Monday, October 27, 2014

B Side Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

B Side Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

B Side wines are the product of Don Sebastiani & Sons, that claims it's heritage as part of the Sonoma Winemaking Family that dates back to 1904. Fourth generation producer Donny Sebastiani is the great–grandson of Samuele, the Sebastiani patriarch. In 2001, Don Sebastiani and his two sons, Donny and August, established Don Sebastiani & Sons, with a goal of building a new wine company in the negociant style of the early Sebastiani winemakers.

They source grapes from vineyards all over California’s appellations and beyond, claiming this enables them to be free to explore the best quality fruit that each vintage has to offer. As I've written here time and again over the last year, the negociant supply model provides the opportunity for imaginative, high QPR wines. But on the flipside, (no pun intended here), since they don't own or control the source of the fruit, they can be prone to 'one-hit wonders' (pun intended) with a blockbuster release one year, but when its gone it may be done, with no chance for a repeat. Since the wine could be sourced from different places each year, it's potentially the opposite of terroir, the association of wine to a particular place, and all the elements of soil, micro-climate, elevation, sun exposure and so on that give that site an identity reflected in its produce.

I've written much about branding here recently. The branding concept here is based on the old vinyl records that were the means to release and distribute music from the early 1950s through the '70's. Popular records were the two-sided '45'. The "A" side contained the featured hit song of the release, while the "B" side was sometimes 'filler', or an additional release to fill out the record. But once in a while, the 'B' side was as much a hit as the leader, often the real find, frequently revealing an undiscovered gem.

B Side wines play on this metaphor or concept and likens the A Side to the  A-list world of Napa Valley wines from the prominent prestigious properties on main street Napa Valley, along mainstream Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. B Side writes, "Hailing from Napa's "flip" side, B Side reds are crafted with grapes sourced from the slightly-off-the-beaten-track vineyards along the valley's eastern hillsides. They're authentic originals: a little experimental and unexpected, crafted and perfected behind-the-scenes for those with a penchant for discovery."

"The grapes comprising our two B Side offerings come from the "flip" side of Napa: vineyards tucked into the benchlands, slopes and hillsides of eastern Napa Valley near the scenic Silverado Trail."

They claim the majority of this blend comes from "selected vineyards in Oak Knoll, Calistoga and Yountville. Due to the warmer weather in Calistoga and Yountville, the fruit picked here adds impressive depth and flavors to the wine. The Oak Knoll district is ideally situated near Los Carneros, allowing for early morning fog, cool nights and extended hang time, all of which play a major role in developing smoothness and concentrated color. The vines are nearing 20 years of age in most of these blocks and have provided for a near perfect harvest of Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon this vintage."

Therein lies the negociant's challenge. Do they have rights to the follow on vintage (s) of this wine? Can we expect a release next year? Or is this a one hit wonder? And when will we know? So don't get too invested in this and treat as a single release, and stay tuned for what happens next. In fairness, this is their third release of B Side Napa Cab, but its not clear if they're all from the same source, or not. In any event, enjoy a good value, high QPR interesting release Napa cab while it lasts.

This B-Side Cellars Cabernet  contains 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot to round out the blend to add complexity and aromatic intrigue. The wine was aged in 80% French oak for 14 months before bottling.

From the winery: "Our beautifully crafted 2012 B Side Cabernet Sauvignon is pure, rich and deep, featuring aromas of blackberry, sweet tobacco leaf and notes of warm caramel. This wine is marked by a distinctively complex and subtle mix of black currant, toasted almond and anise, with a supple core of cherry and dark chocolate flavors. Full-bodied and mouth filling, the wine shows tremendous dimension with a seamless finish that lingers throughout the palate." They say this 2012 bottling has yet to be professionally reviewed, but the 2011 vintage garnered 90 points and an "Editors' Choice" designation by Wine Enthusiast.

The flagship B Side Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is dark inky garnet colored, full-bodied with black berry and black raspberry fruit flavors with tones of graphite and tobacco with a hint of mocha on a finish of moderate lingering tannins.

