Monday, February 19, 2018

Château La Tour Haut-Brion 1999

Château La Tour Haut-Brion Cru Classé Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux 1999

For mid-week grilled tenderloin dinner we served this vintage Bordeaux Cru Classé from Château La Tour Haut Brion from the Pessac-Léognan appellation in Graves. The estate was located in the commune of Talence on the outskirts of the city of Bordeaux, adjacent to Château La Mission Haut-Brion. The label used to be a separate château under the same ownership as Châteaux Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion. The 5.05 hectares (12.47 acres) of vineyards were planted with 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 23% Merlot, a mix similar to Haut Brion. Production was about 2,000 to 2,500 cases per year.

Prior to 1983, Ch. la Tour Haut-Brion was the second wine of La Mission Haut-Brion, but after the La Mission and La Tour properties were taken over by the Domaine Clarence Dillon, La Tour gained its own branding identity. Château La Tour Haut-Brion was the smallest of the classed growths of red Graves producers and the label was discontinued after its final vintage in 2005. Since then, the fruit of La Tour Haut-Brion has been included in the production blend of Château La Mission Haut-Brion.

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied with complex structure with black berry and black plum fruits with bright lively floral aromatics, accented by notes of cigar box, cedar, leather and subtle tones of dark mocha. This was an ideal complement to the grilled tenderloin steak.

RM 89 points.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Culminating an event filled week with Valentine's Day, Linda's birthday and starting a new job, we celebrated with Saturday evening dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Hemingway's Bistro in Oak Park, located in the Write Inn, a euro boutique hotel. Fittingly, Hemingway's was still decorated for Valentine's Day.

As I've written in these pages, I conduct tours as a docent interpreter at the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, so this is a convenient dining spot following my tours.

Tonight's special was Alaskan Halibut with a mango pepper relish, rice and asparagus (shown left) which we both opted for as our entrees.

We both started with one of our favorite dishes, and draws to Hemingways - I had the Foie Gras du jour and Linda has the Tuna Tartar with avocado, cucumber and spicy aioli. The Foie Gras alone was worth the trip, absolutely delicious served with puree' of parsnip and peaches.

For the occasion, I brought BYOB from our home cellar a California Cabernet Bordeaux blend from Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill. In the end it was great with the Foie Gras but too much for the Halibut entrees and we opted for BTG (by-the-glass) selections from the wine list, a Lake Sonoma Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay, and a Lemelson Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.

Hemingway's offers an authentic Provencal or Parisan dining experience in all respects. As always, everything was spectacular for an intimate, dining experience - food, services, atmosphere and ambiance.

Lemelson Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2015

Bright golden butter colored, light-medium bodied, tangy crisp acidic backbone, bright pear, peach, hints of apple and melon with notes of mineral and citrus. An ideal complement to the tuna tartar and the Alaskan Hailbut.

RM 87 points.

Lake Sonoma Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2015

According to the producer, the Russian River Valley is ideal for Chardonnay due to its cool climate, from the regular infiltration of Pacific Coast fog that ebbs and flows through the Petaluma Wind Gap and up the Russian River, making the Russian River Valley one of the world’s most celebrated Chardonnay growing regions. This natural air-conditioning allows Chardonnay grapes to develop full flavor over an extended growing season while maintaining their life-giving natural acidity.  The result is a chardonnay of both character and depth.

We visited the Russian River Valley Sonoma County appellation during our wine region visit last summer.

I believe this producer sources grapes from numerous growers in the region producing a region or appellation specific, but not Estate (produced from grapes grown on the property).

This Chardonnay from Hemingway's BTG (by-the-glass) winelist was straw colored, medium bodied, with notes of citrus, hints of creme brulee, vanilla, and honey with moderate acidity and depth.

RM 88 points. 

Carnival of Love - The Valentine's Day Wine

Carnival of Love - The Valentine's Day Wine

What wine do you serve for an intimate Valentine's Day dinner? Carnival of Love, of course. Especially when its your brides favorite (style) wine! So for an intimate Valentine's evening dinner, we pulled from the cellar the premium Aussie shiraz from Mollydooker with the whimsical cartoonish 'Carnival of Love' label.

I've written in these pages about Mollydooker husband and wife winemaking team, Sara and Sparky Marquis, who happen to both be 'lefties', hence 'Mollydooker', the Aussie term afforded what in America we would call a 'southpaw' or a left handed person. You gotta love our Aussie friends and their sense of humour. They emerged on the American wine scene with Marquis Phillips and their whimsical 'Roogle' or half kangaroo half eagle character for the Australia - American joint venture with their US distribution partnership back around the turn of the century.

After several successful releases, Sara and Sparky set off on their own and never looked back developing an extensive brand and line-up of labels, all with whimsical names and colorful cartoon characters (see select library below - a more complete library is on our winesite Aussie 'M' Mollydooker label library).

Aside their flagship 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz which nears $200, their two premium labels in the release price $80 range are this one, and 'Enchanted Path', a Shiraz and Cabernet blend. Their line includes an extensive collection from an entry level Shiraz to Cabernet, Cabernet-Shiraz blends, Merlot - even a sparkling Shiraz. (This 2005 is currently on offer from K&L, one of the nation's leading wine merchants at $150).

