Saturday, August 27, 2016

Super Second Bordeaux vs. Napa's Finest Bordeaux Blends

Super Second Bordeaux vs. Napa's Finest Bordeaux Blends

For a drop in dinner at Dr Dan's, he prepared a wonderful meal of grilled T-bone steaks with grilled vegetables and an extraordinary selection of top ranked super second Bordeaux and Napa blends. The impressive line-up of wines included several of my favorite producers including two of our designated signature wines for our son, Ryan - Château Figeac and Ducru Beaucaillou. We collected and offered each of these wines in large format from his birth year vintage at his wedding.

Other favorite labels that Dan pulled from his cellar were Lewis Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beaulieu Vineyards Tapesty, and Dominus Estate Napa Red Blend. What a treat to sample such a lineup!

Prior to dinner Dan offered a selection of artisan cheese and fresh fruit.

He then prepared and served a grilled scampi shrimp appetizer dish (shown left).

For dinner, Dan grilled t-bone steaks and a medley of grilled vegetables - asparagus, portabello mushrooms, avocado and grilled fresh peaches (shown below-left).

With the entree course Dan also served sweet corn on the cob. The portabello mushrooms were an ideal complement to the red wines.

We started with Château Figeac, a merlot based right bank Bordeaux Blend, followed by the Ducru and then the Dominus, a Bordeaux producer's left bank Bordeaux style red blend from Napa.

Following the Dominus we pivoted to two other Napa Valley Cabernets - Lewis Cellars Reserve, and finishing with the BV Tapestry Reserve red blend.

Château Figeac St Emilion Bordeaux 2010

We served this wine from a double magnum of this producer at son Ryan's wedding from the 1982 vintage. We hold and vertical collection of this label as well as it being part of a horizontal selection of Bordeaux from his birth year vintage.

True to the style of the Merlot based blend, this was an appropriate opening wine, a bit softer and more approachable easier drinking than the Cabernet predominant blends.

The blend of this right bank Bordeaux is 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.

Deep ruby colored, medium-full bodied, black berry fruits accented by cedar, tobacco leaf and smoke with hints of green olive, cassis and oak turning to smooth gripping tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.


Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 2009

Like the Figeac above, we served this wine from a double magnum of this producer at son Ryan's wedding from the 1982 vintage. We hold and vertical collection of this label as well as it being part of a horizontal selection of Bordeaux from his birth year vintage. I consider these two wines to be his signature wines, so it was a special treat to taste them side by side.

Dark blackish garnet colored, medium-full bodied, lively acidity, complex concentrated bright black berry and black cherry fruits, classic left bank Bordeaux tones of earth, cassis, graphite, spice and smoke turning to smooth gripping tannins on the long finish.

RM 92 points.

Chateau Dominus Estate Napa Red Blend 2001

As I've written before in these pages, this ultr-premium label from this legendary Bordeaux producer Christian Mouiex of Chateau Petrus, is noted for its longevity aging potential. I acquired a case of the 1986 vintage on release back at the time. I then tasted a bottle every couple of years to see how it was aging. Not until about 2000 did the wine open up to express itself and reveal its true character and potential. "So this is what Dominus is supposed to taste like", I exclaimed. Of course by that time, we only had about two bottles left!

The early vintages of this label featured a pen sketch and water color painting of Christian. It was a classic art label collection until they ceased the practice in about 1991. I collected the Dominus Estate Portrait Art Wine Label Series of these vintages up to that time and feature the labels' art in my on-line art label library collection. 

Dark blackish garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex concentrated black berry and black cherry fruits with subtle tones of creosote, smoke, cassis, tobacco leaf and spice turning to smooth polished tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 92 points.

Lewis Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

One of absolute favorite cabernets. Inky purple and garnet colors, medium full bodied, smooth polished and nicely balanced with concentrated core of black berry and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of sweet oak, mocha and vanilla with hints of black olives and anise turning to smooth fine tannins on the long finish.

RM 94 points.

Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve 2009

Another perennial favorite cab that delivers high QPR in most vintages, we hold more than a dozen vintages of this label in the cellar.  Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, nicely balanced, subdued black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of tar, herbs and hints of earthy and anise turning to a moderate tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Chocolates with wine 

After dinner featured a broad selection of premium Donaldson's Chocolates that we brought from Indiana, and French Valrhona chocolates that Dan and Linda acquired in Valrhona France on their Rhone River Cruise from Avignon up to Lyon.

Valrhona selection featured dark and milk chocolates from 85 to 33% mocha - ABINAO 85 % - GUANAJA 70 % - CARAÏBE 66 % - ALPACO 66 % - TAÏNORI 64 % - MANJARI 64 % - JIVARA 40 % - and TANARIVA 33 %.

Each chocolate revealed a difference nuance of the complex wines and provided a wine tasting experience in their own right.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Angles & Cowboys Sonoma County Proprietary Red 2013

Angles & Cowboys Sonoma County Proprietary Red 2013

Visiting Eric and Cathy for the night, Eric served this unique proprietary big red blend label from Sonoma County. Fan's of the wildly popular Prisoner red blend should love this big bold fruit forward easy drinking wine that is offered at half the price for a great high QPR label if you can find it.

This is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Malbec, produced by Cannonball Wine Company, a collaboration of Yoav Gilat, Dennis Hill, and graphic designer Michael Schwab. The fruit is said to be sourced from some of Sonoma County's most prestigious growers.

This multi-varietal red blend represents the bold style and characteristics of each of the varietals in the blend - rich concentrated sweet Zinfandel, structured Cabernet Sauvignon, tone and notes of structure, color and bold flavors of Petite Sirah and Malbec. It all comes together in a nicely crafted blend that is harmonious and balanced, not the awkward cacaphony of flavors that often exists in lower price multi-variety red blends. This big expressive easy drinking sipper begs for BBQ, rich pasta, pizza or hearty bold cheeses.

Dark inky garnet purple colored, full bodied, rich concentrated chewy brambly blackberry and black raspberry fruits accented by a layer of mocha dark chocolate with tones of pepper and spices and a hint of cedar on a long tongue coated full finish.

RM 90 points. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux

Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux BYOB at Indigo Springfield

For a team dinner in Springfield we dined at Indigo Restaurant, what I believe is perhaps the best dining in the area.  Knowing I was probably going to order a steak and longing for an appropriate Bordeaux wine, I took BYOB this recent vintage Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe. If I tasted this at the UGCB vintage release tastings I didn't remember so I was eager to try it.

I ordered the New York strip steak Pittsburg style and they delivered as specified. The wine was a perfect complement to the dinner. Considering our group of nine, service was attentive, professional, timely and prompt without being obtrusive or doting. Dinner was up to fine dining standards in all respects.

Château Prieuré-Lichine Margaux Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux 2012

This was a pleasant approachable drinking Bordeaux from a vintage that has been panned in the ratings and the press. Garnet colored, medium bodied, very Margaux like in the dark and red berry fruit aromas accented by bright floral.

Nicely structured and balanced with expressive black cherry and plum fruits with bright lively acidity with hints of cedar and subtle cassis graphite turning to soft moderate tannins on the finish. This represents decent value for near term drinking or aging.

RM 89 points.

Indigo -

Monday, August 22, 2016

Italian Village Vivere Wine Dinner Features Masseto Cellar Selection

Italian Village Vivere Wine Dinner Features Masseto Cellar Selection

A gathering of the 'Pour Boys' for a wine dinner at Chicago's classic Italian Village Vivere Restaurant included a tour of the legendary wine cellar and some premier cellar selections.

Following a recent visit to meet Jared Gelband in his role as the new Wine Director of the extraordinary cellar that supports Italian Village's three restaurants, we returned with our wine group for a dinner featuring a selection of classic wines.

Readers of this column know I have a very sparse collection of Italian wines in our cellar but I pulled and brought from home BYOB a vintage Sangiovese Pertimali (Livio Sassetti) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva from 1997. Jared matched that from his extensive winelist with a 2007 for a mini-horizontal comparison tasting.

