Friday, January 21, 2022

Carpenter Creek Cellars Merlot

Carpenter Creek Cellars Merlot

For simple casual sipping with some pasta leftovers from last other night's dinner, I pulled from the cellar this Merlot from Carpenter Creek Cellars in Northern Indiana. We tasted and acquired this wine during a visit to the winery last fall, picking up a couple bottles for such an occasion. I wrote in detail about Carpenter Creek Cellars in an earlier blogpost here

Carpenter Creek Cellars American Merlot NV

Winemaker's notes: "A medium bodied red with an herbal aroma with hints of walnut and tea leaves."

This is labeled as an 'American Red Wine' indicating it is comprised of grapes sourced in America without further specification. It is produced at the winery in North Central Indiana from grapes sourced from various suppliers and growers in Northern California. They procure some of the grapes through a middleman so in some cases they do not the precise provenance or specifics of the grower.

Ruby colored, medium bodied, tangy red berry fruits with notes of black tea, tobacco leaf and hints of leather and white pepper on the finish. 

RM 87 points.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Saggi Long Shadows Sangiovese Red Blend

 Saggi Long Shadows Vintners Collection Sangiovese Red Blend with Angeli's Italian Dinner

We dined with Sean and Michelle and newborn grand-daughter, Lavender at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. To accompany our Italian cuisine selections, I pulled from the cellar this unique Sangiovese red blend from the notable Long Shadows Vintners Collection which was a perfect pairing thereby amplifying the enjoyment of both the wine and the dinner.

We obtained this limited release label through our Vault Key Club release allocation shipment of Long Shadows Vintners Series which we discovered and signed up for this during our Washington Wine Experience when we visited the winery tasting room in Woodinville last fall.

Our visit to Woodinville was part of our Seattle Culinary and Wine Experience. During our visit to Long Shodows we discovered and acquired this wine. This is a selection of the Long Shadows Vintners Collection, a portfolio of seven ultra-premium wines showcasing the viticulture of the Washington State Columbia Valley growing region and the artwork and expertise of internationally acclaimed winemakers who crafted them. 

This Saggi label is crafted by the father-son team of Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious Tuscan wine families from A. & G. Folonari Tenute that produces a collection of small, ultra-premium wines from the family's numerous Tuscan estates. The Folonaris teamed with Allen Shoup to produce a wine that showcases Washington State's terroir with plenty of Italian character through the Long Shadows Vintners Collection program. Saggi (meaning "wisdom") is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. 

Vibrant and lively, this weighty Sangiovese-dominant blend offers enticing aromas and flavors of red berries and currants with an appealing hint of nutmeg and sweet spice. An elegant and refined wine, its bright acidity pops on the palate with expressive red fruit character that echoes across a long-lasting finish.

The 2016 Saggi is mostly Sangiovese at 60%, but has 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Syrah.

Bright ruby-colored, medium-full bodied, nicely balanced and polished, black cherry fruits are accented by with notes of spice box, dried flowers and hints of cedar and vanilla, smooth sweet tannins linger on a clean, graceful finish.

RM 92 points.

Wine Advocate Jeb Dunnuck gave it 92 points noting, "It's certainly one of the best expressions of Sangiovese from Washington."


Monday, January 17, 2022

Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Buehler Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

For casual sipping with some pasta we opened this try-before you buy (more) wine I picked up at the wine shop. This is one of those classic wines that come along every so often that offers great  Vineyar - Quality Price Ratio. Not one of those that I say, RUN, don't walk to the local wine shop to grab up while supplies last, but one worth picking up if you see it. With 15000 cases produced, you should be able to find it.

A long time producer of modest offerings, this is one of those situations where 'all boats rise with the tide', in a top rated vintage, second and third labels or so rank producers can produce wines above their usual pay grade or weight class, whatever metaphor you wish to apply. Buehler also produce two premium label cabernets from their reserve selections and a single vineyard designated label.

Buehler Vineyards estate has been producing wine in the Napa Valley for over four decades under the direction of the Buehler Family. Buehler have three hundred acres five miles east of St Helena situated high in the mountains above Conn Valley and near the base of Howell Mountain. The Buehler Estate vineyards are planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon and some Zinfandel. 

The mountain terroir has a topography of steeply sloped hillsides with eastern exposures against very gently sloping hills with southern and southwestern exposures. The soils reveal the tumultuous geologic past of the Estate; extensive faulting resulted in at least three distinct soil types. 

Grapes grown on the different terrains and soils give different characteristics to the finished wines; often as distinct as the differences across various Bordeaux varieties. This allows for crafting a blend showing the variety of Cabernet Sauvignon for a complex multi-faceted wine.

The 2018 season offered nearly perfect growing conditions for growers in the Napa Valley. The year was warm throughout the growing season but cooled right around harvest allowing everyone to pick their grapes slowly without the threat of overripening. 
Buehler benefited from a great vintage with all the stars aligning for a great wine that they offer at a price point more affordable than most other mountain grown Napa Cabernets. At street price around or under twenty five dollars, this represents good value and should be fairly readily available. A bit of flabbiness gives away its price point but it provides tasty and pleasant sipping none-the-less. Makes for a great pizza or party wine for casual sipping or respectably sharing with (non oenphile) friends.

This release was awarded 93 points by Vinous, 92 points by James Suckling, and 90 points by both Wine & Spirits and Wine Spectator. 

Winemaker Notes; "The wine is brimming with fruit aromas and flavors biased to the black fruit end of the Cabernet spectrum: plums, blackberry, and black currant. Rich and full-bodied on the palate, this Cabernet drinks well on release but will soften and develop with additional age."
Garnet purple colored, medium-full-bodied with round ample ripe black-currant  blackberry and some blueberry fruits, accented with notes of graphite, dried herbs, floral, mocha, spice and leather ending with moderate tannins on a flavorful finish. 

RM 90 points. 


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Top Rated Lewis Cabernet

Top Rated Wine of the Year, Lewis Cabernet for new home christening ...

