Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bordeaux 2003 Horizontal Tasting on the Cityscape Deck - Grilled Steak Dinner

Bordeaux 2003 Horizontal Tasting on the Cityscape Deck - Grilled Steak Dinner

Lyle and Terry hosted the end of summer gala dinner featuring No-Name steaks grilled on the open air deck for our themed horizontal tasting of 2003 vintage Bordeaux. The Bordeaux flight consisted of nine labels including two 'super-seconds', four Grand Cru Classes, eight from the Medoc left bank and one Pomerol right bank.

Against the cityscape views of Sears (aka Willis) Tower and the clock tower on the horizon, the pre course featured a broad selection of artisan cheeses, olives, and a myriad of crackers and biscuits. Highlights of the course were cold crab salad served with cracked black pepper and sea salt crackers, (and 5 others), and tasty grilled scallops served with a balsamic and soy sauce dip. 

The white flight started with vintage champagnes -  Dan's 1999 Philippe Prié Champagne Cuvée Love Flowers Brut and John's 2002 Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve, Bill's Fantesca Sonoma County Chardonnay 2008, Dan's Geyser Peak Napa Valley Chardonnay 2000, and, keeping with the 2003 Bordeaux theme, I added a Chateau Bastor-Lamontagne Sauterne 2003.

Sears aka Willis Tower
view from deck
2003 Vintage Bordeaux Horizontal Flight

Terry's terrific dinner menu:
  • Steaks served with Bordelaise sauce or Gorgonzola butter with snipped chives or horseradish.
  • Pans of Terry's Terrific Taters.
  • Sautéed Portabello mushrooms with Bordelaise Sauce.
  • Smokey asparagus with mushrooms and bacon.
  • Zucchini Ribbon Salad with a lemon vinaigrette. 
  • Apple and Bleu cheese Salad
  • Garlic Knot rolls.

As good as the starters and dinner with their accompanying wine flights were, a highlight of the evening was the dessert course featuring a selection of Ghirardelli chocolate squares, a delicious Mandarin Orange Cake with whipped cream, Terri's grand decadent Cherry Chocolate Fudge Cake with fresh raspberries, all accompanied by two spectacular wines, John's Cayuse Vineyards Walla Walla Valley Cailloux Vineyard Shiraz 2007 and finishing with Lyle's Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1991

The Wines:

Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Champagne Vintage 2002

John brought this limited release vintage Cuvee Reserve Champagne from Pol Roger.

Silvery and golden yellow straw-like colour, silky smooth, crisp bright and full of intensity, a nose of fresh honey, candied citrus grapefruit and lime - full and long fresh clean texture, harmonious and balanced.

Blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay

Aged for nine years before release.

We saw Pol Roger Winery in Epernay during our Champagne Wine Experience 2006.

Philippe Prié Champagne Cuvée Love Flowers Brut 1999

Dan brought this vintage 1999 special bottling Champagne from the Côte des Blancs, two hours south of Epernay on the Côte Des Bar where the plains of Champagne transition to the rolling slopes of Burgundy. 

Golden brownish weak tea colored, complex, full flavored, forward pallet and long finish slightly smokey roasted nut, baked apples and pears, pineapple, dried fruit and citrus. 

50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay

Château Bastor-Lamontagne Sauterne 2003

In keeping with the 2003 Bordeaux horizontal theme for fun but not for comparison tasting, this Sauterne provided a nice transition from the Champagne course to the Chardonnays, although many would've preferred waiting till the after dinner course. To me, there is always time for a 'sticky', this was great with the artisan cheeses, olives and of course the grilled scallops.

Its 50 hectares of vineyards border those of Château Suduiraut and are planted with 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Medium to full-bodied and packed with lusciously sweet, honeyed fruit, Bastor Lamontagne can be drunk young, though develops further complexity with 5-10 years of cellaring.

Its always fun to watch these sweets darken in colour with age, starting from straw to lemon or butter color, to honey colored to weak tea and over time eventually turning to cola colour if you and they live or last that long.

This ten year old was honey colored, medium to full bodied, rich unctuous full flavors of sweet peach, hint of apricot, citrus, grapefruit and ripe sweet pear on the finish.

RM 90 points.

Fantesca Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008

Fantesca is featured regularly in this blog but usually for their estate bottled Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. Tonight, Bill brought their notable Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay, the first such wine produced by legendary consulting winemaker Heidi Barrett. Bill and I tasted this selection during one of our visits to the fantastic Fantesca Estate, this time during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2008. It was acquired through the Fantesca wine club.

