Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Beringer Private Reserve Napa Chardonnay 2014

Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014

This outstanding release of this label is widely available at deeply discounted prices around Chicagoland merchants offering a substantial QPR - Quality Price Ratio in this highly rated release. 

The fruit for this label is primarily sourced from their Gamble Ranch property in the Oakville AVA of Napa Valley. Only the finest lots were then selected for inclusion in this Private Reserve bottling. Each lot was kept separate from harvest all the way through the winemaking process. The wine was aged for 9 months in predominately new French oak with full malolactic fermentation, and the lees were stirred weekly to enrich the texture and profile. 

Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014

I picked up a few bottles, then picked up a few more. I should've grabbed more but I waited till I actually tried it to come to this conclusion, not based on the review. 

This got ratings for 95 points from Decanter and James Suckling, 92 points from Wine Spectator and 91 points from Vinous.

We took this BYOB to Chinn's Pier 34 in Lisle and it was spectacular with the Chargrilled Hawaiian Monchong and the Grouper. 

The Winemaker's tasting notes: "A richly layered wine with aromas of crème brulee and rich citrus and fruit flavors."   

This was butter colored, medium full bodied with bright lively buttery creamy notes of crème brulée, notes of caramel and hazelnut with apple and citrus fruits accented by spice and toasty oak with hints of vanilla apple and peach on the long nicely balanced finish. 

RM 92 points. 



Monday, July 15, 2019

Kenwood Jack London Sonoma Cabernet 2014

Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

One of the not-so-local wineshops picked up an allotment of this label and are offering it at extraordinary discounts so I picked up a six pack for everyday drinking. Some Cellartracker members cite obtaining this from as low as $10 but I picked this up at just less than $15 which represents a good value for every day drinking.

This fits the popular wine collector strategy of keeping on hand a selection of every day wines, weekend wines, once a month wines, once a year wines, and very special occasion wines in the mix for a broad cellar selection. We have known this wine going back to the eighties and hold a bottle of this label in our cellar going back to son Alec's birth year 1990.

Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Kenwood Vineyards is one of the historic Sonoma Valley producers with its winery tasting facility on the main Sonoma Highway running up the eastern edge of the valley just past Kunde and below the iconic Chateau St Jean.

Kenwood are the sole producer of wines from the historic lava-terraced vineyards of the famous Jack London Ranch on the western slope of the central Sonoma Valley in Glen Ellen. It is named for Jack London who was a pioneer farmer grower in Sonoma over 100 years ago. The unique red-lava soil vineyards produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Syrah varietal grapes.

Kenwood has been sourcing grapes from the Jack London Ranch since 1976. Located midway up the Eastern foothills of the Sonoma Mountain appellation, it has a long mild growing season that creates fruit with complexity and balance. The influence of the vineyard’s red volcanic soil and the fruity characteristics of the grapes combine to produce a quality, distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon which tends to provide reliable good QPR - quality price ratio wines in typical vintages

The composition of this label varies by vintage from 100% Cabernet to a blend that might be composed of around 89% Cabernet Sauvignon and the remaining 11% Merlot.

Dark garnet colored and medium full bodied this presents bright tangy black cherry fruits accented by a predominant layer of smoke with hints of menthol, tar, pepper and cedar on a tangy tongue puckering straight tannin finish.

RM 87 points.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

La Nerthe Côtes du Rhône Les Cassagnes Rose

Château La Nerthe Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Cassagnes Rose 2018 

We just confirmed our reservation for our visit to Château La Nerthe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape during our trip to the Southern Rhône the end of this month. We're excited to return to the Château that was one of the highlights to our trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape back in 1998.

Château La Nerthe is one of the oldest estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape which dates back to 1560. The historic Château (right) was built in 1736.

Château La Nerthe was one of the first estates to bottle their own wine starting in 1784. Château La Nerthe was also one of the first estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to export their wine outside of France. When they pioneered the practice of de-stemming 100% of their vines in the 1800’s, Château La Nerthe was the most expensive wine from the Southern Rhône.

The estate boasts an exceptional, sloped terroir with soils of sandy-clay and a layer of large, round, well-worn galet stones which are renowned in the region. All the terroirs of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CDP) exist at the estate and all 13 of the CDP AOC (Appellation Original Controllee) permitted primary varietals are planted. The average vine age is 40+ years old. All of the grapes are handpicked and all of the wines are estate bottled.

The property atrophied and fell into some disrepair before the Richard family in a partnership with David and Foillard negociants purchased the historic La Nerthe in 1986 with a vision and mission to restore it to its earlier eminence. They invested in the property and conducted a complete renovation of the estate and much of the vineyards were replanted. In 1991, Château La Nerthe expanded their holdings with the purchase of 54 acres of vineyards creating one of the largest estates in the Southern Rhône with 222 acres under vine.

Starting with the 2015 vintage, Ralph Garcin was placed in charge of the estate and its winemaking.
A native of Provence, he grew up in a wine family with vineyards. He earned a degree in winemaking and agricultural engineering in Montpellier. He started his career in the Northern Rhône as assistant winemaker and buyer at M.Chapoutier. He spent time exploring new world international winemaking abroad in both Australia and Oregon. Returning to France, he became Technical Director and Head Winemaker for the Southern Rhône operations at the Burgundy-based company Boisset. After five years he joined Paul Jaboulet Ainé as Winemaker and Buyer. From there he joined Château La Nerthe as Managing Director and Winemaker.

In preparation for our visit, we're revisiting several of their labels that we hold in our cellar or, in this case, have picked up their current releases of labels we have not experienced before.

Château La Nerthe Côtes du Rhône Villages Les Cassagnes Rose 2018

We have just this summer started exploring rose wines and were delighted to find this Les Cassagnes Rose label from Château La Nerthe. This is sourced and produced in the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation which is adjacent to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

This Rose wine is a blend of Châteauneuf-du-Pape varietals with 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% Carignan. 

The fruits for this label are sourced from Côtes du Rhône Villages, the region and districts on the slopes and foothills above the Southern Rhône Valley beyond Châteauneuf-du-Pape where rosé wine varietals  are produced. 

This Cotes-du-Rhone rosé is crafted from 30+ year old vineyards planted in soils rich with calcareous sandstone and positioned on gently undulating slopes for optimal sun exposure.

The Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC rules for the proportion of the primary, supplemental and accessory grape varieties in the blend for AOC authorized wines are:
  • White wines: a minimum of 80% of the main grape varieties.
  • Red and rosé wines:
    • The main grape variety (Grenache noir) must make up at least 50%.
    • The supplementary grape varieties Syrah and Mourvèdre together must make up at least 20% of the blend.
    • The main and supplementary grape varieties must together make up at least 80% of the blend.
    • The accessory grape varieties are restricted to a maximum of 20% of the blend.
Winemaker Notes for this wine: "The color is rust orange pale pink fuchsia, very bright. The nose is frank, lively, expressive, on white flowers and citrus fruits (pink grapefruit). The palate is fresh and the gooseberry meets again the grapefruit. A wine of great freshness and easy pleasure!"

This is an easy drinking refreshing wine for the hot days of mid-summer. It shows bright pink fuscia color, medium body, expressive forward flavors of pear and peach are accented by floral and citrus notes and hints of gooseberry and spices on the full flavorful finish. 

RM 89 points.



Saturday, July 13, 2019

Marilyn Merlot 2016

Nova Wines "Marilyn Merlot" Napa Valley Merlot 2016

Wine geeks, oenophiles,  often take their passion for wine way too seriously, or certainly so to those not so compulsive or fixated, which is most folks. Its important to back it down and simply have fun with wine too.

This blog focuses on wine tasting and collecting. Another discussion thread is a study in wine branding and marketing. One unique approach is Marilyn Wines, of the entity Nova Wines, who have created an entire franchise on one celebrity identification theme based on a play on words - Marilyn Merlot featuring the iconic starlet Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Wines holds an exclusive agreement with the estate of Marilyn Monroe for the use of the name and the images in their wine marketing and packaging.

The brand is the creation of Bob and Donna Holder of Rutherford in Napa Valley, who initially crafted a homemade Merlot back in 1983 using some purchased grapes and some grapes from the Holder property. They started selling their wine and created the brand.  In the early days, they purchased bulk wine, then, in 1997, they shifted from purchasing bulk wine to purchasing grapes. The wine is made at the Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, CA.

Marilyn Wines has extended the brand to a broad portfolio of labels based on Marilyn Monroe. In addition to Marilyn Merlot, they also produce Marilyn Meritage, Sauvignon Blond, Marilyn Cabernet and Norma Jean, a lesser label with 'younger' second label grapes. The brand has grown further with the release of Marilyn Merlot Rose and Marilyn Monroe Chardonnay.

Of course the most famous or notable iconic collector series is Mouton Rothschild. A study in wine branding and marketing at some point invites a discussion of art label series featuring original or reproductions of notable art or artists on the wine labels. No wine producer in the world captures the imagination or attention of wine collectors and wine art enthusiasts more than Mouton Rothschild with their annual artist series artist featured wine labels.

Each year a renowned artist is commissioned to do the artwork for that vintage. The featured artist is said to be paid ten cases of various vintages of the classic Chateau Mouton Rothschild for their work. Every collector dreams of collecting a 'vertical' collection (wines of multiple vintages of the same wine) of the classic premium First Growth Bordeaux to display the 'artwork' of Mouton.

My Winesite Label Library lists the Mouton Rothschild Label Library Series Artists and associated works by the artists for reference or to aid in further exploration or research of the library and its history.

As with Mouton Rothschild, I've assembled a portfolio of Marilyn labels in my label library on my winesite

The 2016 vintage release of Marilyn Merlot this annual feature label just appeared this week in stores in the Chicagoland market.  They also just released Norma Jeane, the 21st vintage of the Norma Jeane.

Playing on the name of the famous cinema starlet, Marilyn Monroe, the marketers at Nova Wines have  built the brand on an annual release of moderate priced Merlot varietal featuring an authentic Marilyn Monroe photo on the label. What might have started out as a whimsical or even corny idea has turned into a fun wine that has an almost cult following in some precincts of collectors.

The producer tries to maintain a delicate balance and moderate the hype of the collectability of the wine and the valuation of bottles over time versus the novelty and fun of the wine. It appears they've earnestly worked to improve the pedigree and quality of the product to produce a wine more worthy of and capable of long (er) term cellaring by sourcing from notable vineyard sources and producing a Red Bordeaux varietal blend. As such, the release price of the wine has crept up in recent years as well. This year's release price is $36 however the 'street price' still remains at the traditional price point in the $25 to $28 range.

The producer site says, "Each new vintage of Marilyn Monroe Merlot sells out quickly. While collectors have made Marilyn Monroe Merlot one of the fastest-appreciating wines on the market, it is wine enthusiasts with a sense of humor who have long enjoyed the playful spirit behind Marilyn Merlot wines that are now also seeking the Marilyn Monroe Merlot because of the emphasis on making a notable wine from prized Napa Valley grapes. While the concept and engaging label of these wines has given these bottles a degree of fame, it is the wine in the bottle that merits the enthusiasm of those who seek it out every year.'

"This wine is every bit as special as its package," says Donna Holder, one of the owners of Marilyn Wines. "It is a must for collectors, but is also a Napa Valley Merlot that stands beautifully on its own."

The producer promotes highly escalated prices for vintage bottles of the label asking high prices that far exceed the pedigree of the wine, explicable only due to the marketing/branding of the label collection. I know of one reputable wine shop in a mid-size midwestern city that until recently held a 1985 Marilyn Merlot that they were offering at $3500.

I've assembled a portfolio of Marilyn labels in my label library on my winesite. And, I admit I've collected a 'vertical' collection of the wine and am still holding what now spans fifteen vintages. Indeed, we drank a dozen year old 2006 recently and it was drinking quite nicely. We do have fun gifting these wines to friends for suitable occasions, great for those not into the wine so much, but taken by the clever packaging. The Marilyn Merlot label is now in its 32nd year.

The 2016 vintage release is a blend of 91% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from Napa Valley. The Vineyard source for the fruit in the 2016 vintage release wine is primarily from grapes from Andy Beckstoffer’s Missouri Hopper vineyard near Oakville with a supporting cast of vineyard sources in Napa Valley including merlot from St. Helena and Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena and Oak Knoll appellations.

The iconic photograph adorning the label for this 2016 release was taken by photographer Milton Greene of Marilyn Monroe in September, 1953. It features a extraordinary close-up photo of Marilyn in a large green sweater.

The Winemaker's Notes for this vintage: The 2016 Marilyn Merlot is a rich scarlet hue with purple tones that immediately catch one’s eye as it is poured in the glass. The aromas exhibit a complexity of characters, including but not limited to, cherries, cinnamon, plums, juniper berries and hints of mocha. This merlot has wonderful structure and weight on the palate, is well balanced with suitable tannins for aging. The flavors amplify the aromas with added nuances of tart, rich, blackberries, and vanilla. Very enjoyable now but will improve with 4-7 years of aging.