Ryan and Michelle moved in to their new house and celebrated their first dinner opening this top rated Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. This label was the Wine Spectator #1 Top 100 Wines of 2016, Highly Recommended. Their new home boasts Ryan's new custom built atmosphere controlled wine cellar. As part of our house warming recognition for the kids, I gifted them from our cellar a birthyear vintage Dom Perignon 1983 in the original seal box, for a suitable occasion.

Ryan's Caroline Cellar

Our visit to Lewis Cellars Chateau in Napa Valley was one of the highlights of our Napa Wine Experience in 2017

As I've written often in these pages, we have fun with label with its prominent 'L' in their branding and on their on the labels which we open for special occasions with Linda and Lucy.  

Son Alec and Vivianna also had a private tasting at the Chateau during their honeymoon in the summer of 2019. We also have fun with their label, Alec's Blend, named for their so named grandson. 

We typically maintain a rolling collection of a decade of Alec's Blend vintages in our cellar that we serve on applicable occasions.

We also enjoy Lewis, sharing the Hoosier heritage with his affiliation with the Indianapolis Motorace. Randy was a professional race car driver for 23 years running in Formula Three in Europe, and in the US, Formula 5000, Can Am, and finally Indy Cars from 1983 to 1991. He drove in five Indy 500's qualifying in the 4th row three times and finishing highest at 13th.

When he crashed during trials for the 1991 Indianapolis 500, he and his wife Debbie decided to change careers, opting to pursue their love for wines. Heading to Napa Valley, they released their first wine in 1994, the first in a long string of successful award winning vintages. 

Randy learned winemaking, learning on the job working for friend and vintner Bob Miner at Oakville Ranch, while Debbie studied the business. When Miner died in 1994, they set out on their own with their own label and brand.

Lewis established agreements with growers throughout Napa Valley that allowed them to source the finest fruit from Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford and Oak Knoll for their red varietals, and Chardonnay from Oak Knoll and Russian River Valley. Each site was selected for a specific varietal character, with many of the vineyards being planted exclusively for them. 

Pour Boys wine tasting at Lewis Cellars
Randy handled all aspects of vineyard management as well as winemaking while Debbie tended to the business including sales and distribution. The Lewis brand grew to a total production of nearly 10,000 cases annually of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Comparing car racing to winemaking, Randy says the biggest difference between his racing days and those in the cellar is that he never had the best cars, but he does have the best grapes. 

Debbie passed away two years ago. Her son Dennis Bell has taken over as President and General Manager. He grew up with wine at a young age spending childhood summers in the orchards of his grandparent's ranch. He joined Lewis Cellars in 1999 and is winery president.

Josh Widaman oversees winemaking. After college he worked harvests internationally – in the Barossa, Hawke’s Bay and Burgundy – while earning a degree from UC Davis and pressing cuvée at Domaine Carneros. Before joining Lewis Cellars, James gained experience on the winemaking teams of Donum, Dutton Goldfield, Patz & Hall and Acacia.

In their selection of vineyard sites, they conducted severe grape selection and lavish oak treatment trending to their preferred ultra-ripe grapes, and holding on the vine, often among the last in the valley to harvest.

They produce a bold style that Randy discovered and favored when he started drinking wine while living in Europe in the 1970s, when he was racing Formula Three cars. His preferences gravitated to Bordeaux and to fuller-bodied reds from the Rhône Valley - styles that we also prefer and collect and consume. 

Following advice and wisdom of Helen Turley of Marcassin, the architect of Napa Cabernet powerhouses such as Bryant Family and Colgin, he applied her approach: 'Be patient and let the grapes hang until the desired peak, when flavor and tannin texture reach a sweet spot'. 

Lewis proved to be a remarkably consistent, successful producer. Since the debut vintage in 1994, they produced 60 Cabernets and blends, nearly all of which earned outstanding ratings of 90 or more points, with 15 in the classic range (95 to 100). Their wines earned repeated appearances in the Wine Spectator Top 100 and Top 10 of the annual Wine Spectator ranked list. In addition to their much heralded Cabernets, Lewis produced more than 125 other wines reviewed in that same period scored in the outstanding range, with 25 ranking classic by Wine Spectator.

Lewis own no vineyards, but sourced grapes through contracts with leading growers from top vineyards, they were able to consistently produce opulent yet graceful wines. The source of their grapes, the identity of the vineyards that supplied their blends, was always a well kept secret, subject to handshakes to rigorous confidentiality agreements. 

Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013 

This was rated 95 points and was awarded Wine Spectator’s Top Wine of the Year of 2016, selected from a pool of more than 18,000 wines by Wine Spectator editors in the magazine’s blind tastings. 

Selections are based on four criteria: quality (represented by score), value (reflected by price), availability (based on the number of cases either made or imported into the U.S.) and what Wine Spectator calls the “X-factor”—or, in other words, the excitement generated by the wine.

In 2013, Lewis Cellars bottled five Cabernets, all but one of them blends from a variety of grape sources, mostly located on the eastern side of the valley. The blends are all aged in 100 percent new French oak. The best barrels go into the Reserve and Cuvee L bottlings. 
That one of Lewis’ most affordable Cabernets was such an achievement speaks to the success of their winemaking. It is also a phenomenon I often write about in these pages, that is top vintages, the second and third labels often rival the premier flagship labels, thereby providing very high relative QPR - Quality Price Ratios.  Indeed, as too often happens, once awarded the highest award recognition in the industry, this label price has grown from the $100 release price to over $250, driven up by collectors and vanity buyers, seeking to own the #1 label.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegant, smooth and polished, blackberry and black currant fruits are accented by anise, spice and black tea with graceful long, lingering finish. 

RM 94 points.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Pour Boys Wine Dinner features Dual Pauillacs

Pour Boys Wine Dinner features Dual Pauillacs and favored St Emilion and Napa Merlot

Fellow 'Pour Boy' Dr Dan and Linda came over for beef tenderloin dinner and we opened a pair of a special Pauillac label from Château Duhart-Milon.

We reminisce about this label; it anchored a mixed case of wine we gave Dan for a wedding present in a stocked wine rack forty years ago. Being newbies to fine wine at that time, I left the price tags on all the bottles so he could discern every-day wines from once-a-week or once-a-month wines. 

