Friday, September 23, 2011

Authentic French Wine & Dine Adventure - Le Petit Cafe Redoux

Authentic French Wine & Dine Adventure - Le Petit Cafe Redoux  - 

Imagine leaving the city and driving out to a French country village for an exquisite, quaint dining experience. Such is dining at the French bistro Le Petit Cafe in Bloomington, Indiana which provides an authentic Provencal dining experience as if you've been transported from Southern Indiana to Southern France. You'll not find a more hospitable atmosphere; the food and wine experience is straight out of the Libournais, true to the roots of the owners who also cook and serve. Don't expect elegance and haute cuisine, you'll get honest home style cooking, great food paired with select wines - all at very reasonable prices. For the wine aficionado or gourmand, don't expect a fancy or complex wine list, just ask for wines to accompany the food and leave it at that! You won't be overwhelmed, disappointed or taken for a ride - expect a complete, authentic dining experience at a reasonable fair price. Our complete dinner with wine, shared starter and shared desert was about $30 per person including tip. Don't expect an itemized detailed bill - consider it as a price-fix meal.

The menu is recited by the server or written in marker on the white board if you happen to be seated at that end of the dining room - beef, foul, fish or game, with soup or salad, accompanied by side dishes served family style. With reasonable prices and such authenticity, go for the starter appetizers and deserts to take in all that is to offer for a complete dining experience.

On this visit there were ten of us allowing us too experience everything on offer - steak with blue cheese and butter, steak with olive oil and garlic, white fish with shrimp, rabbit with brown sauce, and chicken with white wine cream sauce. All were delicious, served with a side of cooked carrots and eggplant ravioli with herbs. The appetizers, a memorable pate and a nice delicate puffed pastry with cheese were exquisite. The chocolate gato (cake) desert with cream sauce was sinfully wonderful.

To accompany all the entrees and each course we had four different wines - two Southern Rhones, and two Burgundies. The Burgundies served up as accompaniments to dinner were thoughtfully selected wines, quality easy drinking, wonderfully and appropriately matched to the food.   While they don't boast or profess a wine cellar or extensive winelist, as with each previous visit, we were delighted by the wine courses. On this evening, we were treated to a red and wine Burgundy from the 2000 and 2003 vintages. The other two wines, two southern Rhones from the 1998 vintage were by pre-arrangement. 

The wines:

Domaine Santa Duc, Prestige des Hautes Garrigues Gigondas 1998 - 
This was the biggest of the four wines, even moreso than the Chateauneuf-du-Pape - and was a perfect accompaniment to the pate and the steaks. Dark color - medium - full bodied. As we work through this case in its 12th year, this wine seems to be more subdued but more balanced, integrated and polished than when younger. Still exhibiting full forward black berry, black cherry and hints of anise, slight earthy leather on a moderate firm tannin finish.

RM 90 points. 


Domaine De La Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape 1998 -

From one of the biggest private owned estates in Chateauneuf du Pape, this was medium bodied and complex - good with the pate, the steaks and rabbit dish as well as the chocolate desert.  Dark garnet color, medium bodied, with slightly tart red fruit, pepper, berry, mineral, spice nose; it was very tasty, balanced, slightly tart berry, blackberry, black cherry with mineral  palate, hints of earthy tobacco and cassis and a medium-plus finish. The blend is  60% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah and 5% Muscardin.

RM 88 points. Consistent notes w/ earlier tastings.

92 point Wine Spectator: "Beautiful. Black in color, thick in texture, with delicious ripe fruit and silky, sweet tannins. This balanced, full-bodied Châteauneuf delivers harmony and pleasure from start to finish, although it emphasizes fruit over terroir." (11/02). 90 Points Robert Parker: "The 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape boasts a dense, saturated purple color, as well as an enticing, sweet nose of black fruits, licorice, and violets. Full-bodied, moderately tannic, and impressively concentrated, with a long finish, it will be at its finest between 2003-2016."

Gilles Noblet, Domaine De La Collonge, Macon-Fuisse 2003

Very fresh and acidulous nose of exotic fruits - lychee and subtle apple, with violet and white flowers notes. Great balance, ample and round with a mineral touch. Delicate and soft easy drinking to accompany the salad but supple and full enough to go with the fish and chicken dishes as well. 