Try it and enjoy the novelty as well as the grape juice. Have fun with wine. 



Friday, July 12, 2019

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2015

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2015

I picked up the latest available release of this label in preparation for our visit to the estate in our upcoming trip the end of this month. We visited Vieux Télégraphe during our trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhone River Valley back in 1998 and are eager and looking forward to return. We hold Vieux Télégraphe wines dating back to the early 1980's. 

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe has been run by the Brunier family for five generations dating back to 1891. The estate’s vineyards average 60 years of age on the Plateau of La Crau, a site known for growing Châteauneuf-du-Pape grape varietals.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC appellation rules allow a combination of thirteen different grape varietals to be included in the blend. CDP wines are also known for their famous 'crossed keys' in the bottle above the label as shown on the right.

The estate is named for the telegraph towers that sat on the site dating back to the early visual signal towers that were invented and deployed as far back as 1792. Lines of relay towers were built within line-of-sight of each other at distances of 5–20 miles. Tower operators would watch adjacent towers through a spyglass for signals produced by mechanical shutter arms and would pass the message on to the next tower. These early systems were faster and less expensive than horse drawn riders. These lines were a precursor of the electrical telegraph which would replace them half a century later.

At the end of the Second World War, fourth generation Henri Brunier revived the estate enlarging the Domaine to 136 acres, and developing the classic “Vieux Télégraphe” Châteauneuf-du-Pape brand and style of wine with its full dimension and minerality. His son's Frédéric and Daniel have been tending to the family business since the earlyl 1980's. They now farm 247 acres in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC area, and 49,5 acres of IGP Vaucluse and AOC Ventoux vines.

The estate wines are known for their distinctive terroir signature of predominant minerality from filtering through the thick layer of large pebbles left behind when the Alpine glaciers melted, long before the Rhône Valley formed.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2015

This is the second label of Vieux Télégraphe. It is a blend of Chateauneuf varietals - 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 6% Mourvèdre, and 4% Cinsault, from vines that average 30 years of age.

Garnet colored, medium bodied, an interesting layer of smokey 'bourbon' tones accented by notes of clove spice, subtle hints of cassis, black peppar and metallic on a sharp moderate tannin finish.

RM 88 points.



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Château Léoville Las Cases 1985

Château Léoville Las Cases 'Grand Vin de Leoville' Saint-Julien Bordeaux 1985

For a special milestone achievement event by son Sean, we pulled from the cellar a signature wine from his birthyear for a simple intimate family celebration.

Not only is this one of our perennial favorite revered labels from a Bordeaux 'super second' producer, but we're going to visit the Château during our upcoming trip to Bordeaux later this month.

In 1976, the 1971 vintage of Las Cases ranked number six among the ten French and California red wines in the historic "Judgment of Paris" wine competition.

According to our tasting notes, we last opened this vintage release just a couple weeks short of sixteen years ago. We also served this wine from large format six liter Imperial bottles from the 1981 birthyear vintage for our daughter Erin's wedding celebration a dozen years ago.

Château Léoville Las Cases 'Grand Vin de Leoville' Saint-Julien Bordeaux 1985

Amazing life left in this, considering the bottle showed minor seepage and a completely saturated cork reducing the fill level to mid-high shoulder. Even with a two pronged cork puller, the last 1/4 inch of the cork broke off. I could've saved it had I been more cautious and less deliberate in its removal.

This is a classic Bordeaux Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

Deep garnet colored with a slight hint of orange bricking, medium-full bodied, elegant, complex but nicely integrated dark berry and black cherry fruits with notes of floral violets, tobacco, oak and hints of graphite, cigar box and leather on a tangy black cherry lingering finish of supple smooth, polished tannins. Over the course of the evening, it opened more and more to reveal layers of floral and fruits and accents.

This wine got 98 points from Wine Spectator who called it "A fabulous wine; one of the first great Las Cases.", 94 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 95 points Wine Advocate's Neal Martin.

RM 94 points.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Hungry Blonde Chardonnay L'Ecole Semillon Fiora Geneva

Hungry Blonde Chardonnay and L'Ecolle Columbia Valley Semillon with Crabcakes and Scallops Al Fresco at Fiora Restaurant Geneva

We took a trip out to Geneva to visit friend Kay Z and had a delightful lunch at Fiora Restaurant in its rustic charming landmark building and al fresco patio setting.

Fiora was voted by patrons as the 'Best Restaurant' in the Fox River Valley.

Linda had the Seared Scallops and I ordered the Maryland Crabcakes.

Linda had the Seared Scallops with Chili Lime, smashed avocado and tropical corn salsa for her entree (below). From the BTG (By-The-Glass) winelist she had a glass of the Hungry Blonde Chardonnay.

Hungry Blonde Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015

Produced by iconic Cary Gott, the fruit for this captivating Chardonnay comes from the Poe Vineyard, which sits adjacent to the world renowned Hyde Vineyard in the Carneros appellation at the bottom of Napa Valley near San Pablo Bay. 

Wow, what a find in a BTG offering. Unapologetically bold, Hungry Blonde’s Napa Valley Chardonnay makes no excuses for being made in a rich and buttery style that defines classic California Chardonnay to the fullest. Jeb Dunnuck, former critic for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate gave this 92 points and wrote, “the 2015 Chardonnay Hungry Blond offers a rock-star Chardonnay experience .... at 30 bucks it’s a killer value.”

Butter colored, full bodied, bold, bright delectable full forward flavors of buttered citrus, honeysuckle, peach, smoky sweet hazelnut and hints of caramel.

RM 92 points.


For my entree I had the Maryland Crab Cakes with remoulade sauce, served over sautéed spinach, with estate salad tossed in citrus vinaigrette dressing (below). To accompany this I ordered from the winelist, BTG L’ECole No. 41 Sémillon.

L’Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Sémillon 2017

We stopped by the L'Ecole Winery in Louden, WA during our Walla Walla AVA Wine Experience last fall. 

Three generations are involved in the winery managed by Marty Clubb, Managing Winemaker and Co-Owner with his wife, Megan, and children, Riley and Rebecca.  The family-owned artisan winery was founded by Megan’s parents, Jean and Baker Ferguson, in 1983.  

Marty, along with Norm McKibben (Pepper Bridge Winery) and Gary Figgins (Leonetti Cellar) were early viticulture pioneers in the Walla Walla Valley.  In 1997, they partnered to begin the 170 acre expansion of Seven Hills Vineyard.  In the mid-2000s, they partnered once again in the adjacent 1,800 acre vineyard development, SeVein, home to L’Ecole’s newest Estate Ferguson Vineyard. In addition to the Estate Ferguson and Estate Seven Hills Vineyards, Marty works with over 30 vineyards' growers throughout the Columbia Valley.  

