Sunday, December 25, 2011

Beef Wellington Red Wine Dinner

Festive Beef Wellington Bordeaux - Meritage Proprietary Blends Wine-Dinner

For our gala family Christmas dinner Linda prepared classic Beef Wellington featuring tenderloin of beef, foie gras, medley of mushrooms, topped in an incredible port wine syrup sauce, baked in a puff pastry shell to lock in and harmonize the flavors. Starting with Caprese salad, side dishes included au-gratin potatoes, peas, brussel sprouts and crescent rolls.

Our dinner wine selections included a right bank Bordeaux Pomerol, proprietary Meritage blends from Napa and Yakima Valleys, and a duo of Burgundies, young and old. None of these are causal easy drinking wines, rather they were chosen to complement and highlight the complex flavors of the beef dinner preparation. The port wine sauce featured Warre's Warrior Oporto NV (and some HazyBlur Baroota South Australian Shiraz 2006 left over from the other evening).

Wines shown below, left to right:
Domaine Tortochot, Champerrier, Vieilles Vignes, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, 2005
Matthews Cellars Yakima Valley Proprietary Red 1999
Melka Metisse Napa Valley Proprietary Red 1999
Château du Domaine de l'Eglise Pomerol Bordeaux 1996
Albert Morot Beaune Bressandes, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru, Burgundy 1992

The Beef Wellington

Trimming Beef Tenderloin

Mushroom Medley

Foie Gras Hash

Grilled Mushroom Medley

Beef Wellington Preparation

Beef Wellington
Puffed Pastry Shell

Slicing Beef Wellington

The Holiday Dinner Wine Course:

Pierre Gimonnet Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuis 1er Cru N.V. 

Light gold color - Bright vibrant expressive, smooth silky polished nice drinking - touch of sweetness,crisp acidity, tangy lengthy finish.

RM  90 points.


Melka Metisse Proprietary Red Wine 1999

Flagshp namesake wine from legendary winemaker Phillip Melka, this wine comes entirely from hillside Napa Valley vineyards.

Full bodied, deep dark inky color - dense concentrated complex layers of black berry fruits, hints of black tea, silky clove and spice with a long ripe smooth refined tannin finish.

Drank from magnum.

RM 91 points.

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc 100% Napa Valley 

Château du Domaine de l'Eglise Pomerol Bordeaux 1996

Surprisingly light, medium bodied, opaque garnet color, vibrant cedar and floral aromas and flavors predominate with bing cherry, black cherry and black berry flavors with layers of leather, tea and tobacco on the lingering moderate tannin finish.

Drank from magnum.

RM 89 points.

Matthews Cellars Yakima Valley Proprietary Red 1999

Surprising over-achiever for our gala Christmas beef wellington dinner - this was more polished than earlier tastings, full bodied, complex, vibrant and expressive with layers of blackberry, black currants and cherry fruits, a layer of spice, with hints of black tea, tar, leather and tobacco on the lingering moderate tannin finish.

52% Cabernet Sauvignon 37% Merlot 11% Cabernet Franc

RM 90 points.

Domaine Tortochot, Champerrier, Vieilles Vignes, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, 2005

Very open and expressive - bright berry, strawberry, mulberry, spice and wood with long moderate tannin finish.

RM 89 points,

Albert Morot Beaune - Bressandes, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru, Burgundy

I thought this had given up the ghost a while back but it remarkably still had life in it - light bodied, opaque garnet purple color - initial funky barnyard aromas thankfully burned off - the black cherry and olive tapenade gave way to earthy leather, tea and wood.

RM 86 points.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Movie Wine Night In - Merlot and Shiraz

 Christmas Movie Wine Night In

Fun festive relaxing night in front of the fire with L and Mary Lou watching Christmas movies and sipping some tasty juice with sliced pears, blueberry infused goat cheese, ementheler and brie. Mary Lou likes Merlot while Linda prefers big rich ripe Shiraz. 

Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 2001

Medium bodied and soft, this ten year old is showing its age a bit as the dark purple color is taking on a slight brownish rust color and the black berry and black cherry fruit flavors are giving way to leather and an olive tapenade tone.

RM 87 points.

HazyBlur The Baroota Shiraz 2006

Dark inky color, big, firm and full bodied, rich thick tongue coating, super ripe raisin fig fruits, hints of cedar, pepper, violets, and blueberry. This is too ripe and raisiny for my tastes but the bride likes it this way - and so does Wine Advocate who gives it a 91.

RM 91 points.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2006 Napa Cabernets for Festive Holiday and 5 Year Anniversary Celebration Dinner

2006 Napa Cabernets for Festive Holiday and 5 Year Anniversary Celebration Dinner

For this gala family dinner celebrating Erin & Johnny's 5th anniversary as well as early pre-Christmas we opened two 2006 vintage Napa Cabernet Sauvignons to accompany the beef tenderloin, twice baked potatoes, spinach and smoked Gouda cheese dip, artisan Fair Oaks Farm Ementheler cheese and four cheesecake medley deserts - turtle, caramel, berry-cream, and tiramirsou. 

