Saturday, January 31, 2015

Signorello & Del Dotto Napa Wines Paired with Vie Western Springs Fine Cuisine

Vie in Western Springs Locavor Fine Cuisine Matched with BYOB Signorello & Del Dotto Napa Wines

We dined at tony Vie in Western Springs at their Chicago Restaurant Week four course price fixe special evening with daughter Erin and S-in-law Johnnie, arranged by son Ryan.

They offered a meat and a fish entree selection so I took two special Napa bottles BYOB - Del Dotto Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - a special year for the kids, and Signorello Estate Napa Valley Hope's Cuvee Chardonnay 2010.

A wine course and or beer accompaniment course was offered but we took advantage of and appreciated Vie's corkage fee/accommodation. 

The wines were a highlight of the localvor fine dinner course pairings shown below.

First Course

Chicken cassoule: braised leg, sausage and chicken bacon, white beans, roasted turnips, preserved asparagus, tarragon pesto,


Tempura fried pickled summer beans, roasted sweet potatoes, harissa mayonnaise, arugula (shown left). Imaginative and tasty.

Second Course

Creamy squash soup, ginger granola, yogurt,


Roasted and pickled beets, watermelon radish, savoy cabbage, smoked ramp and buttermilk ranch (shown right).This was delicious but, while ever so subtle and refined, the smoked tone in this course, when followed by the smoked entree, in combination was a bit much.

Third Course

Pan-roasted steelhead trout, sauerkraut pancake, parsnip puree, wood grilled onions, smoked apple butter vinagrette, dill (shown left). The girls both had this and enjoyed it.


Wood grilled pork sausage, smoked ham, toasted polenta, confit celery root, grilled meyer lemon, marcoot creamery tomme, preserved tomato pork broth. Johnnie and I both had this and while it was good, the smoked ham overpowered the tasty pork sausage.

Also, the double smoked selection of the smoked entree following the smoked beet salad was a but much.

The wines:

Signorello Hope's Cuvee Napa Valley Estate Chardonnay 2010

We discovered and acquired this wine at a winery dinner/visit at the magnificent setting overlooking lower Napa Valley vineyards during our Napa Wine Experience 2013.

I selected this hearty full, forward Chardonnay that I knew would accompany the fish entree as well as the first and second starter and salad courses and I was right.

Read through my blog postings and you'll know I am predominantly a red wine drinker. While I enjoy an occasional glass of white, most often with appropriate food, I don't normally get excited about a white wine. This Chardonnay was the exception,  memorable and special. This was the first bottle from our winery purchase that we have opened at home and it met all my high expectations.

This Hopes Cuvée Chardonnay was full bodied but nicely balanced and polished for very pleasant drinking. It is bursting with flavorful fruit with layers of peach and poached pear giving way to hints of honey, almond, nutmeg, vanilla and creamy soft spicy oak. There is very pleasant full mouth-feel with rich texture on the palate with a long lingering finish of sweet mellow oak. It was a great accompaniment to the carefully prepared, complex fine cuisine courses.

RM 93 points.

While it wasn't listed on the Vie website when I planned and selected the wines for the evening, their wine list featured the Signorello flagship Padrone Napa Cabernet. It would have been fun to have a Signorello wine flight for our dinner experience. We'll plan this for a future visit. Padrone is Signorello's flagship wine, produced in honor of Ray Signorello Sr., the patriarch of the family and founder of the estate. 

Del Dotto Vineyards Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

We have a vertical collection of this wine dating back to the inaugural vintage release in 1993. Del Dotto is one of our favorite Napa producers and we've visited the winery many times over the years. A tour of the sensational Del Dotto winery and cave was a highlight of Erin and Johnnie's Napa trip. So, it was fitting to select a Del Dotto for our dinner together. The 1999 vintage commemorates a special benchmark year for the kids too.

