Monday, July 31, 2017

Hall Rutherford Winery Estate Appellation Tasting

Hall Rutherford Winery Estate Appellation Tasting

Our visit to the Hall Rutherford Estate has been one of the highlights of previous Napa Valley trips so we recommended it as one of the short list visits to son Ryan and Michelle for their recent Napa trip. Based on his glowing report and recommendation, we decided to return to Hall for a tasting of their new releases during our recent Sonoma Napa Wine Experience 2017.

Like Del Dotto and some of the other top Napa producers, Hall have significantly expanded their operations, facilities, number of labels, and achievement of top ranked, most highly acclaimed ultra premium labels including the spectacular 99 and 100 point ranked wines which we tasted below.

We wrote in earlier visit blogposts about the spectacular Hall Rutherford estate and cave tours at the Rutherford estate sitting in the Sacrashe Vineyard, above Auberge du Soleil Relaix au Chateau, below the Hall estate residence. The facility has hospitality rooms above the wine production area, barrel caves and tasting room below.

The magnificent caves are sculpted into the mountain with bricks brought from an Austrian castle and features alcoves that create a galley of sculpture art.

The magnificent tasting room (shown left) at the end of the barrel cave features a large table for thirty guests underneath a massive chandelier fashioned from a thousand year old grape vine.

We were hosted this day by 'Wine Educator' Bob Childs (pictured below).

In the hospitality center, before we walked down the hill to the winery, barrel and tasting room caves below, we tasted:

Hall T-Bar-T Sonoma County Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Walts "the Corners" Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2014

The lower level winery underneath the hospitality center houses the large stainless steel cooling jacket shrouded fermentation tanks. Even the production facility is bathed in the light of artistic neon lights overhead. The custom built tanks are contoured to fit into the room. Centered between the adjacent rows of tanks are double doors that enter to the caves. The long barrel lined cave doubles as an art gallery with the many alcoves featuring sculpture artworks. At the end of the cave is the entrance to the tasting room.

We tasted the Hall Appellation tasting flight featuring the latest releases of a selection the Hall premium and ultra-premium labels from the different Napa appellations paired with specially prepared appropriate culinary chef's selections.

The Hall Appellation Tasting flight:

Hall "Bergfield" Vineyard St Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 

This is from the Hall St Helena Estate Vineyard in the St Helena appellation which surrounds the town in a crescent shape to the north, east and south. St Helena is also the site of Hall's large St Helena operations on Hwy 29 just south of town with winery, production, and a hospitality center that offers the range of Estate and Hall branded labels. The ultra-premium and Platinum labels are reserved for the esteemed Rutherford site.

Winemaker Steve Leveque's notes: "The highly aromatic nose carries aromas of boysenberry, warm pie crust, brown spice, with floral and earthy undertones. Exotic flavors of wild berry coulis, 5-spice, black tea and cedar come through on the palate. Dense, lush and powerful tannins lead into a long and intensely fruity finish.

Hall Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

It was fortuitous and fitting to taste a Diamond Creek appellation selection following our visit to the legendary Diamond Creek Vineyards on Diamond Mountain earlier in the week. 

Like Diamond Creek's, Hall's description of the Diamond Creek appellation speaks to the porous volcanic derived soils which are memorialized in the Diamond Creek single vineyard designated labels.

Winemaker Steve Leveque's tasting notes: The flavors and aromas of this wine reveal a dusty and earthy character interwoven with notes of black cherry and German chocolate cake. Dense, silky tannins with a dark chocolate-like texture express age-worthy wine. The full power of this wine unwinds into a lengthy finish in the glass.

This wine was awarded 97 points by Robert Parker Wine Advocate.

I plan to acquire the '15 vintage of this label and look forward to comparison tasting it against the Diamond Creek Vineyards releases we acquired this week.

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This is sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard that lies just above the winery adjacent to the estate residence. We hold some of the earlier single vineyard designated wines from this vineyard dating back to 1998. Who knew this would evolve and progress to such heights? Not often does one get to taste a 'perfect' wine. of course perfection is in the eyes ('eyze') of the beholder. This wine got 100 points from Robert Parker.