Château Duhart Milon Rothschild (Lafite) was the or one of the most expensive labels in that flight. Dan attributes that gift selection as part of his introduction and indoctrination to fine wine.

Tonight, I pulled from the cellar a 2003 and 2004 vintage release of Duhart-Milon for our dinner, a 'mini' vertical - multiple vintages of the same label. 

Dan brought from his cellar a opposing, Right Bank Bordeaux from Château Figeac, one of our favorite and collected St Emilions. 

Prior to dinner we had a selection of artisan cheeses and ceasar salad. With the grilled tenderloin beef au jus Linda prepared roasted au-gratin potatoes, haricot verts and carrots. 

Following dinner we enjoyed Linda's incredibly delicious decadent Salted Caramel Chocolate Mug-cake dessert.

Part of the evening was spent discussing and planning this year's upcoming OTBN - Open that bottle night, our annual wine extravaganza. 

Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 2004

We drove by the Duhart-Milon winery in the village of Pauillac during our Bordeaux Wine Experience in 2019.  

This release was awarded 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by Wine & Spirits. 

This is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot.

At seventeen years, the fill level, foil, label, and most importantly, the cork were all in ideal condition for their age. 

Dark garnet color with purple hues, medium to full-bodied, very aromatic, the fruits erupted from the bottle as soon as the cork, in perfect condition, was extracted. Expressive but only slightly austere blackberry and black currant fruits with classic Pauillac tones tobacco, creme de cassis, earth, spice and hints of cedar turning to moderate tannins and a bright fresh tangy acidity.

RM 91 points.

Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 2003

This blend is 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot.

Similar profile to the '04 release above being the same wine but this release was rated higher, 94 and 93 points by Robert Parker, Wine Advocate who compared to the much heralded 1982, and said "may be the finest Duhart-Milon made ... ever' and 'this is the greatest Duhart-Milon I have ever tasted.... a breakthrough effort and clearly a sleeper of the vintage".

James Suckling gave it 92-93 points and said "One of the best I have tasted from this estate." 

Those reviews were when it was about five years of age and now at seventeen, I found the '04 much better than the '03, perhaps aging differently or bottle variation, but my reviews were upside down from the pundits when comparing the two vintages. 

Parker wrote further, "Anticipated maturity: 2007-2020. Duhart is a chateau to watch as the Rothschilds (of Lafite) are making serious investments and pushing full-throttle to upgrade the quality and image of this estate." So, perhaps it is at the end of its primacy and starting to wane as it moves beyond its prime drinking window.

Jancis Robinson gave it 17/20 and write last year, "Really rather charming! At peak? But with some Lafite restraint about it. Attractive peppery edge to the sweet fruit."

I found similar profile to the '04 release above, more ruby than garnet colored, not as structured and less full fruits with slightly more acidicity on the finish. 

RM 89 points.

Château Figeac St Emilion Bordeaux 2010

This is one of our favorite St Emilions, a collectable that is a 'signature' label that we collected for our son Ryan's birthyear, and for a vertical collection from thereon. 

We served this wine from a double magnum at son Ryan's wedding from the 1982 vintage. We hold a vertical collection of this label as well as it being part of a horizontal selection of Bordeaux from his birth year vintage. 

We served an aged 1982 Birthyear vintage of this Figeac label for a father-son dinner with son Ryan just last month. That was testimony to the long lived ageworthiness of this label in good vintage years.

Tonight's 2010 vintage release was a blockbuster for Figeac, getting 98 points from James Suckling, 97 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinous, and 96 points from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. In 2013 Wine Enthusiast gave it a "*Cellar Selection* Give this wine at least 10 years."

Dan served this wine at a dinner together at his place back in 2016 when I posted about this wine.  

I sense this wine was consumed too young back in 2016 and is just now coming of age to reveal its true character and potential. In 2013 Steve Tanzer of International Wine Cellar gave it 91 points and said, "its youthfully forbidding tannins call for at least eight years of patience. It will merit an even higher score if it blossoms in the bottle."

In 2016 I posted this below. 

Château Figeac St Emilion Bordeaux 2010

Tonight was similar to our earlier experience with this label. True to the style of the Merlot based blend, this was an appropriate opening wine, a bit softer and more approachable easier drinking than the Cabernet predominant blends.

The blend of this right bank Bordeaux is 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.

Deep ruby colored, medium-full bodied, black berry fruits accented by cedar, tobacco leaf and smoke with hints of green olive, cassis and oak turning to smooth gripping tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.

Tonight, this was dark inky blackish purple colored, full bodied and dense but velvety, polished and elegant, nicely integrated black fruits with tobacco, graphite, cassis, hints of spice and cigar box on a smooth soft tannin finish. 

RM 93 points.

Darioush Napa Valley Merlot 2000

To round out of flight and to complement the Merlot based Right Bank Figeac, I opened this aged vintage Napa Merlot from Darioush.

We tasted and acquired this wine when Linda and I visited the Darioush estate and did a barrel tasting with winemaker Steve Devitt at the estate while the new facility and hospitality center were being built back in 2003. 

Dan accompanied us when we attended an elegant dinner hosted by Darioush at the Everest Room in Chicago back in 2004

And, we all visited the magnificent, opulent Darioush winery in Napa during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017

I have to say this wine was the surprise of the evening, exceeding my expectations. I was concerned how it would show at twenty plus years, being from a somewhat modest vintage. 

As shown the fill level, label, foil and cork were in pristine condition; another testament to the provenance of our cellar, having held this since release. This is sourced from the Darioush Estate vineyards adjacent to the winery.

This was rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. 

Dark blackish purple colored, medium-full bodied, rich, supple concentrated black fruits, yet elegant and polished with notes of dark mocha chocolate, herbs, hints of smoke, toasty oak and vanilla, with silky tannins on a long smooth finish. 

