Monday, April 15, 2024

Sole Meunière with Central Coast Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

Sole Meunière with Central Coast Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

Several weeks ago we featured Sole Meunière with a hearty Chardonnay in these pages where I detailed our experiences with and preferences for this delicate white fish seafood in this blogpost -  Sole Meunière Amandine with RRV Chardonnay.

Tonight, we did a replay of that dinner with delicate filets of Sole Amondine, with a robust full bodied Chardonnay. 

Linda grilled the Sole filets and served them with a Meunière sauce with balsamic rice and fresh sliced cucumbers with dill. 

I pulled from the cellar to pair with the meal a full found Chardonnay. 

Pisoni Lucia Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2020

This is from Pisoni Winery sourced exclusively from the Pisoni, Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards in the Lucia appellation in the Santa Rita Hills off of the Pacific Central Coast of Monterey Bay

These vineyards are located on sloping hillsides that lie adjacent the mountainous terrain of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range where the orientation of the Salinas Valley acts as a direct funnel for the cold Monterey Bay winds and pacific ocean influence.

Image compliments Pisoni Winery

Spanning 23 miles, Monterey Bay acts as an immense funnel, channeling ocean air through the Salinas Valley down to the Santa Lucia Highlands and other American Viticultural Areas.

The valley is extremely dry and remarkably cool as a result of the marine winds that sweep in off the ocean. As a result of the cold, the vines typically bud two weeks earlier than the California norm and are picked at least two weeks later, giving the Salinas Valley one of the longest growing seasons in the world.

If not for the Pacific shoreline, California would be an entirely warm-weather growing region. However the two regions of the Petaluma Gap and the Navarro River in the Russian River Valley up in Sonoma and Point Conception in the Santa Rita Hills provide two ideal sites for cool climate varietal grapes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. That recent pairing of this white fish, I served a Russian River Valley Chardonnay. 

Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator writes that this “is marine influenced—to an extreme.”

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes - “From two of the most renowned sites in this narrow, maritime influenced AVA (61% Soberanes Vineyard and 39% Pisoni Vineyard), the 2020 Lucia Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay harnesses its differing origins to maintain an unmistakable, yet delicate tension.” 

‘Flaunting its youth through a radiant straw hue, this Chardonnay is true to its roots, as the high-elevation rows at the Pisoni Vineyard leave their mark with powerful notes of white peach, red apple skin, and toasted brioche.” 

With added richness comes needed restraint, and the Soberanes Vineyard completes the balancing act with its classically mineral-driven undertones. These boulder-laden soils have created notes of crushed rock, Meyer lemon tart, and crisp pear. Acting as the center of balance, vibrant acidity and layered complexity make these two distinct sites one, and the result is a wine that will continue to amaze for years to come.”

This was a different approach than I took with our earlier pairing the Sole with a more restrained and delicate style Chardonnay which I wrote about in these pages just the week before last. That was an unoaked Chardonnay and was more harmonious and aligned with the fish. Tonight’s Chardonnay was much bigger, fuller, round and forward, almost bordering on being obtuse so as to overpower the seafood. To the contrary, Linda liked it and preferred over the earlier label. 

Wine Spectator gave this release 91 points. 

Golden straw colored, full bodied, full round forward fruit flavors that the winemakers cites as “powerful notes of white peach, red apple skin, and toasted brioche” , with notes of what Wine Spectator describes as “melon, peach and nectarine notes on a sleek and juicy frame, with accents of lemon blossom, dried ginger and apple skin.” 

RM 91 points.

Earlier Posting -  Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Groth Oakville Cabernet with Grilled BeefSteak

Groth Oakville Cabernet with Grilled BeefSteak

We watched four grandkids for the weekend, back and forth between our house and theirs’. For dinner on our deck we grilled out flank steak with scalloped potatoes, asparagus, cheese bread and Texas toast. To accompany the grilled beefsteak I pulled from our cellar a favorite Napa Valley Cabernet. 