This is a blend of 85% Sémillon and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. Fruit for this label is sourced from the Columbia Valley Klipsun, Rosebud, Stillwater Creek, Lodmell and Seven Hills vineyards.

Light straw colored, light medium bodied, bright vibrant melon, pear and citrus fruits with balanced acidity, layers of honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and lemongrass persist with a clean, crisp finish.

RM 88 points.





Friday, July 5, 2019

Guardian Newsprint Cabernet Ste Michelle Rose

Chateau Ste Michelle Rose' and Guardian Cellars 'Newsprint' Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain

We joined Ryan and Michelle and the kids for a cookout by the pool as we watched Reid and Marleigh swim. Ryan served this Guardian Cellars 'Newsprint' Cabernet with grilled burgers, sausages and hot dogs. I brought the remains of a Chateau St Michelle Rose'.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Rosé 2018

We visited Chateau Ste Michelle during our Woodinville Wine Tour and Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour last fall.

The fruits for this label are sourced from the Columbia Valley whose vineyards lie in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and receive just 6-8 inches of rainfall annually, ideal for growing wine grapes. The northerly latitude gives the Washington State Columbia Valley nearly two more hours of sunlight daily during the peak-growing season than California, increasing the region’s ability to ripen fruit.

Salmon colored, light medium bodied, dry simple, elegant easy drinking rosé soft flavorful with subtle aromas of watermelon, raspberry and strawberry with citrus zest and hints of melon with a long crisp finish.

RM 88 points. 

This is a blend of 72% Syrah and 28% Merlot.



We also visited Guardian Cellars' Woodinville tasting room together during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour and our Woodinville Wine Experience last fall.

Guardian was founded in 2004 by two Seattle-ites, Jerry Riener, a police officer, and Jennifer Sullivan, a journalist with KOMO News. The two met while Sullivan worked the crime beat for The Seattle Times and Riener was her “confidential source” inside the police department.

An organic chemist by training, Riener had interned at several Woodinville wineries such as Baer, Mark Ryan and Matthews Winery before launching his own label. Guardian Cellars focuses primarily on on Bordeaux-style blends, but they also produce a line called 'Newsprint' that is comprised of single varietal offerings.

Guardian Cellars 'Newsprint' Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2016

We tasted and Ryan acquired this 2015 Newsprint Cabernet Sauvignon during our visit. It is 100% Cabernet sourced from the Quintessence Vineyard on Red Mountain. Located next to Col Solare and Ambassador Vineyard, Quintessence is the fruit source for many highly acclaimed wines from producers like Lauren Ashton, Duckhorn’s Canvasback, Lachini, Fidelitas, Mark Ryan and DeLille. The vineyard is managed by Marshall Edwards who also manages Obelisco Vineyard on Red Mountain.

This was another as yet undiscovered producer that was suggested as a worthwhile stop in the area. While perhaps not at the level of the premium Long Shadows selections, or the Fidelitas or Mark Ryan premium labels, Guardium produces some very respectable quality wines that represent high QPR - Quality Price Ratio selections. 

Today, Jerry, protege Joel, and the Guardian team produce 16 different wines under the Guardian label and this second label, Newsprint. Last year's production exceeded 10,000 cases. 

WINEMAKER'S NOTES: "Read all about it! This 100% Red Mountain Cabernet packs a whole lot of deliciousness in one heck of an affordable bottle. This wine features ripe fruit with hints of vanilla and wood smoke on the nose. The palate is super juicy, full of ripe dark berry, black cherry and plum jam flavors; these delicious fruits are complemented by a sprinkling of tannins aimed to give great structure to this wine."
This was dark inky blackish garnet colored, medium full bodied, dark black and blue fruits with notes of licorice and hints of creosote turning to abundant tannin on the finish. 

RM 88 points. 



Thursday, July 4, 2019

Lafage Tessellae Old Vines GSM 2015

Domaine Lafage Tessellae Old Vines GSM 2015

Since we're heading to the south of France to visit friends and the wine country in a couple of weeks, I am exploring wines from the region in preparation for our trip there. We opened this Red Rhone Blend in the style of South Australian "GSM" - Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre from the Côtes du Roussillon appellation which lies in the far southwestern corner of France, between Spain and the Mediterranean. There is abundant sun which is ideal for grape varietals Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault, the region’s traditional varieties, and there are increasingly abundant plantings of Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Within Côtes du Roussillon, select terraced hillsides above the Agly, Verdouble and du Maury rivers, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, produce the more complex and barrel-aged Côtes du Roussillon-Villages red wines. The better wines are normally produced from vines on the slopes, not in the valley floors.

Appellation rules required blended red wines - the blend allowed is: Carignan (maximum 60%), Syrah, Mourvèdre (minimum 30% combined), Grenache noir, Lladoner. A minimum of three varieties are allowed in the blend.

Roussillon still regards itself as part of Catalonia across the border in Spain, and in wine styles. Whereas the Languedoc region in France is almost entirely dependent on vine-growing, the farmers in Roussillon's fertile valleys, overlooked by the Pyrenees, grow all sorts of fruits. The climate is almost Spanish, and is particularly suitable for growing cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines.

Domaine Lafage "Tessellae - Old Vines GSM" Côtes du Roussillon 2015

This is a blend of  50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. It is from a popular producer, Jean-Marc Lafage who is known for producing wines with robust expressive fruit in the GSM varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre). This is from Old Vines - 70-year-old vines and brought up all in concrete tank. This has great QPR - Quality Price Ratio of about $15 at Binny's locally around Chicagoland.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this wine 93 points and wrote,"A ripe, expansive, full-bodied and undeniably sexy red that has beautiful notes of kirsch liqueur, blueberries, pepper and violets, it has ripe and present tannin, straight up fabulous purity and a great finish. This is another one of those wines where you just have to tell yourself you spent more than you actually did. The wine really is this good. (JD)  (4/2017)"

The folks at K&L Wines in Redwood City, one of my favorite wineshops anywhere, love this wine.

