For a bar-b-q rib dinner faire, Syrah, Shiraz and Zinfandel were the wine theme for our annual gala (end of) summer dinner on the deck in the city hosted by friends Lyle and Terry on their spectacular, supersized deck with a great view of the Chicago cityscape.
Like last year, the early autumn weather was perfect for the gathering of the 'Pour Boys' wine group (named such after our wine adventure at the UGC tasting event event last year). As always, we assembled a fabulous intriguing flight of select wines. Many thanks to Lyle and Terry for their hospitality and a super dinner.
Before dinner featured a flight of white wines with artisan cheeses and Lyle prepared grilled scallops on the deck. The whites included Caymus Conundrum, Cote de Provence, Grigich Fume Blanc and a pair of champagnes.
Of course this evening was all about big bold reds suitable for bar-b-q. As customary practice dictates, the wines are listed in tasting order - light to heavy, aged to young. One of the highlights of these events is the ritualistic 'line-up' of the flight. This process entails determining the tasting order, first based on alleged style, age, reputation, and knowledge of and experience with the wines. Once the order is established it is validated and tuned or corrected based on a sample tasting of each wine. Remarkably, as is typical, our initial order was right on the mark (as shown in the picture below) with only one correction following the tasting, with the HdV moving from right to left of the Balmoral.
Syrah or Shiraz? Consider them the same ... different monikers for the same grape, genetically related whether it be from France, Australia or California, according to Carol Lagier, winemaker, Syrah specialist and plant geneticist at Syrah producer Lagier-Meredith which we visited during our 2011 Napa Wine Experience.
The Big Reds Flight -
Jackson Franklin (Elyse) Petit Sirah
HDV Carneros Syrah
Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 1995
Dead Arm 1995
Dead Arm 2002
Dead Arm 2004
Outpost Zinfandel 2009
Branson Coach House Rare Single Vineyard Syrah 2004
Chateau Tanunda Old Vines Shiraz
Sine Quo Non - The Raven
Santa Ema Carménère Amplus One 2008
This was the only blend in the flight, and the only South American wine, from Chile, an interesting mix of 75% Carmenere, 20% Syrah, and 5% Carignan. Since none of us are versed in such wines, we have no basis for comparison. Then again, this is such a unique blend we have no previous exposure to such a blend. The contribution of Syrah was our only baseline. It would be a good stumper in a blind tasting. I almost would've picked a right bank Bordeaux.
Credit the Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide with this information on the producer, region and appellation. "In 1931, Pedro Pavone-Voglino acquired a plot of land in Chile’s Maipo Valley and began producing high-quality. Then in 1956, Pedro and his oldest son, Félix Pavone-Arbea, began producing and marketing their own bottled wine. The business continued to grow, and in the late 1960s the company purchased a large amount of land in the Peumo commune located in the Cachapoal province—an area known for red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carmenère. Today, Santa Ema exports its wines to more than 30 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. Santa Ema has five lines—Selected Terroir, Rosado Soul, Barrel Select, Reserve and Amplus—as well as two red blends—Catalina and Rivalta. The winery has received numerous awards for its value-driven wines, particularly the Reserve and Amplus series."
This was dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, nicely balanced, smooth and polished with dark berry and black raspberry fruits offset by moderate tones of soft oak, hints of earth and mocha with modest soft tannins.
RM 89 points.
Jacob Franklin Napa Valley Chavez Leeds Vineyard Petit Sirah 2008
Perhaps a point of serendipity, this is the product of Elyse Winery and we maintain a couple of bottles from the label in our cellar for when dining with dear friends Eric and Cathy, in recognition of their daughter Elyse, who has also joins us on occasion. I think however it was coincidence that Bill brought this to the tasting tonight given that Eric and Cathy would be there.
This wine exceeded our expectations which were modest when compared to this flight of comparative labels. It was medium bodied, dark garnet colored, forward blackberry fruit with hints of anise, eather, bit of cedar and black pepper on a moderate dusty tannin finish.