This follows another Oakville Cabernet from the same appellation and vintage recently which, not surprisingly, had an almost identical profile and status. That earlier wine food pairing was featured in these pages in this blogpost - 

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 with Tomahawk Ribeye steak dinner

Groth Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 

This is a remarkably similarly situated replay of an earlier previous tasting of this wine about three years ago, which, therefore, I’ll excerpt here. 

At twenty years, the fill level, foil and most importantly, the cork were in ideal condition. Amazingly, even this bottle has the same label conditions as the one opened back in 2021 with ripples of separation from the bottle. Obviously this batch of bottles had some issues with the labeling machine resulting in this separation a decade and half later, identically on multiple bottles of the same batch (as shown, tonight’s bottle here, and earlier bottle below). 

From blogpost -

Posted May 7, 2021

Groth Oakville Napa Cabernet 2004

Groth Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - ideal pairing with filet of beef

We feasted on the left over filets of beef from last evening and I pulled from the cellar this Groth Napa Cabernet - a perfect pairing. Indeed, the producer's menu suggestion for this wine: "A slab and a Cab", Dennis Groth recommends you drink his Cabernet Sauvignon with steak."

We visited the Groth estate winery and vineyards during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 1999. Groth gain notoriety and recognition when Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate gave the Groth 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon the distinction of being California’s first perfect 100-point wine. 

Since then, Groth wines have been ranked on Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 Wines list eight times, most recently in 2019, when the 2016 Reserve Cabernet was No. 4. 

From the beginning, Groth has been a family business, managed today by second-generation family member Suzanne Groth. 

Groth Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1981 by Dennis and Judy Groth. Dennis gained his fame in fortune in Silicon Valley when he was CFO of early tech phenom Atari (remember 'Pong'). When it was acquired by Time Warner, Dennis went on to President of the Consumer Products Division and President of the International Division.
The Groth Oakville Estate sits on the valley floor in the heart of the Napa Valley. The Groth family helped Oakville become recognized as one of the world’s preeminent wine regions. Today, the Oakville AVA is home to the largest concentration of the very best Napa Valley producers of Cabernet Sauvignon. Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon wines are is renowned as full, lush and elegant.
Groth Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004  
Winemaker notes on the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: "Big and lush with huge gobs of fruit in the aroma and flavor. The texture of the wine is soft and supple, typical of Cabernet Sauvignons grown in our area of the Oakville AVA. Patience during bottle aging will reward the "steward" with an outstanding bottle over the next 10 to 15 years." 

Indeed, at seventeen (now twenty) years, this is likely at its peak and should continue to drink well for another decade. Thankfully, we still hold a couple more bottles of this vintage of the half dozen vintages in our collection (which includes still a Alec birthyear vintage 1990). The fill level was perfect while the cork appearing perfect was a bit soft upon extraction using a 'ahso' two pronged cork puller.  

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, smooth, elegant, briary black berry and black raspberry fruits with notes of cassis, dusty cedar and hints of dark chocolate, herbs and creamy oak turning to gripping tannin on a fruit filled finish. 

RM 92 points. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Whitehall Lane Petit Verdot with pasta, red sauce and meatballs

Whitehall Lane Petit Verdot with pasta, red sauce and meatballs 

Midweek dinner at home, Linda prepared spaghetti with tangy red sauce and meatballs. I pulled from the cellar as a wine accompaniment a big single varietal Petit Verdot. Rather than a red blend, I was seeking a single varietal akin a traditional Italian such as Nebbiolo or Sangiovese and chose this Petit Verdot, typically a Bordeaux varietal, for its characteristic structure, full body and round fruit, to complement the pasta red sauce and meatballs. It proved to be an ideal pairing. I write often in these pages about the importance of pairing wine with food, which amplifies and multiplies the enjoyment of both when done correctly. 