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauivignon 2006
Deck the Halls with boughs of holly ... We discovered Hall wines during our Napa Wine Experience 2003 with their moderrn op-art scuplture garden. The 2006 vintage was a high achievement for this Estate standard label Napa Cabernet with a Wine Spectator 93 point rating. Their flagship wine, Katheryn Hall 2006, was #20 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2010 with a score of 96 points!. This year it was selected the #2 Wine of the Year in Wine Spectator's annual roundup.

This wine opened with a vibrant forward layer of cedar/camphor which burned off after an hour to reveal the sweet ripe berry fruits. Dark inky color, rich, dense, concentrated, style, full-bodied, fruit forward ripe sweet currant, ripe black raspberry, plum, black cherry fruits with hints of milk chocolate and vanilla on a long soft tannin finish. Not as lush and jammy as earlier tasting notes.

RM 93 points.

Chappellet Signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauivignon 2006

We visited Chapellet Vineyards up on Pritchard Hill high above Napa town during our Napa Valley Wine Experience - Autumn '09. 

Dark inky purple color - medium-full bodied, complex and concentrated blackberry and black raspberry fruits in a tightly wound core accented by spicy oak on a balanced structured tannin finish.

This is actually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 76%, Merlot 18%, Malbec 4%, and Petit Verdot 2%.

RM 91 points.

Picturesque Pritchard Hill
overlooking Napa Valley

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Long Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Long Vineyards Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

From a two acre vineyard on Pritchard Hill on the eastern slopes above Napa Valley, 600-800 feet above Silverado Trail overlooking Lake Hennessey. This is a neighbor to David Arthur wines. We first discovered David Arthur during our Napa Wine Experience back in 1999. We visited Pritchard Hill and the neighboring Chappellet winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience during the autumn of 2009.See earlier unwindWine blogpost on Long's David Arthur.
Long Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Starting to show its age as the dark garnet color has taken on a tinge of brown forming at the rim. Tight and somewhat closed, medium-full bodied; black cherry and black currant fruit flavors give way to smoke,  leather, earthy cedar and hints of cassis, spicy anise and tangy clove on the finish.

Alcohol 14.5%
325 cases produced.

RM 88 points.

Tasted at home with L with fruit and Indiana Fair Oaks Farms artisan cheeses including five year old aged cheddar. No relation to spouse and in-law Long family.

California Cabernet Wine & Dine Road Trip East

California Cabernet Wine & Dine Road Trip East

Another chapter in the life of a road warrior - a swing down the east coast - but one of those weeks that provides periodic rewards in the grind of business travel - some pleasurable dining experiences with great food and wine, and good company in some wonderful settings for some productive, effective business outcomes.

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Deep dark purple-garnet color - medium-full bodied. Very approachable and flavorful, a favorite, consistent with previous tastings with full forward flavors of black raspberry, black cherry, currant, hints of spice and dark chocolate. Available, tasted by the glass at Willys Steak House & Grill in Shrewsbury, Massachusets. Great complement to beef steak dinner with Jeff G.
RM 91 points.

Arrowood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Medium bodied, dark purple color. Another perennial favorite, consistent pleasant easy drinking cab, aromas and flavors of black berry fruit accented by a layer of cigar box with a hint of dark mocha and cedar on a moderate smooth tannin laced finish. Great complement to beef steak filet laced with gorgonzola dinner w/ Dan H at the Fig Tree Restaurant At The Lucas House in Charlotte.
RM 89 points. 

A group business dinner at Wildfire Restaurant in Tyson's Corner Galleria Mall in Mclean, VA with Danny A, James S and CS partners George, Gary and David. The group provided the opportunity for a select flight dinner tasting of Napa/Sonoma cabs and a starter Carneros Pinot Noir. More to come ...

Beringer Sonoma Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 - Dark garnet color - medium bodied, aromas and flavors of somewhat forward black raspberry and black currants with a subtle layer of dark mocha chocolate through the moderate tannin lingering finish. Not as complex or sophisticated as the others but once again as is often the case, this is a high achieving moderately priced wine that offers good QPR (quality price ratio). 
RM 89 points.

Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - Dark inky purple color, medium-full bodied; complex black raspberry, black berry, with a layer of dark chocolate and hints of cassis, oak and spice on a soft, smooth silky lingering finish.
RM 92 points. 

Chimney Rock Napa Valley Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - Dark inky color, medium to full bodied; slightly tighter, firm and more closed than the others indicating it perhaps needs more time to open; fragrance and flavors of black berry, hints of spice and lead pencil, with subtle pepper and cedar notes on a balanced moderate tannin finish.
RM 90 points.