RM 88 points.

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel Red Blend 2012

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel Red Blend 2012

While we don't drink a lot Zinfandel, its a must have in every cellar for every day pizza wine as well as for occasions of hearty pasta or Bar-B-Q. It's also a bold expressive fruit filled wine that will appeal to and resonate with novice or less sophisticated wine drinkers. Also, Zinfandels typically offer early gratification and are ready to drink upon or soon after release. While some are ageworthy, they typically can be consumed when young and don't need aging to evolve and reveal their greatness or true character potential. Lastly, Zinfandel tends to offer perhaps the most bang for the buck or QPR - Quality-to-Price ratios than most other American varietals. I say American varietals because Zinfandel is perhaps more indigenous to American than perhaps any other grape.

Only recently with the emergence of and maturation of the development of South American wines from Chile and Argentina made from Malbec, and more recently from Bordeaux varietals, has there such a range of moderate priced big reds for every day drinking, a place long held by Zinfandel.

But, not all Zinfandels are simple and unsophisticated. A few producers specialize in Zins and have made them an artform in their own right. Ridge is probably the best known and most widely distributed of the Zin zealots. This Lytton Springs release, while marketed as a Zinfandel, is actually a complex blend of Rhone and South American varietals.

Ridge is one of the more prolific Zinfandel producers with a portfolio of almost a dozen premium, single vineyard designated and imaginative Zinfandel based blends that date back to 1964 when they released their first Zin. The history of Ridge Vineyards actually dates back before the turn of the last century, in 1885, when Osea Perrone, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge down in the southern range of Santa Cruz Mountains that separate south San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean at the top of Monterey Bay,  producing the first vintage under that name in 1892.

The first Zinfandel was made in 1964, followed in 1966 by the first Geyserville Zinfandel. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year, and in 1969, Paul Draper came on as winemaker. Today, Zinfandel and Cabernet account for most of the production with lesser quantities of Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, and Petite Sirah used primarily as part of the blends.

The first release of Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel from the property in the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, was released in 1972. The property lies just north of Healdsburg on the benchland that separates Dry Creek from Alexander Valley. The Zinfandel vines at Lytton Springs date back 100 plus-years and are interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (aka Mourvèdre), and Grenache for blending. Hence Ridge Lytton Springs is a complex blend with the prime core being Zinfandel.

The 2012 release of Ridge Lytton Springs is a blend of 70% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignane, and 3% Mataro or Mourvèdre. 

Like many big Zinfandels, this begs for being consumed with food. Dark blackish purple colored, full bodied, it exudes complex dense black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of vanilla, bramble, anise, black olive, green pepper and spice with moderate lingering tannins.

RM 90 points.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lidio Carraro Grande Vindima Quorum 2006

Lidio Carraro Grande Vindima Quorum 2006

An interesting selection By-the-Glass at DOC in Yorktown, Lombard. From the Vale dos Vinhedos region in Brazil, the first recognized and certified Brazilian wine region with Geographical Indication or what we would call AVA in America.

Lidio Carraro Vineyards is one of the oldest and most established producers in the region, descendants of Italian immigrants from the Italian Veneto wine growing region who first settled in Brazil in 1875.

Since the ‘70s, Lidio Carraro has been a pioneer grower in the Serra Gaucha region, focusing on developing the French Bordeaux varietals with emphasis on Merlot, crafting the ideal clones best suited to the terroir - climate, soil, to produce the best wines achievable from the area.

In 2001, the Lidio Carraro family acquired 200 acres in Encruzilhada do Sul in the southeast region of the state of Rio Grande do Sul which has emerged as the most recognized and prestigious wine region in Brazil. The first vintage harvest was in 2002 with the first label released to market in 2004 and its first exports were in 2005.

Grande Vindima could be translated as Great Classic. It is a premium label in the broad portfolio range from Lidio Carraro winery. They say, "It has Lidio Carraro family tradition of viticulture and passion for wine as inspiration and represents the excellence of a great classic, crafted only in the best years."

