Sunday, September 30, 2012

Plumpjack Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

Plumpjack Estate Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

A selection from our cellar remaining from a case we purchased at the winery during our Napa Wine Experience 1999. That trip featured one of our wine producers dinners featuring then Plumpjack associate winemaker Mary Pisor when we tasted Plumpjack 95 Reserve and pre-release ot the 97 Estate, and Plumpjack Chardonnay 1997. The then fairly new Plumpjack winery visit was one of our more memorable from numerous Napa trips during that time. This was the second vintage of PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon made from the grapes grown in the vineyards directly adjacent to the Oakville winery.

We pulled this bottle for our anniversary dinner a couple of weeks ago but didn't consume it then so we enjoyed it this evening over an intimate dinner of grilled Angus sirloin beefsteaks, corn on the cob and baked sweet potato, followed by baked chocolate cake and turtle ice cream. The wine was a great pairing to both the steak and the chocolate.

The Plumpjack Estate '96 opened with a big fruit and floral nose, dark garnet color and full body. Aromas and flavors of big ripe black cherry, black currant and black raspberry, a layer of cassis (more pronounced than earlier tastings' notes), and a slight hint of bittersweet chocolate, finishing with sweet soft oak from the French Demptos oak cooperage, and lingering soft tannins. At release this was projected to have "a long and vibrant life of more than 12 years." Well here it is at fourteen years just beginning to show any signs of diminution tempting promise of perhaps another half decade of enjoyable drinking, so we'll not rush the remaining bottles in our cellar, but expect no improvement from further aging.

RM 90 points.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Aged Napa Cabs - Mondavi Reserve - Rubissow-Sargent

Aged Napa Valley Cabernets - Robert Mondavi Reserve 1992 - 1993 and Rubissow-Sargent Mt Veeder 1996

For a grilled sirloin steak dinner Bill & Beth showed up with a Robert Mondavi Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1993, so we trolled the cellar and pulled out a 1992 for a mini-vertical tasting. We'd already set aside a Rubissow-Sargent Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 which provided a good comparison tasting to the similarly aged Napa Cabs.

For an starter course Linda prepared grilled lobster tail medallions which we served with Penn Shore Lake Erie Diamond - a semi sweet varietal wine from the southeastern shore of Lake Erie at the New York Pennsylvania border appellation. This was a perfect complement pairing to the hearty lobster - standing up to the full bodied, chewy unctuous tangy Diamond with its essence and layers of peach, clove, vanilla, hints of honey, cinnamon and tangy citrus.  

We discovered and purchased this wine at the winery during our recent tour of the Lake Erie Appellation and featured the Penn Shore Diamond in a recent wine tasting.

RM 88 points.

We had already pulled and decanted the Rubissow-Sargent to commemorate our discovery with Bill and Beth, Eric & Cathy, and Jan & Bill during our winery visit on Mt Veeder during our Napa Valley Wine Experience last year.

To finish we open a  Herbert Triebaumer Ruster Ausbruch, Rust, Burgenland, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland,  Austria 1996/87. "Ruster" is the town where the grapes are grown in the appellation of Rust, while “Ausbruch” describes the method of selecting and picking the most perfectly shriveled & botrytized grapes. While at one time this was probably butter colored, this exhibited a bright reddish rust weak tea color with a medium body.  Gone are the layers of peach and apricot that have given way to smoke, quince, honey and tangy lemons with aromas of vanilla. 

RM 85 points.

Rubissow Sargent Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

This wine pays homage to the early years of Tony Sargent and George Rubissow producing hand crafted Bordeaux varietal wines from their mountaintop vineyard at the south end of Napa Mt Veeder. At sixteen years of age, this shows the aging potential of these early releases as this wine is still holding up albeit approaching the end of its prime drinking window.

Dark garnet and purple color, this was medium bodied with pleasant black cherry and black berry fruit aromas, and flavors with a layer of kirsch, anise, tobacco, leather and hint of cedar on a moderate tannin finish.

RM 86 points.

Robert Mondavi Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 and 1993

Bills note from Cellartracker - "Medium garnet color, very restrained nose. Took about two hours for this to open up. Upon popping the cork, this showed signs of being well past prime. Seemed carmelized and thin although the color showed no bricking. Between 90 and 120 minutes, this opened to reveal anise, mocha and graphite and some remaining tannins. Nicely complemented by grilled marinated sirloin with peas and mushrooms and herbed rice with Rick and Linda. Rick provided a 1992 Mondavi Reserve, creating a mini vertical tasting opportunity. Fascinating experience.

