Saturday, November 22, 2014

Constant Cab Franc and Eileen Hardy Shiraz

Constant Cabernet Franc and Eileen Hardy Shiraz

Friday night dinner at Angelis, our favorite neighborhood trattoria featured two BYOB selections from our cellars. Bill and Beth brought a Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet Franc and I brought a Eileen Hardy Shiraz. A contrast in styles and states of two upscale labels at two stages of their aging window.

The four of us with J&B and Freddie Constant
While different in style, both wines complemented perfectly my pasta with hearty bolognese sauce and italian sausage. 

We visited the spectacular picturesque Constant Vineyards estate high atop Diamond Mountain during our Diamond Mountain Appellation Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011.

Sadly, Freddie Constant passed away earlier this year so we toasted a tribute to the colorful memorable producer.

Constant Diamond Mountain Estate Vineyards
The Constant estate sits at the peak of Diamond Mountain in the Mayacamas Range that separates Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Constant is the highest and perhaps oldest winery in the region and is the only vineyard that spans both Napa and Sonoma faces.

The Diamond Mountain District appellation, one of the smaller Napa wine districts, sits just south of and above the town of Calistoga in the northwest corner of Napa Valley. The sun drenched slopes with their rocky terrain and volcanic soil produce rich concentrated Bordeaux varietal fruit and are home to some of the most notable and prestigious labels including the namesake label Diamond Mountain vineyards. Our afternoon on the mountaintop retreat was one of the more memorable settings from our many Napa Valley trips.

Constant Diamond Mountain Winery Diamond Mountain District Estate Cabernet Franc 2007

Bright dark ruby/purple colored, medium to full bodied, this was bright vibrant full forward black berry and currant fruit with a bold punch of sweet almost cinnamon spice accented by tones of mocha chocolate, soft sweet oak with dusty lush pleasing tongue coating lingering tannins.

RM 93 points. 

Bill's notes from Cellartacker - "Deep purple color. Light nose of fig and light floral aromas belie a wonderfully flavored Cab Franc. Opens with a bit of sweetness on the front palate, cocoa on the mid palate, silky tannins and a long lingering finish highlighted by cassis and a touch of oak. A wonderful accompaniment to smoky, bacon infused chowder and prosciutto wrapped, stuffed chicken breast in a sweet and spicy pepper sauce.

WCC 92 points.

Hardys "Eileen Hardy" McLaren Vale-Padthaway-Clare South Australia Shiraz 1999

This is literally the signature wine of the legendary historic Hardy brand, bearing the mark of Eileen Hardy, the matriarch of the house of Hardy. The best shiraz from each vintage is released under the Eileen Hardy label.

Hardy have been producing wine in the region since Thomas Hardy purchased the Tintara vineyards and winery in McLaren Vale back in the 1870's. Thomas Hardy wines were the first Australian wines to be awarded prestigious Gold medals at the International Wine Shows in Bordeaux in 1882 and in Paris in 1889.

Tom Mayfield Hardy, Thomas Hardy’s grandson, continued the family business in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. When he was tragically killed in a plane crash, his wife, Eileen Hardy, and his cousin, Kenneth Hardy, took over the business. Thomas Walter Hardy, Tom and Eileen Hardy’s eldest son, becomes the fourth generation of the Hardy family to enter the family business. 

To celebrate the 80th birthday of the iconic matriarch, Eileen Hardy, her children created this Eileen Hardy Shiraz label as its flagship shiraz containing the best from each vintage.

I don't know if it was the contrast in style, indication of the vintage, or just a closed period in the aging of this wine, but the Hardy's Eileen Hardy Shiraz was overshadowed by the bold bright vibrant Constant Cab Franc. The metaphor I often use to describe such a contrast is one is a foot wide and four inches deep (Hardy), while the other (Constant) is four inches wide and a foot deep!

The Hardy came across more like a Cabernet than a Shiraz, with its firm complexity, while the Constant was true to the profile of Cabernet Franc, spicy, and bold, showing why it is used as a blending wine to brighten and accent the Bordeaux Blend. At this stage, tonight, this vintage didn't live up to the hype of the label.

Dark garnet colored and medium bodied, the 1999 Hardy showed complex black cherry and black berry fruits accented by spice, earthy leather with hints of tar, cedar, anise and oak with fine grained subtle tannins on the finish.

RM 89 points.