Saturday, December 12, 2015

Festive Holiday Dinner Showcases Premier Napa Reds

Festive Holiday Dinner Showcases Premier Napa Reds - Quintessa, Fantesca, Clark-Claudon, David Arthur

Three mountains and five hills of Napa Valley sourced the fruit for a flight of top Napa big reds.The greatest joy of having a wine cellar collection is to pull special bottles for a special occasion such as a festive holiday dinner. Tonight provided the opportunity to showcase a line-up of favorite Napa Reds with beef tenderloin. Linda prepared her delectable beef tenderloin and imaginative twice baked potatoes, brussel sprouts, hericot verts and fresh dinner rolls. I pulled decade plus one year old Napa big reds to highlight the meal. Showcasing our favored Napa mountain fruits profile, we tasted wines from three corners of Napa Valley.

I wrote recently about the distinctive Howell Mountain terroir. We featured Howell Mountain Clark Claudon, Fantesca Estate from the opposing Spring Mountain District, and a pair of David Arthur wines from Pritchard Hill in the southeast corner of the valley. To round out the flight, Bill brought from his cellar Quintessa from the geographic center of that triangle featuring its five hills estate, and David Arthur Elevation 1147. To accompany the flight, Bob brought a St Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux.

Visits to the estate wineries of Fantesca, David Arthur and Quintessa have been highlights of several of our Napa Valley Wine Experience excursions, and Tom and Laurie Clark-Claudon were featured producers at one of Napa wine producer dinners. Indeed, we hold close to a dozen vintages of each of these producers - certainly of Clark Claudon and David Arthur, both in about their 25th year or so of production. For Fantesca, they've just finished their first decade since their 2004 inaugural release, when Duane and Susan Hoff took over the estate.

Prior to dinner, we featured a selection of artisan cheeses and Linda prepared her baked brie with toasted nuts and berry puree, accompanied by an Austrian Riesling and Italian aperitif wine.

The 2004 dinner entree flight ....

Fantesca Estate Winery Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

As mentioned, our visits to the spectacular Spring Mountain Estate of Duane and Susan Hoff have been highlights of our Napa wine excursions in 2007 and 2009. We hosted Duane at our home on one of his first release tours when he was traveling the country building the Fantesca brand. Their classic packaging with their etched glass bottles provide a festive bottle for such a gala dinner.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, at eleven years, the complex Spring Mountain bright forward fruit flavors of cherry, black berry and black currant are giving way to a layer of cassis, tobacco, black tea and hints of dark chocolate and dried herbs with a refined tannin finish.

RM 91 points. 

Clark Claudon Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

We hold more than a dozen vintages of this wine going back to their early releases in the mid-nineties.

Deep inky garnet colored, full bodied - aromas of ripe dark berry fruits, big mouth-full of forward complex but balanced, smooth, spicy black cherry and black currant and edge of red berry fruits, tones of cassis and dark mocha and turning to a predominant forward accent of sweet smooth sweet spicy oak on the smooth tannin finish.

RM 92 points. 

David Arthur Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Meritaggio 2004

As I have written in these pages, Meritage is the trademarked/licensed label attached to American releases of Bordeaux varietal blend wines. David Arthur uses creative license with this play on words to bring us 'Meritaggio', an Italian influenced Napa Valley blend of Bordeaux varietals accented by the Italian varietal Sangiovese - that associated with 'Super Tuscan' wines.

I thought this would provide an interesting comparison to the other Napa cabs, perhaps more approachable easier drinking early in the wine flight. Wow, what a surprise as this presented a big firm tight profile that ended up being the culmination (end) of the flight, with its firmness and complexity overpowering the rest of the wines.

As I update my records of this wine tasting depletion from our cellar, I realize we have a half dozen vintages of this label. I'll be mindful how to position this wine in future tastings.

This wine, a super Tuscan style blend anchored by Bordeaux varietal Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) with 12% Sangiovese made for an interesting diversion in the flight. The big full black berry and black raspberry fruits gave way to a layer of creosote with tones of dark mocha, black tea and leather with hints of vanilla and smoke on the firm gripping tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Bill punctuated the tasting with these two bold flavorful premium Napa Cabs....

Quintessa Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The name Quintessa refers to the five hills on the Rutherford estate property. Our tasting at the stylish winery estate on Silverado Trail was a highlight of our Napa Wine Experience 2003.

