Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mouton, Dominus, Insignia Highlight Big Red Wine Dinner

Mouton, Dominus, Insignia Highlight Beef Tenderloin Big Red Wine Dinner

A 'pour boys' wine dinner was held with wine buddies Dr Dan and Bill C, when Bill and Beth were back in town to celebrate son Drew's baby's christening. We hosted a wine dinner that featured a line-up of ultra-premium classic reds. Highlights of the wine flight included Mouton Rothschild, Joseph Phelps Insignia and Dominus.

I pulled from the cellar 1984 vintage Mouton Rothschild to commemorate Drew's birthyear and paired it with a near year 1986 vintage Dominus. Dr Dan brought a Dominus 2006 and a Phelps Insignia 2007 to punctuate the dinner flight. Bill brought a Constant Cabernet Franc 2007 and a Camiana Howell Mountain Cabernet.  Son Ryan attended and brought a Chateau Calon Segur 1995.

For the opening we served shrimp cocktail and a cheese flight of artisan cheeses with two whites, Lanson Champagne and Ken Wright Chardonnay. To transition to the red flight we served a unique Mollydooker Goose Bumps Sparkling Shiraz.

The ensuing red flight accompanied dinner. Beth brought a dinner salad and Linda prepared her notable spectacular beef tenderloin (shown left) with scalloped potatoes and a medley of grilled vegetables.

For dessert, Linda served a trio of petit fours with mixed fresh berries with which I poured Kracher Scheerube Trockeberrean Auslese (TBA).

If the wine flight looks ambitious, it should be noted that Bill and Beth's sons Will and Matt also joined in the tasting, and Ryan's friend CJ dropped in and joined in during the evening as well. 

The wine flight ....

Pre dinner -
Lanson Champagne NV
Ken Wright Cellars Chardonnay 2009
Mollydooker Goose Bumps Sparkling Shiraz 2006 

Dinner course -
Altamura Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Calon Segur 1995
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1984
Dominus Estate 1986
Dominus Estate 2006  
Joseph Phelps Insignia 2007 
Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 2013.
Camiana Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Constant Diamond Mountain Winery Diamond Mountain District Estate Cabernet Franc 2007

After dinner - dessert / cheese course -
Alois Kracher TBA #12 Zwischen den Seener Scherube 1998 

For brevity, I won't repeat previously featured wines that are featured elsewhere in this blog, but rather will link to those reviews.

Lanson Champagne Brut Rosé Rose Label NV Champagne Blend

We served this label just last weekend at a family dinner. That post is linked here. 

Ken Wright Cellars Washington/Oregon Chardonnay 2009

I discovered Ken Wright Cellars' wines when I traveled to Seattle during a two year engagement there back around the millenium. Since 1994, he primarily has been producing terroir driven vineyard designated Pinot Noirs sourced from more than a dozen different vineyards released under almost as many labels. Ken Wright Pinot Noirs are from nearly a dozen highly regarded sites including Del Rio Vineyard in the Rogue Valley, Ciel du Cheval in Washington's Red Mountain district, and Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla. The Ciel du Cheval vineyard is the prime site for Force Majeure wines, a featured producer of a recent producer tasting posting.

Ken Wright has distinctive branding of its family of vineyard designated Pinot Noirs, with the bottle labels featuring original artwork depicting caricatures or art drawings associated with the history, legend, geography or nature associated with that particular site.

Some Ken Wright vineyard artwork labels are shown here (right).

He also produces a small amount of Chardonnay sourced from a primary vineyard in Washington and this label, a blend sourced from sites in Washington (73%) and Oregon (27%). In recent vintages he has only produced a limited production of two white wines, a pinot blanc and Chardonnay from Celilo Vineyard near White Salmon, Washington.

This was light honey/straw colored, medium body with tones of stone fruits, hint of almond, apricot, ginger or almost a whisper of cognac on the slightly sweet finish.

