Saturday, May 27, 2017

Deep Sea Santa Barbara County Syrah

Deep Sea Santa Barbara County Syrah 2008

Trolling through the wine cellar, I uncovered several bottles of this Deep Sea Santa Barbara County Syrah. Records show I purchased 16 bottles of this label and have consumed ten, so there should still be a few at hand, buried in the cellar somewhere - perils/joys of having an extensive collection.

At nine years old, its probably at the prime of its drinking window and likely won't improve further with ageing so its time to drink up. We had a bottle with bbq at home the other night, then took a bottle to Daughter Erin and Johnnie's for Memorial Day bbq rib dinner - an ideal pairing.

My tasting notes indicate we last had this label on the 4th of July for holiday bbq dinner, just like this tasting.

As posted earlier, I chronicled my discovery of this wine and what I learned about this producer and label in an earlier blog posts.

Consistent with earlier notes ....

Dark inky purple, full bodied, thick, concentrated, chewy black and blue berry fruits with a layer of alcohol, tones of caramel and vanilla, turning to hints of black pepper and mint on a moderate tannin laced lingering finish.

RM 90 points.

Earlier blogposts:

Monday, May 22, 2017

B-day wine-flt Darioush-Chappellet

Birthday dinner features a medley of favorite wines ...

For a dinner on my birthday, Linda prepared grilled strip steaks, mashed golden potatoes, green beans and corn, followed by chocolate silk pie with fresh berries. Bill and Beth C joined us, back visiting from SC wrapping up real estate. I pulled from the cellar Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet which was the wine we had at our first wine event together years ago. I selected a 2000 vintage bottle from the near dozen vintages available, as the one most ready to consume. For a mini horizontal tasting, to pair with it for a comparison, I pulled another 2000 vintage Napa Cab, Chappellet Pritchard Hill. Bill brought a Giscours Bordeaux.

Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

For my birthday dinner, I pulled from the cellar one of nearly a dozen vintages we hold of this top flight Napa Cab. We've enjoyed Darioush Cabernet at several visits to their magnificent winery Chateau on the Silverado Trail in Napa, and at special events including a special Darioush Wine Dinner at Everest in Chicago. We had a special barrel tasting at the winery back during our 2003 Napa Wine Experience.

My last tasting notes for this wine were back in 2010, when I wrote "dark color - big forward firm intense dark fruit - black cherry, dark berry, tobacco, cigar box and touch of leather. Not for the feint of heart - needs big bold food."

This showed bright vibrant dark sweet berry fruits, was smooth polished and well balanced with layers of accent tones of mocha, tea and tobacco leaf, with a firm backbone of silky tannins on the finish.

RM 92 points,

Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard 2000

We tasted this wine with Bill and Beth at the winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2009.

At seventeen years, this is not showing any signs of diminution. This was more subdued than the Darioush, almost closed and tight in comparison. Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, dark blackberry and black cherry fruit with tones of graphite, black tea, earthy leather, and tobacco.

Château Giscours 2004

Giscours is one of the typically reliable higher QPR (qiality price ratio) value Margaux Bordeaux which were the highlight of this years 2014 release tasting.

I wonder if this bottle was perhaps tainted a bit. Garnet colored, medium bodied, there was a bit of earthiness barnyard funkiness permeating the black cherry, tea, graphite and leather, hint of spice and cassis, giving way to lingering acidity and tannins.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (32%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Petit Verdot (3%).

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Porto 1995

Excerpts of various fellow Cellartracker members' tasting notes ...

"An explosion of sweet black cherry and plum flavors in the mouth, followed by dark, dark chocolate, coffee, and lovely chewy tannins, with a finish that goes on and on and on.'

"Nose is Leather and dark sweet fruit, with perfect alcohol. The palate is beautifully balanced with tobacco, leather, a spicy element and strong fruit undercurrent without being too jam..'

"Remarkably concentrated, long and velvety. Great acids breaking up the small sweetness. Ends with distinct tannin and much fruit. Leather restrained today, and only on the mid-palate. Quite dramatic array of spicy notes and dried fruits of various kinds.'

