, not crisp and clean, refreshing and balanced that you might desire but then this is a moderate pricepoint, high acid, high sweetness medium full bodied, notes of peach, citrus, and apple.

The winemaker notes say "Our Harvest Select Riesling is made in a slightly sweeter style than our Columbia Valley Riesling but still shows the classic Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling character. It offers rich flavors of ripe peaches balanced with crisp Washington Riesling acidity." Notably, they call it Harvest Select Riesling (as listed on the winelist) and omit the word 'Sweet' even though the label says so. 

RM 86 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3181855

https://www.ste-michelle.com/

Friday, January 3, 2020

Ducru Beaucaillou Birthyear Vintage

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1985 Birthyear Vintage

Celebrating son Sean's engagement to Michelle, Linda prepared a special dinner and I pulled from the cellar a special birthyear vintage bottle of this premium Bordeaux to celebrate. We hold more than a dozen vintages of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou dating back three decades including each of our kid's and their spouse's birthyears dating back to 1980.

Our visit to Château Ducru-Beaucaillou was one of the highlights of our trip to St Julien Bordeaux this summer where we had a personal tour and barrel sampled the current 2018 vintage.

Tonight we opened a 1985 vintage release to accompany Linda's dinner of grilled beef tenderloin, baked potatoes, cauliflower and fried onions and mushrooms. The pairing of the wine was perfect, especially with the mushrooms.

Our thirty-five year old bottle was in perfect condition with acceptable above neck fill level and a partially saturated but still intact cork. The provenance of the bottle dates back to acquisition upon the vintage release and being held in our cellar ever since. This is another testament to our cellar conditions for long term aging of fine wines.

As is my custom, I used an "Ah-so" two pronged cork puller to extract the cork and believe it may not have come out intact using a tradition cork screw.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1985

Even at thirty years old, this was delicious, still at the apex of its drinking window and likely suitable for another decade of aging, showing no diminution whatsoever. It drank like a nicely aged ten year old! A testament to the age-worthiness of fine vintage Bordeaux.

Thirty years after acquisition we are being rewarded for buying Bordeaux during the 1980's, although, regretably, we have learned we consumed much of our collection to early and too young back in the nineties. We still hold several cases of this producer from the string of top vintages from 1981, 82, 83, 85, 86, 88, 89 and 1990 and are now enjoying these special vintage bottles on special occasions, such as tonight.

We also still hold several of these vintages in large format magnum (1.5l) and double magnums (3.0l). Our collection of large format birth year wines was the basis for our cellar being featured in Wine Spectator Collecting column back in June 2001.

To commemorate our visit to the Chateau, we recently conducted a vertical tasting of several vintages of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou with our 'Pour Boys Winers and Diners' wine group.

Looking back at critics' reviews for this release, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate wrote of this release in 2003, "the 1985 Ducru-Beaucaillou has a floral, cedary nose intermixed with red and black currants as well as flowers. The wine is fully mature and soft, with beautiful concentration and purity. It is not a blockbuster, and certainly not nearly as powerful and massive as the 1986, but it is certainly much more seductive." Parker gave the 1985 Ducru 92 points.

In 1996, James Suckling of Wine Spectator wrote, "Seductive and beautiful. Minty, rich and fruity aromas and flavors caress the palate and tickle the throat. Medium- to full-bodied, with super firm tannins and a long, silky finish. Drink now or hold; will improve with age."

The Zachy's wine team tasted this vintage release more recently and wrote, "We had this wine over dinner while in Bordeaux tasting the 2014s - easily one of the highlights of the entire trip. Perfectly mature and is currently drinking the way Bordeaux was intended to be consumed - with age and enough sweet fruit to complement the tertiary development. This wine is all about elegance, no hard edges, classic St Julien cedar, truffle, and damp earth are joined by tobacco and cinnamon. Tongue-staining, long finish. It is a wine that transports you back to old world style claret, where the wine doesn't clobber at 12.5% alcohol. It is truly a special treat to have this wine with this provenance and condition." Zachys Notes 95 Points, Zachys Buying Team. Zachy's wine mcrchant  show they hold this vintage release in stock available for purchase.