What a delightful and fun wine. We learn that Domaine de la Collonge is situated in the village of Fuissé,  the heart of the Pouilly- Fuissé Appellation in the southern Mâconnais. This is Burgundy’s southernmost area and one of the most prestigious vineyards of the Maconnais. The estate has been handed down from father to son for four generations and is now run by Gilles Noblet who has improved it greatly. Gilles Noblet is among the most respected of a new-breed of Mâconnais producers. When he is not occupied with the volunteer fire department in Fuissé, he is busy tending the vines and the cellars of his Domaine de la Collonge. Noblet’s Domaine de la Collonge represents the best artisan traditions of the region: respect for the different “terroirs” of the domaine, low yields in the vineyards that total 9 hectares, meticulous winemaking that expresses both Chardonnay fruit and the characteristics of the vineyards’ earth, with a gentle (20-30%) touch of oak.

The Domaine consists of small parcels of approximately 3 hectares each in three appellations in a region dominated by high-volume cooperatives and the labels of negociant producers, Noblet’s wines show the quality that can be attained in this region with a more personal and artisanal approach. They serve as a reminder of why the Mâconnais region, and Pouilly-Fuissé in particular, originally gained popularity and notoriety for producing some of the world’s best loved and best value Chardonnays. The 2006 Pouilly-Fuissé from Gilles Noblet was named among the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2008. 

Louis Latour, Les Garans Cote-D'Or  Fleurie 2000

From the vineyard of Les Garans, situated to the north-east of the village of Fleurie, acknowledged as one of the finest sites for growing top quality grapes because of its combination of unique soil composition and specific microclimate. This wine is deliciously floral on the nose and possesses great smoothness on the palate with a wonderful balancing acidity. Deep red in colour with a clean and rounded bouquet of ripe red fruits. Structured, balanced and quite sinewy on the finish.  This was a nice balance to the bigger Gigondas and CDP and a perfect accompaniement to the rabbit with brown sauce, yet sufficiently delicate to pair nicely with the chicken. 

Previous visit to Le Petit Cafe.

Le Petit Cafe on the web ...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Matthews Estate Yakima Valley Red Wine 1999

Matthews Estate Yakima Valley Red Wine 1999

From their website Matthews states, their original intent since getting into the wine business was to create a flagship Bordeaux blend. This label was their flagship based on Cabernet Sauvignon but consistently using all five Bordeaux varietals. Matthews goal was to produce wines with all of the power and elegance of the Paulliac and St. Estephe Bordeaux appellations with the added intensity of Columbia Valley fruit. They ceased producing the Columbia Valley Red Wine flagship label with their last vintage in 2005.

Their highest score rating were given in 2001 and 2000 winning 90 and 91 points respectively. Their 1999 release was their next best release winning 88 points, their best achivement to date with their fifth release. According to their release notes, the 1999 harvest proved to be one of their most successful up to that time, "as ripening progressed, the top vineyards started showing tremendous potential with the consistent ripening period giving  great depth and color to the finished wine with an amazing amount of complexity. Even before the wine was allowed to spend time in the new french oak barrrels, it showed good balance and richness". The blend for the final release was 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc. Their release notes said this wine should improve with age and last 10-15 years. Hence one might expect this to be the apex for this wine.

I purchased several bottles at auction knowing it was nearing end of its peak period. As such I obtained it far below it suggested release retail price of $75. The suggested release prices for the following 2000 and 2001 vintages were listed as $70 and $65, followed by $50, $60 and $44 in the 03 through 05. I don't understand the variations in prices and the diminishing price may reflect the market realities for this wine at the time. Perhaps the demise of the label in '05 was the realization they would not achieve their Pauillac, St Estephe benchmark consistently to maintain the effort.

This is the third bottle I have opened over the last year and it was similar to the last one, equally impressive, consistent in notes and rating, perhaps revealing its full potential for this stage of its life, moreso than the first one I opened of the selection which was more subdued in fruit with more of the other elements taking over.