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Petit Verdot 2014

We discovered, tasted and acquired this wine during our private tasting at the Whitehall Lane estate winery and vineyards in Napa during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2018. 

I wrote about Whitehall Lane estate vineyards and winery and this label in these pages and replay excerpts here.

From post - Saturday, June 20, 2020

Whitehall Lane Petit Verdot

After a sensational Petit Verdot tasting with dinner the other evening, I pulled another 100% Petit Verdot from the cellar for a repeat, comparison tasting experience. We tasted another Napa Valley Petit Verdot, this time from Whitehall Lane which is just up the Route 29 Napa Highway from Piazza Del Dotto. This was the same vintage, 2014, as the Piazza Del Dotto we tasted the other evening. 

We tasted and acquired this label during our visit to the winery during our Napa Wine Experience in 2018.

Whitehall Vineyards Napa Valley Rutherford Fawn Park Vineyard Petit Verdot 2014

This is 100% Petit Verdot, sourced from the Whitehall estate Fawn Park Vineyard, located in the Rutherford appellation  (AVA - American Viticulture Area), just off the Napa Valley floor on the eastern hillside in St. Helena. It is one of seven vineyards on the Whitehall Lane estate.

Like the traditional Bordeaux producers, consistent with the percentage of fruit in a typical Bordeaux Blend, the vineyard is planted primarily to high-power Cabernet Sauvignon with just a small two-acre block of Petit Verdot. As I wrote the other evening, Petit Verdot is usually added to the blend in a small portion, usually less than ten percent, to add color and structure to the mix. 

According to Whitehall Lane, the vineyard has been producing for about twenty-five years but the property’s history pre-dates the vines or its buildings. It’s been told that local Native Americans mined the neighboring Glass Mountain where they turned the mined obsidian into tools and arrowheads. There is a home on the property that was constructed in 1865 with a second story addition made when Judge Chiles owned the estate in 1915.
A vintage barn pre-dates the house and was constructed in 1905 using timbers harvested from Howell Mountain. The property was originally used as a dairy to supply milk to the nearby St. Helena Sanitarium—now known as St. Helena Hospital.

The property was owned by the Hultman Family from 1928 to 1978, and they ran the dairy and raised chickens there. In 1978, Loren Sorenson purchased the land, planted the vineyard, dug a spring-fed pond and continued a small farm for the local 4-H program. 

Whitehall Lane was founded in 1979 and was acquired in 1993 by the current owners, the Leonardini Family of San Francisco and Saint Helena.

The property is named Fawn Park Vineyard after the road that borders the southern side of the estate. This road was originally the stagecoach road going up and over Howell Mountain to Angwin and Pope Valley.

Tasting this again, I wish I had bought more as this is a big bold expressive fruit forward style that we love.

Consistent with earlier tastings of this wine back in 2018 and 2020, this was "Dark inky blackish purple, full bodied, structured concentrated rich tongue coating black fruits, hints of clove spice and earth, with tongue puckering chalky tannins that form distinct 'legs' on the glass. This wine begs for hearty cheese, grilled steak or darkest mocha chocolate."

RM 92 points. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah with BBQ Ribs

 Biale ‘Royal Punishers’ Petit Syrah with Baby Back Ribs

Linda brought home from Costco a rack of baby back ribs, normally one of my favorite eats when paired with appropriate BBQ complementary wine. Tonight’s ribs were disappointing, being very grisly and fatty, barely acceptable for the first meal, and not so for any follow on leftovers. 

Never-the-less, I had pulled from the cellar a BBQ friendly wine for the occasion, in anticipation of and hoping for a better outcome.

Biale Royal Punishers 2016 Petit Syrah

This is 100% Petit Sirah from Biale Vineyards, a family owned producer that has been farming most notably Zinfandel in Napa since 1937.

Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa Valley date back to the 1930s when the Biale family grew Zinfandel grapes and other produce, selling the grapes to local wineries, saving some for their own wine production. During prohibition, to obfuscate their banned trade selling bottles of illicit homemade Zinfandel, they would refer to their dark fruit filled wines as "Black Chickens" over the party line phone service.

The current instantiation of Biale Winery was formally founded in 1991 when Aldo Biale and his son Robert formed a partnership with winemaker Al Perry and wine salesman Dave Pramuk. Their initial product was Zinfandel, eventually adding Petite Sirah grown on their 25 acres in Napa Valley.  

Despite its popularity, the Petite Sirah grape is somewhat rare with less than 10,000 acres planted worldwide, with the bulk of that in California. In France, the grape is referred to as Durif. Not to be confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah is a cross of Syrah and Peloursin. The result is darker and fuller. 

In Napa Valley, the market has turned to Cabernet Sauvignon and other French varieties leaving Zinfandel as a rare varietal comprising less that 3% of the valley's grape production. And, Petit Sirah an even smaller fraction of that. 

The inaugural wine production of Biale Petit Sirah was a quantity of 400 cases produced from 8 acres of old non-irrigated low-yielding vines called "Aldo's Vineyard." Today, Bob Biale, Dave Pramuk, and winemaker Steve Hall specialize in a broad portfolio of twenty Zinfandel labels each representing the terroir driven personalities of their property with some of the oldest vineyards in America.

Biale Zinfandel is produced in a distinctive style utilizing intensive old world Burgundian methodology from vineyard to barrel to bottle and are recognized as one of the top Zinfandel producers in America. 

Being darker and fuller than even ZInfandel, a traditional fabulous varietal wine for BBQ, one can see why I consider a go-to wine for hearty robust zesty BBQ.

This bottle is the last of a selection I obtained several years ago of this label. The previous bottle consumed from that lot was in late 2020 when I wrote about the producer and wine in more detail in the blogpost excerpt that follows.

Originally posted Thursday, November 19, 2020

Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2016

Robert Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2016

This thread of a mini vertical tasting continues. It started a couple weeks ago when we opened from our cellar the 2013 vintage of this unique varietal, Napa Valley Petite Sirah, from a traditional producer of Napa Valley Zinfandels, Robert Biale.

That bottle exceeded my expectations for a big fruit forward sipper. (It got 95 points from  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 92 points from Wine Spectator noting it as "Highly Recommended").

As I wrote earlier, we enjoyed that bottle so much with its rich, concentrated full bodied flavorful fruit, a style we love, I sought to replace it. Naturally, the 2013 release was no longer available but I was able to acquire several bottles of the newer 2016 vintage at Binny's Beverage Depot, the Chicagoland wine superstore. For reference, Binny's sells this label for $42. The producer's 'published' release price is $49.

Following that tasting and a subsequent tasting of the 2018 release, we dined out at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria and I took BYOB the 2016 release to share and compare with the recent tastings of the '13 and '18 vintages. 

For our dinner, we took BYOB from our cellar this recent wine purchase that we picked up to try as we consider buying more. Several weeks ago we drank from our cellar the 2013 vintage release of this label. When I went to replace it, the 2018 release was available. I then found several bottles of this 2016. They had a few remaining so I brought this to taste, and to compare with the other two recent vintages tasted. 

wrote back at that time about Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa Valley and their work with Zinfandel and Petite Sirah sourced from their 25 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley where it is perfectly suited to the moderate and dry growing season. The resulting dark, full, deep, inky and powerful, Petite Sirah has become a favorite grape among winemakers looking to pump up underpowered wines in need of deep fruit, color, and structure. As a standalone varietal, this was almost too much for our moderate pastas, veal, salmon and ahi tuna dinner entrees, delightful none-the-less.

Robert Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2016

The Robert Biale Royal Punishers Petite Sirah is sourced from Carpy-Connolly Ranch in Rutherford. There the well-drained gravel and sandy loam soils, and warm daytime temperatures are ideally suited for ripening Petite Sirah grapes.