Bill's notes from Cellartracker - "Golden straw color in the glass. Some oak on the nose belies the abundance of citrus and butter on the palate. Exceptionally well balanced with a hint of vanilla. Our favorite chardonnay."

WCC - 90 points.

Bill is a big fan of this Burgundian style California chardonnay. Bottled in the traditional Fantesca packaging with its stylish etched bottle and featuring one of their novel 'fortune corkies', this one quoting Mae West, "When woman go wrong, men go right after them." (Right)

Dan brought another Russian River Valley Chardonnay.

Geyser Peak Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2000

The Bordeaux Flight:

Château  Le Gay Pomerol 2003

Eric brought this sole representative of left bank Bordeaux from a property situated between prestigious Petrus and Lafleur. He sourced this at Kahn's Fine Wines in Indy. This was one of the favorites of the evening, starting the flight lineup with its smooth soft easy drinking high achiever.

Deep ruby purple color, medium to full bodied, full aromatic bouquet of blue and black berry fruits accented with nicely balanced, concentrated smooth polished fruit flavors with hints of anise, soft sweet spice with a lingering moderate tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Château Grand Vin Leoville Las Cases St Julien 2003

Ernie and I teamed up to offer this mini vertical tasting - he brought this '03 to fill out the horizontal and I brought the '93 below. This 'super-second' (growth) is one of my favorite Bordeaux wines with its classic label depicting the gates to the expansive vineyards that sit adjacent to classic first growth Chateau Latour in neighboring Pauillac.    

At ten years of age, we probably drank this bruiser ten or even twenty years too early but it showed very well and was quite approachable and expressive none-the-less. 

Bright ruby colored, full bodied, big, aromatic vibrant flavors of ripe berries, ripe cherry, anise, spice, hints of vanilla and smooth sweet oak on a full lingering moderately firm tannin finish.
RM 93 points. Wine Spectator rated this wine 97 points, RP 93 points.    

 (13.2% alcohol) A blend of 70.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17.2% Merlot, and 12.6% Cabernet Franc.

Château Grand Vin Leoville Las Cases St Julien 1993 

This is the last bottle of my case of 93 and I realize I drank much of it too soon. And we drank this bottle too early (after opening) as it was still a bit closed and subdued this evening. The following evening, it burst with full aromas and flavors of floral, black fruits, dark spicy mocha, cassis and earthy leather. Dense, medium to full-bodied, dark inky purple colored, nicely balance and concentrated  with smooth polished lingering tannins.

RM 92 points. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 90 points

Château La Grange Grand Cru Classe St Julien 2003

Dan and I each brought this wine which showed bigger, more full, nicely balanced, smoother and more polished than I expected, one of the best LaGrange I have tasted.

Medium to full bodied, dark inky purple colored, aromas and flavors of black berry, black cherry, violet floral with hints of coffee bean, mocha, tobacco and earth with soft smooth lingering tannins.

RM 91 points.

From a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Grand Cru Classe Pessac Leognan 2003

From Lyle's cellar this full bodied, dark garnet colored, this was full bodied, a bit tight and firm with black berry and black currant fruits, lead pencil, licorice, cigar box, herbs and cedar. This comes across with a bit of a woody almost slight green grassy taste that I can't get over. This was consistent with my other tastings and other vintages of this wine. My experience isn't consistent with others' tastings and ratings.

RM 88 points.

This was rated 93 points by Wine Spectator and Ranked #58 in their Top 100 Wines of 2006. Robert Parker gave it 92 points.

Blend of  55 % Cabernet Sauvignon,  30 % Merlot, 13 % Cabernet Franc, and 2 % Petit Verdot.

Château Haut Batailley Grand Cru Classe Paulliac 2003

From the same owners as Grand Puy Lacoste, this property is a source for classic Pauillac at a reasonable price. This was an stand-out easy drinking high achiever for the evening.

Bill brought this one - his tasting post:

Deep garnet color. Moss, mushroom and some dark fruit on the nose initially, giving way to sort of a metallic, terroir based aroma. Currant, plum and dark berry on the palate with a bit of oak. Well balanced with integrated tannins. This is drinking very well right now. Will certainly last 10 more years but why wait? Don't believe it will get much better.
WCC 89 points. 

My notes - Medium - full bodied, vibrant and expressive blackberry and currant fruit with a layer of cedar and spicy oak.

RM 89 points. 

Blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc.

Château Pibran Pauillac Cru Bourgeois 2003

Another selection from Lyle's cellar, one of the few Cru Bourgeois in the commune of Pauillac. Despite the low level of les Bourgeois, this provides a pleasant easy drinking glass of Bordeaux. 

Medium bodied with aromas and flavors of black cherry, plum, hints of tobacco, cedar, and black olives with a bit of heat on the lingering moderate tannin finish.
RM 87 points

Château Pontet Canet Grand Cru Classe Pauillac 2003

From Ernie's cellar, another consistently highly rated long lived Bordeaux from a vineyard on the plateau of Pauillac across the road from classic first growth Mouton-Rothschild. This is a classic Pauillac-styled wine and one of the highest rated of the vintage. This long lived brute was surprisingly approachable at ten years, moreso than other near vintages, and should continue to be at its prime for another decade or even two.

Dark inky purple, full-bodied, dense and concentrated with layers of complex fruits - black currant, black berry and black raspberry with a layer of cassis, smoke, cigar box and toasty oak on a firm but approachable lingering tannin finish.
RM 92 points.

Parker gave this 95 points while Wine Spectator rated it # 39 in its Top 100 Wines of 2006 with 93 points.

Les Pagodas de Cos St Estephe 2003

Bill brought this second wine of notable Cos d' Estournel. His notes:

Inky, opaque, deep purple color. Dark fruit and pencil lead on the nose. Blackberry, leather, herbs and a bit of cola on the palate. Certainly representative of St. Estephe and the Cos d'Estournel heritage is evident albeit a lighter weight version. Nothing earth shaking here but a really nice, drinkable Bordeaux showing well now.
WCC 88 points.

My post - Full floral violets, earthy black cherry, black raspberry with hint of leather and pencil graphite. 
RM 88 points.

John brought these two wines from the Washington State in the US Pacific Northwest, a Bordeaux style red blend and a classic Syrah:

Côte de Bonneville Debrul Vineyard Estate Bottled Yakima Valley Red Wine Blend 2006

In the left bank Bordeaux style, this is two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one-third Merlot, all sourced from the estate’s DuBrul Vineyard.

Dark ruby colored, medium bodied, it fit the profile of the left bank Bordeaux although it was lighter and less structured than I might have expected, perhaps suffering to the inevitable palate fatigue of the end of the long flight.

Aromas and flavors of black cherry and black currant with subdued tones of cassis, mocha and spice with muted earthy leather on a moderate tannin finish.
RM 90 points. WS gave it 95, WE 94pts and WA 91.

Cayuse Vineyards Cailloux Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Syrah 2007

Pity the folks that considered this a wine to be part of the dinner flight, this was suited for the dark chocolate desserts and more. A perfect set up to the Vintage Port. Pairing this up against the Bordeaux is like bringing a gun to a knife fight. John offered up this classic Washington State Syrah from his cellar. What  a treat. This was Linda's favorite.

Cayuse is the work of Frenchman Christophe Baron who grew up  near the village of Charly-sur-Marne in the Champagne region of France, the youngest of the centuries-old Champagne house, Baron Albert, his ancestors had worked the land since 1677.

After studying viticulture in Champagne and Burgundy, Christophe set off for America, landing in the Pacific Northwest the region similar to Burgundy and suitable for his beloved Pinot Noir. While visiting Walla Walla near the Oregon/Washington border, he came across an open field littered with acres of softball-sized stones. The terroir reminded him of the cobblestones of the southern Rhone valley and Châteuneuf-du-Pape.

Christophe purchased the property and planted his first vineyard in 1997. He called the venture Cayuse Vineyards, after a Native American tribe whose name was derived from the French word “cailloux” which means “stones.” Today there are seven vineyards, soon to be eight, encompassing more than 55 acres. Cayuse produces classic Syrah based big rich powerful wines under a dozen iconic labels. 

This Cailloux Vineyard Syrah was full bodied, rich, concentrated, complex and powerful, an array of aromatic floral, dark chocolate and licorice, leading to thick chewy dark berries before turning to a layer of tar and black pepper on a firm lingering finish.
RM 94 points. 

Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator and David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate gave this 95 points while Jay Miller gave it 97 points.

Fonseca Guillarmaens Vintage Port 1991

Lyle's selection, the 1991 Guimaraens was considered one of the best of vintage.

