Sunday, May 27, 2012

Steak Night Red Wine Flight

Steak Night Flight ranges from Right Bank Bordeaux to Napa Valley and Mountain to Central Coast

For a summer late night grilled steak dinner poolside with Mark and Shirley, we selected a flight of wines starting with floral elegance of a right bank Bordeaux St Emilion Grand Cru Classe, a classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon followed by a big bold Napa Howell Mountain mountain fruit Petite Sirah, and closing with a bold spicy Central California Cabernet Franc.

Antipasta featured Shirley's bruschetta with prosciutto, pancetta, and roasted red peppers (below), artisan cheeses with fresh bread and fruits. The main dinner course featured Allen Brothers aged steaks, sweet corn on the cob, baked potatoes and grilled asparagus. 

Shirley prepared a fruit compote with fresh whipped cream for desert.

The wines:

  • Château Larmande St Emilion Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe 2005 
  • Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
  • Opolo Paso Robles Cabernet Franc 2005
  • Outpost "The Other" Howell Mountain Petite Sirah 2005

 Château Larmande St Emilion Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe 2005

Château Larmande produces about 9000 cases per year and is known for consistent quality and generally a good value. The estate is planted predominantly in Merlot covering 60% of the vineyard, with 30% Cabernet Franc and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon making up the balance. The 2005 vintage was above average and produced a wine that is already approachable but should last another ten to fifteen years. Bottles are recognizable by the unique lavender colored foil

Medium bodied, full aromas of floral perfume, moderately complex flavors of red berry and plum fruits accented by subtle spice and hints of cherry-cranberry, nice texture and smooth moderate tannins round out the finish.

RM 90 points.

Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Heaven on earth - the garden at TraVigne
We first discovered this wine during our Napa Wine Experiences in the mid-nineties, sitting out in the garden of TraVinge (left) in St Helena, selecting bottles from the Cantina wine shop on the premises. We have a half dozen of Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintages from that era through to this one. This is our first tasting of the '04 release.

Oakville Ranch located is located above the Silverado Trail up on the eastern slope overlooking Napa Valley.

The Oakville Ranch property was purchased in 1989 by Bob and Mary Miner. The 350-acre ranch is planted in 55 acres of vineyards of Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals − Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The vines have been small vineyards and managed to produce small yields of few bunches per maximize the quality of the fruit to be derived from the shallow red volcanic soil on the rocky mountain slopes.

The 2004 Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Estate's vineyards - 100% Oakville Ranch: 84% Vista, 9% Terrace and 7% Plateau blocks.

The juice was aged 18 months in 100% french oak barrels, 67% new.

725 cases, plus 8 cases of magnums were produced

The wine is medium to full bodied, dark ruby in color. Aromas of floral, red raspberry and cherry fruits give way to soft oak. Dense full flavors of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry fruits are accented by tones of spice, cassis and soft sweet oak and a hint of black pepper on a long lingering silky tannin finish. 

RM 90 points.

Outpost "The Other" Howell Mountain Petite Sirah 2005

We discovered Outpost wines when we visited their mountaintop vineyards high atop Howell Mountain 2,200 feet above upper Napa Valley, beyond the town of Angwin, across from Lamborn and midway up the dead end road to Robert Craig's mountaintop winery. The volcanic, rocky red soil, high altitude, gentle cooling breezes and sunny western exposure produce fruit of incredible complexity and richness. Outpost creates world-class Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah from their hand-cultivated, organically farmed 42 acre estate vineyards. The Other is named for this 'second' or 'Other' label, made  from Petite Sirah "H" clone grown on Outpost Wines' Howell Mountain estate.

Big, bold, full bodied, dark inky purple with a garnet colored rim, a nose of mineral, this wine packs dense concentrated sweet fruit of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry with hints of mineral, dark chocolate and nuances of molasses.Bright acidity is brought into focus with fine-grained tannins and a hint of toasty oak on the lingering finish.

100% Petite Sirah, estate grown, 50% new French oak barrels, 50% 1 year-old French oak barrels.

RM 90 points.

Opolo Paso Robles Cabernet Franc 2005

Still work in progress - stay tuned.... 

Shirley's Bruschetta

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My birthday, my wine and dinner favorites

Its my birthday, my wine and dinner favorites 

For my birthday dinner, I was fortunate to be surrounded by the whole family and my wife Linda prepared my favorite meal - beef tenderloin and lobster tail with caprese salad, baked potato and grilled asparagus. For dessert she prepared her spectacular flourless chocolate cake and fresh berries. To accompany the dinner I opened two classic Bordeaux like Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the cellar - complex, dark, full, black fruits, with floral notes.