This 1999 vintage was the artwork of legendary winemaker Nils Venge crafted from Rutherford appellation fruit. At sixteen years, this is a testament to the aging potential of this label as it is still full, firm and vibrant and is just starting to show its age as tones of earth, leather, and tobacco are starting to set in. These tones turned to bright floral notes after being open an hour.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, firm gripping forward black berry fruits laced with that classic Rutherford dust, complex but nicely balanced with intense dark cherry, black currant and blackberry fruits, a layer of cedar and spicy tangy oak on a lingering finish of tight structured tannins. This was a great complement to the complex mix of tastes in the wood grilled pork sausage and smoked ham entree that matched well with the wine's complexity.

RM 92 points.

After dinner, the Fourth Course dinner selections were:

Mascarpone cheesecake, spiced cookie butter, heirloom citrus, and tangerine sorbet, or,

Apple and raspberry galette, milk chocolate gelato, and raspberry preserves (shown right). This was spectacular.

Vie Restaurant, Western Springs, IL 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux Chicago 2015

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) 2012 Vintage Release Tasting Chicago 

For Bordeaux lovers, one of the premier wine events of the year is the annual North American vintage release tour of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB).  The UGC is an association of 133 grands crus producers from heralded Gironde estates. Shown below left is the colorful Bernard Olivier, Proprietor of Domaine Chevallier and President of the UGCB, with son Hugo.

Wine enthusiasts will know that Grand Cru refers to the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, where Grand Cru (French for 'great growth') is the classification that designates a vineyard (or producer) as reputable, known for its consistency in producing favorable wines. Grand Cru is the second highest rating of five levels, second only to Premier cru or Premier cru classé, the highest level of the five within the "Grand cru classé" designation for red wines, and the second-highest of three in the Sauternes appellation, where the highest is Premier Cru Supérieur (superior first growth). These highest rated wines are often known as or referred to as the classic 'First Growths', of which there are only six. 

The First Growths generally cost an order of magnitude more than the Grand Crus, beyond the budget of most, or certainly, only obtainable as once a year wines, or even once in a lifetime, special occasion wines. In top vintages, First Growths often cost more than a $1000 per bottle. 

Often the Grand Crus wines approach the quality and rating of the higher classified and much more expensive First Growth wines, and are certainly indistinguishable, except to the most discriminating. Hence, Grand Crus are the most popular and most widely collected wines for the masses of Bordeaux wine enthusiasts.  

The annual UGCB vintage release tour event is open to the trade - restauranteurs, merchants, distributors, importers and the press during the day, and then it is open to the public in the evening through special arrangements with Binny's Beverage Depot, the Chicagoland wine super merchant with over thirty stores. Other featured merchants host the event in other cities.

Ryan and Rick - Father Son Tasting Team
This outstanding event offers a rare opportunity to meet the producers and many of the actual winemakers and the opportunity to taste their latest Bordeaux release. About 100 wines are presented for tasting and offered for pre-sale 'en premiere' or as wine futures to the public prior to actual availability of the wines in distribution. This provides a preview of the release and the opportunity to lock in an allocation of the wine at the pre-release price. For a collector seeking that release, it typically affords the best means to obtaining wines at early market price. 

Chateau Pichon Baron -
one of the standouts
The event provides enthusiasts and collectors the chance to meet and speak with the winery representative who offers unique insights and perspectives on the current vintage release, the recent harvest projecting next year's vintage release, as well as previous earlier vintages releases of the label. 

We hold many cases of Bordeaux wines dating back to the early eighties as well as many large format bottles of key vintages that we're holding for special occasions. The producers are exposed to these wines regularly and are a library of knowledge of the state of each release and how it is aging and drinking, even in the various size format bottles. They have vast knowledge and insights and can offer great perspectives on the historic vintages as well as the nuances of the current and upcoming releases.

As with recent years, the tour visited New York, Chicago and San Francisco. The Chicago event was held in the classic famous Gold Coast Ballroom (shown left) of the chic Drake Hotel at the the corner where the Magnificent Mile North Michigan Avenue meets Lake Shore Drive. 