Notably, my assessment and notes for this bottle are very similar to the original Winemakers release notes - "Tightly wound nose begins with ripe cherry, black currant and an earthy espresso. A hint of black tea comes out with a small amount of exposure and an intriguing mixture of eucalyptus and toffee, a structured wine with (the) polished elegance...."

I give it the same rating as did Wine Spectator upon release,  88 Points. Medium to full bodied, I found the fruit to be moderate upon opening but brighter and more expressive the second day; complex and polished; blackberry, black currants and cherry fruits, and eucalyptus with a layer of spice, black tea and cassis with hints of tar, leather and tobacco on the lingering moderate tannin finish.  Spectator pegged the prime to be 2004 through 2008 which may have been more accurate. In any event, this wine is mature and it's time has come to drink, beyond its prime if you favor the bold forward fruits, yet polished and complex with character is you desire something more elegant and subdued. 

Drink it soon and best enjoy it with moderate foods. It was a great compliment to grilled flank steak and baked sweet potatoes. I have a few more and look forward to them with food, hoping they're like this bottle rather than the first one. 

Interesting too, the first, earlier bottle I tasted that didn't show as well had a different label (shown left) than did this one (shown above), yet is represented as being the same vintage, source and blend. If someone can explain this it would be interesting and appreciated.   

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Davis Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Davis Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

My first experience with this wine but I will seek it out again. Medium-full bodied, dark garnet color, firm and structured but nicely balanced and polished, aromas and full forward flavors of blackberry, red and black currants,  dark plum, spice, mocha with a layer of cedar and toasty soft oak on a lingering tight tannin finish. Lots of life left in this ten year old.

RM 91 points.

Great accompaniment to cheese crusted baked eggplant parmiagan and grilled flank steak. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dinner Wine Course - Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir, Domenico Clerico Barolo, & Cavalchina Bianco del Veneto Passito

Dinner Wine Course - Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir, Domenico Clerico Barolo, & Cavalchina Bianco del Veneto Passito

Wine flight course to accompany dinner at Bill & Beth C's - Artisan cheeses, Belevitano fused with syrah and aged sharp cheddar with fresh fruits, dinner salad, and main course of Spinach, Italian Sausage and three cheese Lasagna.

Both of the Frank Family wines opened a bit tight, forward and a slightly off balanced and awkward - each to turn after a half hour to reveal a nicely balanced, polished, harmony of several layers of flavors.  

Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir 2009 -  After an initial forward astringency, it settles into a soft medley of wild berries, rhubarb, dark cherry, and black raspberry with a hint of smoke and cedar with nicely integrated refined tannins.
RM 89 points. 

Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - After initial tightness and slightly awkward forward fruits it bursts with medium to full bodied blackberry, black raspberry flavors with layer of dark chocolate mocha, black cherry, hints of  black tea, spice and cedar.
RM 91 points.

Bill's Review - Fabulous from the get go. Opens with lots of light fruit, cherry and raspberry, but a little tight. After 30 min, opens beautifully and evolves to large overtones of mocha, spice and leather. As nicely as this opens, it is almost a crime not to let this breathe.
WCC 95 points.

Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Montin Ginestra 2005 - Full bodied, dark garnet colored, subdued black cherry,  blackberry, dusty rose petals with hint of leather and touch of smoke with black fruits on the lingering tannin finish.
RM 89 points.

To accompany fresh baked apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream - 
Cavalchina Bianco del Veneto Passito 2004 - Full bodied and thick - apple fruits, subtle tangerine, apricot and peach flavors are overtaken by smoke and nut on a full flavorful lingering finish.
RM 89 points.

In process, more to come  ....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Sirah 1997

Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Sirah 1997

Picked up a lot of Markham Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah during the nineties and early millennium. The 2001 and 2003 vintages of this are still holding and showing well. The '97 exhibits very dark plum purple; medium bodied, still holding on but a tone of mustiness, raisin, dill and asparagus with a rather high alcohol heat predominate over the muted black cherry fruit, overtaken by a big layer of leather turning to smokey dark chocolate mocha, anise and cedar on a firm tight hard tannin finish. Still approachable but most certainly past its prime? 