The '92 was the better wine, opening earlier with more depth and complexity than the '93 and a deep indigo color. Still not much on the nose. However, as the two opened over a 2 hour period, it was very interesting to see the wines come together in similarity and style. The common heritage became quite evident."

My notes - These two aged vintage cabs both are starting to show their age almost begrudgingly revealing the subdued fruits of modest vintages. They both were a bit closed and tight tasting more like aged left bank Bordeaux than vibrant Napa cabs. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, slightly astringent cherry fruit give way to weak tea, tobacco, leather and graphite. Both were decanted and aerated on opening. The '92 was more full and expressive early on opening, with brighter fruit, albeit subdued, while the '93 was a bit thinner, taking over an hour to reveal its fruit at which time it also showed a layer of anise with hints of mocha and a soft floral essence on the finish.

92 - RM 86 points. 93 - RM 85 points.   

93 -

93 - 

My earlier notes on the 1992 reveal a rather short drinking window, from 3/28/2010 - rated 89 points at that time: Wow, I probably drank most of this case of this Reserve too young!, like I did too many of my 80's decade Bordeaux'. For a long time, this was rather closed and tight, only to now open up to truly reveal its complex, full bodied dark cherry, black berry fruits and long nicely integrated tannin finish. Slightly astringent on opening but softened over time. Needs decanting for aeration and to collect the sediment

This was the second to last bottle of a case purchased upon release. It'll be drinkable for another year or so but will be nearing the end of its drinking window by then.

Friday, September 14, 2012

BV Tapestry Reserve Vertical and Constant Red Blend Tasting

BV (Beaulieu Vineyards) Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve Vertical and Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard Red Blend Wine Tasting

What fun when we took a bottle of Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve 2004 to Bill & Beth's and Bill pulled out a 2008 to compare in this impromptu mini-vertical tasting. To round out the comparison tasting, Bill also served a Fred Constant Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Vineyard Red Blend from 1995. We tasted these with artisan cheeses, bacon wrapped figs, and Angelis Italian lasagna. 

We've been fans of BV Tapestry for a long time with our collection dating back a dozen vintages to the mid-nineties. Tapestry as it's name so aptly states, is a blend of classic Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and accent portions of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. The predominant Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the historic BV Ranches No.1 and No. 2 vineyards in Rutherford, selected from specific blocks of reserve-quality grapes that give Tapestry the combined attributes of rich character and softer tannins for relatively early approachability. To complement the Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is added from Beaulieu’s vineyard in the Los Carneros region and the remaining grapes in the Blend from various Napa Valley vineyards.

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve Red Wine Blend 2008

Wow. Immediately I stated that this is the most expressive Tapestry I can remember with its vibrant full floral perfume. Dark ruby color with a slight purple hue, medium-full bodied, polished, smooth and nicely balanced - big bright vibrant expressive floral tones that are pervasive throughout accented by sweet ripe black currant and black berry fruits, a layer of vanilla, hint of cassis and tangy cinnamon spice and pleasant sweet oak with fine smooth polished tannins with that clinging long floral essence that holds for minutes.This was remarkably approachable for such a recent vintage. Barrel aged in 50% new oak. RM 91 points.

Classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70)%, Merlot (16%), portions of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve Red Wine Blend 2004

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a bit tight and closed initially, it took more than an hour for this to open up and fully reveal black berry fruits, a layer of anise and tones of cedar, black tea and smokey oak on a moderate tannin lingering finish. RM 89 points.

The 2004 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry was barrel-aged for 20 months, with 70 percent new barrels, to add warm vanilla nuances. For even more complexity, they used a tapestry of different oak barrels; over half were French, with the balance being American, Hungarian and Russian.

Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard Red Blend Wine 1995

From high atop Diamond Mountain at the northern end of Mayacamas Range above the town of Calistoga, Fred and Mary Constant and consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs produce Bordeaux style red wine blend wines. We visited Diamond Mountain and Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard during our 2011 Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Wine Experience. Sitting at the summit at the top of the mountain, the site offers spectacular views overlooking both Napa and Sonoma highlands from over 2100 feet elevation. Constant is among the oldest wineries in the valley with history dating back to the late 1800's.