The Bordeaux style blend is Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Tannat.

Garnet colored, medium to full bodied, this was bright, vibrant and expressive with forward cherry and black raspberry flavors accented by tones of spice, coffee, hints of anise and cedar finishing with firm tannins.

RM 87 points.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Black Diamond Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2011

Black Diamond Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2011 

We had this wine with fruits, cheese and chocolates watching a Netflix feature. The next day, we enjoyed it will grilled steak Sunday dinner. 
I wrote in this blog back in March about how difficult it is to find a high QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Pinot Noir under $20. Called the 'heartbreak grape' (see my review of The Heartbreak Grape,  A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins)  for its finicky difficulty to cultivate, it took decades for California producers to get this varietal to come around. Here is a rare California Pinot Noir that offers enjoyable sophisticated Pinot Noir at every day prices. I bought some, drank it, bought some more, and I am going back for more. Hopefully my blog post doesn't empty the shelves before I restock.' 

We are still enjoying this wine obtained back then. I feature it again because it is still available in quantity at Binny's the Illinois/Chicagoland mega-merchant, and I am tempted to buy more whilst it is still available. 
As featured earlier, "sourced from fruit from GUADAGNI FAMILY WINES, a small family run business that according  to records is managed by Donald, Joseph, Mary, William and Breanna at their location on Yokim Bridge Road in Healdsburg. They're reported to produce about 1000 cases a year but views of the property show large tracts of young vines and new plantings so we might expect to see much more of them in the coming vintages.'

They say their label name "Black Diamond" refers to the 'boldness and courage' of their wines. 'awe inspiring to look at from the rim and personally satisfying in the finish.... with both strength and elegance' symbolic of Black Diamond wines.

The grapes are selected from the Russian River appellation, renowned specifically for the cool-climate conducive to growing great Pinot Noir. The vineyards for this wine are along the Russian River and within walking distance of the Coastal Mountain Range. Influenced by the marine layer that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean with its moderating effect on morning and later afternoon temperatures, sending cool air through the gorge cut by the river. They cite moderate daytime temperatures as key to retaining the delicate and unique characters of the grapes, while the cool nights encourage the vine to retain acidity through to the harvest. Whatever the cause, the effects are a sophisticated yet pleasant, easy drinking wine that are available at a good value price.

The winemaker's comments sum it up well - "Classic aromas of fresh turned soil, cola, and red cherries. Black raspberry, pink peppercorn spice and caramel add depth. Light in body with creamy, vanilla infused raspberry and baking spice. Balanced, silky tannins for a long smooth finish."

I don't do a lot of Pinot Noir, and admit my 'vocabulary' of wine sensations and ability to articulate such, is not as developed and mature. Hence, I struggle a bit to characterize this wine.  It features a primary predominate flavor. The winemaker calls is cola and red cherries, or Bing cherries. I get the cola but keep coming back to dried cranberries as the lead fruit. In any event, despite being medium light bodied and therefor a bit opaque, it is is dark blackish garnet colored, it exhibits tones of cherry, raspberry, cinnamon and a layer of cedar giving way to a tones of anise and smoky spicy oak on a firm lingering acidic finish.

RM 88 points.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Favorite Aussie Shiraz - Flinders 2005 Aging Gracefully

Favorite Aussie Shiraz - Flinders 2005 Aging Gracefully

I raved about this wine when I discovered it several years ago and have featured it numerous times since in this blog. Like the recent experience where I discovered this wine downstate in a local wineshop, I then found and purchased more on-line. Then I convinced local mega-merchant Binny's to carry obtain some and we cleaned them out too. Happily, we still hold and continue to enjoy this big bold fruit filled Shiraz. Holding more than several bottles into their ninth year, one rightfully wonders how is it aging and how long will it last?

