Sunday, March 27, 2016

Birthyear Pichon Lalande Jaeger Merlot anchor Easter dinner

Classic Birthyear Pichon Lalande Bordeaux, Jaeger Merlot anchor Easter Surf & Turf dinner

For a gala family Easter dinner Linda prepared surf and turf - grilled lobster tails and sirloin beef steaks.

Celebrating the family gathering with daughter Erin and son Ryan and their families, we pulled a selection of wines to pair with the dinner.

In consideration of the family gathering, with 1981 being a more modest, less ageworthy vintage (than say Ryan's '82), Ryan chose from the cellar for Erin's birth year a classic Bordeaux to pair with the sirloin beef steaks, the 1981 vintage Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

To round out the tasting, for a mini-horizontal 1981 vintage tasting, I pulled another 1981, a Jaeger Napa Valley Merlot, which matches a large format 6 liter Imperial of the same wine that we served at Erin and son-in-law Johnny's wedding. The large format set is pictured here.

To complete the dinner flight, to pair with the lobster, I pulled a full bodied chardonnay - Morgan Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2009.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac Bordeaux 1981

This is the second to last bottle of this label from our 1981 horizontal collection commemorating daughter Erin's birth-year. The fill level, bottle, foil and cork were almost like new - a testament to the integrity of our wine cellar. The cork was starting to soften a bit at the end but was still holding its seal and pulled cleanly from the bottle using an ahso two prong puller. The remaining bottle also appears perfect and we already agreed we can/will wait another five years for her fortieth to open it.

This is also, a testament to the amazing longevity of this classic Bordeaux, this was still showing life left at thirty-five years old, especially considering this was a modest vintage year.

Incredible aromas of berry fruit, cigar box and classic Bordeaux earthy floral tones, dark garnet colored, medium bodied, the only sign of diminution from age was that the dark berry fruit flavors have given way to predominant cigar box and earthy floral flavors with tones of leather, tobacco leaf and hints of cedar, with lively, nicely balanced, polished, smooth tangy, lingering tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.

Horizontal collection of 1981 Bordeaux

Jaeger Inglewood Vineyard Napa Valley Merlot 1981

Part of the fun of collecting wine over an extended period of time is the stories and memories that accumulate related to certain bottles, vintages and labels. As mentioned above, this 1981 Merlot is part of a horizontal collection we hold for our daughter's birth year. It was acquired as part of a vertical collection of this wine that we hold commemorating the birth years of each of our kids, and their spouses. This particular vintage was served out of this large format six liter bottle at Erin's wedding, one of several large format bottles opened for that occasion.

The Jaeger family have a long rich heritage in Napa Valley and are known for Bordeaux varietal wines that they market under several family owned labels, and under several well known producers' who source fruit from Jaeger vineyards.

I met Jeff Jaeger, second generation proprietor of Jaeger Family Napa wine enterprises at a wine tasting at Binny's Beverage Depot in Naperville (or it may have been Standard Liquors at the time, predecessor to Binny's on Ogden). I can date the event by the fact that Jeff was pouring Freemark Abbey Cabernet, and had a bottle set aside from under the table from which we was pouring, the 1992 vintage of Bosche Vineyard single vineyard selection. From that tasting I acquired a case of the 1992 vintage Bosche. We have continued to acquire and enjoy Freemark cabs including the Estate, Bosche and other special selections ever since.

Over the course of the evening, I mentioned to Jeff my selection of large format bottles commemorating the birth years of our kids. Indeed, this collection was the basis of our feature in the Collector section of Wine Spectator Magazine back in June of 2001.

Large format 1981 wines served at daughter's wedding
We received the shipment of our 1992 Bosche, and a couple of weeks later, arrived this six liter Imperial of Jaeger Inglewood Vineyard Merlot, 1981, for daughter Erin's birth year. We served this bottle, along with several other large format bottles at her wedding, including a six liter Imperial of  Rutherford Hill, another Jaeger property, that I acquired separately.