RM 91 points.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tuscan Brunello 2013 Horizontal at Italian Village

Team Dinner Features Mini Horizontal of 2013 Tucsan Brunello di Montalcino at Italian Village Chicago 

Due to pandemic concerns and restrictions we significantly downsized our global team meeting scheduled for this week in Chicago. For the dramatically reduced, remaining set of the attendees, who were not involved in other activities this evening, we held an extended team dinner at our usual go-to venue, Italian Village, Chicago.  
Besides the team-building, fellowship and business interaction, one of the fun and entertaining aspects of hosting a small group dinner is the ability to serve and taste a variety of wines for comparison tasting. This was part of a continuum of numerous dinners which I've featured in earlier blogposts about our wine and dinners at Italian Village, Chicago's oldest, longest running continuously family operated Italian restaurant.
Taking advantage of and exploiting the extraordinary, extensive wine list and wine cellar of Italian Village, curated and managed under the direction of dear friend Jared Gelband, Wine Director, I selected a flight of wines. I selected from the vast cellar winelist a horizontal flight (wines of the same vintage), four 2013 vintage Brunello di Montalcino labels. In the end, three of the four labels we selected were available in stock in the cellar which we consumed. (The other label selection that was not available was Molino di Sant'Antimo Brunello di Montalcino 2013.)

The vast Italian Village cellar and winelist several pages of Brunello di Montalcino labels across vintages spanning more two decades. 

Brunello di Montalcino is the DOCG specified Italian wine classification, the highest in the rank order of the four levels. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation classification was established in 1980. It is one of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines.

Brunello is the local name for Sangiovese grape varietal based wines, used since 1865, when a producer in the village of Montalcino made Italy's first 100% Sangiovese wine.  

The name Brunello is derived from a grape varietal of the same name that over time became apparent it is the same grape as the popular varietal, Sangiovese. The Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is conferred on highest quality red wines produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino, in the province of Siena. The region is located about 80 km south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region. 

There are about 250 wineries in the region, mostly smaller estates with vineyards of about 50 acres, with a combined total of about 8500 acres of vines. Most are located in the western part of the region, the area most influenced by the climatic effects of the nearby Mediterranean sea. Several of the top producers and a regional map are shown above.  

Brunellos based on the Sangiovese grape with its thicker-skinned berries tend to produce wines with exceptionally bold fruit flavors, high tannin, and high acidity that extend the life of the wine.  Hence, they tend to be rather long lived wines, reaching their peak perfection after a decade or more. Taking advantage of the deep and broad selection available on the Italian Village cellar winelist,  I selected a flight of nine year old Brunello di Montalcino DOCG classified wines to accompany our Italian cuisine, and to compare different labels from the same vintage. 

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino 2013

The Tenuta Fanti estate has belonged to the Fanti family since the beginning of the eighteen hundreds, managed under the direction of Filippo Fanti since the early 1970s, joined by his daughter Elisa in 2007. The winemaker is Fillipo Artini.

The Fanti Estate is located in the heart of Tuscany, in the valley of Castelnuovo dell’Abate which lies to the south of the village of Montalcino. The estate spans 750 acres of land with eighteen different vineyards spanning 135 acres, several surrounding the new wine cellar built in 2004.

When Filippo Fanti took over leadership of the company in the early 1970's, he focused on striving for the highest quality wines that would express the terroir of Castelnuovo dell' Abate. Starting with the soils, he sustainably replanted the vineyards and olive trees after a careful selection of the most suitable plots within the estate. In 2004, construction began on a new modernized spacious gravity flow cellar for winemaking, ageing, and refinement.  

The Fanti Estate vineyards are planted mostly to Sangiovese but also include the Tuscan Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon and Merot, some Syrah and white wine grapes Viognier and lesser known grapes Trebbiano, Malvasia and San Colombano. There are also 150 acres of olive trees, 200 acres of seed crops and the remaining land in forest. 

Fanti produce a portfolio of nine different wines plus a grappa dessert wine, primarily Sangiovese based including this Brunello, as well as several Tuscans consisting of the Bordeaux varietals and the Syrah, and a couple white wines from estate grown Viognier

The first vintage of Fanti Brunello di Montalcino was released back in 1980, selected from twenty-five acres of Sangiovese grapes located on the different slopes of the Castelnuovo dell'Abate area.

This 2013 vintage release was awarded 93 points by James Suckling, 92 points by Vinous A. Galloni, and 90 points by Wine Advocate Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

The producer's tasting notes for this release: "Color: bright ruby red, medium intensity. Nose: complex notes of cherry, red fruits and violet, alongside with pepper, licorice and cinnamon. Fresh balsamic note. Palate: tannins are dense and well integrated, great acidity, elegant, vertical and slightly sapid. Well balanced. The retro nasal recalls perfectly the nose."

This was bright ruby colored, medium bodied, black cherry and red berry fruits with notes of floral, a bit of sweetnesss with spicy cinnamon, licorice and hints of white pepper with soft tannins on a crisp clean tangy finish.

RM 91 points.

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2013

This renowned premium label is owned by the famous fashion designer Massimo Ferragamo, and Chiara Ferragamo, who purchased the historic property of nearly 5,000-acres, formerly a medieval village, in 2003. They set upon enhancing and modernizing the facilities, renovating the historic Borgo and villas, and updating the winery and cellars.

The history of Castiglion del Bosco dates back to the 1100's and great Sienese families who settled the area. The estate was farmed over the ensuing 800 years. 

The historic castle was erected in 1100 in classic medieval style. At the dawn of the thirteenth century, the Cacciaconti family of Trequanda had stone walls built around the stronghold that stands on the hilltop, still visible today with the stone tower.

In 1318, Sienese Ciampolo Gallerani declared himself lord of the fortress. He claimed that one of his descendants, Cecilia Gallerani, was the girl depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in his famous painting “Lady with an Ermine” (1488). On his death, in 1338, Castiglion del Bosco fell under the rule of the Piccolomini family, who initiated widespread renovation of the fortifications.

Castiglion del Bosco is one of Montalcino's most isolated vineyards with its 150 acres of vines surrounded by nearly 3000 acres of woodlands. The Castiglion del Bosco name is derived from the word bosco,(wood), surrounding the Castiglion (walled castle), 'fortress in the woods'. The estate retains the same historic boundaries with the famous Borgo, school, stables, and the crop fields, vineyards and olive groves. The rolling Val d'Orcia land has been the subject of landscape paintings for generations of Tuscan artists. 