For a quiet causal evening at home, we opened an old favorite, Flinders Run Southern Flinders Ranges Shiraz 2005. Our Cellartracker inventory says we still hold about two cases of this vintage release, with a slightly lesser number of the '06 release remaining. I noted when we were opening this that it came on the scene with these two vintage releases and disappeared, not to be seen again. According to their website, it appears to still be in production, but its not to be found in distribution in Chicagoland, or in the on-line wine community.

Indeed, the Flinders Run website ( states, "We knew from the first trials of the 2001 and subsequent 2003 vintages that the Flinders Run wines were going to be something special, but nothing prepared us for the overwhelming success, we would experience with the release of the 2005 Vintage. Subsequent vintages have been crafted in the same careful manner exhibiting a consistency in flavour and style and most importantly capturing the elegance of region climate and above all varietal character."

Of course that 2005 vintage got a raving 95 point review from legendary wine critic Robert Parker. He wrote,"Purple/black in color, the wine exhibits a big, brooding bouquet of pain grille, pepper, Asian spices, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice. This leads to a full-bodied (15.2% alcohol), super-rich, plush wine with layers of spicy black fruit flavors, excellent balance, and a long, pure finish. For a wine of this size, it is remarkably light on its feet. Give it 2-3 years to more fully evolve and drink it through 2020. This is quite a debut for Flinders Run!"

I must admit, I do not recall knowing about this rating or having read his review. I did know he shared our love of big bold Aussie Shiraz's, even if we did think his enthusiasm was at times 'over the top' and even exceeded ours. That said, I am pleased to see his projected drinking window extending through 2020. That certainly seems to ring true with our experience tonight.

Flinders Run Southern Flinders Ranges Shiraz is the artwork of Emanuel Skorpos whose winemaking heritage goes back many generations to the Greek Island of Samos where his Grandfather Manoli Skorpos and his father attended to the olive grove and vineyard in the rugged mountainous region known as Morteri which they still farm to this day.

In 1991 Emanuel, after travelling to Samos to visit the Family Estate, set out to return to Australia to locate the perfect piece of land in which to establish the vineyard and olive grove in the Skorpos tradition. Emanual has been working in Viticulture/Horticulture  in the Riverland and Southern Flinders Ranges regions in South Australia since then. He worked with Ian Smith, Vineyard Manager and Vitticulturalist for Leasingham wines who identified the Southern Flinders Ranges as one of the best kept secrest in Australia’s wine industry. Emanuel manages the vineyards and olive grove and works closely with the Flinders Run winemaker to produce artisan boutique wines that emeplify the distinct  flavour and personality of the Southern Flinders Ranges. Emanuel’s wife, Laura manages the logistics and operations of winery business.

My recollection of these two vintages was that we liked the 2005 more than the 2006, being more approachable, more polished and balanced, while the '06 was bigger, more brooding and bold, but less polished or in no sense elegant. I selected the '05 tonight, dutifully to work off the older vintage, but also to test my recollection of it being my favored of the two, and to monitor its aging.

While more subdued than the bigger '06, it retains all the nuances and character it exhibited in its youth - nicely balanced, polished, and flavorful. While the fruit is not as big and bold as its follow on vintage, the '05 still holds full, dense, complex layers of blue and black berry fruits, accented by licorice, hints of black pepper, and tones of black tea and what Parker refers to as 'pain grillé' which is the French word for 'toast'.

RM 93 points. 

Our original plan was to grill a beef steak but after the spectacular starter course that Linda prepared, a grilled tuna tartare (above), we enjoyed the rest of the bottle with a selection of cheese and chocolates.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 Syrah 2009

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 Syrah 2009 - A limited offer that continues to please

I wrote in this blog about Ninety Plus Cellars and their negotiant practice of buying excess grapes, bulk wine, or even bottled wine from growers or producers and selling it under their own 'private' label. And I've written several times herein about their Lot 101 Columbia Valley Washington Syrah. The following is an excerpt from an earlier blogpost.