RM 84 points. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

It's easy to get confused by all the labels of a large brand selection from the likes of Mondavi. Of course their top end Reserve sets itself apart by its $100 price point. But notable is their Oakville designate select Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. While a more expensive higher price point than the Coastal and general Napa Valley (not Oakville designated) labels, this may provide one of the higher QPR - Quality to Price ratios in the family.

As soon as we opened this seven year old 2004 vintage bottle, we were blown away by the full expressive fragrances of floral and fruits bursting from the bottle. The fruit flavors were equally robust and vibrant. This wine has much life left and may benefit from a few years more of cellaring. 

Dark inky color - full body and big full forward fruit - blackberry, black currant and cassis give way to a subtle but lingering slightly sweet caramel and vanilla with hint of subtle mocha, with a layer of alcohol almost bourbon-like taste  on a moderate tannin oak finish.

This was great simply with biscuits and artisan cheeses.
RM 91 points.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Calera Mt Harlan Chardonnay 2009

Calera Mt Harlan Chardonnay 2009

Josh Jensen and his legendary Calera Vineyards were featured in Marq Devillier's wonderful 1994 book - "The Heartbreak Grape: A California Winemaker's Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir". The story tells the tale of Josh's quest to grow the very finnicky Pinot Noir grape in California in the early days before Pinot was cultivated here. In pursuit of his dream to create authentic Burgundian style wines, he sought to find the place in California suitable to achieve that goal. It tells of his research to find the right terrior - all the attributes of the right location, soil, climate, drainage, and other nuances of 'place' that make up the character and personality of a wine from grapes of a particular site. Josh chose Mt. Harlan, an area not then know for grapes or winemaking. The rest, as they say, is history. While it is a human interest tale, it also provides a rich insight into the challenges and travails of setting up a winery, and a business, and achieving one's dream to make noteworthy wines. 

Calera’s Mt. Harlan Vineyards are located in Hollister, California, in the Gavilan Mountains, 25 miles east of the Monterey Bay. The site was chosen for its limestone soils and ideal climate. At an average elevation of 2,200 feet it is among the highest and coolest vineyard sites in California.

As in the great region of Burgundy which inspired Josh to pursue his dream of making great wines in the old world authentic style, he planted the varietals of Burgundy, Pinot Nor and Chardonnay. The wines produced from Calera’s Mt. Harlan Chardonnay Vineyard display a minerality that is much more typical to fine white Burgundy than to California chardonnay, meeting Josh's objective of creating wines in the style of the old world classics.

We are long time fans of Calera Pinot Noir's and are delighted to showcase this Chardonnay release. Calera's 6 acre Mt. Harlan Chardonnay Vineyard was planted in 1984 on the same south facing slope as the Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir. This vineyard was planted on its own roots using plant material from stray chardonnay vines that were found interspersed among the pinot vines of the original vineyards. Each year this vineyard yields only slightly more than 2 tons to the acre of very intense flavorful chardonnay fruit.

The 2009 Mt Harlan Chardonnay is medium bodied, clean and crisp with nice balanced acidity for pleasant easy drinking, yet its sophisticated and complex to be  enjoyed with fine foods. Scents of lemon, gooseberry and honeysuckle, it opens with flavors of golden apple and pear and a layer of subtle almond and vanilla with a touch of smoky oak on the smooth lingering finish.

This was a great accompaniment to grilled salmon fillet and roasted potatoes.
RM 90 points.

Enjoy the wine, and the book!

Domaine du Pesquier Gigondas Southern Rhone River Valley Blend - 1999 - Syrah from the New World and Old

Domaine du Pesquier Southern Rhone River Valley Gigondas 1999 - Syrah - new world and old

We discovered Gigondas ((jhee-gon-dahs) during our visit to the Southern Rhone River Valley region in 1998. Gigondas produces red wine grapes, the most predominant being Grenache and best known being Syrah along with the lesser known Rhone varietals Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Carignane. Grenache is the main grape, making up to (but not to exceed) 80% of the wine, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault make up the remainder, although some other Cote-du-Rhone varietals may be found in small amounts. A small amount of dry spicy Rosé is produced but not seen much in the export market.