I called Jaeger to pay for the Imperial and they didn't take credit cards, nor did they know how to charge me for the bottle. Jeff was away in France at the time. I called a couple more times over the ensuing months, and years, inquiring how much I owed for the special bottle so I could settle my account. In the end, I don't recall every being charged, or paying for that bottle. Thank you, Jeff and co. I still look forward to settling our account!

In any event, we still hold single bottles from this collection, including this 1981 Jaeger Merlot served today.

Although its not on par with the Pichon Lalande, like the Pichon, this Inglewood Vineyard Merlot also showed amazing longevity, resilience and vibrancy, at thirty five years of age. If the Pichon exceeded expectations, so too, even moreso, did the Jaeger.

The Jaeger showed dark garnet ruby color with a bit of brown setting in, medium body, still vibrant tangy black cherry fruits, accented by tones of leather, cedar, spice and clove, showing its age, turning to a bit of a funky layer of smoke, creosote and damp earth on the tangy lingering tannin finish.

RM 86 points.

A history of the Jaeger Inglewood Vineyard and Jaeger ventures and accomplishments in the Napa wine scene.
  • 1976: Rutherford Hill Winery founded. RHW becomes a leader and pioneer in the cultivation of Merlot grapes andproducer of world-class Merlot wine.
  • 1979: Jaeger Inglewood Winery is founded.
  • 1982: Jeff Jaeger becomes managing partner of Demptos Cooperage in Napa.
  • 1989: Jeff founds Barrel Associates International and becomes managing partner of RHW.
  • 1990: Chicago Herald Tribune names Bill, “The Godfather of Merlot in the Napa Valley.”
  • 1992-1996: Jeff becomes a founding board member of Family Winemakers of California.
  • 1993: Jeff is the chairman of the largest charity wine auction in the United States: The Napa Valley Wine Auction.
  • 2000-2007: Jeff establishes, operates and sells Coopersmill, an American Oak Stave Mill in Southern Indiana.
Jeff - If/when you're back in Chicagoland, please look us up to settle our account, and to share come classic fine wine!

Morgan Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2009

To accompany the lobster course, as well as the salad ...

Straw colored, medium bodied, tones of mineral, wet stone and hints of pear, citrus and oak on the tangy finish.

RM 88 points.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Crápula Gold 5 Jumilla Monastrell-Syrah 2013

Crápula Gold 5 Jumilla Monastrell-Syrah 2013 for great QPR big red

Following the blockbuster Jumilla El Nido Clio that we tasted with our steak dinner the other night, I selected another Jumilla red blend at Friar Tuck's to try with carry out beef rib dinner back at the hotel. Some merchants list this label at $35 while others have it at $15 and under so caveat emptor. Split the difference and this is a decent value - at $15 its a great value high QPR for instant gratification. Drink it with hearty food.

From the Jumilla region in Spain, known for producing ripe, intense, full flavored Monastrell based reds, Crápula Gold 5 blend bursts with fruit and spice anchored by classic Monastrell earthiness. 

A little brother to the big El Nido we tasted the other night, this is another Monastrell-Syrah (50%:50%) blend, also known as Mourvèdre and/or Mataró, as in Mourvèdre which is the 'M' in GSM, the popular blend of Genache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, from the Rhone River Valley as well as South Central Australia. 

Dark inky garnet color, medium-full bodied, firm concentrated core of structured black fruits with a complex layer of tobacco, spice, vanilla and graphite, turning to red fruits with hints of blueberry and mocha, on lingering moderate tannin finish. 

RM 90 points.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 Syrah 2009

Lot 101 Columbia Valley Syrah paired with hearty cheeses, roasted nuts and fruit

 For March Madness, watching/celebrating Indiana beat Kentucky, we pulled from the cellar this favorite Syrah, to sip with a selection of fresh fruit and cheeses, including eighteen year aged cheddar and Brie with roasted nuts and honey.

I've written several times in these pages about this high QPR (quality-price-ratio) negociant label, 90+ Cellars, Collector's Series, Lot 101, Washington, Columbia Valley Syrah at less than half the price of some of the vineyard designated Napa Syrahs, maybe one of our favorite drinking wines in our cellar right now. 