Etude Napa Valley Carneros District Pinot Noir 2008 - Opaque ruby colored, medium to light bodied; nose and flavors of red berry fruits - cranberries, bing cherries, hints of strawberry with layer of dusty rose petals and hint of spice on the finish.
RM 88 points.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Beef Steak Dinner Wine Flight - Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon Blends

Beef Steak Dinner Wine Flight - Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon Blends

A flight of Cabernet Sauvignon blend wines from Napa, Sonoma and Bordeaux taken to festive holiday dinner at neighbors' Mark and Shirley's. They served David Burke’s Chicago Primehouse aged prime beef  Black Angus steaks. The restaurant dry-ages its hand-picked meats in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room on their premises at Rush and Ontario Streets in Chicago.

All their steaks are from a prize winning Black Angus senior herd that sires the highly coveted USDA-quality grade beef. Our dinner featured 55 day aged Rib-eye, prime filet, and New York Strip steaks purchased at the Chicago Prime steak house, accompanied by basil mashed potatoes and butternut squash ravioli with roasted sun-dried tomatoes (shown above).

The wines:

Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - Cinq Cepages means 'five flavors' ala a Bordeaux style meritage blend - medium bodied, soft black raspberry, red currants and kirsch flavors highlighted by a layer of tea and hint of caramel and touch of spice on a moderate light short polished tannin finish.

RM 90 points.

Fisher Vineyards Coach House Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - Meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from the Cameron Vineyard above the Napa Valley Silverado Trail and Cabernet Sauvignon from Stagecoach Vineyards above Oakville, and Merlot from Feingold Vineyard just over the hill to the west in Sonoma. Medium to full bodied with black raspberry, black berry, coffee and kirsch flavors highlighted by a layer of leather, tea and hint of caramel, mocha and touch of spice on a moderate tannin finish. Similar to the Cinq Cepages above but tighter with possessing the leather tone.

RM 89 points.

Château Pontet-Canet Grand Cru Classe' Pauillac Bordeaux 1997 - A mini-horizontal vintage selection to compare the 1997 Cinq Cepages and Bordeaix against a 1999 Napa Cabernet blend. The Pontet-Canet exhibited medium-full bodied - big floral bouquet with flavors of violets, earthy leather, layer of of black cherry and black berry accented by tea, tobacco box and black currants and cedar on a moderate tannin finish.

RM 88 points.

Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 -
Medium bodied, sweet red berry and currant fruits with layers of milk chocolate, anise, oak and tar on a smooth silky lingering finish.

RM 90 points.

Chateau St Jean Alexander Valley Belle Terre Vineyard Select Late Harvest Johannisburg Riesling 1998

This desert wine accompanied hand made dark chocolate truffles rolled in crushed almonds and pecans.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Marquis Phillips '9' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001

Marquis Phillips '9' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001

Marquis Phillips '9'
McLaren Vale Shiraz
(2005 label)

Consistent notes with earlier tastings of this ten year old shiraz. Super ripe and rich Amarone-like raisin scents and spice flavors overpower the forward blackberry liquor, ripe plum fruits, tar and licorice - much more so than earlier tastings. Not nearly as polished as other vintages. 

RM 88 points. WS92 RM92 

Tasted w/ L at home with fruit and artisan cheeses. 


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Liparita Napa Valley Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Liparita Napa Valley Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Big full floral, dark fruit and leather tones. Big forward flavors of black cherry and berry, cassis, smoke and dark plum fruits accented by smoke and spice with hints of spicy earthy cedar tones and firm tannins. Initially slightly tart and awkward, eventually comes together to be full of complex and balanced big fruit, smoke and firm but smooth tannins on a long lingering cinnamon spice finish. 

RM 91 points. 

Great with Spaghetti and meatball dinner but especially good with fresh Parmigiana cheese, fresh baked crescent rolls and natural baked pita chip crackers.  

First discovered this wine during our Napa Wine Experiences in 1998 and 1999.

Alcohol: 14.1%

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kilikanoon Parable McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004

Kilikanoon Parable McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004

Dark inky garnet color - full bodied. Dense, thick, chewy ultra-ripe almost raisiny black berry fruits, hint of ripe blueberry with complex layers of tapenade asphalt, truffles, and roasted meats on a glycerin coated moderate tannin finish. While it is nicely balanced, with the firm ripe hard edged flavors, this is not an easy drinking wine and I don't think it will soften further with time. Tasted with roast beef and cooked vegetables dinner. A bit obtuse, too much for even my tastes which prefer big bold forward wines.

RM 89 points.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Robert Craig Amador County Zinfandel 2001

Robert Craig Amador County Zinfandel 2001

From Amador County nestled up against the Sierra Foothills. This ten year old Zinfandel shows dark garnet color showing its age with a slight brownish rust color. Medium bodied, its moments of polish and balance turn to a slightly awkward tart cherry taste at times. Flavors of black berry, black cherry, spice and tobacco predominate with hints of oak, floral, and touch of vanilla with moderate tannins on the finish. 