Dark purple color, medium bodied, subdued black berry and black cherry fruits with trace of tobacco, tea and leather on a moderate, short soft tannin finish. RM 87 points.  

Cabernet Sauvignon 73%, Merlot 18%, Cabernet Franc 9%

Even on a rainy day, Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards
offer picturesque views in a spectacular setting.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Killikanoon Shiraz, Clos D L'Oratoire, and Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon

Killikanoon Shiraz, Clos De L'Oratoire, and Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon accompany Contemporary Latin Steak Dinner

On a gorgeous early autumn afternoon in Chicago we followed a White Sox victory with a BYOB wine tasting dinner (see below) at trendy May Street Cafe in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood not far from the ballpark. Featuring contemporary Latin cuisine they offer Allen Brothers beef with flavorful Latin accents. To match the lively cuisine we brought two vibrant and expressive wines, Kilikanoon Clare Valley Covenant Shiraz 2005, and  Dunham Vineyards Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Dan and Linda brought two vintage Bordeaux, a Right Bank Clos De L'Oratoire St Emilion Grand Cru 2000 and Left Bank Chateau LaGrange St Julien 2003. 

2005 Kilikanoon "Covenant" Shiraz Clare Valley South Australia

Kilikanoon produces some of Australia’s finest wines under the direction of talented winemaker Kevin Mitchell, a broad selection ranging from Rieslings to Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz. Their line-up of Shiraz includes some of our absolute favorites with their premium 'R' and 'Oracle' Shiraz, their 'flagship', twice recognized as the 'world's best shiraz', Testament, Parable and Covenant labels, and lower value priced Killerman's Run label. Indeed, my Wine Journal Australian Producer Index lists over a dozen Kilikanoon label reviews over the years.  

Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz is produced from fruit from six different vineyards throughout the Leasingham Valley; each is fermented separately, basket pressed and aged for 22 months in a combination of new and older French and American small oak casks.  

 The 2005 "Covenant" is a blockbuster with inky dark garnet color, full body, tongue-coating chewy supple fruit that also coats the glass with long 'legs' or 'curtains' as our British friends call them. This is a huge fruit bomb boasting flavorful, sweet ripe blackberry, black raspberry and hints of blueberry fruits, with a layer of anise and vanilla, hint of milk chocolate and sweet oak and spice with a long lingering finish of full chewy tannins. This was a spectacular starter wine - so full and flavorful it stood alone as a meal course all by itself. It only got better as a compliment to the meal courses to follow. 
 RM 94 points.

Clos de L'Oratoire St Emilion Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux 2000

From the same producers of Right Bank Bordeuax St-Emilion AOC properties Château Canon La Gaffelière and La MondotteClos de l'Oratoire is from foothill (pieds de cotes) vineyards planted with 90% Merlot and equal parts Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This much heralded 2000 vintage release is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and promises to provide enjoyment for several years to come.

Showing deep crimson color, this is medium-full bodied, delicate and polished with intense forward floral bouquet with complex black fruits, black currant and cherry,  giving way to pencil shaving, smoky leather, black tea with bitter chocolate and clove spice on a smooth moderate tannin finish.

RM 90 points,

The delicate and polished Clos de L'Oratoire was a perfect accompaniement to the grilled steaks and vegetables but it was overpowered by the lively spices of the mac-n-cheese penne.,10,1

Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 

We first discovered Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon with the 1997 vintage and have since collected a nine year vertical of this wine, each adorned with the roman numeral denoting the sequence in the series of vintages for the label, the 2003 being the IX or ninth release. Each one we have tasted has been impressive and pleasing and this was no exception.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich round, full forward fruits of sweet plum and Bing and black cherries highlighted by clove, anise and pomegranate with sweet oakey finish laced with smooth polished chewy tannins. Comprised of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Lewis Vineyard, Frenchtown Vineyard, and Double River Estate Vineyard in the Washington State Columbia Valley near Walla Walla this juice was aged in 60% French - 40% American, 70% new oak - 30% used oak.

RM 91 points.