From Keith Mabry | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 1/30/2018 
Like all Lafage wines, there is no shortage of fruit in the GSM. The wine has the sensation of warm raspberry coulis drizzled over a berry compote. It almost sounds like a little much but Lafage excels at creating finesse where fruit lingers. Great acidity, plush velvety tannins and glycerol richness lead you to believe this is a much more expensive wine and gives you the balance you desire. The name Jean-Marc Lafage has become synonymous with cost to quality in our stores. Every wine is inflected with his joyously exuberant style. For wines that you can drink every day that show pure pleasure in the glass, you need look no further than Lafage's harmonious Grenache Syrah Mourvedre blend.

Thomas Smith, K&L Staff Member says, "Seriously, Jean-Marc Larfage is just killing it right now. In addition to being one of the most in-demand consulting winemakers in France, he continues to put out unbelievable values from his region of specialty: the Languedoc and Roussillon. Take for instance the 2015 Tessellae. Farmed from over 100 year-old-vines, this wine is utterly delicious, displaying flavors of raspberry coulis and bing cherries above a darker, medium bodied blackberry fruit. Hints of charcoal, smoke, and well-integrated spice contribute to a nuanced aroma. It is warm, upfront, fruity and an incredibly well-made wine that will work with plenty of different types of cuisines and is good for any night of the week. I would argue that at this moment, Lafage is producing the best value wines anywhere in the world. If you’ve loved the Kerbuccio, Bastide Miraflors, or Arqueta from Domaine Lafage, you should definitely pick up the Tessellae." 

K&L Staffer Alex Pross says, "This is my favorite Lafage release to date! The 2015 Tessellae Old Vines GSM has a hauntingly beautiful nose of red cherries, licorice, white pepper and garrigue. On the palate the wine is fresh and lively with great energy and drive. There is copious fruit notes as well as spice with a layered and complex palate. The wine shows excellent integration of its tannins, fruit and alcohol which gives this full-bodied wine a deceptively light on its feet feel.
Top Value! Drink from 2018 to 2022

This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, expressive forward black fruits with a bit of that Spanish effect coming through, a bit hot smokey, peppery creosote note accented by spice and hint of cassis. 

RM 89 points. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

For a business dinner at The Clubhouse Restaurant in Oak Brook, IL, my colleague selected from the winelist this Simi Alexander Cabernet. It should be noted this is from Simi Winery and is not to be confused with Simi Valley which is down in southern California north of LA. Simi is located in the northern Alexander Valley in Sonoma County at the northern edge of the town of Healdsburg.

Simi has been producing Sonoma County wines since Guiseppe Simi arrived from Tuscany to develop the vineyards and winery. The property was in the Simi family until Isabelle Simi retired and sold the winery to Alexander Valley grape grower, Russell Green in 1970. Notable winemaker Zelma Long joined SIMI in 1979 and direct major renovation of the winery's fermentation and barrel rooms.

Today winemaking is overseen by Melissa Stackhouse from UC Davis, Meiomi, J Vineyards & Winery, and La Crema, and Lisa Evich who worked previously at Pine Ridge.

Since the 80's Simi has expanded vineyard ownership acquiring the Landslide Vineyard in Sonoma County and 100 acres in the Russian River Valley which they developed into Goldfields Vineyard with Chardonnay.

Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Decent for the modest price-point of this entry level Cabernet. Simi also offer three other premium vineyard designated select and a reserve Cabernets.

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, a bit flabby, slightly astringent cherry fruits accented by cinnamon spice and hints of cedar on a modest tannin finish. Tasted from winelist at Clubhouse in Oak Brook, IL.

RM 87 points.



Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Mondavi Napa Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

For a weeknight grilled steak dinner, I pulled from the cellar this aged Napa Cabernet to accompany Sean's grilled steak and potato wedges with garden herbs and garlic.

Robert Mondavi have an extensive portfolio of wine labels and its easy to get lost in the numerous offerings. The Oakville label is a single appellation designated label that has proven to be a premium offering to their California and Napa labels which may source grapes from a far broader geography, but below the ultra-premium 'Reserve' label.

The Mondavi Oakville may represent one of the best QPR - Quality to Price Ratio in the Mondavi line as it often equals or beats the Reserve flagship label for a fraction of the price. While almost double the price of the Estate Napa Cab, the Oakville consistently is distinctive and represents the best that the appellation has to offer in this price range and is generally available based on production of over 10,000 bottles. In good years, Mondavi does a great job obtaining this quality in such a quantity production.

In 2004, the Oakville designated Mondavi Cabernet was especially good and I acquired a fair amount of it for cellaring for enjoyment over a period of years. My records indicate this was the last bottle from that collection. My Journal of tasting notes for this wine has a half dozen earlier entries dating back to 2007 with the last one being in 2012. My blogpost of that tasting talks more about the Mondavi Oakville label. The label pictured is from that tasting. That evening we dined at Metisse Restaurant on the shore in Belmar, NJ, a melancholy memory as Metisse was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Such is how wine makes memories that touch our lives.

My last tasting note for this wine was in 2017. I wrote then how I was pleasantly surprised in how well this wine is showing after thirteen years as it was as good as I remember. Tonight I had the same observation now at fifteen years. As I wrote in that last blogpost, this is showing signs of aging but is developing character, complexity and depth as some of the fruits give way to a tone of earthiness and leather, but taking on a full floral layer on the finish. It was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled steak.

Like the previous tasting, the 2004 presented dark garnet ruby red color, medium to full firm body with intense concentrated but smooth and polished flavors of sweet ripe currant and blackberry, dusty herb, and cedary oak with hints of anise and dark mocha on the sharp moderate tannin lingering finish.

Like the previous earlier tasting, I reduced my rating by a point to RM 90 points, reduced one from earlier tasting when I reduced it from 92 to 91. Wine Spectator gave this wine 93 points.



Sunday, June 30, 2019

Beaucanon Trifecta Napa Valley Red Blend

Beaucanon Estate Louis de Coninck Trifecta Napa Valley Red Blend

I stopped in Ambassador Wines in NYC on Second Avenue at 54th and met owner Louis Phillips.

For a special dinner I picked up this Napa Valley Bordeaux Red Blend from Beaucanon Estate by winemaker Louis de Coninck, Trifecta is a blend compiled of four estate grown Bordeaux varietals.

The Beaucanon Estate Longwood Ranch sits at the south eastern corner of the Oak Knoll AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Napa Valley where it meets the Atlas Peak AVA in southeastern Napa Valley.  

The original historic property dates back to the origins of Napa Valley, part of the Yajome land Grant that belonged to Captain Salvador Vallejo, brother of General Mariano Vallejo, founder of Sonoma and military commander and director of colonization on the northern frontier. The Grant covered over 6000 acres and was first given to Damaso Rodriquez, a retired ensign from the first Calvary division of the Company of San Francisco which petitioned the Mexican government in 1838.

