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.