Thursday, May 31, 2018

Conn Valley Vineyards Right Bank Cuvee 2005

Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards Napa Valley Right Bank Cuvee 2005

Celebrating the closing of a record month and our largest deal of the year, and recovering from nearly a week of bronchitis, I pulled from the cellar this dozen year old Right Bank Cuvee (Bordeaux Blend) to complement grilled pork chops and baked sweet potatoes dinner.

Conn Valley Vineyards are located on the eastern slopes of the Vaca Range that abut Napa Valley overlooking the town of St Helena, just south of Howell Mountain. The property has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983 who released their first wine in 1987. They are primarily known for Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a series of Bordeaux Blends in their flagship 'Éloge' and this Right Bank labels, they also produce popular and well known Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc wines. We own about a half dozen vintages of this label allowing me to select a thirteen year old for tonight's dinner. 

The term Right Bank of course refers to the Right Bank or upper eastern side of the diagonal flowing Gironde River that bisects the City and wine region of Bordeaux in southwest France. Wines produced on that side are generally predominantly Merlot based, while those on the opposing South and Westerly Left Bank are built on a foundation and backbone of Cabernet Sauvignon. In each case the Bordeaux Blend includes the opposing varietal along with accents of Cabernet Franc and in some cases Petit Verdot or Malbec in small portions.

Hence, according to its name, this Right Bank Cuvee is 70% Merlot accented by 30% Cabernet Franc, an ideal blend to accompany the grilled Pork Chop dinner, the Merlot being slightly softer than the more structured and tannic Cabernet Sauvignon, which would go better with grilled beef steak.

At thirteen years of age, this was showing no signs of diminution whatsoever with bright tangy vibrant berry and cherry fruits. Still lots of life left in this vintage release. Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, smoother and lighter due to the Merlot base, slightly layered and complex, the tangy expressive red berry and cherry fruits were accented by exotic spice from the Cab Franc spice influences, hints of leather and tobacco leaf, with moderate, approachable soft tannins and a smooth sinewy lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Kongsgaard Hudson Ranch Vineyard Syrah 2002

Kongsgaard Hudson Ranch Vineyard Syrah 2002 with smoked ribs

For my birthday dinner with the family, Ryan smoked three racks of ribs and served this Kongsgaard Napa Valley Hudson Ranch Vineyard Syrah. I first tasted this label, the 2007 release, at Grange Restaurant in Sacramento. I wrote in my blogpost at the time that it was the most memorable Shiraz I had ever tasted. Hence I was looking forward to tasting this release with one of my favorite wine / food pairings for this special occasion dinner. Great fun to celebrate with grandkids Marleigh, Reid and new grand-daughter Kinzie.

Prior to dinner, Ryan served Moet Chandon Champagne, also very special as we have great memories of visiting the Chateau in Epernay, Champagne during our trip there in 2006.

Kongsgaard Hudson Ranch Vineyard Syrah 2002

This was dark garnet colored, full bodied, complex and concentrated with notes of what Robert Parker refers to as soy, beef jerky and smoked game tones. There is a layer of bacon fat and graphite overlaying the flavors of black blackberry and raspberry with accents of of licorice and pepper. This was a perfect complement to the smoked ribs as well as Linda's flowerless chocolate cake with fresh berries and whipped cream for dessert.

RM 92 points.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Gala family dinner features vintage Liparita Napa Merlot Magnum

Gala family dinner features vintage Liparita Napa Merlot Magnum

To celebrate Compass Church christening of grandson Miles Thomas Fort, we hosted a gala family dinner with several close church family friends. Linda prepared grilled salmon and beef tenderloin with scalloped potatoes, broccoli and macaroni and cheese, loved by the ten grandkids and peers.

Liparita Napa Valley Merlot 1997

I pulled from the cellar this 1997 vintage Napa Valley Merlot from Liparita in a large format magnum. This was an ideal complement to both the Salmon and the tenderloin beef.

This is the earlier generation Liparita that is disconnected from the current era rebranding label that is a negociant business model supplier/producer today.

