Sunday, February 25, 2018

OTBN 2018

OTBN - Open That Bottle Night 2018

The last Saturday in February brings OTBN - (Open That Bottle Night), our ritualistic gathering of Pour Boys wine group. Lyle and Terry hosted this year, christening their new kitchen with a spectacular beef tenderloin dinner.

Readers of these pages know that OTBN stands for Open That Bottle Night, the annual wine event for collectors and oenophile wine enthusiasts, the night set aside to pull that special bottle being held in the cellar for an occasion whose time has not yet come. So once a year, what the heck, OTBN - open that bottle (to)night.

As always, the event provided a wonderful gathering, great food, fellowship, and of course, some extraordinary wines.

For before dinner appetizers, Lyle and Terry served an extensive selection of artisan cheeses, vegetables and charcuterie; Smoked Salmon w/capers, horseradish sauce & red onion, Pickled mushrooms w/capers, Bloomin’ onion bread, selections of cheeses, pickled beans & asparagus, olives, assortment of breads and crackers.

With the initial courses there was a wine flight of two champagnes and a Gratis Sea Smoke Chardonnay from Santa Barbara Santa Rita Hills, 2008.

The dinner feast included salad, Hoppin John’s Good Luck Soup w/Cornbread, Beef Tenderloin, Scalloped Potatoes and Broccoli – Ginger stir fry.

The wine flight featured a broad selection of Bordeaux from Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux and a flight of Napa Cabernets.

  • Cantenac Brown Margaux 2012
  • Château Haut Batailley Pauillac 2000 
  • Château Pichon Lalande 2009
  • Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien 1989 and 2009 

Château Pichon (Longueville Comtesse de) Lalande Grande Cru Classe' Pauillac Bordeaux 2009

Like the Ducru Beaucaillou, Pichon Lalande is often noted as one of the 'super seconds' - or second growths that often rival the premiere 'First Growths', as they are specified according to the great 1855 Bordeaux Classification.

This is typically one of my favorite Bordeaux labels.  Typically I am drinking this wine after a decade or more of aging such that this 2009 at this stage seems young to me even at nine years.

Not nearly as big, dense and structured as the Ducru from the same vintage, this is more polished and almost elegant in comparison.

Deep purple, dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright expressive floral notes with ripe sweet black berry and black plum fruits with notes of mocha, cassis, graphite, and hints of leather. This is a classic Bordeaux style blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.

RM 93 points. 

96 points James Suckling, 95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 94 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

I called Dan in preparation for this evening's festivities to compare and coordinate wine selections. When he told me he was bringing a Ducru 2009, I went down in the cellar and pulled this 1989 to share and compare.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Grande Cru Classe' St Julien Bordeaux 2009

This highly acclaimed release of this top ranked Chateau, the 2009 Ducru was definitely one of the highlights of the evening with its opulent full bodied, rich concentrated complex fruit. Like the Pichon Lalande, this was one of the 'signature' wines I served from large format bottles at my kid's wedding (s).

We no doubt drank this too early as it will most assuredly age well for decades to come. Never-the-less, this was approachable and delivering early gratification with its full throttle intense, layered fruit. Robert Parker gave this wine 100 points and projects it will last 40-50 years.

This is a massive wine that could likely benefit from several years of aging to round out and smooth off the edges. Dark garnet colored, full bodied, concentrated complex firm backbone of black berry and black raspberry fruits accented by layers of graphite, creme de cassis, dark mocha chocolate, expresso and smokey tannins on a lingering firm finish.

This is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.

RM 95 points.

100 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 96 points James Suckling and Wine Spectator, 95 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1989

I acquired a case (OWC - original wood case) of this wine upon release years ago and still hold several remaining bottles. This showed very well tonight standing up better to its age than in some previous tastings. Amazingly resilient and presentable at nearly thirty years. 

Tonight was consistent with my notes from a decade ago. Garnet color - medium-light delicate body; floral perfume, black cherry and berry fruits with layers of anise, tobacco and black tea and a hint of leather, with floral continuing on a modest tannin finish. An interesting comparison to the 2009, very different profile between the two vintages, but showing some signs of similarity in the terroir character of the label. Based on tonights experience, I pushed the drinking window out from 2017 to 2019.

RM 90 points.

Château Haut Batailley Grand Cru Classe' Pauillac Bordeaux 2000

The 2000 vintage Bordeaux was highly acclaimed. As often stated in top vintages, 'all boats rise with the tide', so that, less heralded labels often produce extraordinary wines in such years. The 2000 Haut Batailley was noted by Wine Spectator to be "the best wine from this estate in decades" (92 points). Robert Parker said it was "one of the finest Haut-Batailleys ever made (it certainly rivals the 1996)".