All those characteristics remain today as this releases holds on into its fourth decade.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, muted aromas on the nose but elegant, balanced and full flavored, bright and expressive on the palate with black currant fruits accented by sensuous floral, cedar, tobacco leaf, hints of damp earth with super firm tannins and a long, silky finish.

RM 93 points.

We hold a few more bottles of this release in a mixed case from the era and look forward to opening them in the coming year as we celebrate with family, friends, Sean and Michelle.

Like Zachys above, K&L Wine Merchants in the Bay Area, where we acquired much of this wine during the 1980's are showing they hold this vintage release wine in stock.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=17635

http://chateau-ducru-beaucaillou.com/

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Montes Alpha Colchagua Valley Syrah

Montes Alpha Colchagua Valley Syrah 2017

After tasting three ultra-premium Syrah's over the holidays, we returned to 'normalcy' with a moderate priced everyday casual sipping Syrah. Having tasted the Montes Folly, premium Syrah from Chile, I explored their standard label, Montes Alpha, to see the range of their portfolio and their standard label.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the top ratings for this bargain priced label, rendering high QPR - Quality Price Ratio, if you are to believe the pundits' reviews. This entry level label for this vintage release was awarded 94 points from James Suckling, and 92 points from Wine Spectator, lofty achievements for a the sub $25 price range.

We tasted this with artisan cheeses, fruits, chocolates and some salad. 

Montes Folly has been cited as the best Syrah in Chile. It is the first ultra-premium Syrah to be sourced from Chile. The grapes for this Montes Folly grow on the steepest hillsides of the Finca de Apalta vineyards in Apalta, Colchagua, Chile. The 2016 release of this label was awarded 96 points by James Suckling. I gave it 92 points.

The Montes Alpha label is also from the Colchagua Valley. It was aged 55% of the wine for 12 months in first, second, and third-use French oak barrels compared to the premium label which was  aged in French oak barrels for 24 months.

While the Montes Folly grapes were 100% Syrah, hand-selected and sorted on special selection sorting tables, the Alpha is a blend of 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Viognier.

Similarly, while Montes Folly is the finest hand selected grapes, Alpha is mass produced from the rest of the crop to produce the 22,000 cases made, of which 1,500 cases were imported.

The winemaker notes for this label; "Aromatic nose with outstanding aromas of ripe black fruits such as blackberries and figs. Aromas of crème de cassis meld with mild notes of leather and dark chocolate, which are very characteristic of Syrah from Colchagua. The palate is well balanced with rich acidity, incredibly smooth tannins, tremendous structure, and generous volume.

I found this less impressive than the reviewers, understandably, and more in line with the price point, rather the overachieving, lofty ratings, lacking polish, balance or any sense of elegance. Never-the-less, its a suitable value based every day sipping wine, ideal for pizza, pasta or snacks.

This was garnet colored, medium-full bodied, black fruits with notes of tobacco, hints of cedar and black olives and hints of mocha on the firm tart, tangy acidic strong tannin laced finish.

RM 88 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3289059

https://www.monteswines.com/en/wines/montes-alpha/syrah

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Calera Mt Harlan Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004

Calera Mt Harlan Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004

For our gala family Christmas dinner, to accompany the baked ham that Linda prepared, I pulled from the cellar this aged Calera Pinot Noir. Readers of these pages know we don't do a lot of Pinot Noir except for special occasions or circumstances. For the gala family holiday dinner, I selected a label bearing #1 Son Ryan's name from a producer with a storied history in US and California Pinot Noir. I've written about the history of Calera Vineyards and the beginning of Pinot Noir as it was chronicled in the book, Heartbreak Grape.

