Sunday, October 29, 2017

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Freemark Abbey has been one of our favorite Napa Cabs for over three decades. Since the seventies, Freemark Abbey have consistently produced quality wines with a positive QPR (quality price ratio). Wine buddy Bill C and I used to regularly compare different labels and vintages of this producer in our tastings.

We've visited the winery numerous times and have purchased special bottles from their library for special occasion dinners. One memorable escapade was when we convinced Barry Dodd, Cellarmaster, to release two library selections, from 1974 and 1978, which we enjoyed that night at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) to toast our wedding anniversary years.

So, when our local merchant Vin Chicago featured the current release Freemark Cabernet as their top wine for their regular Saturday tasting, I not only wanted to support such behavior, but I picked up several bottles as well to add to our vertical collection of this label.

When Bill and I became wine buddies back around the millenium, we quickly learned of our shared interest in and fondness for Freemark Abbey Cabernet. We would share and compare this Napa label as well as their single vineyard designated offerings from the Sycamore and Bosche vineyards - Bill having a vertical collection emphasizing Sycamore, and me holding Bosche. I still recall and have written about acquiring a case of the 1991 Bosche' after tasting it with Jeff Jaegar, one of the Freemark owners, at a Binny's tasting back at the time. We enjoyed this case over the next two decades having only recently recently consumed the last bottle, still drinking very nicely at 25 years of age.

Freemark Abbey gained notoriety at the famous Judgement of Paris Wine Tasting back in 1976. This was the legendary comparison wine tasting competition between top-ranked French vs. California labels - one for Chardonnays and another of red wines (Bordeaux wines from France and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California). Of course, the wine world presumed this would be no contest stacking upstart California producers' labels against the classic historic French labels. Lo and behold, the shock and awe when not only did the Californians show respectably, but actually received the top ranking best in each category. Freemark Abbey was represented in both categories with it's 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1972 Chardonnay.

The story is retold in the book Judgement of Paris, by George Taber, the only reporter in attendance to cover and record the event. It was also the basis of the wildly entertaining 2006 movie Bottle Shock. I highly recommend both for general audiences, and a must read/watch for wine geeks and oenophiles.

The 2013 is a Bordeaux style blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

Its a testament to Ted Edwards and the team at Freemark Abbey, as well as the overall quality of the 2013 Napa Valley vintage, that they can produce over 24,000 cases of a 92+ Wine Advocate rated wine. And, kudo's too for keeping the price point reasonable to provide a high QPR (quality price ratio).

This was dark opaque purple in color, full bodied, with complex, concentrated, rich but nicely integrated blackberry and blackcurrant fruit accented by a layer of mocha chocolate with tones of allspice and tobacco leaf with firm but approachable tannins on the big finish. This is drinkable now but will last a couple decades or more of cellaring. It has a bit of an edge that will likely smooth and become more polished with a few more years of aging.

RM 91 points.

I picked up this wine to enjoy now and also to hold as part of our horizontal collection of 2013 wines to commemorate the birth year of two of our grand-kids, Richie and Marleigh.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

High Valley Vineyards High Valley Petit Sirah 2014

High Valley Vineyards High Valley Lake County Petit Sirah 2014

Traveling to a valued client site, I planned to grab dinner and go back to the hotel to watch the NLCS. I ordered a pizza and went to Friar Tuck's to select an accompanying wine. I found this Petit Sirah from High Valley Vineyards from the High Valley Appellation up in Lake County which is over the hill north and east of Napa Valley. 

The High Valley sits at an elevation that ranges from 1,600 to 3,000 ft. and is one of the coolest appellations in Lake County due to cool breezes that blow across and off the oldest lake in North America. The terroir of the appellation consists of red, rocky volcanic soils that produce intensely flavored grapes.

The High Valley brand is the collection of single vineyard designated wines of producer Shannon Ridge. They are sourced from the 75 acre Betsy Vineyard on North Slope of their Home Ranch in the High Valley AVA, named for the mother of owner/producer Clay Shannon.  

