Thursday, March 2, 2017

Louis Martini Alexander Valley 14 - Melka CJ 04 Napa Cabs

Louis Martini Alexander Valley 2014 and Melka CJ 2004 Cabernet

For a belated birthday dinner for his mother, son Ryan invited us over for dinner with the kids and grandkids. He served grilled Prime New York strip steaks, asparagus and baked potatoes. With dinner, he served the just released Louis Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet 2014 that got a rave 97 point review from Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate. I brought a Melka CJ Napa Cab 2004.

While such a stratospheric rating is cause for notice and worth checking out, its often in the eye of the beholder and not necessarily consensus opinion. I found the Martini a good wine from a good vintage, offering good (but not extraordinary) value QPR (quality price ratio), not extraordinary in any way.

The Martini was a great accompaniment to the grilled steaks. It had a firm structured backbone core of smooth approachable tannins, but I didn't find it to back it up with the dense, rich full body and concentrated fruits cited by Parker. It was garnet colored, medium full bodied, black currant and black cherry fruits, accented by tones of black tea, tobacco leaf, smoke and glycerin.

I would not say it calls for one to rush out and buy it and try it. With 11000 cases available, it will be available in distribution, and will face competition from many other great wines that roll out from what will be a top rated vintage with many high achievers. A good buyer's market since Bordeaux will also be releasing a highly rated vintage this year as well.

RM 90 points. 

Parker wrote - "... this big, full-bodied, boisterous Cabernet Sauvignon (that) has a dense ruby/purple color, notes of underbrush, forest floor, tobacco leaf and oodles of blackcurrants and black cherries, with a touch of woodsmoke. The full-bodied wine hits the palate with a cascade of glycerin, fruit and purity. This is a beauty – dense, rich, and structured, but capable of lasting 20 or more years."

The Wine Advocate. 97 Points. Robert M. Parker Jr. October 2016

Peter Melka 'CJ' Napa Valley Cabernet 2004

For dinner with the kids and two grandkids, I was drawn to bring this label that is a namesake celebration tribute to Melka's two children, Chloe and Jeremy. Indeed, Melka writes on the rear label, "CJ reflects the balance and harmony that Chloe and Jeremy bring to the Melka family." The messaging and fun branding is reinforced with the 'children's' handprints represented on the label and on the wine capsule (shown below).

The 2004 Melka is dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, with subdued but nicely balanced black berry fruits with tones of spicy oak, hints of dark mocha, sweet vanilla, tea and tobacco leaf with moderate lingering tannins on the modest finish. 

Blend of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 93% and Cabernet Franc 7%.

RM 90 points. 

David Arthur Meritaggio 1997

David Arthur Napa Valley Meritaggio

I took bride Linda out for belated birthday dinner with Pat R, sorority sister and birthday girl, too. We dined at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. I took this David Arthur Meritaggio 1997 Red Super Tuscan Blend along BYOB. Since we hold few Italian wines in our cellar, this Italian blend based on the Sangiovese varietal in the mix is the next best thing for an Italian dinner. It was a perfect accompaniment to the Artichoke Ravioli with cheese and the butternut squash gnocci entrees, moreso than my cheese ravioli and bolognese sauce which seemed bland and uninspiring against the big bold spicy complex wine.

Our visit to the David Arthur estate and vineyards was a highlight of our Napa Wine Experience in 2013 when we had two of the Long girls along to visit the Long Family, estate (no relation) unfortunately.

This whimsical creative in Meritaggio label is the Long's artwork, a classic Meritage Bordeaux varietal blend composed of the five classic red Napa Valley Estate Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, accented by the addition of the Tuscan varietal Sangiovese, also produced there on the property. The resulting complex but well orchestrated blend is branded “Meritaggio,” in recognition of the combination of French and Italian heritage with all the grand full boldness and expressiveness of Napa Valley fruits.

Sanviovese and Cabernet blends came into fashion in the 1960s and 1970s as producers from Tuscany began to experiment with the Bordeaux varietals. The results become legendary and these Super Tuscans as they came to be known now make up some of Italy's most famous wines.

Wow, I forgot how good this wine was! Looking back, my earlier ratings forecast my favorable impression from this tasting. We're getting down the last couple bottles from a case we purchased back on release. At twenty years of age, this is no doubt as good as ever and showing no signs of diminution.

Consistent with previous tasting notes when I wrote, "this may be at its apex as its showing well - bright and expressive. Deep dark ruby colored with tinge of purple, medium to full bodied, elegant, polished, smooth and delicious full forward sweet black currant, plum and red berry fruits accented by subtle smoke, black tea layer turning to silky smooth tannins on a full long finish." I would only add mention of the complexity and the tone of anise on the finish.

RM 93 points.

Interesting blend of 44% cab, 24% cab franc, 16% merlot, 8% sangiovese, and 8% petite verdot with 14.7% alcohol.