As soon as I tasted this Syrah at the local wine merchant Malloy's store in Naperville, I knew they had a winner, substantiating their claims that they had landed a top rated Syrah and were able to sell it at a deeply discounted price. I probably should have bought as much as I could obtain. Well actually, I did clean them out, and then went back for more when their next shipment arrived the following week. But I did leave some for others. I may regret leaving it behind!

This is a 2009 Columbia Valley, Washington, Syrah that they market under the label Ninety Plus Cellars, Collectors Series, Lot 101. The label specifies simply '250 cases'. Interestingly it doesn't say produced. How many cases were sold under some other, perhaps well known, perhaps higher priced label?

So tonight, Linda and I opened a bottle of this label for a nice casual steak dinner at home. Since she is heading out of town for several days and it was our only evening together, I wanted to enjoy a special bottle, certainly one that I knew we would enjoy.

We opened this special limited offer bottling and enjoyed it immensely, as we have on several other occasions. After enjoying it (again) so much, I went back to the local Malloy's wine shop, not expecting to find this label since I cleaned them out, not once, but twice. Lo and behold, they had several more bottles which I promptly seized (again). The staff there and I both lamented that, no doubt, this will be the 'end' of this wine. Having added more to our holdings, it will extend our enjoyment for some time further.
 Consistent with earlier tasting notes, this was delicious again, only slightly short of a blockbuster high QPR release. 

Dark inky garnet colored, medium to full bodied, this full throttle 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 92 points.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Conway Family Wines Deep Sea Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Conway Family Wines Deep Sea Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Consider this a Negociant wine since, according to the wine producer, it is sourced from a "number of the finest, well regarded vineyards within Napa AVA’s of Rutherford, Atlas Peak and Pritchard Hill, with each one contributing their unique characteristics to our blend".

According to the producer's release, "the dark fruit notes along with distinctive and pleasant chalky sagebrush notes greet your nose at first. This Cabernet has as plush an entry as we’ve seen in a lot of years. A round, soft, mouth filling wine that shows a smooth backbone of tannins and balanced acidity. The finish wraps up nicely with a lingering reminder of the mature dark fruits, ever so slight a hint of new oak, and the ever present palette of flavors that make Cabernet so sought after!"

This has incredible QPR - quality price ratio, at its price point below $20. The wine producer lists it at $39. 

Opened for casual wine sipping with cheese but its sophisticated enough to be worthy as a perfect compliment to grilled steak dinner. I left half the bottle and it was much better two days later when I took it to Erin and Johnny's for steak dinner.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, full fruit forward black raspberry and cherry fruits with a layer of spice and hints of graphite and tea, turning to tones of mocha with nice balance and smooth polished tannin finish.

RM 90 points.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cabs Bistro BYOB Wine & Dine Experience

Cabs Bistro BYOB Wine & Dine Experience

We revisited Cab's Bistro and Wine Bar in tony Glen Ellyn, Illinois, for a wine and dine experience. Ownership has changed since the early founding days when the two Dave's combined their wineshop with the adjoining wine bar and bistro. The wineshop is gone, as is the extensive and imaginative award winning winelist, but a new manifestation of Cabs Bistro and Winebar remains, downtown on Main Street just south of the commuter rail-stop.

Looking forward to a wine and dine experience, we took advantage of the BYOB policy and brought a couple of quality sippers. Bill brought from his cellar a Chateau Giscours Margaux 1998. I brought a rare special Premiere Napa bottling of Ladera Two Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon 2000.

Opening with the salad course including the Spinach Pear Walnut Salad with sliced pear, blue cheese, walnuts, raspberry white wine vinaigrette, we selected this Sonoma County blend from the winelist. 

Gundlach Bundschu Sonoma County Mountain Cuvee 2011

We met and had an enjoyable visit with producer Jeff Bundschu back in February 2005 in Chicago at the Silicon Valley Bank hosted wine producer wine tasting and networking event held at the One North Wacker restaurant.

We stopped in at the winery and vineyard during following Sonoma Valley visits. We need to schedule a tour and tasting on an upcoming Sonoma trip.  