This 2016 was more like the big bold 2013 vintage than the 2018 we tasted the other evening. 

This was awarded 92 points by Wine Spectator, 91 points by James Suckling and Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points by critic/pundit Jeb Dunnuck.

Winemaker’s Notes for this release - “The 2016 Royal Punishers has a healthy deep, dark blue/black color profile. Aromas of plum, quince, violets, figs, molasses, graphite and marbled rye awaken the nose. The entry is viscous and weighty, then builds into a broad mid palate structure which has layers of ripe, black fruit flavors. The oak profile is balanced and the tannins are mouthwatering and medium grained which hol the fruit profile and carry a long, lingering finish.” 

This 2016 Petite Sirah Royal Punishers spent 17 months in 30% new barrels.

This is dark inky purple colored, full bodied, big, bold, concentrated with moderate firm structure, the black berry and black raspberry fruits are overtaken by notes of camphor or what Wine Enthusiast noted as 'a touch of heat', on opening that ‘burn off’ after a period of breathing and settling. Accented by notes of graphite and spice, hints of pepper emerged on the firm but approachable tannin laced lingering finish.

RM 92 points.

Earlier postings of various vintages of this label - 

Robert Biale 'Royal Punisher' Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2018 - November 15, 2020
Robert Biale 'Royal Punisher' Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2016 - November 19, 2020

Robert Biale 'Royal Punisher' Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2013 - October 22, 2020

Saturday, April 6, 2024

H3 - Hill Family and Hawk & Horse Cabernets for Final Four

 H3 - Hill Family and Hawk & Horse Cabernets for Final Four Watch Pizza Dinner

We were invited to son Alec and Vivianna's to watch our Big-Ten candidate Purdue, and Vivianna's UConn play in the Final Four semi-finals. They ordered in pizza and Alec pulled from his cellar two Big Red Cabernets. 

Hawk & Horse Lake County Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Hawk and Horse Vineyards was establish by David Boies after searching across California’s North Coast wine growing regions for a ideal property he believed would support a world-class vineyard. In 1982, after exhaustive searching, he purchased the historic El Roble Grande Ranch in Lower Lake, California, in Lake County, north and east of renowned Napa Valley/County, a rather run-down abandoned horse breeding ranch situated on 900 acres of wilderness.

There he found ideal terroir, all the elements for producing fine wine - situated at elevations of between 1,800 to 2,200 feet, the mountain vineyard is composed of rich red rocky volcanic soils studded with “Lake County Diamonds.", ideal growing conditions and sources of fresh water.

We visited and toured the area during one of our Napa Valley Lake County Wine excursions back in the early nineties. We visited the Guenoc Winery and Vineyards, which became the Langtry Farms Vineyard & Winery as part of that visit which predated opening of this estate and winery, and long before we were blogging and chronicling our experiences. 

In 1999,  Mitch and Tracey Boies took over the ranch and began to plan the vineyard, planting vines in 2001. The first release in 2004 earned an International Gold Medal. 

Hawk and Horse Vineyards was developed maintaining the rustic elegance of Lake County horse country and the historic El Roble Grande Ranch. The tasting room is the former horse trainer’s residence complete with tack room with antique saddles and tack from the property’s storied past. There remains horse pastures that still house a handful of American Saddlebred and American Quarter Horses that the family uses to ride the fence line and for play at amateur rodeo events. Some of the pasture lands are also home to Scottish Highlander Cattle which contribute to the biodynamic farming used in the growing of Hawk and Horse Vineyards wine.

The vineyard is also home to a large number of Red-Tail Hawks - hence the name Hawk and Horse Vineyards.

Today, eighteen acres of vineyard sits at an elevation of 1800 to 2200’ in the Lake County Red Hills AVA - American Viticulture Area. 