Like last year, when snowstorms in New York delayed the arrival of many producers in Chicago, a winter blizzard across the eastern third of the US threatened to disrupt the event, but a group of flight delayed courageous producers arrived from New York an hour before opening.

In fairness, naturally, I did not taste every wine, but of those tasted, here are the highlights of this year's event. I focused on wines that I know and collect as a basis of comparison to calibrate the vintage. I then ventured to try some new wines, especially wines that are from producers I already know, and then I tried some new discoveries. 

Cellar Angels Founders Martin and Denise Smith Cody
with Dean Noonan of SipsonSherman and Cecile Rocher,
Brand Ambassador for Chateau Larose-Trintaudon
Professional tasters, or those in the trade know the routine and rigor of tasting, but for the average person, they're not likely aware of the demands of such a tasting. For such an event, with so many wines tasted, I'll rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best. 

Tasting so many wines in one setting, I admit I succumb to palette fatigue and start to lose my sense of discrimination, so I won't try to rate on the more precise 100 point scale that is so often used

Also, note I didn't drink any wine, rather spit out the wine tasted, so my diminution of discrimination was not due to alcohol. 

Lastly, I did endeavor to occasionally cleanse my palette with water, bread and cheese, and while this helps immensely, I believe my olfactory senses ebb and flow over the course of the day as a result.

The 2012 will not be a blockbuster vintage, like the 2010, or 2009, but with careful selection, will provide pleasurable drinking at more affordable prices. The wines should show to be more approachable at an earlier age as well. 

 The stand out appellations that seemed to be high performing appeared to be wines from the Pauillac Appellation followed by Margaux, and then St Julien.

The Pauillac appellation seemed to not only be showing the best results for the vintage but also seemed to be most consistent amongst the group of producers represented. 

Pauillac wines tasted and showing best:
Five stars: Gold
Chateau Pichon Baron  (shown left)
Chateau Pichon Comtesse Longueville de Lalande
Chateau Lynch Bages 
All showed full body, complex concentrated forward dark fruits, very structured with a firm tannic backbone on the long finish.
Four stars: Silver
Grand Puy Lacoste  
Grand Puy Ducasse
Chateau Clerc Milon

From St Estephe - Phelan Segur a perennial favorite stood out - 4 stars / Silver


Margaux seemed to show well however it seemed to lack the consistency of the Pauillacs. 

From the 'heart of Margaux' - Lascombes,
Malescot St Exupery, and Marquis de Tertre

Four stars each:  Silver

Chateau Dauzac (a new discovery)
Chateau Giscours
Chateau Brane-Cantenac
Chateau Cantenac Brown
Chateau Lascombes
Chateau Marquis de Tertre


St Julien is one of our favorite appellations and most widely held in our cellar. 

The always delightful David Launay
of Gruaud Larose
Four 1/2 stars each: Silver/Gold
Chateau Leoville Barton
Chateau Langoa Barton

Four stars each: Silver
Chateau Gruaud Larose
Chateau LaGrange
Chateau Beyechevelle
Chateau Branaire Ducru

Medium bodied, core of concentrated dark fruits, tones of cedar, tobacco leaf and leather, with moderate tannins.  

A new discovery of the tasting was Chateau St Pierre from the same ownership as Chateau Gloria. I've had this a couple times but never in a setting to compare to other benchmark appellation producers.

Chateau Grand-Puy-Ducasse
Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Several of the Right Bank St Emilion and Pomerol appellation Merlot based wines seemed to come across a bit austere and slightly astringent with a woody and green cedar tone. 

Highlights of the that sub-region that were standouts were:

Again, as with last year, Chateau Clinet (left) was a standout of the event and certainly of the Right Bank selections.