This was lighter than expected and ended up being our opening red wine providing the transition from the pre-dinner whites to the big reds.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, smooth, elegant and polished with bright vibrant dark berry fruit flavors accented by huge floral bouquet, tones of violet, cola and hint of clove spice with tangy bright acidity on the smokey tannin laced finish.

RM 93 points.

Bill's notes from Cellartracker:

"Excellent transition wine from pre dinner whites to the heavier Napa cabs served with beef tenderloin. This was lather than I remembered. Still the same characteristics though. A hint of clove and spice on the nose. Bright plum, cassis and a bit of cherry on the palate with a medium finish. This needs at least 30 minutes of air to reveal the fruit and complexity. Was a but surprised that this did not have the same weight or body of the '04 Fantesca or Clark Claudon that followed."

WCC - 90 points.

David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon Elevation 1147 2003 

Of course the name refers to the topographical elevation of the vineyard from which this single vineyard designated fruit is sourced.

This was our last tasting of the evening so I saved some for the next day to taste again. The huge bouquet and powerful big forward blue fruits accented by licorice stood out and punctuated this. This was summed up and consistent with my tasting notes from last year for this label:

"Elevation is flawless, extraordinary in its refined elegance and harmonious balance. While full bodied it has no sense of weight in its symphony of seamlessly integrated flavors, silky smooth and polished balance of floral, dark fruit and accent tones from start to finish - lavender, sweet ripe black and blue berry fruits, whispers of cinnamon, clove, exotic spices and tobacco leaf on the soft lingering finish. At eleven years of age it seemed to be at its apex as I can't imagine it getting any better. It was delightful and delicious. I sense I drank my earlier Elevations too early to allow them to come together so nicely."

RM 95 points. 

Bill's tasting note on Cellartracker - "Love the depth and complexity of this wine. Earthy Bordeaux like nose of moss and forest floor. Blackberry, cola and tobacco on the palate. Deep indigo color. Full bodied with a long lingering finish. I have the sense that this will not improve with more age. Tannins are fully integrated."
WCC - 92 points.

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 76 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France, 2011

Bob brought this to contribute to the flight. I've written often herein about Ninety-Plus cellars negociant practice of obtaining surplus wine for private labeling. After pouring at the St Emilion Grand Cru producer's release event in Chicago last month, its hard to imagine a private label version of any of their wines. 

Deep inky garnet, medium bodied, rather subdued aromas and flavors of blackberries with under currant of purple/blue berry fruits accented by a layer of woody pain grille, earthy cedar with tight firm gripping tannins on the finish.
RM 88 points.

Prior to dinner, we tasted a selection of whites with artisan cheeses, fresh fruit, holiday cookies and chocolates, and salad.


Freie Weingärtner Wachau / Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Terrassen 2007

Straw colored, light-medium bodied, crisp clean, slightly tart citrus apple with stone fruit with bright acid finish.

RM 87 points.

Cavalchina Passito Veneto IGT 2004

Originally straw colored, this has turned to tea color, medium bodied, the apple fruits, subtle tangerine and hint of apricot and peach flavors have given way, overtaken by tones of burnt caramel, smoke and nut on a flavorful lingering finish.

RM 87 points.

Deck the Halls with Hall's Napa Cab

Deck the Halls with Hall's Napa Cab

Its always a great joy to indulge in good food and wine with friends and family. Tis the season to engage in special wines as part of the holiday festivities. One such brand I enjoy is a play on words, Hall Napa Valley wines to 'Deck the Halls' for seasonal fun. So it was that another Sunday after church dinner with family provided the occasion to open Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with Linda's beef roast dinner.

We visited Hall's tasting room in St Helena in the old days (2003), before they opened their spectacular Rutherford Estate winery site adjacent to the vineyards on the lower slopes of the Vaca Range that form the eastern boundary of Napa Valley.

Our special tasting in the caves and tasting room there (shown left) was a highlight of our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2013.

We hold Hall Napa Cabernets as well as their Sauvigon Blanc as staples in our cellar for festive wine occasions, as well as their signature Kathryn label for special vintages such as grand-kids' birth year wines (since this label didn't exist for our kid's birthyears) for related special occasions.

Hall Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

We hold the remains of a case of this wine and savor every bottle as one of favorites in the style and character that we enjoy so much with our favorite foods.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, a symphony of flavors accented by bold expressive black berry and black raspberry fruits with highlights of anise and mocha with tones of cedar, sweet toasty oak and clove spice and hints of earthy leather turning to a smooth polished lingering finish.