The first indication this wine might exceed my expectations was its dark inky black color that looked more like coffee than red wine. It was rich, full bodied, intense, concentrated yet nicely balanced with wild berry bold fruit flavors of blue and black berry and black cherry with notes of vanilla and hints of clove spice with full well rounded tannins and a long tongue coating elegant finish.

I enjoyed this so much with my pizza I went back the next day and picked up a couple more bottles, and I plan to pick up several more my first opportunity. This provides some great QPR - Quality Price Ratio, and I look forward to trying some of the other labels from this brand.

RM 91 points.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Branson Coach House Shiraz Single Vineyard Greenock Block 2004

Branson Coach House Shiraz Single Vineyard Greenock Block 2004

We pulled this Branson Coach House Barossa Valley Shiraz for a full flavored but smooth casual sipper with some cheese and biscuits. I bought everything they had in stock when I tasted this at Binny's Glen Ellyn wine desk upon release many years ago. Wish I had more as this is aging and drinking quite nicely at a dozen years of age.

This property was taken over by Two Hands after the passing of proprietor Malcolm Asden, the result being these wines are now made alongside Two Hands by their winemaker Matt Wenk. The acquisition was made possible by capital from outside foreign investors.

Along with the winery and brand came eighteen acres of Greenock vineyards planted in mature high quality shiraz which will continue to be produced under the BCH label. Subsequently, Two Hands wine production is also done at the BCH Greenock facility.

Two Hands developed a range of premium Shiraz sourced from high quality fruit they acquired from top growers' prime locations, eventually growing and branching out to acquire their own vineyard in Barossa and now their own winery.

They'll continue to produce BCH premium single vineyard designated labels Coach House Block Rare Single Vineyard and Greenock Block Single Vineyard sourced from the vineyards that surround the winery.

 Dark inky purple color, full bodied, thick, chewy layers of aromatic flavors of tangy black fruits, raspberry, black cherry and notes of blueberry, accented by tones of clove spice, graphite & hints of creme de cassis on a smooth polished moderate tannin finish.

 RM 92 points.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Robert Craig Affinity 2004

Robert Craig Affinity 2004

For a grilled tenderloin steak dinner with baked potato we pulled from the cellar this Robert Craig

Picnic lunch tasting with Robert at the Howell Mtn estate.

Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon. Our Cellartracker records indicate we hold eighteen vintages of this wine so this is a wine we know well. We may hold more Robert Craig in our cellar than any other producer. We've had many fond memories of tasting dinners and special events with Robert and Lynn Craig, and their staff at events at the estate high atop Howell Mountain.

Notes indicate the last tasting of this vintage was four years ago when it was a decade old. Three years later, this is showing its age a bit as the dark berry fruits are starting to give way slightly to non-fruit flavors of tea, olive cedar and spice.

Robert Craig produce a portfolio of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon labels from the different mountain appellations - Howell Mountain, Mt Veeder, Spring Mountain, and this blend that was based on Napa Valley Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals.

When Robert Craig was proprietor producer, he prided himself on crafting quality high QPR (quality price ratio) Cabernet that was affordable and consumable early at a young age. Recently, in the last couple of years, this wine has crept up in price from about $50 the $70-75 range that used to be the province reserved for his single appellation designated labels. The $50 price point has been taken over by the Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon label. These labels are still produced in sufficient quantity to be readily available in distribution at many leading wine retailers - nearly 4000 cases were produced of this vintage label.

The is a Bordeaux Blend composed primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Robert Craig’s Affinity estate vineyard and an adjoining property to the south of the Stag’s Leap district, in the southeastern foothills of Napa Valley. Being at the southern end of Napa Valley with exposure to the breezes and fog off of San Pablo Bay, the area known as Tulocay, produces a Cabernet Sauvignon that is similar to the Bordeaux-region of France. Added to the blend is Cabernet from the warmer hillsides near St. Helena, which contribute structure and complexity.

Dark Ruby colored, medium full bodied, this has a firm structure ripe black berry, black cherry and black currant fruits with black tea, spice with notes of black olive, cedar and hints of tar and anise on a tight lingering finish.

RM 89 points.

Blend 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot