Saturday, July 26, 2014

Napa Cabernet and White Pairing Flights Showcase Grilled Steak and Salmon dinner

Napa Cabernet and White Pairing Flights Showcase Grilled Steak and Salmon dinner

Still in process but a starter of wine journal notes... 

For a mid-summer wine dinner Linda prepared grilled sockeye salmon, strip steaks, asparagus spears, twice baked potatoes, mix green salad and some surprise deserts and palette teasers. Beth brought a squash casserole accompaniment. Prior to dinner we feasted on a medley of artisan cheeses brought by Dan, and shrimp cocktail.

Often when we're gathering we determine a wine theme for the evening and folks bring something accordingly. Tonight we were void of a theme other than folks knew the general menu offering. I find it remarkable how our wine pairing flights came together to create a wine experience and to complement the food. Of course Bill brought a vertical duo pairing, and we created a pairing with me matching Dan's Cab and Champagne selections. But ironically, Lyle and Bob each brought similar regional Sonoma Cabernets to compare. And of course I crafted the white flights to the meal selections. The result was a fun, interesting and intriguing wine experience.

The first wine flight was a pair of French Champagnes - Dan brought this Charles Mignon Cuvee Comte De Marne Brut Grand Cru and I pulled a Lanson Black Label Brut NV from our cellar.

Grilled Sockeye Salmon Platter

With dinner salad and the salmon we served Kim Crawford Marlborough Dry Riesling 2006, and then Maldonado Los Olivos Vineyard Napa Valley Chardonnay 2005, respectively. Then came a surprise. Linda prepared a mango lime ice garnished with mint leaves as a palette cleanser (left) before moving to the beef steak course. We paired the mango ice with Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2005.

With the steak course we had a series of Cabernet pairings. We served them according to convention - older first to detect the nuances of maturity, complex, refined and polished wines next, followed by younger wines that will be more adolescent and exuberant in character.

Of course the lighter whites wines went first - from lighter champagne, then dry, progressing to fuller and sweeter, to accompany the shrimp, cheeses, salad course and salmon. And the finale was the dessert wine and or vintage port which went with hearty chocolate and pie. 

Bill brought from his cellar a Freemark Abbey mini horizontal duo of Bosche Vineyard and Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from 1995. We then moved to a pair of Stags Leap District Napa Cabernets 2006; Dan brought the Lindstrom and we matched it against Cliff Lede.

Lyle and Bob each brought Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons - Lyle, a Beringer Sonoma County Knight's Valley Cabernet Reserve 2010 which we paired against Bob's Arrowood Sonoma Valley Cab 2008.

For dessert, Linda prepared a chocolate silk cream pie and a fresh key lime pie served with fresh whipped cream and a selection of chocolates including decadent dark chocolate caramels with sea salt.  I had set aside a Monbazillac 1999 which I had placed in the freezer and left it too long as it started to freeze. We did an impromptu cellar dive and pulled from a selection of vintage ports a Smith Woodhouse Madalena Vintage Port 1995.

The flights -

Champagnes -

Charles Mignon Cuvee Comte De Marne Brut Grand Cru Champagne Epernay, France

Lanson Black Label Brut NV, Reims, Champagne, France

Whites -

Kim Crawford Marlborough (New Zealand) Dry Riesling 2006 - with the salad course.

Maldonado Los Olivos Vineyard Napa Valley Chardonnay 2005 - with the salmon.

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - with the Mango Lime ice.

The Cabernets -

Bill's brought from his cellar with its extensive vertical of Freemark Abbey Cabernets these single vineyard designated selections from Bosche and Sycamore. Our visit to the winery was highlighted by our tour and trolling through the cellar library during our 2009 Napa Wine Experience trip.

We have numerous stories about  Freemark Abbey tasting experiences that accentuated the wine presentation and animated the dinner conversation, some of which are featured elsewhere in this blog.

Freemark Abbey Bosche Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 - Perhaps not surprising, this label proved to be one of, if not the tasting highlight (s) of the evening. My own Cellartracker notes and rating from 9/2/2013,  about eleven months ago  accurately apply to tonight's tasting  - I wrote: "An eye-opening standout of th(at)e evening featuring a horizontal tasting of five 95 vintage Napa Cabs, this was medium to full bodied with bright vibrant forward ripe plum and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of currant, clove, hints of vanilla and sweet oak with smooth polished silky tannins on the finish. Lots of life left in this eighteen year old." Then and now - RM 91 points.

Bill's Cellartracker notes from the evening: "The hit of our wine dinner with friends. Inky, purple color STILL. No signs of aging. Nose a bit musty on opening but blew off after an hour to reveal expected aroma of eucalyptus and a hint of spice. Chocolate, clove, mint, cassis and blackberry on the palate. Fully integrated tannins but still has some backbone and a long finish. Tasted side by side with a '95 Sycamore."
WCC - 93 points.

Freemark Abbey Sycamore Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 - There was a remnant left in the bottom of this bottle Monday evening, and remarkably, 48 hours after opening, it was actually improved over Saturday. Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, upon opening, it presented forward black cherry fruits with a slight tart edge, before turning to a layer of black berry and earthy leather. Two days later, it took on a mouthful of smoke that quickly turned to complex layer of anise turning to cognac like alcohol that lingers on and on with tones of spice and leather on the smooth firm tannin finish.
RM 88 points.

Bill's Cellartracker notes from ten months ago: "Drank over a 2 day period. A bit musty on the nose. Lots of earth and some limited fruit on the palate. Classic old style California Cab. Second day, fruit on the nose was much more pronounced but a day did not help the taste. A decent bottle but time to drink
WCC 89 points.

Dan brought this Lindstrom Stags Leap District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 which promised to be the showcase wine of the evening, a special offering since this wine comes from a property of an associate of his brother.

This premium label is 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from carefully selected fruit from eleven blocks at their four acre hilltop Nicali Vineyard in Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, named for Greg and Carol Lindstrom's two daughters—Nicole and Ali. The vineyard is adjacent to vineyards of well known producers Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Shafer Vineyards,  and Joseph Phelps Vineyards. It was undeveloped until recently due to its steep hillsides and complex topography.

The subtly and finesse of the Lindstrom was at risk of being overshadowed by the bigger more obtuse forward fruits of the Lede and Bosche. Dark inky purple and full bodied, the care in viticulture and selection was apparent in the understated style of full bodied complexity with finesse and polish. Tight and a bit closed yet, this will no doubt age gracefully for several years. It will be fun to see how it reveals itself in ten years. Elegant tones of subdued black berry and black raspberry fruits are accented by a layer of tea with hints of  currant, cedar, black olive herb and sage on a smooth moderate tannin lingering finish.
RM 92 points.

To compare aside the Lindstrom, I pulled this Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. We discovered Cliff Lede wines and his blockbuster Poetry at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Chicago in 2009.  Established in 2002, Cliff Lede Vineyards encompasses sixty acres in the Stags Leap District at the foot of and across the Silverado Trail from Stags Leap on the eastern floor of Napa Valley.  The flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the steep hillside portion of the estate that sits above the valley adjacent to the tony Poetry Inn boutique inn.

Our visit to Cliff Lede Estate was a highlight of our Napa Wine Experience Tour in 2009

Six years after release, the 2006 Lede Estate Cabernet seems to be reaching its stride at the apex of its tasting curve. Medium full bodied, deep ruby color with full forward blackberry and black and red currant fruits with tones of mocha, clove spice and hints of tar and sweet oak on a smooth polished flavorful lingering finish. 
Blend: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 2% Malbec
RM 91 points.

Bills notes from our tasting last year: "Deep, opaque,purple color. Long legs. A bit of perfume, tobacco and spice on the nose. Big and fruit forward, this is a complex wine with layers of black raspberry, plum and blueberry, evolving to chocolate, clove and a hint of tobacco. Drinking very well now but certainly has 5 to 8 years left."
WCC 90 points.

 More to come ...

Then the lighter flight ... From Sonoma County ...

Beringer Sonoma County Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 -

Arrowood Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Finally the Port -

Smith Woodhouse Madalena Vintage Port 1995

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Venge Family Reserve Sangiovese 1997 - Italian Pasta & Sausage

Venge Family Reserve Sangiovese 1997 - Italian Pasta & Sausage

Dark purple - medium - full bodied, the bright lively forward fruits from last tasting two years are starting to diminish and give way to non-fruit flavors. The red berry, ripe plum and spicy cherry are giving way to tones of leather, tobacco leaf, cedar and a layer of anise on a lingering subtle tannin finish. Starting to show its age and reach that chapter of life in this seventeen year old.

Nice complement to Italian pasta with sausage. 

This is the last bottle from a mixed case we picked up at the winery during  one of our several visits back in the nineties and into the millennium. (Our visit during our Napa Wine Experience 2002).

Producer Nils Venge was a pioneer of Sangiovese in Napa Valley. He planted some at his Penny Lane Oakville Estate. He also produced some as consulting winemaker to Del Dotto from three rows of Sangiovese they planted at the residence on the Estate along Highway 29 at Zinfandel Lane just south of St Helena in the Rutherford District.

RM 87 points.

Rick, AJ and Nils Venge at Tra Vigne during
2002 Napa Wine Experience

Friday, July 18, 2014

Orin Swift Abstract Napa Valley Red Blend - Hesketh Cruel Intentions Shiraz

Hesketh Cruel Intentions Shiraz 2010 - Orin Swift Abstract Napa Valley 2012 WBTG with food pairings at DOC Yorktown Wine Bar

For a casual late night snack, Linda and I tasted two red wines from the WBTG (wine-by-the-glass) offering with a platter of artisan cheeses, pate and bruschetta on the patio at DOC Yorktown in Lombard.

The food pairings from the Butcher's Plate menu included Old Amsterdam Dutch, Four Year Old Aged Cheddar cheeses, the New York Pate Forestier and the bruschetta with asparagus, prosciutto and reggiano. 

The wines selected were Hesketh 'Cruel Intentions' South Australia Shiraz and Orin Swift Abstract Napa Valley Red Wine Blend.

Hesketh 'Cruel Intentions' South Australia Shiraz 2010

Hesketh Wine Company is a small, family owned, South Australian based producer run by owner and winemaker Jonathon Hesketh who refined his craft with Wirra Wirra, Moet Chandon and Cloudy Bay. He sources fruit from several growing regions across South Australia for a modestly priced White Label line. He also produces Black Label wines from select vineyards recognized for excellence from the Currency Creek and McLaren Vale regions on the Fleurieu Peninsula. Each wine is either single vineyard or sourced from a small selection of specific vineyards and produced at facilities close by the vineyards for quality and practicality.

Fruit for this wine comes from the Currency Creek and McLaren Vale growing regions on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.

Cruel Intentions is another whimsical artist label that reflects fun and a sense of humour on behalf of the producer/winemaker.

Dark crimson red color, medium bodied, a slight metallic and mineral layer competes with the ripe plum fruit, tones of anise, vanilla and toast on a moderate tannin finish. A bit disjointed and flabby.

RM 87 points.

Orin Swift 'Abstract' Napa Valley 2012

The wines of Dave Phinney and Orin-Swift Cellars are distinctive in their branding and packaging with some of the more intriguing and unique labels and wine names. Perhaps best known for the somewhat macabre “Prisoner”  (no longer owned by Dave, although he remains a consultant) and “Papillon” with its stark black and white photograph of rough-hewn fingers (left), Phinney composes his rather mysterious label designs from a collection to a collage of a variety of photographs.

His wines are as distinctive as his labels. They tend to be full-flavored, forward, intense, firm structured wines. He mixes a melange of varietals from a variety of  appellations and vineyards to form the distinct profile and personality of each label. They are not for the feint of heart.

After graduating college he spent a short time at Robert Mondavi Winery before founding Orin Swift Cellars. From his original release based on purchased Zinfandel grapes, he has added Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and eventually extended the range to Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah.

Orin Swift recently purchased forty-eight acres in the hills above Oakville to plant and develop. They also recently purchased some vineyards and a winery in the steep hillsides of the Roussillon, near Maury in the French Pyrénées planted in 60-100 year old Grenache, with a small percentage of Syrah and Carignane. Commuting between California and France, Dave lives with his wife and children in St. Helena, CA.

I vividly remember taking Orin Swift Napa Valley 2005 Red Wine Blends Papillon and The Prisoner to a gala team dinner over the holidays back in 2009. The Prisoner was thick with ripe spicy black berry fruits predominating. Papillon showed the most complexity, structure and breadth and depth of flavors - dark, brooding, black berry, currant, spice, oak, and finely integrated tannins. With this as a backdrop I was interested to try 'Abstract', a blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah from primarily hillside vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties.

Dark garnet purple colored, full bodied, thick and complex, Abstract bursts with aromas and obtuse forward fruit flavors of ripe blackberry, mulberry and hints of blueberry fruits with tones of floral, kirsch, black tea, and bitter chocolate on a chewy tannin finish.

