Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Release Cab Blends and Eclectic Outliers Befitting Stuffed Pasta Shells Bolognese

For an early holiday season dinner, Linda prepared stuffed pasta shell bolognese and we tasted two new release Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux style blends - one old favorite from California Napa Valley and a new discovery from Washington State Columbia Valley. We also tried two varied 'southern' discoveries to complement the hearty entree - one from southern California and one from southern Italy. An interesting flight provided two comparative tastings in contrasting styles. The Cabernet Blends were the latest release Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve 2009 alongside the new release 2009 'Trutina' from Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley. The random selection was 'Melee' Grenache 2010 from Tuck Beckstoffer alongside a southern Italian Montevetrano Salerno 2007. For starters Linda prepared lobster tail medallions with drawn butter and we tasted chilled 2009 Napa Valley Pinot Grigio from Nils Venge Saddleback Cellars. Bill and Beth C brought the Tapestry and the Montrevetrano.

Dinner included a side of fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Anti pasta included a selection of artisan cheeses included my favorite Bellavitano, sharp cheddar and Manchego. To finish we had a selection of homemade holiday sweets - chocolate peanut butter fudge, pecan sandy cookies, chocolate mint brownies and pecan pie squares - all great accompaniments to the wines - white and red.

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve 2009 

We've been fans of Tapestry for over a decade. Indeed our vertical collection goes back to the 1996 vintage. I recently noted that the 2008 release was one of the most expressive I remember tasting. Well, the 2009 meet and may have surpassed the '08! I look forward to a comparison tasting between the two soon.

Dark inky purple color, medium-full bodied the 09 Tapestry shows deep briary blackberry and black cherry with a layer of cassis and hints of floral and graphite with moderate tannic backbone on the finish.

This was even better the next evening, more polished and elegant as the flavors seemed more balanced and the tannins better integrated. Pop it and let it open! *Add another point if you give it some time. 
The blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.

RM 91 points. *

Dunham Cellars 'Trutina' Columbia Valley Red Wine 2009

Like the Tapestry, we have a vertical collection of Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Blend going back a dozen vintages to the nineties. What a nice surprise to discover this unique offering from Columbia River Valley in Washington, not considered a Bordeaux varietal region. This is our first tasting of Trutina, a second label from Dunham at a lower pricepoint that offers great QPR (Quality to Price ratio) in this complex and expressive red wine blend. Not as polished or refined as the Tapestry perhaps but more full and forward showing dark inky color, medium to full bodied, full forward bright vibrant aromas and flavors of black currant and black cherry fruits with a layer of sweet caramel mocha on a moderate tannin lingering finish.

The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Syrah, and 4% Malbec.

RM 92 points.  

'Melée' Grenache 2010 from Tuck Beckstoffer

Wine enthusiasts will recognize the Beckstoffer name for their ownership of the legendary and exclusive To Kalon vineyard in southern Napa Valley - source of grapes to some of the most notable wines and labels from the region. Second generation Tuck Beckstoffer has created several brands and labels sourcing fruit from various sources throughout California.

This is the second release of Melée Grenache. The large heavy oversize bottle is the first indication this wine is not for the feint of heart. The artistic primevil label should be further indication this is a unique wine. I would like to think that the over-the-top packaging is not to make up for the deficiencies in the product, but rather make a statement about the product the producer is striving to make, and that this particular product is not my 'cup of tea' as they say. More to the point, this is not the style of wine that I prefer and tend to favor but it was fun discovering and tasting.

Grenache is a variety of grape generally grown in hotter climates such as Spain (Garnachia), Australia, the Southern Central Valley in California and in the Southern Rhone River valley in France. Grenache produces spicy, berry-flavored fruit that tends to be soft on the palate with a with a relatively high alcohol content. It is commonly used in blending Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines in the Rhone region, and in Australia with other Rhone varietals Syrah and Mouvedre to produce 'GSM' (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) wines.I've never been a fan of Grenache however its generally not found standalone, but rather its generally widely produced to be blended with other varietals of complementary characteristics where the sum of the parts is greater than the parts resulting in a more complex but approachable and enjoyable drinking blend.

The fruit for Melee is sourced from Central California. It is a deep ruby/plum color with characteristic Grenache aromas and flavors - cherry, black cherry, early season plum, scents of shale, new leather and a hint of tobacco,big forward flavors of red currant, hints of pomegranate and licorice with firm, tannins and soaring acidity that produce a long lasting, focused finish.

RM 87 points.

Azienda Agricola Montevetrano, Montevetrano Colli di Salerno IGT Red Wine Blend 2007 

From five hectares (ten acres) of estate vineyards about five miles inland from the coastal town of Salerno, Silvia Imparato’s Azienda Agricola Montevetrano boutique estate in the Comune di San Cipriano Picentino produces about 2500 cases a year of sophisticated complex ageworthy red blend wines per year since 1993.  Strongly persistent wines benefit from the coastal location and mild climate, in vineyards protected by the Picentini Mountain peaks. 

Deep, intensely dark concentrated ruby colored it exhibits floral scents of woodlands, violets, cedar and blackberry and cherry fruits. Intense full forward cherry and black cherry flavors are accented by spice with tones of  tobacco, tea and leather with balanced layers of firm tight tannins, acidity and wood.

Montevetrano is a Colli di Salerno IGT red wine made from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Aglianico Taurasi.
RM 89 points. 

Nils Venge Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Pinot Grigio 2009

I guess one shouldn't be surprised to find a Pinot Grigio from Napa Valley from Nils Venge, known for Cabernet Sauvignon and traditional Napa Valley Bordeaux varietals Merlot, Cabernet Franc and even Petit Verdot, considering his Scout's Honor Zinfandel Blend and smaller lot releases of Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Charbono, and Petite Sirah, but I was, and especially so to find it here in the midwest in suburban Chicago at our local Main Street Liquors & Wine Shop in LaGrange.

Being long time fans of Nils Venge and his wine-making artistry going back to his days as winemaker for Del Dotto Vineyards and his Venge Vineyards label, and his more recent work at Fantesca Estate Vineyards and Winery from the Spring Mountain District, we had to pick this up to try. 

We first met Nils at Del Dotto when he was their winemaker while also managing his Penny Lane Vineyard over at his Saddleback Cellars during our Napa visits in the mid and late nineties and then during our Napa Wine Experience in 2002  (below) which featured Venge Vineyards and Nils and Kirk Venge's Rossini Ranch.

Tasting Venge Penny Lane Family Reserve Cabernet w/ AJ
and Nils Venge at Tra Vigne in St Helena
This proved to be a great complement to the artisan cheeses - my favorite Bellavitano, sharp cheddar and Manchego, and the highlight starter course lobster medallions in drawn butter.

Grapes for this wine are sourced from four rows planted in 1995 right outside the door of the winery in Oakville, Napa Valley, and from neighbor’s, the Garvey’s vineyard, located just down the road. Venge proclaims enjoying a tradition of picking the Pinot Grigio themselves each year!

This Pinot Grigio was straw colored, medium bodied, flowery, perfumed  with crisp ripe fruits of lemon citrus, pear, and lychee, hints of pine-nuts with a clean, long finish.

RM 87 points.