Saturday, September 27, 2014

Syrah Syrah Extravaganza Barbecue Dinner

Syrah Syrah Extravaganza Barbecue Dinner

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 - 

Santa Ema Amplus One 2008
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

We visited this winery on the guidance of Bill Arns during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2012 with Bill and Beth, when we tasted and Bill acquired this wine during the visit.

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

Ernie, Dan and I all brought this label (without any collusion or prior communications), thankfully from different vintages, which afforded  us the chance to comparison taste this mini vertical of this popular wine. 

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

Howell Mountain anchors the north east corner of Napa Valley and is known primarily for its distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon. Its terroir of rocky soil, western sun exposure with gentle breezes and altitude also produces a select style of Zinfandel with its rich, brambly extracted dark fruit and a unique spice that almost borders on cinnamon.

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

We discovered this wine several years ago and acquired and rapidly consumed the 2002 and 2003 vintages. We still hold several bottles from the neighboring Greenock Block. This 2004 that was selected for Wine Spectator's Top 100 2006 comes from old vines in Greenock, a prime growing area in the Barossa for Shiraz. Eric found this at Kahn's in Indy and brought it to share and compare.

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

We discovered this wine at the 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 

This legendary ultra-premium label has taken on almost a cult-like following.
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 .. ...

Yountville Woodinville Reds For Family Dinner

Yountville Woodinville Reds For Family Celebration Dinner

Celebrating son-in-law Johnny's birthday, the family assembled for a gala dinner. Daughter Erin prepared lasagna so son Ryan and I brought two reds, two Bordeaux varietals from diverse regions. From Yountville, a 'lesser appellation' of Napa I brought a Ninety Plus Cellars Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon. From Woodinville, Washington, the tony Seattle suburb that is home to legendary Chateau St Michelle, Ryan brought 'D2' from DeLille Cellars, named for the famous Bordeaux arterial highway that extends from Bordeaux city along the southern bank of the Gironde through the regions famous appellations to the west.

The town of Woodinville lies about 20 road-miles northeast of downtown Seattle and has become a wine-tourism destination. It all started with Chateau Ste. Michelle, opened in 1976, and has grown to over fifty wineries. It is also home to other notable producers such as Betz Family Cellars, Matthews Estate, Columbia Winery, and upcoming boutique producers such as Mark Ryan and Ross Andrew.

But unlike Napa, center to the nation's most famous wine growing region, the grapes are grown elsewhere, in the Columbia Valley and other wine growing areas a hundred miles or more to the east in eastern and central Washington. We visited Woodinville during our Washington Wine Tour back in 1998. Our cellar, while predominantly Napa and Bordeaux, followed by Australia, holds more than ten cases from Washington producers including Abeja, Andrew Will, Matthews, Dunham, Woodward Canyon, Spring Valley and Quilceda Creek.

Like many other Woodinville producers, DeLille Cellars make their wines in Woodinville from grapes grown in a number of eastern Washington appellations (AVAs - American Viticultural Areas). DeLille have operated since the early nineties and are one of the more notable producers. They have branding under two different labels: Doyenne for Rhone-styled blends, and Chaleur Estate for their Bordeaux blends and Cabernet Sauvignon releases. DeLille were nominated for Winery of the Year in 2014.

DeLille Cellars "D2" Columbia Valley Washington Red Blend 2011

Delille’s 'D2' is billed as the second wine of their Chaleur Estate blend and is a classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot 56.5%, Cabernet Sauvignon 35%, Cabernet Franc 6.5%, and Petit Verdot 2%.

The winemakers review says "A layered vintage of D2 expressing a fruit-driven nose of blueberries, cassis, and cherries along with lavender, cigar wrappers, toasted vanilla, crushed stones and pencil shavings. The flavors have a harmonious combination of red and black fruits with blackberries and cherries leading the profile. The majority of characters, however, are all about spices:  fennel, white pepper, Herbs de Province, cinnamon, graham and a touch of menthol. Definitely a complex D2 that is delicious, savory and balanced."

I certainly picked up the blue berry fruits, tones of cassis, tobacco and pencil. It was dark inky garnet with tones of purple, medium bodied, complex and concentrated with predominant black berry fruits and a hint on the back pallette of what the producer referred to as fennel, a particular flavor I find unfortunate in the profile. This likely will improve with some time.

RM 90 points. Robert Parker gave this wine 93 points.

This profile, review and rating is consistent with my earlier experiences and memories of  this wine.

Ninety Plus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Lot 109 Yountville 2012

Napa wine aficionados recognize Yountville as one of the Napa Valley sub-appellations or AVA's (American  Viticultural Area), named for founder George Yount, who settled the area and planted the first vineyards in the Napa Valley in 1836. Today, the area is also known as NapaNook. Yountville is one of Napa Valley's lesser known appellations despite the fact that 4000 of its geographic 8000 acres are planted in vines. Unlike its more famous neighbor Rutherford, with it's famed 'dusty reds', or adjacent Stag's Leap and it's "velvet fisted" cabs, Yountville lacks a distinctive label for its patchwork combination of soils and climates that are a bit antithetical to the concept of terroir. 

Yountville possesses a unique combination of distinctive soil characteristics with volcanic soils to the east that are similar to the neighboring Stags Leap District, and centuries old coastal deposits with both sedimentary and alluvial soils to the west, interspersed with sandy and gravelly loam. No other area in  Napa Valley boasts this particular geomorphic combination. Indeed, very different soils are found in the areas immediately surrounding Yountville in Oakville, Stags Leap, Mt. Veeder, and Oak Knoll districts, hence its AVA designation.

According to the Yountville AVA site, climatically, historical record keeping and modern weather gathering techniques indicate that cool marine air currents from San Pablo Bay to the south, are trapped when they reach what are known as the Yountville Mounts, keeping natural "air conditioning" working even on the warmest summer days. These milder temperatures allow the grapes of the region plenty of time to develop unique flavor characteristics, demonstrate the local "terroir."

Based on its unique soil and climatological data, Yountville was granted Appellation status in 1999, and was one of the last Napa Valley sub appellations to be officially recognized. As with all AVAs, a minimum of 85% Yountville grapes must be used in the bottle to have the Yountville AVA cited on the label.

We've talked about Ninety Plus Cellars numerous times in this blog and their negociant model of buying excess or set-aside product from growers or producers, and releasing it under their private label.  They cite the 'source price' for this wine at $45 and are releasing it for $18. I can imagine it being offered under the source label at the $45 price and being considered over-priced or underwhelming at that pricepoint. Perhaps that is why the producer sold it to be marketed under a different label. However, it may prove to be a great buy and offer tremendous QPR (quality price ratio) at the under twenty dollar price point. I bought it for $18 and another local retailer is currently offering this at $16. At that price I'd suggest buying it for a complex sophisticated every day wine that may evolve into a really good wine. With 2000 cases produced, this should be generally available. Notably, since its a negociant offer private label, its a one of a kind, not likely to be repeated, so enjoy it while you can.

This was dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, big floral aromas, complex with dense rich black berry, tones of black cherry and sweet spice, hints of cassis and creosote with a layer of firm but approachable tannins on a long lingering finish. It lacked polish and was a bit forward and needs time and we no doubt drank it too early. It also needs time to open and breath and should be decanted and allowed time to open. The next morning it was much smoother and more approachable.

RM 88 points upon opening, 90 points the next day after settling.