Thursday, December 24, 2015

Aged Liparita Merlot Magnum for Christmas Tenderloin Dinner

Aged Liparita Merlot Magnum for Christmas Tenderloin Dinner

Christmas surf & turf dinner classic whites and medley of reds

Ryan and Linda took lobster tails to complement Erin's beef tenderloin (left) for a surf and turf Christmas eve dinner and the large family gathering offered a chance to open a large format Magnum and open some classic and favored whites.

I took an aged 1996 Liparita Howell Mountain Merlot in 1.5 liter magnum and Ryan brought Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2008. I added a Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc while Ryan brought remains of previously opened Chateau Canon-le-Gaffeliere and Lewis Cellars Family Ethan's Syrah to round out the flights.

Large gatherings call for large bottles as there is much fun in opening large format bottles for such occasions. Vintage wines tend to age better - longer and more gracefully in large format bottles, and this may have contributed to the approachability of this aged 1996 Napa Merlot.

Liparita Napa Valley Howell Mountain Merlot 1996

While it isn't chronicled on my Winesite, I recall we visited Liparita and tasted this with winemaker Gove Celia from barrel at the Oakville crush facility during one of our Napa trips back in the late nineties.

My previous note for this wine was in 2011 and cited subdued fruit that was still holding. Remarkably, tonight the fruit was bright, vibrant and forward, continuing to hold, accented by aromas and flavors of anise/licorice.- dark inky purple color - medium bodied - aroma's and tastes of floral, flavors of slightly flabby but pronounced cherry and plum fruits with subtle spice, tobacco leaf, leather and anise on a tannic cherry laced short finish.

RM 89 points.

Note, while it is the same branding, this is not the same producer or wine team as the current Liparita label. 

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Stags Leap District Sauvignon Blanc 2011 

This remains one of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs - a varietal that is most true to its origins, and least subject to adulteration or enhancement in the winemaking. 

Our visit and tasting at the Cliff Lede Stag's Leap District Vineyard & Winery  was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2009.

This was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled lobster tails with drawn butter. Light straw colored, crisp and clean bright acidity with smooth nicely balanced complex aromas and flavors of pear, peach, lychee fruit, with a layer of lime zest with a flinty minerality on a lingering finish.

RM 90 points.

Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Ethan's Syrah 2012 

I love featuring Lewis family wines, named for family members, at family events with the classic 'L' on the label for Linda and Lucy, and with the Lewis Indy 500 racing heritage back in our home state of Indiana. So, I was delighted that Ryan had this open from the previous evening and saved some for us to taste with the dinner.

This is our favorite profile for a Syrah. Linda loves this style of big rich chewy black and blue berry fruits.

Dark inky purple, full bodied, rich, concentrated thick chewy tongue coasting black and ripe blue berry fruits with layers of accent tones - licorice, brown spice and graphite. We hold this in the cellar and can't wait to feature this in a tasting all its own.

RM 93 points.

Château Canon-la-Gaffelière 2006

Label from 2005
We've enjoyed meeting the producer and tasting this wine at the UGC US release tour tasting events in Chicago over the years and appreciate them coming to Chicago to showcase their label.

This is one of Ryan's favorites and he is collecting a vertical of this wine in his cellar. He had this open from the previous evening and he saved some of this to bring to comparison taste with our dinner.

This bottle did not hold up well the following day and hence this may not be a fair evaluation. The fruit was quite subdued, almost suppressed - dark garnet colored, medium bodied, black berry and black cherry fruit giving way to tones of anise, herbs, tobacco leaf, leather, and graphite. I'll withhold rating as neither of us believe this was a representative example of this label.

50% Merlot
45% Cab Franc
5% Cab Sauv

More to come ...

Del Dotto Cabs Stolpman Syrah for Beef Tenderloin Holiday Dinner

Del Dotto Cabs and Stolpman Syrah for Beef Tenderloin Holiday Dinner

For our family holiday dinner, son Ryan went down in the cellar and pulled two producer family wines from two vintages commemorating anniversaries for him and daughter/sister Erin, 1999 and 2001. These two big bold Napa Cabs were ideal to taste with Linda's beef tenderloin dinner. I was eager to try this comparison tasting and expected the 2001 Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to be at or near its apex, but I had forgotten about and was pleasantly surprised at the resilience shown by the '99. Ryan brought a big bold Stolpman Santa Ynez Valley Syrah to share.

For the starter course I had pulled one of our favorite Napa whites, a vintage Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, but Ryan pulled a current release Hanna Sauvignon Blanc to try first. This is currently on offer at our local wine shops and we wanted to try it see if we should buy more.

Del Dotto is one of our favorite Napa producers and represents the distinctive Rutherford appellation terroir. We hold more than a dozen vintages of Del Dotto going back to their earliest inaugural vintages in the early nineties. We've visited Del Dotto many times in our Napa trips and have featured Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto at several of our wine producer dinners. We got to know the next generation of Del Dottos, and their son Giovanni, for whom their Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve is named, also attended IU, the alma mater for no fewer than thirteen degrees conferred on members of our extended family. See our Del Dotto features on including Del Dotto - Napa Valley Napa Wine Experience 2003 and Napa Wine Experience 99 to mention a few. 

Del Dotto's cave tours remain one of the most colorful and entertaining of all Napa Valley tasting excursions. Our kids cite Del Dotto as one of the highlights of their Napa Valley wine trips as well. Their spectacular winery and cellar tour right on Route 29 at Zinfandel Lane as you enter St Helena from the south are a must see during a visit to Napa Valley. So it is fitting to enjoy this wine together at a family gathering.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

This wine opened with bright racy tones and 'settled' over the course of an hour and a half to be more approachable and polished. This was consistent with my tasting notes from a special dinner back in January of this year. "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 note 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 beef tenderloin that matched well with the wine's complexity."

RM 92 points.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Like the '99, this is drinking at the apex of its drinking window and demonstrates the longevity of Napa Valley Cabernets. While it will not likely improve any further with aging, it still has several years to go at this level. This was actually more subdued than the more vibrant '99.

Medium to full bodied , deep dark ruby color - black berry and sweet black cherry fruits accented by clove spice and a hint cassis and whisper of English toffee on the 'Rutherford Dust' moderate silky tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

This same wine is featured in their extraordinary Connoisseurs Series in which they age the same wine in a variety of oak cooperages to highlight the different oak influences on the wine. We featured a horizontal tasting of the 2001 Del Dotto Connoisseur Series last year as listed on site

Stolpman Vineyards "Hilltops" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah 2011

Ryan brought this over, the remains of a bottle he had opened earlier. A totally different style and tasting profile from the more elegant and complex Cabernet Sauvignons, this was narrower but deeper, bolder and bigger, in your face fruit forward style. We love this style of wine but normally reserve these for barbecue, bold bright pasta dishes or hearty cheeses.

Dark red-ruby, full bodied, aromas of floral and mocha, complex, concentrated big, forward black and blue fruits, tones of anise/licorice, tones of mocha chocolate and herbs, turning to a very long soft savory fruit filled finish.

RM 92 points.