As I have written in these pages, any lover of Pinot Noir would benefit from reading The Heartbreak Grape,  A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins.  This is a wonderful true story that starts when Devillers becomes captivated by a wine served at a holiday party. The story evolves as his journalistic curiosity leads to researching the wine and its origins - the story of  Josh Jensen and Calera winery. He tells of the challenges and travails of developing the Pinot Noir grape in California, and then turning it into a business, an industry, and pursuing a dream. The name Heartbreak Grape speaks to the challenge of pioneering bringing the Pinot Noir grape varietal to America - finding the right terrior, climate, terrain, soil, drainage - all the elements required to produce this wine. It then follows the story of an entrepreneur following his dream to build a business and a brand. 

Heartbreak Grape by Marc De Villiers The book talks about the difficulties associated with this particular grape varietal. I've contended that, as written by Devillers, Pinot Noir is the most finicky of grapes and one of the hardest to find a high QPR - (Quality to  Price) ratio value - a moderate priced pleasant drinking label. The book talks about the challenges and difficulty of growing this grape and producing great wine. My experience with this wine is further evidence to this truth. Being a wine aficionado and frequent taster of fine wines, I find this challenge is exacerbated by the characteristics of Pinot Noir - its sutble fine nuances and subtle delicate nature. Its harder to discriminate between the subtleties of one fine Pinot to another. As my wine palate has matured and become more sophisticated, I've come to appreciate the delicate refinements of Pinot, but I must admit, I find a truly great Pinot harder find than a Cabernet or a Shiraz, but I am partial to the bigger more expressive forward fruit of these other varietals. In the end its all about price and for enough money its easy to find a great wine. The search for a great one at a modest price is the fun of tasting and collecting wine.

Calera produce several single vineyard designated labels of their Estate Pinot Noir. Each vineyard has a story and is named for a founder, partner, a key figure in the history of, or a key contributor to the brand. The Ryan Vineyard is named after Jim Ryan, who has been Calera’s vineyard manager since 1979. Ryan Vineyard is the highest vineyard on Mt. Harlan, reaching elevations of 2,500 feet. With annual yields under 2 tons per acre, the 13.1-acre site delivers vibrant and inviting Pinot Noir, with expressive red berry layers and sophisticated minerality.

We hold a half dozen vintages of this label going back to this, our oldest vintage. This 2004 release was awarded 90 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.  The pundits recommended to wait till after 2010 to drink which was probably well advised. 

At fifteen years, this is probably nearing the end of its prime drinking window and should be consumed in the next year or so.  

The Calera Pinot Noir rear or secondary labels are exceptionally informative with substantial information on the vineyard and the vintage of the contents (see left).

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, predominant red berry tones with notes of black cherry and pomegranate, dusty rose and black fruits with hints of rhubarb, pepper, herb and mineral flavors accented by a earthy fine-grained tannic grip.

RM 88 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=356681

https://www.calerawine.com/

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut Limited Edition Red Magnums

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut Limited Edition Red Magnum Bottles NV

For our gala family Christmas dinner, and to have on hand for upcoming special occasions, I picked up these Limited Edition Red Magnum bottles of  Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne.

We served the Champagne with the starter courses of artisan cheeses, fresh shrimp cocktail and the salad course. Linda served baked ham, scalloped potatoes, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, fresh rolls and a medley of desserts.

The wine was a concensus highly rated selection being among the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2019 at #95.

There is always opportunity to enjoy Champagne so I always keep a collection on hand for any occasion. Knowing we have two family weddings on the horizon, I went out on a limb and picked up several cases of these festive elegant limited edition bottles (shown below).

For the main courses, Ryan brought a special Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz and I also served from our cellar, a vintage Calera, Mt Harlan, Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir.

The Winemaker Notes for this release: "The Brut NV represents the epitome of the Piper-Heidsieck
style: a classic, well-structured, and fruit forward champagne.

Piper-Heidsieck carefully selects fruit from more than 100 of Champagne’s crus to blend the Brut NV. This adds great complexity and dimension to the wine and allows the bold Piper-Heidsieck style to shine through.

A majority blend of Pinot Noir provides structure to the composition while Pinot Meunier expands the wine with its brilliant fruit expression and fleshiness and Chardonnay bring elegant tones and acidity. The precious reserve wines create a consistent flavor profile year after year.'