The growing season is marked by warm, bright, sunny days and cool evenings. Fed by on-site artisan spring water and pristine clean air, the microclimate of Hawk and Horse Vineyards possesses natural growing conditions perfectly suited to producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals of distinction. 

Hawk & Horse Lake County Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Winemaker notes - On the nose rich notes of blackberries cassis, moist forest floor, bit of suede notes and tarragon.

Dark ruby/garnet colored, full bodied, tightly structured, complex concentrated black berry fruits laced with notes of anise, spice, hints of toasted oak with moderate tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points. 

Earthy flavors, eucalyptus, a hint of cassis. Good acidity, well-integrated tannins.

Hill Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Alec then opened one of their favorite producer’s labels, from a collection acquired as part of their wine club allocation shipments. Ironically, producer Doug Hill called Alec just yesterday to wish him happy birthday, and to thank him for being a loyal wine club member. 

Not ironically, a year ago we were with Alec and Vivianna under similar circumstances, watching the NCAA Tournament pairing show when Alec opened this same label, from the previous vintage. I wrote about Hill Family and their portfolio of Napa Valley Cabernets in a blogpost at that time, replayed here below.

From Sunday, March 13, 2022

Hill Family Estate Napa Cabernet 2018

 Hill Family Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

We were invited over to son Alec and Vivianna's new home to watch March Madness, the Big Ten Basketball tournament as a lead up to the NCAA selection show.

As newlyweds, Alec and Vivianna visited Hill Family Estate during their forest fire shortened honeymoon in Napa a year ago September. They visited the new Hill Family Estate winery, located just minutes south of Yountville just off Ste Helena Highway 29, the western main artery of Napa Valley. They tasted this wine there and acquired it as part of their wine club allocation. 

Doug Hill founded Hill Family estate vineyards back in 1977 when he acquired his first vineyards. Since then, eleven different vineyard locations have been added to the Hill Family Estate portfolio, mostly in Napa Valley and its environs now covering more than 100 acres in numerous significant sub-appellations within Napa Valley.

For nearly four decades, the fruit was sold to the likes of Far Niente Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Duckhorn Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Caymus Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars and a host of other winery luminaries. Hill Family grapes were considered among the finest grown in the prestigious Napa Valley. 

Around the turn of the century, Ryan and Carly Hill approached their father with the vision to establish the family winery with the family name on it. Hill Family Estate was born in 2001 with the first fruit that would become Hill Family Estate wines. A total of around 980 cases were produced and released in 2004. The new brand was immediately acclaimed and gained national prominence with numerous Awards and industry plaudits. 

Hill Family Estate winemaker Alison Doran joined the team and crafted the inaugural 2001 vintage. Alison was introduced to  Doug while he was growing grapes and she was making wine for Lewis Cellars, another one of our benchmark favorite producers, and the other estate visit tasting the kids attended during their shortened honeymoon. Alison  developed her skill while being mentored by renowned wine expert Andre Tchelistcheff, completing a degree in winemaking at UC Davis and spending time in the legendary  wine region of Alsace, France. Today, Doug and  Alison work closely together selecting the highest quality  grapes and producing ultra premium wines

Today, the Hill Family owns 120 acres of vineyards  with properties on Atlas Peak, in Carneros, Oak Knoll and American Canyon. They are 100% family-farmed, family-owned and  family-operated.Production ranges between 9,000 to 12,000 cases  annually sourced from 12 different estate vineyards allowing them to select the  highest quality fruit for their wines.  

The Hill Family portfolio has grown to over twenty five different labels across the broad range of varietals, blends, and single vineyard designated offerings.  
Hill Family Estate opened a tasting facility in downtown Yountville, directly down from the famous French Laundry Restaurant of Chef Thomas Keller and Keller’s Bouchon Restaurant, a classical French bistro also located in Yountville where Ryan Hill was formerly a sommelier.  

We've had several Hill Family Estate wines with Alec and Vivianna and I believe this may have been the best label so far. 