"Incrementally even better than before. I've had a bunch of bottles of this since 2008 and it has stayed remarkably consistent. Dark, dark fruit on the nose with leather, integrated alcohol. Palate is balanced with tobacco, modest spice component, leather, and big fruit undercurrent yet still has an astringency that keeps it organized."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Raymond Burr Sonoma Dry Creek Cabernet

Raymond Burr Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994

For a Friday night home dinner of grilled steaks, golden potatoes and sauteed spinach, I pulled from the cellar this vintage Raymond Burr 1994 Cabernet that had been waiting for the right occasion to be consumed, a candidate for OTBN - Open That Bottle Night.

When dining at home and having wine, I invariably strive to pull older bottles from the cellar as they need to be consumed and there is risk of holding them too long, beyond their drinking window. This wine was past its prime and was in the late stages of its drinking window. Enjoying such wines is an adventure and is not uncommon for one with an extensive wine cellar.

Raymond Burr and partner Robert Benevides planted their first Cabernet Sauvignon vines in 1986 and bottled their first vintage in 1992. Raymond was only able to taste this vintage from the barrel before his passing in 1993. 

Based on the price tag still adorning the bottle (shown below), I can trace this purchase back to AJ’s Fine Foods Wine Cellars, an upscale grocery and wine shop in Scottsdale that I used to frequent during trips there. It often had unique small production selections such as this one.

Only older folks or TV buffs would remember or even know who Raymond Burr was. He was a Canadian-American actor, primarily known for his title roles in the television dramas Perry Mason in which he played a courtroom lawyer. The series ran from 1957 to 1966 and Burr received three consecutive Emmy Award nominations and won the award in 1959 and 1961 for his performance as Perry Mason.

Following Perry Mason, Burr played the title role in the television drama Ironside, San Francisco Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside, who was wounded by a sniper during an attempt on his life and, after his recovery, uses a wheelchair for mobility. His role in this hit series crime drama showed a police officer with a disability, ran from 1967 to 1975 and earned Burr six Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations.

According to wikipedia, "Burr's early acting career included roles on Broadway, radio, television and in film, usually as the villain. His portrayal of the suspected murderer in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window (1954) is regarded as his best-known film role. He won two Emmy Awards, in 1959 and 1961, for the role of Perry Mason, which he played for nine seasons (1957–66) and was featured in a series of 26 television films (1985–93).

Burr's portrayal of Perry Mason defined his career and became the quintessential persona of a lawyer. The day after Burr's death, American Bar Association president R. William Ide III released a statement: "Raymond Burr's portrayals of Perry Mason represented lawyers in a professional and dignified manner. … Mr. Burr strove for such authenticity in his courtroom characterizations that we regard his passing as though we lost one of our own." The New York Times reported that Perry Mason had been named second—after F. Lee Bailey, and before Abraham Lincoln, Thurgood Marshall, Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton (amazingly), in a National Law Journal poll that asked Americans to name the attorney, fictional or not, they most admired.

His second hit TV series, Ironside, earned him six Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations."

Burr appeared in more than 50 feature films between 1946 and 1957. He was awarded a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6656 Hollywood Boulevard in 1960. Burr was ranked #44 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time in 1996.

Burr and his life and business partner Robert Benevides owned and operated an orchid business and a vineyard in the Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley. His primary interest was orchids where they operated nurseries in Fiji, Hawaii, the Azores, and California, and were responsible for adding more than 1,500 new orchids to the worldwide catalog.

Besides orchids, in the wine business, they grew Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and grapes for Port wine on the property in Sonoma County.

Burr died in Healdsburg, CA in 1993 before the first release of his wine. Benevides subsequently renamed the Dry Creek property Raymond Burr Vineyards (reportedly against Burr's wishes).

So, the wine business was perhaps secondary to his acting career and nursery business, Burr and Benevides were initially growers more than wine producers.

According to the rear label, this wine was produced and bottled by J&J Winery in Geyserville and would actually have been produced the year after Burr's death.

In 2006, Phyllis Zouzounis was hired as winemaker. “Phyllis was very thorough in checking us out,” said Benevides. “She walked the vineyard for two weeks, tasting the wines and talking to the crew, before she agreed to the job.” Her diligence paid off as Raymond Burr wines won a number of gold medals and a Sweeps prize at the 2008 San Diego Wine Competition.

The current fate is unclear as their website has gone dark and the domain name is available for sale.