RM 89 points.
Hyde de Villaine Carneros Syrah 2004
This is the estate label formed from the combination of two legendary wine families, the Hyde family of California and and the de Villaine family of France. The 178 acre Carneros estate has been farmed by Larry Hyde since 1977 when he purchased and developed the property after serving as an apprentice at some of Napa Valley's top wineries. His late father, Richard Sr., an attorney from Woodside, purchased the first piece of land that now makes up Hyde Vineyards in 1979. At that time the Carneros area was undeveloped grasslands at the top of San Pablo Bay extending up to the beginning of the Mayacamas foothills leading to the mountain range that separates Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Producing some of the most coveted grapes in Napa Valley, Hyde Vineyards has gained distinction sourcing fruit for some of the leading California winemakers including Paul Hobbs, Kistler Vineyards, Kongsgaard Wine, Mia Klein's Selene Wines, Patz & Hall and Ramey Wine Cellars. Most of these producers release single vineyard designated label wines featuring fruit from Hyde Vineyards. These wines are primarily Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and to a lesser degree, Syrah.
I've written in this blog about perhaps the best Shiraz/Syrah that I have ever tasted, from Kongsgaard Wines , which was produced from fruit from the nearby Hudson Vineyard from south-sloping land at the Hudson Ranch near the Bay on the southern Napa Valley side of the Carneros District. This site is also the source for Ramey, Kistler and other notable producers who also get their fruit from the Hyde property. The Hudson property is named after Hyde's mother Virginia Hudson and sits next to the Hyde de Villaine winery.
In 1999, Aubert de Villaine, codirector of Burgundy's legendary Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC), who happens to be married to Hyde's cousin Pamela F. de Villaine, partnered with Hyde to form HdV Wines, to brand and produce single vineyard wines from Hyde Vineyard fruit.
Aubert de Villaine is a legend in France's Burgundy region as the proprietor of his own wine, A. & P. de Villaine, and as co-director of DRC, one of the world's most exclusive and sought after wines.
While Larry Hyde manages the vineyards, his older siblings, Richard Jr. and Diana, are also involved in the business along with Diana's son Ryan Bailey, Richard's son Rick and Larry's son Chris.
Larry's other son Peter, 23, makes a proprietary family blend from the property's unsold grapes.
Based on the pedigree of this wine, I had very high expectations and approached it with much anticipation. I was hoping it would fit the profile and character of Konsgaard Syrah, but it fell short in weight and polish, but this is certainly understandable since it is a fraction of the price.
Medium-full bodied, dark ruby color, black berry and black cherry fruits with hints of cassis, spice box and a bit of pepper, turning to a funky grassy tone of dried meat on the moderate tannin finish that detracted from the rich fruit flavors.
RM 89 points. This got 90 points from Wine Enthusiast; 92 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and 92 points Connoisseurs Guide.
Rosemount Estate Syrah Balmoral 1995
We still hold several cases of this wine in nearly a decade long vertical going back as early as 1992. Its time to drink them up as they're definitely reaching the end of their drinking window. This was showing its age with a somewhat funky leather and damp wood essence that thankfully subsided after an hour or so after decanting, giving way to aromas and flavors of blueberry fruits and eventually turning to its traditional tasting profile.
Dark full flavor, over ripe berry, raisin, notes of blueberry, plum fruit, with spice and anise. Showing age on opening but opened and softened with a long full complex finish.
RM 89 points.
d'Arenberg Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz 1995, 2002, 2004
1995 - Like the aged Rosemount Balmoral from the same vintage, this was also showing its age with a bit of funky earthy leather and tobacco overtaking the fruit, but after decanting for an hour or so, this subsided and the black and blue fruits emerged.
Intense ruby, colored, medium bodied with black berry, tone of vanilla and oak giving way to earthy leather and bacon fat overtaking the fruits, rich and reasonably long modest tannin finish.