The story of these wines according to the winemaker is: "Our whole family is involved in making our wines, and all the wonderful people who drink them become our friends, so we named this wine Carnival of Love, because the wines bring us together. If you look closely you will notice that the Lefty characters are all included in the label and when you join the Carnival of Love and the Enchanted Path together, the two labels form one beautiful continuous love story."

At these price points, these are not every day wines for us ordinary folks, but wines for special occasions. 'Carnival of Love' has become one of our family tradition wines which we serve at wife Linda's and family birthday parties, since Linda is a Lefty, and we happen to have three family birthdays in the span of several weeks. Hence, its the obvious wine for our Valentine's Day dinner.

Mollydooker have continually won high acclaim with Carnival receiving 95-ish ratings consistently over the years; 2010, RP95, WS94, 2009; WS94, RP93, 2008; WS94, 2007; RP96, WS95, 2006; RP97, WS95. This 2005 release got 98 points from Robert Parker, rarified space indeed for only very special highly acclaimed wines.

Mollydooker "Carnival of Love" McLaren Vale South Australia Shiraz 2005 

This full throttle power packed Shiraz is not for the feint of heart as indicted by its whopping 16.5% alcohol content. Dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich complex concentrated, this exhibits what Parker referred to as "a more earthy, meaty, gamey character with plenty of coffee and damp loam aromas fused with smoked bacon, some iron ore, Chinese plums, a little floral note and even a bit of truffles character coming through". It has a firm structured core of intense dark blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruit accented by spice and notes of anise, ripe raisin and tobacco on the firm but approachable tannins on the lingering finish. 

This is not a wine for sipping but rather it begs for hearty cheese, darkest chocolate or as with our dinner tonight, char-grilled steak. 

I like big firm, forward powerful concentrated wines, and I admit, this is almost too much for my tastes with its high octane, but its certainly a treat for a special occasion such as tonight! 

RM 94 points. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Larcis Ducasse highlights Sunday Brunch

Larcis Ducasse St Emilion Bordeaux highlights Sunday Brunch

For Sunday brunch after church Linda prepared French crepes with strawberries with grilled tenderloin steak and spinach. With about a foot of fresh snow on the ground, we considered going out to lunch after church and chose to come home instead. I am so glad we did as it provided the chance for a wonderful brunch with a spectacular wine pairing!

To accompany grilled steak and strawberry crepes for Sunday Brunch, I pulled from the cellar this twelve year old St Emilion Grand Cru Classe Larcis Ducasse. The pairing and delight of the overall experience was spectacular! Simple pleasures of a wine (jerk) geek (oenophile)!

I went down to the cellar looking for this precise profile of a wine, without knowing in advance what label or producer I was looking for. In the end, this was perfect, not too young, not too old, Right Bank Merlot based flavor profile .. an ideal complement to our food. I don't know what was better, the pairing with the char-grilled tenderloin steak, the raspberry crepe, the dark chocolates afterwards, or by itself! All were delightful!

Larcis Ducasse have a total of 27 acres, 24 in production, located on one of Bordeaux's finest areas of terroir, the Cote Pavie in St Emilion, adjacent to the 1er Grand Cru Classé Ch. Pavie estate.

The property was purchased by Henri Raba in 1893 and has been family-owned ever since with the current generation of Jacques Gratiot in in ownership since 1990.

The wine has been made by Nicolas Thienpont along with his chief winemaker David Suire since 2002. Over the following ten years, they improved the quality significantly as recognized by the château being upgraded in 2012 to Premier Grand Cru Classé St.-Emilion classification as testament to its burgeoning quality and reputation.

In addition to replanting the vineyards to a greater density to produce more concentrated fruits, another key change under Thienpont's direction was the removal of Cabernet Sauvignon from the blend which had typically totaled about 5 percent, with the wine now a more classic 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend.

The more recent vintages clearly benefit from more precise viticulture and winemaking techniques, featuring brighter, denser fruit, but are showing to age extremely well, as the structure is even more intense while remaining well-embedded.

While 3,300 cases were produced of the 2004 Larcis Ducasse, which is 78% Merlot with the rest Cabernet Franc and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, under the new plantings, production has averaged only about 2,500 cases annually.

While prices have started to creep up as the quality and reputation increased, Larcis Ducasse represents a relative high QPR (quality price ratio) bargain for extremely ageworthy Bordeaux. The 2009 can be found for about $75 per bottle, the '10 for $85. The 2004 proved to be a great value as a sleeper of a vintage in Bordeaux that is drinking wonderfully now with online search showing availability for an average of around $65 for the 2004.

The 2014 got a Wine Spectator rating of 93 points, 92 from Parker, 96 from James Suckling and 95 from Vinous and is readily available for about $55.  The 2015 got ratings from 94 to 99 points and is commanding from $75 to $109 on release.

Château Larcis Ducasse St Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2004

This was dark garnet colored, with a slight brown/orange rim starting to set in, medium-full bodied, smooth polished with delightful complex aromas and flavors of plum, black currant and blackberry fruits with tones of earthy leather, black tea, cigar box and spice with hints of truffle, cedar and cassis on the smooth polished tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

Syrah, Syrah for Family Birthday Dinner

Syrah, Syrah for Family Birthday Dinner

For Linda's birthday dinner with family we served two of her favorite wines - Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah, with its distinctive 'L' label, and Rosemount Balmoral Syrah.

As I've written in these pages, we have fun with the 'L' label for Linda, ala the old Laverne and Shirley shtick, but also we love Lewis wines.