RM 90 points.

 is comprised of Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah and drinks like an inky, concentratedPetite Sirah blend. Blackberry, dark dark chocolate with a silky texture - See more at:
my favorite Red blend that Dave Phinney is making right now. The Prisoner is a fun-drinking Red but this is a completely different wine. It is comprised of Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah and drinks like an inky, concentratedPetite Sirah blend. Blackberry, dark dark chocolate with a silky texture is what this wine offers in the glass. - Kerrin Laz, Wine Director - See more at:

Plate from earlier visit

Henry's Drive Padthaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Henry's Drive Padthaway South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Like so many Australian producers, the Longbottom Family show they have a sense of humor, a bit of whimsey and honor their heritage as Henry's Drive is named after the nineteenth century mail coach driver, Henry John Hill, who drove the horse drawn stage coach that delivered passengers and mail to the property during that earlier era. Established in 1998 by Mark and Kim Longbottom, the property is in the Padthaway region in the southeast of of South Australia along what is known as the Limestone Coast. The first vines were planted at Henry's Drive in 1992. Mark passed in 2008, but Kim continues to operate the vineyards and winery in tribute to him. The postal theme is continued in the wine range with labels such as the Postmistress, Dead Letter Office and Pillar Box Red.

This wine was crafted by none other than Sara and Sparky Marquis of Marquis Philips fame from the days of this vintage, and today, producers of the Mollydooker brand of wines, famously known for their cartoonish labels and wine names. This wine seems to be following the same aging trajectory as a 2003 vintage Marquis Philips label tasted a couple of weeks ago.

Today, Henry’s Drive winemaking team is headed by Renae Hirsch who has also held winemaking positions in France, Germany, the US, in addition to Australia, in large and small scale operations

The fruit is sourced from 250 acres of Longbottom family owned estate vineyards in Padthaway, and another 30 acres planted in McLaren Vale. The vineyards are planted in Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals. We've held their Shiraz, Shiraz Reserve, a Shiraz Cabernet blend, and this Cabernet Sauvignon which is no longer produced under this label. I favor their Shiraz and look forward to some day trying their flagship 'Magnus' Shiraz, a single vineyard designated wine produced as a tribute to Mark.

Drank at home with grilled steaks, its time to drink up this twelve year old as my rating has fallen off two points from my earlier reviews in '07 and '04 as the fruit is starting to diminish. Dark garnet colored with medium body, the rich ripe forward dark cherry and currant fruits are starting to give way to a layer of leather and sage, still accented by kirsch, anise, and hints of black pepper.

RM 87 points.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Argyle Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011

Argyle Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011

Slightly opaque garnet colored with a very slight sense of brown on the rim, light bodied, nose of black pepper turning to flavors of slight black pepper, wood and leather with flavors of dusty rose, tangy spice, black cherry with a slight edge of creosote. Note abundance of non-fruit flavors predominate leading me to wonder if this bottle was ever-so slightly tainted, as indicated by the subtle brownish hue in the glass. I sense not and attribute this to the vintage release rather than the bottle's provenance.

Acquired this at half off the release price which reflected more its value. I would hate to pay $39 for this wine. 

RM 86 points.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Caymus 40th Anniversary Release - An Enchanted Path

Caymus 40th Anniversary Release - An Enchanted Path

For dearest friends, Eric and Cathy's 40th anniversary celebration party, I took two special bottles befitting the occasion. An obvious selection was the serendipitous release bottling of Caymus Vineyards' 40th Anniversary Release special label commemorating their 40th vintage release in 2014, of their 2012 vintage release Napa Valley Estate bottled Cabernet Sauvignon. For the occasion of several 40th anniversary events this year, I special ordered their special release 1 Liter release bottle. In addition, I took a bottle of Mollydooker whimsically named 'Enchanted Path' Mclaren Vale Red Wine Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and as a point of comparison tasting, a bottle of Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101: Collectors Series Columbia Valley, Washington, Syrah, 2009

Caymus Vineyards Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

As featured in my recent earlier blog journal tasting report on this wine, this is the 40th release of this legendary label and it features a special 40th Anniversary release label for the occasion. The 2012 vintage release also  shows the classic characteristics of Caymus Estate Cabernet at its best - early approachability and drinkability as a young wine.

Typical Caymus Cab style - dark ruby/garnet colored, medium to full bodied, nicely structured, complex but smooth, well balanced and polished, it opens with sweet ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors highlighted by layers of milk chocolate, subtle tones of cinnamon, vanilla and hints of caramel, giving way to a smooth lingering modest tannin finish.

RM 94 points.

