Saturday, January 26, 2013

Soaring Red Flight - Silverado Solo - Darioush - Château Faugères

Red Flight Soars High - Silverado Solo, Darioush, Château Faugères

Readers of this blog see many instances of our wine encounters with enticing wines, so its significant when wine buddy Bill says we may have outdone ourselves - tonight's wine dinner with Bill and Beth C was extraordinary in the pairings of great wines and food.Our rib-eye roast dinner wine flight served up three blockbuster reds that showcased different but complementary styles.

The evening featured Château Faugères St Emilion Grand Cru, Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Silverado Vineyards SOLO Napa Valley Cabernet Sauivignon over dinner. A starter course of lobster medallions was highlighted by Te Kairanga Casarina  Martinborough New Zealand Reserve Chardonnay. The evening finished with Warre's Quinta da Cavadhina Vintage Porto with the desert course.

The evening started with artisan cheeses (shown above with wine flight) - Stilton with berrys, white cheddar and danish blue, served with fresh berries and mixed nuts. Broiled lobster medallions with drawn butter followed.

The dinner featured a rib-eye roast served with grilled mushrooms, twice baked potatoes and fresh garden salad.

Desert featured Linda's baked apple and berry pie with apples, blueberrys and strawberries served alongside artisan hand-made chocolate truffles from The Chocolate Garden, a holiday gift from colleague Lora J.

Château Faugères St Emilion Grand Cru 1998

Following our attendance at the UGCB grand tasting grand tasting of the 2010 vintage release in Chicago this week, I was compelled to open with a vintage Bordeaux selection.

Decanted an hour before drinking, medium to full bodied, inky purple color, subdued nose but complex medley of flavors evolved throughout the evening - predominate black fruits, layer of graphite with tones of cedar, mushroom and leather with hints of anise and mocha. After ninety minutes a slightly funky barnyard tone set in but eventually burned off leaving a pleasant, complex but polished tone with nicely integrated firm tannins on the moderate finish.  

RM 88 points.

 Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

 This was a fitting selection for this evening. We first were introduced to this wine by Bill and Beth when we were invited by them to a wine dinner at their Cress Creek Country Club in the late nineties.

We visited the winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2003. Their fabulous winery and tasting facility on Silverado Trail in southern Napa Valley was not yet open but was well under construction at that timeTonight's wine selection was from the case we purchased during that visit.  

We then attended the gala Darioush - Domaine de Chevalier Gala Wine Dinner. This was a fabulous private dinner hosted by Darius & Shaptar Kaledi of Darioush Winery and Bernard Laborie of Domaine de Chevalier at Everest restaurant in Chicago in the summer of 2004. 

I mention this since we just saw Bernard at the UGCB grand tasting of the 2010 Bordeaux release in Chicago this week and we reminisced about that evening. See my UGCB blogpost of that evening.

This remains a blockbuster wine, living up to the tone set by the large oversize, almost magnum size bottle - dark inky color, full bodied, complex but smooth and polished, full forward black berry and currant fruits with a layer of spicy cinnamon oak with tones of black tea, anise, tobacco leaf and dark chocolate - well balanced and polished with nicely integrated silky smooth tannins on the lingering finish.

Blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot

RM 92 points.

Silverado Vineyards SOLO Napa Valley Cabernet Sauivignon 2006

Bill brought this cellar selection from home which set the stage with this Stag's Leap District Napa Cab for me to select the 'neighboring' Darioush Cabernet. Its hard to imagine the Darioush being upstaged but this flagship of the Silverado family is a huge blockbuster wine. It was a treat to experience this wine for the first time.

Dark inky purple, huge, powerful, complex forward black berry fruits accented by spicy toasty oak, leather and pencil lead on a tight firm lingering tannin finish.

 I can't wait to try this again and can imagine this wine after five or even ten years being more smooth and polished but still retaining that firm powerful core and long tannin finish.

This was a great transition progression, building 'up' from the Faugueres and then the Darioush. This wine begged for hearty cheese, dark chocolate, or charbroiled beefsteak.

RM 93 points.

Te Kairanga Casarina  Martinborough New Zealand Reserve Chardonnay 2005

Regrettably, this was the last bottle of this partial case I bought a while back.