This was dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, with dark berry and currant flavors accented by mocha chocolate, hints of cassis, classic Pauillac graphite and tobacco notes, and toasty oak with smooth soft tannins on a pleasant lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

The flight of Napa Valley Cabernets:
  • Freemark Abbey Sycamore Vineyard 1985
  • Del Dotto Vineyards Estate Rutherford 1997 and 1998
  • Fantesca Estate Vineyards from Spring Mountain District, 2006

Some notes - more to follow.

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1985

Bill brought this from his cellar back in South Carolina. He has been collecting this wine for several decades and this is remarkable testimony to this wines ageability.

We visited the winery and explored the library and acquired some aged vintages for special commemorative anniversary dinners during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2009.

Incredible, amazing life left in this 33 year old, showing no signs of diminution, even at this age! Dark purplish garnet colored, medium full bodied, rich concentrated complex black berry and black cherry fruits with a subdued layer of soft cedar/camphor with cigar box and moderate acidity on the moderate tannin lingering finish. RM 90 points.
Fantesca Estate Vineyards, Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Fantesca is one of our favorite Napa Cabs. We tasted as pre-release and Bill acquired this during one of our visits to the estate on lower Spring Mountain overlooking St Helena on the valley floor below.

This was the youngest Napa Cab tasted yet was a dozen years of age. As such, it was the most vibrant, forward, and concentrated of those featured, yet it was very approachable, nicely integrated, balanced, smooth and polished, clearly the favorite of some of the ladies.

Bill's Cellartracker notes - "Elegant, fruit forward offering from Spring Mountain. Deep, dark, cherry color in the glass. Dark, black and blue fruit on the palate."

WCC and I both give this 92 points.

Del Dotto Estate Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 1997-1998

Our Del Dotto Cave Tour and tasting at the Rutherford Estate was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience this summer. Several of us purchased Del Dotto wines for our cellars, so it was fitting I bring a couple of vintage Del Dotto to OTBN. Bill expressed interest in such to see how they are aging, and it was an interesting comparison to the aged Freemark that he brought for the event.

I've written several times in these pages about the Napa Valley 1998 vintage, how it was panned and overshadowed by the much heralded 1997 and 1999 vintages. So it was an interesting and fun comparison to taste this duo.

These are 100% Estate grown from the Rutherford Estate there at Hwy 29 and Zinfandel Lane, the 1997 and '98 Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon were blended with some estate grown Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Del Dotto Napa Cab 1998 - Consistent with earlier tasting notes, this vintage continues to please, even here in its twentieth year! "A sleeper of the vintage, a consistently pleasant, nice drinking wine, belaying and despite its lackluster reviews. Still life left, this was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, still vibrant and lively, nicely balanced, moderately complex black cherry fruits accented by tobacco leaf, leather, tones of tangy spicy oak and modest but pleasant tannins on the finish."

Del Dotto Napa Cab 1997 - An interesting comparison to the '97, also showing well, as written and consistent with earlier tasting notes:

"My previous tasting notes over the last five years showed this selection coming of age and opening up with more fruit as it matured. This presented big pronounced and lively fruits of currant and berry flavors accented by nicely integrated oak before giving way to hints of cedar, leather and tobacco. Dark garnet colored, moderately firm with refined lingering tannins, this '97 still is vibrant and has several years of pleasurable easy drinking left."

For the dessert course Terry prepared Molten Lava Cake and her fabulous signature Mandarin Orange Cake, both served with fresh berries and fresh whipped cream.

With the dessert course, Lyle served Grahams Vintage Port 2000 and a Chateau Broustet Barsac Sauterne 2001.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Murrays Cheese Wine Dinner

Cheese Murray's Cheese ! Wine Dinner

During our NYC getaway weekend, we dined on Saturday night at one of son Alec's favorite eateries Murray's Cheese Bar on Bleaker Street down in Greenwich Village.

Legendary Murrays Cheese Shop has been at the same site on Bleecker Street since 1940. The Cheese Bar opened in 2012 to feature their selection of fine cheeses selected and arranged by expert Cheesemongers, or cooked into heir imaginative dishes by a team of seasoned chefs.

As usual, Murray's was packed, lively, bordering on boisterous, serving up imaginative cheese centered combination plates and dishes.

We chose wines from Murray's simple but succinct winelist, with its carefully selected cross section of wines to accompany the range of menu options. This time, they did not offer any New York or Long Island wines which we customarily would order for the occasion. 

We started with a Proseco Sparkling wine to sip with Murray's Kale Ceasar salad with Parmigiana-Reggiano, Radish, Anchovy and Crutons. 