Mollydooker Enchanted Path McLaren Vale South Australia, Red Wine Blend 2012

Mollydooker is the handiwork of the husband-and-wife winemaking team of Sarah and Sparky Marquis. Prior to starting their own label the pair produced under the Marquis Philips brand in partnership with their distributor Dan Philips. Previously, they produced award-winning wines for Australian producers including Fox Creek, Henry’s Drive, Shirvington, and others. The term Mollydooker is Australian slang for a left-handed person as both Sarah and Sparky Marquis are left-handed.

Since 2005, they've focused exclusively on making their own exuberant wines which include a range of Shiraz labels and a variety of Shiraz/Cab/Merlot blends, as well as some adventuresome white wines such as The Violinist, a Verdelho varietal.

They source their fruit from 116 acres of vineyards at their winery in McLaren Vale where about 50 percent are planted in Shiraz, with the rest made up of Cabernet, Merlot, Semillon and Chardonnay. Most of their wines bear distinctive whimsical and humorous names and labels with cartoon characters. Never-the-less, many of their wines, while modestly-priced, Mollydookers are often highly rated. Their premium label, 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz retails for $175, however. 

The 2012 Enchanted Path is dark inky purple colored, full bodied, rich thick concentrated and complex with varietal Cabernet notes of ripe black and blue berry and plum with clove, spice and layers of chocolate and anise, with supple creamy mouth-feel and chewy tannins on nicely polished balanced finish.

The 2012 Enchanted Path is a blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

RM 93 points.

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101: Collectors Series Columbia Valley, Washington, Syrah, 2009

For a comparison tasting against the Enchanted Path, I took this similarly styled Columbia Valley Syrah. 

I reviewed this wine earlier in the spring in my blogpost. I love this style as my preferred profile of a Syrah, thick, chewy with sweet forward fruits. Dark inky colored, medium to full bodied, this full throttled Syrah reveals layers of blackberry and black currants fruits with tones of sweet vanilla, caramel and spice with hints of black pepper on a lingering smooth silky tannin finish.

RM 93 points.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chez Joel Bistro - Marsannay Burgundy with Authentic French Faire

Chez Joel Bistro - Marsannay Burgundy with Authentic French Faire

For the second time this summer, after a day in the city, we dined at our favorite French Bistro Chez Joël (that happens to be in the heart of Chicago's Little Italy Taylor street dining district), a family  restaurant operated by brothers, Joël and Ahmed Kazouini.

While we love the atmosphere of their elegantly quaint authentic bistro francais dining room, in the summer when weather permits we opt for their outdoor courtyard patio, a perfect setting since we had with us two of our grandkids, Lucy and Richie.

Courtyard dining at Chez Joel
For the wine selection we took advantage of their wine special offer, Domaine Silvaine Pataille Marsannay Bourgnone 2008 which proved to be a proper accompaniment to the Pâté starter and our Duck and Ahi Tuna entrees. I've already tried every Bordeaux on their thoughtfully selected wine list. For summer, and the lighter tuna and duck faire, the more delicate and approachable Pinot Noir based Burgundy is the way to go.

The Duck & Chicken Liver Pâté is always enjoyable. I had the pan seared Duck Breast & Duck Leg Confit, served with Wild Mushrooms Fricassée, Potato Galette and Cranberry Orange Sauce. It very tasty and creatively prepared. The potato galette is a signature dish however I especially like their mashed potatoes. Linda and Erin loved the Ahi tuna daily special entree served in a delicious berry sauce with pomme puree.

Sylvain Pataille makes wines exclusively from the terroirs of Marsannay-la-Côte. He runs the family owned domaine in Marsannay after studying in Bordeaux and working as a consulting oenologist since 1997. He  has been developing his own label since the 2001 vintage, dependent on rented parcels of vineyard around Marsannay, then started with one hectare and today has 10, producing 12 cuvées. His wines are found mainly in France and in the US particularly in restaurants.

Duck Breast and Leg Confit

Sylvain Pataille owns and runs the small domaine in the little known commune of Marsannay just south of Gevrey Chambertin in the Cotes de Nuits. He practices biodynamic farming, so popular in Burgundy like many of his illustrious neighbors – Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Leroy, Domaine de la Romanée Conti. This method of viticulture is thought to bring more minerality, vitality, intensity and most importantly, a sense of the individual terroir which is the essence of Burgundy wines.

Shared portion of the Ahi tuna
The property is on the road from Beaune, past Gevrey-Chambertin on the outskirts of Dijon. The region only received it’s Village AOC in 1987 – before this the wines were ‘regional’ and simply called Bourgogne or Bourgogne de Marsannay. There are no 1er Crus. Marsannay is also well known for its white and Rosé wines. While the AOC belongs to the Côte de Nuits it is not officially within the Côte de Nuits.