Four and 1/2 stars: Silver/Gold

Chateau Clinet
Chateau Gazin 

Chateau Troplong Mondot

Four Stars: Silver
Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere

From the Barzac et Sauternes appellations, home to sweet white dessert style wines, the standouts were:

Five Stars: Gold
Chateau Giraud - regretably, this was gone by the evening session

Four Stars: Silver (Shown above)
Chateau Rayne Vigneau 
Chateau La Tour Blanche

The next generation - son Ryan McNees, collector and enthusiast, and Hugo Olivier of Domaine Chevalier.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Justin Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Justin Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This was featured at the Saturday afternoon tasting flight at Vin Chicago in Naperville. I'm not normally a big fan of Paso Robles style wines and hence, or Justin, but this was a standout.

A pleasant flavorful easy drinking Cab - garnet colored, medium bodied, berry and currant flavors are accented by soft sweet spicy oak tones, vanilla and hints of milk chocolate. I liked it and bought some and look forward to trying it again with char-grilled beef, hearty cheese or dark chocolates. 

RM 89 points.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rocca Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Rocca Family Vineyards Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

As written in my blog earlier this week, after depleting my stock of the Marilyn Sauvignon Blonde, I stopped at Sav-Way Liquors in Hinsdale to pick up their remaining bottles. Based on the wines I was browsing, they suggested I try this Napa Cab, an unknown label which was a special buy, which according to them was on offer at half price, marked down from $80 to $40.

Upon further research, this is the product of emerging producer, vineyard proprietors, Mary Rocca and Eric Grigsby. Mary a cosmetic dentist, and Eric a nationally known pain management physician, are producing wines from two vineyard sites in lower Napa. I was not aware of this wine so we tried it tonight, after a Friday evening movie out, with a variety of cheeses, some leftover tenderloin steak from last weekend's wine and dine dinner, and fresh apple slices.

Rocca and Grigsby pursued their dream to produce world class wines when they purchased their first Napa Valley vineyard in 1999. They have the twenty-one acre Grigsby vineyard in Yountville, and the eleven acre Collinetta Vineyard located in Coombsville, Napa Valley's newest sub-appellation east of downtown Napa. Collinetta is Italian for “little hill,” named for the topology of the site. Mary now devotes her time to the vineyard project with winemaking duties tasked to consulting winemaker Paul Colantuoni.

The vineyards are planted in Bordeaux varietals centered on Cabernet Sauvignon, and some Syrah. Their early releases have earned them accolades as a top emerging Cabernet producer. The Grigsby Vineyard 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon came in #1 in a blind tasting of 12 Rising Star Cabernets at the Vintners Club tasting in the U.S. That wine was cited #1 from a group of 12 Cabernets shown in France's 12 Best Cabernets from California.

Watch for more from this producer as they increase production over the next couple years. Rocca release only about a third of their fruit under their own label, selling the rest to other Napa producers.  For the 2009 vintage, their production was 2,200 cases across a portfolio of six wines. That output is expected to increase to 5,000 cases by 2019.

This was dark blackish Ruby colored, full bodied, complex dark berry fruits that were overtaken by smoky creosote and tree bark flavors, with layers of spicy oak, expresso, and hints of dark chocolate with full tannins on a lingering finish. The seven reviews on Cellartracker are unanimous with a 92 point score. I ranked it a slighty lower 91 points due to the fruit being overtaken by the smokey tar non fruit flavors. It will be interesting to see how this is tomorrow, and to see if the fruit emerges in a couple more years as it settles down and balances out.

According to the producer, this is sourced from Estate vineyards, 95% Yountville and 5% from their Hillside Vineyard.

RM 91 points.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nova Wines Marilyn Sauvignon Blonde 2013

Nova Wines Marilyn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blonde 2013 - Another case study in branding

Another label and line from the Nova Wines Marilyn Monroe collection of artist or photo art inspired series wines featuring artwork of photographs of the famous Hollywood movie starlet adorning every bottle that I wrote about in a recent blogpost - Marilyn Merlot and Norma Jean Wines - A Study in Branding.

These wines, with their sexy and fun labels have become a collector series with an almost cult like following. The producers have done an extraordinary job with their branding of the Marilyn lines associated with the Marilyn Merlot flagship namesake label, and others. The fun of buying their wines is indicated in this whimsical label Sauvignon Blonde - a play on words of the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, and the Platinum Blonde bombshell that was Marilyn Monroe.