Medium - full bodied, opaque purple color, smooth, polished, supple, rich with sweet forward full aromas and flavors of blackberry with layers of cassis, licorice, a hint of dark mocha and flowers. This was was silky smooth, pleasant and amazingly easy to drink - even for those that are not port lovers who otherwise consider it 'over the top'. This must be at its apex now - at the prime of its drinking window.

This was a perfect complement to the dark chocolate desserts.
RM 93 points. Robert Parker Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator 93 points.

More pictures of the deck crew on a beautiful clear late summer evening on the deck ...


The beef!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Venge Vineyards Oakville Napa Valley Family Reserve Penny Lane Vineyard Sangiovese

Venge Vineyards Oakville Napa Valley Family Reserve Penny Lane Vineyard Sangiovese 2002

We first tasted and purchased earlier vintages of this wine at the winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2002. We then purchased this and follow on vintages of other Venge wines from the producer. 

We first met Nils Venge when he was consulting winemaker for Del Dotto Vineyards. Nils is a Napa Valley legend known for Cabernet Sauvignons such as his work consulting to Fantesca in their early years, another one of our favorites. My last blog posting on this wine and Nils speaks to his legacy and involvement in Sangiovese in Napa Valley.

Linda and I took this bottle to Angelis Italian, our favorite local neighborhood family restaurant for a intimate dinner. Readers of this blog will know we drink Napa Cabs, Bordeaux and Aussie Shiraz, but not much Italian wine. This is our answer for Italian dining as we enjoy this native Italian Sangiovese varietal based wine with authentic natural fresh Italian cuisine. 

Consistent with the last bottle tasting of this wine, this was different and much better wine than earlier tasting. Similar to the 2000 vintage journal review with its dark garnet color and medium bodied, this was bursting with full forward flavors of dark berry, hints of red berry fruits, with subtle tones of herb and anise notes and touch of leather and tobacco on a moderate tannin lingering finish. 

RM 91 points.



Friday, September 6, 2013

Spring Mtn Classics - Fantesca Cab and Paloma Merlot Highlight Engagement Celebration Dinner

Spring Mountain Classics - Fantesca Cabernet and Paloma Merlot Highlight Engagement Celebration Dinner

To celebrate the engagement of friends Dan and Anastasia, we hosted a gala dinner featuring classic Spring Mountain wines with stylish etched and hand painted bottles. This follows our recent tastings of  Spring Mountain District Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

To start we opened a festive testament Champagne, Pol Roger Extra Cuvee De Réserve.  With a selection of artisan cheeses brought by Dan & Anastasia, the caprese salad course and into dinner we served Paloma Spring Mountain Merlot 2003 from their gold gilded hand painted bottle with the dove .

With the grilled New York strip steaks entree, green beans and baked potato au gratin we served Fantesca Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from their classic elegant etched glass bottle and hand painted testament to Fantesca, the bold, smart sexy vivacious character of the sixteenth century Commedia della Arte stage (see rear bottle, below).

After dinner with fresh berries and chocolate mousse, we served a Freemark Abbey Edelwein Late Harvest Johanisserg Riesling 1999.

The cheese selection included (left- clockwise from top) Bellavitano, ten year old aged cheddar, Danish Blue, English Cotswold and Norwegian gjetost. 

Pol Roger Extra Cuvee De Réserve Champagne

Of course its only true Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in northeastern France in the valley between Reims to the North and Epernay to the south. We saw Pol Roger Winery in Epernay during our Champagne Wine Experience 2006.

Full rounded, complex, crisp and elegant easy-drinking, tones of citrus, grapefruit, pear, almond nut and a touch of yeast with a bit of sharpness and bite on the finish.

RM 89 points.

Paloma Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003

The Paloma estate sits high atop Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Range on the eastern slope overlooking Napa Valley between 2060 and 2240 feet elevation. The property is five miles northwest of the town of St. Helena. The 20 acres are planted in 15 acres of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Paloma gained notoriety when the 2001 vintage of this wine was designated #1 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of the year 2003. This selection lived up to those lofty accolades and expectations. At ten years old this must be at or approaching its apex as it is drinking better than any of the previous half dozen bottles we've tasted from our case.

I was worried at first when decanted as the color seem a bit dark with a slight brown hue but the aromas were pure berry. Medium bodied, silky smooth, elegant and polished with complex layers of raspberry, sweet current, blue and black berry highlights. This tasting was consistent with my last posted tasting notes from a year ago this week when I wrote, "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."

Thankfully but also regretably, we only have about four bottles left. I extended my drinking window in Cellartracker which was listed as drink by 2011, to 2016.

