Sunday, October 20, 2019

Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2012

Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2012

One might say this is one of our signature wines for our son Alec, along with 'Alec's Blend from Napa Lewis Cellars. We pulled this from the cellar for sipping with cheese, fruit and chocolate with a Saturday night movie as we prepare to go visit in Alec in NYC this week.

This is a full throttle powerful high octane Shiraz. If you think that is over the top with the superlatives, try this wine. It's actually over the top for my liking and I like big bold style wine. Linda actually likes this style. some Cellartrackers talked about using the Mollydooker Shake on this wine. No wonder the producer introduced the Mollydooker 'shake' where they actually prescribe shaking the bottle before opening to awaken or to settle the fruit! We own and drink a lot of their wine and I have never gotten into the habit of doing so, perhaps tonight we should have!

Reading up on the Mollydooker Shake, it is prescribed only for still red wines of two years of age or less. It is to release the nitrogen in the bottle that they use instead of the normal sulphites commonly used to preserve wines.  Sulphites can cause an allergic asthma type reaction in some people and Mollydooker realise a lot of people are sensitive to them. So, wherever they can, they use nitrogen to protect the wine so that they can reduce the amount of sulphites.

We served an earlier vintage release of this wine at a graduation celebration for Alec back in his college apartment.

This was dark blackish inky purple, full bodied, powerful, rich forward fruit of super ripe savoury extracted raisin, notes of expresso coffee, soy and anise, with a bit of heat with almost a medicinal or metallic layer. I wonder if this is indicative of this vintage or if perhaps we held it a bit too long, or perhaps this is an aberrant bottle. We have some more of this vintage and will watch it carefully.

The pundits and Cellartracker collectors give this 92 points. I give it 88.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Long Shadows Chester-Kidder 2016

Long Shadows Winery Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2016

Just received my wine club allocation which included this label and the 2016 Pedestal Merlot. We discovered and signed up for this during our Washington Wine Experience when we visited the winery tasting room in Woodinville last fall.

Another note and point of interest of these wines is a personal family connection. As I wrote in our blogpost during our Washington Wine, Seattle Wine and Culinary Experience, a subplot to the story is that our niece Anna Long, married last fall into the Van Hoed family, farmers, wine growers, viticulturists and winemakers from the famed Walula Vineyards in the Columbia River wine region. Her great uncle-in-law, is Andy Den Hoed who manages some of the vineyards for Long Shadows wines.

As I wrote in this blogpost at the time, Long Shadows was the creation of Allan Shoup, leader of Chateau St Michelle from 1983 to 2000. There he introduced Washington State grapes to winemakers from around the world in collaboration to produce quality wines. 

After retirement from Chateau St Michelle Shoup founded Long Shadows to produce world class ultra-premium wines in Washington. He built a state of the art winery in Walla Walla and recruited a team of legendary producers to craft signature wines from the best vineyards' fruit from the Washington Columbia Valley. Three years into the new venture Long Shadows was awarded the Winery of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine. 

Shoup recruited a top winemaker with expertise and a track record producing best in class wine in each category or type of wine based on varietal grape. Marketed under the Vintners Collection, each of the Long Shadows labels in a testament to the legend of the winemaker for each label based on each varietal. Talented winemaker Gilles Nicault manages the estate and all its different cuvées in collaboration and with consulting advice from a selected world class winemakers for each label.

Allen Shoup named this wine in honor of his mother, Elizabeth Chester, and his grandmother, Maggie Kidder. Long Shadows' director of winemaking and viticulture, Gilles Nicault, crafts this New World blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other classic Bordeaux varieties.

Long Shadows Winery Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2016

This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (58%), Syrah (30%), and 12% Petit Verdot. The Cabernet and Syrah fruit is sourced from Washington State Columbia Valley Red Mountain and Candy Mountain vineyards to which the winemaker attributes firm structure and intensity; from the Stone Tree Vineyard on Wahluka Slope adds red fruit characteristics, and a small selection of the Petiti Verdot is from the Dionysus Vineyard which adds layers of ripe flavors and tannins.

As noted above, distant cousin in laws Den Hoed's manage some of the vineyards for Long Shadow's wines.

Winemaker notes for this 2016 release: "The vintage was another hot growing season that required extra care in the vineyards. Building on the success of our canopy management program over the last few vintages, we worked with growers throughout the season to encourage growth of the canes and outside foliage to protect against the sun while opening up the fruit zone for even maturation. Warm temperatures in the fall hastened ripening, while the Columbia Valley’s cool autumn nights protected the grapes’ acidity resulting in rich, concentrated wines.'

"Select Cabernet Sauvignon lots underwent an extended maceration of 40 days to produce intense color, flavor and firm tannins that stand up to 30 months of barrel-aging in tight-grained French oak barrels (80% new). The extended barrel-aging helps to both enhance the wine’s rich mouthfeel as well as integrate the fruit and oak. The result is a supple, layered winethat drinks well on release but also rewards time in the cellar."

JAMES SUCKLING gave this 94 points and wrote:  Inky in color and brimming with layered aromas and flavors of black cherries, baking spice and a subtle earthiness, the 2016 Chester-Kidder offers an impressive concentration of refined tannins and a lively mouthfeel.  Wonderfully rich and well-balanced, the wine gains fullness across the mid-palate and leaves a vibrant impression on the finish.

Contrary to James Suckling's note, I found this dark garnet colored, medium to full-bodied, complex, and layered, but slightly disjointed as if the boldness of the Syrah was competing for attention with the firm structured Cabernet Sauvignon. I suspect that with some time in bottle this will settle and become more balanced and harmonious. The Syrah predominance showed a layer of sweet red fruits, accented by notes of spice, tobacco leaf, smokey sweet oak and smooth tannins on the lingering finish. 
RM 91 points.  