    The Italian Village wine cellar boasts over 30,000 bottles from over 1200 different labels as Jared is working to restore it to its historical Spectator Grand Award eminence. Currently they hold a 2 glass Wine Spectator Best of Award for their collection,

Dan and Ernie then dipped into the wine list to select a Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Léognan Bordeaux 1996 that we know well, in a large format magnum. Clearly the highlight of the evening was a bottle of ultra-premium Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT Merlot 2001.

We closed the evening with an Le Ragose Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 to complement the dessert  course.

Prior to dinner we were served an antipasta course. Our dinner selections included seared prime Rib-eye steak with asparagus and red potatoes, baby New Zealand rack of Lamb, and Risotto with jumbo Lump Crab with charred white sweet corn and pesto.

Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT Merlot 2001 

A classic label from this legendary producer, a uncustomary rare Bordeaux single varietal Merlot from Northern Italy. This is one of the most sophisticated and expressive Merlot's I've ever had and its hard to believe it is from Italy.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, this was focused, polished, a well-balanced symphony of plush concentrated black and red berry fruit flavors accented by subtle tones of mocha and truffle and hints of expresso and cassis turning to a elegant mouth gripping but silky smooth layer of acid and tannins.

RM 94 points.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac-Léognan Bordeaux 1996 

Tasted from large format magnum.

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, black berry fruits with earthy tones of cigar box, cedar, and  leather.

Pertimali (Livio Sassetti) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Sangiovese 1997 and 2007

An interesting exposition of terroir in this vintage comparison of this ten and twenty year old. The common terroir profile and character were apparent with vintage specificities being the distinguishable differences between these two wines.

The younger '07 was brighter and more expressive than the older '97. It was also less balanced and polished and a bit bolder but more obtuse. Both exhibited concentrated bright black and red berry fruits with the '97 coming across as more layered in earthy leather, tobacco leaf and tones of creosote and cassis. Initially a bit closed it opened up quite a bit over the next 2 hours. While the '07 was brighter and more forward with its more lively acidity, the older vintage came across as slightly more subdued, polished, with greater balance and complexity, turning to a long polished finish.

Pertimali (Livio Sassetti) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Sangiovese 1997 
RM 91 points.

Pertimali (Livio Sassetti) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Sangiovese 2007

RM 90 points.

Le Ragose Amarone della Valpolicella 2006

Served with the dessert course that included a selection of flourless chocolate lava cake, tiramisu, creme brulee, a chocolate banana bread cake and selection of fresh fruits and gelato.

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, intense, unctuous black berry raisin with a layer of alcohol and bitter dark chocolate notes with bright acidity on a thick tongue coating finish.

RM 88 points.

Jared with picture of Italian Village founder, Alfredo Capitanini who founded the restaurant in 1927.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fantesca Spring Mtn Napa Cab for Anniversary Dinner

Fantesca Spring Mtn Napa Cab for Anniversary Dinner

For our special anniversary dinner, we took BYOB a favorite festive bottle of Fantesca Napa Cabernet. We have numerous fond memories of our visits to the Fantesca Chateau and Vineyards up on the middle slopes of Spring Mountain above St Helena. We've enjoyed the hospitality of proprietors Duane and Susan Hoff and hosted Duane at our home during his one of his early marketing trips to Chicago.

Amazing how time flies ... gets better every day ...
We dined early at Chez Joël Bistro Francais, a favorite bistro in the Little Italy district on Taylor Street in Chicago, near the city campus of UIUC.

Even though the weather was threatening we chose to dine outside in their courtyard next to the soothing sounds of the trickling fountain, one of our favorite dining spots.

Despite warnings from the staff, we continued to dine under the umbrella during a sudden cloudburst and torrent of rain that only lasted a view minutes, while they scurried to clear the rest of the tables.

As mentioned often in these pages, 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 oversize bottles provide a festive bottle for such a gala dinner.

I can be at peace at working down our collection of Fantesca - I just picked up several bottles of newer vintages at the auction recently so I'll have a bottle to replace this one open slot in our cellar rack. 