It was back around 1860 when the Longwood name was first associated with the site known for the long row of old-growth oaks that still boarder Milliken Creek flowing through property down at the bottom of Silverado Trail. Later in 1912 Longwood was know for ample prune orchards and a 60 acres market owned by a prosperous dairyman name William Watt, ancestor to Kathryn Hall of Hall Wines in Rutherford and St Helena who produce a line of Walt Wines in his honor. 

The first winery was built in 1987 just outside of St. Helena. an impressive facility where they produce almost 30,000 cases of wine annually. After seven years at this facility, Louis de Coninck transitioned to the Longwood Ranch vineyard. There, a historic barn has been outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment where they produce only 12,000 cases annually of carefully crafted wine. 

Beaucanon Estate wines reflects the terrior of the soil type known as alluvium fan which exhibits gravely deposits, clay and silt that encourages the vines to grow deep strong root structures.  Deeply rooted vines produce high quality concentrated fruit for Beaucanon Estate select winemaker signature wines.

Louis de Coninck, the winemaker, carries on the wine making history of the family, 9 generations of wine merchants originally from the right bank in Bordeaux that can be traced back to 1740. Trained from age 18 in Saint Emilion, he joined his father Jacques in Napa Valley.  His crafts wines that reflect the terrior of Napa Valley, displaying finesse, complexity, structure, mouth-feel and the bright expressive flavors of Napa Valley fruit.  Like all great winemakers, Louis excels at highlighting the natural characteristics of perfectly ripe fruit and the distinctive "terroir" of the vineyard sites.

Beaucanon Estate Louis de Conick, Trifecta Napa Valley Red Blend 2013

Dark inky blackish garnet colored, full bodied, tight, concentrated dark dense flavors of blackberry and black currant fruits accented by a layer of black tea, notes of creosote, cassis and licorice  with hints of smoke with a lingering moderate tannin finish.

This is a blend of the Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. This composition results in the concentrated dense firm inky structured wine. Cabernet Sauvignon provides firm and structured backbone, Cabernet Franc highlights of spice, Petit Verdot dark color and firm dense structure, and Malbec contribute to the dark inky dark color and robust tannins. 

Conspicuously missing in the blend is Merlot, the most common Bordeaux varietal, which is typically used to  provide softness in the blend when compared with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be firmer and higher in tannin. The result is a firmly structured  'tight' wine.

RM 92 points. 



Ambassador Wines @AmbassadorNY

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Chateau Buena Vista Napa Cabernet

Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Alec picked this up at the local wineshop in Westport, CT. From the legendary Buena Vista Winery with arguably one of the more colorful histories of the wineries in California with its founder, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy, an eccentric pioneer of California wines.

Founded in 1857, Buena Vista was one of California’s first premium wineries. The legendary brand is being re-born today under the vision of owner Jean-Charles Boisset. Just outside the town of Sonoma, the original winery is now a California Historic Landmark.

The Count immigrated from Europe in 1840 in pursuit of opportunity in the burgeoning American West. Following the spirit of the forty-niners in search of gold in the hills of Northern California, Haraszthy sought “purple gold” – the perfect ‘terroir’ where he could grow grapes to make exceptional wine. He ultimately settled in Sonoma, birthplace of California and capital of the short-lived California Republic, where he founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857.

In the 1860’s Buena Vista covered more than 6,000 acres that ran up into the foothills and past the Mayacamas Mountain range into what is today Napa County.

In 1861, founder Count Haraszthy journeyed to Europe in search of the finest grapevines. In Bordeaux, he obtained Cabernet Sauvignon and brought choice cuttings back to California where he planted them at Buena Vista, thereby bringing Cabernet Sauvignon to the Napa Valley.

The inaugural release of this new label offering, Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon, was in 2013 as Buena Vista returned to Napa Valley. In recent history, Buena Vista has generally been considered and known for Sonoma Valley wines, based on its popular historic winery and cellar near downtown Sonoma.
This new addition to the Buena Vista portfolio is packaged in a large oversize heavy bottle of a premium wine but is moderately priced for a Napa Valley Estate Cabernet thereby offering good QPR (Quality Price Ratio).
Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
This 2016 release was sourced from Oak Knoll to St. Helena, from vineyards along Napa Valley’s eastern slope. The backbone of this is grapes from 10 acres of the Bartalucci Vineyard just south of St Helena, in Napa Valley near Raymond vineyards, a recent acquisition for Boisset. 

We tasted this opposite the Trifecta Bordeaux Blend that I brought for the occasion which made an interesting and fun comparison. Compared to the Chateau Buena Vista, the Trifecta was darker, bigger and tighter yet slightly more harmonious and integrated despite being a blend of four varietals compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bright garnet colored, medium full bodied, rich and opulent with intense structure, slightly obtuse, rich aromas of black berry, black cherry and black currant with a touch of spice and licorice, fine-grained tannins are soft with a full-bodied mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish.

RM 91 points.



Thursday, June 27, 2019

Birthyear Silver Oak and Freemark Abbey Bosche'

Birthyear Silver Oak and Freemark Abbey Bosche' wines to honor Alec and Viv's engagement

Son Alec and fiance Vivianna are engaged to be married in June of 2020. We traveled to Conneticut to visit our future in-laws, and the wedding venues. To celebrate the occasion, I took two birthyear wines from our cellar to commemorate the kids and their engagement.

We've collected numerous birthyear wines for son Alec. We also have a deep enough cellar so as to hold some wines from the birthyear of fiance and future daughter-in-law, Viviana. This was an occasion to do a combination tasting of wine from each vintage.

Silver Oak and Freemark Abbey are two of our favorite producers, from whom we hold several vintages and labels, however we don't necessarily hold labels of the same vintage from each. This provided an evening of celebration, and a comparison tasting or two Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintage wines of almost equal age, from two sequential vintages.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990

We have some special large format (six liter Imperials) birthyear bottles of Silver Oak (Bonny's Vineyard) for the gala event next year, so this is a warm up for the occasion with the Estate bottled label from the greater region, albeit not the extraordinary rare single vineyard designated label. We also served Silver Oak Bonny's Vineyard from the 1982 vintage at our eldest son Ryan's wedding, as well as several other birthyear special wines.

Our twenty nine year old bottle was well preserved with a perfect label and foil with a fill level half way in the neck, reduced less about 3/8 inches from being perfect fill. The cork was almost perfect although it did break in half on opening being slightly dry, but I used a conventional corkscrew. Were I at home, I most certainly would've used my customary two pronged cork puller, which I am confident would have extracted both corks in whole.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, this had bright ruby garnet color, very slight bricking at the rim, with the black cherry and black berry fruits having given way to the predominant signature nose and flavor of infused sweet oak layer for which the brand is known and famous.