The label states this 1994, "arguably the top vintage of the decade .... heralds the formidable quality Raymond Burr dreamed of achieving from his Dry Creek Vineyards." It states 875 cases were produced of this label - a blend of 91.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8.5% Cabernet Franc.

Reflecting the quality and age-worthiness of that 1994 vintage, and the quality of the wine, at 23 years of age, this still showed bright vibrant cherry fruits accented by earthy leather and notes of cedar.

RM 88 points at this stage.

Only after I'd published this post and gone back to update my wine Journal Index did I realize I had purchased two bottles of this wine and drank the other fifteen years ago. Here is my journal post of that tasting, at which time I gave it the same rating back in April 2002.

A visit to the Raymond Burr Vineyards and tasting room is chronicled in this You-Tube video, featuring the 2006 vintage of Raymond Burr Cabernet.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 1999

Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 1999

With Beth C back from SC for the week, we met for a midweek dinner out at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. I took BYOB this Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 1999, one of our go-to wines for Angeli's since we don't have an extensive Italian collection in our cellar. We consumed all of our early vintage releases of this label so we recently acquired a few bottles of this 1999 at auction for immediate consumption.

We discovered this label during several visits to the winery and vineyards back in the nineties. At that time, it was unique as Del Dotto were pioneers in Napa Valley Sangiovese under the direction of legendary Nils Venge,  wine maker for Del Dotto at the time. They planted some in front of the estate on the burm along Hwy 29 just south of Zinfandel Lane. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The wine pairing was ideal with our entree selections, simple, cheese ravioli with bolognese sauce and an order of their Italian Sausage and Peppers.

With Dave Del Dotto during one of our Napa
visits to the Estate around the millennium

While clearly past its prime and showing its age as the fruits start to subside and give way to tones of leather, tobacco leaf and tar, this is still drinking nicely and has some life left and pairs well with pasta and hearty sauce.

Dark blacksh garnet with a slight hue of brickish rust starting to set in, medium full bodied, tones of black cherry and black berry fruits starting to give way to a layer of leather tobacco leaf. hints of creosote and a bit of fig.

RM 88 points.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lede Vineyards Duo for Surf-n-Turf Dinner

Cliff Lede Vineyards Duo for Surf & Turf Family Dinner

For a gala (pre-) Mother's Day Sunday Brunch family dinner with four generations of family, great-grandparents, and grandkids, Linda prepared a delicious surf-n-turf with grilled marinated sirloin beef and lobster tails, with boiled buttered potatoes, grilled asparagus, and sweet corn on the cob.

Our wine accompaniment, a duo of Cliff Lede Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc were perfect matches for each of the highlight entree courses.

Also complimenting dinner was a caprese salad with beefsteak tomatoes and a dessert of Erin's homemade cheesecake with fresh whipped strawberry puree'.

Our visits to the sixty acre Cliff Lede Vineyards and winery estate in the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley with its art gardens and gallery were a highlight of several of our Napa trips including Ryan and Michelle's recent getaway Napa weekend just last month.

Cliff Lede Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015

This is our latest release of one my favorite Sauvignon Blancs which I consider among the best representations of Sauvignon Blanc, which typically is the truest expression of the varietal fruit. This vintage release is actually a blend composed of 82% Sauvignon Blanc, 14% Sémillon, 3% Sauvignon Vert, and 1% Muscat Canelli varietals. The result is a complex wine with layers of fruit flavors that blend together in a harmonious pleasant drinking wine.

The fruit for the Lede label is sourced from vineyards in the eastern Rutherford appellation (old vine Musqué clone and Sémillon), a vineyard in the southeastern hills of Napa Valley, grapes from a cooler climate vineyard on the east side of Napa, and some old vines of Sauvignon Vert from the Chiles Valley in eastern Napa County.

Light straw colored, medium-light bodied, harmonious nicely balanced layers of subdued citrus, peach, pear and lychee fruit with a refreshing crisp clean, smooth acidity finish.

RM 90 points.

Cliff Lede Vineyards Napa Valley Stag's Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

We stocked up on this vintage release of this Estate label back in '06 to hold to commemorate the wedding year of daughter Erin and son-in-law Johnny. The vintage was ideally suited with conditions perfect for the fruit set and ideal ripening that resulted in very concentrated wines that will mark 2006 as one of the great Napa vintages.