RM 93 points.

Paloma Merlot is a blend of Estate Merlot with some Estate Cabernet Sauvignon that ranges from 12 to 18 percent depending on the vintage. It is aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels for nineteen months of aging.

Fantesca Estate and Winery, Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

We visited Duane and Susan Hoff and their spectacular mountainside estate of Fantesca Spring Mountain Estate and Winery during our Napa Wine Experiences in 2007 and in 2009With their elegant etched glass bottles, we enjoy serving this wine at special occasions such as tonight. And we love their sophisticated and elegant wines too.

Fantesca Napa Valley,
Spring Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon
Etched glass, painted bottle.
(2006 shown)
Medium-full bodied, dark garnet color; complex but smooth and polished with bright forward fruits of black currant, dark berry and black cherry, accented by sweet dark chocolate, a hint of cassis, and a tone of spice on the lingering refined tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Edelwein Late Harvest Johanisserg Riesling 1999

We're big fans of Freemark Abbey having visited the winery on numerous occasions including our cellar tour and library tasting during our Napa Wine Experience 2009. Tea colored, thick, medium-full bodied, tones of apricot and peach with honey citrus flavors and a slight smokey unctuous finish - more expressive and vibrant that last tasting.

RM 92 points.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pinot Noirs for Causal Summer Grill - Awesome Dessert Combo

Pinot Noirs for Causal Summer Grill - Awesome Dessert Combo

Invited over to Bill and Beth C's for a casual dinner of gourmet grilled burgers on the deck, Bill served one of my favorite Pinot Noirs, Domaine Serene Evensted Reserve Pinot Noir. For a comparison tasting, I took over a Ladera Pillow Road Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir. To round out the comparison tasting, Bill had a Trader Joes Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Afterwards, Bill prepared grilled carmelized peaches marinated in a bourbon honey reduction served with ice cream. For such a delicious special treat, he poured a suitably fitting delicious dessert wine - Kracher Chardonnay TBA #9.

Domaine Serene Willamette Valley Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2005

Bill's notes from Cellartracker - My style of Pinot. Bright garnet in the glass. Plenty of structure. Complex layers of sour cherry, smoky blackberry and oak. Balanced but with the acidity one old expect and a tremendously long finish.

WCC - 90 points.

Linda and I discovered this wine at a memorable outing during one of our get-away weekends to Chicago,  at Smith & Wollensky sitting outside overlooking the river for a summer afternoon wine, salad and cheese interlude. 

My notes - This is my standard bearer for how a Pinot should taste. They produce at least three ultra premium priced pinots above this one, none of which have I tasted. I look forward to doing so at some point as I love this wine. I am not a fan, however of their lower priced entry level offering, Yamhill Cuvee. 

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, scents of anise, full flavorful black fruits, hints of anise and spicy cinnamon with a touch of oaky vanilla on the smooth silky finish. 

RM 92 points.

Ladera Pillow Road Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2006

We first tasted this wine at the Ladera Winery up on Howell Mountain above Napa Valley, where they are known for their Cabernet Sauvignons, during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2008. The Ladera owners, the Stotebery's also own this property up in Sebastopol on the southern end of the Russian River Valley about fifteen miles from the Sonoma Coast. They have 20 acres of Pinot Noir

Garnet colored, medium bodied, aromas of cherries, spice and cola with hints of oak which lingers on the finish.

RM 89 points.

Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Lot #22 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012

A respectable effort in this easy drinking entry level Pinot that provides reasonable QPR - Quality Price Ratio. Its hard to find a low end entry level Pinot such as this. Pick some up for pizza and moderate pasta dishes.

RM 85 points.

Alois Kracher Nouvelle Vague Chardonnay TBA (Trockenbereene Auslese) #9 2002

Austrian Alois Kracher produces some of the world's best dessert wines.

Bill's notes from Cellartracker - "Deep golden amber color. Peach and honey on the palate with just enough acidity to keep this from being cloying. Served with grilled peaches infused with bourbon and honey topped with peach ice cream."

WCC 91 points. 

My notes - Like other Krachers, this one exhibits honey color and is full bodied, thick and chewy - compared to other Krachers, this one has an essence of honey moreso than fruit flavors, still flavorful with a hint of apricot and hasn't given way to more neutral smoke and nut flavors that sometimes set in as the fruit diminishes ...

RM 91 points.

Bourbon and honey infused grilled peach.
Bourbon, honey infused peaches with
ice cream.