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Andrew Will Sorella 2001

Andrew Will "Sorella" Columbia Valley Red Blend 2001
Andrew Will is the work of winemaker Chris Camarda who started working out of his house in Vashon, Washington in 1989 which doubled as a tasting room, influenced by Italian industrial design and sitting on 5 acres. Andrew Will is named for Chris's nephew Andrew and son Will. 

Andrew Will produce a portfolio of single vineyard Bordeaux varietal blends that explore the primacy of vineyard over varietal. They focus on Bordeaux varietals from each vineyard, where they produce blends to express that site. The differences between the vineyard wines are of particular interest.

We pulled this aged Columbia Valley Red Bordeaux Blend from the cellar for beef tenderloin dinner at home. Fruit for this release was sourced entirely from the Washington State Columbia Valley Champoux Vineyard, the core of the 2001 Sorella is blended from a 29 year-old block of Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) with the balance being Cabernet Franc (15%), Merlot (10%), and Petit Verdot (7%).

Our web journal records show we last opened this label vintage release back in 2004. At eighteen years, fourteen years later, it is past it's prime drinking window and is time to drink. 

Robert Parker gave this label 93 points, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Wine Spectator gave it 92 points. 

Dark Ruby colored, medium-full bodied, tightly wound firm structured, the black berry and black currant fruits are starting to give way to a layer of smokey non-fruit flavors of tobacco, herbs and minerals with notes of cassis, spice and dark mocha chocolate turning to tongue-coating firm tannins on a long  structured finish.

RM 90 points.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry 2005

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley Red Wine 2005

Opened this on a weeknight with a course of artisan cheeses ... readers of this blog know I taste quite of a bit of wine and tonight I had a first time unique wine experience. ... I was opening this fourteen year old Bordeaux Blend and when pulling the cork, it was out 7/8 of the way when suddenly it popped and gushed out of the bottle. The cork broke off the end and somehow there was pressure in the bottle that released as the end of the cork was released.

Beaulieu Vineyards ("Beau lieu" - A Beautiful Place) are one of the most storied and prolific Napa Valley producers founded by Georges de Latour in 1900. The picturesque historic cellars are a landmark on the St Helena highway in the town of Rutherford. Today they produce a broad portfolio of labels including a broad selection of Reserve wines.

BV Tapestry is a classic Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc from outstanding Napa Valley vineyards. Special reserve lots are vinified separately and aged for 21 months in small barrels. They are then carefully blended to create a wine that is both elegant and opulent with dark fruit character and plush texture.

Generally, BV Tapestry has delivered high QPR - quality price ratio for a sophisticated Bordeaux Blend from Napa Valley. It is one of the labels that does a remarkable job to consistently produce high quality in large quantities - a daunting feat but testament to their vast vineyard sources and resources.

Cellartracker records show we hold more than four cases of a dozen different vintages of this label dating back to the 1994 vintage release. 

At fourteen years, this was starting to show its age and was losing its fruit, giving way to non-fruit character of green pepper, leather, wet wood, earth and hints of cedar and floral.

In 2017 I wrote this of this label ...

At a dozen years of age, this vintage is perhaps at its apex, not likely to improve further with any aging.

This was blackish dark garnet colored, medium full-body, moderate structure, predominant black fruits, cherry and plum accented by notes of charcoal, hints of creosote, spice, herb and mineral on the finish.

RM 89 points. Tonight, I give it 88 reflecting some diminution of aging.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Magic Door Napa Cab

Confusion and Mystery Surround Magic Door (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvingon

Magic Door Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Magic Door is a collection of Napa Valley or other regional wines sourced from various producers and marketed under the private branded label under the negociant portfolio also more widely known as Ninety-Plus Cellars. Of Magic Door, they write, "Magic Door is a collection of small-production wines from esteemed wine regions and acclaimed vineyards around the globe. All wines are selected by the wine team behind 90+ Cellars."

Ninety-Plus Cellars assign a 'Lot Number' to each label to identify that distinctive offering and to follow that label from vintage to vintage. They break from that convention here and as a result that method of tracking or following a particular source of product is lost.

Here, Magic Door Napa Valley Cabernet 2017 is different from the 2105 release in that this is attributed to be sourced from Rutherford while the latter was said to be sourced from Oakville.

If they set upon this approach to add clarity, they've achieved the opposite in their less precise branding. I can only imagine they did this to add a sense of cache or elan to the brand, a premium level vs. the standard Ninety Plus Cellars.

However, if that were their objective, why would they associate the new Magic Door branding with the old Ninety Plus Cellars? I'm paying attention, I am in the dark as to their strategy. Hopefully this will be clarified through further research, correspondence or disclosures.

Of the 2015 Magic Door Cabernet they write, "This full-bodied Cabernet comes from a top producer in one of Napa's most elite AVAs. We were able to put together a small allocation of this wine under the Magic Door label, and at a price point that's just a fraction of what the source winery sells it for. Napa Cab lovers: prepare to indulge." The same could be said for the 2017 release, yet one is from Rutherford and the other from Oakville. Go figure.

As I research this further in Cellartracker, which often is a source of vast data with their millions of bottles in the collective cellar inventory of more than a hundred thousand collectors, the confusion or lack of clarity regarding this label is even more than I alluded to or imagined. Cellartracker shows Magic Door Cabernet Sauvignon represented in thirteen different labels from eight different vintages from 2010 to 2017 from four different regions or appellations - Columbia Valley, Red Mountain, Oakville and Rutherford.

I hope and expect Ninety Plus Cellars and Magic Door endeavor to clear this up.