This 2013 release, the sixth in this series of wines based on Sauvignon Blanc, that began in 2008, features a picture of Marilyn, taken by Sam Shaw, while she was spending time with him and his family that the producer says "has an intimacy and realness that is rarely seen in her more posed photographs".

Producer's winemakers notes - "Aromas are a combination of fresh violets and a typical herbaceous note that is expected with Sauvignon Blanc wines. Flavors of Meyer lemons and pears abound. This wine explains why we say Marilyn Sauvignon Blonde is the wine we drink daily!"

They say that Sauvignon Blanc is the grape varietal that manifests itself most naturally in its wines, succumbing to less adulteration or alteration than other varietals. This contributes to the consistency in Sauvignon Blanc wines across the spectrum including the price range.

Rear label
I find Sauvignon Blanc to be an ideal wine for the less discriminating or less sophisticated wine drinker with its simplicity and easy drinkability for every day as well as special occasion drinking. Notably, open this bottle, enjoy a glass, put it in fridge, and enjoy another glass again, and again, up to a week or even ten days later. Its good with white cheeses, seafoods, berries and other fruits, and salads.

This was a great accompaniment to left-over scampi from our last Saturday night wine and dine dinner

Nova Wines Marilyn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blonde Sauvignon Blanc 2013

This wine, as with many Sauvignon Blancs, represents great QPR - quality to price ratio, for every day drinking.

This 2013 release Sauvignon Blonde is light straw colored, light bodied, crisp, clean, and flavorful with lemon citrus tones turning to pear and stone with a tangy lingering finish.

RM 88 points. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Clark Claudon Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Clark Claudon Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Following our Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon wine theme dinner the other night, I couldn't help but continue the tasting flight by opening this selection. I event noted in my wine journal post from the other night where I cited this wine as the next one I would open if we had more participants to taste such. Tonight's tasting was possible because I have 375ml half bottles of this wine allowing me to open one for a week night dinner for just bride L and me with left over tenderloin and roasted potatoes from our Saturday night wine dinner.

As I've written before in this blog about this wine, we've been collecting this Howell Mountain classic since our Napa Valley Wine Experience 1999 when we first met Tom Clark and Laurie Claudon-Clark and hosted them at one of our wine producer dinners.

We have collected and maintain a vertical collection of this wine consisting of a dozen and half vintages dating back to their inaugural 1993 vintage. We have tasted this in several Napa Cabernet wine flights with a consistent outcome - often a blockbuster crowd pleaser.

Deep inky garnet colored,  full bodied - explosive aromas of ripe dark berry fruits, big mouth-full of forward complex, balanced, silky smooth, polished spicy black currant and edge of red berry fruits, with mouthful of floral violets, tones of dark mocha and turning to a predominant forward accent of sweet smooth spicy sweet oak that lingers on and on and on the smooth tannin finish, revealing the two years aging in new oak barrels. This was more vibrant and expressive than earlier tastings.

The 2004 Napa growing season was condensed with early bud break, warm days, cool nights and one challenging heat spike. The result was a small harvest of intense, flavor packed fruit from an unusual, but exceptional year that is showing and drinking well and should last another decade.

RM 93 points. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mtn and Napa Cabs 1987

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mtn and Napa Cabs Anchor Howell Mountain Flight for Festive Dinner

For a gala wine dinner, upon learning Dr. Dan was announcing daughter Hill's engagement, we pulled from the cellar 1987 birth year wines to celebrate the occasion. The feature wines were 1987 vintage Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain and Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. This lead to a flight of Howell Mountain Cabernets as the wine theme for our dinner, which is one of absolute our favorite Napa appellation/wines.