Allen Brothers New York Strip with May Street Cafe
Truffle Mac-n-cheese penne and grilled asparagas

Dr Dan and Mario Santiago May Street Cafe Executive Chef

For dinner, most of us opted for their Price Fixe' dinner menu - a good value offering full dinner salad with mango, choice of a New York Strip with a peppercorn candied cherry and cranberry sauce (shown above), or a shrimp and scallop combination, with a side of truffle mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes or rice; and desert of mango, white chocolate or bacon flan with caramel drizzle.  

We brought our own wine but there is a serious wine list with a somewhat limited but thoughtful selection at below market prices - big reds include Darioush, Silver Oak, Ramey, and Caymus Cabernets. The service was gracious and attentive and accommodating of our BYOB with a $15 (per bottle) corkage fee. 

Don't judge this book by its cover, its a fun, fine dining spot with good food and service. They hope to keep the outside patio seating open as long as November with the California space heaters.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Paloma Merlot and Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon at Wildwood Restaurant Geneva

Paloma Merlot and Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon

For our first visit restaurant experience to Wildwood Restaurant in Geneva, IL with Bill and Beth C, L and I took a bottle of Paloma Napa Valley Merlot 2003 which we thought would complement a wide assortment of entree selections from the dinner menu. We ended up ordering a range of entrees from Arborjack seafood to Prime Rib to Roasted Duck. The Paloma which follows in the footsteps of the blockbuster 2001 vintage that was Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year that year did not disappoint. While earlier reviews of this wine were more modest, tonight it lived up to the reputation it earned with the WS prestigious selection. From the extensive winelist Bill and I both zero'd in on the same selection, the O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, however while listed, it was not available. By this time we were well in to the Paloma which was turning out to be spectacular, so we 'upgraded' our second choice from Van Strasser Diamond Mountain to the 2009 release of Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

PALOMA Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003

Consistent with my earlier tasting notes, this was even better than I expected and remembered, medium full bodied, smooth polished, complex harmonious symphony of finely integrated aromas and flavors - predominant sweet black currant, red raspberry, milk chocolate, a hint of ripe plum, sweet oak and a bit of burnt sugar caramel on the long smooth polished finish.This was a great compliment to the roasted duck in strawberry and cherry vinegrette sauce.  

RM 93 points. 

 Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Historically, this is one my favorite Napa Cabs, having had many memorable bottles over the years. Matched up against the Paloma was a tall order, and coming off the spectacular showing of the Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend the other night we chose the Lewis Cab 2009. This promises to be a blockbuster with its initial 94 point rating from Wine Spectator. My experience is that this wine drinks well young, not needing many years to be approachable and  reveal its potential. Bill was a bit skeptical of its readiness to drink. I think we were both right. It was very good and drinking quite well already, but it will clearly still improve with a half dozen years of cellaring to soften and round out a bit of its edginess. In retrospect, I wish I'd ordered the New York strip steak. This would've made for a dynamite combination. The Lewis was too much wine for the Roasted Duck! Still it was delicious!

Big full bodied, a bit tight, forward complex ripe black berry and black currant fruits with spicy oak, hints of vanilla, mocha and a layer of cedar on the lingering tannin finish. 

RM 92 points.

Based on and encapsulating the producers' notes, respected merchant K&L summarizes this wine: "2009's long, cool growing season produced low yields of concentrated, fragrant berries with high natural acidity in the hillside vineyards of Calistoga and Oak Knoll that are the source for Lewis' Napa Valley Cabernet, resulting in a perfumed and complex wine with incredible finesse. Though still powerful and rich in the signature Lewis style, elegance and refinement displace the brawn of past vintages.The nose leads with scents of blackcurrant, rose petal, and baking spice, accented by hints of savory herbs, forest floor, and toasty oak. This leads to a rich yet refined palate, where layers of juicy fruit and oak spice are framed by acidity and fine tannins. Graphite and hints of cocoa lightly dust the lingering tannins, as the wine finishes clean and surprisingly light on its feet." 

Bruno Desaunay-Bissey Grands-Echezeaux Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2003
Before setting out for dinner, Bill opened this Bruno Desaunay-Bissey Grands-Echezeaux Burgundy, 2003. It was medium bodied, garnet colored, and exhibited full floral bouquet, earthy leather, subdued fruits of slightly tart black cherry and blackberry, with a layer of tobacco and spice box on the moderate tannin finish.

RM 86.