I regularly write in this blog about how difficult it is to find high QPR (quality to price ratio) value priced Pinot Noirs. This naturally also applies to French Burgundy wines, which of course are named for the region, whereas in the US, wines are named for the grape varietal. Chez Joël does a nice job offering a selection of moderately priced French based wines to pair with their menu.

This 2008 had a bright ruby red color, light to medium body, it presents cherry, ripe cranberry, hints of strawberry, dusty rose and leather and a whisper of vanilla, it is well balanced with soft acidity and has a nice mouth feel with a smooth lingering fine tannin finish.

RM 88 points.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

David Arthur Elevation 1147 and Estate Napa Cabernets 2003


David Arthur Elevation 1147 and Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignons 2003

To celebrate brother Pat's visit, and to commemorate his wedding year, Bill C pulled a selection of vintage Napa Cabernet Sauvignons from the cellar including a special 2003 vintage David Arthur flagship Elevation 1147, a 1993 Vineyard 29 Estate from magnum, and a 1999 Freemark Abbey Sycamore Vineyard. I brought the David Arthur 2003 Estate Cabernet to compare against the Elevation.

To showcase the wines, Bill and Beth grilled New York strip steaks and barbecue ribs served with haricot verts and corn on the cob with mixed greens salad. Earlier we had artisan cheeses, crab stuffed champignons and after dinner accompaniments included chocolate caramels with sea salt.

Our visit to David Arthur at the end of Long Ranch Road high atop Pritchard Hill overlooking Napa Valley was one of the highlights of our Napa Wine Experience 2013.

Elevation 1147 is the vineyard named for the height at the mountaintop precipice and sources the fruit for this flagship vineyard designated label. The surrounding vineyards source the Cabernet fruit for the Estate label.

There are distinct similarities in the tasting profile of these two David Arthur wines that come from the site and reflect its terroir. The difference between them is their presentation.

David Arthur estate Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied, complex, concentrated but nicely balanced. Full forward black berry fruits with essence of sweet spices, tobacco, leather and hints of cedar on the smooth tannin finish. As good as it is, its a shadow of its big brother, Elevation.

RM 91 points. 

Elevation is flawless, extraordinary in its refined elegance and harmonious balance. While full bodied it has no sense of weight in its symphony of seamlessly integrated flavors, silky smooth and polished balance of floral, dark fruit and accent tones from start to finish - lavender, sweet ripe black and blue berry fruits, whispers of cinnamon, clove, exotic spices and tobacco leaf on the soft lingering finish. At eleven years of age it seemed to be at its apex as I can't imagine it getting any better. It was delightful and delicious. I sense I drank my earlier Elevations too early to allow them to come together so nicely.

RM 95 points.

Bill's tasting notes from Cellartracker -

"Found this to be truly exceptional and the hit of the evening. Big, robust with cassis, blackberry and sour cherry on the front palate. Complex and layered revealing a hint of cedar and chocolate on the mid palate. We'll integrated tannins with a lingering finish. Quite elegant and balanced with a floral nose reminiscent of a Margaux though the wine itself is much bigger than a Margaux. A real treat. Friend and wine buddy Rick provided a 2003 David Arthur Estate Cab to taste side by side. Very interesting comparison. The common heritage was evident. Interestingly the estate seemed a bit thinner until it had been open over two hours at which point it really blossomed."

Vineyard 29 Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1993

Bill's notes from last winter - Medium garnet in the glass. Still some fruit left. Nicely balanced with flavors of raspberry, sour cherry, mocha and a hint of cedar. This was the consensus favorite at "Open That Bottle Night" one year ago. A year later, it is still very tasty but tannins are fading and is not as vibrant as it was last year.

WCC 90 points.

Freemark Abbey Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

To round out the tasting Bill pulled this mid year vintage of Freemark Abbey Cabernet, a nice starter before dinner.

Bill's tasting notes from Cellartracker - "A nice way to kick off a gala evening with visiting family and friends. Robust and fruit forward. Deep indigo color. Will get better over the next couple of years but pretty tasty right now. Predominantly dark, black raspberry and cherry on the palate with a touch of oak. A tad smoky in a good way. Would have probably rated higher but had the misfortune of being compared to some really heavy hitters."

WCC 88 points.

My notes -
Dark purple, medium - full bodied, black cherry and black berry fruits, smoky cedar notes with hints of oak on a firm tannin finish.

This is a blend of fruit 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest mostly Merlot and fractions of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.
RM 89 points.