Light golden honey coloured wine - medium-light bodied. Winemaker notes say it well - Hints of white peach, citrus and grilled hazelnuts with attractive vanilla oak characters. Nice easy drinking wine - tight acidity and good add a bit more body, richness  Since the earlier tastings, I sense this added a bit more body and complexity and actually possessed somewhat of a buttery oakiness resembling a Sonoma County style. Very nice and perfect complement to the lobster medallions and salad.

RM 89 points.

Warre's Quinta da Cavadhina Vintage Porto 1995

Dark coffee color - full bodied, a bit of an edge of sweet black fruits, layer of smokey creosote with hint of cedar and cassis and black cherry on the finish.

RM 89 points. 

This was one of WINE SPECTATOR’S Top 10 Dessert Wines for 1998

More to follow ... 

Wine flight - baked apple berry crisp with chocolate truffles

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux Chicago

Bordeaux Producers 2010 Release Tasting Chicago
Olivier Bernard -
Domaine Chevalier

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, currently on their United States Tour, came to Chicago this week. We attended their 2010 vintage release tasting held at the Drake Hotel in the grand ballroom. The UGCB, established in 1973, representing over 130 producers, developed and conducts wine-tasting programmes in France and abroad to educate about and promote the reputation and image of the Grands Crus of Bordeaux. This provides an special opportunity to meet the people involved in producing and/or promoting some of our favorite wines. For me, this was extra special to share my passion and this experience with son Ryan, who is developing a keen interest and discriminating palet for fine wine. For those that traveled so far to share with us their artwork, we say Merci et Bienvenue.

From January 18-26 the tour visits San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington in the US, and then on to Toronto and Montreal in Canada.

About 125 different producers served their wine to the trade during the day and then to a public tasting in the evening event sponsored by Binny's Beverage Depot, the leading wine merchant with over twenty-five stores throughout Chicagoland. Similar tastings were held in San Francisco, hosted by K&L Wines, in LA by Wally's, New York by Zachy's and in Washington hosted by Pearsons.

Our wine group consisted of Dr Dan, Ernie S., Lyle F, #1 son Ryan, Mike S., Mark C and myself. As has become our custom with the Grand Tour and other such gala tasting events, I picked the top wines I wanted to taste ahead of time and then we focused on those twenty-five or so selected wines during the evening. In truth, the evening would have been a success and I would have been happy to taste about ten select targeted wines.

Lyle, Dan with David Launay
Gruaud Larose Winemaker
For Dan, Ernie and me, the targeted twenty wines represent several of our favorite wines that we hold in our cellars that we collect and hence are most likely to purchase in this vintage release. They also represent wines we know well so that we can appreciate the new release against a historical understanding of the wines going back in some cases forty years to the 1970 vintage release or even earlier.

For Ryan, and his friends Mark and Mike, this gathering of a hundred different producers showing one horizontal release, was an excellent opportunity to experience and learn the styles and nuances of terrior of several different Bordeaux appellations and numerous leading producers from across the Bordeaux region.

Indeed, thirteen different appellations were represented with more than a dozen different producers representing Margaux, St Emilion and  Pessac-Leognan. There were at least ten producers from our favorites, St Julien and Pauillac, and another ten from Sauterne & Barsac. Any one of these would represent a horizontal tasting treat worthy of an evening in their own right.

David Launay - Gruaud
Larose Winemaker
The target wines mentioned above are represented by a half dozen different vintages in our cellars in many cases, and by more than a dozen different releases for several, and in some cases, as many as two dozen vintages. One such wine that we hold in abundance is Gruaud Larose which we still hold going back to the 1978 vintage including the years 1981, '82, '83, '85, '86, '88 through '1990 and into the nineties and the new millennium.We also still hold large format bottles of Gruaud Larose 1985 and 1990 for son's Sean and Alec's birthyears. (More on that below). So it was an honor and great fun to meet their winemaker David Launey and taste the new release in his presence. Being so familiar with this wine, we instantly recognized and commented on the change in style, to a vibrant, expressive and especially approachable wine at this young age. Much to the delight of the winemaker, David explained how they changed their technique in recent years to focus on the fruit resulting in a more approachable wine when young, for earlier drinking gratification.