This one, like their Alec's Blend, which we serve for our son Alec's occasions, is named for a their grandson, so it makes it special for such family occasions.

We gathered at daughter Erin's, and son Ryan brought simmered beef brisket which was ideally matched with the hearty Syrahs, and a hearty cheeses and charcuterie beforehand.

Pictured is Linda with the grandkids (left), and note soon to be seven!

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah 2013

Our visit to Lewis Cellars was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley trip this fall.

We love this style of thick chewy unctuous forward fruit, blackish inky purple colored, full bodied,  rich concentrated core of black and blue fruits give way to a layer of vanilla, spice, and a hint of what Lewis calls 'bacon fat', and a bit of alcohol heat that softens over the course of the evening, finishing with tongue coating tannins.

This was great with the hearty cheeses and beef as well as the fresh fruits and birthday cake dessert!

RM 92 points.

Rosemount Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 1996

We are being rewarded for having acquired cases of this wine back upon release. We still hold a dozen or so bottles from those early vintages from 1992 through 2002 that we're working through as they approach end of life. See our tasting notes of the 2000 just the other evening.

This '96 is holding up well at two decades plus, moreso than near vintages, dark garnet colored medium bodied, this has a more moderated subdued palate compared to the other near vintages, nicely integrated blackberry and black raspberry with some notes of blue fruits, tones subtle white pepper, tobacco and leather with subtle soft smooth approachable tannins.

RM 90 points.

Do I dare post this picture? Its a family milestone. Soon to be seven!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Le District NYC Wine-Dine

Le District NYC for an immersive classic French, NY culinary experience

Another one of the highlights of our NYC getaway weekend was a trip to Le District down in the financial district. Consider this the French equivalent of the immensely popular Eataly that provides an immersive experience of a Italian village market.

Le District strives to recreate a French village market experience. Le District is actually three districts in one; the Cafe District offers a range of coffee delights, pastries, crepes, chocolates and French treats to indulge one's sweet tooth, the Market District. a shopping and culinary
extravaganza with Boulangerie, Delices du chef, Cheese and Charcuterie, Rotisserie, Boucherie & Poissonnerie; and the Garden District for groceries, flowers, salad bar - all authentic French inspired, of course.

We went down to Le District for pre-dinner wine and small plates. We could've spent the entire weekend there shopping, dining, exploring, taking in the whole experience.

For pre-dinner we dined at Beaubourg Brasserie which they refer to being as much classic New York as classic French. Beubourg means literally “pretty village”, like the namesake a vibrant area in the heart of Paris. We dined at a table with a picturesque view overlooking sunset on the Hudson adjacent to 'Le Bar'.

We dined on Foie Gras Terrine, Steamed Mussels in saffron broth and shave fennel and a charcuterie selection of cheeses: Brie du Pommier (cow), Crottin de Chavignol (goat), Fourmé d’Ambert (cow), and Comte Elegancé, each better than the next. 

To accompany our small plates we ordered a bottle of J.L. Chave Sélection St. Joseph Offerus Syrah 2014. 

The vineyards used for Offerus are located in two distinct St. Joseph areas. The communities of Mauves, Tournon, and St. Jean de Muzols yield over 80% of the blend and are owned by Jean-Louis. The remaining vineyards are located in more northerly communities around Serrières, and even these are farmed mainly by Jean-Louis, though he doesn’t own the vineyards.

This cépage is composed of 100% Syrah, dark garnet colored, full bodied, concentrated, dense, complex brambly blackberry with notes of black raspberry and hints of blueberry, floral with tones of tapenade, leather and spice with hints of anise and tightly wound tannins on the firm finish. A bit much for the mussels but ideal for the hearty cheese and pate.

RM 89 points. 

Vinous gave this 91 points

Chateau St Jean Indian Wells Merlot 2014

Chateau St Jean Indian Wells Merlot 2014 at Misty's Steakhouse Lincoln, NE

Traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska for a business meeting, we had a team dinner at the local landmark steakhouse, Misty's Steakhouse (and Brewery) downtown, which also features a microbrewery.

Legend has it that Bob and Grace Milton began Misty's as a "bottle club" in 1963, known as Club 63. In 1965, the Nebraska liquor laws changed allowing restaurants to sell liquor by the drink, so Misty's started serving food with the ability to prepare six hamburgers or four small steaks on a small propane grill. The grill and the business grew and Misty's Restaurant, named for Bob and Grace's favorite song, "Misty", became known for serving quality prime rib. Bob and Grace also became known for their seasoning recipe, originally mixed in a large barrel, which has now grown to a complete family of branded seasonings, commercially blended and sold in grocery stores nationwide as Misty's Original All Purpose Seasoning, Natural All Purpose Seasoning, BBQ Seasoning, Cajun Seasoning, and No Salt Seasoning.

Today, Misty's Restaurant & Lounge is considered locally as Lincoln's Best Prime Rib, Best Steak, Best Place for Dinner and Best Restaurant.  Bob Milton was recognized as Restaurateur of The Year in 1998 before passing away later that year.

Being a wine snob, oenophile, I generally will choose my restaurant based on the wine list as I place a high priority on the total wine and dine experience. Its unfortunate then that Misty's showcase their steaks and micro-brew sports bar theme and atmosphere, catering to the University of Nebraska crowds that come to town and gather there for the State's major sports events on the Big Ten campus just a few blocks away, rather than a steakhouse with fine wines.