RM 89 points.

Alcohol: 15.3%

Selected and pulled from the cellar for Thanksgiving dinner, it went well with bar-b-que ribs the following weekend.

Gala lunch with Robert Craig at the winery atop
Howell Mountain.
As noted in earlier blog posts, we're long time fans of Bob and the Craig team and their 'artwork'. Our friendship with Robert and our 'Affinity' for his wines dates back at our first visit to Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 1996, and then again at our Robert Craig featured producer wine dinners during our Napa Wine Experience 1998, and again in 1999. We attended special lunches and Harvest Parties up at the Howell Mountain Winery with its spectacular views of Napa Valley below and looking across to the Mayacamas Range from Diamond Mountain down to Mt Veeder. 

We last visited Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Mt Veeder Appellation Trail visit this spring. Indeed, we have a assembled a vertical collection of this wine dating back to the inaugural release 1993 vintage.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner Wine Selections - Teruzzi & Puthod Terre Di Tufo 2006 &Szigeti Welschriesling Brut Classic Sekt

Two European white wines for Thanksgiving turkey and dressing dinner wine selections -


Fun wine with the whimsical matchbook size label. Winemaker's notes:
Blend: 80% Vernaccia, 7% Chardonnay, 7% Malvasia, 6% Vermentino
Color: Deep straw tending toward gold; Fruity bouquet with light notes of vanilla cream, tangerine, citrus and pineapple.Subtle aromas and flavors of pear, hint of pineapple, a touch of lemon with nut and toast on the finish. A full-bodied citrusy attack with a little woodiness and subtle acid, followed by a shortish finish. Firm acidity and fresh with flavors of citrus zest, walnuts and a pleasant touch of toast on the finish. Served from Magnum.

RM 88 points.

 Szigeti Welschriesling Brut Classic Sekt N.V. Sektkellerei - Austria, Burgenland, Neusiedlersee, Gols 

Pale color, medium bodied, subdued notes of apricot, peach blossoms, and pear are overshadowed by a smoky nut layer with muted tone of anise. 

RM 85 points.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 & 1998 mini-vertical

Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 & 1998 mini-vertical

Arrowood Winery is one of the gems of Sonoma County, nestled against the hillside overlooking the Sonoma Valley just outside the town of Glen Ellen. Proprietor Richard Arrowood was winemaker at Chateau St Jean before setting out on his own in partnership with his wife Alis. The winery is modeled after a New England farmhouse at the brow of the hill tucked behind and above small vineyards. We visited Arrowood during our Sonoma visits in 2007 and 2009.

This mini-vertical tasting featured the 1996 and 1998 vintages. The 1996 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon was still holding after fifteen years. Garnet colored, medium bodied with moderate tannins it shows muted black cherry and black currants fruits accented by spice and a hint of anise and cedar on a modest finish.
RM 89 points.

The 1998 was less polished and less structured by comparison and was beginning to show its age with a slight rust hew. The aroma and flavors revealed a slight hint of tart cherry before turning to slightly sweet black berry and plum fruit with a layer of cassis, an earthy leather layer with hint of toasty oak and spice on the modest short finish. Tasted from magnum.

RM 88 points.

These wines were served at family dinner gathering to celebrate Lucy's birthday and dedication at the Compass Church. They were great complement to roast beef, green bean casserole, brussel sprouts in cheese sauce and chocolate cake.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Snowden Lost Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Snowden Lost Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

This is our 50th Cabernet Sauvignon review of this year - 45 of which are from Napa Valley. 

Down to the last few bottles of a case acquired upon release in the late nineties. Consistent with earlier tasting notes taking into account the evolution of this aging wine. Starting to show its age a bit as the dark garnet color starts to take on a slight brownish rust hew and the fruit is starting to fall off a bit and give way to the smoke and leather nose and flavor. Still firm and tight with the smoky leather predominating over the dark berry and black cherry fruit, with forward pronounced cedar and a hint of cassis and a full fragrant firm tannin lingering finish with a bit of tight high alcohol heat. Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot tastes true to form like a lower left bank Bordeaux!  

RM 89 points.

We first were introduced to Snowden wines when we featured Randy Snowden at a Winemaker's luncheon at Brix in Napa Valley during our Napa Wine Experience back in 1998. Randy and his brother Scott, both attorneys, preside over the property that sits 450 to 850 feet above the Silverado Trail. The property was acquired by their parents back in the fifties. My recollection from that meeting was that their father Wayne Snowden was a professor at UC Berkeley when he acquired the property in 1955. After he passed away in 1977 the brothers took over in 1981. They produced their first Snowden label vintage in 1993. Most of their production is sold to Silver Oak, Frank Family Vineyards, Viader and in recent years, David Ramey. 

