Saturday, October 1, 2016

Vin Chicago Saturday Tasting Features Big Red Diverse Styles

Vin Chicago Saturday Tasting Features Big Red Diverse Styles

I've written often in these pages about the Saturday afternoon wine tastings at Chicagoland wine merchant Vin Chicago. Today's flight featured a selection of Big Red's with diverse styles. Unlike the typical popular distributor tabletop tastings set up in local merchants, Vin Chicago features a selection from their inventory with highlights of quality and even premium labels, with serving duties shared by staff rotation. It's started to become routine to check out the Saturday Tasting lineup on their website blogpost each week. Today's flight featured four popular premium Reds with diverse styles, some premium champagnes, and a top flight Sauterne dessert label. 

The occasion for this special selection was the 30th Anniversary of the opening of their first flagship store on Elston Avenue in Chicago - the precursor to todays' Vin Chicago with four stores throughout Chicagoland including our hometown of Naperville. In addition to the premier tasting, they also offered over 100 wines at special anniversary discount pricing.

The flight included: 
  • Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 
  • Silver Oak Cellars Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  • Chateau Troplong Mondot St. Emillion 2012
  • Snowden "Brothers Vineyard" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
  • Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 2009
and a selection of quality Champagnes
  • Etienne Doue "Cuvee Selection" Brut Champagne NV
  • Billecart-Salmon "Brut Reserve" Champagne NV
  • Vilmart "Grand Cellier" Brut Champagne NV
Ideally, I would've spent time sufficient to savor the entire selection but I focused solely on the Red's and the Sauterne. 

Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Another blockbuster from this legendary producer that is known for silky smooth easy drinking quality Napa Cabernets that are approachable at an early age that still have the potential for aging. Caymus has held this price point of this premium label for several years such that this offers good QPR for a premium consistent, dependable label. 

For anyone bewildered by the abundance of labels and wines in their local wine shop that are not certain what to buy for a quality bottle to drink, share, gift or serve, you can't go wrong with this label for any occasion. This was Linda's favorite.

This resembles their classic 2012 40th anniversary label that got 96 points from leading reviewers. 

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich, silky smooth black berry and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of sweet oak, mocha and hints of clove spice on a soft elegant polished finish. 

RM 94 points.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

Dark inky garnet colored, medium full bodied, classic Silver Oak signature profile - focused core (some might also translate this as single dimensional) of dark berry fruit with predominant mid-palate toasty oak that lingers on the finish. Minutes later hangs on the palate like a fine cigar. 

Silver Oak continues to enjoy an almost cult following. Unless you are just fixated and locked in to Silver Oak and that classic style, at $70 for the Alexander Valley label, and approaching $100 for the Napa Valley label, this price has crept up to a point that there are many producers that offer more for the money. 

RM 91 points.

Château Troplong Mondot St Emilion Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux 2012

We tasted this wine on release at the UGC Bordeaux North American release tour tasting in Chicago a year before last where this was one of the standouts of the 2012 vintage release
While it makes for an interesting comparison, and rounds a nicely a red tasting flight, its not quite a fair fight standing this more sophisticated and complex Merlot based Bordeaux blend up against the three Big Red focused fruit forward Napa Cabernets. 

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex more subdued black berry and black currant fruits with tones of charcoal, smoke, tobacco and tea with hints of anise turning to smooth gripping tannins on the polished lingering finish. This begs for a grilled steak to reveal the layers and complexity of the fruits from the blend.

Blend of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc.

RM 92 points.  

Snowden Brothers Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
We've been fans of Snowden since their inaugural vintage release back in 1993. We still hold several bottles from those earliest 1994, 95 and 96 vintage releases that we acquired on release directly from the producer. We met and featured Randy Snowden at some of wine producer dinners during our Napa Valley excursions from that era. Those Estate Cabernets evolved into a lineup of a second label (Lost Vineyard of which we still hold a couple bottles of a case we acquired from the '97 vintage), the Estate label, and then a Reserve label. 

The flagship Reserve Cabernet is being replaced by series of single-vineyard designated wines from Snowden's estate vineyard which lies on the border of the St. Helena and Rutherford AVAs  adjacent to Hall's Sacrashe vineyard, which is just above their magnificent Rutherford winery, cave and tasting facility. They are also releasing small amounts of limited release bottling of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This label is a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot which adds, body, structure and color.

Bright garnet colored, medium-full bodied, big bright vibrant full forward brash concentrated black berry and black currant fruits with tones of tangy clove spice, sweet oak, with hints of graphite and anise. It feels like this needs a couple years to settle. 

RM 92 points. 

Château Suduiraut Sauternes 2009

There is always room for 'stickies' ... sweet thick unctuous dessert wines - delicious and applicable to anti pasta pre-dinner course, with salads, with cheese, with dessert, or as a course by itself. This one is a classic - ready for drinking now, or aging for decades. At $48 for a 375 ml half bottle, its not for the average consumer every day sipping wine, rather for special occasions. Dessert wines can run from $4 to $400 - and every price point in between. I would say for the average palette, one won't find anything better and more enjoyable at any price, and you can find one for less. In any event, this one is delicious and enjoyable for many occasions. 

We tasted this wine at the UGC Bordeaux release tastings in Chicago.  

Light honey colored, full bodied, thick, tongue coating, chewy, almost syrupy, sweet honeyed fruit flavors of peach, mango, papaya, lychee, hints of apricots and sweet apples with tones of almond nut on a long mouth puckering lingering finish. Hold them for long term cellaring and watch them darken with age over the years or even decades.

RM 95 points.

Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet 1999

Constant Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain Vineyard 1999

Dining at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria, L and I took this Napa Cab BYOB. Regretably, Angeli's upped their corkage fee to $20, a bit excessive for the suburbs. At that price, city venues offer premium wine services with knowledgeable trained wine staff, premium wine glasses, decanting, a wholly different wine experience. Sadly, as a result, we dine their less often and opt for seeking new adventurous venues.

Infinity pool adjacent the wine tasting cottage
overlooking Constant mountain vineyards.
Our visit to the Constant Diamond Mountain vineyard estate high atop Diamond Mountain was a highlight of our Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2011. The spectacular setting at the northern end of the Mayacamas Range above the town of Calistoga overlooks Napa Valley to the east and Sonoma Valley to the west. It is the said to be highest elevation vineyard in the area and is one of but a few properties that span both sides of the boundary line at the summit that separates the two Counties and geographic regions.

The historic property is among the oldest wineries in the valley with history dating back to the late 1800's.

Freddie Constant hosting our wine tasting at the estate.
The late Freddie Constant and wife Mary, and consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs produced Bordeaux style red blend wines. Sadly, colorful Freddie passed away since, and we think of him fondly and toast him each time we open one of his labels.

As is the norm in most of our dining experiences, our wine selection drove our dinner entree choices as we're firm believers in the overall dining experience being the matching of the food and wine. The synergies of properly paired wine with food amplifies the overall experience, the essence of the French who have made artwork of the craft.

For a hearty dark earthy fruit filled wine I chose Angeli's wonderful Pasta and Peas with its ground Italian sausage, while Linda chose the Eggplant Parmigiana. Both were ideal complements to the wine. For starters we both had Angeli's spectacular Boston Clam Chowder, still the standard bearer for such a dish anywhere. For fun, we ordered an entree of Angeli's delicious Butternut Squash Gnocchi as carry-out to take home for our dessert afterwards.

Back at home, we continued viewing the recently released season five of Longmire on Netflix. We've resisted binge-watching, but will finish the latest season episodes in one week of consecutive night viewing, none-the-less.

With the gnocchi, I pulled from the cellar a 375 half bottle of Cavalchina dessert wine, a perfect accompaniment to the sweet dessert which Linda served with a dollop of chocolate mouse. The entree size portion served both of us several evenings of such savory enjoyment.

Constant Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain Vineyard 1999

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (92%, Cabernet Franc (6%) and Merlot (2%).

Aromas of floral berry fruit permeated the room as soon as the cork was extracted from the bottle.  Dark ruby colored, medium to full bodied, black fruits were accented by subtle tones of earth, creosote and graphite with hints of pepper and spice. At various points, a whisper of mocha emerged over the course of the evening. The finish was smooth and elegant with soft silky tannins.

The emergence of the non-fruit layer might suggest the fruit is starting to give way as this seventeen year old vintage bottle starts to enter the later stage of life and end of its prime drinking window.

RM 92 points.

Calvalchina Bianca Del Veneto Passito 2004

We are about half way through a case of 24 half bottles we acquired of this wine for every day casual sipping, ideal for such occasions such as this evening.

Upon release the color of this wine was straw, then turned to butter, and over time has consistently darkened to honey color and it is now the hue of weak tea. It seems to have gotten a bit sweeter and brighter with age suggesting that it might be at its apex here at a dozen years of age.

Medium-full 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.