That said, while I was initially disappointed generally in the lack of a published or posted wine list, then finding it somewhat limited, my overall dining experience, including the wine, met or exceeded all my expectations. I ordered Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Columbia Valley Merlot BTG (by-the-glass) and it proved to be a perfect complement to the superbly prepared and delicious S.O.B.'s, "Sweet Old Bob's" Favorite Top Sirloin. 

My steak was prepared perfectly to my precise specifications, 'Pittsburgh style medium' (charred, grilled, medium with hot pink center), along with an excellent baked potato and spinach raspberry salad. The result was an extraordinary, superbly enjoyable dining experience that, as I state, exceeded my expectations. 

Chateau St Jean Indian Wells Merlot 2014

Another remarkable, huge QPR offering from Chateau St Jean that is available in huge quantities so as to be widely and generally available across the marketplace with 50,000 cases produced of this label. Another such offering is their Cabernet Sauvignon, recently reviewed in these pages.

Chateau Ste. Michelle has developed a very successful brand with its fruit-forward wines from the Indian Wells Vineyard and surrounding vineyards on the Wahluke Slope. The Wahike Slope area is bordered by the Columbia River to both the west and to the south as it winds around the area.

The Indian Wells Vineyard lies near the Columbia River between the towns of Desert Aire and Mattawa. Interesting that while Chateau St Michelle label it as, or imply that this a single vineyard designated wine, its isn't but rather as they state, this "Merlot is sourced predominately from vineyards throughout the Wahluke Slope in Eastern Washington, including our Indian Wells Vineyard".

This was was dark garnet colored, with medium-full body, nicely balanced, polished and integrated flavors of blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by notes of cocoa and mocha chocolate with hints of vanilla and smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish that belies its very affordable modest pricepoint resulting in huge QPR value. 
This release includes 14% Syrah which no doubt contributes to the full forward fruit flavors and weighty body.

RM 89 points.

This got 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and 88 from Wine and Spirits,

Kudo's to Misty's for this BTG selection, as well as to Chateau St Michelle for this extraordinarily enjoyable good value wine.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001

Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001

After church the family gathered for a gala Sunday dinner featuring Linda's homemade lasagna. I pulled from the cellar this Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001, a family oriented producer to celebrate gathering of our family, and an Italian based varietal for a hearty Italian dinner.

This label is named for Giovanni Del Dotto, son of owner producers Dave and Yolanda.

I've written much in these pages about our many Del Dotto Family Vineyards dinners, tours,tastings, and special events. We still hold a dozen and half vintages of Del Dotto wines dating back to their inaugural vintage in 1993.

Our visit to the new Del Dotto Winery Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience this 2017 fall.

We acquired several cases of the 2015 vintage release to commemorate the birthyear of grandson and namesake (Richard) Reid, so I have to make room in the Del Dotto storage area for the new arrivals.

Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001

This was produced back when legendary Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge was crafting wines for Del Dotto. Del Dotto were early adapters of Sangiovese in Napa Valley. Their early plantings were on the Estate at Route 29 and Zinfandel lane surrounding the homestead and office.

The 2001 Giovanni’s Tuscan Reserve was a limited production release of about 300 cases. Its a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese, and 5% Merlot.

Still holding and showing well at seventeen years, this is dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, dense, concentrated, bright vibrant black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of cassis, tea, cigar box and leather with spicy French oak and supple tannins, on the tangy lingering finish.

RM 91 points. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2000

Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2000

Wine and cheese in front of the fireplace and a PPV movie - date night Saturday night. Linda prepared butter toasted almonds, blue cheese, pear slices and honey drizzle, an ideal complement to a hearty robust Syrah (aka Shiraz). We opened a Rosemount Balmoral Syrah from McLaren Vale. We hold about a decade of this label going back to the early nineties.

Rosemount Estate Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 2000

This vineyard is one of the few in Australia with vines dating back a hundred years. The concentrated fruit is akin to the Chateau Tanunda with its legendary 100 year old vines. The story of us Pour Boys discovering and then capturing the US allocation of this wine has been written often in these pages. 

Consistent with previously reported tasting notes from 2010 and 2012, this 2000 was dark inky purple/garnet colored, medium-full bodied. Aromatic, leather, slightly earthy aroma that gives way to complex flavorful blue fruit and ripe black raspberry fruits that turn to raisin, tangy black cherry, cassis, tar, and tobacco turning to an aftertaste of smoke, currant and a hint of plum. Over the course of the evening, the wine seemed to age as the berry fruits gave way to the more fig raisin aged feel while the deep aromatics lingered.

RM 90 points.

Piedlong CDP foie gras Il Fiore Langham NY

Piedlong CDP and Auxey-Duresses with Foie Gras small plates at Il Fiore Langham Hotel NYC

Langham Hotel Lobby Desk
During our NYC getaway weekend, before dinner, we stopped in the Michelin star Il Fiore restaurant bar in the tony Langham Hotel in NYC.

We were seeking small plates and some wine from their extraordinary selection for a casual setting. Not often does one have the choice of Phelps Insignia, Tignanello, Sea Smoke, Quilceda Creek, Cos d' Estournal and Vieux Telegraph BTG (By-The-Glass)!

I selected the Torchon Foie Gras with tart cherries and winter squash (shown below) which was perfect for the occasion and was spectacular with Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Piedlong.

Linda had the crispy grilled artichokes with parmesan and lemon aoli, with a Benjamin Leroux Auxey-Duresses Burgundy Pinot Noir which was not on the winelist and was substituted for our initial selection.

Il Fiore offers a elegant but casual comfortable setting for a delightful food and wine experience, albeit rather expensive, but in-line with New York prices and such quality premium offerings. We look forward to returning for dinner there during a future trip.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Piedlong 2013 

The BTG winelist (shown below) specifically said 'La Crau', which refers to the flagship CDP offering from this Domaine, but this label was served instead.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe has been run by the Brunier family for six generations, since 1891. The estate’s vineyards sit on the Plateau of La Crau, the highest point, in the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Back in the 1800's , Claude Chappe, inventor of the optical telegraph, built a signal tower on the property due to its high elevation in the region, hence the property was given the name “Vieux Télégraphe”.

This Piedlong label 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.

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

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant black currant and black raspberry fruits, notes of spicy cinnamon, hints of dust, tangy cherry, tapenade and mushroom with a smooth soft peppery lingering finish.

RM 89 points. 

Benjamin Leroux Auxey-Duresses Pinot Noir 2015

Il Fiore restaurant bar
Another substitution on the winelist, this label has a rouge and a blanc variant. We were looking for the blanc Chardonnay, but they served the rouge Pinot Noir instead.

Auxey-Duresses (pronounced “Oh-see”) is an appellation is in the famous Côte de Beaune area in the region of Burgundy, surrounded by two famous neighbors, Volnay and Meursault.

Readers of these pages know we don't do many Burgundies, mostly because we favor the Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) over the Burgundy Pinot Noir.

Also, I'm not knowledgeable in all the myriad of appellations and producers from the region and find it a bit confusing and mystifying. This is much the case for many folks, for many regions, but its especially challenging for Burgundy with all the mini and micro producers and labels that typifies what this regions is known for.

My advice to folks is to focus on one region, gather knowledge and experiences as a baseline and for comparisons, especially if one is going to start collecting wines.

We selected this Benjamin Leroux Pinot Noir from the Auxey-Duresses appellation, an area noted for high QPR and excellent value.

This is the label of Benjamin Leroux, manager/winemaker of Domaine Comte Armand who launched this label with the 2007 vintage. Leroux's Auxey-Duresses are from fruit sourced from vineyards that he manages, vineyards he owns, and he also buys fruit (never juice or wine) from growers with whom he works closely so to meet his standards.

The vineyards lie below the village of Beaune, adjacent to the Meursault Villages Les Vireuils Dessus and Les Meix Chavaux. The land is north-facing so it is affected by the cold air rolling down from the Hautes-Côtes.

The wines here come from three terroirs in this cool, mineral (rocky) place - Les Hautés, La Macabrée and Les Boutonniers. The oldest vines date back to 1946, planted just after the war. The vineyards span 2 hectares, large for this area where many of the properties are tiny in comparison. Hence Auxey-Duresses is a primary wine for Leroux.

Leroux's Auxey-Duresses is produced in a new winery in the center of the village of Beaune (just off the Boulevard) that is also used by Dominique Lafon and two other wine growers. The operation is very small and specializes in Puligny and Volnay, but there are over twenty different labels produced, in this ‘micro negociant’ operation.

Like so many Burgundy operations that are small, even tiny, only two to five barrels are produced from many of the offerings, resulting in extraordinary fragmentation and granularity in the plethora of small production labels.

This Pinot Noir was somewhat opaque, light in color and body, with blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by tones of leather, dusty rose and spice with smooth soft tannins on the finish.

RM 88 points.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Liparita Napa Cab 2014

Liparita Napa Cab 2014 Complements Grilled Steak Dinner

Traveling to our state capital on business, I stopped in the recently opened local Binny's store to select some wine for carry out dinner back at the hotel. I opted for this Napa Cabernet that at under $20 sale price promised high QPR (quality price ratio).

I've written earlier in these pages about the 'old' Liparita brand from the nineties. The actual original brand dates back to the historic beginnings of wine in America back in the 1880's when William Keyes, a geologist, settled in Napa Valley and discovered the Howell Mountain terroir with its volcanic soils which he felt would be ideal for wine. The soils reminded him of those on Lipari Island, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Sicily, which became the inspiration for the name “Liparita.”

Like many other early wineries, Liparita succumbed to the restraints of Prohibition and the attacks of phylloxera on the early vine plantings. The Liparita brand resurfaced briefly during the nineties and then after waning was purchased was relaunched by Spencer Hoopes who purchased it in 2006.  Hoopes focuses on producing and remarketing Napa Valley appellation specific wines.

This revitalized Liparita label replicates the original early 1880's design, and that original intent to produce great cabernets from the various notable vineyard regions from across Napa Valley. “We are reawakening William Keyes’ dream for Liparita.” says Hoopes.

This was dark blackish garnet colored, medium-full bodied, firm, tightly wound black berry fruits with notes of smoke, hints of black cherry, dark mocha, black pepper and black olive on a tangy finish. It was an ideal complement to my carry out New York strip steak and baked potato dinner.