Fruit for this vintage release was sourced from the finest blocks of the Lede estate Twin Peaks Ranch vineyard on Napa Yountville Cross Road, as well as from the hillside terraces of their legendary Poetry vineyard on the eastern foothills of the property overlooking Silverado Trail and the eastern valley. The blend in this release is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 2% Malbec.

Consistent with tasting notes three years ago when I wrote, "Six years after release, the 2006 Lede Estate Cabernet seems to be reaching its stride at the apex of its tasting curve. Medium full bodied, deep ruby color with full forward blackberry and black and red currant fruits with tones of mocha, clove spice and hints of tar and sweet oak on a smooth polished flavorful lingering finish."

The notes of mocha were replaced with tones of leather, tobacco leaf and hints of cedar as this passes its tenth year. 

RM 91 points.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Italian Village Chicago Wine Dinner

Italian Village Chicago Wine Dinner

For our team bootcamp gathering in Chicago, I arranged a wine dinner at legendary Italian Village nearby in the center of Chicago's Loop. Wine Director Jared Gelband, and Liz Ramirez, Event Director, arranged for a price fixe dinner with a selection of five wines, two reds and two whites plus a dessert wine, matched accordingly to entree choices and the courses.

Third generation Gina Capitanini
and Jared Gelband Wine Director
As I've written in these pages, Italian Village is Chicago's classic oldest Italian Restaurant, continuously operated by the Capitanini family since 1927, now in its 90th year, with the largest wine cellar in the Midwest that holds over 45,000 bottles.

There are actually three restaurants on premise, each with their own kitchen, chef and waitstaff, all served by the Wine Spectator Best of Award Wine Cellar/Wine List with over 1200 selections. The vast collection, mostly Italian, also features French, American and other regions, with many vintage releases, still at vintage prices for some extraordinary values.

On the day of our dinner, The Wall Street Journal featured Italian Village in their "7 Insider Wine Bars That Sommeliers Belly Up To". 'Lettie Teague asked seven sommeliers in seven cities where they like to drink on their days off. Follow their lead to the best under-the-radar wine bars, deepest cellars, most daring lists and savviest crowds to drink with across the country."

 We dined in the lower level, La Cantina Enoteca, in one of the numerous private dining rooms in the three restaurants on the property, one perfectly suited for our group of twenty.

After soup/salad course, the dinner entree choices were:
Chicken Piccata
Sauteed chicken breast with lemon capers in white wine butter sauce. 
Veal Marsala
Veal medallions sauteed in Marsala wine with fresh mushrooms. 
Three Cheese Tortelli
Pillow shaped pasta filled with Mascarpone, Mozzarella and Ricotta cheeses in a cherry tomato-garlic-basil broth. 
Salmon Puttanesca
Broiled Atlantic salmon topped with olives, capers, tomato, garlic, basil and white wine.

The accompanying wine selections were:

Castella di Farnetella, Chianti Colli Senesi, DOCG 2014
Paitin di Pasquero-Elia, "Elisa" Rosero Arnies, DOC 2015
Maculan, "Brentino," IGT (Cabernet/Merlot) 2014
Piazzo, Chardonnay, DOC 2015

And with the dessert course, Jared served
Maculan, "Dindarello," Moscato IGT, Veneto

Throughout the evening, small groups were taken on tours of the extraordinary wine cellar featuring over ten thousand bottles on the premises from 1200 different labels.

Maitre-d Hans presided and Mark served our group with superior service in an extraordinary setting for an ideal evening of wine, food, team building collaboration and commraderie.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Silver Oak Alexander Valley 1993

Silver Oak Alexander Valley 1993

Bob and Gloria visiting from Florida came for dinner and Linda prepared grilled beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. I pulled from the cellar a vintage '93 Silver Oak Alexander Valley.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley has been somewhat of a special memorable tribute wine with them ever since we tasted it together when they treated us to a special 35th anniversary celebration at Morton's in Naperville. That night I took a 1990 vintage bottle commemorating our sons' Alec's and Bryan's birth year. For a mini-horizontal tasting that evening, we compared it with a '04 from the Morton's wine-list.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 labelSeptember 4, 2009 - Silver Oak Alexander Valley 1990 and 2004 - Contrast of vintages, young and old. The 1990 was tight, dark, and exhibited black cherry, black berry, slight astringency, leather and cedar on the oaky tannin finish. (RM89) The 04 was much lighter, simpler with accents of sweet red currant and hint of chocolate with sweet oak on the finish (RM88)

Tonight, we pulled this '93 from the cellar which was tasting very nicely, still near its prime in its twenty-fourth year, consistent with my earlier tastings of this vintage back in April, 2003 and then again in December 2008. 