Castiglion del Bosco was one of the founding members when Montalcino's wineries teamed up and created the region's official Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino 1967. The Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium was one of the earliest Italian wine producing regions to earn Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status. From the originial 25 founding members producing about 850,000 bottles annually, today’s production now exceeds 6,000,000 bottles from the consortium membership that has grown to 140 wineries.

In 2010, the Castiglion del Bosco Golf Club was developed, the only private golf club in Italy, a stunning 18-hole course designed by Tom Weiskopf is sited near the world-class winery and a five-star resort set on nearly 520 acres.

The vast parkland that surrounds the Castiglion del Bosco estate contains the Art, Nature and Culture Park of Val d’Orcia, established in 1967 as a Protected Natural Area. Castiglion del Bosco Val d’Orcia was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, acknowledged as a place of outstanding universal value.

In 2021 the 2016 vintage Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino was awarded 99 points by James Suckling and it came in second place in his Top 100 Wines of Italy 2020, listed along with the best wines of any Italian wine region and appellation.

The estate of Castiglion del Bosco grows primarily Sangiovese, and its line of wines is an expression of the two local denominations: three different interpretations of Brunello and the Rosso di Montalcino.  Prima Pietra, the second vineyard property of Massimo Ferragamo  lies in Riparbella, on the Tuscan coast, with 27 acres of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. 

This was garnet colored, medium bodied, expressive black cherry and black raspberry fruits, notes of toast, leather, tobacco, spice and hints of pepper with a nice balance of acidity and tannins on the long engaging finish. 

RM 91 points.

Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de' Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino 2013

Another of the vast Marchesi de' Frescobaldi properties of Tuscany, one of seven estates they own and manage across the Northern Italian Tuscany Bolgheri region, some of which have been in the family dating back to the 1300's.  

This Brunello di Montalcino property lies in the historic Castelgiocondo village, the area dominated by an ancient castle, in a small medieval village south-west of Montalcino, the ancient stronghold built in 1100 to defend the road leading from the sea to Siena.

The village of Castelgiocondo overlooks the historic Frescobaldi estate. The property was one of the first to begin producing Brunello di Montalcino in 1800, its historic importance represented on the label of Castelgiocondo by the figure of a condottiere from a celebrated fresco of the Sienese artist Simone Martini.

The label features the artist’s depiction showing Guidoriccio da Fogliano, commander of the troops of Siena who in 1323 led the attack on the Montemassi castle; an historic moment that coincided with the initiation of the Frescobaldi family’s centuries-old adventure in the world of wine.

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

The Castelgiocondo 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows dark garnet color, medium body, nicely balanced, round full blackberry and black cherry fruits with earthy spice, tobacco and leather with bright acidity as firm but approachable tannins.
RM 92 points.

I was disappointed that one of the labels I was especially eager to try and compare with the others from this same region and vintage, Molino di Sant'Antimo, was no longer available in the cellar, so we opted for this perennial high value and dependable favorite Tuscan red blend.

Antinori Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Il Bruciato 2019, Bolgheri DOC

This is from another famous prodigious Tuscan family, owners and producers of a broad portfolio of wines sourced from their vast estate holdings across the regions. 

As written in recent blogposts on this wine, this is from the Guado al Tasso estate, located in the small but prestigious Bolgheri DOC appellation on the coast of Upper Maremma, about one hundred kilometers southwest of Florence. This appellation has a relatively recent history as it was established in 1994, but has gained worldwide recognition as a new reference point in the international oenological scene. The estate covers an area of 2500 acres, of which about 790 acres are planted with vines. 

The Guado al Tasso estate is one of nine major well known brands of the vast Antinori family wine empire. Guado al Tasso’s vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Vermentino grapes; this last cultivated with both with white and red varieties. Adjacency to the nearby sea provides a mild climate with constant breezes mitigate summer heat and alleviate harsh winter weather, maintaining a clear sky and a high level of sunlight exposure. 

The Il Bruciato label was created in the year 2002 as the the second wine under the flagship Guado al Tasso. It is crafted to represent the unique terroir of Bolgheri and give it a greater visibility and recognition. The first blend to be used was that of Guado al Tasso only to see, in the years which followed, a modification of the varietal composition and the identification of a series of vineyard plots intended to be used exclusively for this wine. 

Il Bruciato is now regarded as a modern interpretation of Bolgheri’s unique terroir made from carefully selected Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes from all around Guado al Tasso’s vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with Merlot, Syrah and a small percentage of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and the final blend was reintroduced into barriques where it was left to age before bottling.

A widely popular wine known for great value with exceptional QPR - quality-price-ration, this is one of the few Italian labels I regularly keep in our cellar for dependable everyday sipping, but also respectable for a fine dinner accompaniment. 

I served the 2016 release of this label at a team dinner reecntly, the last of my holdings from that vintage. I write more about this label in that blogpost. The 2018 release sold out very quickly making this 2019 even more anticipated. While this is a wine that has increased in price significantly over the past few years it remains a great value and is a real must-buy for regular Bolgheri enthusiasts. 

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant expressive black cherry and black berry fruits with  spices, tobacco, milk chocolate, cedar and notes of graphite on the tangy acidic finish.

RM 91 points. 

Winemaker's Tasting Notes: Il Bruciato 2019 is intensely ruby red in color. Its nose expresses notes of small dark fruit, sweet spices and tobacco. Its well-structured palate is harmonious and very pleasant to drink. Fresh fruity notes dominate the finish. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona Merlot 2005

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona Merlot 2005 at Italian Village, Chicago

With much of the team in town for meetings, we dined at our regular go-to place, Italian Village, Chicago. Many of our alternate sites are still closed due to the pandemic.

This winery is named after the Avignonesi family, founders of the original estate. It was acquired in 2009 by Virginie Saverys who before moving to Tuscany in 2007 to pursue her passion for fine wines, had a highly successful legal career in Belgium. 