We bought out the entire selection at a couple local merchants and continue to be rewarded enjoying this tasty, high quality, high QPR sipper. It is perfect for such occasions.

Dark inky garnet/purple colored, full bodied, rich concentrated, this full throttle Syrah reveals layers of blackberry and black currants fruits with tones of sweet vanilla, caramel and spice with hints of black pepper on a lingering smooth silky tannin finish.

RM 92 points.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Eagle Glen Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Eagle Glen Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Traveling on the road to a remote city, I picked up this label not found in our major market. The shelf-talker (those tags or small placards that merchants put on the shelf that promote a particular wine) boasts of a Wine Enthusiast 91 point rating leading me to wonder if this might be the beginning of the '13 vintage releases boasting huge QPR's (quality-price-ratios) from the highly rated vintage, so I picked it up to try. While it was great value and nice drinking wine with my left over steak dinner from the other night, it wasn't the blockbuster I thought it might be. 

I held back part of this bottle to try (and share) when I got home and its lack of firm backbone or structure resulted in a much more diminished wine than two others, the HazyBlur and the El Nido, with remnants of each also left over from last weekend. Both of these big bold forward vibrant wines were still awesome with their big body, structure and massive fruit - especially the vibrant blueberry, even more pronounced and still popping from the Hazyblur. The difference was quite stark against this lesser wine. 

Recall, how I've often written about saving a portion of the bottle to try over time, the next night, the night after and perhaps later, to see how it reveals itself. As shown here, this works best with more complex, bigger more structured and fruit filled wines.

The 2013 vintage in Northern California Napa Valley is being projected to be one of the best in decades with its warm, dry spring that enabled an early bud break, with consistent ideal temperatures through summer allowing optimal fruit development and beautiful ripening. The ideal conditions of the temperate summer continued through fall providing ample time to dry and develop longer on the vine resulting in ideal grape yields with perfect ripeness. As I have written recently, 'as all boats rise with the tide', this vintage should result in great (QPR) values at all price points, with many high achieving wines pushing the price points lower for quality wines.

This is a new brand, being only the second release of Eagle Glen who purport to source fruit for their wines from premier sites across California. This 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of lots from several Napa Valley vineyards in St. Helena, Oakville and Calistoga. While this might produce quality wines, it does not provide the 'terroir' or identity of a particular site that allows for consistency and a basis of comparison over the years.

Eagle Glen wines are distributed by Davies Family Selections, which is a broker, importer, reseller, marketing firm founded by Ian Davies, a veteran in the hospitality business, beverage, and now wine business. Since their founding in 2010, they've built a portfolio representing several emerging as well as some well known premium wines. Two of these that we've held in our cellar are Amisfeld from New Zealand, and the premium Venge label that we've collected since the 90's
While I did not give this a '91, it does provide good QPR at this under $20 price point, when discounted from its suggested price of $25. 

Wine Enthusiast in their review cite its sourcing "from a multiplicity of vineyards" and its QPR, "this wine works and is a tremendous value for the price". 

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, moderately complex with black cherry and plum fruits, tones of floral, cassis, and dark mocha with hints of tobacco and leather with a moderate acidic/tannin finish. 

RM 88 points.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Jellyfish Sushi - Folklore Argentine Grill Chicago BYOB

Jellyfish Sushi - Folklore Argentine Steakhouse Chicago BYOB

Saturday Night in the City (Chicago) with dear friends Bob and Gloria, we started at trendy Jellyfish on Rush Street for pre-dinner sushi and drinks, to visit and support son Jason, on duty there, then went to Folklore Argentine Grill steakhouse in Wicker Park.

Jason, with Gloria and Bob
Located at ground zero of the trendy hip Rush Street restaurant scene in Chicago, perched on the second floor above upscale boutiques, SCOOP NYC and Ted Baker London, overlooking Hugo’s Frog Bar and Gibsons Steakhouse, Jellyfish, is an intimate pan-Asian restaurant and lounge. Jellyfish was voted one of the Top 17 hottest sushi restaurants in the US, and nominated for Chicago Magazine to the Top 10 Hot List in Chicago.