April 93 - Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 1993 $75 RM/WS (CS) 90 That classic SO oak flavor predominates with berry, plum and currant - dark with medium body. 12/23/2008 - I wrote:  90 Points. 

Dark blackish garnet colored, medium bodied, black berry fruits with tones of ripe plum and black currants, accented with a layer of oak, with hints of tobacco leaf and creosote on the lingering finish. 
RM 90 points.

Afterwards with chocolate cake and fresh berries, I poured the remains of this vintage port and dessert wine. 

Chateau Guiraud Sauterne 1er Grand Cru Classe 2006

Croft Vintage Port 1994

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pride Mtn Napa Cab 1997

Pride Mountain Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

For a quiet Saturday evening dinner at home, Linda prepared grilled NY Strip steaks, roasted beets and roasted potatoes. I pulled from the cellar a 20 year old vintage Pride Mountain Vineyards Napa Cabernet.

Wow! I've written often in these pages about how the much heralded '97 Cabernets were not living up to their lofty expectations, often being closed and subdued, as if still sleeping, not yet awakened to their potential greatness. Well perhaps its time has come. This was the best '97 Cab I recall having experienced, showing all the characteristics of a spectacular vintage, twenty years hence. This was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled steak dinner.

We tasted and acquired this wine during our visit to the winery high atop Spring Mountain during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 1999.  

As shown in the picture below, at twenty years, the cork was perfect, as was the fill level, indicating our cellar conditions are ideal for aging fine wines.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes in its profile, it seemed to show more polish and balance than I remember. Previous reviews I have given over the last several years have been increasing by a point indicating this vintage release is hitting its stride, at the peak of its drinking window.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, a firm structured backbone props up the vibrant complex black berry and black currant fruits showing tones of spice, cedar and hints of smoke, anise, leather and subtle mocha turning to a tangy gripping tannin finish.

RM 93 points.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rombauer Carneros Merlot 2010

Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Merlot 2010

We tasted, enjoyed and acquired the then current 2012 release of this Rombauer Carneros Merlot at a winemaker dinner at Adelle's Restaurant in Wheaton just about a year ago, so I was delighted to see the 2010 vintage on closeout at the local wineshop last week. I picked it up to enjoy with beef tenderloin dinner back at the hotel and then at home the following evening.

The fruit for this label is sourced from Rombauer and contract grower vineyards in the Carneros region, down south and west of Napa where the San Pablo Bay meets the southern end of Napa and Sonoma valleys. Perhaps it is the slightly cooler and milder climate there that contributes to the rich concentrated fruit of this wine. 

With its bright full forward concentrated bramble black berry and black cherry fruits, this tasted more like a Zinfandel than a Merlot, with tones of sweet vanilla, cedar, oak, leather and tobacco leaf. It begs for bbq, sharp cheese or bitter dark chocolate.

RM 88 points.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rivetti La Spinetta Nebbiolo

Train Day Adventure culminates in lunch at Italian Village featuring wine selection Rivetti La Spinetta Nebbiolo

We took the grand-kids into the City of Chicago for a 'train day' adventure riding all forms of trains around the city to some landmark locations. Our train adventure included Metra into the city, boarding the Elevated CTA at historic Quincy Station, riding the Pink Line to switchback via the overhead bridge on the Green Line, riding around the loop, connecting to the Red Line at Roosevelt/McCormack Place, riding through Chinatown, and switching back in the middle of the Dan Ryan at landmark Sox Park, ending on the Red Line Subway at Monroe Street station, a short walk to legendary Italian Village restaurant, where we dined for lunch.

I've featured Italian Village often in these pages including their historic wine cellar. We visited the wine cellar and met with Wine Director Jared Gelband where he was busy updating the volumnous wine-list with recent acquisitions (shown pictured) - almost a full time job in of itself.