My records show that we hold a vertical collection of sixteen vintages of Randy Dunn's classic Howell Mountain Cabernet and eighteen of the Napa Valley, going back to the 1980 vintage.  This is a suitable collectable wine as it is known for its legendary longevity, which was evidenced by tonight's tasting. Their age worthiness begs for an occasion such as tonight to open an aged vintage selection.

Meeting Randy and Kristina Dunn at the winery up on Howell Mountain was a highlight of our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience in 2008.

To round out the Howell Mountain flight, we pulled O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cab and Viader Napa Valley Red Blend 2000's, and Bill brought along a Camiana Howell Mountain Cab 2007.

If we had more participants, the next likely wine in the flight would have been Clark-Claudon as we have a vertical collection spanning almost two decades of that notable Howell Mountain label as well, or a Palmaz Napa Valley Cab which is also crafted by Randy Dunn.

Adding to the Dunn Howell tasting experience was the fact that Bill just tasted the 2001 vintage at Morton's Grill in NY last weekend.

The selected course for the wine dinner was beef tenderloin, roasted gold potatoes, haricots verts, dinner salad and desserts.

Prior to dinner we had a selection of artisan cheeses with fresh fruits - apple and pear slices and mixed berries.

The cheese flight consisted of Bellavitano, Danish Blue, Smoked Gouda, and 4 year old aged white Cheddar (shown left).

Dan prepared a scampi dish and a flatbread with dates, onions, cioppino and blue cheese (see below).

The scampi and flatbread starter course, as well as the cheese flight were accompanied by a white wine flight of Lanson Brut Champagne NV, Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay 2002, Nikolaihof Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Im Weingebirge 2006, and a Mollydooker 'Violinist' Verdelho 2008. We also had open a Royal Tokaji Birsalmas 5 Petunyos.

Dan brought a Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012. Ironically, I already had chilled and open the 2002 which we opted for as its time to drink being near the end of its drinking window.

We normally don't get so invested in a white wine flight but Dan's scampi and flatbreads that he brought and prepared on site warranted more attention to the pairing. The Verdelho and the Royal Tokaji were already open in the cooler, left over from an earlier tasting, and holding sufficiently to be part of the flight.

The Red Cabernet Flight

Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1987

I opened and decanted this about four hours before dinner. The cork crumbled completely requiring a further fining through a coffee filter. Having never opened a 28 year old Dunn Howell before, with the obliterated cork I was prepared for anything, but all my hopes and expectations were fulfilled as there was no sign of diminution from age whatsoever. Resembled a Left Bank Bordeaux more than a Napa Cab, dark garnet colored, full bodied, the Dunn exhibited aromas of leather, blackberry, black currants and floral tones. Complex but nicely balanced, the berry fruits were accented by a layer of leather and floral with tones of dried tobacco leaf and hints of creosote and earth on the firm but nicely integrated silky smooth tannin finish.

RM 92 points.

Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1987 

Selection from Vertical Collection of Dunn Vineyards
Cabernet Sauvignons
I opened and decanted this about four hours before dinner, but unlike the Howell, the cork was perfect, as if it were a two year old! Like the Howell, this too showed no sign of aging. Very Bordeaux like with dark inky garnet/purple colored, medium to full bodied, complex and balanced black berry fruits with tones of lead pencil, tea, tobacco and hints of cedar and leather with acidity turning to modest tannins on the moderate finish.

RM 89 points.

 O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

This was better than I remember and as written in an earlier journal post three years ago this week when I wrote; 'Dark inky color, full bodied, the black berry, black currant and black raspberry fruit predominate but are a bit flabby lacking the more typical depth and concentration of greater vintages, a layer of lead pencil and a slight herbaceous tone, hints of tobacco and charcoal linger on the firm tight tannins indicative of Howell Mountain terroir.'

Tonight, this bottle was more vibrant and expressive than the previous one, lacking that 'flabbiness' and having more depth and concentration than previously. This was my second favorite wine of the evening behind the Dunn Howell Mtn Cab.

RM 91 points.

 Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend 2000 

We met winemaker and principle Delia Viader and tasted this wine on a snowy early winter evening at a Viader tasting at the Chicago Lakeview  Binny's. We then visited the winery during our 2008 Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience. We hold several vintages of this wine dating back to the nineties and tonight's tasting experience puts an exclamation point on the word 'hold'. 

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, this resembled a top tier Bordeaux with its complexity, balance, integrated flavors and tasting profile, but was tight and a bit closed, begging for much more time to settle and open to reveal its true character. Dark berry and black cherry fruits were muted turning to leather, tea, hints of graphite and tobacco box. As we learned with many of our topflight Bordeaux, that we drank them too early, give it several more years.

This is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Cabernet Franc.

RM 91 points.

Camiana Blue Hall Vineyard Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Bill and Beth's son Matt discovered this wine and arranged for each of us to pick up a mini-vertical - 2004-2007 of this Howell Mountain Cab, which we have in the cellar.

Ironically, we also tasted this wine two years ago this week when I wrote, 'The wine is full bodied and dark inky purple color, the nose is perfumed with violets, cedar box and dusty earth; The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon flavors are complex, tight and dry, with big firm tannins masking the intense concentrated black berry and black cherry fruit accented with tobacco, hints of cassis and sweet oak. This wine is great now but should be laid down for five to 10 years.' Tonight, the fruit seemed more expressive and open, but coming across boldly, lacking finesse, balance or polish, coming across as youthful and, as written before, needing time to settle and harmonize.

RM 89 points.

The white wine flight ...

Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Im Weingebirge 2006 

Light straw colored, medium light bodied. Bright tangy citrus aromas, clean and crisp bright expressive citrus on open that turns to complex layers of white fruits - melon, pear, lychee fruit and stone, finishing with tangy mineral citrus on the palate cleansing finish.

This was the best match of the white flight with the scampi dish.

RM 90 points.

Mollydooker Violinist Verdelho 2008

Butter colored, medium bodied, complex and intriguing, this wine from this uncommon varietal is an interesting cross between the body of a full complex Chardonnay and the crispness of a Sauvignon Blanc - full essence of pear predominates with subtle melon and tropical fruits on a firm mineral finish.

RM 89 points.

Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay 2002

This was a surprise bottle I found in the Chardonnay rack in the cellar but it wasn't in our cellar inventory so I pulled it to drink as its was one of the oldest and time to drink since its likely approaching the last chapter of its drinking window.

Gold colored, medium bodied, this packs complex full pear, green apple, mineral and a layer of buttery oak and bright acidity on a round finish.

RM 87 points.

Other pics ...

Grilled Beef tenderloin

Dr Dan's Flatbread

Dr Dan's Scampi

Thursday, January 15, 2015

St. Hallett Faith South Australia Barossa Shiraz 2006

St. Hallett Faith South Australia Barossa Shiraz 2006 

Consistent with earlier tasting notes, even at eight years of age. Found a half case of this buried in the cellar and delighted to find it drinking well for a casual every day sipper. Good with beef roast, hearty cheese or dark chocolate.

Dark inky black purple color - dense full bodied and chewy; initially tart cherry quickly burns off and gives way to black berry, tar, spicy cedar, hints of tobacco, white pepper, anise, charcoal and smoke on a slightly 'hot' lingering moderate tannin oaky berry finish. Slightly obtuse and lacking polish but a great value at $12.99 for high QPR - Quality to Price Ratio.

RM 88 points.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Deep Sea White Hawk Vineyard Santa Barbara Syrah 2008