RM 93 points.  

Consistent with my last tasting of this wine replayed below ... can't believe I waited this long to try it again!

Dark inky color, rich, dense, concentrated, style, full-bodied, fruit forward ripe sweet currant, ripe black raspberry, plum, black cherry fruits, mocha and hints of black licorice with a long soft tannin finish. Has the rich thick jammy fruit of a south Australian Shiraz." I would emphasize big, full, concentrated fruits with a firm tannic backbone. In this evening's tasting it met my highest expectations and stood over a Barossa Shiraz and Keenan Cab, was a perfect complement to New York strip steak dinner.

Parker's Grill Provides Crossbarn Paul Hobbs WBTG Tasting

Parker's Grill Provides Crossbarn Paul Hobbs WBTG Tasting

We've recently discovered and written in this blog about Crossbarn Paul Hobbs wines, an interesting study in branding with a storied background, and heard from them about our blogpost. They contacted me to correct me on the branding nomenclature - Crossbarn Paul Hobbs, not the reverse as I wrote. We dined at Parker's Grill in Downers Grove to celebrate the holiday as well as a friend's birthday, which afforded the opportunity to taste a flight of Crossbarn, their featured producer, on offer BTG, by-the-glass. Parker's has a nice selection of WTBG - Wines By The Glass which they offer in both 3 and 6 oz pours - nice for Linda and me to have suitable portions. This affords the opportunity to taste a selection of wines as opposed to having just one when ordered by the bottle. This is of course also especially useful when a bottle is too much for one or one and a half consumers.

While Parker's website showed Crossbarn Cabernet on offer, what was available was a mini-horizontal of CrossBarn (by) Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir 2012's - Sonoma Valley and Anderson Valley, and a CrossBarn Paul Hobbs Chardonnay, Sonoma County (sic) 2014.

Paul Hobbs Crossbarn is the somewhat more affordable branded label offering from Paul Hobbs, the acclaimed producer known for premium quality Napa Valley wines. Crossbarn wines are produced down the road about a mile from the Paul Hobbs estate winery, in a former apple processing facility that's is the operations center for their Sonoma Coast wines.  I have found that Crossbarn provides moderate priced well crafted wines that generally provide quality tasting at reasonable value.

I selected Parker's hoping for a delicate seafood dinner but ended up ordering the Braised Boneless Shortribs with red wine sauce and mashed sweet potato, which I matched with the pair of Pinots.

Linda ordered the Mahi Mahi, and I had the Polenta fries as a side, both which we matched with the Crossbarn Chardonnay.

Our guest, special friend Marlene U who was having a birthday, ordered the herb roasted double chicken breast. All our entrees were delicious.

Following dinner, we closed with the deliciously decadent Bittersweet Chocolate Flourless Cake with Mocha Mousse and Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. This was worth the trip all by itself. Too bad it came with the gelato already melted. And, it amazes me how difficult it is get coffee WITH your dessert in restaurants. Their procedures seem to too often offer and serve these serially as two separate courses. In this case, we were never offered or given the chance to even order coffee with our dessert.

Crossbarn Chardonnay Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County 2014

The Chardonnay was golden strawed colored with medium-light body with tones of stone fruit, apple, pear and brioche with hints of lemon citrus with pleasant balanced acidity and subtle mineral on the finish.

RM 89 points.

Note - the winelist stated Sonoma County which is not listed on the producer's website, nor on Cellartracker. I suspect this may have been the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Having tasted BTG - by the glass, I did not see the label. The servers were pressed to keep up with the dinner and wine service so I didn't press to see the label. Nearly 12,400 cases were made of the 2013 Chardonnay CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs, all from the Sonoma Coast.
P.S. The morning after, I went to Binny's, the wine mega-merchant and found the Crossbarn Paul Hobbs Chardonnay. Indeed, the label reads "Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County"! See left.

CrossBarn (by) Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir 2012 - Sonoma Valley and Anderson Valley

The Pinot's were similar in many respects, both garnet colored and medium bodied with black cherry, raspberry and pomegranate fruit flavors with hints of black tea and cedar. The Sonoma Valley showed more pronounced dark berry fruit flavors with a slight hint of sweet mocha on the mid-palate turning to soft smooth tannins on the finish.

Anderson Valley - RM 88 points.

Sonoma Valley - RM 90 points.