We discussed his planning for an upcoming wine dinner, and planning for a business dinner I am hosting there at the end of this month.

Like a kid in a candy store, I scoured the cellar for a wine selection to accompany today's lunch, for my upcoming business dinner, as well as to spot some legendary wines and favorite selections for future visits.

With such an extraordinary extensive selection, its not hard to find spectacular wines and special finds for any occasion. My short list of such wines for my ultimate wine tasting for the ultimate special occasions might be:
  • Grange Hermitage 1990 - special birthyear wine
  • Romani Conti St Vivant 1991 - another special birthyear wine
  • Konigsgaard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - one of my all time favorite, memorable wines
  • Azienda Agricola Montevertine Le Pergole Torte Toscana IGT 1997 - a classic
  • La Tenuta Ornellaia Masseto 2003 - another classic - featured in an earlier IV wine dinner
These wines are pictured below at the bottom of this post.

But back to reality and the task at hand, to select wine for today's lunch to accompany our entrees of my Veal Parmigiana, and Linda and Erin's Eggplant Parmigiana. I chose a La Spinetta Nebbiolo.

We dined in one of their private alcove tables offering a unique intimate dining experience. 

Rivetti La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo 2011.

The winemaker's notes for this wine ... "typical light red of Nebbiolo musky aromas of strawberry, tobacco and wild herbs sweet and spicy in the mouth, with good grip and firm acidity to the flavors of strawberry and mint, aromatic and elegant" ...

I found this dark garnet colored, medium bodied, black currant and black berry fruits accented by tones of tobacco, herbs and spice with hints of eucalyptus on a firm acidic gripping tannin finish.

RM 88 points.

Italian Village -

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Social Table Wine Dinner

Social Table Lincoln Park, Chicago Wine Dinner

Dr Dan arranged a special dinner at the Social Table in Lincoln Park, Chicago, a venue where your group, lead by a Chef/instructor prepares your own dinner, then dines in a private dining room.

It's a perfect setting for an extraordinary wine/dine adventure, allowing wine aficionado diners to conduct a self paced wine tasting and wine/food paring of BYOB wines in a relaxed comfortable setting.

Our Chef/instructor this evening was Alysa, who trained at the CIA - Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, NY.

The dinner menu was Beef Wellington with red wine mushroom reduction sauce, roasted beet salad with goat cheese, pine nuts and greens, garlic mashed potatoes and Chocolate Pots de Crème dessert.

The wine flight was primarily Bordeaux for the evening as our Pour Boys wine group, Dan, Lyle and I all brought Bordeaux wines to accompany the beef entree dinner.

The Theulet Monbazillac was superb with the goat cheese salad. The Bordeaux paired ideally with the Beef Wellington main extree, especially the pate' layer. The chocolate dessert was highlighted perfectly with the Croft Port and the Giuraud Sauterne. 

The main dinner course wine flight in order of tasting ...

Sea Smoke 'Gratis' Santa Rita Hills California Grand Cru Chardonnay 2009
Château  Theulet Antoine Alard Monbazillac 1998
Château  Figeac St Emilion Grand Cru Classe' 2009
Château  Lanessan Haut Medoc 1995
Château  Lafon Rochet St Estephe 2003
Château  Gruaud Larose St Julien 1989
Château  Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien 1989
Château  Pontet Canet Paulliac 2009
Château Guiraud 1er Grand Cru Classe' Sauterne 2006
Crofts Vintage Port 1994

Other wines to complement and fill out the wine flight ...

Ferrari-Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2014
Decoy Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2013
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Dinner group

Pour boys (& girls)

more to come ...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lewis Alec's Blend 1997

Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Alec's Blend 1997 - Son Alec's Signature Namesake Label selection for his birthday eve dinner

On the eve of son Alec's birthday, we pulled a Lewis Alec's Blend from the cellar for dinner.

I've often written in these pages about the fun we have with this branding, with its signature 'L' on the label, ala Laverne and Shirley, or wife Linda, or her mother Lucy, or our daughter Erin Leigh, or her daughter, our first grandchild/daughter Lucy! That coupled with the Hoosier heritage of Randy Lewis, Indy 500 race driver from our native Indiana, and, their affinity to family, naming labels after their grandkids - Alec, Ethan and Mason,  we adopted Alec's Blend as a signature label for son Alec and feature it at family celebrations.

