Saturday, February 25, 2017

Trefethan Napa Valley Oak Knoll Chardonnay

Trefethan Vineyards Napa Valley Oak Knoll District Chardonnay 2014

Enjoying a quiet afternoon at home in front of a movie, Linda prepared succulent lobster tails and lobster bisque. We planned to accompany this with a buttery, silky smooth Chardonnay, so I pulled from the cellar a Trefethan Vineyards Napa Valley Oak Knoll District Chardonnay

We visited Trefethen Vineyards and Estate in southwest Napa Valley during our Napa Wine
Experience in 2013. Trefethen's success with Napa Valley Chardonnay dates back more than thirty years when in 1979, their Trefethen 1976 Chardonnay was named “Best Chardonnay in the World” at the Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in France.

Trefethen attribute much of their success to their Estate vineyards (shown left) in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley with well-drained, loamy soils, and the marine-influenced climate with soft breezes and gentle fog that roll into southwest Napa Valley off of the San Pablo Bay, helping develop Chardonnay grapes with rich, balanced flavors. 

The 2014 vintage in southern Napa Valley was exceptional. Setting aside the severe drought early in the year and the significant earthquake that struck Napa just as harvest began, the 2014 weather during the growing season was close to absolute perfection. This allowed growers to time harvesting the grapes at their optimum peak ripeness which yielded an extraordinary wine. It was  ideal for casual sipping and as an accompaniment to our afternoon dinner.

This was butter colored, medium bodied, buttery and smooth with what the producer describes as "A classic Trefethen Chardonnay, .... with enticing aromas of Granny Smith apple, clover honey, honeysuckle and nutmeg. Clean and bright flavors of tropical fruits, peach and crisp citrus envelop your taste buds".

This is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Estate Main Ranch Vineyard (shown above) there in the Oak Knoll District Appellation of Napa Valley that is adjoining and across the road from the winery and estate, on Hwy 29 as you enter Napa central valley just north of the town of Napa.

RM 90 points.

Venge Scouts Honor Vieux Telegraph bbq dinner

Venge Scouts Honor, Vieux Telegraph highlight bbq rib dinner

Venge Scout's Honor Napa Valley Red Wine Zinfandel Blend 2013

We were invited to the kid's house for Friday night dinner with the grandkids. Ryan prepared rubbed smoked ribs and served this classic BBQ wine, Venge Scout's Honor Zinfandel Blend. I write in these pages often that every cellar needs some Zinfandel at hand for such an occasion and this one is as good as it gets. I brought along a vintage aged Vieux Telegraph CDP (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) for comparison.

I wrote about the 2013 vintage Venge Scouts Honor in my initial tasting blogpost last year. This is one of the best vintages ever for this label that is a tribute to their late beloved Labrador Retriever, Scout. We actually had the privilege of 'meeting' Scout when we visiting with founder/patriarch Nils Venge at the Penny Lane vineyards property back in the mid-nineties. My notes for this wine go back to the 1998 vintage.

Decades later, the wine is now made by his son Kirk Venge. In the past few vintages they have improved vineyard quality significantly with more “old - vine” plantings of the fruit source for this blend and it has taken the wine to another level resulting in a spectacular full bodied, delicious, hedonistic red wine. The complex blend takes Zinfandel into another dimension over typical Zins, that while being big fruit bombs, tend to be more single dimensional and less sophisticated.

This is a unique blend with a foundation of old-vine Zinfandel (71%), dry-farmed Petite Sirah (15%), old-vine Charbono (10%), and finishing with mountain vineyard Syrah (4%) that packs a wallop at 15.4% alcohol. Robert Parker notes that this may be the best Scout's Honor Venge Vineyards has  made. 

This was even better than when we tasted it last year with the fruit being more balanced and settled predominating more over the other complex notes - dark inky purple colored, full bodied, bold, jammy, chewy, tongue coating, mouth puckering, concentrated, complex yet smooth, polished and balanced, delicious sweet black raspberry, blueberry and black cherry fruits with notes of violets, dark mocha, truffle, anise and spices, with an long finish that almost tastes like candy. 

