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.