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.