RM 93 points; Robert Parker gave it 94.

I brought along this aged 1996 vintage CDP to compare and complement the ribs.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 1996

A visit to this legendary producer was one of the highlights of our trip to Chateauneuf-du-Pape a few years ago.

This was my last bottle of this vintage for this label and its just as well as it is reaching the end of its drinking window.

Already brownish color tones with heavy bricking on the rim with a cloudiness setting in, medium bodied, the rich berry fruits and spice tones have are overtaken by a preponderance of green vegetal notes of green olive and note of barnyard earthy wet grass.

Perhaps this was a slightly tainted bottle as other Cellartracker reviews don't indicate this level of diminution as yet. It was still drinkable and a bit intriguing, not as bad as it sounds, but nearing end of life none-the-less.

RM 84 points.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Black Diamond Amador Zinfandel 2013

Guadagni Family Black Diamond Amador County Sierra Foothills Zinfandel 2013

I have written several times in these pages about Black Diamond Russian River Valley Pinot Noir  from this same producer. Now they've released a Zinfandel from Amador County up in the Sierra Foothills, an area noted for quality Zins.

I wrote earlier about Guadagni Family wines and stated at the time to expect to see more from them. As featured earlier, "sourced from fruit from GUADAGNI FAMILY WINES, a small family run business that according to records is managed by Donald, Joseph, Mary, William and Breanna at their location on Yokim Bridge Road in Healdsburg. They're reported to produce about 1000 cases a year but views of the property show large tracts of young vines and new plantings so we might expect to see much more of them in the coming vintages."

Well it appears they have expanded their portfolio as their website now features six different varietals, their Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Rose, and this Zinfandel. Only their 2012 release of the Zin is featured and is said to be a blend of Zinfandel and Primitivo.

Either their website is hastily thrown together, or English is the second language of the publisher, or they're just plain careless, as the Winemaker's Notes for this wine contains several spelling errors. Perhaps it was written after a long tasting session (or during).

"Winemaker's Notes: Carfully (sic) selected lots were fermented seperately (sic) in small stainless steel tanks for ten days after a night harvest and four days of cold soaking which added color and depth. The wine was carefully transferred to American oak barrels while in the last stages of fermentation causing an increase in grape extraction. Finally lees were sirred (sic) once a week for eight months imparting a creamy, softer mouth feel. American Oad (sic)aged for 11 months, 1/3rd new oak and then blended to complete our 2012 Zinfandel."

I wrote in an earlier blogpost how they replaced a black diamond on the label with the skier, to bring attention to the skiing metaphor in their branding and naming their wines, the reference to Black Diamond, the designation given to the most difficult and challenging ski slopes. This metaphor works for the boldness of their wines, but doesn't work if considering black diamond slopes are known as Expert slopes, only suitable or applicable to expert skiers - a fun reference never-the-less.

They say their label name "Black Diamond" refers to the 'boldness and courage' of their wines. 'awe inspiring to look at from the rim and personally satisfying in the finish.... with both strength and elegance' symbolic of Black Diamond wines. 

My notes for this Zinfandel: Dark blackish garnet colored, medium bodied, a bit flabby initially with alcohol heat that burns off eventually, brambly black fruits with a layer of cognac tones, hints of kirsch, turning to a sweet mocha caramel tone on the finish. Well suited for BBQ, pasta or a great pizza wine at this price point. 

RM 87 points. 

Like their Pinot Noir, this provides a decent QPR (quality-price-ratio) at $15.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mitolo Reiver Barossa Shiraz 2004

Mitolo "Reiver" Barossa Valley South Australia Shiraz 2004

We took this BYOB to Angelis Italian, our neighborhood Italian Bistro. 

The Mitolo family arrived in Australia in the 1950s bringing with them viticulturist ancestry from the Abruzzo wine region in Italy. Frank Mitolo produces small batch and single vineyard designated wines from Barossa and McLaren Vale South Australia. It all began as a pastime making wine in the 1990’s to share with family and friends. He teamed up with well known winemaker Ben Glaetzer in 2000.