Transitioning to the main courses we had Brussel Sprouts with Lardons, Pomegranate Molasses, and Smoky Bleu (cheese), and Mussels and Fries with Coconut Red Curry in a Lemonbroth sauce. 

With these courses we had a Merlot based St Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux from Clos de la Cure.

We then dined on Murray's Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce, Fennel, and Sheep Feta (cheese) (shown left).

With these hearty courses, we drank a 2013 Perbacco Vietti Nebbiolo from Langhe Piedmonte, Italy.

As is customary, we let the Murray's Cheesemonger prepare for us a selection of cheese and meats, each accompanied by a complementing fruit, puree, sauce or jam. This went well with the Nebbiolo, and from there we moved on to a Jam Jar Australian Shiraz 2016.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Following our Hemingway's Bistro dinner Saturday which featured seafood entrees wherein we bought white wines BTG - by-the-glass, we corked this bottle and brought it home to taste another day. Tonight we reopened the bottle to enjoy with grilled strip steak and baked potatoes.

This wine was produced by Linda and Leighton Taylor with fruit sourced from their Cloud View estate on Pritchard Hill (also home to Bryant Family Vineyards) that sits overlooking south eastern Napa Valley from its perch high above the Silverado Trail. Five hundred and fifty cases were produced of this limited release boutique offering. We visited the neighboring David Arthur Vineyards during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2013

Winemaker Karen Turjanis crafted this proprietary red blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot and aged it for 22 months in new French oak.

We hold a half dozen vintages of this label from 2000 to 2006. The 2006 was the last vintage bottled by Cloud View from its Pritchard Hill vineyard, as the property was purchased by Tim Mondavi, who proceeded to start building the winery for his ultra-premium Continuum project there.

This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, with firm concentrated structured core of brambley earthy black currant and black berry fruits with a layer of sweet caramel and dark mocha accented by tones of cassis, sweet spicy tangy oak and silky tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Château La Tour Haut-Brion 1999

Château La Tour Haut-Brion Cru Classé Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux 1999

For mid-week grilled tenderloin dinner we served this vintage Bordeaux Cru Classé from Château La Tour Haut Brion from the Pessac-Léognan appellation in Graves. The estate was located in the commune of Talence on the outskirts of the city of Bordeaux, adjacent to Château La Mission Haut-Brion. The label used to be a separate château under the same ownership as Châteaux Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion. The 5.05 hectares (12.47 acres) of vineyards were planted with 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 23% Merlot, a mix similar to Haut Brion. Production was about 2,000 to 2,500 cases per year.

Prior to 1983, Ch. la Tour Haut-Brion was the second wine of La Mission Haut-Brion, but after the La Mission and La Tour properties were taken over by the Domaine Clarence Dillon, La Tour gained its own branding identity. Château La Tour Haut-Brion was the smallest of the classed growths of red Graves producers and the label was discontinued after its final vintage in 2005. Since then, the fruit of La Tour Haut-Brion has been included in the production blend of Château La Mission Haut-Brion.

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied with complex structure with black berry and black plum fruits with bright lively floral aromatics, accented by notes of cigar box, cedar, leather and subtle tones of dark mocha. This was an ideal complement to the grilled tenderloin steak.

RM 89 points.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Hemingway's Oak Park BYOB BTG Dinner

Culminating an event filled week with Valentine's Day, Linda's birthday and starting a new job, we celebrated with Saturday evening dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Hemingway's Bistro in Oak Park, located in the Write Inn, a euro boutique hotel. Fittingly, Hemingway's was still decorated for Valentine's Day.

As I've written in these pages, I conduct tours as a docent interpreter at the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, so this is a convenient dining spot following my tours.

Tonight's special was Alaskan Halibut with a mango pepper relish, rice and asparagus (shown left) which we both opted for as our entrees.

We both started with one of our favorite dishes, and draws to Hemingways - I had the Foie Gras du jour and Linda has the Tuna Tartar with avocado, cucumber and spicy aioli. The Foie Gras alone was worth the trip, absolutely delicious served with puree' of parsnip and peaches.

For the occasion, I brought BYOB from our home cellar a California Cabernet Bordeaux blend from Cloud View Napa Valley Pritchard Hill. In the end it was great with the Foie Gras but too much for the Halibut entrees and we opted for BTG (by-the-glass) selections from the wine list, a Lake Sonoma Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay, and a Lemelson Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.

Hemingway's offers an authentic Provencal or Parisan dining experience in all respects. As always, everything was spectacular for an intimate, dining experience - food, services, atmosphere and ambiance.

