Sunday, November 25, 2018

Big Red Petit Verdot for Serious Sipping

Big Red Petit Verdot for Serious Sipping

Searching for a sipping wine with cheese and fruits and a movie, son Alec was looking through our Cellartracker cellar selections. "Petit Verdot?", he asked. I explained that Petit Verdot is one of the Bordeaux varietals but subordinate to the primary Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and lesser than Cabernet Franc which is used in the blend to add a bit of depth and spiciness. Petit Verdot, I explained is blended in, usually in small amounts, to add color and tannin structure, depth and concentration and flavor. It is characterized as adding intense black and blue fruit flavors and tones of pencil shavings, violet and leather. And some producers will bottle 100% Petit Verdot as a wine with special character. Sounds perfect for such an occasion, so we pulled a bottle of Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Petit Verdot.

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Petit Verdot 2014

We discovered, tasted and acquired this wine during our Whitehall Lane winery visit and tasting at the Estate on Hwy 29, St Helena Highway just south of St Helena, Napa Valley. Whitehall Lane is the small road that abuts the property. They have 140 acres of vineyards of which just 2.4 acres are planted in this Petit Verdot varietal grapes which is used primarily for blending in the Bordeaux blends and for this special bottling.

Winemaker Jason Moulton says of this wine, "This Petit Verdot is like experiencing the dark side…with concentrated, full-bodied flavors. It is extraordinarily balanced with aromas of black currants, clove, blackberry pie, Agen prunes, cedar, and a hint of earth and dust. Its palate exudes flavors of black cherry cola, crème de cassis, tar, fresh black plums and toasted almond croissant. Its powerful chalky tannin mouthfeel truly lets you know THIS is Petit Verdot."

Dark inky blackish purple, full bodied, structured concentrated rich tongue coating black fruits, hints of clove spice and earth, with tongue puckering chalky tannins that form distinct 'legs' on the glass. This wine begs for hearty cheese, grilled steak or darkest mocha chocolate.

RM 92 points.

To accompany this wine, we pulled out award winning ten year aged sharp cheddar cheese from Fair Oaks Farm in Northern Indiana.

Del Dotto Sangiovese for Family Lasagna Dinner

Del Dotto Sangiovese for Family Lasagna Dinner

With the family gathered for the Holiday weekend, Linda prepared baked Lasagna for a gala dinner and I pulled from the cellar two Italian varietal Sangiovese based wines - Del Dotto Piazza Sangiovese and David Arthur Merritaggio. The comparison illustrated contrasting styles and profiles of two wines based on the same core.

Del Dotto is a family favorite paying tribute to the close knit family there, and our family having 'grown up' with the brand over the years, and many of us having visited Del Dotto during our many visits to Napa Valley.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 1998 - 2016

I have written often in these pages about Del Dotto pioneering Sangiovese in Napa Valley back in the late nineties under the collaboration with legendary winemaker Nils Venge. Del Dotto continues their lineage of Sangiovese wines with this offering under the Piazza label, the recent addition to the growing list of Del Dotto brands.

We discovered the Piazza brand during our Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Tasting during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017. We then targeted the just opened Piazza Winery Delicacies Wine and Food Tasting Experience during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018. It was the highlight of our entire Napa trip. We tasted and acquired this 2015 release during our Cave Tour tasting.

For the record and for reference for anyone tracking such details, the Cellartracker dossier, our inventory management system and normally reliable reference guide, is confused and misguided on this wine. It contains two references to this wine, both partially right and wrong. It lists the wine twice, Del Dotto Piazza Sangiovese and Del Dotto Sangiovese Piazza. For the first, it lists vintages 1999, 2003 (wrong) and 2013, '15 and 2016 (correct). For the latter it correctly lists 2013, '14, '15 and 2016, and errantly lists 1998 and 2003.

Del Dotto offered Napa Valley Sangiovese under the historic flagship 'David' label (shown right) from 1998 through 2003 and also appeared as Rutherford Estate Sangiovese 2013. (The 1998 label is shown here. The 1999 label calls it St Helena Sangiovese. We tasted and acquired these wine during our Del Dotto Napa Estate visit and Del Dotto Wine Producer Dinner back in 1999, and again at our Napa Wine Experience in 2003.

Del Dotto then offered Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Blend Sangiovese under the Cave Blend brand from 2004 through 2016. I believe Cellartracker references to this label from 2001 are in error and should refer to the 'David' branding. There is no photo evidence of this (Cave Blend 2001) label in the Cellartracker library or in internet searches.

The Piazza brand appeared with the 2013 release and continues to this day.

Del Dotto Vineyards was established in 1990 when David and Yolanda Del Dotto planted vineyards on 17 acres in Rutherford at the homestead Estate on the corner of Highway 29 and Zinfandel Lane in Napa Valley. It truly is a family affair with David's father John being involved in the early days, and daughter Desiree and son Giovanni being involved in the business and having their own labels as well. I had the pleasure of meeting John back in the late nineties and working with Desiree as she took on marketing duties during that era.

Rick and Linda with David Del Dotto circa 2003
The Del Dotto first release vintage was 1993. Since then the estate has grown significantly to 437 acres of vineyards producing 8,000-12,000 cases annually. Around 2010, the Del Dotto brand expanded further with the release of Villa Del Lago, an ultra-premium label from Pritchard Hill.

Indeed, Del Dotto is one of the largest holdings in our cellar dating back to the inaugural vintage release back in 1993. Our association with Del Dotto dates back to our Napa Wine Experiences and wine producer and winemaker dinners back in the mid-nineties.

Del Dotto Piazza Napa Valley Sangiovese 2015

This was delicious and everyone loved it making me wish I had more than the single case we acquired last year. I'll be looking for more.

We tasted and acquired this wine during our Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Tasting last year. Our first recorded tasting note was just three months ago when we took it took it BYOB to our favorite neighborhood Italian Trattoria, Angelis Italian. Tonight's tasting experience was consistent with my notes from that evening (caution about the color and slight opaqueness aside, which was not present tonight.)

My notes from previous tasting three months ago. "This was dark garnet colored ((with a slight grayish hue that signaled caution but the wine was fine, we'll monitor the next bottle (s) with interest to see if this is an early warning of trouble ahead) (as noted, this was not present tonight)); medium full bodied, this was delicious with sweet ripe raspberry fruits accented by notes of vanilla and almond with supple smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points.

We also opened this second wine, a Sangiovese based blend.

David Arthur Napa Valley Meritaggio 2003

David Arthur is typically known for premium Estate Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vineyards on Pritchard Hill overlooking southeast Napa Valley. We visited the winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2013.

This is a serious wine with fun name - Meritaggio is a play on the word Meritage - a US trademarked moniker for a Bordeaux Blend - a red blend of Bordeaux varietals. This is a rendition of a Sangiovese based Bordeaux style blend, with fruit sourced from Napa Valley. As such, this was more complex than the single varietal Sangiovese, and more akin to the traditional Italian Sangiovese based wines - more earthy - leathery and a touch of cedar. This exceeded expectations with vibrant bright flavored dark and red berry fruits with layers of complementary flavors. Complex and sophisticated but easy drinking wine.

Dark garnet color - full bodied - bright, vibrant, rich, mouthful of black raspberry, currant, ripe plum, layer of anise and hint of spice, smoke, cedar and leather with nicely integrated fine tannins.
RM 93 points.