Readers of this blog will know I am not a sushi guy but our experience at Jellyfish was fabulous - the atmosphere, the food, drinks and service were all spectacular. We're already planning a return there for a special dinner.

Our food selections - 
  • Tuna Tartare - avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, orange ponzu, wonton chips
  • Summer Rush - great name for this selection of tuna, white tuna, salmon, crab, shrimp, avocado , wrapped in cucumber, wasabi, ponzu sauce (pictured below)
  • Torched Salmon - smoked salmon, crispy shrimp, sweet potato, avocado, spicy mayo (below)
Jellyfish Summer Rush
Jellyfish Torched Salmon
Bob & Gloria at Jellyfish
I enjoyed these with Piper-Heidsiecke NV Champagne while Linda sampled Jellyfish's unique exclusive Thaijito, an amazing concoction of light Rum, Ginger syrup, Orange Bitters, Thai chili's and mint.

Folklore Argentine Grill - Wicker Park, Chicago

We then moved on to Wicker Park where we dined at Folklore Argentine Grill steakhouse where we took advantage of BYOB. The landmark mural on the side of Folklore is shown left.

We have dined there several times and were eager to share it with our friends Bob and Gloria who is Latin and could authenticate the cuisine experience.

Tonight was the best dinner we've had there and my El Filet, filet mignon, grilled, topped with red onion wine sauce with spinach mashed potatos (fittingly green for St Patrick's Day) was spectacular, as good as any steak entree I have ever had, anywhere!

Folklore El Filet
Folklore Churrasco Sirloin Steak

Folklore Lemon Sole

Bob had the Churrasco grilled Sirloin steak (shown above), and Gloria had the MAR Y TIERRAMar Y Tierra - their surf and turf combo of grilled filet mignon with two jumbo fresh water shrimp, sautéed with capers in a tomato-basil sauce with mashed potatoes (shown left).

Linda had the Chef's Special seafood entree - Lemon Sole with orange sauce, shown above.

Our BYOB wines ... 

To complement dinner, Bob and I brought BYOB selections - Bob, Chateau La Croix Pomerol, and I brought from our cellar Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio.

Château La Croix St. Georges Pomerol Bordeaux 2012

Garnet colored, medium bodied, moderate blackberry and plum with tones of slightly earthy tobacco and hints of anise and mocha turning to soft smooth subdued tannins on the smooth finish.

RM 89 points.

Blend of 94.5% Merlot and 5.5% Cabernet Franc

A nice accompaniment to the grilled steaks.




Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 2009

Readers of this blog know we're fans of big fruit filled Syrahs and this stood with the best of them, with none of that metallic, mineral or creosote that I expected of a Spanish Red. This is a blend of  70% Monastrell (and 30% cabernet sauvignon) which I now know is aka Mouvedre which is the M in GSM - Genache, Mouvedre and Syrah, a popular blend in the Rhone River Valley as well as South Central Australia. I have learned that the chief winemaker for this wine is Chris Ringland of R Wines, as in big fruity Aussie Shiraz. - is there a pattern emerging here? 

The 2009 Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio, much like the 2004, is another in a series of show stoppers, consistently over-achieving, full-bodied reds. Look at this track record (all scores from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate): 2003 - 96 points; 2004 - 97 points; 2005 - 95 points; 2006 - 95 points; 2007 - 94 points, 2008 -94 points. 

While I found this to be not as fruit filled and opulant as the earlier tasting of the 2004 (see my earlier blog of the 2004 Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio), the 2009 gets high marks and glowing reviews indeed. One Cellartracker reviewer compared this to an Amarone.
Glass-coating opaque blackish purple color, full bodied with a full bouquet of black fruits - black berry, black currant and black cherry, a layer of smoke, anise and expresso with a long lingering subtle oak moderate tannin finish. Give it time to open. It was more approachable ninety minutes later... but we were finished by then. 
While not inexpensive at $40, it does pack a lot for that pricepoint and delivers a reasonable QPR (quality price ratio) even at that level. and it lists for more in a lot of places.  
This was almost overpowering to my steak with its red wine sauce, and certainly overpowered the more delicate and sophisticated Bordeaux, but it was great in the flight progression and turned to be a great compliment to my chocolate cherry cake dessert (shown below).

