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! 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien Bordeaux 1989 and Henri Restaurant, Chicago

 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien Bordeaux 1989 and Henri Restaurant, Chicago

Henri Photo:  Anthony Tahlier
The Ducru Beaucaillou from our cellar was taken BYOB to Henri Restaurant in Chicago and drank this with L over elegant dinner. It was a great compliment to the Foie Gras and the Game Special Entree - venison with beets, chanterelles, reduction and potatoes purée.

The Dover Sole Meunière was delicious with Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2008, available and served by the glass.  The creme' brulee desert was also good. Henri had a pleasant cosmopolitan atmosphere, great food and attentive service from a professional and knowledgeable server, Megan and the supporting staff.

The Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Grand Cru Classe exhibited garrnet color - medium-light delicate body with pronounced floral perfume, black cherry and berry fruits with layers of tobacco, anise and black tea and a hint of leather, with floral continuing on a modest tannin finish. There is still life left in this twenty-two year old St Julien Bordeaux.

Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon / 25% Merlot / 5% Cabernet Franc / 5% Petit Verdot.

RM 90 points.

Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon duo - Marco DiGiulio Progeny 2001 and Robert Craig 2006

Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon duo - Marco DiGiulio Progeny 2001 and Robert Craig 2006

We took a getaway weekend into the city (Chicago) and visited our friend Peter B who served up these Mt Veeder Cal Cabs with some great Spanish artisan cheeses. We got to tour Peter's art gallery (below) and enjoy his magnificent views of the cityscape sunset. See also our Henri Restaurant Chicago wine-dine experience.

Marco Di Giulio Napa Valley Mt Veeder Progeny Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 -  

Dark inky color. Full bodied, big floral nose. Mouthful of blackberry, cedar, spicy oak; full finely integrated polished tannins on a long flavorful finish. 

RM 92 points.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - 

We first tasted this wine at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09. Previously we visited Robert Craig Vineyards and Winery in 2008. These visits afford the rare opportunity to compare Robert Craig's three mountain cabernet sauvignon wines - Mt Veeder, Howell Mountain, his newest offering, Spring Mountain, and his valley wine,  Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon blend (see picture left). 

L & I with Robert
Craig at Harvest Party

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 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. We're delighted to introduce these wines to our friends including Peter B.   

The Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 exhibits dark inky almost black color, full bodied, tight, firm structure. Aromas of forward blackberry and black currant, hints of mocha and nut. Big bold forward flavors of black currant & blackberry with a layer of pencil lead, mocha and hint of cedar, spice and mineral. Long finish with berry and big lingering firm but well integrated polished tannins. Needs time to soften and for the mountain fruit to emerge and fully reveal itself.

RM 91 points. 

81% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Merlot 

Peter B in his studio;

Gallery of select Peter B artwork - 

CityScape view from Peter B's -

More on Peter B Art ...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Venge Vineyards Napa Valley Penny Lane Vineyard Family Reserve Sangiovese 2000

Venge Vineyards Napa Valley Penny Lane Vineyard Family Reserve Sangiovese 2000

Rick & AJ tasting with Nils at Tra Vigne in St Helena
We tasted and purchased this wine at the Winery during our Napa Wine Experience 2002  - Venge Vineyards, Rossini Ranch (picture left). Legendary winemaker Nil Venge is a pioneer in Napa Valley Sangiovese (in addition of course to his Cabernet Sauvignons).See our Venge Wines Tasting Journal. 

Sangiovese may be considered Italy's claim to wine fame, the pride of Tuscany is the most widely planted grape in Italy. These traditionally made wines are full of cherry fruit, earth, and cedar. Sangiovese is found in Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso. It is the backbone in many of the acclaimed, modern-styled "Super-Tuscans", where it is blended with Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) and typically aged in French oak barrels, resulting a wine primed for the international market in the style of a typical California cabernet: oaky, high-alcohol, and a ripe, jammy, fruit-forward profile. 

