Saturday, August 15, 2015

Caravan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Caravan Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

The exploration of the blockbuster 2012 Napa vintage continues. With a 'textbook perfect' vintage, there are likely to be some blockbuster wines, and great high QPR values from the second and lesser labels as the vintages releases are introduced.

Caravan 2011 shown
Following our tasting the blockbuster, big robust Paul Hobbs Crossbarn 2012 last night, we were drawn to try another 2012 second label for a mini horizontal comparison - second Paul Hobbs label vs the Caravan second label of Darioush.

Caravan generally tends toward a more fruit-driven palate and forward profile, less sophisticated and complex than the Darioush 'Signature' label. This release is a blend of 14% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec to add finesse to the Cabernet and complexity to the finish.

From the winery: "A fabulous vintage produced a stylish and substantial 2012 Caravan with a firm, structured palate and sleek, polished tannins. Offering saturated flavors of dark cherry and blueberry as well as notes of chocolate and white truffle; this is a round, supple and thoroughly approachable wine ready to be open and enjoyed."

We're big fans of Darioush but have never been enamored with this second label. The Darioush presentation of Caravan is interesting in how it positions Caravan - "Caravan is borne of the exploration of new vineyard sites for our Signature wines. Made in an approachable style, Caravan supports winemaking experimentation and vineyard enhancement."

We ordered a bottle of this with son Ryan, at the bar of the rustic Herrington Inn in Geneva where we were attending the wedding celebration of daughter-in-law's brother. After tasting the big robust Paul Hobbs Crossbarn,  (which was also on the winelist), Caravan with its narrower and more subdued fruit comes across like a prop vs a jet.

Ruby colored, medium bodied, the austere profile was apparent in the glass. Initially a bit lean and narrow, the cherry fruit was quickly overtaken by tones of graphite, anise, leather and coffee with a hint of mocha and truffle. This showed much better later in the evening against the table wine served at the banquet we were attending. Big fans of Darioush but never here-to-for captivated by this second label, that trend continues. Perhaps another try will reveal it in a better light.

RM 87 points.

Paul Hobbs Cab highlights cityscape dinner

CrossBarn Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon highlights post City Series Cross-town Classic Dinner Amidst Historic Industrial Building

With Dr Dan and Linda, we watched the white hot Cubbies (eight wins in a row, 14 out of 15) defeat the host White Sox in the opener of the second installment of the Cross-Town Classic Series. Afterwards we dined at our well kept secret (no more) nearby steakhouse, May Street Cafe. Pronouncing Contemporary Latin cuisine featuring Allen Brothers steaks, this neighborhood eatery in the Pilsen neighborhood sits next to a quaint, cozy neighborhood Dvorak city park, opposite the giant Com-ed Power Plant, next to the historic classic early 20th century gothic ornamented tower building (2211 So. Throop St), topped by the radio tower reminiscent of Dick Tracy or a Superman cartoon series. I'm no doubt one of the few that love that tower and imagine such a setting. Reinforcing the image, adding to the cityscape is the classic Steak-n-Egger Diner in the shadows of the tower.

My interest in history and architecture takes over here. 

Image capture from Google Streetview
The mysterious tower building is the 400,000 square-foot, 14 story landmark building designed by noted Chicago architect George Nimmons (1926). The building originally served as a warehouse and garage for the adjacent Commonwealth Edison Fisk Generating station. The 198-foot-high radio tower served the communication system to dispatch emergency equipment.

Today, the building is home to artist studios, exhibition spaces, classrooms, a cafe, a library and home to Mana Contemporary Chicago, an expanding art center. It houses the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Art and Art History, the Propeller Fund which is administered jointly by Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Three Walls.

Propeller Fund provides grants to artists, curators, and groups living and working in Cook County, Illinois, and seeks to support projects that are independent, informal, and self-organized. The facility houses several dozen artists in residence.

According to the Mana Contemporary literature, "Mana serves as a nexus for both established and emerging artists and organizations from across the city. Artists of diverse disciplines, including painting, sculpture, photography, dance, film, sound, and performance work alongside each other in a campus environment which fosters experimentation, collaboration, and mutual inspiration. A hub of programming and activity for Chicago artists and art lovers, Mana Contemporary also provides a central platform for art schools and organizations dedicated to educating and supporting emerging artists. As Mana Contemporary Chicago grows, it will continue to expand its services to the city’s artists, showcasing their practices, processes, and ideas to the public."

George Nimmons, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed mainly large commercial and industrial  buildings, most notably the mail order plant headquarters for Sears, Roebuck and Company (1905-06). He did many other buildings for Sears - warehouses, mail order plants, and retail stores across the country. He also designed the R. W. Sears home in Grayslake, Illinois (1906), and the twenty-room Prairie-style mansion built for Sears, Roebuck and Company president Julius Rosenwald in Chicago (1903).