We had one of their special limited release premium labels available to Hill Family Diamond Club members that Alec acquired as part of Alec's club allocation during Father's Day Grilled Steak Wine Dinner last year. 
Hill Family Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 

2018 label
I believe I liked this label release as well as the best of all those selections, meeting the same rating of their most expensive premium label selection with a similar tasting profile and experience. 
This release was blended from fruit from several Hill Family Napa Valley vineyard sources. The high elevation Baker Vineyard up on Atlas Peak at 1,200 ft. providing intense tannins and color, was blended with vineyards from the valley floor and cooler areas - Windy Flats on the western foothills in Wooden Valley, and Beau Terroir is in the Carneros foothills. Also included in the blend was fruit sourced from Beau Terre, Hansen, and Villagio vineyards on the valley floor. Added to the blend was some Malbec and Merlot to add complexity of aromas on the nose along with fruit and oak spice, and finally some Syrah to add density without astringency.

The winemakers's notes for this release: "The 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of black currant, black cherry, violets, vanilla and pie spice. The palate is rich, with flavors of blackberry, hazelnut, raspberry and mocha. This wine has tremendous viscosity for being so young and has a lot of room to grow and integrate all the flavors."

I found this dark inky purple garnet colored, full bodied with bold, full round complex expressive ripe black berry, raspberry and black currant fruits with a layer of soft sweet mocha, with notes of spice, floral and hints of cassis on a lingering tongue puckering tangy acidity silky tannin laced finish. 

RM 93 points.

Similar and consistent with that release, but the 2019 release was extraordinary with a dramatic bright vibrancy with a full round forward layer of sweetness akin to jelly bean candy or cotton candy! 

Winemaker Notes - The 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has beautiful aromas of rich mocha and blackberry with violets and vanilla. The palate is ripe and smooth, with blackberry, and black cherry flavors and a rich oak spice backbone and a broad lush texture. This wine has tremendous viscosity for being so young and has a lot of room to grow and integrate all the flavors.

This release of a blend of Bordeaux varietals - 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc.

This was extraordinary with bright notes of sweetness yet dry at the same time - dark ruby/garnet colored, full bodied with bright vibrant sweet black berry and black cherry fruit flavors with sprites of spice, sweet cotton candy, violets, oak and vanilla with a tangy tongue puckering lingering tannins on the finish.

RM 93 points.


Friday, April 5, 2024

Marco DiGuilio Napa Valley Progeny Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

 Marco DiGuilio Napa Valley Progeny Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Quiet dinner at home, we grilled out filets of beef, served with wedge salad, baked potatoes and grilled vegetables. To accompany dinner I pulled from the cellar an aged vintage Napa Valley Cabernet. Following the Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet we had recently, I pulled this artisan boutique vineyard designated label from the same (Mt Veeder) appellation. 

Marco DiGuilio was/is a consulting winemaker to many leading producers and growers around Napa Valley, and in some cases such as this, obtained grapes from his clients for pay or partial payment for services, from which he produced his own private label wines. We obtained a series of these extremely limited production wines at auction and still have a half dozen bottles of three different labels over several vintages. Some of those labels were from the Mt Veeder Pym-Rae vineyard, the same vineyard as the Robert Craig Mt Veeder label. 

This particular label was from the same Mt Veeder estate, but a different specific vineyard source, the Progeny Vineyard.

I featured Marco Digulio wines in more detail in earlier blogposts in these pages -

Here are some other blogposts of another Marco DiGuilio label release -

We visited the Napa Valley Mt Veeder appellation and toured several estates and vineyards during our Mt Veeder Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2011. It is the largest and most diverse of the seventeen appellations (AVA’s - American Viticulture Areas) that are situated in Napa Valley and Napa County.