While Sangiovese is the most popular and most widely planted varietal in Italy, it has struggled to find footing outside of Italy. In recent years California wineries have had some success with Sangiovese plantings in the Sierra Foothills/El Dorado County, as well as Sonoma County and the Central Coast. 

Nil Venge is well known in Napa circles as consulting winemaker to many top producers including Del Dotto and Plumpjack. Nils has his flagship Venge label as well the Saddleback family label, and with son Kirk is produces wines from their property Rossini Ranch. He and Kirk worked with Dwayne and Susan Hoff at Fantesca in their early releases. He worked with Dave Del Dotto to produce a Sangiovese from grapes grown on the Del Dotto St. Helena Estate.

Kirk & Nils Venge with AJ outside their
Rossini Ranch cave.
Venge earned a degree in Viticulture from the University of California at Davis, with a minor in Enology, after a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy.  He began his career in the wine industry as vineyard manager for the Charles Krug Winery, moving to Sterling Vineyards in the early 1970s.Soon thereafter, Venge made the leap into professional winemaking when he took a position as the first winemaker and general manager for Villa Mt. Eden in Oakville, California (now the site of PlumpJack Winery). An outstanding run of exquisite Cabernets from 1975-1979 put the winery on the map and established Venge as one of the industry's new stars.

In 1982 Venge become a minority partner with Dennis Groth in the newly-formed Groth Vineyards & Winery. That year he also  established Saddleback Cellars. It was at Groth that his 1985 Reserve Cabernet earned a 100-point rating from Robert Parker Jr.- the only perfect score ever awarded to an American winery at that time. Venge workedwith Groth until 1994 when he left to focus on Saddleback and continued to consult with other wineries in the area. During this time Del Dotto emerged and was cited as one of the 'undisccovered dozen' emerging producers in Napa Valley. I talk more about this group in an earlier blog posting -PlumpJack Winery Napa Valley, Winemaker Dinner when we our featured winemaker was Plumpjack Assistant Winemaker Mary Pisor.

The 2000 Venge Vineyards Sangiovese is grown on the Venge Family Estate Penny Lane Vineyard in Oakville. Ripe and smooth for a Sangiovese, the 2000 is dark inky color but starting to show a tinge of rust and brown edges at this stage of life. Medium bodied, it still presents pretty, ripe cherry and blackberry fruit flavors at its core highlighted by a layer of herb and anise notes and touch of leather and tobacco. It has a flavorful lush long finish. 
RM 90 points.  

Tasted with L at Angelis, our favorite neighborhood Italian trattorria.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Girard Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2004

Girard Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2004

Dark inky color, huge, intense, full bodied - thick chewy tongue-coating black fruits - blackberry, cassis, black raspberry, ripe plum finishing with essence of blueberry, blackberry liquor, glycerin and touch of smoke. Became more approachable as it was opened longer and had time to soften and settle.

RM 90 points.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

David Arthur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

David Arthur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Scenic Pritchard Hills Vineyards
overlooking Napa Valley
David Arthur Estate vineyards sit up on Pritchard Hill, overlooking the southern Napa Valley from the eastern slope at the south end of the range. Three generations of the Long family (no relation to our in-law Long's and our family farms in Indiana) produce Estate wines from mountain fruit grown on their 21 acres of vineyards sitting 1200 feet above the valley floor. Hence the name 'Elevation 1147' of their flagship ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon. 

They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo grapes. The mountain terrain and rocky red soils provide ideal growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon. David Arthur hand crafted Estate wines express the unique terroir of the site - rich extracted fruit character and silky tannins. They also bottle a blend based on the typical Italian varietals they whimsically call "Meritaggio".

We first discovered David Arthur Wines 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.  