Deep Sea White Hawk Vineyard Santa Barbara Syrah 2008

We opened this tasty full throttle Shiraz for a casual weeknight sipper by the fire on a frosty cold winter night. Looking back through my Blogposts and tasting notes, its been ten months and tastings of six other wines from this producer since we last featured this Deep Sea Syrah, the label that started our whole discovery and exploration of this Producer. As posted earlier, like another Syrah that I hold in my cellar that I discovered under the same circumstances, I found this downstate at Friar Tuck's, a wine merchant with stores across Central Illinois cities and suburban St Louis, Missouri. A few years ago I discovered Flinders Run Flinders Ranges Shiraz there and went back and bought out all that they had. Downstate for a client meeting, last winter, I picked this up to to try with a carry out rib dinner back at my hotel. I went back the next day and bought out their complete inventory. On a return visit they had more and I bought it all again. Both labels offered a big fruity Shiraz in the style we love, not available in Chicagoland, (although their highly recommended  Cabernet and Pinot Noir, and their Red Blend can be found), at a high QPR - Quality Price Ratio. It might be that this was perhaps a Negociant release and thus unfortunately may have been one and done.

Deep Sea is a producer in Santa Barbara that speaks of their quest to feature wines that represent "maritime influenced vineyards of merit and singularity .... their origins and the impact of California's coastal climate. California's appellations are ideally influenced throughout the growing season by the unique climes created by the Pacific Ocean. The ethereal 'fog-like wave' on the label references the focus of Deep Sea wines showcasing the impact of this natural cooling on some of California's most recognized maritime appellations."
This Syrah is made with grapes from the White Hawk vineyard in Santa Barbara County.  It is aged for eighteen months in French Oak barrels. 
Dark inky purple, full bodied, thick, concentrated, chewy black and blue berry fruits with a layer of alcohol, tones of caramel and vanilla, turning to hints of black pepper and mint on a moderate tannin laced lingering finish.
RM 91 points.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Merlot 2002

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Merlot 2002

We hold a mixed case of Bordeaux varietals from this producer, including a mini-vertical of Reserve Cabs, whom we've passed along Hwy 29 in South Napa Valley many times. It deserves a visit on one of our upcoming trips.

At twelve years of age, it is time to drink this in the coming year or so. Opened and tasted, then pumped and vacuum stoppered, and re-tasted a couple days later to reveal an evolving and improved, increased complexity tasting profile. It was a good accompaniment to beef steak and roasted potatoes, and then later with smoked Gouda cheese.

Dark ruby colored, medium bodied, aromatic berry fruits, tobacco and floral, complex medley of black berry fruits, tones of tobacco leaf, anise and hints of mocha and black tea. On second tasting a couple days later, there was a layer of sweet cognac on the mid-palate that was faint on initial opening but almost predominate later. Nice polished dusty tannins highlight the moderate smoky black berry,  tea and cognac layered finish.

RM 89 points.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kilikanoon Testament Barossa Shiraz 2004

Kilikanoon Testament Shiraz 2004

On a cold blustery snowy Chicago winter evening, we ventured out to Angelis, our local neighborhood Trattoria for a hearty wine and dine meal. We took this Kilikanoon Testament Shiraz, BYOB which turned out to be a perfect complement to both our entree selections - Linda's Butternut Squash Gnochi (think brown sugar - to which she has them add spinach), and my Pasta and Peas with Italian Sausage in Vodka Cream Sauce - a winter favorite (see below).

For a starter, we had Angeli's extraordinary clam chowder which is the best anywhere with its thick, chewy smoky bacon undertones.

Kilikanoon Testament Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004

Perhaps it was the warm ambiance and the food pairing, or the dozen years of age added to this wine, but tonight, while consistent with earlier tasting notes, it was even more delicious and tasty than I remember. This typifies everything we love in a hearty Shiraz with its rich, concentrated, complex succulent fruit flavors.

Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, the blackberry, blueberry and black cherry fruits are accented by a layer of creosote expresso with tones of cigar box and cedar with hints of mocha, black pepper and anise on the lingering chewy tannin finish.

Upon opening and for the first hour, the non-fruit tones detract a bit from the polish and finesse of the wine in my opinion hence it is perhaps best consumed with hearty food, dark chocolate or full cheese. The next day this was balanced, nicely polished and harmonious.

RM 92 points.

Angeli's Pasta and Peas
with Italian Sausage in Vodka Cream Sauce

Angeli's decadent Butternut Squash Gnochi
(with some spinach added)