During these Napa Wine Experience visits of 1997 through 2000 we hosted gala tasting dinners with the 'Undisccovered Dozen' "emerging new wine producers to watch", featured in an article in Wine Spectator Magazine. Many of these producers released their inaugural vintage releases in or about the 1994 vintage.  Those producers and winery visits included Plumpjack, David Arthur, Clark-Claudon, Robert Craig, Del Dotto, Elan,  Paradigm, Pride Vineyards, Snowden, Nils Venge and White Cottage. They are featured on my winesite A complete index of my tasting notes of these wines over the years is on the site at this link to California Producers Index. These producers make up a foundation of our wine cellar collection even today. In many of these wines, we still have vertical selections of these wines, some dating back to those early release vintages.Another of these tasting events is featured in my unwindwine blog

This was Snowden's second label from that era. It was a great compliment to Sunday dinner beet pot roast with roasted carrots, onions and potatoes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1990 Birthyear Vintage Tasting Contrasting Styles

1990 Birthyear Vintage Tasting Contrasting Styles 

A mini-family reunion celebration gathering of three sons to welcome son Alec home from university and toast his successful career pursuit as he gathers offers from corporate visits tour. We feasted at Angeli's Restaurant, our favorite local Italian trattoria and opened two BYOB contrasting birthyear vintage wines. It was a study of contracts between 1990 Maison Leroy Maranges, Côte de Beaune, Maranges Burgundy, and 1990 Acinum Amarone della Valpolicella Classico.

If you follow or just read through this unwineWine blog tasting journal or journal archive or our wine cellar selection list, you'll see we don't do a lot of either Burgundy or Italian wines. Our focus as noted by our cellar inventory stats is US 54% (California 50%), French 23% (only 1% Burgundy), and Australia 15% with Italian being only 2%. As I state in my Getting Started guide to wine enjoyment and collecting, its natural and best to focus on a few regions that represent your preferences.     

As highlighted in my Wine Spectator feature, part of the fun and enjoyment of having a wine cellar is collecting birthyear vintage wines to enjoy during celebration events such as tonight. Indeed, ten percent of our cellar represents birth-year and anniversary year wines for such occasions.

So, tonight, with youngest son Alec home from college on a corporate recruiting visit, oldest son Ryan comes out from the city to join Sean, L and me for a gala family dinner to celebrate our mini-reunion and Alec's success so far in obtaining options for his career launch from business school and notably, his coveted offer received this week from his target opportunities.

In selecting wine from the cellar for tonight's occasion, the boys had almost 200 bottles from which to select from the 1990 vintage.Collecting notable age-worthy wines is easy in such a great vintage such as 1990. Indeed, Wine Spectator's wine of the year selection featured a 1990 vintage wine in 1992, 1993 and again in 1994. We're fortunate enough to be holding those wines for an extra special occasion 

Following are the boy's cellar choices for this dinner - an adventure in wine discovery as these two unique outlier wines are outside our normal cellar preference profile and are both heretofore unknown and untried.

Maison Leroy Maranges, Côte de Beaune, Maranges Burgundy 1990

Like several other Cellartracker posters, I bought this wine wine on closeout at Binnys. The cork was totally saturated through. Another Cellartracker poster notes this is like many Leroys he's had over the past few years--perhaps a quality control issue? Starting to show its age there was slight rust colored browning around the edges. Medium bodied, the wine exhibited some complexity and some polish with earthy leather, slightly tart cherry and black cherry, and hints of dusty rose petals on the palate with a a modest lingering tannin finish.

RM 87 points.

Acinum Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1990

Uncharacteristically, my cellar notes do not show when or where this bottle was acquired. Similarly, Cellartracker has little data of others purchasing or tasting this wine - rare given its 10 million bottle inventory and 100,000 tasting notes.

A typical Amorone, medium to full bodied with full forward ripe raisiny fig and black fruits. The body is a bit lighter and the fruits are less pronounced than most Amarones I have had in the past.

RM 87 points.

As usual, all the Angelis dinners were fabulous and the service was attentive and personable. Tonight they featured their Mussels and Clam Chowder which are both extraordinary. Linda had the Asparagus and Ricotta cheese Ravioli which she said was delicious. With Ryan, I deferred to my old standby, their Veal Piccata, which is a standard bearer when I go to other Italian restaurants, Sean had the Pork Medallions special, and Alec the Shrimp special. No wonder we're regulars and recommend it heartily.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gala Birthday Dinner Wine Tasting featuring Pauillac Bordeaux Duo Vintage Contrast - Classic vs Upstart - Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 and Grand Puy Ducasse 2008

Gala Birthday Dinner Wine Tasting featuring Pauillac Bordeaux Duo Vintage Contrast - Classic vs Upstart - Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 and Grand Puy Ducasse 2008

Fun and interesting comparison tasting of two neighboring wines - one young from a somewhat challenged but promising 2008 vintage against a mature aged bottle from the classic 1982 vintage. Drank at gala family birthday celebration dinner for #1 son Ryan. When Ryan told me he recently picked up a Grand Puy Ducasse 2008 I thought we'd do a comparison tasting, only to discover when I pulled mine from the cellar that I was holding a Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 - commemorating his birthyear! Never-the-less, the two Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé  wines of like terrior and style from vineyards separated by but a few kilometers provided a comparison tasting of two similar wines from different contrasting vintages.