A highlight of the evening was to see Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier and current President of the UGCB.   We've presented his wine at several of our wine group's gatherings including the grand tasting last summer, so we're all familiar with this wineWe were fortunate and honored to attend the gala Darioush - Domaine de Chevalier Gala Wine Dinner, a fabulous private dinner hosted by Olivier Berrnard and Darius & Shaptar Kaledi of Darioush Winery at Everest Restaurant in Chicago in the summer of 2004. It was fun to reminisce with him about that evening with him.  

Olivier Bernard with Ernie, Dan
and Ryan

Olivier shared a fascinating exposition  about the significant investment a producer makes in quality corks, and on the importance of  properly determining the 'top' and 'bottom' of the cork, thereby inserting the grain of the cork correctly so the proper end is 'wet', exposed to the wine, and the appropriate opposing end is left 'dry', exposed to the air. 

Another highlight was to taste Chateau Figeac St Emilion with son Ryan. This was one of his signature wines that we collected for his birthyear, 1982, which we've tasted together on many occasions including his wedding banquet. .We still hold this selection including large format bottles which we continue to enjoy on special occasions. Our large bottle collection of our kid's birthyear wines was featured in the Collecting section of Wine Spectator Magazine back in June, 2001. 

Ryan with Emeline Borie
of Grand Puy Lacoste
It was great fun and an honor to meet several other winemakers and executives of many of our favorite wines, including Nicolas Santier of Chateau Pichon Baron to get his perspective on the 1985 vintage large format Imperial we're still holding in our cellar to commemorate son Sean's birthyear. We had similar discussions about our cellar holdings dating back to the 80's with Gabriel Vialard Technical Director, Winemaker at Chateau Haut Bailly, Veronique Dausse, Managing Director Chateau Phelan Segur, Emeline Borie, who shares ownership and management duties at Grand Puy Lacoste with her father François-Xavier Borie co-owner and winemaker, and Figeac.

It was fun to see a strong showing from Chateau Coutet. Ernie got to share our recent tasting experience when he brought a 1959 vintage bottle to our autumn tasting dinner at Dr Dan's.  

St Emilion Grand Cru
Perennial favorite wines that were excellent, showing exceedingly well and met or exceeded already high expectations were Pichon Lalande and Pichon Baron, from Pauillac, Gruaud Larose from St Julien, and Figeac from St Emilion. The surprise new discovery of the evening was Chateau Clinet from Pomerol. Special honorable mention also goes out to Canon-Le-Gaffeliere St Emilion Grand Cru. Ernie and Dan both also liked and purchased the Lynch Bages Pauillac.

Highlighted wines were standouts with exceptional wines of the evening shown with ..

Select tasting notes and observations to come. Meanwhile ... 

The wines we tasted are listed below with highlights in bold:

Ernie & Dan with Lea Zuger of
Malescot St Exupery

Ryan with Veronique Dausse,
Managing Director, 
Chateau Phelan Segur

Gabriel Vialard Technical Director,
Winemaker, Chateau Haut Bailly


Chateau Clinet -
Moniqe Montepini
discovery of the evening!

Saint Estephe

Rick with Nicolas Santier
of Chateau Pichon Baron

Saint Julien
Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
Chateau Giuraud

Sauternes et Barsac

No shows? Two producers we specifically targeted and sought out that either were not in attendance or we did not find them - Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol and Chateau Larmande St Emilion. I have fond vivid memories of a case of Chateau La Conseillante 1983 that we enjoyed in the 1980's (before the internet and keeping blog posts or on-line tasting notes). We now realize we drank it too soon, or at the very least, should have saved a couple bottles to enjoy much later in the drinking window. I also remember first trying Chateau Larmande from that era as well. We are currently enjoying the 2005 vintage immensely which is drinking very nicely already. I'll strive to restrain myself and keep a few of these bottles for more mature drinking as we watch this wine age.   
Rick & Binny's Doug Jeffirs

Rick & Binny's Bill  Newton

More to come ...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mt Veeder Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Mt Veeder Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

I mention often here in my blog our many trips to Napa Valley and our practice, learned and refined after many years, of focusing on but one Appellation per trip. This not only allows for simplified and effiicient travel logistics moving from site to site, but allows immersive focus on the nuances of the terrior, or sense of place that represents a particular AVA (American Viticulture Area - aka Appellation.). AVA's are designated grape-growing areas distinguishable by their common geography and micro-climate such that they are reflected in the wines produced from there. Such boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the US Department of the Treasury.