Fantesca Spring Mtn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The Fantesca was wonderful, a perfect selection for our intimate occasion, and a perfect complement to the Pate plate and then my New York Strip Steak with roquefort, as well as Linda's Salmon and asparagus entree.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a mouthful of sweet red currant, spicy cinnamon, black cherry, black berry, cedar and lively acid with a long sweet spicy oak finish held together by finely integrated firm tannins.

Interestingly as I write this I pulled and compared my tasting notes to an earlier review of this wine when I wrote' "Over a eleven hundred different wines in the cellar and I chose this one for our intimate anniversary dinner ...."

RM 93 points.

Fantesca and New York Strip Roquefort

After the deluge, 'private' dining on the terrace
The wall overlooking the courtyard terrace

Chez Joel Salmon and asparagus entree

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pichon Lalande 89 and 98

 Pichon Lalande 89 and 98

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1989, 1998

For a grilled New York strip steak dinner at Bill and Beth's, Bill served this '98 vintage classic, and I brought along a '89 for comparison and complementary tasting. This may be my last bottle of a case I bought back upon release of this label.

Fittingly, this '89 served as a further tribute to B & B's son Matt as a birth year vintage, commemorating his recent wedding when Bill served classic birth year wines.

This Pichon Lalande duo presented amazing consistency in character and tasting profile between two diverse vintages and presented all the classic flavors reminding me why it is one of my favorites of all Bordeaux.

Dark garnet colored, starting to show a slight brownish rust hue due to aging, medium full bodied, complex yet perfectly balanced, each exhibited classic nose of a fine cigar, earth, floral, tones of cassis, graphite and hint of menthol and smoky oak. The 98 was a bit more bright and vibrant in its expression of the fruit, while the 89 was a bit more subdued and slightly closed. Both finished with smooth graceful silky lingering tannins.

RM 93 points.

More to follow ...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 Columbia Valley Syrah 2009

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 Columbia Valley Syrah 2009

Like earlier tastings, I pulled this full throttle Columbia Valley Shiraz to accompany bbq rib dinner.  I've raved about this wine several times in this blog, talking about the high QPR (quality price ratio) that can occasionally be found in negociant private label wines. Of course the challenge is that often they are 'one hit wonders' since there is no guarantee of follow up vintages of the particular label. 

I've stated that this may be one of our favorite drinking wines in our cellar right now, certainly at this price point!  

This is still holding its own at seven years of age.

Dark inky garnet colored, medium to full bodied, 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 tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

As usual, we saved a couple glasses to try later and this was even better the next day. It was awesome with the spectacular Sunday Brunch Linda prepared - French Strawberry Crepes, grilled filet steak with blue cheese and fresh avocado, and fresh Peach puree fizz (below), enjoyed on the deck.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Branson Coach House Barossa Greenock Block Shiraz 2004

Branson Coach House Barossa Greenock Block Single Vineyard Shiraz 2004

For dinner on the patio at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria on a perfect summer evening, we took this big bold Aussie Shiraz, BYOB.

I discovered and tasted this wine with Wine Manager Bill and the Aussie wine buyer at the wine desk at Binny's in Glen Ellyn back upon release. I liked it so much I bought their entire allocation which was only a couple six packs. Tonight I broke open that last remaining case from that purchase. At a dozen years of age, this is aging gracefully, showing no signs of diminution whatsoever.

Dark inky purple color, full bodied, full aromas and flavors of black fruits, a hint of raspberry and blueberry, accented by tones of graphite & mineral on a smooth polished moderate tannin finish.

RM 92 points.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Double Diamond Amber Knolls Cabernet 2002

Shrader Double Diamond Lake County Beckstoffer Amber Knolls Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Pulled this from the cellar to enjoy with grilled steak and baked potato and sweet corn dinner - a perfect complement.

This is the second label of the classic super premium Shrader brand/collection. This is from the Amber Knolls Vineyard up in Lake County, over the hill from Howell Mountain to the northeast from Napa Valley, not to be confused with the Oak Knolls district in southwest Napa.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, forward expressive, slightly obtuse, black berry fruits, smokey black creosote tones with hints of black licorice and touch of dark cocoa with modest tight tannins.

RM 90 points.