Lemelson Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2015

Bright golden butter colored, light-medium bodied, tangy crisp acidic backbone, bright pear, peach, hints of apple and melon with notes of mineral and citrus. An ideal complement to the tuna tartar and the Alaskan Hailbut.

RM 87 points.

Lake Sonoma Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2015

According to the producer, the Russian River Valley is ideal for Chardonnay due to its cool climate, from the regular infiltration of Pacific Coast fog that ebbs and flows through the Petaluma Wind Gap and up the Russian River, making the Russian River Valley one of the world’s most celebrated Chardonnay growing regions. This natural air-conditioning allows Chardonnay grapes to develop full flavor over an extended growing season while maintaining their life-giving natural acidity.  The result is a chardonnay of both character and depth.

We visited the Russian River Valley Sonoma County appellation during our wine region visit last summer.

I believe this producer sources grapes from numerous growers in the region producing a region or appellation specific, but not Estate (produced from grapes grown on the property).

This Chardonnay from Hemingway's BTG (by-the-glass) winelist was straw colored, medium bodied, with notes of citrus, hints of creme brulee, vanilla, and honey with moderate acidity and depth.

RM 88 points. 

Carnival of Love - The Valentine's Day Wine

Carnival of Love - The Valentine's Day Wine

What wine do you serve for an intimate Valentine's Day dinner? Carnival of Love, of course. Especially when its your brides favorite (style) wine! So for an intimate Valentine's evening dinner, we pulled from the cellar the premium Aussie shiraz from Mollydooker with the whimsical cartoonish 'Carnival of Love' label.

I've written in these pages about Mollydooker husband and wife winemaking team, Sara and Sparky Marquis, who happen to both be 'lefties', hence 'Mollydooker', the Aussie term afforded what in America we would call a 'southpaw' or a left handed person. You gotta love our Aussie friends and their sense of humour. They emerged on the American wine scene with Marquis Phillips and their whimsical 'Roogle' or half kangaroo half eagle character for the Australia - American joint venture with their US distribution partnership back around the turn of the century.

After several successful releases, Sara and Sparky set off on their own and never looked back developing an extensive brand and line-up of labels, all with whimsical names and colorful cartoon characters (see select library below - a more complete library is on our winesite Aussie 'M' Mollydooker label library).

Aside their flagship 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz which nears $200, their two premium labels in the release price $80 range are this one, and 'Enchanted Path', a Shiraz and Cabernet blend. Their line includes an extensive collection from an entry level Shiraz to Cabernet, Cabernet-Shiraz blends, Merlot - even a sparkling Shiraz. (This 2005 is currently on offer from K&L, one of the nation's leading wine merchants at $150).

The story of these wines according to the winemaker is: "Our whole family is involved in making our wines, and all the wonderful people who drink them become our friends, so we named this wine Carnival of Love, because the wines bring us together. If you look closely you will notice that the Lefty characters are all included in the label and when you join the Carnival of Love and the Enchanted Path together, the two labels form one beautiful continuous love story."

At these price points, these are not every day wines for us ordinary folks, but wines for special occasions. 'Carnival of Love' has become one of our family tradition wines which we serve at wife Linda's and family birthday parties, since Linda is a Lefty, and we happen to have three family birthdays in the span of several weeks. Hence, its the obvious wine for our Valentine's Day dinner.

Mollydooker have continually won high acclaim with Carnival receiving 95-ish ratings consistently over the years; 2010, RP95, WS94, 2009; WS94, RP93, 2008; WS94, 2007; RP96, WS95, 2006; RP97, WS95. This 2005 release got 98 points from Robert Parker, rarified space indeed for only very special highly acclaimed wines.

Mollydooker "Carnival of Love" McLaren Vale South Australia Shiraz 2005 

This full throttle power packed Shiraz is not for the feint of heart as indicted by its whopping 16.5% alcohol content. Dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich complex concentrated, this exhibits what Parker referred to as "a more earthy, meaty, gamey character with plenty of coffee and damp loam aromas fused with smoked bacon, some iron ore, Chinese plums, a little floral note and even a bit of truffles character coming through". It has a firm structured core of intense dark blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruit accented by spice and notes of anise, ripe raisin and tobacco on the firm but approachable tannins on the lingering finish. 

This is not a wine for sipping but rather it begs for hearty cheese, darkest chocolate or as with our dinner tonight, char-grilled steak. 

I like big firm, forward powerful concentrated wines, and I admit, this is almost too much for my tastes with its high octane, but its certainly a treat for a special occasion such as tonight! 