AVA's are common in Europe such as the Italian Indicazione Geografica Tipica (DOC or DOCG) or the French AOC, Appellation Original Controllee system from Bordeaux. Those define characteristics of wine from a particular area with rigorous rules about what grapes can be grown and how they are tended and harvested. Unlike most European wine appellations of origin, an American AVA specifies only a geographical location from which at least 85% of the grapes used to make the wine must have originated from there to be designated or labeled as a AVA wine. Beyond labeling a wine from Napa Valley, then Mt Veeder or Oakville, the next level of granularity of labeling might be a specific vineyard designated wine such as the Hess Collection Allomi Vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon featured in my most recent blogpost. Most folks don't realize there are sixteen such appellations in Napa Valley and over fifty in Bordeaux!

Initial trips to any wine region should strive for exposure to the array of different styles that the area has to offer, but after basic understanding and appreciation of the range on offer, this approach of focusing provides for greater appreciation and minimum hassle. This approach served us well as we visited and traversed Napa's various appellations, especially those in the mountains - Howell Mountain, Atlas Peak, Diamond Mountain, and Spring Mountain District. But this approach was challenged on our last Appellation specific trip to Napa Valley Mt Veeder due its sheer size, the vastness of its geographic spread, and the ruggedness of the terrain.

As we traversed the length and elevations of Mt Veeder we came across several vineyards of Mt Veeder Winery, the producer whose namesake is this place. From their original Winery Ranch to the south that goes back over a hundred years, to the North Ranch high up the mountain, we saw Mount Veeder vineyards spread across the mountain. Mount Veeder vineyards represented not only the the ruggedness of the terrain carved out of terraces up against the hillside, but also the spectacle of the mountaintops with views to the valley floor far below and the distant vistas stretching to San Pablo Bay and San Francisco far to the south..

Mt Veeder's vineyards stretch from elevations of  1000 up to 1,600 feet high above the Napa Valley floor and represent diversity of subtly different micro-climates or growing conditions. Up above the fog bank that rolls in from nearby San Pablo Bay to the south, the mountain slopes are exposed to sun from early morning, yet they're protected from the afternoon heat by the surrounding mountains. The mountain fruit ripens slowly allowing it to hang on the vines longer in a longer growing season that lasts into late autumn, often into November.

The thin, rocky soils and the rugged mountain terrain means the scarce water drains quickly through the volcanic mountain soil. The slow growing vines produce small clusters of intensely-concentrated berries, giving extremely low yields—as little as half that of vineyards on the Napa Valley floor, but offset by the longer growing season.

Mt Veeder (Winery) grows all five of the Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec and produces Bordeaux style wines blended from them, but with a California Napa Valley flair characteristic of their intense mountain grown fruit. We've enjoyed this label since the early nineties.

I've heard legendary winemaker Robert Craig, who spent his early years on Mt Veeder, who produces designated Cabernet Sauvignons sourced from mountain vineyards on Mt Veeder as well as the other mountains from the corners of Napa Valley, as well as the valley floor, say his favorite is Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, for its intense flavors and firm tannins and backbone.

Hence, its noteworthy to pay attention to the producer whose name is synonymous with this classic characterization of Napa Valley's oldest and  most vast growing area. 

 Mt Veeder Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

This is a complex wine that changed its focus and revealed itself differently from initial opening to an hour later and moreso the next day. Its bold but lacks smoothness or polish. Deep, dark inky purple and garnet colored, medium-full bodied. An initial layer of intense slightly tart black cherry and ripe black currant fruits give way to full forward flavors of ripe plum with hints of caramel and with tones of anise and mocha. The lingering finish boasts vibrant complex layers of sweet oak, and tobacco with a touch of black olive on a firm tannin backbone core. 

This wine represents good value widely available on sale below $30.