From our vertical of this wine dating back to the 1997 vintage, tonight we drank 1998 David Arthur Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. It shows dark inky garnet color and is medium-full bodied. It exhibits bight vibrant black raspberry and current fruit flavors highlighted by a layer of soft cedar turning to a hint of anise and eucalyptus with a smooth silky tannin finish. Very nice drinking in this thirteen year old - still has life left, no need to hurry - a very nice wine from a vintage that was given a bad rap as many of the 1998s turned out reasonably well, beyond expectations set by reviewers at the time. Top producers manage to produce good wines even in challenging years.

RM 92 points.

Drank at home w/ L over grilled beef tenderloin.

Tasted again on 26 November 2011, w/ L,  BYOB at Enoteca Roma in Wicker Park - fabulous accompaniment to Ricotta, Pear and Walnut Ravioli in a Gorgonzola Cream sauce.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Godspeed Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Godspeed Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

We visited Godspeed during our Mt Veeder Appellation tour last spring when we picked up this wine in regular and 375 half bottles. This wine is showing its age and diminishing as the fruit is giving way to other elements.

The initial fruit has given way to a frontal layer of anise with cedar and leather giving way to a hint of fig and dark chocolate with firm lingering musty tannins. Okay for pizza or heady cheeses. Drank from a 375 bottle picked up at the winery this spring.

RM 84 points.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Silom12 Bucktown Chicago Thai Restaurant - BYOB

Silom12 Bucktown Chicago Thai Restaurant - BYOB

Silom12 1848 North Milwauikee, Bucktown, Chicago
Wine and Dine experience at Silom12, named for the bustling nightlife district in Bangkok. The new Bucktown Chicago Thai Restaurant, located at 1846-48 Milwaukee, walking distance from the Western Avenue Blue Line station, Silom12 offers standard traditional and contemporary Thai fare, great food, reasonable service, and liberal BYOB for a great value dining experience.

For Starters, we tried the Crispy Coconut Shrimp which was incredible, featuring shrimp mixed with tasty Water Chestnuts. The Crab Rangoon starter was less impressive with lots of cream cheese and little perceptible sign of crab. Both were served with a tasty sweet chili sauce.

Other tempting Starters that tempt a return visit were sesami crusted Tuna Tataka, Steamed Mussels in spicy coconut sauce and Rock Shrimp in tempura sauce.

Entrees include a selection of Noodle dishes, Stir Fry, Curry and Fried Rice dishes. Featured entree's also are the Chef's Specialties including Shrimp, Soft Shell Crab, Tilapia and Chilean Sea Bass offerings.

Other featured selections that we ordered were Crispy Fried Duck Delight with shrimp, asparagus, mushrooms and jasmine rice, Osso Buco braised veal shank with mushroom, young chili pepper, green curry and jasmine rice, and Tiger Cry features a 7 ounce filet of beef with green beans, sticky rice and spicy tamarind reduction.

We also had the Orange Chicken (above) and Garlic Chicken stir fry's, and the Massaman Potato noodle with beef, sweet potato, rice, peanut sauce and coconut milk (left).  All were nice portions, tastefully prepared and aside from the Osso Buco, all warrant a return visit.

To accompany dinner we brought and tasted the following wines:

Leitz "Eins, Zwei, Dry" Trocken Riesling 2009

Toad Hall, Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir 2007

Carmenet Moon Mountain Reserve Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996,

Shrader Double Diamond Mayacamas Range Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003,

Shrader Double Diamond Beckstoffer Amber Knolls Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Leitz "Eins, Zwei, Dry" Trocken Riesling 2009 - this was  a perfect compliment to the Thai cuisine, fresh, acid and medium bodied. Brought by Ryan and Michelle.
RM 86 points.

Toad Hall, Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir 2007 - medium bodied, nicely balanced black cherry and black berry fruits intermingled with dusty rose petals and a hint of leather on the light tannin finish; went well with the lighter rice and water chestnut features - a great value at under $20. Brought by Bill & Beth.
RM 85 points.