RM 91 points. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

HazyBlur The Baroota Shiraz pizza and artisan cheeses

HazyBlur The Baroota South Australia Shiraz 2006 w/ pizza and artisan cheeses

Hosting work colleague Leslie for casual mid-week wine tasting with a collection of artisan cheeses, Linda prepared a pizza and I pulled from the cellar one of her favorites, hazyblur, a big forward fruity Aussie Shiraz.

We love this label and pick it up whenever we find it due to its limited availability in our market. We picked up the whole stock of this release and we're still savoring the remains of about a half case of the lot.

Hazyblur Wines is a small boutique winery established in 1998 by Ross and Robyne Trimboli. Ross's winemaking started watching his father, an Italian immigrant to Australia, make an annual batch of wine using a basket press and rubber boots.

Ross began experimenting, honing his own winemaking techinques, making batches of wine with friends and set out to produce his own wines after completing a winemaking course in 1996.

Gotta love those Aussie's sense of humour in naming and branding ... hazyblur referring to the mirage effect of the heat waves rising off the vineyards in the midday sun that Ross observed returning from a wine tasting trip through Coonawarra, driving in a car without air-conditioning at the end of a long hot day.

This was awesome with the eighteen year aged cheddar and gouda, Brie with roasted almonds and honey, as well as the pizza.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes, "Dark inky color, big, firm and full bodied, rich thick tongue coating, blueberry compote with super ripe raisin fig fruits, hints of cedar, pepper, violets, and blueberry fruit tones. This is a bit too ripe and raisiny for my tastes but the bride likes it this way - and so does Wine Advocate who gives it a 91."

RM 91 points. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

H3-Horse Heaven Hills 2012 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine

Horse Heaven Hills 2012 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine

From the large production, widely distributed producer Columbia Crest, their H3 - Horse Heaven Hills branded portfolio offers a range of wines that includes this complex blend of fruit sourced from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA (appellation) in the Columbia River Valley


 This label name, Les Chevaux, is French for “the horses”,  named for wild horses that used to roam the area. This was perfect for carry out bbq ribs taken carry out back to the room for a relaxing casual dinner.


There is great QPR - (Quality Price Ratio-aka value) in this full bodied, full throttled complex red blend that is unsettled by a slightly flabby structure and some 'heat' on the finish, but this still provides a big pleasant drinking affordable every day red that sets up well with food such as beefsteak or bbq ribs. 
Garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bold black raspberry and black cherry fruits accented by a pronounced layer of sweet mocha with tones of clove spice and vanilla on the mid-palate through the finish of smooth tannins.
 Blend: 60% Syrah, 27% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Viognier, 2% Malbec, 3% Other Varietals

RM 89 points. This was awarded 91 points by Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by Wine Spectator.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

McGah Family Vineyards Scarlet

McGah Family Vineyards Scarlet - Highlight of Vin Chicago Naperville Weekly Wine Tasting

Vin Chicago, the City wine merchant with multiple suburban locations hosts a weekly wine tasting at their local store (s). They're not a mega or super store, rather they are surgically focused on offering a more limited selection of carefully selected wines, moreso though than a boutique shop, offered at a discount to even the super store, across the wine spectrum. Their tastings are not distributors setting up a table in store, rather, they feature a full range flight, featuring a broad range from white to red, conducted by regular store staff who showcase new releases and newly arrived wines. And, they regularly feature premium and ultra-premium wines such as those highlighted below. Indeed, the store only had one case of this premium McGah Family Vineyards Scarlett, yet, they still opened it for tasting.