Domaine du Pesquier Gigondas regularly receives high marks from Wine Spectator and other reviewers. The 1999 received the highly acclaimed 'Spectator Selection' (SS) from Wine Spectator upon release and review. At a release price of $20 this represented high QPR - (Quality to Price ratio) and great value for such a rating and distinction. 

As Wine Spectator gave this a 'SS' and a Rating of 94 I'll refer to their review. "Rich and ripe, a lovely and seductive Rhône red. Packed with wild herb, plum and blackberry complexity, it caresses the palate with its rich fruit and silky tannins. Full-bodied, with mineral, slight smoke, leather and game character on the finish." 

Ten years later, here is my review of this wine now. "Starting to show its age - a slight brownish grey tinge on the dark garnet color - leather, game, smoke,  and layers of herb and anise and a hint of earthy cedar taking over from the berry, black cherry and spice. - RM 88 points.  

Earlier Reviews - " RM Review - A bit awkward - bright berry, black cherry, subtle leather, pepper and herb."

"Intense chewy peppery blackberry and layer of anise." 

Gigondas is the appellation above and adjacent to the more famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhone River valley wine region in southeast France. Gigondas is situated under the rugged, rocky range of the Dentelles de Montmirail. The vineyards of Gigondas are planted on hillsides at the foot of Mont Ventoux, directly north-east of the town of Orange. Venture up to the top of the mountain to the very picturesque village of Segurat overlooking the valley below. The region, once a Cotes-du-Rhone village, gained its own appellation in 1971.

Picturesque Le Ville Segurat overlooking the Gigondas
and Vacqueyras Appellations of the Southern Rhone

We toured Gigondas during our visit to the region in 1998. Gigondas produces red wine grapes, the most popular and best known being Syrah along with the lesser known Rhone varietals Mourvedre, Grenache, and Carignane. Grenache is the main grape, making up to (but not to exceed) 80% of the wine, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault make up the remainder, although some other Cote-du-Rhone varietals may be found in small amounts. A small amount of dry spicy Rosé is produced but not seen much in the export market.

Our hotel - Chateau Fine Roches Hotel and Winery
in Chateauneuf-du-Pape - a magnificent rustic
Chateau and starting off point.

Poor man's Chateauneuf-du-Pape? Gigondas wines tend to offer great values compared to the pricier higher profile Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CDP) wines which are more complex and sophisticated in that they are comprised of a blend of up to twelve different varietals authorized in that appellation.

Gigondas tend to be less polished, less complex and less ageworthy than CDP's as they tend to be big, bold and robust, fruit filled, forward spicy, leathery rustic edgy flavored wines that are not for the feint of heart. Gigondas' top quality reds sometimes rival its southwest neighbor, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Top Gigondas wines will age for up to 10 or 15 years, although they are able to be enjoyed young if you like robust wines. They will benefit from at least three years of cellaring. Many Gigondas are predominantly Grenache which is not recommended for extended aging. Some other popular Gigondas producers commonly found in the US are Chateau Saint Cosme, Guigal, Perrin et Fils, Raspail Ay, Montirius and Domaine des Espiers.

Visiting Domaine De Longue Toque
in Gigondas

Perhaps the best known and most popular varietal from the Southern Rhone Valley wines is Syrah which has become immensely popular in Australia where they produce big, bright, bold full flavored  fruit forward wines. Note Syrah is also known down under as Shiraz. We also now find Syrah being produced in limited quantities in California, mostly in Paso Robles area and some in appellations in northern California, including Napa Valley.

Lagier-Meredith Napa Valley
Mt Veeder Syrah is produced in
the Rhone Style
Stephen Lagier and Carole Meredith produce their Lagier-Meredith label Syrah based Rhone style wines from their mountain top estate high above Yountville on Mt Veeder in Napa Valley. As we are such huge fans of Syrah and Shiraz, I always wondered about the differences in the various Syrah/Shiraz varietals from the old world (France) and the new world (Australia and the US). I found the answer during our visit to Lagier-Meredith Vineyards in Napa Valley during our Mt Veeder tour this spring.