Once again, the charter and mission of this blog is intended and directed at situations just such as this, studying, researching, unpicking and sorting, and hopefully clarifying - unwindwine - branding, labeling, marketing and distribution.

 This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, nicely structured blackberry and black currant fruits were accented by tones of mocha, cassis, hints of eucalyptus or cedar leading to soft smooth tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Ninety-Plus writes: "Oakville is one of the preeminent wine regions in America. It sits just north of the Yountville Mounts, a large hill which acts as a barrier to the cooling coastal influence of the San Pablo Bay. In Oakville, the wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon are less austere than examples made from grapes grown in Yountville to the south, but with more structure than wines made from fruit grown in Rutherford to the north."

C'est la vie; hopefully more to follow!

Reasons 'The One' Heaven Horse Hills Cabernet Sauvingon 2009

Reasons 'The One' Heaven Horse Hills Cabernet Sauvingon 2009

This is from winemaker Ned Morris from Walla Walla, Washington. After college Ned moved to Australia to pursue a career in the wine business. From 1995 to 1997 he trained to become a sommelier at the highly regarded Penfold’s McGill Estate in Adelaide. He returned home to study at Oregon State University where he earned a Master’s Degree in Food Chemistry with a concentration on Fermentation Science as well as minors in biochemistry and microbiology.

While at OSU Ned worked as a cellar hand to Barney Watson at Tyee, gaining valuable experience with Oregon Pinot Noir. He returned to Walla Walla and worked at Abeja and after six vintages moved on to become Winemaker at Maurice Cellars where he produced his own high-end wines and began to establish his unique style of winemaking. Ned gained valuable experience in all facets of large-volume winemaking while working with Double Canyon, Canoe Ridge, and Basel Cellars.

Morris eventually ended up at at Reasons to focus on his own style and return to creating wines that are complex, yet balanced, and would serve to bring family and friends together.

Reasons 'The One' Heaven Horse Hills Cabernet Sauvingon 2009

We discovered and acquired this at the now closed Wine Discount Center where the staff loved this wine and give it 93 points. Wine Enthusiast ranked its 2008 as one of the top 100 wines of the vintage.

I first tried it back in 2013 and wrote "I don't feel it lives up to its billing or its expensive packaging of a oversize weighty bottle, however, it isn't priced like a premium Cabernet so it ends up being a decent value with reasonable QPR (quality price ratio)."

Consistent with my notes from another bottle back in 2013.

From the Horse Heaven Hills area of Washington's Columbia River Valley, the 2009 Reasons "The One" is medium bodied but a bit lean lacking polish and balance, but bursting with aromas of berry fruits upon opening, giving way to dark fruit flavors of black cherry, black plum, blackberry and cassis with hints of tobacco, leather and mushroom.

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, tangy black berry fruits accented by notes of expresso, black tea and hints of smokey burnt ash with smooth tannins on the finish.

RM 88 points.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Pinon Vouvray at Amandas Hoboken

Damien Pinon 'Tuffo' Vouvray at Amandas Hoboken 

For a midweek team business dinner, we met in Hoboken at Amanda's Restaurant, one of our
favorite eateries in town that we discovered and enjoyed when son Alec lived a few blocks away a few years back. Colleague Tom O'R, a 'local' knew Amanda's well and called it a well known long time dining institution in the area.

Tonight, Amanda's was quiet, although I was reminded it was Yom Kippur which may have been a factor. 

For our dinner entrees, I chose the daily special, Oven Roasted Maine Lobster with cognac citrus butter and puree' potatoes, while colleague Tom O' had the Tagliatelle with mussels, clams, shrimp and scallops in arrabbiatta sauce.

Colleague Vivek is a vegetarian so it was nice to be able to accommodate him with Amanda's special menu offering, Vegan Cauliflower Korma with rice pilaf, raisins, red onions, curry cauliflower sauce.

To accompany our dinner, we ordered from the winelist this Loire Valley Vouvray Chenin Blanc.

Notably, as oenophiles (wine lovers) know, it is customary that French wines (and 'old world' wines in general) are named for the region and sub-region or appellation from where the wine is produced.

On the other hand, in American (and the 'new world' in general), we name our wines for the grape varietal predominant in the bottle.

Hence, parsing the wine label, this is from producer Damian Pinon, from the village and appellation of Vouvray, in the Loire Valley wine region in west-central France. This label offering is named 'Tuffo' by the producer.

Damien Pinon ‘Tuffo’ Vouvray Loire Valley 2017

This is the 'flagship' wine of producer Damien Pinon. From the clay-limestone soil of Vouvray, the dominance of limestone produces a dry, crisp, moderately fruity expressive wine, showing notes of lychee, green apple and stone fruit with a soft and smooth mineral finish. This is 100% Chenin Blanc.

RM 89 points.

Fellow Cellartracker collector WineShlub from Long Island loves this wine and gave it 94 points, writing in his tasting note: "Aroma of stone fruit with a bit of beeswax. Complex mix of flavors includes elements of stone fruit, lanolin, lichee. Rich lichee and apricot finish. Fresh, vibrant, complex, firm backbone, great staying power. Archetypal Vouvray, excellent QPR."

I arrived early and tasted a couple of their wines-by-the-glass (WBTG) offerings as part of their happy hour special features.

Peter Yealands 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, Marlborough, New Zealand

Butter colored, light bodied, crisp clean pleasant easy drinking, green apples, lychee and stone fruit with a smooth clean finish.

RM 90 points.

Château La Fleur Plaisance 2016 Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Chateau La Fleur Plaisance is a quaint, family owned estate nestled on 29 acres located just north of the village of Saint-Emilion. Vineyard management and wine making is a joint venture between the Eresue family and notable Bordeaux winemaker Benoit Calvet.