We tasted this era wines during our wine producer visit at their Napa Valley Oakville custom crush facility back in the late nineties. We later sourced this magnum from an after market auction.

The fruit is a bit subdued in this aged twenty-one year old as it gives way to non-fruit tones of leather and notes of cedar. This remains firm, complex and full bodied with tightly wound tannins but still clings to its blackberry and plum fruits with lingering cherry and hints of mocha, cassis and cedar on the tangy spicy finish. The large format magnum suppresses the impact of aging and lengthens its aging potential.

RM 88 points. 


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Big Syrah duo for wine and cheese evening

Big Syrah horizontal duo for wine and cheese evening

With Sis-in-law Dr Pat visiting for the weekend, I had to pull for her and wife Linda, their High School mascot label wine namesake, 'Oracle' by Killikanoon.

Oracle is the top of the Killikanoon moderate and premium line of almost a dozen Shiraz' save their super ultra-premium special designation labels. Oracle Shiraz has been released each year since 1997 except 2011, crafted from old vine fruit grown along the golden hillside in Leasingham in the Clare Valley in South Central Australia. Oracle is renowned for its opulence, regional character terrior and varietal power for which the valley is known.

Kilikanoon Oracle Clare Valley South Australia Shiraz 2005

Similar tasting notes to my last entry back in 2009 when this wine was only five years old. Now three times that age, it still presents the massive blackberry liqueur accented by full bodied blueberry, notes of kirsch, expresso and hints of cinnamon and clove spices. Dark blackish garnet colored with full body and fine grained approachable well integrated tannins on the long lingering finish.

Over the years since the earlier tasting, the berry fruits are starting to give way to a notes of raisin and hints of leather.

RP and RM 92 points.

For a comparison horizontal tasting, I also opened another South Central Australian Shiraz from the same 2005 vintage.

Marquis Phillips "9" McLaren Vale South Australia Shiraz 2005

Marquis Philips is the label of winemakers Sarah and Sparky Philips with their whimsical label of that era featuring the 'Roogle' (shown left), a cross between eagle and kangaroo representing their joint venture with Dan Philips, their American distributor. They disbanded a few years later and started their own label that has become the well known Mollydooker brand.

Like the Oracle above, this too resembles the earlier tasting from a decade ago but this was already a bit of super ripe berry fruit bordering on raisiny.  

Not as polished and integrated as the Oracle, this is more opulent and obtuse with its big rich forward overly ripe dark berry, mineral and graphite, with notes of expresso, cola and hints of dark bitter mocha chocolate.  

Parker loves this stuff! WA 96-98 Pts. - "The 2005 Shiraz 9 (a 4,000-case cuvee that spends 18 months in new and one-year-old American oak) reveals a big, toasty, smoky nose, but the oak is beautifully absorbed by extravagant quantities of blackberry and cassis fruit intermixed with licorice, incense, and spice. This full-bodied, powerful, rich, layered stunner should drink well for a decade."

RM 91 points.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Pichon Lalande Gruaud Larose 1985

Pichon Lalande and Gruaud Larose 1985

For a family celebration dinner we opened two birth year wines for son Sean who was starting a new job, and to welcome MacKenzie, or new granddaughter. Linda prepared medallions of lobster with grilled tenderloin steaks, scalloped potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac Bordeaux 1985

Every time I open a vintage Pichon Lalande, I am reminded why this is one of my favorite Bordeaux. At thirty-three years, this is still at full throttle flavorful drinking.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes, classic Bordeaux floral bouquet, dark garnet colored, medium bodied, silky smooth polished nicely integrated blackberry and black cherry fruits with accents of cassis, cedar, leather, hints of tobacco, graphite, bell pepper, and earthy mineral. 

RM 92 points.

Château Gruaud Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1985

More austere and lean than the bigger more polished Pauillac Pichon above. Showing its age a bit as the fruit has fallen off a bit and the dark ruby garnet colored is showing a bit of brickish rust color with a bit of opacity - medium bodied, this opened with a hint of that fragrant floral bouquet which is giving way to more earthy leather and tones.

Earthy blackberry fruit is overshadowed by tones of tobacco leaf, truffle, mushroom and spice box, turning to slightly tart black cherry on the long floral full tannin laced finish.

RM 89 points.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Trio of Napa Cabs reflect diverse terrior and styles

Trio of Napa Cabs reflect diverse terrior and styles

We hosted a dinner to welcome former client and friend Mike Z and wife Tammy to Chicagoland. Linda grilled ribeye steaks served with brussel sprouts and delicious Chantilly potatoes.

Tammy brought a mixed green salad, and we finished with Linda's chocolate mousse and homemade almond profiteroles, with fresh berries and a selection of assorted chocolates.

Prior to dinner we had a broad selection of artisan cheeses.

 We toured our just finished rebuilt wine cellar and pulled a trio of Napa Valley Cabernets that reflect three appellations and their diverse terroir and styles; Elan Vineyards from Atlas Peak, Paradigm from Oakville, and Constant from Diamond Mountain.

I had initially pulled two 2002 vintage bottles and Mike and Tammy pulled a '94 vintage Elan for their son's birthyear. We also pulled a 2002 vintage Suduiraut Sauterne dessert wine.

Elan Vineyards Napa Valley Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 1994

We discovered and acquired this wine during a visit to the Monticello Winery where it was produced back in the mid-nineties.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes, this tasted remarkably like a vintage Bordeaux with huge floral scents, earthy leather, black fruits, smoke and black cherry with hints of anise and cedar. This wine originally tasted at the winery with producer Richard Elliott-Smith and his lovely wife Linda was true to his Bordeaux roots in flavor, character and apparent age-worthiness as this seventeen year old (now at twenty-four) is holding well and revealing itself more profoundly than earlier tastings.

Now at twenty four years, this is still holding and drinking well, it is showing its age as the berry fruits are giving way to notes of black olive and green pepper. 

RM 91 points.

Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

We visited Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011. We hold a half dozen vintages of their mountain grown Cabernet and this 2002 vintage release is the best I have tasted to date.

The backbone foundation for this wine release is predominantly Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from their mountain top vineyards sitting at 2000 foot elevation high atop the Mountain with views of Sonoma Valley to the West and Napa Valley to east. it is one of the oldest history wine properties in the region dating back to the 1880's and is one of the very few properties that span both sides of the summit.

The mountain fruit is firmly structured with big but approachable tannins. The 2002 release is a Bordeaux style blend  of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex and fruit forward yet elegantly balanced and nicely polished with a symphony of flavors: ripe black currant and black berry fruits with exotic spices, notes of licorice, hints of sweet mocha tobacco leaf and leather.

RM 93 points.

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
We visited the Harris' Paradigm Oakville winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 1999. We hold a half dozen vintages of this label dating back to the mid-nineties.

Perhaps an unfair comparative tasting of three diverse Napa cabs, the Paradigm was slightly narrower and single dimensional compared the mountain fruit and complexity of the Bordeaux blends. It was delicious never-the-less and a top performing Napa Cab.

This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright tangy black cherry and black berry fruits accented by notes of anise, tea, spice box and hints of dark mocha, caramel, and leather.

RM 90 points.

With the chocolate mousse and fresh berries dessert we opened this perfectly accompaniment, Suiduraut 2002.

Château Suduiraut 1er Grand Cru Classe' Sauternes Bordeaux 2002

Its great fun to watch these Sauternes wines age and turn from the straw color on release, darkening over time to butter, then honey colored to weak tea colored.

Dark honey colored, medium full bodied, not as sweet and unctuous as some vintages, the fruit is more subdued lacking the apricot nectar and honey of some vintages. This showed plenty of botrytis, with predominate notes of smoke accented by marzipan, almond, ripe apple, and hints of  vanilla on the tongue cloying finish. This was a perfect compliment to the fresh berries, homemade profiteroles and chocolate mousse.

RM 91 points.

Tasted from a 375ml half bottle.