RM 90 points.

Blend: 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec

Alcohol by volume: 14.0%

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hess Collection Napa Valley Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Hess Collection Napa Valley Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

We tasted this wine by the glass over lunch at Sweetwater Tavern and Grille on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. This smooth approachable easy drinking Cabernet Sauvignon was a nice compliment to the Rigatoni Pasta with italian sausage, tomatoes, basil, peas, goat cheese, tomato cream sauce, where normally a more moderate varietal wine would be more applicable, due to its softer more approachable style, over a cabernet.

Previously, this wine was recommended by colleague Matt M when traveling and dining together on a recent trip.

We first visited the Hess winery with its art museum exhibits back during our Napa Wine Experiences in the late eighties but we bypassed it during our in-depth Mt Veeder appellation Napa trip last year.

When one thinks of Hess, one naturally thinks of that property up on Mt Veeder on the southwestern side of Napa Valley where their winery and many of their vineyards sit high above the valley. So it was surprising to discover this Hess vineyard designated label from the Allomi vineyard in the rolling hills of of the opposite northeastern Napa Valley at the lower reaches of the backside or eastern face of  Howell Mountain.

We learned from our visit to Viader during our Howell Mountain appellation trip to Napa that the demarcation point between Napa Valley and Howell Mountain appellations is at 1200 feet of elevation due to the fog layer that rises to but tapers off there.

According to the producer, the 210-acre vineyard is composed of 35 blocks of six different clones that add a diversity of flavors to the blend.

This wine exhibits dark purple color, medium bodied, nicely polished, pleasant easy drinking in this moderate priced cab, it has nicely integrated current and berry flavors with a layer of spicy sweet cinnamon and cedar with tones of mocha and sweet oak on a smooth fine grain tannins on the moderate finish. Its represents a reasonable value on sale in the $22 price range.

RM 88 points.

Blend - 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Petit Verdot

Aged 16 months in American oak (25% new)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Duo of 1996 Vintage Reds - Robert Craig Mt Veeder - Lafon-Rochet

Duo of 1996 Vintage Reds for Birthday Celebration Dinner - Robert Craig Mt Veeder - Lafon-Rochet St Estephe

To celebrate friends Bill and Beth C's birthdays we drank two contrasting style 1996 vintage reds. I pulled a Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon while Bill brought a Lafon-Rochet St Estephe Bordeaux. To use the 'shape' metaphor in explaining the contrasting styles, the Craig with its single varietal Cabernet mountain fruit was 'narrower' but 'deeper' while the more complex blend of the St Estephe was 'wider' but more 'shallow'. Understandably, the Craig exhibited big round forward fruit flavors. The Bordeaux, while the fruit was more subdued, was more complex with multiple dimensions and combinations of flavors of graphite, earth, leather and spice accenting the black fruits. 

We celebrated dinner at Angeli's Italian Restaurant in Naperville, our favorite local trattoria. Breaking normal conventions of feasting on their pasta entrees, Bill and I both selected Angelis' Filet Porto to accompany our wines - a grilled filet of beef in a port wine sauce with spinach, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes. Beth chose the Tri-color Tortellini in Pesto cream sauce while L chose the asparagus ravioli 

A surprise highlight of the wine focused dinner was the perfect pairing of the St Estephe with the starter of Angelis' baked stuffed mushrooms stuffed with Italian sausage topped with mozzarella cheese. Another highlight was the perfect complement of the pairing of the Robert Craig Cabernet with the Port Wine sauce and the sweet tones of the sun-dried tomatoes.

Prior to dinner at home, we opened a gala Pierre Gimonnet Brut Cuis 1er Cru NV Champagne with cheeses, fresh fruits and mixed nuts. Back at home afterwards, we opened a near 1996 vintage Warre's Quinta da Cavadhina Vintage Porto 1995 with Linda's sinfully delicious flowerless chocolate cake with fresh berries.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

We've long been fans of Robert Craig and his family of appellation specific Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons featuring mountain fruits from three different Napa Mountains, Mt Veeder, Howell Mountain, and Spring Mountain District, and sometimes supplemented by another offering from Mt George.