McGah Family Vineyards "Scarlett" Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This was my first encounter with McGah Family wines. Based on this experience, I will definitely seek it out in the future and look forward to trying the rest of their portfolio. They own and operate 64 acres of vineyards in the storied Rutherford appellation on the east side of the central valley near Silverado Trail. They sell fruit to other producers and also offer Scarlett Wines under their own, recently rebranded label. 

McGah Family operations are most notably known for co-founding the Bay area Oakland Raiders.  Sherratt Reicher is grandson of E.J. McGah, former Boston Red Sox player and second generation Oakland Raiders owner. Following a sports career as defensive assistant and scout for the Raiders, he formed the Hudson Companies in 2002 that includes Scarlett Wines and McGah Family Vineyards in its portfolio which he continues to manage to this day. The McGah family maintained its ownership in the Raiders until 2005. 

This is a monsterous big red with gripping mouth coating tannins, highlighted by bright vibrant sweet sprites. This was awarded 95 points by Wine Advocate. It is named after the producer/founder's daughter.

By the time we arrived, there was only one bottle available for purchase, which when I tried to obtain it, I learned son Ryan already grabbed it, acquired as part of building a 2013 horizontal collection to commemorate son/grandson Reid's birthyear. This leads to that addage that the only thing better than having a (boat, plane) wine cellar, is having a friend with a (boat, plane) wine cellar!

Dark inky, blackish ruby purple colored, immense, full bodied, rich, chewy, firm, structured, complex core of sweet blackberry was accented by a layer of black raspberry, cassis, hints of mocha, touch of vanilla and sweet spicy oak. Despite its huge gripping tannins it was sensual, smooth and polished on the long long finish.

RM 94 points. 

Two other highlights of this day's tasting were ...

La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Rioja Reserva 2007

Medium-full bodied, dark garnet colored, bright vibrant raspberry and bing cherry fruits accented by an uniquely interesting high note of vanilla and toasted coconut with hints of smoke, tobacco leaf and mocha on a firm smooth silky lingering tannins. 

RM 91

Terrazas de los Andes "Las Compuertas" Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza Malbec 2011

More to come .. .

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Beef Wellington Napa Red Dinner

Beef Wellington Napa Red Dinner - Freemark Abbey, BV Tapestry and Robert Craig Affinity

For a wine dinner at Bill and Beth C's, Beth prepared a fabulous Beef Wellington, so Bill and I pulled together a selection of some our favorite Napa Valley Bordeaux blend wines, mainstays of our cellar collections, for the occasion. The rationale being that complex blends will result in complex wines that will complement the cuisine, rather than a narrower, 'single dimension' wine that may tend to overshadow or even overpower the food. Such wines have their place, but not for fine dining. Bill served two Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernets - the Estate and the allocated limited release Josephine.

I brought two 1997 Napa meritage blends - BV Tapestry and Robert Craig Affinity.

After a selection of artisan cheeses and biscuits, we dined on Beth's delicious Beef Wellington (right) with asparagus spears wrapped in bacon, and a spinach, egg and bacon dinner salad.

For dessert, Linda prepared a Bourbon Grand Marnier cake with puree'd strawberry honey sauce and fresh whipped cream.

The wines ...

Freemark Abbey Josephine Napa Valley Red Wine 2004

This is the flagship of the storied Freemark Abbey, named for Josephine Tychson, who in 1886 established the original winery along Route 29 just north of downtown St. Helena where Freemark Abbey still stands, becoming one of the first woman winegrowers on record.

Bill acquired this limited release allocated wine from the producer and holds a vertical selection of this as part of his extensive Freemark Abbey collection. We have visited the winery on numerous occasions including our visit there together during our Napa Wine Experience back in 2009.

Bill's tasting notes from Cellartracker for this selection sum up our tasting experience perfectly - "Despite having tasted and collected most of Ted Edwards cabs going back to the 1980's, this was the first time tasting his effort at a Bordeaux blend. I chose this specifically because Beth had chosen to prepare Beef Wellington for a dinner with friends Rick and Linda. It was worth the wait. Beautiful, dark ruby color. A slight perfume on the nose with a small hint of herbs. Complex layers of raspberry, cassis, chocolate and unsurprisingly, Rutherford dust. This was a spectacular accompaniment to the meal and to the '97 Affinity and Tapestry provided by Rick and Linda. A word of took a full three hours plus for this to truly reveal its full complexity. Prior to that time, this was a bit flat, missing the upper end brightness of the fruit. But with the appropriate time, this was pretty spectacular."