Of the numerous Marco DiGuilio labels we hold, and have tasted, this is our first tasting of this particular vintage release of this specific label. We’ve tasted other vintage releases of this label - one of which is featured here -

Here are the Winemaker's Notes for that release, the previous vintage in 2001: "This wine is all about power. From its inky deep purple color to its broad shouldered tannins, this is a big wine. On the nose, the first impression is one of blackberry and blueberry fruit with an underlying biscuity note from the oak. Think berry cobbler in a glass. On the palate, the wine is mouthfilling and explodes with fruit. The tannins, while quite evident, are well tamed and there's enough fruit richness to balance them out. The finish is long and complex, with more black fruit and spice. As for ultimate aging potential, with proper cellaring, I would guess 15 to 20 years wouldn't be too much of a stretch."

Marco DiGuilio Napa Valley Progeny Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

At twenty-two years, the fill level, label, foil and cork were in perfect pristine condition. 

This was an ideal pairing with the grilled beefsteak. 

Dark ruby/garnet colored, a very slight tinge of brownish rust hue is starting to appear on the rim, still within approachable drinking window, but undoubtably will continue to diminish further here forward so best to consume in the next year or so …. medium-full bodied, the complex full round brambly black berry fruits are accented by notes of earthy leather, cinnamon and herbal spices and tobacco box, perhaps akin to what the winemaker referred to as ‘biscuity notes’, with a lingering moderate tannin laced finish,. 

RM 91 points.


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Sole Meunière Amandine with RRV Chardonnay

Sole Meunière Amandine with RRV Unoaked Chardonnay

Once of my favorite dishes is Sole Meunière, or similar delicate white fish with a buttery white wine sauce. I have fond memories of the succulent Petrale Sole at Scott’s Seafood in Palo Alto (CA), a regular feature on their menu. I dined there weekly for many years, across the street from my Silicon Valley office on Embarcadero and Bayshore Road. Even more delectable was the seasonal special of Sand Dabs when they were available - a delicate white fish, also known as Rex Sole, found on the Northern California Pacific Coast during springtime.

Of course Dover Sole is such an offering, when available, although it is a much larger fish and hence is a much larger portion, and tends therefore to be expensive. Never-the-less, I loved the Dover Sole at Il Postino Restaurant near tony Sutton Place and Lenox Hill neighborhood in New York City which I featured several times in these pages. - Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay at Il Postino NYC.

Also, I would say my near favorite seafood dish is Flounder, and once again enjoyed at one of my favorite and memorable eateries for such another New York favorite, featured in these pages - Eataly NYC Flounder Seafood Dinner, and - Eataly New York Wine Dine Options.

We went to Omaha Steaks’ retail outlet in nearby Lombard to pick up a beef tenderloin for our Easter Sunday family dinner. There, they had filets of Sole Almondine which we were tempted to pick up for a special dinner. Omaha Steaks describe their offering - “Boasting a rich flavor … only the finest wild-caught, natural, white sole fillets … our Sole Almondine - premium boneless sole topped with tasty cheese-flavored bread crumbs and crunchy sliced almonds.”

We picked up a case and Linda prepared a buttery muniere sauce for the sole and side of balsamic rice, served with mixed medley of peas, corn and shallots.

I pulled from the cellar an Unoaked Chardonnay from the upper Sonoma Russian River Valley, expecting it to be more neutral and delicate to accompany the sole entree. 

Williams Selyem Unoaked Sonoma Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017

Winemakers Notes - “Notes of spiced pear and yellow apple come to the forefront of the aromatics, and a touch of jasmine adds a wonderful lift to the nose. Fruit sourced from mature vines provides great acidity and livens the palate, while balancing the tannin structure. Aged on the primary yeast in tank, this wine has a developed weight and texture while being bone-dry. Subtle minerality is apparent on the nose and palate, and further adds depth and complexity.”

This was rated 95 points by Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by Wine Advocate 

Silver golden straw colored, light bodied, crisp bright acidity with notes of stone fruit, ripe apple and hints of pear and citrus on a tangy finish. 

RM 90 points.