Stephen Lagier and
Carole Meredith
Carole Meredith was a professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis where she conducted research in grape genetics. Her research group used DNA typing methods to discover the origins of some of the greatest old wine varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Syrah. Carol Meredith is a geneticist and has studied and specializes in the Syrah varietal. She attests the Syrahs from Australia and Napa are the same as their ancestors from the old world Rhone River valley where they have been grown since the 16th Century. Lagier-Meredith produce Syrah varietal wines that are true to their heritage as they strive to produce wines in the traditional Rhone style.

Domaine du Pesquier is operated by  3th and 4th generation at the domain owners Guy and his son Mathieu Boutière who has an education (BTS) from wine schools. The bottling at the domain started in 1969 and includes today 2/3 of the production. The domain covers 23 ha. of vineyards. 16 ha is Gigondas, the rest is Vacqueyras (1 ha.), Cotes du Rhone (1,2 ha) and Vin du Pays de Vaucluse (5 ha.). They produce wines in Gigondas, Vacqueryas, Cotes due Rhone and VDP.

Domaine du Pesquier Wines:
Gigondas - 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre.
Aged in foudres for 12-18 months.
Vacqueyras - 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. 80% is aged in foudres for 12-18 months.
Cotes du Rhone - 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 10% Carignan/Cinsault.
VDP - 45% Syrah, 45% Merlot and 10% Grenache.

If you travel to Gigondas and wish to visit
Domaine du Pesquier:

Address: Le Pesquier 84190 Gigondas
Tel. 490 65 86 16
Direct sale: Monday - Saturday 9.00-12.00 and 14.00-19.00

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Storybook Mountain Vineyards Antaeus Napa Valley Red Wine Blend 2004

Storybook Mountain Vineyards Antaeus Napa Valley Red Wine Blend 2004

Dark garnet color, medium bodied, slightly flabby, bramble dark berry fruits, layers of black pepper, dust, kirsch, spicy oak, nutmeg and a slight earthy leather finish.

Blend of 59% Zinfandel, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.

RM 87 Points.

Fantesca Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Fantesca Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 

Fantesca Estate and Winery, one of our favorite Napa Valley producers is owned by Duane and Susan Hoff, who moved on from their careers as executives at Best Buy for this Spring Mountain District winery above St Helena in the Mayacamas Range between Mt Veeder and Diamond Mountain. We visited their spectacular mountainside estate during our Napa Wine Experiences in 2007 and in 2009

Fantesca Spring Mountain District
Estate and Winery
Initial 2002-2007 vintages were managed by winemakers Nils and Kirk Venge; then in 2008 they teamed up with legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett. From their ten acre vineyard, they produce ultra-premium 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and there is an acre planted in Petit Verdot. They also source grapes from the Sonoma County Russian River Valley to produce a bright crisp full flavored Burgundian Chardonnay, the first ever by Heidi Barrett. They also released a small production special bottling Burgundian style Pinot Noir, King Richard's Reserve especially for Susan's father Richard who favors such a style Pinot. In 2007 they released a Bordeaux Blend Le Petit Soeur, (shown below).  Fantesca products make for festive serving features or as elegant gifts as are lavishly packaged in stylish heavy etched glass bottles with painted 'labels', or in original wood cases.

Fantesca Sonoma County
Russian River Valley

Fantesca Spring Mountain District
King Richards Reserve
Pinot Noir
La Petite Soeur
Bordeaux Blend
Duane Hoff pouring 2002 vintage while visiting Rick & Linda
in Chicago during 2004 vintage release marketing outreach.
For a special occasion, we served a Fantesca Estate and Winery, Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

Fantesca Napa Valley,
Spring Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon
Etched glass, painted bottle.
(2006 shown)
Medium-full bodied, dark garnet color; complex but smooth and polished with bright forward fruits of black currant, dark berry and cherry, accented by sweet dark chocolate, a hint of cassis, and a tone of spice on the lingering refined tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Taken and served at Mark & Shirley's, this was the blockbuster hit of the evening, a great complement to artisan cheeses and rib-eye steak sandwiches.