We first met Robert back in the early 1990's when he was producing his handcrafted wines up on Atlas Peak. Robert started his winemaking career up on Mt Veeder and as such, this was his first Mountain designated release offering under the Robert Craig label, and fittingly, it is his favorite.

Shortly thereafter he released a Howell Mountain label which is typically my favorite, up until the limited release of his Spring Mountain District Cabernet in 2007 which I like even more! All the while, he also offers his Affinity Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which is a blend sourced from the numerous locations as well as the valley floor, a wine produced for more affordable early drinking.

We've met with the Robert and Lynn Craig and various members of their team numerous  times during our Napa Wine Experiences (1998), during their visits here to Chicago, and have visited their Howell Mountain winery harvest parties and special events, and of course their tasting room in town in Napa.

Perhaps our most memorable Robert Craig experience was a special luncheon we held up at the winery during our Napa Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008 - Robert Craig on the lawn overlooking the vineyards, the valley below, and the opposing Mayacamas range across the Valley. A photo of that picturesque setting (shown above) was Linda's screensaver for years and the subject of one of her oil paintings.

Looking at the index of our cellar inventory and tasting notes for the Robert Craig wines including Mt Veeder Cab, one can see we still have or have already drinkage every vintage of this wine dating back to the inaugural release in 1993.

We attended the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 (the four of us with Rachel pictured left) event, and have visited the Napa town tasting room with Bill and Beth, so it was only fitting we selected this wine for their celebration dinner. 

Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1996

This surprising vibrancy of the fruit of this seventeen year old attests to the longevity of these wines although its a bit more subdued than earlier years as it is approaching the end of its drinking window. Still medium to full bodied, moderately firm with dark purple color it showed juicy round full and forward black fruits of blackberry and black currant with a subtle layer of leather setting in, with cedar and hints of vanilla bean and creme de cassis, a touch of pencil lead on the finish with moderate lingering tannins. 

RM 90 points.

Château Lafon-Rochet St. Estephe Bordeaux 1996

Bill's tasting notes of the Lafon-Rochet from Cellartracker.

Medium garnet color. Damp earth, musty with a very slight hint of floral on the nose. This opened a bit tight but over 2 hours began to reveal much more fruit than I expected from a 17 year old St. Estephe. Medium bodied, some light fruit, cherry, cassis and plum on the palate. Also revealed some minerality, vanilla and a bit of oak. Nicely balanced with modest tannins and layered flavors. Really pleasant surprise.

WCC (and RM) 90 points.

Warre's Quinta da Cavadhina Vintage Porto 1995

Dark coffee color - full bodied, a bit of an edge of sweet black fruits, layer of smokey creosote with hint of cedar and cassis and black cherry on the finish.

RM 89 points. 

This was one of WINE SPECTATOR’S Top 10 Dessert Wines for 1998 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Godspeed Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet 1998

Godspeed Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

Godspeed Vineyards on Napa Valley Mt Veeder
We visited Godspeed Vineyards (left) during our Napa Valley Mt Veeder Appellation tour last spring when we picked up this wine in regular and 375 half bottles. Consistent tasting notes with earlier tasting although my recollection is that tonight this wine showed a little more fruit than previous tasting. Never-the-less, it is showing its age and diminishing as the fruit is giving way to other elements. 

The initial black cherry and black berry fruits have given way to a frontal layer of anise with cedar and leather giving way to a hint of raisiny fig and touch of dark chocolate with firm lingering musty tannins. While perhaps best suited for pizza or heady cheeses. it was a great complement tonight to a grilled tenderloin steak with spicy pepper spinach and grilled mushrooms.. Drank from a 375 bottle picked up at the winery last spring.

RM 84 points.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Duo of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons with Beef Tenderloin Dinner

A pair of Napa Valley Cabernets from Calistoga with beef tenderloin family dinner on Alec's last night at home before returning home to Sandy ravaged New Jersey. With Alec's colleague Kyle. Following recent tastings of Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and 2010, we pulled a 2006 from the cellar. For a comparison tasting we pulled another Calistoga area Napa Cabernet, Elizabeth Spencer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietor Blended Special Cuvee 2009. After dinner we had a Chateau Raymond-Lafon Sauternes 2003 with a selection of artisan cheese cakes.