The black cherry and black berry fruit was subdued, somewhat Bordeaux like with accent by notes of spice, black tea and tobacco leaf with tangy acidity and soft moderate tannins on the lingering tangy finish.

While past its prime, apex of its drinking window, this will not improve any further with aging, but is holding its own and will likely remain at this level of its drinking window for a couple more years. I didn't decant this but served it straight from the bottle. I might do the same again the next time.

RM 89 points.



Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1991

This is one of our favorite labels of which we hold numerous vintages dating back several decades. We acquired a case of this single vineyard designated label back around this period from the producer and picked up select bottles from nearby vintages to fill out our horizontal collection.

We picked up some of these bottles during our visit to the Estate over the years including select bottles from their library collection for special occasions.  We're longtime fans of Freemark Abbey, witness by the fact we hold bottles going back to the early eighties. Our Freemark Abbey experience highlights include our visit to the winery during our Napa Wine Experience 2009, when wine buddy and fellow 'Pour Boy' Bill and I had a fun time touring their library cellar with Cellar Manager Barry Dodd (Bill and Barry, right).

That day, we purchased two aged vintage selections - 1974 and 1978 commemorating our anniversary years, which we tasted that evening across the road at Graystoke Manor at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in St Helena.

Another notable point about this vintage is the poignant reflection on the rear label. It states' "this vintage is made in tribute to the life of John Bosche' (1909-1991). With dedication and drive he contributed to the Napa Valley wine growing industry for over thirty-five years.

Today, the Bosche' family continues his tradition of grape growing at the meticulously cared for vineyard near the town of Rutherford. Freemark Abbey has proudly produced outstanding Cabernet Bosche' wines since 1970." Signed Ted Edwards, Partner and Winemaker.

 Tonight, this wine showed more fruit and was aging more gracefully than the similarly aged, one year older Silver Oak. It showed better than recollections recorded at earlier tastings.

Like the Silver Oak, our twenty eight year old bottle was well preserved with a perfect label and foil with a fill level half way in the neck, reduced less about 3/8 inches from being perfect fill only a mm lower than the Silver Oak. Like the Silver Oak, the cork was almost perfect although it did break in half on opening being slightly dry, but I used a conventional corkscrew. Were I at home, I most certainly would've used my customary two pronged cork puller, which I am confident would have extracted both corks in whole.

Tasted at Freemark Abbey vertical tasting - http://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2012/12/freemark-abbey-cab-vintage-horizontal.html.

In 2012 I wrote, "This bottle was suprisingly lean and austere, not what I recall from this Napa vintage generally, but revealed such against the '92 which showed markedly differently. Garnet colored with a brickish rim, this was light bodied with properly balanced but slightly tart black cherry and black berry fruits accented by tobacco, tea, cigar box and leather on a short modest short finish." Perhaps bottle variation relative to tonight's tasting?

Tonight this showed best of the tasting: Bright garnet colored, medium full bodied, full forward vibrant red berry and cherry fruits accented by tangy spice, tea, hints of cedar and notes of cigar box with moderate tannins on a long lingering finish.

RM 90 points.



Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Visiting future in-laws Frank and Mary-Lisa, we were served Frank's and family signature family wine, Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a delightful weekend visiting, boating, and touring the venues for Alec and Vivianna's gala wedding weekend next summer.

A wonderful close knit family, it is only fitting their signature wine is not only a whimsical namesake, but also sourced from a family winery with vineyards named for their offspring.

Frank Family Vineyards estate up in Calistoga is housed in an 1884 stone cellar—the third-oldest building in Napa Valley.  They did a massive renovation of the original Kornell Champagne Cellars and the 19th-century Larkmead before that. The site is one of the most beautiful and interesting in Napa Valley. Ironically, it is one of the first wineries we visited during our very first Napa Valley wine visit back in the seventies!

The winery and tasting room were totally reimagined a few years ago for their 25th anniversary. The Hollywood Room is a tribute to founder Rich Frank, past president of Disney Corporation and wife Leslie’s career as an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist and Hollywood reporter. On display are the couple’s two Emmys. Frank is known as one of the guys who green-lit Aladdin and The Lion King, but it’s Frank’s penchant for hospitality, not his Hollywood credential that is behind Frank Family Vineyards being named “Best Napa Winery” eight years running by Bay Area A-List.

Frank Family flagship wine, Frank Family Patriarch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($225)  was named one of the world's 30 best wines according to Vivino’s latest 2019 Wine Style Award, which celebrates the best 1,640 wines across 164 different styles based on 40 million reviews and 120 million ratings on the wine app and website.

Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

This is a Bordeaux Blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc, all sourced from the Frank Family Estate vineyards.

The 206 acre S&J Vineyard is located east of the Vaca Mountain range in Napa’s Capell Valley. Purchased in 2000, it is named for Darryl Frank’s children, Stella and Jeremy. It is planted to 58 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, along with 9 acres of Petite Sirah and 9 acres of Zinfandel.

The Benjamin Vineyard is located east of Conn Creek Road in the heart of the Rutherford AVA,  acquired in 2012, it is 87-acres formerly known as Wood Ranch, and was renamed for Paul Frank’s son. It is planted with 50 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 acres of Petit Verdot, and 2 acres each of Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegantly balanced and nicely integrated flavors of flavors of blackberry, black raspberry and black cherry with notes of crème de cassis, espresso and hints of vanilla bean, toast, spice and cedar turning to smooth yet firm tannic structure, with subtle gripping tannins on a long and expressive spiced fruit lingering finish.

RM 90 points.



Louis Phillips Ambassador Wines New York

Louis Phillips Ambassador Wines New York

During my trip to New York, I stopped in Ambassador Wine and Spirits at Second Avenue and 54th Street and met Louis Phillips, President and owner. he took me on a tour of the lower level cellars where there are showcase rooms dedicated to French wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. There is also a section on cognacs and armagnacs, dessert wines and other specialities.

Also downstairs is Ambassador's tasting room which serves as Louis's classroom, laboratory, office and library. He had the room set up and was preparing for a wine class and tasting that evening.

There, also, Louis proudly displays his certificate of Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne Ce Grand Chapitre de New York.

The Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is the official fraternity of the major Champagne brands of France. Its mission is to promote the variety, versatility, taste and other unique characteristics that make Champagne wines synonymous with success and celebration everywhere.