There is a saying, 'you don't get Dom Perignon by the glass'! Hence, caveat emptor when ordering any wine by the glass since it may have been opened for a while and storing opened wine is a challenge for more than just a day or two unless the proper facilities are in place.

Tasted BTG (By-the-Glass), I sense this WBTG offering perhaps had been opened too long or not stored appropriately and was beyond its suitable serving/drinking state. Hence, take my tasting experience with a note of caution since it may not be a fair appraisal of this label. 

Garnet colored, medium bodied, smoke and earth notes overtake the black berry fruits with tones of anise, leather and hint of cedar.

RM 87 points.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Robert Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel 2012

Robert Biale 'Black Chicken' Napa Valley Zinfandel 2012

I pulled this Robert Biale 'Black Chicken' Zinfandel from the cellar to serve with our barbecue beef and ribs dinner week before last and never opened it. It was still in the wine cooler adjacent the kitchen, where we 'stage' wines before drinking, so I pulled it for Sunday evening dinner of meatballs, some artisan cheeses and fruits.

Since 1937, the Biale family has grown Zinfandel along with assorted other varieties on their farm just outside the town of Napa. Today, Robert Biale produces an extensive portfolio of Napa Valley Zinfandel wines. This is his 'signature' wine that dates back to the days of prohibition when Black Chicken was the proxy code name for bottles of red wine.

It goes back to the days when as a 14 year-old, Aldo Biale helped his farmer, grower and wine producer mother to make ends meet by selling to insider Napans, chickens, eggs, prunes, walnuts and vegetables, and some of the family’s homemade Zinfandel. Over the old “party line” phone system, the code words “a Black Chicken” signified a jug of bootleg wine … and kept nosy neighbors and the authorities from finding out about Aldo’s underground Zinfandel operation!

The Robert Biale estate lies within the Oak Knoll District in southern Napa Valley just above the town of Napa and has several vineyards from which they source several single vineyard designated labels in addition to this, their flagship label. Black Chicken is primarily sourced from Biale's Oak Knoll District ranch estate.

Robert Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel 2012

This label was awarded  92 points by Wine Enthusiast,  91 points by James Suckling and Wine Spectator. 

I found it a bit 'flabby', not living up to its high accolades, perhaps because I held it too long, opening it after seven years from release. Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, rich dense, James Suckling called it a 'funky old vine character ... with mushroom and bark undertones', sweet jammy black berry, spice, sage, anise and what WS calls 'smokey caramel' on a peppery finish. 

RM 88 points. 

Several other Cellartracker members had similar experiences with this label. One wrote, "I suspect that I held this too long. Not jammy (good) and not noticeably hot. Decent nose. Very (too) smooth. Various red and black fruits, but minimal berry/bramble notes. Pleasant medium body and a good finish. Unfortunately, the absence of tannins made it less-than-suitable with food (BBQ in this instance). Other recent notes don't mention this, so maybe it was an off bottle."

Another one wrote, "Nice enough and well balanced. However, everything is somewhat muted, and tannins are conspicuously MIA. Definitely well past its peak."

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Revana St Helena Cabernet 2009

Revana Family Vineyard Napa Valley St Helena Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Friday night, end of week wind-down, we pulled this bottle from the cellar and took it BYOB to
Marinella Italian Restaurant in nearby Glen Ellyn (Illinois) for a change of pace. This was our first encounter at this neighborhood trattoria, another family owned and operated quaint friendly comfortable spot. It made us feel good about our local favorite regular eatery, Angeli's Italian. They have relatively comparable menus and prices, Marinella has a more extensive and imaginative winelist, was quieter and more intimate albeit a bit dated and quirky with the silk flowers on the tableside windowledge.

The Marinella winelist is totally Italian, featuring wines from the major wine regions - a nice selection, at a range of price points. They were accommodating to us with our BYOB special bottle we brought for the evening. Knowing of their wine selection, I would not be hesitant to dine there for a wine and dine experience, dependent on their wine list to complement the dinner. 

Linda had the scallops and shrimp in a vodka cream tomato sauce with pasta which was very good and nicely prepared. I had the meat filled ravioli which was lackluster and uninspiring since I asked for some pasta with meat and cheese and ended up with a tomato sauce and no cheese - so much for ordering by style and content rather than from a defined dish.

We may return in the summer as Marinella have patio dining that might be nice al fresco in appropriate weather.

In any event, our BYOB wine was a highlight of the meal - a nice complement to the entrees, albeit more elegant and complex than the meal warranted - Revana Family Vineyard St Helena Cabernet Sauvignon.

This was our first encounter with Revana. Records show I picked up a single bottle from Binny's our local wine superstore. It overachieved for the occasion but then again is a far more pricey bottle that would've been best served with an elegant meal.

Revana was founded in 1997 by Dr. Madaiah Revana, a successful Houston cardiologist, when he discovered and eventually acquired the small parcel of prime vineyard land in St. Helena while visiting Napa Valley. Dr. Revana was a fan of super premium Bordeaux wines and set out to grow highest quality Bordeaux varietal fruit to produce his own interpretation of such wines.

Dr. Revana dedicated himself to learning all he could about his new interest. He traveled the wine regions of Europe and the United States, learning along the way, and he became determined to create a vineyard estate from which he could craft his own world-class wines. Revana Family Vineyard was established to pursue that ambitious goal.

The The Revana Estate Vineyard sits on St Helena Highway north of town approaching Calistoga, in the neighborhood of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), Markham, Freemark Abbey, Vineyard 29 and Grace Family Vineyards.