This cuvee is a complex blend of 45% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Zinfandel, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec, sourced primarily from the estate (72%), but including fruit from other local sources.

Not the least bit subtle and lacking polish, this begs for pairing with expressive food, cheese or dark chocolate. Beth liked this a lot. This was garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bold, forward black cherry, plum, and blackberry fruit with tones of smoke, black tea and hints of anise and subtle mocha on a tangy finish.

RM 88 points.

With our entrees Bill & Beth enjoyed the food and wine pairing that matched the Margaux with the daily special beef bourgnogne with garlic mashed. I had the Seared Maple Leaf Farms Raised Breast of Duck with potato melange, red cabbage and grilled asparagus in a delicious sweet red berry wine sauce that paired perfectly with the Ladera.

Linda enjoyed the Scottish Salmon on wild rice, saying it was as good a Salmon entree as any she remembers.

Afterwards we matched both wines with the creme brulee (on a layer of dark chocolate) and the Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake.

Chateau Giscours Margaux 1998

True to its heritage, the Giscours exhibited classic Bordeaux nuances of floral, subtle earth and leather on a core of black berry fruits - dark inky blackish colored, medium bodied, smooth, polished and complex, turning to a lingering tongue coating powder dry soft silky tannin layer that filled the mouth with a berry-floral tone that lingered for minutes on the finish. No signs of diminution in this sixteen year old.

RM 91 points.

Bill's Cellartracker notes - "Dark inky color. Quite surprising for a 16 year old. Only when side by side with a 2000 Napa Cab did the color difference become evident. Typical Margaux floral nose. Earthy and full of minerals but still surprisingly full of blueberry, plum and cassis. Long, lingering, layered finish that slowly reveals layer after layer."

Ladera Two Mountains Premiere Napa Valley Lot 64 Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

We've been fans of Ladera since the Montana rancher Stotsmayers took over the classic old stone barn winery and vineyards of Chateau Wolter high up on Howell Mountain back around the Milennium. 

Ladera Winery was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Appellation Wine Experience 2008. We then hosted them here during their Chicago visit the next summer.

One of my favorite picturesque Napa Valley screensaver photos is this one of the old winery building set amongst the estate gardens. 

This was a select bottle from a barrel sourced from fruits from Howell Mountain and Mt Veeder that went into a special bottling donated to the Napa Valley Premiere charitable auction by Ladera Vineyards and Winery. The fruit from the 2000 vintage was bottled and auctioned in the 2002 auction, Lot 64.

My wine tasting notes were consistent with earlier posting at

This wine was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bold, expressive and aromatic with full forward flavors of classic Howell Mountain terroir predominating - black cherry, currant, black berry fruits with a layer of spice, and hints of earth and tea on the finely integrated smooth tannin finish.

Like last week, my preference for the bolder brighter Napa Cab style was favored over the more polished, subdued and civil Bordeaux style.

RM 92 points.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Clark Claudon Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Clark Claudon Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

We discovered Tom Clark and Laurie Clark-Claudon shortly after their inaugural release back in the early nineties. We hosted them as a featured wine producer at one our wine dinners back during our Napa Wine Experience 1999. We still hold a vertical collection in our cellar going back to the 1995 vintage. This 2004 release was drinking very nicely a couple years ago, at a young age, somewhat out of character with the normally long lived, slower to emerge, label.

Clark-Claudon typifies the Howell Mountain terroir of its heritage and origins. Their vineyard sits back on the north east side a bit more than half way up Howell Mountain between 800 ft and 1,000 ft elevation. They have 18 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and a bit of Petit Verdot vines, 'carved out', as they say, of their 117 acre hillside property.

The shallow, rocky, mountain soils, consistent sun exposure tempered by the cool evening breezes just about level with the fog line hovering over the valley below provide ideal conditions to produce intense extracted mountain fruit with that ,characteristic Howell Mountain spice and firm solid core of smooth tannins.