"This Champagne teases and allures us with its festive, light-drenched, pale gold shimmer and joyful display of neat, lively bubbles. Notes of almond and fresh hazelnut accompany the precise ascent of its bubbles. It is lively, subtle and light, leaving a deliciously incisive sensation of smoothness, marked by the pureness of fresh pear and apple and a delicate hint of citrus fruits. A harmonious mixture of bright, crunchy pomelo, blonde grapes and juicy white fruits creates the delightfully surprising sensation of lightness embraced by the structure and depth from the Pinot Noir; all beautifully balanced."

This release achieved Critical Acclaim having been awarded WS 92 points by Wine Spectator, 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck and 90 points each by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast.

White-golden straw colored, balanced, fruity, fresh and elegant, medium-bodied, stimulatingly fresh and well-structured blend with gorgeous fruit and a clean, persistent finish, a mineral edge and final fruitiness, beautifully textured with a solid mid-palate, good density, and a clean, crisp finish.

RM 90 points

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2651727


Mollydooker 'Velvet Glove' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013

Mollydooker 'Velvet Glove' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013

For our gala family Christmas dinner, Ryan brought this Velvet Glove Shiraz. This is the ultra-premium label of the broad portfolio of Mollydooker of South Central Australia McLaren Vale. We hold a dozen vintages of the range of Shiraz from Mollydooker dating back to their founding years and before when they were bottling under the previous brand Marquis Philips in partnership with their American producer.

Before dinner, for the salad course, shrimp cocktail and a selection of cheeses, I served a special Limited Edition bottling of Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut NV Champagne  from Limited Edition Red Magnum bottles

The name "Velvet Glove" refers to "the wine that wraps your entire palate in a ‘Velvet Glove’ of amazing fruit flavours that last forever", according to the producer. It is packaged in a non-standard shaped bottle that comes in a drawstring velvet cloth bag with the Velvet Glove logo embroidered in shiny silver.

The winemaker's notes for this vintage release: "An epic wine of amazing depth, complexity and precise balance. The 2013 Velvet Glove possesses all the flavours in the spectrum, with cherry and plum to the fore, then blackberry and mocha and finally liquorice and allspice. Only at the final moments on the palate does the fruit give way to finely poised tannins which ensure the wine has elegance as well as depth. Vibrant and rich, the Velvet Glove in 2013 creates Wow by combining opulence with finesse." ~ MattWalker-Brown ~

Lisa Perrotti-Brown of www.erobertparker.com Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this release a score of 97 points. Legendary Harvey Steiman, publisher and critic for www.winespectator.com ~ Wine Spectator gave it 96 points.

I wrote recently in these pages about lofty ratings for two other ultra-premium Shiraz' from two other Shiraz growing regions, the Northern Rhone and Chile.  

This was dark blackish inky purple colored, full bodied, rich, viscous multi-layered concentrated but seamlessly integrated and perfectly balanced raspberry, blackberry and plum fruits with hints of blue fruits, tones of expresso, spice and hints of menthol with cassis and mocha notes on the long structured firm but smooth fine tannin laced finish.

RM 95 points.

The grapes were grown on the Gateway vineyard in McLaren Vale, barrel fermented and matured in 100% American oak and 100% new.
 
https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=1986244

https://www.mollydookerwines.com.au/default.aspx 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Château La Nerthe Les Granières de la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Holiday fun, traditions and an occasion to open special wines to reminisce and toast distance friends - Château La Nerthe Les Granières de la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape

T'is the holiday season and what has become an annual highlight and ritual has been the opening of a package from 'our French Friends' as they sign each of the gifts, an extraordinary package of gifts, delicacies and favorite treats from the South of France - chocolates, foie gras, nougates, French perfume, Renaissance arts calendar and more.

A visit to the Speziani family home was one of the drivers and highlights of our visit to Aix-en-Provence and the Luberon this past summer. Our relationship with them dates back to our hosting Philipe as a French exchange student in our home when son Alec was his sponsor back in High School.