RM 94 points. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Larcis Ducasse highlights Sunday Brunch

Larcis Ducasse St Emilion Bordeaux highlights Sunday Brunch

For Sunday brunch after church Linda prepared French crepes with strawberries with grilled tenderloin steak and spinach. With about a foot of fresh snow on the ground, we considered going out to lunch after church and chose to come home instead. I am so glad we did as it provided the chance for a wonderful brunch with a spectacular wine pairing!

To accompany grilled steak and strawberry crepes for Sunday Brunch, I pulled from the cellar this twelve year old St Emilion Grand Cru Classe Larcis Ducasse. The pairing and delight of the overall experience was spectacular! Simple pleasures of a wine (jerk) geek (oenophile)!

I went down to the cellar looking for this precise profile of a wine, without knowing in advance what label or producer I was looking for. In the end, this was perfect, not too young, not too old, Right Bank Merlot based flavor profile .. an ideal complement to our food. I don't know what was better, the pairing with the char-grilled tenderloin steak, the raspberry crepe, the dark chocolates afterwards, or by itself! All were delightful!

Larcis Ducasse have a total of 27 acres, 24 in production, located on one of Bordeaux's finest areas of terroir, the Cote Pavie in St Emilion, adjacent to the 1er Grand Cru Classé Ch. Pavie estate.

The property was purchased by Henri Raba in 1893 and has been family-owned ever since with the current generation of Jacques Gratiot in in ownership since 1990.

The wine has been made by Nicolas Thienpont along with his chief winemaker David Suire since 2002. Over the following ten years, they improved the quality significantly as recognized by the château being upgraded in 2012 to Premier Grand Cru Classé St.-Emilion classification as testament to its burgeoning quality and reputation.

In addition to replanting the vineyards to a greater density to produce more concentrated fruits, another key change under Thienpont's direction was the removal of Cabernet Sauvignon from the blend which had typically totaled about 5 percent, with the wine now a more classic 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend.

The more recent vintages clearly benefit from more precise viticulture and winemaking techniques, featuring brighter, denser fruit, but are showing to age extremely well, as the structure is even more intense while remaining well-embedded.

While 3,300 cases were produced of the 2004 Larcis Ducasse, which is 78% Merlot with the rest Cabernet Franc and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon, under the new plantings, production has averaged only about 2,500 cases annually.

While prices have started to creep up as the quality and reputation increased, Larcis Ducasse represents a relative high QPR (quality price ratio) bargain for extremely ageworthy Bordeaux. The 2009 can be found for about $75 per bottle, the '10 for $85. The 2004 proved to be a great value as a sleeper of a vintage in Bordeaux that is drinking wonderfully now with online search showing availability for an average of around $65 for the 2004.

The 2014 got a Wine Spectator rating of 93 points, 92 from Parker, 96 from James Suckling and 95 from Vinous and is readily available for about $55.  The 2015 got ratings from 94 to 99 points and is commanding from $75 to $109 on release.

Château Larcis Ducasse St Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2004

This was dark garnet colored, with a slight brown/orange rim starting to set in, medium-full bodied, smooth polished with delightful complex aromas and flavors of plum, black currant and blackberry fruits with tones of earthy leather, black tea, cigar box and spice with hints of truffle, cedar and cassis on the smooth polished tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

Syrah, Syrah for Family Birthday Dinner

Syrah, Syrah for Family Birthday Dinner

For Linda's birthday dinner with family we served two of her favorite wines - Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah, with its distinctive 'L' label, and Rosemount Balmoral Syrah.

As I've written in these pages, we have fun with the 'L' label for Linda, ala the old Laverne and Shirley shtick, but also we love Lewis wines.

This one, like their Alec's Blend, which we serve for our son Alec's occasions, is named for a their grandson, so it makes it special for such family occasions.

We gathered at daughter Erin's, and son Ryan brought simmered beef brisket which was ideally matched with the hearty Syrahs, and a hearty cheeses and charcuterie beforehand.

Pictured is Linda with the grandkids (left), and note soon to be seven!

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah 2013

Our visit to Lewis Cellars was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley trip this fall.

We love this style of thick chewy unctuous forward fruit, blackish inky purple colored, full bodied,  rich concentrated core of black and blue fruits give way to a layer of vanilla, spice, and a hint of what Lewis calls 'bacon fat', and a bit of alcohol heat that softens over the course of the evening, finishing with tongue coating tannins.

This was great with the hearty cheeses and beef as well as the fresh fruits and birthday cake dessert!

RM 92 points.

Rosemount Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 1996

We are being rewarded for having acquired cases of this wine back upon release. We still hold a dozen or so bottles from those early vintages from 1992 through 2002 that we're working through as they approach end of life. See our tasting notes of the 2000 just the other evening.