The Ordre des Coteaux organizes Chapters, tastings and other activities, spreading the message of the Comité Champagne worldwide through a network of committed supporters who are drawn from all parts of the world – professional restaurateurs and sommeliers, famous connoisseurs, people in show business, politics and the media.

Established in 1656 by aristocrats in the court of French King Louis the XIVth, the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is responsible for managing a global communications policy of essential information concerning the wines of Champagne, France through a worldwide network of highly-knowledgeable staunch supporters. These individuals are prudently chosen from all over the globe and include renowned restaurateurs, sommeliers, connoisseurs and international personalities in politics, media, stage and screen.

 Gregarious Louis is a wealth of knowledge on wines, vintages and labels from around the world. He has entertaining and informative stories on winemaker producers, their personalities, their wines, heritage, handicraft and special release products.

We talked about my recent visit to South Africa and our respective discoveries and experiences with Pinotage. He gave me a bottle of Pinotage to try and suggested several more.

We discussed my upcoming trip to Bordeaux and his insights and suggestions for estates, and then talked extensively on his selection of my favorite Bordeaux labels across the various vintages and several other label discoveries new to me.

Ambassador has an extensive collection of domestic wines and from around the world and a knowledgeable staff to help with your selection. If you're lucky, you'll meet Louis Phillips who will educate, entertain and inform you with his wealth of knowledge and gregarious elucidation.

When in New York, stop in Ambassador and enjoy the experience and pick up a bottle of a new discovery something unique for sipping, collecting or serious drinking for a special occasion.

Tonight we'll be tasting one of the discoveries that I picked found there.



Saturday, June 22, 2019

American Sangiovese for Italian Dinner

American Sangiovese for Italian Dinner - Long Shadows Saggi and Del Dotto Piazza

Wine buddy and fellow 'Pour Boy' Dr Dan and Linda came over for the evening and we dined at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. We took BYOB from our cellar two American Sangiovese's, a Del Dotto Piazza Napa and Saggi Long Shadows from Washington State.

Saggi Long Shadows Vintners Series 2016

We discovered and acquired this wine during our Woodinville, WA wine experience last fall. This is a selection of the Long Shadows Vintners Collection, a portfolio of seven ultra-premium wines showcasing the viticulture of the Washington State Columbia Valley growing region and the artwork and expertise of internationally acclaimed winemakers who crafted them.

Long Shadows was founded in 2003 by Washington State wine legend Allen Shoup, former Chairman and CEO of Chateau St Michelle, one of the premiere wine producers in the State. There he evangelized Washington Wines and championed collaboration with notable winemakers from around the world. Upon retiring, he started Long Shadows with a vision to produce the best, art of the possible wines showcasing/featuring the region's grapes, each produced by a world renowned winemaker reputed for producing grapes of that varietal.  Each vintner had access to Washington State's best grapes and a winery to outfitted to accommodate a their exacting cellar specifications. The idea was a resounding success as the wines have received critical acclaim that grown with each vintage. The Long Shadow collection went on to win numerous awards, including recognition as Food & Wine magazine's "Winery of the Year."

The Saggi label is a Sangiovese blended from top Washington State vineyards, from Candy Mountain, a warm area of the Columbia Valley adjacent to Red Mountain that produces fruit with ripe, black currant aromas and flavors. From the cooler growing conditions in the Yakima Valley, the Boushey Vineyard produces Sangiovese that is lively red currant with bright strawberry notes. Saggi also contains Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Weinbau Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA, which contributes  structure and texture. Also in the blend is Syrah from the Bacchus and Den Hoed Dutchman vineyards, that add depth and complexity.

We talk about Den Hoed and their wines and our family connection in an earlier blogpost from our Seattle, Woodinville trip. 

Saggi, is crafted by the father-son team of Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious Tuscan wine families from A. & G. Folonari Tenute that produces a collection of small, ultra-premium wines from the family's numerous Tuscan estates. The Folonaris teamed with Allen Shoup to produce a wine that showcases Washington State's terroir with plenty of Italian character. Saggi (meaning "wisdom") is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.

Long Shadows founder Allen Shoup originally met the Folonaris through mutual friend Piero Antinori. It was Allen who introduce Piero to Washington State while at the helm of Chateau Ste. Michelle, and it was Piero's regard for the vineyards of the Columbia Valley that piqued the Folonaris interest in creating a wine true to Washington terroir with plenty of Tuscan character.  Gilles continues that tradition, honoring the quality and style of wines the Folonairs inspired. 

From 2006, Long Shadows director of winemaking and viticulture Gilles Nicault collaborated with the Folonaris on Saggi's vineyard sourcing, winemaking and blending.  For this 2016 release , Gilles assumed complete winemaking responsibilities for Saggi.

This bottle was from our most recent Club allocation shipment from the winery.

Vibrant and lively, this weighty Sangiovese-dominant blend offers enticing aromas and flavors of red berries and currants with an appealing hint of nutmeg and sweet spice. An elegant and refined wine, its bright acidity pops on the palate with expressive red fruit character that echoes across a long-lasting finish.

The 2016 Saggi is mostly Sangiovese at 60%, but has 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Syrah.

Bright ruby-colored, medium bodied, nicely balanced and polished, black cherry fruits are accented by with notes of spice box, dried flowers and hints of cedar and vanilla, smooth sweet tannins linger on a clean, graceful finish.

RM 92 points.

Wine Advocate Jeb Dunnuck gave it 92 points noting, "It's certainly one of the best expressions of Sangiovese from Washington."



Piazza Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 2016 

This has become our go-to wine for Italian dining. We tasted and acquired this wine during or Piazza Winery Delicacies Wine and Food Tasting Experience during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018. We had previously tasted and acquired the 2015 release a year earlier at our Napa Valley Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting in 2017.

As we have written in recent tasting reviews of wine acquired during this Estate visit, this label is from Piazza Del Dotto, Del Dotto's newest project, a new winery south on St Helena Highway featuring an Italian-inspired “barchessa,” or barn, magnificently appointed with tasting rooms and dining areas. It is surrounded by fountain gardens with al fresco tasting cabanas, vegetable gardens, 17th century fountains and an outdoor barn with turkeys, peacocks, pheasants and doves. There are wine caves as well, all surrounded by 8.5 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards.

This is Estate grown fruit, I believe from the Rutherford vineyards that surround the Venetian Estate Winery & Caves, the site for the Del Dotto cave tours and barrel tastings.

This was ruby colored medium full bodied, delicious sweet ripe raspberry fruits accented by notes of vanilla and almond with supple smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points.