Elizabeth Spencer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietor Blended Special Cuvee 2009

Elizabeth Spencer is a husband and wife wine-making partnership that produces small lots from fruit sourced from growers throughout Napa Valley. Only 60 barrels of the 09 Napa Cabernet were produced, a hand-crafted blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc from premier growers St. Helena, Howell Mountain, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and Mount Veeder districts.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, this shows bright vibrant full forward complex black and red berry and plum fruit flavors, accented by clove spice and hints of dark chocolate. with velvety mouthfeel, and naturally balanced acidity turning to firm integrated tannins on the finish.

RM 90 points.
Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

We enjoyed two recent vintages of this wine that exceeded our expectations so I was anxious to try this earlier vintage release in comparison. (See journal posting).

This wine was dark inky purple color, medium bodied with subdued briary black berry and hints of sweet strawberry fruits accented by clove, allspice, tones of creosote, smoke, and black licorice turning to a layer of firm dry tongue coating tannins on the lingering  finish. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley 88%, Knights Valley Sonoma County 8% and Lake County 5%.

Opposite the Spencer above with its bold vibrant forward berry fruits, the Sterling came across as smooth, polished with its more subdued style, this was the preferred choice of Johnny and Kyle.

RM 88 points.

Chateau Raymond-Lafon Sauternes Bordeaux 2003

Light honey colored, medium to full bodied, unctuous sweet pear and slight hint of honey, apricot fruit and vanilla bean with a tone of sweet nut and subtle smoke on a lingering tongue coating finish.

RM 91 points.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

20 year 93 napa cabs - Freemark Bosche - Del Dotto

Twenty year old Del Dotto and Freemark Bosche '93 Napa Cabs for 2013 New Years Eve Dinner

To celebrate the New Year 2013 at Bill and Beth C's, we featured twenty year old 1993 vintage Napa cabs for a gala dinner. Bill pulled a 1993 Freemark Abbey Bosche Vineyard and I brought a Del Dotto Rutherford to accompany beef tenderloins with shallots and mushrooms, escalloped potatoes and green beans. Prior to dinner we had lobster medallions in drawn butter accompanied with a flight of elegant whites highlighted by Fantesca Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008. Other whites included Domaine Servin Les Clos Chablis grand Cru 2009 and 90+ Cellars Lot 2 Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2011. To ring in the New Year, the evening culminated in Bill serving a Bollinger NV Champagne

Fantesca Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008

We first tasted this wine at the winery with Bill and Beth during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2009 visit to Spring Mountain. Heidi Barrett had just joined Duane & Susan Hoff at Fantesca as consulting winemaker and this was the legendary winemaker's first ever Chardonnay, showcased in this video on the producer's website. A superb accomplishment, indeed, in this refined Burgundian styled release fitting its elegant etched bottle and wood case packaging.

Butter colored, medium bodied, a symphony of well integrated and smooth crisp, bright, flavors of tropical fruit, melon, hints of lychee and under current of subtle citrus with a pleasant long lingering finish.

RM 92 points. 

Bill's tasting notes for this wine from Cellartracker:

Golden straw color in the glass. An interesting contrast to the '07. The '08 has overtones of peach and melon on the palate. The '07 leans more toward citrus flavors. Both are very clean and crisp on the palate, making Fantesca my favorite Chardonnay although I prefer the citrusy version. Very light on the oak. 

WC 92 points.

90+ Cellars Lot 2 Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2011

I've been looking for the right opportunity to write about this new label.  90+ Cellars has burst on the scene in recent years offering a wide selection of private labeled wines from around the world including Argentinan Malbec, Italian Pinot Grigio, Australian Shiraz and this New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. They buy and resell excess production from various producers under their own 'negotiant' label, often at a fraction of the offer's branded offering price. While such arrangements are typically discreet so as not to undermine the branding and pricing of the supplier/producer, the cat was let out of the bag so to speak when one of their recent offerings still had the original authentic corks in the bottles. Note the labels will  typically be very generic in nature regarding the source of the contents. Check the 'Lot number' on the label to identify each unique offering or to distinguish between various offerings similarly labeled.