The northern part of Napa Valley where it narrows is framed by the Mayacamas and Vaca mountains. The hillside erosion from the surrounding mountains provides the gravel and soil resulting in the deep, well-drained soils that make up the Revana Estate. This section of the upper valley benefits from more moderate temperatures, a combination of warm days and cool nights, without the foggy mornings found in the lower valley or the extreme heat of Calistoga to the north.

The site has deep, well-drained gravelly alluvial soils, sloped pitch adjacent Diamond Mountain, with excellent exposure, warm days and cool nights, for terroir ideally suited for Bordeaux varietals, notably Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 1998, Dr. Revana hired acclaimed vineyard manager Jim Barbour to plant and maintain the 9-acre estate vineyard. He engaged renowned winemaker Heidi Barrett to craft exceptional wines from the Revana Estate vineyard from its first vintage in 2001. Revana enjoyed great critical success including the honor of being ranked number 4 in the world in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2010.

In 2011, Thomas Brown joined Revana Family Vineyard as consulting winemaker charged to continue the tradition of making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in the Revana style. Brown earned the craft at several small wineries then progressed his winemaking career at Turley Wine Cellars where he was the assistant winemaker through 2001.

Brown became best known for the Cabernet Sauvignons that he has crafted for Schrader Cellars, Thomas also received numerous accolades from the press notably in 2010, Food & Wine Magazine named him Winemaker of the Year. Both Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate have bestowed multiple 100 point scores on Cabernets made by Thomas. 

Revana has assembled all the elements to produce world class wines - a renowned accomplished winemaker, an inspirational vineyard with ideal terroir, and state of the art facilities.  We'll look forward to visiting the Estate on an upcoming visit to Napa Valley.

Revana Family Vineyard Napa Valley St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

This is a blend of Revana estate grown Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon  (93.3%), Cabernet Franc (5.7%), and 1% Petit Verdot. It was aged twenty months in French oak.
Dark blackish garnet colored, medium bull bodied, elegant, polished, opulent, well-balanced, nicely integrated concentrated but somewhat subdued sweet black cherry and black berry fruits with a layer of cherry cola highlighted by tones of tea, lavender, cassis and earthy wild berry, coffe bean and hint of caramel with smooth silky polished tannins on the moderate finish.

RM 91 points. 

Napa Valley Premiere Auction for this wine noted: "Revana 2009 features Clone 7, one of the historic Cabernet clones of Napa Valley and it lends power, concentration and rich flavors of cassis and berry to the Revana Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Renowned winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett crafts the Revana Cabernet with a balance of refinement, ripe fruit flavors and a sense of the estate vineyard from which the wine comes."

Friday, October 4, 2019

Andretti Montona Reserve Merlot 2015

Andretti Winery Montona Reserve Merlot 2015

We visited Andretti Winery in southeast Napa Valley during our Napa Wine Experience in 2018. We discovered the Andretti estate while visiting the Lewis Cellars winery which is across the road, during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017.

How ironic, the two Indianapolis Race Car drivers that have wine interests are almost adjacent to each other in Napa Valley - Mario Andretti and Randy Lewis. Notably, both source all or much of their fruit for their wines from leased property or contract growers.

This label is from the Montona Reserve brand, the high end premium line of the Andretti portfolio. The line is named for the Italian village of Montona, the hometown of the Andretti family.

Actually, Andretti was born in Croatia, like another famous Napa ‘vintner’ Mike Grgich.

Andretti Winery was established in 1996 by the famed race car driver, Mario Andretti. It is a joint venture project with Joe Antonini, former CEO of Kmart, who was one of Mario’s sponsors during his racing days.

The winery is located about 10 minutes north of downtown Napa, on Big Ranch Road, midway between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29.

The property is actually owned by the Laird Family, prominent growers and producers. Andretti leases the winery on site as well as the tasting room. Andretti also leases about 42 acres surrounding the winery, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. They also purchase grapes from other growers from select vineyards around Napa Valley.

The estate site is in the Napa Valley Oak Knoll District in the southeast corner of the valley, which is somewhat cooler as it gets some effect from the San Pablo Bay to the south, when compared to the warmer areas up valley.

The Andretti Winery features a small faux Italian/Tuscan building and courtyard with picturesque fountains and landscaping. There is a small cottage, patios and lawns that are available for small private tastings and picturesque grounds which would be ideal for an event or outing.

The tasting room offers the extensive lineup of Andretti wines. We were hosted by Jeff (shown) who was knowledgeable about the wines and Napa Valley generally as he is has a long history and is well connected in Napa Valley being a decendent and relative cousin of the Yates Family up on Mt Veeder, if I recall correctly.

Andretti also produce several brands under the Andretti label including their Napa Valley Series (wines that are not vineyard designates), the Villa Andretti Series (reasonably priced limited production wines that focus on Italian varieties (wines not often found in the Napa Valley), and the Montona Series (named after Mario’s childhood home in Italy featuring very their most premium limited production wines).

We actually joined the wine club which provides access to the facilities and an allotment of the Montona Series of semi-premium wines throughout the year. We have fun serving the Andretti Montona label to our fellow native Hoosiers who appreciate the Indy 500 connection. 

Andretti Montona Reserve Merlot 2015

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bold, elegant, nicely polished and balanced black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of floral, cassis, tobacco leaf and spice with hints of earth, black pepper and pomegranate turning to pronounced but approachable tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 90 points.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Robert Craig Tribute

Robert Craig Tribute and Remembrance - Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Writing about our tasting Robert Craig Affinity last week, I was sobered to learn of the passing of founder and former owner/producer Robert Craig. As a result, in response to the news, I selected several Robert Craig labels to taste with several special dinners this week, in remembrance of and in tribute to Robert. As we opened and released each bottle we toasted Robert and offered our thoughts and prayers to Lynn.