Murielle prepared an incredible authentic Provencale dinner for the occasion which we featured in an earlier post at that time.



The arrival of the 'package' was texted to the broader family with the caption, "It's HERE". Actually there were two packages delivered at two times. They were opened with great ceremony with Alec and Vivianna present as we gleefully opened and sorted and laid out each item with delight.

The family fun continued as the text announcement of the 'arrival' prompted replies from family members who immediately responded bidding 'dib's' on favorite specialties such as this from Erin (below).

The conversation quickly centered on memories of our gala trip and pledges to return again soon and often and to coax our French Friends to come visit us in America.  

We pulled from the cellar two gala bottles of wine to commemorate and toast the occasion and the memories of our trip to France, our visit with friends there, and visiting their home and the gala dinner we enjoyed there.



For the occasion, to celebrate the opening and to toast our "French Family and Friends", we opened a Château La Nerthe Les Granières de la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape to commemorate our visit to the region and the Chateau that we visited during our trip

Château La Nerthe Les Granières de la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2013

The Winemaker's Notes for this release cite, "Bright red color with darker hints. On the nose, rich red berries suchas black currant and ripe cherry with a soft spicy touch. On thepalate soft tannins, showing berry fruits and sweet spices as well"

This label was awarded 90 points by both Wine Spectator and Wine and Spirits.  It was a perfect toast for the festive afternoon with the fruit and chocolate delicacies.

Bright ruby colored, bright vibrant expressive currant and red berry fruits highlight by notes of spice, and what WS refers to as "twinges of blood orange, tea and singed sandalwood", turning to fine-grained smooth tannins on the long finish.

RM 90 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2494536

http://www.chateaulanerthe.com/ 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Philip Togni "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005


Philip Togni "Estate" Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

We pulled this Philip Togni "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet from the cellar for Friday night dinner at home with grilled steaks and baked potatoes to kick off the holiday week. 

This is Estate bottled, meaning all the grapes in the bottle were grown on the producer's own property vineyards or 'Estate'. This producer is on Spring Mountain but I admit we have missed it during our many trips to Spring Mountain District and are not familiar with the property. 

The property is near the top of the Mountain at 2000 foot elevation. There are 25 acres of vineyards that date back to 1981 - all Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet franc and Petit Verdot and all production in Estate sourced. Most of the 2000 case annual production is sold to a mailing list on a first-come basis with some offered in distribution in the US and in Europe. Cellar records indicate we have three vintages of this label in our cellar with this being the oldest at fourteen years.

Philip Togni is a former student of Emile Peynaud at the University of Bordeaux where he earned a Diplôme National d’Oenologie while working as assistant Régisseur at Château Lascombes. Togni is joined by his wife Birgitta who specializes in the vineyard. They are joined recently by their daughter Lisa who has an MBA and has worked in the wine Trade working harvests at Château Léoville-Barton in Bordeaux and in Australia. 

This 2005 release was awarded 95 points by Vinous, 94 points by Decanter and John Gilman, 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 91 points by Steve Tanzer.

Very much Bordeaux style, Tanzer and Robert Parker say this may be a 30- to 40-year wine and should drink well through 2047. Tanzer says to hold it for a decade. Decanter says it is just beginning to enter its 'early plateau' of maturity and I wonder if we drank it too soon and should've waited perhaps a decade to appreciate it at its apex. 

I learned throughout the nineties that we drank much of our Bordeaux collection from the eighties far too soon. Decanter says that while it has the structure and depth to last, it isn't so big as to materially improve much further from this point, so perhaps we caught it at its peak. The fun and dilemma of aging wine in a cellar collection. 

Bright ruby colored, medium-full bodied, bright vibrant red and black berry fruits with notes of coffee bean, hints of cassis, cedar, leather and smoked meat, a touch of  menthol and smoky oak with bright acids finishing with firm tannins and good length. 

RM 91 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=224268

https://www.philiptognivineyard.com/