Their first wine is still perhaps their best known, G.A.M. Shiraz, a single vineyard wine, first produced in 2000, named in honour of Frank’s three children Gemma, Alex and Marco. Since then Mitolo have added another 10 wines to the brand. This 100% Shiraz wine is named after the (English/Scottish) Border Rievers.

Mitolo / Glaetzer source much of their fruit from growers, the Loprestis, also Italian immigrants and old friends of the Mitolos. The Lopresti vineyards are situated near the coastal town of Aldinga in McLaren Vale, sitting between the Gulf St Vincent and the nearby Willunga Hills. They have 200 acres of Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache.

At twelve years, this is most likely nearing the end of its prime drinking window and will not improve any further with age. It is dark black crimson colored, full bodied and muscular with concentrated ripe, almost raisin flavored black fruits punctuated by tones of spice, black pepper and kirsch with a layer of vanilla, smoke, cured meat and graphite on a lingering fine grained tannin finish. This is a style Linda likes a lot but the obtuse fruit and non-fruit flavors are a bit overbearing for my preference.

This gets reviews as high as 94 points and a Cellartracker average of 92 but I give it a 90.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bogle Vineyards Phantom Zinfandel Blend 2013

Bogle Vineyards Phantom Zinfandel Blend 2013

Following the fantastic tasting / showing of this wine last weekend, I picked up the latest release to try as a comparison to the 2009. As good as the 2009 was, I think the 2013 is even better! This is as good as the El Nido Clio 2011 we had a short while ago at less than half the price resulting in a tremendous QPR - Quality Price Ratio.

Dark inky garnet colored, full bodied, complex and concentrated forward brambly blue and black raspberry fruits with tones of vanilla, and hints of mocha, spicy cinnamon and pepper on a rich full flavorful finish.

This is one of those wines that come along every so often that I say, 'run, don't walk out to buy some', perhaps a half case, and depending on how it ages, you might wish you'd bought more.

Interesting blend of Zinfandel 39%, Petite Sirah 38%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 23% from vineyards in Lodi, Clarksburg, and Amador, California.

RM 91 points.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bogle Vineyards Phantom Zinfandel Blend 2009

Bogle Vineyards Phantom Zinfandel Blend 2009

For quiet Saturday evening at home after babysitting a grandson, we opened this bold red blend with fresh fruits and cheeses in front of a winter fire and movie.

This is the type of wine that should be held in every cellar for BBQ, pizza, pasta, hearty cheeses or casual but serious sipping. Not for the feint of heart, this is an interesting unique blend of old vine Zinfandel (52%) from Lodi, Petite Sirah (46%) from Clarksburg, with a small amount of Mourvèdre, all from the Central Valley of California.

According to the inscription on the cork (shown below), Bogle is Scottish for a 'friendly spirit, a phantom". 

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, aromatic, concentrated forward chewy briary ripe blueberry and black raspberry fruits with tones of smoke and hints of vanilla, dark chocolate, graphite, spicy oak and cedar.

RM 90 points. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Freemark Abbey Cuvaison Haut Batailley Flight for Tenderloin Dinner

Freemark Abbey Cuvaison Haut Batailley Flight for Tenderloin Dinner

Wine buddy and fellow 'Pour Boy' Bill back in town, we held a wine dinner with a flight of reds to compliment Linda's beef tenderloin with roasted red potatoes and medley of grilled asparagus and brussel sprouts.

Bill brought a appellation select Mt Veeder Cuvaison Napa Cabernet and a Château Haut-Batailley Bordeaux 2003.

I pulled from the cellar one of our perennial favorite producers that we've enjoyed together on numerous occasions, Freemark Abbey Estate Napa Cab from 1994. I also pulled an aged vintage Cuvaison Napa Cab 1988 for a mini vertical comparison of the 2007. In the end, moderation prevailed and we didn't get that far in our tasting. 