Elan Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Bordeaux like floral fragrance, subdued black berry and black cherry fruits, slight earth and leather with hints of subtle cocoa and sage on a moderate tannin finish. Better than earlier releases, still showing well and has life left.

RM 89 points.

We first met winemaker Richard Elliott Smith and his wife Linda (center, left) at our Napa Wine Experience in 1998.

 See my Elan Vineyards Wine Label Library on

 York Creek Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Meritage 2001

Dark, full bodied, full flavored currant, red raspberry, and black cherry with a long soft polished tannin finish. More subdued fruit than earlier tasting.
RM 88 points.

Still under construction ...


The whole family.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Torbreck Vineyards Barossa Valley Woodcutters Shiraz 2009

Dark inky purple color, big full body - big aromas of floral and perfume, forward full flavors of black and blue berry fruits, a layer of metallic mineral, vanilla, and spice on a full lingering tongue coating tannin finish. 

RM 89 points. 

L loves this style but the metallic tones detract from my preference. Taken and tasted with L, BYOB in the concierge lounge at JW Marriott in Indy w/ artisan cheese and biscuits prior to Kara and Gary's wedding.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Syrah Syrah - Mothers' Day Dinner Wine Selection

Syrah Syrah - Mothers' Day Dinner Wine Selection 

If you don't already know, Syrah is the same grape varietal as Shiraz. Mothers' Day family dinner gathering, Mom gets to choose her favorite wine (s). Ryan pulled from the cellar these two Shiraz's for L - d' Arenberg 'The Dead Arm' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 and Flinders Run, Southern Flinders Ranges, Baroota, Australia, Shiraz 2005. For this momentus holiday gathering of four generations of family - Great-Grandmother Evelyn, Grandmother Linda, Daughter Erin, and Granddaughter Lucy, we dined at our favorite Italian trattoria, Angeli's Italian Restaurant and took our BYOB wines.We were also celebrating son Alec returning home from college graduation.

d' Arenberg 'The Dead Arm' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 -  RP Review - ‘One of this estate’s flagship wines, the 2003 The Dead Arm Shiraz appears to be better than the 2002. A deeper, richer, fuller-bodied offering that spent time in equal parts French and American oak, it possesses an opaque purple colour, great intensity, and a fabulously sweet nose of blackberries, cassis, asphalt, earth, and oak. Powerful, super-concentrated, and obviously fashioned from low yields and old vines, this is classic McLaren Vale old vine Shiraz that should age nicely for 15+ years.’ RP Rating 95. 

My review - Reminiscent of the 94/95 Dead Arms reflecting a distinctive blueberry taste along with that sweet oak, blackberry and slight earthy smoke, but smooth and polished - more approachable than some of the overpowering over-ripe fruit bombs coming out of Australia recently. - RM - Dark full bodied, concentrated forward ripe black fruits, hint of cassis, raisin, slight tar firm tannin finish. RM 92 points.

This wine derives its odd name from the results of a louse that hit the region early in the last century and destroyed many of the vines. Many producers plowed the affected vines under and replanted. d'Arenberg cultivated their vines which survived however with only one remaining shoot having sacrificed the other main shoot, the 'Dead Arm'. The results were that the remaining vines produced rich extracted fruits from the diminished reduced yields of the surviving grapes benefiting from the nutrients of the full remaining root structure.

We first discovered this wine back in1994 at a dinner with AJ out in Silicon Valley. I still recall the bold, forward, full bodied, ripe black and blue berry fruits of that wine that characterizes Dead Arm wines to this day - worthy of our Mother's Day family dinner selection.

Flinders Run, Southern Flinders Ranges, Baroota, Australia, Shiraz 2005 - One of our absolute favorite wines with a huge QPR (Quality Price Ratio). Dark inky colour - full bodied, elegant rich thick chewy - symphony of flavors of sweet currant, ripe plum, red raspberry, blueberry, a layer of mocha accented by hints of pepper, vanilla, and spice, and a lingering essence of creme brulee' and cedar on the long full soft finish. Now seven years old with a bit of age, this wine is smoother, more polished and more approachable than earlier tastings when young.

RM 94 points. 

We first discovered this wine down in central Illinois wineshop Friar Tuck's. We bought some and brought it home and loved it. We bought case quantities from Southern Hemisphere Wines in SoCal. Eventually Binny's featured this wine and we bought it all and are fortunate to have a supply as we continue to enjoy this wine which is improving with age!