Parker wrote of this wine; "This hails from the foothills of Rutherford and refers to Kathryn Hall’s ambassadorship to Austria between 1997 and 2001. A prodigious wine with beautiful floral notes intermingled with blueberry, blackberry, black raspberry and graphite, the wine hits the palate with a full-bodied force, but nothing seems pushed, cloying or out of sync. Gorgeously pure blue and black fruits cascade over the palate, a full-bodied presentation with remarkable purity and complexity. The finish is a good 45-50 seconds, and while there is significant tannin, the extravagance of the fruit and glycerin generally conceal it. This is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind, world class Cabernet Sauvignon that should prove compelling for at least another 30-40+ years."

Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate. 100 Points.

 Hall Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Another 'perfect' wine by most anyone's standards, this one got 99 points from Mr. Parker, as close to perfection as possible. This was another memorable wine of epic proportions.

Son Ryan obtained some '13 (birth year of his daughter (our grandaughter) Marleigh) during his recent visit, which is all gone. I'm planning to get the '15 on the upcoming release (birthyear of two grandkids, Jessie and Reid).

"The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Jack’s Masterpiece, which is a blend from their finest vineyards, displays super-sweet tannins, an opaque purple color and beautiful crème de cassis, blueberry and blackberry fruit. Its flawless integration of acidity, tannin, wood and alcohol and its opulent, full-bodied mouthfeel make for a true elixir and fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon to drink now or cellar for 25-30 more years. I would still try to defer gratification for 2-3 years prior to drinking this big boy."

Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate 99 Points.
Hall Bishop Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 

Our wines were paired with:

Applewood Smoked Trout Creme & Truffle Marieke Gouda

Sonoma duck Terrine & Cave-Aged  11 Month Gruyere

Cacciatore Salumi & Dolcelatte with Fig Conserve

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Winery Tasting

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Winery Tasting

A highlight of our Pour Boys  2017 Sonoma/Napa Wine Experience was a private tasting at the spectacular Joseph Phelps Vineyards and Winery hospitality center. We tasted a curated selection of current release Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wines, including Insignia and Phelp's single-vineyard Pinot Noir. 

The Phelps winery, tasting facility sits overlooking Phelp's vineyards nestled in its own Spring Valley above St Helena on the western facing foothills of the Vaca range that form the eastern face of Napa Valley. 

The new magnificent tasting facility recently underwent a sixteen-month expansion renovation of the original winery building repurposed into a reception area, a Great Hall, six private tasting areas, a library of older vintages, a barrel room and a state-of-the-art kitchen. The facility features the signature exterior redwood design and massive trellis entryway from a relocated bridge, and opens onto a terrace with numerous seating spaces for private tastings with valley and vineyard views. 

Joseph Phelps is second and third generation family-owned and operated with vineyards and wineries in Napa Valley and on the western Sonoma Coast. The late Joseph Phelps, a successful construction executive and entrepreneur started the business in 1973 when he purchased a 670-acre former cattle ranch in Napa Valley. 

Today, the business is overseen by Joe’s son, Bill Phelps, who joined the business in 1998 after a successful career in law.  The winery’s Board also includes Joe’s daughters, Leslie, Laurie and Lynn. In 2016, third generation Elizabeth Neuman and Will Phelps, joined to run Business Development and Marketing, as part of the winery’s executive management team, and Allie Phelps joined the winery’s hospitality team where she is working in the culinary program.

All Joseph Phelps wines are 100% estate-grown, sourced from grapes grown on 390 acres of vines in Napa Valley on eight estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, the Stags Leap District, the Oak Knoll District, South Napa and Carneros, and from 100 acres over two vineyards on the western Sonoma Coast. 