RM 89 points

Friday, January 26, 2018

UGC Bordeaux 2015 Release Tour unveils stellar vintage

UGC Bordeaux 2015 Release Tour unveils stellar vintage

The UGC Bordeaux' (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)) annual release tour visited America to showcase their latest vintage release of their wines this week. Following stops in Toronto, Washington DC and Boston, they held their grand tastings at two spectacular elegant settings, Cipriani on 42nd in NYC and the Drake Hotel, Chicago. Once again, our 'Pour Boys' wine group helped host the event in Chicago at the Drake Hotel in the elegant grand ballroom (shown below).  Following the tasting, we attended a gala dinner at remarkable Schwa Restaurant.

Pour Boys, Rick, Lyle, Dan, Ernie
This was the seventh Bordeaux release event that wine buddies Dr Dan, Ernie and Lyle (shown right) accompanied me to assist the team at Balzac Communications to host the event, helping with set up, logistics and then standing in to pour wine for any featured producers that were not able to attend in person. Earlier UGCB and related events are featured in earlier unwindwine blogposts. More than once, winter storms delayed or disrupted travel prohibiting some of the producers to get to Chicago for the event which started our standing in for them, hence we coined the name the 'Pour' Boys.

Cipriani on 42nd, NYC
Close to 100 producers, winemakers and their commercial representatives presented their wines on the tour which was attended by nearly 800 members of the trade and press. Following the trade event in the afternoon, each evening a public tasting was hosted by a leading local wine merchant.

The interest in and enthusiasm for the 2015 was apparent by the attendees as this promises to be the best release since 2010. Several producers compared this vintage to a combination of the best of 2005 and 2010. As the saying goes, 'all boats rise with the tide', a spectacular vintage such as this affects the wines from the high end to the secondary labels. This provides great opportunities for consumers as it promises quality wines at lower price points as well as in the ultra-premium more expensive levels. As with highly rated, highly anticipated vintages, prices are also higher accordingly.

Drake Hotel, Chicago
Following several more modest and a few lackluster vintages, 2015 promises great potential, and 2016 is expected to be even better!

The quality of the vintage shone through with high quality representations from appellations across the region from the left bank to the right bank. Unlike recent years which were more hit and miss, our representative collection of benchmark wines that we collect, all showed exceedingly well. There were a few lackluster labels and disappointments, but they were far fewer in number than recent years.

I found the Margaux, Pauillac and the Sauternes appellations to be especially impressive. Particular highlight standouts from the vintage that impressed me were Canon, Clinet, the Pichons (Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron), Lynch Bages, Brane Cantenac, Cantenac Brown, Lascombs, Giscours, and many of the Sauternes including Coutet, Lafaurie Peyraguay, Bastor Lamontagne and Suideraut. The St Juliens, normally one of my favorite appellations seemed generally more moderate and even keeled but lacking expressive standouts.

Some of the standouts were:

The 2015 Chateau Canon was the best in memory and I've collected and held this wine going back to the 1983 vintage. A blend of 72% Merlot and 28% Cabernet Franc this presented a smooth polished structure, an intense bouquet with bright vibrant pure fruits black berry and raspberry fruits accented by notes of floral and mineral.

The 2015 Brane-Cantenac was as good as any I remember, a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Carmenère, presented blackberry fruits, hints of raspberry and tones of tobacco leaf and hints of cedar.

The 2015 Clinet. a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, was smooth, elegant and polished, presenting perfumed bouquet turning to black fruit, notes of menthol, creosote with silky smooth soft tannins.

With Chateau Canon
The 2015 Clos Fourtet, a blend of 90% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc presented full, bright floral bouquet with notes highlighting the black fruits turning to tones of cassis, dark mocha and menthol mint with a pure elegant polished structure.

The 2015 Suduiraut was intense, thick, unctuous with apricot nectar and notes of honey on a tongue puckering finish.

The 2015 Domaine de Chevalier,, a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot was also the best in memory since I first discovered this label in 1994, presenting a full bouquet smooth blackberry fruit and hints of pepper.

Margaux Reeder, Bastor-Lamontagne
The 2015 Giscours is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot showing bright vibrant black currant and black cherry fruits turning to notes of spice, menthol, cedar and smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

The 2015 Pichon-Longueville Baron was complex concentrated with a firm structured backbone but was polished and smooth with hints of menthol, mint and firm but approachable tannins.

The 2015 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande was as good as any I can remember, complex, firmly structured but a symphony of smooth polished well integrated flavors with the black fruits accented with refined notes of graphite, tobacco, leather and silky smooth tannins on the lingering finish.

Ryan and Rick w/ Pichon Baron
 The public tastings and host merchants were:
  • Thu. 18 January Toronto - LCBO
    Washington - Calvert Woodley
  • Fri. 19 January St John's - NLC (2013 & 2014 vintage)
    Boston - Gordon's Wines
  • Sat. 20 January Montréal - SAQ
  • Mon. 22 January New-York - Sotheby's
  • Tue. 23 January Chicago - Binny's
  • Wed. 24 January Denver - Applejack
  • Thu. 25 January San Francisco - K&L
  • Fri. 26 January Los Angeles - Wally's
Lois Vallette with special engraved
bottle packaging of Lafaurie-Peyraguay

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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

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

This Les Granières de La Nerthe is the “second” wine of Château La Nerthe, made from younger vines from the Estate. This is a Rhone style blend in the following proportions:  45% Grenache, 24% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 8% Cinsault, and the balance of 5% from “others”. While these are the typical primary varietals of a CDP, it should be noted that the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation rules allow for up to thirteen specified varietals to be included in the blend. Their second label is aged for a shorter period of just 6 months in a combination of cement vats and larger oak foudre that results in a more fruit forward style of Châteauneuf.