I recall Robert telling us on numerous occasions that his favorite label was the Mount Veeder (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon. This was likely in light of his early years managing vineyards up on Mt Veeder on behalf of Hess Collection, and then Robin William's winery (Toad Hollow, named for his brother Todd, whom he couldn't say the name as a child), and then his long history sourcing fruit from vineyards there to supply one of his key labels, the Mt Veeder Cabernet of the Robert Craig portfolio. This long association ended just a couple of years ago with the purchase of the vineyards by the French conglomerate from the estate of the departed Robin Williams.

Robert Craig in Napa Valley was founded in 1992 when Robert Craig, a former general manager of The Hess Collection winery, struck out on his own. Craig wanted to make small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon from distinct Napa Valley appellations. Over the years, he acquired and produced wine from the 9.5-acre estate vineyard high atop Howell Mountain. Robert Craig also sourced grapes from Spring Mountain, Napa Valley, Mt George, Atlas Peak, and of course his beloved Mt. Veeder. He often referred to his portfolio of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons as 'three mountains and a valley'. He also sourced fruit and produced Napa Valley Chardonnay, Zinfandel and on some occasions a Syrah.

Robert attended the University of Chicago and hence we believe he always had a fondness for Chicago. He ventured here at least once on a wine release tour and we met him in the City at a tasting event. As partner and winery executive Elton wrote in his tribute to Bob, "To be introduced to Bob was to receive a hug from Bob". That day, in Chicago, Bob and Lynn walked into the venue and Bob spotted me across the room and made his way through the crowd towards me, came up to me and gave me a big hug!  

He was also a former merchant marine seaman. Back in 1999, we hosted a wine dinner featuring him and Lynn at the CIA in St Helena. That day, the tall ships sailed in to San Francisco Bay. Robert had gotten up a 430 am drive down to the city to see the tall ships, then drove back late afternoon to join us for dinner (shown right - Reuben Katz of CIA hiding in back).

I remember he was rejoicing in the fellowship and wine and had a special teary twinkle in his eye. Upon asking him if he was okay, he lamented, 'this was one of the best days of my whole life!". Such was the kind and content, joyful Robert Craig.

We also hosted a wine dinner at the CIA featuring Robert the year before in 1998 and he brought along his winemaker Rudy Zedema (shown left, rear next to me) whom he was no doubt mentoring. Robert and Rudy are pictured with our group, Andy, Liat, Linda, and me. 

The Robret Craig Mt Veender Napa Valley Cabernet wine was cited as "One of the "Top 50 Napa Valley Cabernets" based on 15 years of ratings by The Wine Spectator".

In tribute and remembrance of Robert Craig, we pulled vintage bottles of Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon as well as horizontal selections of Robert Craig Affinity from those vintages that would've contained some of the same Cabernet Sauvignon fruit in the blend.

To heighten the significant and poignancy of the occasion, Sister Jan and Brother-in-law Bill were in town this weekend for a family event. They were with us during a couple of our Robert Craig special events and some of our memorable visits to the Robert Craig Estate up on Howell Mountain including a picnic lunch we had there back in 2007 (below).

Picnic with Robert at Craig Estate with Jan and Bill, Andy, Linda and Me
Our records show we still hold in our cellar nearly four cases of fifteen different vintage releases of this label spanning the three decades since its release.

Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

We visited the Robert Craig estate winery high atop Howell Mountain on several occasions, including the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 back in 2009, when we first tasted some of the 2007 vintage release labels from barrel and when we would have acquired this wine. Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernets, which are instantiated in at least six different labels including this vineyard designated select Mt Veeder, are one of the largest producer holdings in our cellar collection.

The previous time we served this wine at one of our wine dinners, it was poignant tasting and reminiscing over this wine. We recalled tasting this wine with Robert Craig on numerous occasions and he recollecting this is his favorite of the vineyard selections. We talked of the recent end of the supplier relationship for this fruit source as the legendary Pym Rae Vineyard, previously owned by the late Robin Williams, was sold to a major French producer who acquired the sixteen hundred acre estate and plan to enter the Napa Valley marketplace. We recall Robert's reminiscences of Robin for whom he worked and managed the vineyards back in the nineties. 
Jan and Bill, Linda and me, Rachel and Robert
Linda and Robert

Fellow wine buddy and 'Pour Boy' Bill C (above with Robert and me) was with us on our most recent visits to the Robert Craig Estate, harvest party and tasting events. He and Beth C were with us when we acquired several of our releases of this label in recent years and we were both members of the Craig wine club. 

Bill's Cellartracker notes on this tasting:

"Big full bodied Mt Veeder. Medium garnet in color. Nose musty upon opening but reveals pencil shavings with some light floral notes. Dark cherry, raspberry, mocha and a hint of mint on the finish. Bigger and bolder than most Mt. Veeder. Medium bodied with a long, lingering finish."

WCC 90 points.

Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder 2004

We also opened a 2004 vintage release of this same label - a 'vertical' selection - multiple vintages of the same label. Obviously similar to the 2007 release above since its essentially the same wine, sourced from the same vineyards and crafted by the same winemaker and processes. The 2004 was a bit less fruit filled and forward, a bit tighter and subdued, but very good none-the-less.

This release got 92 points from Connoisseur's Guide and Wine Enthusiast.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, nicely integrated and well balanced black cherry, black currant and black raspberry fruits accented by notes of cassis, smokey oak, dark mocha and hints of cedar with moderate dusty tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

This is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, & 2% Cabernet Franc.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ladera Malbec 2006

Ladera Napa Valley Malbec 2006 

We discovered this wine and purchased it following our visit to the Ladera Vineyards estate and winery up on Howell Mountain during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008

We'd driven past the property, formerly the historic Chateau Woltner many times over the years on our treks up Howell Mountain. 

