Sunday, April 19, 2015

Arns, Rusbissow, Cantenac Brown Highlight Flemings Prime Beefsteak Dinner

Arns, Rusbissow, Cantenac Brown Highlight Flemings Prime Beefsteak Dinner

A gathering of the original 'pour boys'. Saturday night dinner in bustling Chicago following afternoon at the theatre for the ladies, was the setting for tasting this trio of fine wines. The ladies took in a musical at Lyric Opera and then we gathered at Lyle and Terry's at their nearby west loop pied-a-tere turned permanent residence for a pre-dinner tasting. Bill and Beth brought an Arn's Napa Valley Cabernet which we enjoyed with cheese, olives, proscuitto and crackers. We then proceeded to Flemings Prime Steakhouse Chicago for dinner.

To celebrate Bill and Beth's son Matt's recent engagement announcement to Molly, I took a birthyear Bordeaux befitting the occasion - Cantenac Brown Margaux 1989. We ordered from the winelist a Rubissow Mt Veeder Merlot to round out the pairing.

Arns Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Bill brought this bottle which he acquired at the winery/estate during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2013 - Arns Estate (Blog post at As I write in that visit blogpost report, Arns Estate Vineyards and Winery is a small artisan boutique producer of handcrafted Arns Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

The estate consists of 160 acres of which just eleven are planted in vineyards situated on the lower tier of Howell Mountain on the eastern slope above the town of St. Helena.

Arns' wines bear a Napa Valley designation since the Howell Mountain appellation demarcation point is 1200 feet elevation, determined by the level the fog rises up the hill. Never-the-less, the Howell Mountain terroir is clearly evident in Arns Cabernet.

John Arns, Rick, Linda, Bill
We love this wine which I first discovered at Andy Bassin's MacArthur Wine Shop in WDC where I acquired this label over the years dating back to the 1996 vintage.

Bill's note from this CT - "Medium garnet color. A bit of a musty nose on opening but this blew off in 5 or 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, this opened to reveal bright red fruit, mocha and a bit of sweetness that I would typically associate with Mt Veeder. However this winery located on Howell Mtn below the fog line produces something much more layered and complex. A delicious bottle drinking very well right now."

WCC - 90 points.

I give it a 92, I love this ripe berry sweetness with tones of sweet mocha. This has an amazingly similar profile to the Merlot below with its elegant approachable Merlot like smooth softness.

Rubissow Napa Valley Mount Veeder Merlot 2004

A rare find from the Fleming's winelist, since only 130 cases were produced of this wine. We discovered and acquired this wine during a winery/estate visit during our Napa Wine Experience Mt Veeder excursion in 2011 - Rubissow Mt Veeder Napa Valley Vineyards

The artisan boutique producer estate of 45 acres sits high atop the south end of Mt Veeder with views of San Pablo Bay in the distance. Eighteen acres are planted in Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and some Syrah. 

Today the winery is operated by second generation, Peter Rubissow who has taken over the main operations duties from his father, founder and patriarch George Rubissow.

This is another favorite Napa Valley Bordeaux varietal that we've enjoyed visiting at the estate. We acquired later vintages of this wine during the visit and ordered more of this varietal and joined their wine club, but we have never heard anything more or received and further wines from the producer. Tasting this earlier vintage raises the anticipation of opening selections from our cellar, and raises the disappointment of not obtaining more (despite having placed hard orders.) 

Rick and Linda with George Rubissow
This was amazingly similar to the Arns Cabernet that we tasted earlier with its full body, bright vibrant sweet raspberry fruits and predominant layer of mocha accent. Even more amazing since the two wines come from opposite corners of Napa Valley, and one is a Merlot and the other a Cabernet Sauvignon! 

Never-the-less, this Estate Merlot could pass for a Cabernet in a blind tasting, raspberry fruits, smooth, polished, elegant, sweet, tones of mocha, sweet spicy oak, hints of dusty rose floral, and black tea on a smooth firm but silky smooth tannin finish. This must be at its prime right now - I can't imagine it being better in its youth or with more age. 

RM 92 points. 

Château Cantenac Brown Grand Cru Classe Margaux 1989

As I wrote above, Bill and Beth just announced the engagement of their son Matt to Molly, so I brought this birth year 1989 vintage Bordeaux which I have been holding for such an occasion, to highlight our dinner. 

Opened and decanted about an hour before we turned to this as part of the main course with our entrees. It needed this time to 'settle' and burn off an earthy leather essence and reveal its true fruit and floral character. 

The cork was moist and saturated but was intact and in good condition. Dark garnet color, classic nose of Margaux perfume with floral, hints of leather, earth and cassis. Medium bodied, nicely balanced concentrated black berry and black cherry fruits accented by earth, leather, tobacco leaf and hints of tea, turning to a smooth polished moderate tannin finish. This is likely at its apex or the end of its optimal drinking window and probably will start to diminish from here forward, so it was suitably aged and time to drink. 

RM 89 points. 


 'Pour boys', Lyle, Bill, and Rick with UCG Oliver Bernard
and Frank Kronthal at the UGC Tasting Chicago 2014