I note that I visited the historic Château La Nerthe (right) during my Châteauneuf-du-Pape tour back in 1998, so I follow and collect this producer's wine. Château La Nerthe have been producing wines at the Estate since 1560. The label seemed to disappear from our market for a couple years so I was happy to see it reappear on the shelves at Binny's, our local wine merchant. 

That said, their premier label Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee des Cadettes is now at a new price point at $125 per bottle, significantly higher than what I would consider to be comparable benchmark wines such as Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape or Chateau Vieux Telegraph. I should note it was reduced to a sale price to be more comparable to those other labels. I purchased some at the lower price. At less than half the price however, Les Granières de La Nerthe does offer CDP at a more affordable QPR (quality price ratio). These are two other Estates that I visited during this trip that I also collect for our cellar. Interestingly, the 2015 Beaucastel contains all thirteen of the CDP grape varietals.

While I was delighted to discover this second label of La Nerthe in our market, I admit I was a bit disappointed by it, perhaps due to my lofty expectations, or hopes. I was excited to try this so I bought some and made a point to pick up some BBQ brisket on the way home to try the combination. Perhaps, or apparently, my expectations were unrealistic, comparing it to the flagship first label.

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

This was garnet colored with a slight brownish hue, not due to deterioration, somewhat opaque, medium bodied, lighter than I expected. The flavor profile is what Wine Spectator aptly referred to as "racy red currant and raspberry coulis flavors, enhanced by twinges of blood orange, tea and singed sandalwood". 

WS gave it 90 points. I give it 88 points due the lighter body, more subdued fruits, and narrow flavor profile. I believe this might also be due to the higher percentage of Grenache in the blend over the more fruit forward Syrah which we tend to favor. I'll try it again tonight after opening and settling and see if there is affect.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Spring Mtn Cabernet

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Napa Valley Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

I've written often in these pages about Ninety Plus Cellars and their Negociant model of wine marketing, buying surplus juice or bulk wine or bottled product, and then private-label branding it with a anonymized 'Lot' reference number tied to the source of the wine. Such arrangements are typically done under a non-disclosure agreement to shield the original brand/producer. Hence, here is Ninety Plus Cellars, Lot 150, Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lo and behold however, when one pulls the cork of these bottles, the cork reveals the true source of the wine, Spring Mountain Vineyards. In this case, the wine was bottled but not yet labeled for distribution, and apparently sold off to Ninety Plus Cellars who packaged it for retail sale under their negociant general brand that masks the supplier. But, the packaging reveals the original branding of the producer on the original cork in the bottle. According to the Ninety+ Cellars website, the "Source Label Price" for this wine was: $79.99, hence the need or practice of anonymity or not disclosing the original source of the wine. The Ninety+ price is about half of that - high QPR (quality-price-ratio) indeed. 

Indeed, the rear label of the Ninety Plus packaging speaks to Spring Mountain District as the source for the product, without attribution to a particular grower or producer.

When I purchased the first original bottle, I imagined who the source of this wine might be, thinking about the different Spring Mountain District suppliers of Cabernet Sauvignon. Spring Mountain Vineyards was one of those potential suppliers that I considered, but presumed would never be revealed or confirmed as the source. This is not the first occurrence of this happening as I recall at least one other occasion where the product was bottled and the cork revealed the original producer source of the wine. On at least one other occasion, the source was pretty much revealed or confirmed based upon the published detailed percentages of the blend of the wine.

I've written much in these pages about Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 which I enjoyed immensely, and lamented often the mis-fortune of not knowing the source so as to be able to purchase more product in subsequent vintage releases of the label. Since, in my experience, Ninety + tend to have more misses than hits to suit my personal taste, I tend to buy a bottle and try it before I load up on any label. Here is another case where I went back and bought more, and may do so again.

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm structured backbone, complex concentrated blackberry and black currant fruits with layers of firm bone dry tannins with notes of oak, spice, hints of dark mocha, anise, leather and dust. Needs a bit more time to settle and not for the feint of heart with the rock hard tannins but if you like that style (which I do) then this is a great find at a good QPR (quality price ratio) value. 

This is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot aged 22 months in French Oak.

RM 91 points.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012

Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012

After our Italian dinner we stopped in a NYC neighborhood wine shop enroute back to our hotel and picked up this causal sipper for an after dinner dessert wine to take back to the room. I selected a Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012, a Sauternes, an appellation in France’s Bordeaux region known for some of the most celebrated sweet wines in the world. Sauternes lies within the Graves district of Bordeaux, on the banks of the Garonne River, where cool, foggy mornings and sunny afternoons play a key role in the creation of the area's acclaimed dessert wines.

Different from, but often confused with or compared to Ice Wine, Sauternes sweet dessert wines are produced by leaving the grapes on the vines to allow the beneficial mold Botrytis cinerea to affect the grapes. The Botrytis forms during the area’s damp mornings and causes the grapes to shrivel, creating sugar-laden fruit full of rich, concentrated flavors. Botrytis tends to develop late in the growing season, rewarding those vineyard growers who risk bad weather to leave the grapes on the vine. The resulting Sauternes flavor is rich and sweet, with botrytis contributing a honeyed complexity to the wine, like Ice Wine which is produced in the same way, but by leaving the grapes on the vine into the winter in cold climates.