Nimmon's other major works in Chicago include the Reid, Murdoch & Company Building (1913), the clock tower building that overlooks the Chicago River opposite Wacker Drive at North Clark Street, the Franklin Building (1912), the C. P. Kimball & Company Building (1913) at 39th and Michigan, the Adams Schaaf Piano Company Building on Fillmore Street (1916), the Union Special Machines Company Building (1918), the W. M. Hoyt Building in nearby Armour Square (1909), Kelley Building (1921) and the American Furniture Mart Building (1923, 1926), now known as 680 N Lake Shore Drive. When built it was the largest building in the world for a short time.

We discovered May Street Cafe for a wine and dine dinners and now dine there often before and after Sox games with its proximity to Sox Park, yet hidden away and separated from Bridgeport and the Sox area by an expressway, the adjoining river and the industrial belt. Its the kind of place you would drive by regularly and never notice, or consider for a wine-dine retreat, but their attention to serious cuisine and their thoughtfully selected wine list make it perfect for such occasions. And it offers outside dining as well, if you don't mind the power station and radio tower views (which as I wrote, is part of its allure and charm)!

Alas, following this study, dinner at May Street Cafe will never be the same. Unless you're into history and architecture, you'll want to avoid that evening, or sit at the other end of the table. It begs for a destination trip just to the Mana site, followed by a wine and steak dinner...

Tonight, Dan ordered the foie gras starter, then red tuna steak entree, Linda J, the petit filet, and Linda (A) and I, the bone-in pork chop.

'CrossBarn' Paul Hobbs Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This is the another label of Paul Hobbs who grew up in upstate New York on a rural farm where he learned the influence of terroir on the character of fruit, when his father had him taste apples of the same variety grown in different orchards several miles apart from one another.

The name is a tribute to a "cross barn" that sat amidst the hundred fifty year old family farm in upstate New York. A favorite haunt for Paul and his ten siblings, it took on a life of its own and is a fond remembrance as a place of great mystery and adventure.

Paul initially worked for Robert Mondavi where his understanding of oak aging landed him a position on the inaugural Opus One winemaking team.  He later worked at Simi Winery as Winemaker before going on to consult for Peter Michael, Fisher Vineyards, Lewis Cellars, Bodegas Catena and others.  He founded Paul Hobbs Winery in 1991, and Vina Cobos in 1999, and also serves as a leading consultant winemaker.

We love this style of wine - vibrant, expressive Napa Valley fruit at its finest for approachable tasty drinking wines. CrossBarn Paul Hobbs label is known for notable Sonoma County Pinots and Chardonnays, but they recently introduced Cabernets from Napa and Sonoma Counties.

No wimpy wine here, this 2012 version from Napa is dark garnet/inky purple colored, full bodied with rich concentrated forward fruits of black currant, ripe black and blue berries, accented by clove spice, mocha and sweet oak, with soft acidity and nicely integrated sweet and smooth tannins.

This is a great discovery and I look forward to trying the other selections from this CrossBarn. A testament to this great vintage too - check out other producer's line-ups, the rewards and delights of a spectacular vintage where their 'lesser' labels often excel and even meet or exceed the first label, and offer tremendous QPR - Quality to Price ratios. This was a blockbuster, enjoyed by all, and a great value at under $90 on May Street's winelist. Pick this up if you can find it for early aging gratification as well as longer term cellaring.

RM 93 points.

Winemakers notes and comments: "The 2012 growing season has been described by many as “textbook perfect”. Temperate summer days moderated plant growth, contributing to smaller cluster and berry size during lag phase, leading to increased concentration of flavors. An idyllic Indian summer finished the maturation process, producing fruit with exceptional character and intensity.

Dark ruby in color, our Cabernet Sauvignon offers enticing aromas of dark cherries, ripe blueberries, anise and fresh lavender.  A tantalizing palate offers a medley of boysenberry, currants, violets, clove and cocoa.  Tannins are sweet and smooth; balanced acidity brightens a lengthy finish.
Color: Saturated crimson
Aroma: Black raspberry, boysenberry, violets, caramelized tobacco leaf, spicebox, pencil shavings
Flavor: Concentrated, juicy red fruits, damp earth, cedar, baking spices
Texture: Round and focused with sweet, fine-grained tannins and a long, slate-like finish"

Other selections from May Street Cafe ...

May Street Cafe Foie Gras

May Street Cafe Red Tuna Steak Entree

May Street Cafe Bone-in Pork Chop with
Sweet potoate mash, and pineapple relish and grilled vegies