Saturday, March 31, 2018

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet 1985

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1985

For a special intimate family dinner we opened a birth year wine from our cellar for the occasion - Silver Oak from the 1985 vintage.

Linda prepared surf and turf - grilled steaks, mussels, lobster tails and sockeye salmon.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1985

While showing showing character of age, this is still approachable and luscious with dark garnet color, slight rust colored bricking on the rim, medium bodied, tangy oak predominates from start to finish on the nose and flavors accenting cherry fruit layered over dusty herbal and green pepper notes with black cherry, leather and forest floor, and hints of cassis on a tangy tongue coating oaky finish.

RM 89 points. 

Ninety+ Cellars Super Cuvée Lot 95 Red Bordeaux Blend 2013

Ninety+ Cellars Super Cuvée Lot 95 Red Bordeaux Blend 2013

For mid-week barbecue dinner we opened this bold intense Napa Cabernet blend from Ninety Plus Cellars for the occasion.  I've written often in these pages about Ninety+ Cellars and their Negociant method of procuring and private labeling wine. While many of their releases are hit or miss, every so often they offer a great QPR (quality price ratio) buying opportunity. Oten these will be one-of or once in a lifetime releases, and as such, will not provide the continuity or consistency of dealing direct with the producer and deny the chance to repurchase favored wines. For this particular release, 600 cases were produced, a large enough quantity to reasonably expect to find it available in distribution, at least for the near term anyway.

Such may have been the case with Lot 101 Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101: Collectors Series Columbia Valley, Washington, Syrah, 2009 which was one of our favorite drinking wines while our supply lasted. We've not seen a recurance of Lot 101 which is the unique identifier for this producer/source of this label, but we remain on the lookout for it every time we see their label or their end-cap displays in wine merchants.

This may also prove true with Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Spring Mtn CabernetNinety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Napa Valley Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon which was a recent or may still be a current release if there remains any left in distribution.

Another recent release that was notable was Ninety Plus Cellars "Lot 94" Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

So it may be with this 2013 release of Ninety+ Cellars Super Cuvée Lot 95 Red Bordeaux Blend, an unusual blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Petite Sirah, that this is a on-off, once in a lifetime buy. I picked up a couple of bottles after the initial tasting but as with these releases, when they're gone, it may be the end of it with no chance to re-purchase that release, or subsequent vintage releases of that wine.

In any event, enjoy it while you can. This Super Cuvée Lot 95 Red Bordeaux Blend is showing well at this time, dark inky purple colored, full bodied, concentrated blackberry, black currant and plum fruits, accented with a layer of expresso and tar, with hints of vanilla, cedar and anise.

RM 91 points.

The Supplier notes sum it well citing, "firm and intense yet well rounded with soft edges and a lively dose of black cherry fruit that unfolds into a smooth, velvety finish".

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Marilyn Merlot welcomes grand-daughter Mackenzie Jean

Marilyn Merlot 2014 highlights family dinner celebrating arrival of grand-daughter Mackenzie Jean

Celebrating another family birth of grand-daughter Mackenzie Jean to son Ryan and daughter-in-law Michele, daughter Erin and grand-daughter Lucy were with us for Sunday Brunch after church so I pulled from the cellar this whimsical Marilyn Monroe Merlot. We hold a vertical collection of over a dozen vintages of this label which each year features a historic photograph of the legendary starlet.

The 2014 release is the thirtieth of this wine and label. This year's label features a photo by photographer Bernard Bruno (Bernard of Hollywood). Bernard took the photo of Marilyn in the 1950’s when Marilyn was producing her own movies.  Marilyn is said to have told Bernard, “Remember, Bernie you started it all —you discovered me!” during the photo shoot for this historic photo.

The 2014 release is a blend of  97% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot, the fruit sourced from Andy Beckstofer’s Napa Valley Missouri Hopper vineyard in the Oakville Appellation.  

This 2014 is dark scarlet colored with hues of purple, medium bodied, concentrated but somewhat subdued black berry and cherry fruit flavors with a firm backbone, tones of spice, dark mocha chocolate, hints of mushrooms, earth and what the winemaker calls 'forest floor', turning to nicely integrated acidity and moderate tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 89 points


Schwa Chicago - a place to experience food as art

Our Pour Boys wine group returned with the girls to dine at Chef Michael Carslon's simple non-descript storefront with the black awning, Schwa Restaurant in Wicker Park, Chicago.