This '96 is holding up well at two decades plus, moreso than near vintages, dark garnet colored medium bodied, this has a more moderated subdued palate compared to the other near vintages, nicely integrated blackberry and black raspberry with some notes of blue fruits, tones subtle white pepper, tobacco and leather with subtle soft smooth approachable tannins.

RM 90 points.

Do I dare post this picture? Its a family milestone. Soon to be seven!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Le District NYC Wine-Dine

Le District NYC for an immersive classic French, NY culinary experience

Another one of the highlights of our NYC getaway weekend was a trip to Le District down in the financial district. Consider this the French equivalent of the immensely popular Eataly that provides an immersive experience of a Italian village market.

Le District strives to recreate a French village market experience. Le District is actually three districts in one; the Cafe District offers a range of coffee delights, pastries, crepes, chocolates and French treats to indulge one's sweet tooth, the Market District. a shopping and culinary
extravaganza with Boulangerie, Delices du chef, Cheese and Charcuterie, Rotisserie, Boucherie & Poissonnerie; and the Garden District for groceries, flowers, salad bar - all authentic French inspired, of course.

We went down to Le District for pre-dinner wine and small plates. We could've spent the entire weekend there shopping, dining, exploring, taking in the whole experience.

For pre-dinner we dined at Beaubourg Brasserie which they refer to being as much classic New York as classic French. Beubourg means literally “pretty village”, like the namesake a vibrant area in the heart of Paris. We dined at a table with a picturesque view overlooking sunset on the Hudson adjacent to 'Le Bar'.

We dined on Foie Gras Terrine, Steamed Mussels in saffron broth and shave fennel and a charcuterie selection of cheeses: Brie du Pommier (cow), Crottin de Chavignol (goat), Fourmé d’Ambert (cow), and Comte Elegancé, each better than the next. 

To accompany our small plates we ordered a bottle of J.L. Chave Sélection St. Joseph Offerus Syrah 2014. 

The vineyards used for Offerus are located in two distinct St. Joseph areas. The communities of Mauves, Tournon, and St. Jean de Muzols yield over 80% of the blend and are owned by Jean-Louis. The remaining vineyards are located in more northerly communities around Serrières, and even these are farmed mainly by Jean-Louis, though he doesn’t own the vineyards.

This cépage is composed of 100% Syrah, dark garnet colored, full bodied, concentrated, dense, complex brambly blackberry with notes of black raspberry and hints of blueberry, floral with tones of tapenade, leather and spice with hints of anise and tightly wound tannins on the firm finish. A bit much for the mussels but ideal for the hearty cheese and pate.

RM 89 points. 

Vinous gave this 91 points

Chateau St Jean Indian Wells Merlot 2014

Chateau St Jean Indian Wells Merlot 2014 at Misty's Steakhouse Lincoln, NE

Traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska for a business meeting, we had a team dinner at the local landmark steakhouse, Misty's Steakhouse (and Brewery) downtown, which also features a microbrewery.

Legend has it that Bob and Grace Milton began Misty's as a "bottle club" in 1963, known as Club 63. In 1965, the Nebraska liquor laws changed allowing restaurants to sell liquor by the drink, so Misty's started serving food with the ability to prepare six hamburgers or four small steaks on a small propane grill. The grill and the business grew and Misty's Restaurant, named for Bob and Grace's favorite song, "Misty", became known for serving quality prime rib. Bob and Grace also became known for their seasoning recipe, originally mixed in a large barrel, which has now grown to a complete family of branded seasonings, commercially blended and sold in grocery stores nationwide as Misty's Original All Purpose Seasoning, Natural All Purpose Seasoning, BBQ Seasoning, Cajun Seasoning, and No Salt Seasoning.

Today, Misty's Restaurant & Lounge is considered locally as Lincoln's Best Prime Rib, Best Steak, Best Place for Dinner and Best Restaurant.  Bob Milton was recognized as Restaurateur of The Year in 1998 before passing away later that year.

Being a wine snob, oenophile, I generally will choose my restaurant based on the wine list as I place a high priority on the total wine and dine experience. Its unfortunate then that Misty's showcase their steaks and micro-brew sports bar theme and atmosphere, catering to the University of Nebraska crowds that come to town and gather there for the State's major sports events on the Big Ten campus just a few blocks away, rather than a steakhouse with fine wines.

That said, while I was initially disappointed generally in the lack of a published or posted wine list, then finding it somewhat limited, my overall dining experience, including the wine, met or exceeded all my expectations. I ordered Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Columbia Valley Merlot BTG (by-the-glass) and it proved to be a perfect complement to the superbly prepared and delicious S.O.B.'s, "Sweet Old Bob's" Favorite Top Sirloin. 