Carmenet Moon Mountain Reserve Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 - I have four tasting notes over ten years for this wine and this resembles the earliest tasting back in the year 2000 - Fairly complex and medium fullness - black berries and currant turn to a layer of mocha/coffee, with a hint of anise and sage, with  moderate finish  Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This lighter more moderate cab went with the heartier Thai dishes especially the Massaman Potato noodle and the duck. Brought by Bill & Beth. RM 89 points.

Shrader Double Diamond Mayacamas Range Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 - Dark inky color, full bodied, full but subdued black berry and plum fruits, hint of sweet cherry and mocha on the smooth tannin finish. Brought by Rick & Linda. This 'big cab' went well with the Filet of Beef but was a bit too much for the rest of the more refined Thai dishes. RM 90 points.

Dining and tastiing w/ L, Ryan & Michelle, Erin & Lucy (top), and Bill & Beth C, Matt & Molly (bottom) at Silom12 in Bucktown. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Caymus and Del Dotto Napa Cabernets - 1995-96 horizontal - vertical !

Caymus and Del Dotto Napa Cabernets- 1995-96 horizontal - vertical ! 

Not quite OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) but a grand tasting of a selection of 1995 and 1996 Napa Cabernets from two distinguished producers with contrasting styles. Caymus produces Bordeaux style blends sourced from a combination of mountain and valley fruit from the reaches of Napa Valley. Del Dotto produces several labels including this Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Rutherford appellation.

We enjoyed these wines with a selection of artisan cheeses (below) and fresh fruits, and over a beef tenderloin dinner with green vegetables and baked potato. Tasted with L and Bill and Beth C. Bill had the '95 Caymus and I had the '96; we came together to create an occasion for a mini vertical tasting. We added the mini vertical of same vintage Del Dotto Cabernets for a pair of horizontals as well! At fifteen years old, these wines showed no sign of deterioration or diminution.

Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Took more than an hour to open and stabilize. Medium bodied, dark garnet color with earthy blackberry and black and red cherry fruits, layers of leather, tobacco, cedar, and pencil shavings with finely integrated moderate tannins. Bigger and more fruit forward than the '96 below; less polished and delicate, lacking the soft floral, perhaps due to the simpler more focused blend without the Merlot. Maybe also a reflection of the vintages, contrary to, or in-line with the notes below. 

RM 91 points. 

Blend for this wine was 83% Cabernet Sauvignon  and 17% Cabernet Franc. The fruit was sourced from St Helena 47%, Rutherford 36%, Atlas Peak 9% and Mt Veeder 9%.

Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

This wine was opened two and a half hours ahead of time and burst with floral on initial tasting. Dark garnet color and medium bodied. Predominant throughout in the tasting, the bright vivid floral perfume highlighted the soft delicate nicely integrated fruits, harmoniously balanced and polished - currants, black cherry, subtle hints of vanilla, oak, spice, milk chocolate and cigar box with a moderate tannin lingering floral finish. After initial moments of brilliance, the fruit later fell off to slightly tart black cherry with a subtle leather finish took over, still accented by dusty rose petals and floral.  Perhaps, this wine shows so well since much of the fruit for this bottling came from plots that are ordinarily used for the Special Selection which was not produced  in the '96 vintage.

RM 93 points.

Blend for this wine was 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. The fruit was sourced from St Helena 29%, Rutherford 52%, Atlas Peak 11% and Mt Veeder 8%. 

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Only starting to show a hint of age but still life left in this sixteen year old - dark garnet color, medium-full bodied, oak predominates the taste accented by spicy forward black cherry, berry, plum and cedar with hint of leather, cigar box and vanilla with well-integrated tannins on a long complex finish.

RM 91 points.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

Dark garnet color, medium-full bodied - the black cherry and black currant fruits are starting to fall a bit giving way to a slight earthy leather and cedar but it still retains a layer of toasty oak with a hint of spice on moderate lingering tannins on the finish. Not as polished as the 95 above.

RM 89 points.

Artisan Cheeses tasted:

Mayberrry "Millenium" Year 2000 Sharp Cheddar

More to come. ....