Two bold and hearty Australian shiraz's - perfect complement to hearty Italian dinner fare on a special day and family gathering. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pahlmeyer Jayson Red Wine Blend Napa Valley 2008

Pahlmeyer “Jayson”, Red Wine Blend, Napa Valley 2008

Great accompaniment when tasted with steak dinners at Ruths Chris in New Orleans with Danny A and Chris K.
Dark inky purple, full bodied; ripe black berry fruits predominate with a bramble taste almost zinfandel like yet a Bordeaux blend - layers of spice, anise, cigar box with hints of dark chocolate and black olive with a long lingering moderate tannin fruit filled finish. Complex but slightly disheveled lacking polish or refined integration.

RM and Wine Spectator 89 Points

Blend: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz 2009

Schild Estate Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009

Recently purchase a half dozen selections of the same vintage and varietal, 2009 Australian Shiraz' from different producers. Will be tasting and journaling over the coming weeks. Ideally would do a comparison tasting in one sitting. Hopefully will do this soon. Meanwhile watch for these posting. 

Schild Estate Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009
Dark inky purple color, big full body - big aromas and forward full flavors of black and blue berry fruits, a layer of metallic mineral, a layer of black cherry with hints of vanilla, and spice on a full lingering tongue coating tannin finish.

RM 89 points. 

Tasted with artisan cheeses, pear fruit, smoked salmon and various biscuits as shown. L loves this style but the metallic tones detract from my preference.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Graduation celebration wine tasting flight

Graduation Celebration Wine Tasting Flight  - featuring 1990 vintage birthyear wines

Gala celebration of son Alec and his roommates' graduation from Indiana U, Kelly School of Business, featuring specially selected wine flight of namesake or other memorable wines saved for the occasion. Tasted with son Alec, siblings Sean with Megan, Erin and Alec's room-mates Matt and Nate, and all the parents, L & I, Lisa & Kipp and Jill & Jerry, other grads and assorted friends. .

Matt, Nate, Alec
Lisa S pic

The wine accompanied a potluck dinner featuring pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, twice baked potatoes, salads, fruit and cake. From one of our favorite producers, Randy Lewis who also happens be be a former Indy 500 race car driver, Alec's Blend, Napa Valley Red Wine 2003, named for his Randy's first grandson. Another of our favorite wines from a favored producer, Mollydooker, Blue Eye'd Boy Mclaren Vale Shiraz 2006.

The wines
Lisa S Pic
Three special wines to celebrate our son Alec; the first, Michel Loriat Blanc de Noir Reserve Brut Champagne as a remembrance of our Champagne Wine Experience 2006 trip with Alec to Champagne France celebrating his High School graduation, taking advantage of his studies and fluency in French; also tasted were two birthyear vintage selections, from Napa and France: Domaine Boisrenaud Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1990, and Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Red Wine 1990.

Our collection of birthyear wines for each of our kids' birthyears were the subject of our feature in the Collecting section of Wine Spectator, June 2001 issue. See it recreated on our WineSite at

More to follow...The wines ....

Michel Loriot Blanc de Noirs Reserve Brut Champagne NV -

RM 89 points. 


Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend Napa Valley Red Wine 2003 

Dark inky color, full bodied, complex nicely integrated and polished layers of black berry, hints of black cherry and blueberry, mocha and spice with layer of soft lingering tannins.

RM 92 points.
Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006

Big brooding full bodied, dark inky purple color, aromas of earth and raisin, forward layers of tongue coating ripe black and blue berry fruits, glycerin, hints of clove and cinnamon spices on a lingering soft tannin finish.

RM 92 points.

Domaine de Beaurenard, Paul Coulon et Fils, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard 1990

Medium to full bodied, slight earthiness and leather accompany layers of black and green pepper that accompany the slightly subdued black cherry and black berry fruits with a hint of spice, moderate lingering tannins.

RM 89 points.

Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Red Wine 1990-
Very Bordeaux like - medium to full bodied, slight rust hue setting in, slight earthiness and leather accompanies the black berry and black cherry fruits, floral, hint of tobacco and black olive on a moderate tannin finish. 

RM 89 points.

The spectacular Viader Howell Mountain Estate was featured during our Viader Napa Valley Wine Experience 2008.

We tasted this wine with proprietor and winemaker Delia Viader who was featured at a Binny's an evening with Delia Viader vertical wine tasting in Lakeview, Chicago.
Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Perennial favorite high QPR (quality to price ratio) wine - we own this label going back to the inaugural vintage in 1993. We've featured Robert Craig at numerous tasting events and visited the Napa town tasting room and the winery atop Howell Mountain for harvest parties and special tastings. See our winery visits at Robert Craig Napa Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008, and Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09, See our Robert Craig featured wine producer dinners during our Napa Wine Experience 1998 and Napa Wine Experience 1999.