90+ Cellars recent promotional tasting at local merchant
Don't count on all labels or subsequent releases to be this good since their offerings will vary from year to year based on what they can negotiate with their producer suppliers, but for the moment, this one is worth checking out.   

Under wide distribution, I've seen their displays of their family of wines at mega merchants Binny's here in Chicagoland to Super Buy Right Liquors in Thoms River New Jersey. This is a prime example of what in some cases are extraordinary high QPR value offerings (QPR - quality to price ratio). 
This Sauvignon Blanc is vibrantly expressive with tropical and citrus fruits with ripe melon and lychee with hints of herbal and gooseberry notes. Distributors notes - "Fresh, sweet fruit and crisp acid gives balance and an elegant structure with a smooth finish, a classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc".

RM 90 points.

The Cabs ...

My here features many tasting journal postings for these two Napa Valley Cabernets - Del Dotto and Freemark Abbey. New Years eve provided the perfect opportunity to showcase this mini horizontal of these two 93's side by side. 

 I believe the '93 Del Dotto Cabernet was their inaugural vintage release. We've written about discovering Del Dotto back in the early years following their feature in Wine Spectator as one of the 'Undiscovered' new emerging producers on the Napa scene. (See series of Del Dotto features on our unwindwine blogspot. ).  

The '93 represents the oldest Del Dotto in our cellar and the beginning of a dozen year vertical of this wine. As such, this was the oldest Del Dotto cab we'd ever tasted and our first tasting ever of this vintageI was anxious to see how this had held up and what this meant for our remaining collection holdings.

 D e l D o t t o Rutherford Estate C a b e r n e t S a u v i g n o n 1993 

Based on previous positive tastings of aged Del Dotto cabs, I was not surprised to find this twenty year old still holding up well. We decanted and aerated this upon opening, about two hours before tasting. The only sign of diminution might have been a slight astringency on opening which would be the case according to the tasting notes from the producer and from Wine Spectator for this release, shown below. The wine was most expressive about an hour after opening and then mellowed and softened a bit for the rest of the evening.

This wine was dark inky purple colored as seen in the carafe adjacent to the bottle, and full bodied. It opened with big full forward aromas and flavors of complex floral, cedar and spice with layers of concentrated fruit - cherry, black berry and plum, giving way to toasty oak and hints of cassis on a lingering floral and black fruit filled finish.

The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This was barrel Aged for 27 months in 100% New French & American Oak

RM 91 points.

Winemakers notes:  
Big, slightly soft, plum jam, berry, violet, vanilla, toast nose, that leaves a slightly floral impression. Lush, softly textured and forward plum, berry, spice cake flavors. It has a supple and gently mouth coating finish lit up by plum, black fig, violet, toast and baking spice notes.
Only 497 cases produced.

Wine Spectators notes: "Packs a wallop with its rich heart of earthy currant, mineral, spice and cedary oak flavors. Smooth and rich, given its size and concentration of fruit flavors. Drinkable now, but should age into the next century with ease. 497 cases made." (04/07) 92 points. 

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Bosché Vineyard 1993

Like the Del Dotto above, we have much experience with this wine and have featured it in several earlier wine journal postings - see including our recent mini vertical tasting of near vintage 91 and 92 releases of this wine.

This was an interesting tasting of these two '93s Napa Cabs, showing two contrasting styles with the Del Dotto exemplifying bold, forward fruit filled new world against the more subdued, complex old world Bordeaux like style of the Freemark Abbey Bosche', indicative of its longer history pedigree and pursuit of this label.

The Freemark was dark garnet colored with medium body, Bordeaux like earthy leather, graphite and creosote tones accent the cedar, mint and the black berry and black cherry highlights with a subdued finish. 

RM 87 points. 

Bills earlier tasting notes for this wine from Cellartracker:    

Medium red color with slight bricking around the rim. Some cedar and mint on the nose. No noticeable tannins, fairly simple but still significant fruit. Nice bottle of wine but time to drink.

Medium garnet color with a touch of orange on the rim. Opened with a musty nose but evolved over time to reveal some floral notes. On the palate, this evoked overtones of old world bordeaux with terroir dominating fruit. There were still hints of mint and eucalyptus that I normally associate with Bosche. 

More to come ...