Lewis wines are family favorites for such special occasions, punctuated by this namesake Blend for son Alec. Lewis Cabernets are some of our favorites and we have a decade long vertical of Alec's as well as their Cabs, dating back to this '97. This blend is dedicated to Randy and Debbie Lewis' first grandson Alec who was born on the day of the harvest of the grapes for this wine leading to the name. I believe this may be the, or certainly close to the inaugural vintage of this label/blend - its certainly the oldest I have ever seen (or tasted).

It should not be a surprise that we love this wine with its blend of our favorite varietals - Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, from our favorite region Napa Valley.

This was a great accompaniment to Linda's grilled marinated beef flank steak and twice baked potatoes dinner.

Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Alec's Blend 1997

We hold more than a dozen vintages of this label dating back to this 1997, our last bottle of the oldest vintage in our vertical collection. Now at twenty years of age, this is just starting to show any signs of aging with the bright fruits starting to give way to tobacco and leather non-fruit flavors.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, it showed full, concentrated complex black raspberry and black berry fruits accented by tones of clove, hints of black tea and cedar starting to give way to notes of tobacco leaf and leather on a spicy oak moderate firm but smooth tannin finish.

This vintage blend is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, and 15% Petit Verdot. The Bordeaux varietals no doubt contribute to its longevity, impressive none-the-less, drinking this well at twenty years. As I've noted before, tastings like this leave me confident to be patient with our vertical collection of this label.

RM 89 points.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

90+Cellars Lot 94 Napa Cab

Ninety Plus Cellars "Lot 94" Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

I wrote a feature on Ninety Plus Cellars and their negociant business where they buy excess fruit from growers, or bulk wine, or in some cases bottled but unlabeled wine from producers, and bottle or release it under their own private label series. Once in a while this results in an extraordinary value in a wine offered at a fraction of the original producer's or grower's offering price, hence the need to keep the source secret and release under their own or private label. This Lot 94 may be such a wine.

The challenge of course is that you can't get too attached to a wine because there may not be a follow on vintage, or there may be sporadic intermittent releases every couple of years, or perhaps only in lesser years when the quality of the product is not up the standards for the primary label. Or, you may get lucky, and the producer has excess inventory or product available and is eager to release it to a trusted outlet. 

Ninety Plus Cellars have built an extensive brand with an extensive selection of wines from around the world, released under their own label. Their nomenclature of the Lot number for any particular wine indicates the source of the product so consumers can identify such from one vintage to the next. The challenge of course is that true identity of the source is not revealed, although there are times when it can be determined, either through mis-steps in the packaging (once the bottles had already been filled and corked with corks branded by the original producer), or there have been times when the original wine can be determined by the unique blend of the vintage.

There have been several Ninety Plus wines that I have discovered where I acquired all that I could obtain to keep for enjoyment and value over time, Lot 101, Washington State, Columbia Valley Syrah was one such example.

Ninety Plus Cellars "Lot 94" Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

According to Ninety Plus Cellars, "This distinguished Cabernet Sauvignon was made from fruit picked from vines situated on the east side of the valley in a vineyard that was first planted in the 1890s. Upon alluvial and volcanic soils these densely planted vines produce Cabernet Sauvignon that makes some of the best wine in Napa. This is an all-star Cabernet with a pedigree that's unrivaled by anything we've put in a bottle."

They assert that the offering price for the wine under the source producer's label is double the price of the discounted private label. That may indeed be the case. In any event, I'll testify that this is a high QPR - quality price ratio, great value wine that is comparable to product twice its price.

This was one of the wines of the week, featured at the Saturday tasting of local Vin Chicago outlet. So it was, that after tasting at the Vin Chicago Saturday tasting, I grabbed a couple bottles to bring home and try again with different foods or accompaniments. I expect I'll be going back to buy more for great value high quality every day drinking, as well as for special occasions.

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, complex sweet black currant and berry fruits, with notes of mocha, herbs, tobacco and hints of spicy oak and vanilla with a smooth polished finish.
I look forward to opening a bottle to taste with a savory meal.

RM 91 points.