RM 89 points.

Mollydooker Goose Bumps Sparkling Shiraz 2006

I often remark in these pages about the Australian sense of humour. This wine defies logic and even description  ... what were they thinking when they produced this? To say this is unique is an understatement. At fifty dollars a bottle, one can get a nice and authentic French Champagne. I don't think their (Champagne's) franchise is in jeopardy with this offering.

Dark purple color, medium full bodied, dark brooding black and blue fruits accented by spice, tones of cassis, pepper and hints of bitter dark chocolate. The bubbly was very subdued leaving us to wonder if this bottle had been compromised and lost some of its fizz. I think so but I vaguely remember our last bottle of this we had a Christmas a while back.

RM 85 points.

The red wine flight ...

Altamura Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

We've had this in the cellar for more than a decade waiting to be unveiled. It could've been held for another decade. A classic Napa Cabernet in every sense, it seems to be at its apex now, not likely to improve with further aging, but showing no signs diminution whatsoever.

In 2009 Wine Spectator wrote "The 1999 California Cabernet vintage was a great success when it was released, delivering many of that decade's best wines. Now 10 years old, the top Cabernets of that harvest have, for the most part, aged the way wine lovers who cellared them hoped they would; time has worked to their advantage."

Founded in 1985 by Frank and Karen Altamura on 400 acres that have been in the family since 1855,  Altamura was the first winery located in the Wooden Valley about nine miles northeast of the town of Napa. Wooden Valley is bordered by the Vaca Range to the east and "Napa Mountain" to the west. Altamura vineyards lie in the southeastern hillsides of Napa Valley at elevations of 700 to 1000 feet. 

The area produces rich concentrated fruit that has been used in well-known labels including Caymus, Groth, Pahlmeyer, Stags Leap and Mondavi. Frank started his winemaking career at Sterling in 1976, then on to Trefethen in 1979, then Frank worked at Caymus with Chuck Wagner and Randy Dunn before setting out on his own.

Altamura said at the time that this was one of the most intense wines they had produced. Dark garnet colored, medium to bodied, concentrated forward bright vibrant expressive sweet black raspberry, black currant and sweet blueberry fruits with tones of mocha, spicy oak and cinnamon, with hints of leather and cigar box with long chewy tongue coated finish of silky smooth soft tannins.

RM 92 points.

A comment from fellow Cellartracker UNIONST from Montclair .. "wine spectator just did a blind retrospective tasting of napa valley cabernets from the 1999 vintage. this wine tied for first, beating out heavy hitters like insignia, bryant family, bond melbury and vecina, spottswoode, viader, silver oak alexander valley and napa valley, harlan, colgin herb lamb vineyard, cakebread, etc."

Chateau Calon Segur St Estephe 1995

Chateau Calon-Ségur Grand Cru Classe St. Estephe Bordeaux 1995 

Robert Parker says this is one of the great sleepers of the vintage.

Dark ruby/purple colored, medium-full bodied, classic Bordeaux with earthy, leathery black berry and black raspberry fruits accented tones of cassis, cedar and hints of black olive and mocha with a long smooth floral finish

RM 92 points. 

97 points James Suckling; 95 points Wine Spectator'; 92 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate; 91 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Château Mouton Rothschild 1984

Considering the lackluster poor 1984 vintage in Bordeaux, this is remarkably holding its own after 32 years and not only still has life left but showed quite well and was impressive drinking. I should've known it would still be holding up but couldn't be sure. Glad I pulled it out to try but wish I had more. Such a classic wine, I remember purchasing it even though  its been almost three decades, and I remember drinking the other bottles back at the time. This is our last bottle of this vintage. 

Slightly opaque, dark garnet colored, medium bodied, nicely balanced, classic Bordeaux characteristics of dark berry, plum and black cherry fruits, tones of floral, earthy leather with cigar box and tobacco. leaf with light mouthfeel, silky smooth polished tannins on a moderate subdued pleasant finish.