The fabulous historic winery building consists of production and barrel storage below and a rustic tasting room upstairs. It is surrounded by spectacular gardens, beds of lavender, and of course the vineyards.

Rick & Linda at Ladera winery
Howell Mountain
Ladera primarily focused on Cabernet Sauvignon of which we still hold a several cases of four different labels across three vintages from this era. We also acquired some of their Pinot Noir which was sourced from Sonoma County, as well as this Malbec grown from estate fruit, of which we still hold a half case in our cellar.

Malbec is one of the "big five" grape varieties in Bordeaux included in the "Cabernet family" of grapes.

It serves as one of the blending wines to round out and add complexity to the primary varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Merlot used for its deep, dark purple color, its fragrant aromas, ranging from black cherry to black pepper, and its texture which is lush and juicy in the mid palette and very soft on the finish.

Primarily a blended complement to the tannic, brooding Cabernet Sauvignon, it produces an interesting and nice stand alone wine, as well.

The 2006 Napa Valley Ladera Malbec is a blend of fruit from two mountain vineyards - 50% from Howell Mountain and the other 50% from Lone Canyon - two unique terroirs.

The rolling hills and volcanic soils of Howell Mountain vineyard lend to the bold dark fruit characters while the steep slopes and gravely soils of Lone Canyon high atop Mt Veeder contribute intense phenolic structure and complexity to the wine.

Somewhat consistent with my tasting notes way back in 2011 when we last tasted this wine: "This wine holds true to its varietal characteristics with its dark inky color, rich aromatics and bold masculine structure. The wine exhibits forward fruits flavors of black cherry and black berry with violets, red licorice, hints of vanilla, white pepper and smoky fig.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, less complex and less structured than a Cabernet this comes across a bit flabby on opening but overcame the funkiness to reveal black berry and cherry fruit flavors, a layer of spice, hints of leather and a touch of cedar on a long finish." 

RM 89 points.

Rick with Ladera owner/producer
Anne Stotesbery
The seeds for Ladera were planted in the early 1970s, when Pat and Anne Stotesbery fell in love while attending university in Northern California. Among their many shared interests, they discovered a passion for wine, and were soon taking wine classes together, and traveling to wine country for tastings.

The next two decades took them to Minnesota and Montana, where they ran a 3,200-acre ranch with 750 head of cattle, during which time, their interest in wine continued to grow.

With deep agricultural roots on both sides of their family, Pat and Anne Stotesbery acquired their first Napa Valley mountain vineyard in 1996. Their original vineyard was on Mount Veeder, the following year they purchased their second mountain vineyard, Lone Canyon.

In 1998, Pat and Anne made their first non-commercial vintage of 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 As a reflection of their commitment to making mountain Cabernet Sauvignons, they selected the name Ladera for their winery, which means “hillside, or slope” in both Spanish and Italian.

They moved their family to Napa Valley, and in 2000, they acquired a historic Howell Mountain property featuring an 82-acre vineyard. For the next 16 years, this property served as the home for Ladera.

Around 2008, their son Dan visited us while on a wine promotion trip and we took him around to several of the local wine merchants in the area. 

In 2016, following the earlier sales of the Lone Canyon and the Mount Veeder properties, with their children grown and pursuing careers of their own, Pat and Anne sold their land on Howell Mountain.

Dark color - full bodied - full firm forward fruits - a bit flabby on opening but overcame the funkiness to reveal black berry and cherry fruit flavors, a layer of spice, hints of leather and a touch of cedar on a long finish.
Rustic Ladera tasting area in the historic
chai and barrel building back in 2006.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Bellemore West Loop Chicago

Trendy Bellemore West Loop Chicago Restaurant Dinner features Red Wine Flight

For a dinner meeting hosting EMEA team and a key business partner, we dined at trendy Bellemore Restaurant in the West Loop, Chicago. The bright, vibrant, trendy, chic high-end spot is from the group behind Girl & the Goat and Somerset. In partnership with Boka Restaurant Group, Bellemore aims to define the category of "Artistic American" in both cuisine and decor. Since opening in November 2017, the restaurant has been awarded #1 in Robb Report’s Best of the Best in the "10 Best New Restaurants in America’. Chef/Partner Jimmy Papadopoulos was also named as Robb Report’s 2018 Best Young Chefs in the country. 

In 2015, Papadopoulos was named Eater Chicago’s Chef of the Year, as well as one of Zagat’s ‘30 under 30’. Papadopoulos has been praised for his ability to “take the familiar and add layers of flavor to make it outstanding.”  He describes his style of cooking as "bold, bright and beautiful."

Chic, elegant, bright and airy, Bellmore features sleek interiors with brass details accentuated with natural elements, plush blush sofas, nostalgic wood & wicker seating, and theme of colorful birds highlighted by peacocks.

We dined at the 'chef's table adjacent and overlooking the kitchen.

Bellemore do not have a deep or broad wine list but the selection of offerings are carefully chosen to complement the menu.

and the Nori Radiatore with peekytoe crab, breadcrumbs, yuzu kosho & mint. 

Chardonnay - Louis Moreau, Chablis - Burgundy, France 2016

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhône Valley 2017

We had this label from the previous 2016 vintage during a team partner dinner in Paris back in May of this year. Producer Alain Graillot founded his domaine in Crozes-Hermitage in 1985, and has since become one of the most in-demand producers in the Northern Rhone. He is known for exuberant, robust, and complete Syrah based wines sourced from his 50 acre estate of 30-year-old Crozes-Hermitage vines on the flat alluvial plain at the junction of the Rhône and Isère rivers.