Wine from any region varies from year to year due to different vintage characteristics shaped by the weather and the winemaker. The unique characteristics discovered in different vintages is partly what makes wines collecting interesting and fun. Comparing wines from the same producer or similar producers in different years allows you understand the chateau and vintage differences. Comparing wines from a selection of producers from the same region from the same year, reveals stylistic differences of the producers.

The 1982 Bordeaux vintage conditions were close to perfect from start to finish. Vine budded and flowered under warm, sunny and dry conditions. Ideal dry and hot weather growing conditions persisted through July giving way to a moderate cool down in August followed by marvelously ideal hot weather that lasted for 21 days leading to spectacular results. Interestingly, the 1982 Bordeaux harvest officially began on September 13, the exact same date as the famously spectacular 1945 Bordeaux harvest. Both historic Bordeaux vintages produced classic wines filled with layers of dense, rich, ripe, fresh fruit, opulent, sensuous textures and purity the likes of which only occur every few decades, wines that would also mature and age for decades..

The 2008 Bordeaux vintage faced a cool and wet Spring which included some late frost. Cool temperatures and pervasive rains, which brought mold and mildew problems, continued throughout May leading to uneven and delayed flowering. The weather began to improve somewhat June although the vine growth was about two weeks behind schedule. While July was dry and sunny, it was followed by a dull, grey August that continued halfway through September projecting a difficult vintage.

Because the vines flowered late, and July had been warm, the grapes began this period of Autumn sun in much better condition than in 2007, attaining full ripeness and acquiring better concentration of sugars, tannins and acid.

Finally, Indian summer began on 14th of September bringing sunny warm days and cool nights that lasted up to October 20th through much of the harvest. This, coupled with a drying north-east wind, saved the vintage. While the growing season was below average, the 2008 Bordeaux vintage was saved by the long growing season and ideal harvest conditions. The grapes were allowed a much longer hang time than usual allowing the fruit a better chance to ripen. Typically, the average amount of hang time in Bordeaux is about 100 days, the 2008 Bordeaux vintage saw hang times range from 135 days to as long as an amazing 160 days allowing late harvest ripening to save the vintage!

Although yields were in many places painfully low, overall quality was good to excellent. Most wines achieved good balance with ripe, fine grained tannins, refreshing acidity and a real sense of 'terroir'.

Viticulture in Bordeaux changed markedly over the last forty years for much improved results. Modern Bordeaux wine making and vineyard techniques, coupled with the willingness to perform the necessary amount of selection needed to produce the best wine possible, delivered improved outcomes in modest challenging years such as 2007 and 2008. While a wet, cool year like 2007 would have been a disaster 20 years ago, today, while diluted, some nice wines are still produced. Knowledge and technology have made it possible to produce better Bordeaux wine than ever before, especially in challenging years, but no amount of human intervention can alter the unique personality awarded by nature to each Bordeaux vintage.
A big difference between 1982 and one of the modern day great years is the number of truly great wines produced in current top rated vintages. While 20 or 30 stunning wines were produced in 1982 with perhaps five considered true legends, today, with modern vineyard techniques and cellar management, the number of classic or great wines would have probably doubled as we will see in the recent great vintages such as 2010.

Château Grand Puy Lacoste Red Bordeaux Pauillac 1982

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste is a 5ème Cru Classé ('Fifth Growth') wine producer. The Bordeaux Pauillac estate has for many years been consistently outperforming its classification. Grand-Puy-Lacoste is located a couple of kilometres west of the town of Pauillac and is owned and run by François-Xavier Borie.

The name Grand Puy comes from its treasured location. The vineyards are situated on the hill of Pauillac, "puy" being a topographical term designating the elevations rising from mostly flat landscapes that are found in Bordeaux wine vineyards. These small hills are vital for natural drainage. The highest point, or puy, at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste is close to 65 feet.

The second part of the estates name, Lacoste, is the name of the family who owned the property from the start of the eighteenth century until the conclusion of the nineteenth. They were forced to sell due to the devastation Bordeaux suffered when it was struck by phylloxera. Interestingly, the wine became one of the first popular, non First Growth Bordeaux brands to sell in Asia due in part of the name of the chateau, Lacoste, also called the 'alligator wine', due to the name being the same as the famous sportsware designer with the crocodile logo.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste's 90 hectares of vine plantings are 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is in one block surrounding the substantial 19th century château, lies on deep gravel beds of pebbles and stone over limestone. 