RM 93 points.

 Dominus Estate Red Wine 1986

Like the Mouton Rothschild, Dominus is one of the world's great classic Bordeaux varietal wines.
It is the work of legendary Christian Moueix, son of Jean-Pierre Moueix, the famed wine merchant and French producer of classic Bordeaux wines including Chateaux Petrus, La Fleur-Petrus, Trotanoy in Pomerol and Magdelaine in Saint Emilion.

Christian Moueix discovered Napa Valley and is wines in the late 1960s, while attending the University of California in nearby Davis. In 1981, he discovered the historic Napanook vineyard near Yountville that had been the source of fruit for some of the finest Napa Valley wines in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1982,  he entered into a partnership to develop the vineyard and, in 1995, became its sole owner. He named the Estate and wine ‘Dominus’ or’ Lord of the Estate’ in Latin, to underscore his commitment to stewardship of the land. 

I remember the anticipation of tasting this wine when I purchased a case of the 1986 vintage upon release back at the time. Friends and family have often heard me tell this story .... I tasted a bottle from the case every couple of years with similar results ... 'interesting, complex, tightly wound, closed and uninspiring, is that all there is to this wine?' Then after about twenty years, I tasted another bottle and exclaimed, "Ahah, THIS is what this wine is supposed to taste like!"

Impatience was/will be punished, and patience will be rewarded, for those that had/have the resolve to put this wine aside and let it age gracefully to develop, finally settle, and open to reveal its true character and potential. But by then, when it finally presented its potential, I only had a couple bottles left. This is one of those remaining bottles, which at age 30 is better than ever, now revealing its full potential and true character.

The 1986 Dominus Estate was the fourth vintage produced by the John Daniel Society. The grapes were grown solely at the Napanook Vineyard in Yountville, along Hwy 29 in southwest Napa Valley. This vintage was the first of the “second series” of Dominus Estate with the 1986 through 1988 vintages using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in the blend. - the '86 release being 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Merlot.

Those early vintages had distinctive branding of a label art series with each vintage label having a portrait of producer Christian Moueix by well-known American artist Jim Dine. This series ended in 1991 with subsequent labels all being the simple plain design, up until the most recent release in 2013, returning to this tradition with a portrait of Moueix returning.

The 1986 Dominus Estate has a dark garnet/ruby color, medium bodied, an aromatic floral nose, this wine shows elegance, finesse and excellent balance, a complex symphony of red and black fruits with layers of mineral, earthy leather, spice, truffle, hints of cassis and tobacco turning to a smooth, polished long finish with pleasant acidity.

RM 93 points.

Dominus Estate 2006 

Perhaps the Dominus 2006 reflects a change in style to produce wines that are more approachable at an early age, a popular trend to market wines favored by a larger audience. Or, the 2006 reflects the outstanding vintage with all the elements of terroir coming together. Dominus says, 'the 2006 epitomizes the best qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon in a top terroir of Napa Valley. At first, the wine displays tremendous power. Then, it surprises by the purity of the fruit and the lingering finesse. It clearly possesses a fantastic aptitude for aging.'

“When I drank Dominus 2006 in Europe recently, it confirmed what is for me the best definition of a great wine,” Christian Moueix declared. “This wine travels well. Dare I say that the 2006 vintage is our best so far.”

This release is incredible - a huge powerful forward wine that explodes out of the glass - rich concentrated, complex, a massive wine. Dark garnet/ruby colored, full bodied, brooding chewy mouthfeel that coats the tongue, ripe forward black berry fruits punctuated by a layer of chocolate, coffee beans, truffles and cigar box, turning to big chewy firm tannins that are tamed by being well integrated. This is a huge wine that begs for cheese, chocolates, beef and more - not for the feint of heart. Incredible, indeed.

The 2006 blend is comprised of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. No Merlot was used in the blend this year.