The primary grapes of Sauternes are white grape variety Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This particular label is a blend of those two dominant Sauternes varietals.  This Petit label is the second label or the secondary more economical branding of the more sophisticated and renounced first or primary label, Château Guiraud which is designated a "1er Cru". The first label is naturally more complex, concentrated, expressive and or course, more expensive as to be expected, roughly twice the price.

 Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012

This was straw or butter colored, medium full bodied with thick unctuous tongue coating, almost syrup of sweet 'sticky' notes of honey, hints of pineapple, apple and hints of caramel and what one wine writer referred to as chutney.

RM 89 points.

Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012

Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012

After dinner we stopped in a neighborhood wine shop enroute back to our hotel and picked up this causal sipper for an after dinner dessert wine to take back to the room. I selected a Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012, a Sauternes, an appellation in France’s Bordeaux region known for some of the most celebrated sweet wines in the world. Sauternes lies within the Graves district of Bordeaux, on the banks of the Garonne River, where cool, foggy mornings and sunny afternoons play a key role in the creation of the area's acclaimed dessert wines.

Different from, but often confused with or compared to Ice Wine, Sauternes sweet dessert wines are produced by leaving the grapes on the vines to allow the beneficial mold Botrytis cinerea to affect the grapes. The Botrytis forms during the area’s damp mornings and causes the grapes to shrivel, creating sugar-laden fruit full of rich, concentrated flavors. Botrytis tends to develop late in the growing season, rewarding those vineyard growers who risk bad weather to leave the grapes on the vine. The resulting Sauternes flavor is rich and sweet, with botrytis contributing a honeyed complexity to the wine, like Ice Wine which is produced in the same way, but by leaving the grapes on the vine into the winter in cold climates.

The primary grapes of Sauternes are white grape variety Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This particular label is a blend of those two dominant Sauternes varietals.  This Petit label is the second label or the secondary more economical branding of the more sophisticated and renounced first or primary label, Château Guiraud which is designated a "1er Cru". The first label is naturally more complex, concentrated, expressive and or course, more expensive as to be expected, roughly twice the price.

 Château Guiraud Petit Guiraud 2012

This was straw or butter colored, medium full bodied with thick unctuous tongue coating, almost syrup of sweet 'sticky' notes of honey, hints of pineapple, apple and hints of caramel and what one wine writer referred to as chutney.

RM 89 points.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Italian Wine & Dine Masseria dei Vini NYC

Italian Wine Dine Masseria dei Vini NYC
Italian Wine & Dine Masseria dei Vini NYC

During our week in NYC attending an industry conference and visiting son Alec, we dined at Masseria dei Vini (Masseria of Wines) which is a favorite of Viv's Bergonzi family when they are dining in town. The name is derived from masserias or fortified farmhouses, where in the Puglia region of Southern Italy, many of them have been transformed into restaurants or hotels. Chef Pino Coladonato is a native of Rutigliano (Bari), and has created a menu of dishes from Puglia, which incorporate fish, shellfish and a selection of homemade pastas. They offer an extensive wine list which features a large selection of mostly premium and ultra-premium labels, mainly from Italy, but also America, and a by-the-glass (BTG) selection too.

These pages have many posts from dining at our Angelis Italian in our hometown of Naperville, our favorite Italian trattoria, which is our benchmark for Italian dining. Its always interesting to compare Angelis with notable and popular Italian restaurants around the country, especially in dining meccas such as NYC.

From the Masseria dei Vini dinner menu, Alec ordered SPAGHETTI AL NERO CON VONGOLE, homemade Squid Ink Spaghetti with fresh baby clams, garlic and white wine sauce. I ordered AGNOLOTTI PIEMONTESI, homemade Half Moon shaped Ravioli Stuffed with Veal, in a Mix Wild Mushroom Sauce. Linda ordered the eggplant appetizer for her dinner entree, POLPETTINE ALLA FONTELINA, Eggplant Cakes with a Hint of Tomato Sauce and Basil. For a starter, we ordered the mussels.

The service including our server, Isaac, were excellent, knowledgeable, attentive, professional, and personable. 

Comparing to our home court Angelis, we found the mussels lacking, especially the sauce which was comparatively plain and uninspiring, perhaps lacking the white wine and butter components at Angelis. My pasta was also lacking in comparison to an Angelis dish I regularly order, which is more flavorful, especially the brown mushroom sauce. The veal in the Masseria dish seemed to be substandard. Good news for our hometown site.

From the winelist I order this Deltetto Roero Braja Riserva DOCG.
Deltetto has been producing high quality wines in Piemonte’s historic and prestigious wine producing areas of Roero and Langhe since 1953.  The family estate has 21 hectares (40 acres) of vineyards and the family’s winery in Canale, in the heart of the Roero in the Piemontese region.

Founder Carlo Deltetto's son Antonio and grandson Carlo run the business today, faithful to the founder's vision resulting in a broad family of wines that are known internationally.

Deltetto Roero Braja Riserva DOCG 2013

This is based on the Nebbiolo varietal. It is intense ruby red color, medium bodied, a firm structure with layer of elegant tannins, with a bouquet and flavors of intense red and black berry and black raspberry fruits.

RM 88 points.