Grand-Puy-Lacoste reveals its classic terrior, it combines marvellous cigar box and floral perfume with cedar, tobacco and truffle scents and a juicy mouth full of flavorful blackcurrant fruit and cassis with velvety power - the epitome of top class Pauillac at its very best. This traditionally styled Bordeaux wine is aged in 70% new oak barrels resulting in a classic Pauillac style, full bodied, tannic, concentrated Bordeaux wine that ages well.

Château Grand Puy Ducasse Red Bordeaux Pauillac 2008

Château Grand Puy Ducasse is a frequently overlooked Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé property that after years in the doldrums, now produces great value fine quality claret at very reasonable prices. The change was brought about by its acquisition by the négociant firm, Mestrezat who extensively replanted the vineyards, and built a new cuvier and chai. Grand Puy Ducasse has 45 hectares of well-sited vineyards, one parcel on a gravel plateau near Batailley, and another adjacent to the famous Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild. The wine is a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot - matured in oak casks (30% new) for 18 months before being bottled.

Grand Puy Ducasse is a mid-weight Pauillac that displays good depth of fruit and is usually drinkable 5 years after the vintage - the best examples can last for 10-15 years.

The 2008 release showed vibrant bright dark garnet color, medium to full body; aromas and full forward flavors of bing cherries and slightly tart black raspberry and black currant fruits, a layer of cassis and hint of cedar on a forward lingering tannin finish. Needs time to settle.

RM 89 points.

Robert Parker wrote - "This suave, lush, opulently-styled 2008 exhibits a dark ruby/purple hue, medium body, and attractively forward, sweet notes of creme de cassis, licorice, and earth. Like many of its peers, the purity of fruit and ripeness of the tannins are admirable. Consume it over the next 10-15 years." - 90 points. Robert Parker. - Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse

Rating results for Château Grand Puy Ducasse Red Bordeaux Pauillac 2008: The Wine-Searcher score of 87/100 is calculated from the following wine critic scores:

Critic Score When to drink
CellarTracker 90/100 (11 notes from 11 users)  
Wine Spectator 88/100  
Jancis Robinson 16.5/20  
La Revue du Vin de France 15.5/20  
Vinum Wine Magazine 15/20 2016 to 2022
Decanter 3/5 2014 to 2022
 Rick M                               88

Château Grand Puy Lacoste Red Bordeaux Pauillac 1982

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar said about this wine; "Still amazingly youthful,this intense classically cedar-scented wine is a joy to drink.It is rich,powerful and marvelously harmonious. Delicious now and will keep for another 20 years." 91 pts.

My views are in line with another fellow reviewer who wrote - "Starting to show its age with a medium ruby color with some garnet hues. The wonderful nose is very complex and evolved: cigar box, pencil shavings and a lot of minerally steel along with red fruits. The palate is somewhat of a let down. Slightly hollow mid palate, lacking more fruit than I would like and with a higher acidity than I find pleasant. The tannin is resolved, but the finish is slightly clipped. this is not nearly as good as last I tried it. I suspect there may have been some heat damage and/or oxidation as the cork was completely saturated in wine. 92 for the nose and 87 for the palate. (89 pts.)"
My notes - The Lacoste cork was soft and moist but still intact. The wine was starting to show its age with the color starting to show a brackish brownish rust hew.. Medium to full bodied;
Predominant aromas of floral and violets and tobacco overshadowed the fruit; flavors of floral, black berry, tobacco, cassis and a layer of leather and creosote on the moderate tannin lingering finish. Amazing life left for a 29 year old but certainly has reached maturity and will not improve further - ready to drink. RM 90 pts.

Full, deep red. Reticent aromas of plum, currant, mint and cedar. Dry, penetrating and stylish, with very primary flavors and noteworthy vinosity. Classic claret intensity and grip without any excess weight. The flavors build impressively on the firmly tannic, youthfully tough finish. This bottle was still a few years away from full maturity and should last for another 20 years.

Other Expert Ratings

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: 96 points
Wine Spectator: 82 points

Before dinner, Ryan served Robert Stemmler Napa Valley Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2008. This was great with olives, artisan cheeses, shrimp, and oil with herbs and sourdough bread.

I'll go with the winemakers's notes - "This Pinot Noir offers many layers of beautiful ripe strawberry, raspberry and intense black cherry and plum aromas mingled with hints of cola, forest floor and earth. The wine is fleshy, sleek and spicy, with copious wild berry, black cherry and strawberry flavors, good grip and a sustained, well-balanced finish." 
RM 90 points.

The Bordeaux wines were enjoyed over dinner - a great accompaniment to the beef tenderloin, fingerling potatoes and green beans with chanterelle and shitake mushrooms. 

For desert we feasted on Linda's fabulous flowerless chocolate cake with red raspberries (picture left). 

 To accompany the desert, we served Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Oporto 1995 a perfect match!

RM 92 points.

MORE to come... 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Syrah 2003

Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Syrah 2003

Label from 1997 vintage.
Don't be fooled by the 'petite' in the name, this is a big wine.

Dark color - full bodied - nose of black berry and floral, flavors of forward black berry fruits, spice, smoke, with a layer of floral and dill, accented by big firm gripping tannins that linger on the long finish.

RM 88 points.

These wines retail for $29 but are often available for less than $20. Its a good at value at those prices.

We learned from syrah/sirah specialist Carol Meredith during our visit to Lagier-Meredith Vineyards during our Mt Veeder Wine Experience 2010 that this is indeed related to the Australian Shiraz's. Perhaps it is the influence of the Napa Valley terroir or stylistic, in any event, my experiences show Napa Petite Sirahs to generally be firmer, with harder tannins and less pronounced and less lush fruits than the Aussie counterpart cousins as this wine shows.

See recent review of  Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Sirah 1997.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ruston Family Vineyards La Maestra Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Blend 2002

Ruston Family Vineyards La Maestra Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Blend 2002

Named for Lorraine Ruston who first planted this small hillside vineyard west of St. Helena - she teaches English as a second language in Napa Valley. Her namesake wine possesses dark inky purple color - full bodied - initial slight earthy leather bled off over the first hour to reveal big full aromas and flavors of blackberry, a subtle layer of sweet black raspberry, tones of creme de cassis, smoke, charcoal, tar and hints of cedar with long lingering mouth puckering smoke/tar laced tannins. Was a very nice good accompaniment to beef tenderloin au poivre and baked sweet potato. After about two and 1/2 hours the sweet black raspberry with a hint of subtle mocha emerged and became more pronounced on the finish.

(54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc)

RM 90 points.

Ruston wines from the 1999-2001 vintages were crafted by Bordeaux-trained winemaker Philippe Melka. This 2002 release was done by Joshua Krupp, another rising star Napa winemaker who worked previously  with Mia Klein at Fisher Vineyards, Paul Hobbs and Michel Chapoutier in the French Rhone River Valley.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Aussie Shiraz Standoff - Henry's Drive Padthaway Reserve Shiraz 2002 vs. Flinders Run Southern Flinders Ranges Shiraz 2006

Heavyweight standoff between two Aussie Shiraz'  - A comparison tasting with a surprising outcome.
Henry's Drive Padthaway Reserve Shiraz 2002

Very different profile than my earlier review of this wine. It shows dark ink color - medium full bodied - lighter and much more subdued than my earlier tasting note record, which was six years ago. This was not the full, thick extracted fruit with huge mouth-feel fruit bomb from that review. It still has the same flavor profile of currant and blackberry, a tone of black cherry giving way to a hint of caramel and a slight layer of 'heat' eucalyptus with a smoky sweet oak and vanilla on the long lingering silky tannin finish. It was a nice accompaniment to artisan cheeses - hearty sharp cheddar, Bellavitano and Blue. 

RM 90 points.

My notes indicate I bought this wine out of state upon release before it was rated. Nice surprise when I went to pick it up eighteen months later after the RP rating and the price had nearly doubled.

My earlier tasting journal notes from July, 2005 -

"Wow. Reminiscent of my reviews of Marquis Phillips '9', but on steroids. No wonder since Sparky Marquis is also the winemaker of this monstrous wine as well. Dark, full, thick extracted fruit - huge mouth-full of currant and blackberry gives way to caramel and creme brulee burnt sugar with a smoky sweet oak and vanilla finish."
July 31 2005.

My '90' rating was significantly reduced from my earlier '94' back in 2005 suggesting this is a wine to drink younger and that its time to drink remaining bottle (s) in the near term as they are past their prime and not improving.  

 Flinders Run Southern Flinders Ranges Shiraz 2006

Not a fair fight matching this heavyweight against the middleweight above. This is a huge wine that overpowered the Henri's Drive Reserve above - a huge surprise given the earlier tasting experience and review of that wine. This is more obtuse, such that the Henri's Drive comes across as smooth and polished by comparison.

The Flinders presented dark inky garnet color, full bodied with a huge mouthfeel of forward chewy spicy ripe plum, blackberry, blueberry and notes of licorice, toasty oak and mocha followed by a long, pure finish. Slight glycerin and mineral edge up front detract from the fruit a bit. Not quite as smooth as the 2005 vintage but delicious none-the-less. This is a big wine, not for the feint of heart!

RM 91 points. 

Tasted at home with Tom L and Danny A - get acquainted meeting launching next chapter and MPN frontal assault on the Fed!