The three wines presented a wonderful comparison of the subtle graduation of three different styles reflecting variations in vintage and terroir - all perfect complements to the dinner courses of cheese, chocolates, entrees and desserts.

 Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac Bordeaux 2003

Bill's Cellartracker notes summed it up well - "Medium garnet with a slight touch of brown at the edges. Earthy nose with the slightest hint of lilac. A bit tight upon opening but within 20 minutes, began to reveal cassis, dark chocolate, a bit of moss and just a hint of mint. Over the course of two hours, the fruit became more pronounced and thus actually began to share some of the same profile notes as the 1994 Freemark Abbey Napa Cab served side by side."

We opened this thinking it might be the starting wine in the progression from light to full and heavier wines in our tasting. Also, as customary in a progressive tasting, start with the Bordeaux Blend with its subtle nuances and greater complexity before moving to the bolder single varietal Cabernets.

It opened with wonderful Bordeaux aromas of earthy leather, dark fruits and floral but was firm and tight with a moderate gripping tannin backbone - yet smooth and polished rather than overbearing. We set it aside and let it open and breath for a bit which it did so very nicely over the course of the evening.

This is probably at the apex of its drinking window, not likely to improve further with aging. 

Dark garnet colored with some bricking on the edges, medium bodied, complex black fruits with tones of earthy leather, tobacco and oak, hints of spice and graphite with smooth polished dusty tannins on the modest finish.

RM 90 points.

Cuvaison Mt Veeder Napa Cabernet 2007

The label indicates this is Estate bottled meaning they grow their own grapes on their property for this wine. We visited the Mt Veeder appellation during our Napa Wine Experience in 2011.

I didn't know or don't recall knowing Cuvaison had a presence there or we might have included them in our tour, although they may just have vineyards there while their winery is elsewhere in the valley. Further investigation shows Cuvaison also own and produce wines from the Brandlin Vineyard on Mount Veeder while their winery and tasting room are just below the Mt Veeder foothills in nearby Carneros.

Again, Bill sums it up well in his Cellartracker tasting note - "Dark, inky purple. No signs of age. Lots of bright fruit, typical of the Mt Veeder AVA. Not much nose but cassis, eucalyptus and a bit of tobacco box on the finish. I expected this to be the most forward of the evenings selections but this was overshadowed by a 94 Freemark Abbey Napa Cab and an 03 Haut Batailley."

WCC 89 points. 

Bright Ruby colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant black and blue fruits with subtle tones of that classic Mayacamas Mtns eucalyptus and hints of tobacco, floral and oak. Evident are the subtleties of the moderating effects of the nearby San Pablo Bay fog and breezes that waft in over Mt Veeder that soften the tannins and firmer concentrated punctuated fruits more typically found in the upper valley and opposing Napa Valley Vaca range.

RM 89 points. This received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1994

What a pleasant surprise in this twenty-three year old. I didn't know what to expect as I still hold some '94 vintage Napa Cabs as it was an excellent vintage that has shown longevity as evidenced by this bottle tonight.Based on this tasting I updated my Cellartracker drinking window to 2018!

Bill and I have enjoyed many Freemark Cabs together over the years including memorable visits to the winery and its wine library. This tasting adds to that legacy with its strong memorable showing tonight.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, initially a bit tight and closed, this evolved to reveal bright vibrant complex black fruits accented by wonderful cigar box and notes of classic Mayacamas Mountain eucalyptus with hints of cassis, spicy oak and cedar that lingered on the long finish.

RM 89 points.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

With dinner of grilled filet of beef, boiled potatoes and peas, I opened this twelve year old Robert Mondavi Napa Cab. Robert Mondavi Winery has a dozen labels and it is easy for the neophyte or uninitiated to get confused among them. Setting aside the Opus ultra-premium brand, their joint venture with Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and the top of the line Reserve Napa Cab, next in line is this Oakville appellation specific Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Oakville is not only the small town on Hwy 29 in Napa Valley, it is also an appellation, an American AVA, and it is the site of the Robert Mondavi estate winery. In this case, Oakville refers to the appellation designated wine in which all the fruit is sourced from vineyards within the AVA - American Viticulture Area that specifies the growing region with its distinctive terroir - climate, soil and growing conditions.

In 2004, the Oakville designated Mondavi Cabernet was especially good and I acquired a fair amount of it for cellaring for enjoyment over a period of years. My records indicate I have two bottles left after consuming this one. My Journal of tasting notes for this wine has a half dozen earlier entries dating back to 2007 with the last one being in 2012. My blogpost of that tasting talks more about the Mondavi Oakville label. The label pictured is from that tasting. That evening we dined at Metisse Restaurant on the shore in Belmar, NJ, a melancholy memory as Metisse was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Such is how wine makes memories that touch our lives.

I was pleasantly surprised in how well this wine is showing after thirteen years as it was as good as I remember. It is showing signs of aging but is developing character, complexity and depth as some of the fruits give way to a tone of earthiness and leather, but taking on a full floral layer on the finish. It was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled steak.

Like the previous tasting, the 2004 presented dark garnet ruby red color, medium to full firm body with intense concentrated but smooth and polished flavors of sweet ripe currant and blackberry, dusty herb, and cedary oak with hints of anise and dark mocha on the sharp moderate tannin lingering finish.

RM 91 points, reduced one from earlier tastings. Wine Spectator gave this wine 93 points.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 2011

Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 2011 BYOB at Ozark House Restaurant in Bloomington, IL

Headed downstate again, we planned a stopover in Bloomington, IL for dinner at Ozark House Restaurant. They who were featuring BBQ specials night so we took BYOB this Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 2011. We recently tasted the latest release 2014 which prompted me to go back and taste the 2010 vintage release, so I pulled this 2011 from the cellar for a comparison tasting. Clio was a great accomaniment to the BBQ Chicken, Ribs and Pork Loin features.

We didn't finish the bottle so we held some Clio over which we tasted with grilled filet steaks a couple nights later. The Clio was actually too big, bold and powerful for the beef steaks and we switched to a Napa Cabernet, holding the Clio for some hearty cheese and dark chocolates after dinner.

I wrote recently how Clio is the one Spanish wine we collect each year and hold in our cellar in a vertical collection of a series of vintages. It is a consistently high-achieving highly rated wine in a style that we like - big, full bodied, bold, with concentrated forward fruit. It begs for hearty cheeses, spicy pasta, or BBQ so it was an ideal selection to take to Ozark House for BBQ night specials.

This 2011 Clio, like the two other vintages tasted recently is big, full bodied, concentrated forward fruit flavored wine. Consistent with and as noted in my last tasting three years ago, this was dark garnet colored, but it was less polished than some recent vintages with a slight 'tinny' edge, the dark black and red berry fruits give way to cassis, anise, and a layer of expresso with moderate acidity, medium plus tannins and high alcohol on a long full finish.

RM 91 points.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

David Arthur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

David Arthur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

For a quiet mid-week movie in front of the winter fireplace, I pulled from the cellar this premium David Arthur Napa Cabernet to celebrate a family business transaction, with leftover grilled steak, artisan cheeses, fresh fruit and chocolates.

Our visit to David Arthur estate and vineyards high up on Pritchard Hill overlooking the famed Rutherford Bench of southeast Napa Valley with sis Dr Pat and Rodger (right), and wine buddy 'pour boy' Bill and Beth, was a highlight of our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2013.

We hold about a dozen vintages of David Arthur Cabernet and selected this 1999 vintage label since it was good year, and was the oldest vintage in our collection.

When opening the bottle, the perfect, high quality extra long cork should be an indication that this is a special bottle. This is not even the top of the line ultra-premium flagship David Arthur 'Elevation 1147' label, but it was delicious none-the-less.

Dark inky garnet color with hues of deep purple, medium-full bodied, concentrated and complex but silky smooth and polished, a symphony of aromas and flavors of layers of ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruits, accented by spicy oak, tones of floral lavender, and currants with hints of cassis.

RM 93 points.