Brancott Vineyards Marlborough South Island New Zealand Reserve Pinot Noir Reserve 2006

Brancott Vineyards Marlborough South Island New Zealand Reserve Pinot Noir Reserve 2006 

Garnet colored with a slight rust tinge, light bodied, easy drinking, touch of spice, dark red berry gives way to slightly earthy leather, layer of alcohol and acid on a slightly tart spicy moderate tannin finish. Decent value for under $15.

RM  87 points. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vintage Aged Cheese and Wine Pairing - 10 & 5 year old cheddars with Steve Hoff Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006

Vintage Aged Cheese and Wine Pairing

You read it right, vintage aged cheese paired with wine as opposed to cheese paired with aged vintage wine! Yes, there are aged vintage cheeses out there worthy of leading the pairing with a select wine. The word vintage indicating the year of production, or the age of the cheese. Tonight we feasted on two select aged cheeses, a 2001 vintage, ten year old cheddar from Sweetwater Valley Farms, and an aged five year old cheddar from Fair Oaks Farms. Both of these cheeses are sourced from large commercial dairy operations that take cheese very seriously. Both offer on-line shopping on the web or have commercial retail centers on main arterial interstate highways.While they may not warrant a long destination trip, they certainly warrant a stop if passing through or in the region. 

Sweetwater Valley Farms is located between the towns of Philadelphia and Loudon, in the heart of southeast Tennessee’s dairy-rich Sweetwater Valley, off of Interstate 75 between Chattanooga and the Knoxville - Nashville Highway Interstate 40. Sweetwater Valley Farm cheese is produced in a state-of-the-art facility, but they still preserve the fine art and craft of making cheese in the traditional farmstead manner, controlling the process from cow to consumer.They focus on high-quality cheddar cheeses.

Fair Oak Farms (FOF) is in northwest Indiana on Interstate 65 between Chicago and Indianapolis. One of the largest working dairies in the country FOF is a substantial diversified sustainable dairy farming operation run by five families spanning three generations. They feature the Dairy Adventure family attraction featuring a collection of educational exhibits,  a one-of-a-kind 4D movie experience, a world-famous Birthing Barn, and tours of the highly automated working dairy operation.

Of course any quality cheese counter will offer a broad variety of cheeses featuring such selections and many more from America, England, France and beyond.  

We enjoyed these cheeses at a gala dinner at Erin & Johnny's featuring bar-b-que ribs, twice baked potatoes, iceberg wedge wedge with feta cheese and blue cheese dressing, followed by a hearty chocolate cake desert. To complement the hearty cheeses, bar-b-que and chocolate we chose one of our favorite regional varietals a Barossa Valley Shiraz from Steve Hoff, vintage 2006.  These wines are full bodied, huge forward fruit flavored that go well with bold flavorful foods. We featured this wine in our tasting review May 6, 2011.

Steve Hoff Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006

This is as good as their higher priced select shiraz at a fraction of the price. Notably, a great compliment to hearty meats, cheeses, dark chocolate - Deep dark purple color - full-bodied, ripe and rich layers of deep blackberry, plum and anise, hints of blueberry and black cherry with a long lingering fine-grained tannin finish.  
RM 90 points.

Other reviews - 

92 pts Robert Parker Jr.'s The Wine Advocate (JM) - It is opaque purple-colored with an enticing perfume of smoke, meat, bacon, and blueberry. This leads to a full-bodied, plush, ripe, layered wine with gobs of savory fruit, well concealed tannin, and superior length. This in-your-face Shiraz will drink well for a decade.

91 pts Wine Spectator
Ripe and rich, with deep blackberry, plum and licorice flavors mingling for effect as the finish rolls on, finishing with fine-grained tannins. 

90 pts Stephen Tanzer International Wine Cellar (JR)
Ruby-red. Powerfully scented bouquet of cherry and blueberry preserves, smoked meat and dried flowers. Fleshy dark fruit flavors are weighty and velvety, with fully absorbed tannins and a late-arriving spicy quality. This is all about fruit and is already delicious, but it has the concentration and balance to reward cellaring for a few years.

As you read through our wine tasting journal here on unwindWine, note how often we include artisan cheeses. Next time you're planning a wine tasting, think, even start with cheese!