She bought Avignonesi with the intention of taking on an established winery recognised for its quality, innovative research and experimentation and take it to a new level of excellence. Introducing sustainable farming methods and biodynamic viticulture, Avignonesi has become to the largest biodynamic winery in Italy. Saverys' aim for Avignonesi is to produce authentic, unique wines, that mirror the distinct identity of Montepulciano which are also healthier for her customers, land and future generations.

The estate has grown to 420 acres of vineyards including the purchase of a state-of-the-art winemaking facility in the Montepulciano appellation. 

Avignonesi is overseen by CEO and Winemaker Matteo Giustiniani. Florentine by birth, he studied oenology and viticulture at the University of Florence and later gained a Master in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux. 

Assisting Giustiniani is COO and Agronomist Alessio Gorini. Alessio joined Avignonesi in 2014. Born in Pistoia, Alessio has worked and studied in some of the most important wine areas in the world, including Bordeaux, Burgundy and New Zealand, where he developed understanding of biodynamic viticulture. He defines himself as a “foot-soldier of the vine”. 

At Avignonesi, they say, "the 'heavy lifting' is done in the vineyard with the close collaboration between the agronomist and the oenologist and their capacity to observe and act in the best interest of nature, fruit, staff and final consumer."

The Avignonesi brand now produces a broad portfolio of eighteen different labels. most produced primarily from Sangiovese, but also some Bordeaux varietal red wines, and some white wines and Blends comprised of Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Sangiovese and Grechetto. Their Cantaloro brand consists of every day wines in red, white and rose. They also produce a Grappa and a Grappa Reserve. 

The Tuscany wine region, or Toscana in Italian, is Italy’s best-known wine region and its most diverse. Historically Sangiovese was the primary grape grown in Tuscany and Chianti was considered the purest expression of Sangiovese. Sangiovese and its many clones are still important, and they are the grapes used for the Tuscan appellations of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, Chianti, Chianti Classico and Carmignano. 

Over the last 50 years, innovative producers, many of them in southwestern Tuscany in the area called Maremma, have also planted traditional Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Some producers have gone against tradition and blended those varietals with Sangiovese to produce respectable wines that do not conform to Italy’s appellation regulations. Such wines are called Super Tuscans.

I selected this label from the extraordinary, extensive Italian Village wine list and wine cellar. Wine Director and friend Jared Gelband was tied up, busy serving other patrons. When he later came to our table to check on us, seeing this bottle he exclaimed, 'I saw the order ticket for this label placed and suspected that was probably you!"

This label, Avignonesi Desiderio is comprised of Bordeaux varietals, primarily Merlot, sourced from the Cortona area of Tuscany.  

This wine gets its name from Desiderio, the name of a large bull that lived on Avignonesi’s Capezzine Farm more than one hundred years ago, and became something of a legend. At that time Desiderio was the largest bull in Tuscany and because of his excellent genes, helped refine and define the Chianina cattle race, specific to the region. 

This Merlot label is a tribute dedicated to the majestic beloved bull, a testimony of the wine’s origins, and as a symbol of its powerful, yet sensuous character.

This release is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The fruit for this label is sourced from the Cortona Central Coast estate vineyards, Le Badelle estate vineyard, planted in 2000, La Selva estate vineyard, planted between 1973 and 2004, Selva Nuova and Selva Vecchia, La Selva estate: planted between 2003 and 2005; Ribuio, La Selva estate: planted in 2000, and Paggino, La Selva estate vineyards planted in 1973.

In recent years, 36000 bottles, 3000 cases were produced of this label. 

Recent releases of this label were awarded 95 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Veronelli and 91 points by Wine Spectator. This release was awarded 89 points by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

At going on seventeen years this was probably at the apex of its drinking window, not likely to improve with further aging. The fill level, label, foil and cork were in perfect condition for their age.

Dark garnet purple colored, nicely balanced, smooth and polished, black berry fruits accented by smokey clove spice, licorice, tobacco, hints of dark chocolate and herbs with earthy Tuscan notes indicating Tuscan terroir, turning to dusty tannins with tangy acids on a long finish. 

RM 91 points 


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Buoncristiani OPC Proprietary Red 2015

Buoncristiani Family Winery "O.P.C." Napa Valley Red Blend 2015

Buoncristiani Family Winery is a collaboration of three brothers born into a Italian family with a long lineage of winemakers and wine lovers in the Napa Valley. Born and raised in Napa Valley, they grew up working the harvests alongside their dad in the vineyards where they learned how to tend the vines and craft wine. They perform all aspects of the wine process, enology, viticulture, wine production, and art design in pursuing their winemaking passion. 

Buoncristiani source grapes from some of Napa’s most prestigious vineyards including Hyde, Stagecoach, Hossfeld and Bennett, managing small vineyards lots. They handcraft their limited production wines in The Caves at Soda Canyon, a cooperative Cave Winery above the famed Stags Leap District overlooking the Napa Valley.

The Caves at Soda Canyon were founded by the owners of its winery partners: Henry and Olga Patland of Patland Estate Vineyards. Ryan and Crystal Waugh of Waugh Cellars. The four Buoncristiani brothers of Buoncristiani Family Winery. Randy and Krys Wulff of Lobo Wines. Today The Caves are quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Napa Valley for wine lovers who are looking for quality wine, quality people and quality experiences.

All four families who call The Caves at Soda Canyon their home are first generation winemakers with a commitment to family first and to quality winemaking.

Besides this Red Blend, they also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah reds, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc whites, and a Rosé of Syrah & Malbec.

Robert Parker Jr. says, "One of my favorite under-the-radar wineries is Buoncristiani."

Matt Buoncristiani, Co-Founder/Managing Partner received his BS degree from St. Mary's College in Moraga, California and a Masters at University of Pennsylvania. He traveled home to Napa on the weekends to make wine during the harvest season. After three years working in the medical field, he went off to Florence, Italy where he studied language, wine, and "la dolce vita"! He returned to the Napa Valley in 1999 and worked in wine production at Rudd Estate Winery in Oakville for more than five years before becoming the Cellar Master at Caldwell Winery.  In 2009 he join his brothers to establish Buoncristiani Family Winery where he serves as Managing Partner.