Our Phelps wine tasting was held in the tasting room shown left. Our tasting flight consisted of the following wines:

Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2016 St Helena 

Joseph Phelps Freestone Chardonnay Pastorale Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2014

Joseph Phelps Pastorale Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013

Joseph Phelps Quarter Moon Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Insignia 2011, 2013, 2015

Tasting notes:

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Winemaker's Notes; The  2014  Cabernet  Sauvignon  highlights  blackberry,  dried  blueberry  and  violet  with  notes  of   graphite  and  cloves  followed by opulent layers of  black currant jam, roasted coffee, tobacco, dried fig and vanilla bean. A full-bodied, deeply concentrated wine with supple tannins and a lengthy finish.

This is a Bordeaux varietal blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% each Malbec and Cabernet Franc. 

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, blackberry and black currant fruits with hints of anise, spice and cedar with smooth lingering tannins on the finish. 

RM 91 points. WA 92 AG 91

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Insignia 2011

Insignia is Phelp's flagship wine and was California’s first proprietary red Bordeaux-style blend. There have now been over forty vintages of Insignia which is one of the most iconic wines in Napa Valley. The 2002 vintage was awarded “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator magazine in 2005, and in November 2013, Robert M. Parker, Jr. of The Wine Advocate awarded Insignia three perfect 100-point scores for the 1991, 1997 and 2002 vintages, calling it “one of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends." 

This is a Bordeaux varietal blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.  

100% estate-grown from Napa Valley  vineyards:
• Stags Leap District, 20% Barboza Vineyard and 17% Las Rocas Vineyard
• St. Helena, 21% Home Ranch Vineyard
• Oak Knoll District, 20% Yountville Vineyard
• Napa Valley, 13% Suscol Vineyard
• Rutherford, 9% Banca Dorada Vineyard

WA 93 AG 93

The ultimate test of a winemaker is to producer quality wines in challenging lackluster years such as 2011 which was cool and wet with rains at the wrong times such as late in the growing season. Never-the-less, Phelps produced a respectable, high quality Insignia. 

Winemaker notes: The 2011 Insignia is layered with aromatics of  dark fruit, cardamom, tobacco, Herbs de Provence and graphite on the nose. Fresh and lively this elegant wine boasts bright red cherry, blackberry and espresso throughout the palate with supple tannins.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, smooth and nicely balanced blackberry and black currant fruits with notes of tobacco leaf, hints of cedar and anise with moderate tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points. 

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Insignia 2013

Phelps Insignia barrel tastings are accommodated from these barrels which hold $225,000 worth of wine!

Winemaker's notes: Deeply pigmented, the 2013 Insignia opens with heady blackberry and plum aromatics laced with baking spices, cardamom and espresso. Focused and fresh, this exceptionally concentrated wine showcases elegant tannin structure and a silky mouthfeel layered with dark fruit, sweet vanilla bean, cracked black pepper and bittersweet chocolate.

Blend: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc 

100% estate-grown Napa Valley  vineyards: Stags  Leap  District  (28%  Las  Rocas  Vineyard  and  11%  Barboza  Vineyard),  Napa  Valley  (22%  Suscol Vineyard),  Rutherford  (16%  Banca  Dorada  Vineyard),  Oak  Knoll  District  (12%  Yountville  Vineyard)  and  St.  Helena  (11%  Home  Ranch Vineyard).

WA 98 WE 98 

Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, intense, concentrated, smooth, polished, a symphony of well integrated layers of black raspberry, blueberry and blackberry fruits, accent tones of graphite, espresso, dark mocha, hints of vanilla and pepper with nice acidity and smooth silkly tannins.  

RM 96 points.

Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Insignia 2015

Our host Michael Cawelti
Phelp's Wine Educator
This is a Bordeaux varietal blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc.  

The 2015 vintage promises to be another blockbuster following the string of great 2012, 2013, and 2014. The 2015 production yields were tiny resulting in rich concentrated fruits. 

Tasted from a barrel drawn bottle sample, this was dark inky garnet colored, full bodied, rich concentrated, nicely polished and balanced, sinewy black berry and black raspberry fruits, notes of mocha, and vanilla, with hints of graphite, minty cedar, turning to smooth silky tannins on a long finish. 

RM 95 points. 

Phelps Vineyards and Winery Estate -