RM 96 points.

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2007  

Son Ryan said this morning, the morning after, its a pity to try so many spectacular wines all at once, they overshadow each other. Better to have one to enjoy it. Oh well. 

This is another incredible classic wine. This should serve as a benchmark for excellence, against which other wines will be compared. Its as near perfect as it can be. I remember doing the  cult  wine flight out in Napa several years ago and this is what it was like.

This is another Bordeaux blend that provides complexity and sophistication but punctuated by Napa Valley big bold forward concentrated fruits. 

This is elegance personified, silky smooth, polished, sexy, sensuous, the words can't do justice to this wine. Delicious. Memorable. Put some away to revisit again, and again and again. 

The blend of the '07 Insignia is Cabernet Sauvignon 88%, Merlot 8%, and Petit Verdot 4%.

RM 98 points.

Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 2013

As I wrote in these pages last week, this may be the best release of this label I have tasted, being by far the most vibrant and expressive forward fruits I can remember

Citing the metaphor of taking a knife to a gunfight, this Pinot Noir is no match for the bigger, more forward, firmer and tighter Cabernet Sauvignon based wines. Relatively speaking, it is big for a Pinot, but lighter and smaller than these Bordeaux varietal wines featured tonight.

This is not a wimpy wine but powerful, as Pinots go, yet smooth and polished, a symphony of concentrated dark berry fruit flavors with layers of black raspberry, black cherry, hints of cranberry, graphite and tones of tobacco leaf, spices of thyme, bay leaf and floral violets with a long lingering tightly wound fine grained tannins on the finish.

RM 92 points

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinous both gave this 95 points Vinous; Wine Enthusiast gave it 92 points and a Cellar Selection

Constant Diamond Mountain Winery Diamond Mountain District Estate Cabernet Franc 2007

Our visit with Bill and Beth to the Constant Vineyards estate high atop Diamond Mountain was one of the highlights of our Diamond Mountain Appellation Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011.

This was a great punctuation mark on the Bordeaux varietal wines as Cabernet Franc is used in the blend to add spice and highlights to the Cabernet and Merlot varietals.

This was bright dark ruby/purple colored, medium to full bodied, this was bright vibrant full forward black berry and currant fruit with a bold punch of sweet almost cinnamon spice accented by tones of mocha chocolate, soft sweet oak with dusty lush pleasing tongue coating lingering tannins.

RM 93 points. 

Bill's notes from Cellartacker - "Deep purple color. Light nose of fig and light floral aromas belie a wonderfully flavored Cab Franc. Opens with a bit of sweetness on the front palate, cocoa on the mid palate, silky tannins and a long lingering finish highlighted by cassis and a touch of oak. A wonderful accompaniment to smoky, bacon infused chowder and prosciutto wrapped, stuffed chicken breast in a sweet and spicy pepper sauce.

WCC 92 points.

Camiana Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Bill also brought this from his cellar. The wine is full bodied and dark inky purple color, the nose is perfumed with violets, cedar box and dusty earth, The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon flavors are complex, tight and dry, with big firm tannins masking the intense concentrated black berry and black cherry fruit accented with tobacco, hints of cassis and sweet oak.

RM 92 points. 

This wine is great now but should be laid down for five to 10 years.

For the dessert course ...

Alois Kracher TBA #12 Zwischen den Seener Scherube 1998 

Amazingly, the drinking window for this wine on Cellartracker is 2009 - 2027!

Brownish orange tea colored, full bodied, thick chewy, rich unctuous, concentrated sweet honey, smoky almonds, lychee, sweet ripe caramel apple, apricot, pear and balanced citrus acidity, the lychee, caramel/vanilla, orange blossom finish goes on and on.

RM 93 points. 

At 356 g/L of residual sugar, this has over three times the sweetness level of Coca-Cola but its fruit nectar essence makes for sensuous pleasant sipping.