Jay Buoncristiani is a Co-Founder and serves as Winemaker. He received a BS degree from Santa Clara University in Chemistry, Biology, and Physics in 1996. After graduation he returned home to Napa Valley and took on Enologist duties at The Hess Collection Winery becoming Winemaker, serving until 2005 before joining brother Matt at Buoncristiani. 

He also serves as Consulting Winemaker for a select few additional wineries including Krupp Brothers, Hollywood Classic, JKL, Remridg, and Patland.  

Jay’s wines have earned high marks, garnering a multitude of wine scores in the 90s, # 25 in the Top 100 wines of the world from Wine Enthusiast, and a 97 point rated wine from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate where Parker called Jay’s wine “truly magnificent.” He was named “Rising Star of Napa Cabernet” by Wine Spectator.

Nate Buoncristiani is General Partner, graduated from Chico State University with a degree in Marketing. He studied abroad in Northern Italy where he collaborated in marketing, wine production, sales, product placement, and website design. Returning to Napa, he spent time working at Caldwell, Rudd, and Black Stallion in cellar production. Nate now focuses on wine sales and marketing for Buoncristiani.

Buoncristiani Family Winery "O.P.C." Napa Valley Red Blend 2015 

This wine is a tribute to their winemaking fathers heritage, OPC stands for “Ol’ Pa’s Cuvée”. 

This was rated 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Jeb Dunnuck. It is a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 20% Malbec and 14% Merlot. It was was aged in French oak barrels for 20 months and bottled in June of 2017.

Deep garnet-purple color, full-bodied, complex but balanced black cherry and blackberry fruits with hints of violets, mocha chocolate, black tea and anise with soft, round tannins and an expressive long and spicy finish. 

RM 90 points.



Friday, January 7, 2022

Chateau La Nerthe CDP 2013

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf du Pape 2013 BYOB for Angeli's Italian family dinner outing

Friday night dinner at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood Italian Trattoria, with Alec and Vivianna, I took from the cellar BYOB this complex big red. 

We tasted this wine when together we visited Château La Nerthe during our Châteauneuf du Pape Wine Experience in 2019. 

I write in more detail about this producer and label in my blogpost of that event. 

Tonight, for starters we had from the Specials Menu, Meatballs with Ricotta Cheese and the Gnocci Gorgonzola. For my entree selection I had the special Pork Loin with Port Wine with Artichokes, Portabella Mushrooms and roasted potatoes (shown), great pairings with our Rhone blend. 

As I wrote in my blogpost about our visit to the Château La Nerthe estate, Château La Nerthe is one of the oldest estates in Châteauneuf du Pape dating back to 1560. The historic chateau was built in 1736. Château La Nerthe was one of the first estates to bottle their own wine. 

The owners of La Nerthe are the Richard family in a partnership with negociants David and Foillard took over the property in 1986. They completely renovated the estate and replanted much of the vineyards.  In 1991, Château La Nerthe expanded their holdings with the purchase of 22 hectares of vines, which helped to create one of the largest estates in the Southern Rhone with 90 hectares under vine.

Starting with the 2015 vintage, Ralph Garcin was placed in charge of the estate and its winemaking. Previously Ralph Garcin was working for Jaboulet in Hermitage.

The 90 hectare vineyard of Château La Nerthe has a terroir of rock, sand, clay and loam soils. Much of the vineyards and the chateau are located at the estate southeast of the village, sixty hectares of the vineyards in two large blocks adjacent and in front of the Chateau.

The remaining 30 hectares are behind the chateau and abut the plateau of La Crau (shown right), has the classic Rhone valley rocks and stones, known as galets in the region. 

The vineyards of Château La Nerthe are planted with all 13 types of grapes allowed in the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation.

While the property has plantings of all 13 of the appellation’s permitted varietals, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah dominate the red blend. The estate has one of the highest proportions of white vines in the region and produces a special white cuvée – Clos de Beauvenir – sourced from grapes from the clos directly in front of the château. Chateau La Nerthe produces 3 red Châteauneuf du Pape wines and 2 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc wines. 
We tasted the Clos de Beauvenir premium white label together at another dinner outing when we dined together last fall Al Fresco at Suzettes Creperie in nearby Wheaton (IL). 

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf du Pape 2013

This is the flagship label of Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf du Pape. The typical blend of Chateau La Nerthe Châteauneuf du Pape is 55% Grenache, 17% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 7% Cinsault, 3% Counoise and the remaining 3% is a blend of the other varietals planted in the vineyard.

Close to 15,000 cases are produced each year.

At nine years of age, this is likely at or nearing the apex of its drinkability, the fill level, label, foil and cork were in perfect condition. 

This was a outstanding representation of the 2013 vintage. It showed deep garnet color with purple sprites, medium bodied, rich full complex but well balanced and integrated black cherry, strawberry, red and black fruits, with notes of spice, tobacco, cedar, sandalwood, and balsamic, turning to a smooth polished finish of round fine-grained delicate tannins. 

RM 90 points.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Keenan Napa Valley Merlot 2003

 Keenan Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003

With left over BBQ and pizza, searching for an accompanying red wine, I pulled from the cellar this vintage Napa Merlot for the occasion. At nearly two decades of age, I presumed this was not too old, but not too young for enjoyable sipping. 

This is from Keenan Winery and Vineyards, high up Spring Mountain, above the town of St Helena in the Mayacamas Range, the western wall that forms Napa Valley below. There they farm 50 acres of vineyards with estate grown Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, as well as some Chardonnay and Zinfandel. 

As shown in the rear label, this wine was crafted by Nils Venge as consulting winemaker to Keenan. 

We visited the rustic Keenan Winery estate during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2007, when we tasted and acquired this bottle as part of a mixed case selection including some large format bottles.

I had fun with this label gifting a magnum of one of their special reserve bottlings to a friend of the same name for a special holiday dinner back during that era.

Keenan Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003

At nineteen years, this wine, obtained at the winery near time of release has since then been cellared in our home subterranean cellar. 

As is routinely the case with such bottles, this was starting to show slight signs of diminution from age, the fill level, label, foil,and most importantly, the cork were all in ideal condition, appropriate for the age. 