RM 88 points.
d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2002
The biggest of the three, always a big fruit forward complex wine, this was much more expressive than as documented in my earlier 2004 and 2009 tasting journal posts. Its bigger and still boasts a forwardness but what was an off-tone of minerality now is more natural ripe raisin-fig with a layer of cedar predominating over complex black and blue berry fruits with tones of pepper, spice, and cassis and hint of vanilla with a big long bold finish that has a slight tone of tangy cherry. Linda likes this ripe boldness but its a bit too much to my liking. LIke the rest of these wines, this wine is suited to a bigger accompaniment like beef steak or even perhaps bar-b-que!
RM 91 points.
Subdued black berry and black cherry fruit, leather, hint of spice and pepper on a moderate tannin finish.
d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2004
Dark inky black purple color, full bodied, thick, tongue-coating unctuous layer of ripe plum, black raspberry, ripe blueberry and a layer of anise and black cherry with a spicy long firm tannin lingering finish.
RM 90 points.
Outpost Howell Mountain Zinfandel 2009
Outpost sits high atop the west facing slope just below Robert Craig and across the road from Lamborn, two of our other favorite producers.We worked our way up the road there during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2008.
A great wine that demands bar-b-q or rich hearty meaty pasta, every cellar should have a couple bottles of this style Zin for such occasions. At the high end of price-points for typically moderate priced Zinfandel but this one is worth it.
Dark garnet colored, full bodied, this wine typifies that classic rich thick extracted forward Howell Mountain briery mountain berry fruit accented by spice, floral with hints of tobacco on the supple long lasting chewy tannins.
RM 92 points
Branson Coach House Coach House Block Rare Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004
Full bodied, rich, concentrated, complex, dark inky purple colored, with layers of black and blue berry, black cherry and black plum fruit flavors, with tones of dark mocha, cigar box and smoke notes with well integrated firm lingering tannins.
RM 92 points.
Chateau Tanunda "The Chateau" 100 Year Old Vines Eden Valley Barossa Shiraz
Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Chicago when it was being poured by Chateau Tanunda's Dagmar O'Neill. Only 100 cases were produced. We orchestrated a purchase of eight three packs in OWC's (shown below) which we split amongst the wine team, pictured below.
The Barossa is home to some of the world’s oldest Shiraz vines and the grapes for this wine come from hundred year old vines from a high altitude, one acre single vineyard in the Eden Valley.
Full bodied, complex, concentrated, full lingering tannins predominate the dense, black and blue berry fruits with hints of liquorice, plum and spice and spicy oak.
RM 93 points.
2006 Sine Qua Non "The Raven No. 3" Syrah
Since its founding in 1994, the winery located in Ventura, on California's Central Coast has become the a classic example of an artisanal, garagiste winery. The husband-and-wife team of Manfred and Elaine Krankl produce very limited quantities of hand-crafted wines primarily from Rhone varietal grapes such as Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Roussane, and Viognier.
Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Sine Qua Non "one of the world's most creative wineries" and one that "is turning out world-class wines of extraordinary complexity and individuality. The Krankl husband-and-wife team remains wholly dedicated to the pursuit of perfection."
The branding of Sine Qua Non wines is as distinctive as their carefully crafted wines bearing unusual, sometimes outlandish names to their wines, such as "The Hussy", "In Flagrante," and the "The Raven", and they often change the wine names from vintage to vintage.
The 2006 Raven Series Syrah is a blend of 93% Syrah, 5% Grenache, and 2% Viognier, aged nearly two years in French oak.
Dark blackish ink colored, full bodied, complex, big ,bold, rich layers of dark blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by hints of blueberry and plum, creosote, mocha and spice with tones of anise and pepper turning to a thick tongue coating tangy chewy tannin lingering finish.
RM 95 points.
Wine Spectator gave this 95 points, Robert Parker 96 points and Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar 94 points.
After dinner there were three dessert courses accompanied by two dessert wines.
Grahams Vintage Port 1991
Grahams Vintage Port 1991
Domaine de laAncienne Cuvee Prestige Monbazzilac 1999
More to come .. ...