We took a broad diverse flight of fine wines to pair with the nine course artfully crafted haute culinary journey that stimulates all the senses with imaginative dishes that are as artful as they are tasteful.

Schwa provides a perfect BYOB experience as they choreograph an extraordinary culinary course with our extensive wine flight. In retrospect, we learned to bring a more diverse flight of wines rather than three Bordeaux, for example ... A spectacular wine/dine experience in any event. 

Our wine flight:

Fantesca Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2009
Sea Smoke Single Barrel One Santa Rita Hills Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
Chateau Pavie Macquin St Emilion Bordeaux 2004
Chateau Troplong Mondot St Emilion Bordeaux 2005
Chateau Leoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 2006
Chateau Suideraut Sauterne Bordeaux 2013
Bricco Luciani Mauro Molino Barolo 2013
Crofts Vintage Port 2003

Friend and colleague Mike S joined us from Conneticut and added a new dimension to our wine group and wine flight with two of his own personally crafted wines - Michael's Amarone 2007 and Michael's Super Tuscan Blend 2007.

The culinary artwork mastery of Schwa ... neither pictures nor words can do justice to the olfactory and sensory experience. The music is loud and the pace is frenetic ... too much so to take in the details and keep up ... Go during the week when there is only one seating so you might have more time. Of course bringing so many wine courses didn't help. The staff do an amazing job parsing through the courses and matching the wines.

Pretzel twig ... shitake mushrooms ...

Peanut butter ... crab medallions ...

Signature dish ... shaved truffel, quail egg filled ravioli ...

Trout Roe ...

Spanish Mackerel ...

Seaweed Sea Smoke ...

Beef braised tip  ... served in incense smoker bowl ...

Foie gras ...

Sorbet ...

For so many wines, one tends to hold to compare each against the previous and following resulting in a wide swatch of glasses ...!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Alpha Mare Napa Cab at IV Chicago

Alpha Mare Napa Valley Cabernet and Argiolas Korem at Italian Village Chicago

For a business dinner we dined at Italian Village Chicago and Wine Director Jared Gelband pulled from their extensive cellar this limited production Alpha Mare Napa Cabernet. To accompany the wine, I selected a favorite dish, simple Italian Sausage and Peppers.

Alpha Mare Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

According to the winemaker, this Classic Napa Cabernet "Alpha Mare is a Limited Production Red Blend Wine that represents the Best of the Best in our cellar".

Dark garnet color, medium full body, complex, concentrated but nicely balanced and integrated bright expressive forward black berry and black raspberry fruits with highlights of mocha chocolate, notes of anise, hints of sweet oak, bright acidity punctuating its whopping Edit15.8% alcohol.

RM 92 points. 

Producer Red Mare Wines sources fruit from very small, well-respected vineyards throughout the Napa Valley. The Cabernet Sauvignon fruit is sourced from the Prichard Hill area of Napa Valley where the  mountain fruit is thick and dense, with tiny berries providing the firm backbone for Alpha Mare, giving it firm tannins, depth and minerality that reflects the unique terroir of the location.

The Red Mare project is a partnership of winemaker Anne Vawter and producer Jim Striegel. An avid
horse woman, Anne named her wine label in honor of her red mare, Paradigm, who was a bonus given to her during her time at Paradigm Winery. The inaugural release of Red Mare Cabernet Sauvignon was in 2007. Only slightly more than 100 cases are produced of this limited release premium label.

As we did with our dinner at Italian Village two weeks ago when we sampled Argiolas wines from Sardinia, we reached back into IV's deep cellar for another label from this producer.

Argiolas Korem Isola dei Nuraghi IGT 2007

A more modest selection than the premium Argiolas Nurriga we tasted the other evening, this Korem was a perfect compliment to my Italian Sausage and Peppers entree.

Colleague and dining guest Michael S selected this wine based on personal experiences with the producer and this label and his numerous visits to the region. Michael actually owns an authentic artifact of the ancient coin that adorns the label of this wine.

This is a blend of Sardinian varietals Bovale Sardo, Carignan and Grenache. Resembles a Southern Rhone Gigondas or even a more complex CDP (Chateauneuf du Pape) which also features these varietals.

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, full forward tangy bright plum, cherry and berry fruits with notes of kirsch, spice and tones of cedar on the long moderate tannin finish.