WCC - 90 points. RM - 90 point.

Freemark Abbey Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This is a blockbuster release from Freemark, being a high achiever of the 2012 vintage. Wine Advocate awarded this 93 points. A blend of Bordeaux varietals, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. This is an obvious collectable with its high QPR (quality price ratio) and abundant availability with 45000 cases produced. I look forward to watching this progress over the next decade, although Parker predicts this might be progress over the next couple of decades.

Bill's notes from Cellartracker ... 

The 2012 really lives up to Parker's high praise even at this young age. Rich, robust and full of fruit. Cherry and red raspberry on the front palate with mocha and a layer of oaky vanilla on a full bodied finish. Strongly advise letting this breathe for a minimum of two hours. There are early, youthful tannins present but my sense is that this is not a 20 year wine. But why wait. Will be out to purchase more today.

WCC - 92

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

One of the remaining bottles of a case acquired upon release, my tasting journal index shows eleven previous tasting notes published for this wine.

Dark garnet colored, starting to show some rust orange hues and slight bricking on the edges showing some diminution from aging, medium-full bodied, an initial funkiness burned off soon after opening eventually showing and drinking fine,  like when younger.

Black berry and black cherry fruits, slight earthy leather, licorice and a tone of bark on the moderate tannin finish. Opened further and softened more over the course of the evening.

Earlier tasting notes indicated further softening and enhanced fruit revealed a day later.

RM 89 points.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Affinity 1997

Robert Craig is one of the largest holdings in our cellar with a half dozen different labels going back as much as two decades for some. We've enjoyed many special visits to the winery, release parties, and special events with the producer.

Like the Tapestry above, we have a long history with this wine and still hold more than a dozen vintages including early releases dating back to the inaugural in 1993. Like the '97 Tapestry, this is one of few remaining bottles of a case we acquired back upon release. Our wine tasting journal index for this wine shows eight tasting notes over the years.

This too, is a Bordeaux style blend and also paired well, still showing vibrancy and resiliency at this stage of life. My last tasting notes for this wine a year ago said that while it most likely will not improve further with age, it seems to still stand at the apex of its drinking window and shows no sign of diminution whatsoever.

Tonight,  like the Tapestry, this bottle also showed a bit of funkiness on opening which also burned off within the first half hour.

My previous tasting notes back in 2012 cited 'this wine is more expressive than early in life showing lingering fruit and staying power'. According to those notes, this showed even better tonight with more balance and polish than that tasting. At this stage of life, that could be an indication of bottle variation but no so likely since the bottles share the same provenance.

Dark purple garnet colored, medium bodied, forward bright vibrant black berry and black raspberry fruits with a layer of cedar, tones of black tea and hints of cassis and smoke on a smooth moderate lingering tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2011

From the top ranked wine team of Sarah and Sparky Marquis, their new Mollydooker label plays on the Australian colloquialism for a 'left hander'.

Bill pulled this initially to add to Beth's wine infused brown sauce for the Beef Wellington and then poured it as a perfect accompaniment to Linda's cake dessert. Weighing in at 16% alcohol, this is a bold wine that begs for big full flavorful foods such as sweet dessert or hearty cheese, not for the feint of heart, this can be an after dinner aperitif.

Some of the earlier vintages were more subdued by comparison presenting big forward polished balanced fruit bombs.

Dark inky purple ruby colored, thick tongue coating texture, massive full bodied ripe plum, black berry, black raspberry and blue berry fruits accented by a layer of clove spice, pepper, overshadowed by a flinty metal tone that I find unsettling but that the other's enjoy, which matches the fruit tones on the long tongue coating firm tannin finish.

RM 89 points.