My steak was prepared perfectly to my precise specifications, 'Pittsburgh style medium' (charred, grilled, medium with hot pink center), along with an excellent baked potato and spinach raspberry salad. The result was an extraordinary, superbly enjoyable dining experience that, as I state, exceeded my expectations. 

Chateau St Jean Indian Wells Merlot 2014

Another remarkable, huge QPR offering from Chateau St Jean that is available in huge quantities so as to be widely and generally available across the marketplace with 50,000 cases produced of this label. Another such offering is their Cabernet Sauvignon, recently reviewed in these pages.

Chateau Ste. Michelle has developed a very successful brand with its fruit-forward wines from the Indian Wells Vineyard and surrounding vineyards on the Wahluke Slope. The Wahike Slope area is bordered by the Columbia River to both the west and to the south as it winds around the area.

The Indian Wells Vineyard lies near the Columbia River between the towns of Desert Aire and Mattawa. Interesting that while Chateau St Michelle label it as, or imply that this a single vineyard designated wine, its isn't but rather as they state, this "Merlot is sourced predominately from vineyards throughout the Wahluke Slope in Eastern Washington, including our Indian Wells Vineyard".

This was was dark garnet colored, with medium-full body, nicely balanced, polished and integrated flavors of blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by notes of cocoa and mocha chocolate with hints of vanilla and smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish that belies its very affordable modest pricepoint resulting in huge QPR value. 
This release includes 14% Syrah which no doubt contributes to the full forward fruit flavors and weighty body.

RM 89 points.

This got 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and 88 from Wine and Spirits,

Kudo's to Misty's for this BTG selection, as well as to Chateau St Michelle for this extraordinarily enjoyable good value wine.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001

Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001

After church the family gathered for a gala Sunday dinner featuring Linda's homemade lasagna. I pulled from the cellar this Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001, a family oriented producer to celebrate gathering of our family, and an Italian based varietal for a hearty Italian dinner.

This label is named for Giovanni Del Dotto, son of owner producers Dave and Yolanda.

I've written much in these pages about our many Del Dotto Family Vineyards dinners, tours,tastings, and special events. We still hold a dozen and half vintages of Del Dotto wines dating back to their inaugural vintage in 1993.

Our visit to the new Del Dotto Winery Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience this 2017 fall.

We acquired several cases of the 2015 vintage release to commemorate the birthyear of grandson and namesake (Richard) Reid, so I have to make room in the Del Dotto storage area for the new arrivals.

Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve Sangiovese Blend 2001

This was produced back when legendary Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge was crafting wines for Del Dotto. Del Dotto were early adapters of Sangiovese in Napa Valley. Their early plantings were on the Estate at Route 29 and Zinfandel lane surrounding the homestead and office.

The 2001 Giovanni’s Tuscan Reserve was a limited production release of about 300 cases. Its a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese, and 5% Merlot.

Still holding and showing well at seventeen years, this is dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, dense, concentrated, bright vibrant black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of cassis, tea, cigar box and leather with spicy French oak and supple tannins, on the tangy lingering finish.

RM 91 points. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2000

Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2000

Wine and cheese in front of the fireplace and a PPV movie - date night Saturday night. Linda prepared butter toasted almonds, blue cheese, pear slices and honey drizzle, an ideal complement to a hearty robust Syrah (aka Shiraz). We opened a Rosemount Balmoral Syrah from McLaren Vale. We hold about a decade of this label going back to the early nineties.

Rosemount Estate Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 2000

This vineyard is one of the few in Australia with vines dating back a hundred years. The concentrated fruit is akin to the Chateau Tanunda with its legendary 100 year old vines. The story of us Pour Boys discovering and then capturing the US allocation of this wine has been written often in these pages. 

Consistent with previously reported tasting notes from 2010 and 2012, this 2000 was dark inky purple/garnet colored, medium-full bodied. Aromatic, leather, slightly earthy aroma that gives way to complex flavorful blue fruit and ripe black raspberry fruits that turn to raisin, tangy black cherry, cassis, tar, and tobacco turning to an aftertaste of smoke, currant and a hint of plum. Over the course of the evening, the wine seemed to age as the berry fruits gave way to the more fig raisin aged feel while the deep aromatics lingered.

RM 90 points.

Piedlong CDP foie gras Il Fiore Langham NY

Piedlong CDP and Auxey-Duresses with Foie Gras small plates at Il Fiore Langham Hotel NYC

Langham Hotel Lobby Desk
During our NYC getaway weekend, before dinner, we stopped in the Michelin star Il Fiore restaurant bar in the tony Langham Hotel in NYC.