We hold several bottles of this vintage in both standard, half bottles and a few magnums. Tonight, I opened a 375 ml half bottle for casual sipping with a steak dinner. I raise this as it seemed to be less vibrant and expressive than earlier experience with this label. I will attribute that to the bottle size rather than the aging of the vintage. Only time, and further tasting experiences will tell if that is the case.
Deep dark purple - full bodied - big mouth-full of forward spicy black and edge of red berry fruits, violets, layers of mocha and oak with a long lingering tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Select California Cab Comparison Tasting

California Select Cabernet Comparison Tasting Showcases Contrasting Styles - Compliments Pot Roast Dinner

For a comparison tasting of three distinctive select California Napa Cabernets, Bill & Beth had me over for a pot roast dinner. I brought a Del Dotto "David" Napa Valley Cabernet based red blend. Bill opened a Quintessa Napa Valley Red 2010, and for a trio comparative tasting, a Cliff Lede Napa Cab 2010. A nice tasting of three select Napa Cabernets representing three different styles, each with a distinctive character and profile.

Del Dotto "The David" Napa Valley Red Wine 2002

Named for proprietor producer David Del Dotto, one could argue that this is the flagship wine of this prolific producer. We acquired this bottle during one of several winery visits during this era. This was an aggressive ambitious offering of a Bordeaux blend with 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 19% Cabernet Franc. Four hundred cases were produced.

In it's twelfth year, this was still vibrant and lively but will likely not improve further with age. Dark garnet colored, full bodied and bold, the Rutherford fruit shows through as the expressive full forward black berry and black cherry fruits predominate with accents of cassis, spice box and Mayacamas Cedar tones. That Del Dotto craftmanship of layered oak and hints of mocha are apparent on a long soft, plush, layered fine tannin finish.

RM 92 points. Robert Parker gave this 94 points.

Quintessa Napa Valley Red Wine 2010

The 'quint' or five in the name Quintessa reflects both the five hills that make up the diverse estate property in the southeast corner of the Rutherford appellation, as well as the five Bordeaux varietals they grow for this flagship meritage blend wine. The magnificent Quintessa winery along Silverado Trail was one of the first elegant upscale big budget facilities of the modern era which is almost modest by today's standards of opulance. We visited the property back during our Napa Wine Experience 2003. While this is another Rutherford based Bordeaux Blend, it is a contrast in style to the Del Dotto.

The Quintessa estate red blend is very Bordeaux like with its elegant polished finely integrated stylistic blend of the five varietals grown on 170 acres of diverse vineyards in 26 different blocks on the 280 acre Rutherford estate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. 

Almost subdued in contrast to the bolder more aggressive Cal Cabs, Quintessa is elegant, polished, a symphony of flavors that take time to unfold in the glass, best revealed with an accompaniment of matched food - perfect with the pot roast and roasted carrots. Dark inky color, medium to full bodied, the black berry fruits are refined revealing layers of fruit, graphite, black currant and tones of soft subtle mocha, sweet oak and muted flora with finesse on the smooth silky tannin finish. This will likely evolve to reveal more sophistication and complexity with some age.

RM 92 points.

Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

One of our favorites and mainstays of both Bill's and my cellars, the Cliff Lede Stags Leap property is very near the Quintessa site geographically, but stylistically, the estate Cabernet is more like the Del Dotto David with its bolder, more vibrant forward fruit compared to the Quintessa, but slightly moderate from the more 'over-the-top' Del Dotto. An interesting cross section representing the best of Napa Valley Cabernet.

Bill's notes summed it up well, "Deep indigo color. Complex layered, bright red fruit, sour cherry and raspberry on the palate. Lingering finish with a hint of oak. This is delicious and drinking beautifully right now. Interesting comparison to a 2002 Del Dotto "David". Stylistically very similar profiles. The Lede was almost a lighter "little brother" to the Del Dotto."

Bill gave this 93 points. I gave it 92 as it compared with the other two wines, despite its stylistic difference.