The cork came out cleanly and easily using ah 'ahso' two pronged cork puller. 

The wine showed a dark blackish inky color with a bright garnet rim, medium full bodied, forward tangy full blackberry and black currant fruits with a predominate layer of smoke, earthy leather and notes of cigar box and hints of creosote, with tongue coating tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 88 points.


Friday, December 31, 2021

Marco's Kitchen LaGrange

Marco's Kitchen LaGrange (IL) for fabulous fine dining experience

We were invited to join son Sean and Michelle and new grand-baby Lavender for an early New's Years Eve dinner at Marco's Kitchen in LaGrange (IL)

I pulled from the cellar a special aged Pauillac that we took BYOB for the occasion. 

Marco's Kitchen is new to downtown LaGrange, just south of the Metra rail. 

This was our first visit to Marco's Kitchen and we will look forward to returning again. The warm ambiance and stylish setting has a chic upbeat vibe atmosphere with a menu of delectable artfully crafted cuisine selections with hospitable service. 

Chef Marco brings 44 years of cooking and restaurant experience with an imaginative and artfully crafted international cuisine - as noted on the menu, "From Rome to the Amalfi Coast, From Paris to Barcelona, and from Napa Valley to Puerto Vallarta!".  

There is a large bakery oven in which they bake fresh breads daily.

The seating is limited, but nicely arranged and spaced to be cozy and comfortable. With limited number of tables and Covid sensitive social distance spacing, reservations are a must.

There is a limited but carefully selected winelist offering appropriate selections to accompany the menu and they provided skillful attentive BYOB service as well with quality glassware and appropriate decanting of our vintage wine in light of what follows.

Server Jorge was unfazed and handled gracefully the unruly cork of our 22 year old bottle that crumbled and came apart on extraction.

We ordered a broad selection of starters and everything was wonderful, delicious, delectable and artfully presented. 

For starters we had:

A Dozen Bevan Prime Oysters on the half shell, fresh, large. 

The highlight of the evening for me was the Chicken Liver, Shitake Mushroom Cognac Mousse Pate that was delicious and a perfect accompaniment to my aged Bordeaux. 

Gorgonzola Stuff Black Mission Figs Wrapped in Proscuitto di Parma and Escargot served in a pastry and an imaginative brown sauce. 

Our dinner entree selections were the Pan Seared Idaho Rainbow Trout Almondine (above), Oven Roasted Pistachio encrusted Australian Lamb Chops, and from the starter list, Maryland Lump Crab and Polenta Cakes, and the Pan Seared Cinnamon Chipotle Rubbed Diver Scallops (shown below).

There is an extensive dessert menu with several offerings of Creme Brulee, tart pastries, Tiramisu, dark chocolate fruit tartlet and a combination medley plate (shown below).   

We ordered from the winelist this Chardonnay for white wine selection - a perfect pairing with the seafood choices. 

Ramey Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2018

This is from David Ramey, one of the best known and most highly regarded winemakers in California. He is widely acknowledged to be among the pioneers who raised the bar for American winemakers and brought California to the forefront of the international wine world. 
David Ramey spent his early career creating benchmark wines for such wineries as Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus and Rudd. At Dominus Winery, Christian Moueix agreed to allow David to "make a little Chardonnay on the side".
David and wife Carla founded Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996. David left Rudd following the 2001 vintage to go independent but continues to consult with a number of well known wineries and brands.

Ramey's groundbreaking work with indigenous yeasts and malolactic and barrel fermentation yielded a new California style that was richer, more lush and silky smooth than previously known, a new benchmark style now emulated by many.

He produces Ramey Chardonnays from the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and Carneros, as well as single vineyard efforts from the Hudson, Hyde, and Ritchie vineyards.
This label and vintage release combines grapes from a selection of five sites planted from 1978 to 2006, the biggest contribution from the producer's estate Westside Farms, as well as Dutton, Woolsey Road and Rochioli Allen vineyards, among others.
This release was awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast, 94 points by Wine & Spirits, and 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Jeb Dunnuck. 
Light straw colored, medium bodied, vibrant fresh, clean crisp acidity with spice and floral notes, hints of stone and citrus, almonds and white blossoms, silky with mineral and freshness on a long finish. 
The bright acidity was almost overpowering for standalone casual sipping but when paired with the food it was a perfect complement that amplified the enjoyment of both the food and the wine. 
RM 91 points.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac Bordeaux 1999

Celebrating the New Year and for this special dinner occasion I selected and brought BYOB a special memorable wine from our cellar. Linda and I walked the grounds of the magnificent Chateau when we toured Pauillac and the Medoc of Bordeaux during our Bordeaux Wine Experience in 2019.

I liked this wine such that I last opened it on my birthday back in 2015. Tonight's tasting experience was consistent with the notes I published at that time when I wrote the post below.

"Following the last couple UGC Bordeaux tastings where this wine was one of the standouts, I selected this from the cellar to showcase my birthday dinner. This is classic Bordeaux at its best. Even though we PNP - pop and poured this without decanting, it immediately resonated from the glass with classic Bordeaux bouquet and flavors of dark berry fruits, graphite, violets and hints of smoky tar, tobacco and cassis. Dark ruby  colored, medium bodied, polished and nicely balanced, soft and almost delicate for a Pauillac, the tongue coating fine tannins are silky smooth on the lingering finish. At sixteen, this is likely at its prime drinking now."

This was awarded 91 points Wine Spectator and 90 points by Vinous.

Vinous wrote, "Slightly earthy, featuring tobacco, cigar box and dark fruits. Full-bodied, offering super velvety tannins and a long, rich finish." 

Tonight this showed a slight bricking on the edges indicating it is past its apex, but still drinking very nicely. Very pleasant and ideal with the pate' above. 

At 22, the cork was dry and came apart upon extraction using a traditional server's corkscrew.

In 2010 Vinous wrote: "Plenty of subtle things are going on here in the glass, with lots of wonderful fruit underneath. Can't wait on this. Showing beautifully now. Better than ever." It was probably at its peak from then through my tasting in 2016.

RM 90 points, one less than before, taking into account the aging and slight diminution in color.