We were seeking small plates and some wine from their extraordinary selection for a casual setting. Not often does one have the choice of Phelps Insignia, Tignanello, Sea Smoke, Quilceda Creek, Cos d' Estournal and Vieux Telegraph BTG (By-The-Glass)!

I selected the Torchon Foie Gras with tart cherries and winter squash (shown below) which was perfect for the occasion and was spectacular with Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Piedlong.

Linda had the crispy grilled artichokes with parmesan and lemon aoli, with a Benjamin Leroux Auxey-Duresses Burgundy Pinot Noir which was not on the winelist and was substituted for our initial selection.

Il Fiore offers a elegant but casual comfortable setting for a delightful food and wine experience, albeit rather expensive, but in-line with New York prices and such quality premium offerings. We look forward to returning for dinner there during a future trip.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Piedlong 2013 

The BTG winelist (shown below) specifically said 'La Crau', which refers to the flagship CDP offering from this Domaine, but this label was served instead.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe has been run by the Brunier family for six generations, since 1891. The estate’s vineyards sit on the Plateau of La Crau, the highest point, in the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Back in the 1800's , Claude Chappe, inventor of the optical telegraph, built a signal tower on the property due to its high elevation in the region, hence the property was given the name “Vieux Télégraphe”.

This Piedlong label was first released in 2011. It comes from a 29 acre vineyard site from the stony soils on the Piedlong plateau in the heart of the appellation, north of the village, the highest point in the region. The Mourvèdre, comes from the Pignan lieu-dit, just to the east of Piedlong. We visited the Vieux Télégraphe estate during our CDP appellation tour back in 1998 and then again this year during our 2019 visit with owner/producer Alain Brunier at the Estate.

This label is a blend of 90% Genache Noir and 10% Mourvèdre. Comprised of but two varietals, its a simpler less complex wine than the flagship label which under appellation rules can contain up to thirteen different varietals.

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant black currant and black raspberry fruits, notes of spicy cinnamon, hints of dust, tangy cherry, tapenade and mushroom with a smooth soft peppery lingering finish.

RM 89 points.

Benjamin Leroux Auxey-Duresses Pinot Noir 2015

Il Fiore restaurant bar
Another substitution on the winelist, this label has a rouge and a blanc variant. We were looking for the blanc Chardonnay, but they served the rouge Pinot Noir instead.

Auxey-Duresses (pronounced “Oh-see”) is an appellation is in the famous Côte de Beaune area in the region of Burgundy, surrounded by two famous neighbors, Volnay and Meursault.

Readers of these pages know we don't do many Burgundies, mostly because we favor the Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) over the Burgundy Pinot Noir.

Also, I'm not knowledgeable in all the myriad of appellations and producers from the region and find it a bit confusing and mystifying. This is much the case for many folks, for many regions, but its especially challenging for Burgundy with all the mini and micro producers and labels that typifies what this regions is known for.

My advice to folks is to focus on one region, gather knowledge and experiences as a baseline and for comparisons, especially if one is going to start collecting wines.

We selected this Benjamin Leroux Pinot Noir from the Auxey-Duresses appellation, an area noted for high QPR and excellent value.

This is the label of Benjamin Leroux, manager/winemaker of Domaine Comte Armand who launched this label with the 2007 vintage. Leroux's Auxey-Duresses are from fruit sourced from vineyards that he manages, vineyards he owns, and he also buys fruit (never juice or wine) from growers with whom he works closely so to meet his standards.

The vineyards lie below the village of Beaune, adjacent to the Meursault Villages Les Vireuils Dessus and Les Meix Chavaux. The land is north-facing so it is affected by the cold air rolling down from the Hautes-Côtes.

The wines here come from three terroirs in this cool, mineral (rocky) place - Les Hautés, La Macabrée and Les Boutonniers. The oldest vines date back to 1946, planted just after the war. The vineyards span 2 hectares, large for this area where many of the properties are tiny in comparison. Hence Auxey-Duresses is a primary wine for Leroux.

Leroux's Auxey-Duresses is produced in a new winery in the center of the village of Beaune (just off the Boulevard) that is also used by Dominique Lafon and two other wine growers. The operation is very small and specializes in Puligny and Volnay, but there are over twenty different labels produced, in this ‘micro negociant’ operation.

Like so many Burgundy operations that are small, even tiny, only two to five barrels are produced from many of the offerings, resulting in extraordinary fragmentation and granularity in the plethora of small production labels.

This Pinot Noir was somewhat opaque, light in color and body, with blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by tones of leather, dusty rose and spice with smooth soft tannins on the finish.

RM 88 points.