RM 89 points.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Porter Creek Timbervine Ranch RRV Syrah 2014

Porter Creek Timbervine Ranch Russian River Valley Sonoma County Syrah 2014

For mid week wine and cheese tasting, we opened this Sonoma County RRV Syrah. We discovered and acquired this small production label during a drive-by drop-in visit to the winery and vineyards during our travels through the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County last summer. This was the first bottle we've opened from the mixed case we acquired at the Estate.

Dark garnet-blackish colored, medium bodied, black berr, black plum and black cherry fruits punctuated by black pepper, graphite, cassis and hints of floral and smoke with moderate acidity and lingering tannin finish. Linda likes this style more than I do. I prefer more fruit emphasis and less graphite and pepper notes.

RM 89 points.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Liparita Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet 1990

Liparita Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet 1990

With son Alec home from NYC for a business meeting, I pulled from the cellar one of his birth year wines to celebrate the occasion. We're still holding several cases of various wines from his vintage year for special occasion (s) and at 28, its time to start consuming them. At this stage one has to wonder how such wines are holding up and which ones need to be consumed before they lose their vibrancy.

I've written in these pages about our meeting with Gove Celia, winemaker for this producer back in the mid-nineties, and how the current instantiation of this label is not related to those earlier wines.

We have held this bottle for quite a while as it was not accounted for in our Cellartracker inventory. It was in our older original source hand written 3x5 index cards down in the cellar and was noted in the label notations on the OWC (original wood case) for a 1990 vintage  wine in which it was stored.

This bottle actually exceeded my expectations as I was prepared for, or expecting some signs of diminution due to aging. We held several vintages of this wine from the late nineties and they were not holding as well as this one when we consumed them over the years. This 1990 was holding well and remarkably showed no such signs although it most assuredly will not improve with any further aging.

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, blackberry fruits were accented by notes of leather, smoke, tea and tobacco with hints of anise on a lingering moderate tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Cal Wine Flight Highlights St Pats Dinner

Broad California Wine Flight Highlights St Patrick's Day Dinner

With several team members on extended visits to Chicago, we hosted a St Patrick's evening wine dinner to foster team building and to enjoy and showcase a broad cellar selection of fine wines. Linda prepared surf-and-turf lobster tails and beef tenderloin, accompanied by Kerrygold butter mashed potatoes and a medley of roasted  vegetables - yellow, white and purple carrots, beets, golden beets, broccolini and cauliflower.

For dessert Linda prepared a Dark Chocolate Jamieson Irish Whisky cake with fresh whipped creme and fresh blackberries and red raspberries. Tom and Melissa R attended and brought a mixed dinner salad. Mark B brought a selection of Vosges Haut-Chocolat truffles and Dan O' brought assorted cheddar cheeses with chive, herbs and spice.

Prior to dinner we opened a selection of white wines to accompany the assorted cheeses and the salad course. With the dinner courses we opened a diverse selection of California reds.

The white wine flight:

We served a selection of four whites in tasting order from lighter to fuller, bolder and heavier.
This allowed each diner to select their preferred selection and style for the white wine appropriate courses.

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Stags Leap District Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Cambria Santa Maria Valley Benchbreak Chardonnay 2014 (not shown)
Fantesca Estate Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008
Château Bastor-Lamontagne Bordeaux Sauterne 2003

The red wine flight:

As with the whites, we served a selection of red wines, for comparison tasting and pairing with the courses. 

Paloma Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003
Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
David Arthur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (not shown)
Warre Porto Vintage Quinta da Cavadinha 1995

Selection of Vosges Haut-Chocolat truffles - a perfect complement to dark wines.

Each truffle comes with a fine wine, ale or tea serving suggestion.

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Stags Leap District Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Light straw colored, light bodied, this vintage is more subdued and muted than recent vintages with moderate pear flavored fruit punctuated by citrus and grapefruit with only a slight hint of that peach flavor so predominate in some past years that reveals itself after a half hour or so from opening.

RM 88

Fantesca Estate Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008

While the Fantesca Chardonnay was sourced from Sonoma County Russian River Valley, our friends at Fantesca are located on the lower reaches of Spring Mountain there above St Helena. Fantesca specialize in Estate Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon grown on their ten acre vineyard. We served two other Spring Mountain District wines this evening to showcase that appellation.

Fantesca also source grapes from the Sonoma County Russian River Valley to produce this bright crisp full flavored Burgundian Chardonnay, the first ever by Heidi Barrett. Initial 2002-2007 vintages of their cabernet were managed by winemakers Nils and Kirk Venge; then in 2008 they teamed up with legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett. 

As with earlier recent tastings of this label, the fruit in the 2008 was a bit more subdued than earlier tastings in 2010 and 2012 but this is still very tasty. Butter colored, light-medium bodied, nicely integrated, smooth, crisp and clean, subtle buttery flavors of pear, tropical fruits, hints of melon,  lychee and under current of subtle citrus with a pleasant long lingering finish.

This is a favorite of wine buddy, fellow Pour Boy, Bill C who wrote about this vintage release back in 2016: "Medium straw in color. A bit of perfume on the nose. Pear, peach, lemon zest and just a hint of buttery oak on the palate.  When I selected this from the cellar to accompany friend Linda's broiled salmon with dill I was pleasantly surprised to find there was still plenty of freshness left. I don't think this will get any better but it is awfully good right now."

RM 91 points.  

This was a favorite of the whites by Tom, Melissa and some of the others. 

Cambria Benchbreak Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay 2014

This Benchbreak Chardonnay was golden butter colored, medium bodied with lively bright fruit flavors of citrus, peach, green apple and hints of sweet pineapple with a layer resembling butterscotch on a fresh, clean finish.

RM 88 points.

Château Bastor-Lamontagne Bordeaux Sauterne 2003

Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend that when I wrote four years ago at ten years old this was honey colored, medium to full bodied, rich unctuous full flavors of sweet peach, hint of apricot, citrus, grapefruit and ripe sweet pear on the finish. From a half bottle.

RM 90 points.

Paloma Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003

The Paloma estate sits high atop Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Range on the eastern slope overlooking Napa Valley between 2060 and 2240 feet elevation. The property is five miles northwest of the town of St. Helena. The 20 acres are planted in 15 acres of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Paloma gained notoriety when the 2001 vintage of this wine was designated #1 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of the year 2003. I last wrote about this wine in these pages back in 2013 when it was in its tenth year. At that time I wrote that it was likely at the apex of its drinking window, showing better than earlier tastings. Now in its fourteenth year, it seems to have turned the corner since then, starting to show its age with the berry fruits starting to give way to raisin and non-fruit smoke and leather flavors. Still this was well received and considered a favorite of some.

My notes from last tasting back in 2013: "I was worried at first when decanted as the color seem a bit dark with a slight brown hue but the aromas were pure berry. Medium bodied, silky smooth, elegant and polished with complex layers of raspberry, sweet current, blue and black berry highlights. This tasting was consistent with my last posted tasting notes from a year ago this week when I wrote, "Medium full bodied, smooth polished, complex harmonious symphony of finely integrated aromas and flavors - predominant sweet black currant, red raspberry, milk chocolate, a hint of ripe plum, sweet oak and a bit of burnt sugar caramel on the long smooth polished finish."'

Thankfully but also regretably, we only have about four bottles left. I extended my drinking window in Cellartracker which was listed as drink by 2011, to 2016.

Reflecting the diminution in fruit I lowered my earlier RM 93 points to 90 points.

Paloma Merlot is a blend of Estate Merlot with some Estate Cabernet Sauvignon that ranges from 12 to 18 percent depending on the vintage. It is aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels for nineteen months of aging.

Having opened the Paloma Spring Mountain District Merlot, we had some fun opening this mystery bottle.

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 150 Napa Valley Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

I recently wrote in these pages about Ninety Plus Cellars and their Negociant model of wine marketing, buying surplus juice or bulk wine, or bottled product, and then private-label branding it with a anonymized 'Lot' reference number tied to the source of the wine. Such arrangements are typically done under a non-disclosure agreement to shield the original brand/producer. That was not the case or was not followed in the case of this Ninety Plus Cellars, Lot 150, Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lo and behold, when one pulls the cork of these bottles, the cork reveals the true source of the wine, Spring Mountain Vineyards. In this case, apparently, the wine was bottled but not yet labeled for distribution, and apparently sold off to Ninety Plus Cellars who packaged it for retail sale under their negociant general brand that masks the supplier. But, the packaging reveals the original branding of the producer on the original cork in the bottle. According to the Ninety+ Cellars website, the "Source Label Price" for this wine was: $79.99, hence the need or practice of anonymity or not disclosing the original source of the wine. The Ninety+ price is about half of that - providing a high QPR (quality-price-ratio) indeed.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

We hold more than a dozen vintages of this classic Napa Cabernet dating back to the inaugural vintage in 1994. Our cave cellar barrel tasting at their magnificent Rutherford Estate winery was one of the highlights of our Napa Wine Experience 2017.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, blackberry and tangy black cherry fruits with slightly earthy leather, hints of tobacco leaf, anise and cedar on a moderate tannin finish.

RM 89 points.

David Arthur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

This is another one of our Napa Valley favorites. Sitting on the opposite side of the Napa Valley from Spring Mountain, above the town of Napa is David Arthur vineyards. 

Our visit to David Arthur Napa Valley Estate Vineyards and Winery was a highlight of our Napa Wine Experience 2013. The property is situated up at the end of Long Ranch Road up atop Pritchard Hill in the Vaca Mountain range. The drive up offers some spectacular vineyard views and vistas of the Napa Valley below. The adjoining vineyards represent some of the premier producers of Napa Valley wines - Brand, Bryant, Colgin, Continuum, Montagna, the new Del Dotto property Villa Del Lago, and Ovid. Not (yet) designated an appellation, never-the-less, it is fast becoming one of the premiere wine growing areas of Napa Valley.  

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, complex but nicely integrated and polished black berry and black currant fruits accented by notes of tobacco leaf, tea, hints of anise and bit of tar leading to a long silky smooth tannin finish.

RM 92 points.

Warre Porto Vintage Quinta da Cavadinha 1995

This was a perfect compliment to the Vosges Haut-Chocolat dark chocolate truffles and Linda's Dark Chocolate Jamieson Irish Whisky cake with fresh whipped creme and fresh blackberries and red raspberries.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes. Dark garnet coffee color - full bodied, a bit of an edge of sweet black fruits, layer of smokey creosote with hint of expresso, cedar and cassis and dark black cherry and notes of cognac on the finish. From a half bottle.

RM 89 points.

More to follow....

Paradigm Napa Valley Cabernet 1994

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1994

For a midweek grilled steak dinner we pulled from the cellar this aged 1994 vintage Napa Cabernet from Paradigm Winery in Oakville.

At 24 years of age, this was showing remarkably well showing no signs of diminution. This may be at its apex of drinkability and will no doubt not improve with further aging. But there should be no rush to consume these either. We acquired a case of this wine upon release and the remaining bottles are in perfect condition with corks and fill levels still being optimal. This is further reinforcement of our cellar conditions being ideal for long term aging of suitable wines.

R&L and friend Liat with Producer
Ren Harris back in 1999
We acquired this case when we visited the winery and met producers Ren and Marilyn Harris during Napa Wine Experience back in 1999.

Today, Paradigm is crafted by legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett. Below are her notes on the most recent 2013 release which resembles this vintage release.  Note her comments on this label being age worthy. Tonight's tasting is further testimony to that claim.

Winemaker, Heidi Barrett's Notes for the most recent release: "Another great vintage with the 2013 for Napa Valley Cab! Dark ruby red color with aromas of sweet, toasty oak, cedar, ripe black cherry, currants and spice. Absolutely delicious across the palate. Flavors are big and mouth coating yet so well balanced and silky across the palate. Dense chewy refined tannins in the mid palate with great length and persistent flavors. This is a beauty that will be delicious at release but is also age worthy. Enjoy!" 

Tonight was consistent with my last tasting of this vintage label date back to 8/30/2009 when I posed this. "Dark inky color. forward fruit flavors of black cherry, with a bit with earth and leather emerging over the subtle currant, ripe plum, cedar and a hint of anise on a moderate finish. RM -  89 Points"

I would give it 91 points at this stage as it is showing quite nicely.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

03 and 13 Argiolas Turriga M Coz

Duo vintage comparison of  2003 and 2013 Argiolas Turriga - Old World vs New World 97 M Coz Meritage

For a special business dinner we dined at Italian Village in the City Centre Chicago for a classic Italian wine and dine experience. Wine Director Jared Gelband pulled from the IV extensive wine cellar two vintages of this unique Italian varietal label for a mini-comparison tasting - 2003 and 2013 Argiolas Turriga.

For an old world vs. new world comparison tasting Jared pulled a 1997 vintage Napa Valley Meritage Bordeaux Blend from Napa Valley, Consentino M. Coz.

Both labels were great complements to our varied selections of classic Italian cuisine.

The Argiolas brand consisting of ten different labels  is one of the most popular and widely distributed brands from the Island of Sardinia. Turriga is a blend of native Sardinian varietals - Cannonau, Malvasia Nera, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo, and is considered a benchmark red wine showcasing the best of Sardinia. It has been produced by the Argiolas Family and Giacomo Tachis since 1988.

The brand is named for the family patriarch Antonio Argiolas, who was born in 1906. He was the first to plant vine rows to join vineyards together, and strived for the highest possible quality in his winemaking in this label. His two sons, Franco and Giuseppe took over the business with their wives, Pina and Marianna, and then with their own children. Today, the Winery is run by the third Argiolas generation: Antonio’s grandchildren.

The impetus for this flagship label was to create a great Sardinian wine capable of long aging using only Sardinian varietals. It is aged two years in French barriques. It is named for The Venus or "Turriga" that graces the label that was found in the vineyards of Argiolas back in 1935.

The estate is on the Island of Sardinia in the middle of the Western Mediterranean, facing south looking across to Africa. The total Serdiana estate has about 40 acres of vines in the Sibiola countryside, in the Municipality of Serdiana with another 90 acres of vineyards in the Parteolla area, on hilly land at an elevation of about 1000 feet above sea level.

The Turriga vineyard is comprised of 15 acres of wines sitting at an elevation of 750 feet overlooking the Mediterranean to the southeast towards Africa. It was first planted in 1970 and was used in the first release of this wine in 1988. Today 50,000 bottles are produced per year. 

Tonight we compared the 2003 and the 2013 vintages of Argiolas Turriga Isola dei Nuraghi IGT

Turriga is a blend of Sardinian grape varietals Cannonau, Malvasia Nera, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo. It is a powerful fruit forward red wine that requires time in bottle to show its full complexity. Upon release, Turriga is densely packed with powerful tannins and tightly wound fruit, thus decanting is recommended. With time in bottle, Turriga reveals multiple layers of Mediterranean herbs, roasted coffee, spices, and licorice with a generous core of black and red fruit.

Both were bright ruby colored, medium full bodied with bright, vibrant, bold and expressive forward sweet cherry and black currant fruits. The 2003 was a bit more subdued, more polished and balanced, more complex with the fruit less obtuse and more integrated with notes of earthy spice, herbs and leather, bright acidity but moderately smooth tannins.

RM 89 (2013) and 90 (2003) points.

Cosentino Winery M. Coz Napa Valley Meritage Red 1997

For a comparison of old world vs new world, Jared presented this Cosentino Winery M. Coz Napa Valley Meritage Red from the classic 1997 vintage. Meritage (rhymes with heritage) is the name given to a US wine comprised of the Bordeaux varietals, hence a Bordeaux Blend. Meritage is a trademarked name and accordingly licensed from the Meritage Society.

The 1997 vintage of Napa Valley Cabernets was much heralded and expected to be long lived vintage of highest quality. Many of the '97's have been confounding being closed and subdued in revealing their true potential. Some believe its still aging gracefully, yet to emerge to reveal its true greatness. I'm holding off judgement, standing the belief that perhaps the vintage was over-hyped and may be just so. I've been wrong in such matters before and look forward to being proven so if my extensive collection of '97's start to awaken.

Tonight this '97 was showing well revealing bright, vibrant black berry and black current fruits. Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, the fruit was accented with tones of cedar, tobacco leaf and hints of sweet oak and dark mocha, turning to a moderate, soft tanning finish.

RM 92 points. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Gala Family Celebration dinner brings out classic birth year vintage wines

This week grandson Miles Thomas Fort came into the world. To celebrate, we hosted a gala family dinner (see below) and I pulled from the cellar several classic wines from daughter Erin's and son-in-law Johnny's birth years. Linda fixed sirloin steak, escalloped potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, dinner salad and an assortment of appetizers and desserts. The dinner brought together four generations of the McNees family.

Two of the wines we opened from Erin's birth year were featured at her and Johnny's wedding when we served them from large format Jeroboams or Imperials. Tonight we opened standard format 750ml bottles of each -  Château Grand Vin Latour and Château Leoville Las Cases from 1981.

To honor Johnny's birth year we opened a Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1980. With our daughter Erin taking on the Fort name, it was especially fitting that we selected for her 'signature wine', wines from Chateau Latour since the Chateau Grand Vin de Latour label features the Latour castle fortress, and their second wine is called 'Les Fort' Latour.

Interestingly, these two wines served today, Latour and Leoville Las Cases, while from different appellations, actually are neighbors, sited near each other there on the Left Bank in the Medoc. Family Fort shown above left.

Collecting birth year wines of our kids, kids-in-laws, and friends' kids is part of the great joy and fun of having a wine cellar. I talk and have written often about building out a collection to include 'every day' wines, 'once a week' and 'once a month' wines, and 'special occasion', 'once a year' or even 'once in a lifetime wines'. Tonight these were special occasion, few times in a lifetime wines. Of course, this can be taken to the next level by collecting such special wines in large format bottles. Indeed, it was my collection of large format birth year bottles that was the basis for my cellar being featured in the Collecting section of Wine Spectator Magazine back in June of 2001!

It helps, of course if your kids are born in 'collectable' worthy vintages. All not vintages are created equal and some are more age-worthy or collectable than others. Look far and wide enough and most any vintage ought to have suitable wines that year somewhere in the world!

The 1981 vintage of Bordeaux was rather modest, not considered a long lived age-worthy one. I thought we were pushing the edge of the envelope for the year holding them and serving them in our daughter's wedding year at 25 years. We're really pushing them here at 37 years. As to be expected, the super premium first growth Chateau Latour is proving to be more ageworthy than the Super Second growth premium Leoville Las Cases. Never-the-less, they were both worthy bottles for such a celebration dinner. As was the 38 year old 1980 vintage Dom Perignon!

Note also the price stickers still on both aged bottles reflecting their purchase prices back in the mid-eighties, a fraction of their eventual value. 

Château Grand Vin Latour Pauillac Bordeaux 1981

Rare among my cellar collection, this bottle had a Top Shoulder fill. Only a handful of bottles from my cellar over the years were so. The cork was totally saturated and spongy but will still intact. I wrestled with the cork using an 'ahso' two pronge cork puller and it eventually relented, albeit it pulled apart at the bottom quarter. I'm certain a traditional corkscrew would've pushed it into the bottle, or caused it to pretty much disintegrate. Opened and decanted for two hours prior to tasting.

The color was garnet colored with slight brownish and rust colored bricking. Medium bodied, still showing berry fruit, slightly astringent with modest aromatics and flavors of bell pepper and notes of cedar and leather on the moderate finish. Still nicely polished and holding together impressively given the lackluster '81 vintage, but time to drink as its clearly in the last chapter of its drinking window.

RM 89 points.

Château Léoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 1981

Like the Chateau Latour above, this cork was also saturated and spongy. It was almost identical in condition and offered essentially the same removal experience. The fill level for this bottle was surprisingly good at mid-neck level.

Almost consistent with my last tasting post fourteen months ago, tonight this bottle showed a bit more astringency than when I wrote, "While the fruits may have started to subside somewhat, starting to give way to non-fruit tones, very aromatic and flavorful, classic elegant Bordeaux notes, dark ruby brick colored, medium full bodied, black berry fruits accented by truffle, spicy cedar, tobacco, cigar box, silky smooth, concentrated and superbly balanced, with long lingering nicely integrated tannins on the spicy aromatic finish."

I gave it 89 points last year, tonight I would give it an 87 due to further deterioration or perhaps bottle variation after 37 years.

Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1980

A visit to the temple of Champagne, Moët & Chandon was one of the highlights of our Champagne Wine Experience back in 2006It is a benchmark for classic super premium ageworthy sparkling wines in the world.

It was time to drink this aged bottle. It was probably ideal up until perhaps five years ago as this was past its prime but was still an experience and a joy. Consistent with some others' experience postings, perhaps in between those that were still holding on with effervescence and bubbles, and those that were clearly over the hill. This had little pop and fizz on opening, but was still a positive experience showing its age but revealing some modest fruits and nice balance of its heritage.  Interestingly complex, tea or toffee colored, this showed a bit of leather, nut, and slightly astringent citrus, apple and dark cherry fruits.

RM 87 points

Clan McNees and Fort