Photo-label from 2016 release
Alain is joined by his two sons Antoine and Maxime working the estate. They produce rich, concentrated reds that represent the best art of the possible of the Syrah grape: black fruit, intense aromatics, pepper and spice complexity underpinned by crisp acidity and fine tannins.

Graillot works organically, harvesting fruit by hand and fermenting in whole bunches. He ages his wines in used barrels, one to three-years-old, purchased from Burgundy’s best estates. His Crozes-Hermitage is approachable and enjoyable young, yet will age nicely for a decade or more. Despite the tannins that inevitably come from the inclusion of whole bunches in fermentation, Graillot wines are seldom hard-edged, overly tannic, or in need of extended cellaring. 

This 2017 release was bottled in March of this year, 2019. gave the 2016 a rating of 91 points when he wrote:“The 2016 Crozes Hermitage from this terrific producer offers a big blast of classic Crozes – dark fruits, earth, truffle, olive, and pepper on the nose. This is followed by a medium-bodied, rounded, nicely concentrated effort that has good acidity, building tannins, and a great finish. An incredibly successful wine in this vintage, it will benefit from a year or two of bottle age and keep for 7-8 years.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave it 91-93 points.

Tonight, the 2017 was bright ruby colored, medium full bodied, notes of floral and violets, black berry and dark plums fruits with notes of black olives, truffles and earth with hints of pepper on a silky smooth tannin laced finish.

Vieux Telgraphe Piedlong, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rhône Valley 2012 

We first discovered this label at Il Fiore Restaurant and Bar at the Langham Hotel in NYC last year. This is the second release of this Piedlong label that was first released in 2011. It comes from a 29 acre vineyard site from the stony soils on the Piedlong plateau in the heart of the appellation, north of the village, the highest point in the region. The Mourvèdre, comes from the Pignan lieu-dit, just to the east of Piedlong. We visited the Vieux Télégraphe estate during our CDP appellation tour back in 1998 and then again this year during our 2019 visit with owner/producer Alain Brunier at the Estate. was a highlight of our visit to the Luberon and Southern Rhône.

This label is a blend of 90% Genache Noir and 10% Mourvèdre. Comprised of but two varietals of the thirteen that are allowed in the AOC sanctioned blend, its a simpler less complex wine than the flagship label which under appellation rules can contain up to thirteen different varietals. 

The predominant Grenache grapes are sourced from 70 year old vines on the Vieux Telegraph 27 acre site on the stony Piedlong Plateau which is in the heart of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC area. Piedlong is north of the village at the highest point of the appellation. The Mourvèdre fruit is sourced from 50 year old vines on the 22 acre Pignan lieu-dit, east of Piedlong.

This 2012 Piedlong was only the second vintage for this label. It was vinified all in wood tank, with 30% whole-cluster, it possesses medium to full-bodied richness, firm tannin and excellent purity, with plenty of blackberry fruit, dried spice and licorice on the nose. It should continue to age nicely in the cellar and for another half decade or more. 

Giving up loads of kirsh, strawberry, dried soil, flowers and hints of meatiness; this classic Grenache is medium to full-bodied, ripe and textured, yet remarkably focused and fresh. While the acidity here is relatively low, it has plenty of fine tannin that keep it focused

Wine Advocate Jeb Dunnuck gave this wine 91-93 points.

Wine Spectator J.Molesoworth and International Wine Cellar Josh Reynolds both gave this 92 points.

Bright ruby color, medium-full bodied, vibrant black cherry and black raspberry fruits accented by dried flowers and peppery spices, notes of kirsch, dark mocha chocolate with a gripping but manageable tannins on a long lingering finish. 

RM 91 points.

Château des Eyrins - La Closerie des Eyrins - Margaux 2015

We stayed a short walk from this estate during our recent trip to Margaux. Husband-wife winemaking team Julie and Xavier Gonet-Médeville are a prodigy of French wines having both been raised in notable winemaking families: Julie’s family famous for its incomparable Chateau Gilette, and Xavier comes from a long line of Champagne growers in Le Mesnil.

Julie and Xavier bought the seven-acre Château des Eyrins estate in the village of Margaux from Eric Grangerou in 2008. The Grangerou family has been cellar masters for Château Margaux for three generations. Sited on a hillside plateau in the heart of Margaux, Château des Eyrins produces a classic Margaux: dense and deep, with incredible finesse and freshness, the wine undeniably expresses the identity of this glorious appellation.

This is the second wine of this small boutique producer - a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and the remaining 35 Petit Verdot. Evidence that in great vintages, all boats rise with the tide and second labels can also be quite nice, offering wonderful QPR (quality price ratio).

This was a nice progression in our wine flight to a more focused, complex and sophisticated wine to accompany our dinner entrees; dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegant, polished and nicely integrated notes of black cherry, ripe plum, accents of spice box, dried herbs, tobacco leaf and silky smooth tannins on a moderate lingering finish. 
RM 90 points.

Domaine du Collier Saumur La Ripaille 2015

From a small lot producer, not yet on the winelist, this label rounded out our flight for a simpler, more focused and enjoyable sipper to wind down our dinner evening. Comprised of 100% Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, the vines of Domaine du Collier lie within small parcels which are separated from its neighbors by a 12th century wall which protects the site from chemicals that may be used by neighbors in their farming. 

Each of the domaine's parcels lie on the flowing hill now famously known as the Brézé commune. The domaine is split 2/3 to 1/3 - Chenin to Cabernet Franc. For this La Ripaille rouge, vines range from 30 to 80 years in age. 

Aged for 3 years in a combination of used Burgundy barriques (1-3 years old). The domaine as a whole produces around only 1200 cases per year.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright vibrant, focused black raspberry and black berry fruits with notes of spice, herbs and cigar box. 

RM 89 points.