Saturday, January 26, 2019

Gourmet dinner and elegant wine flight

Gourmet dinner and elegant wine flight

Fellow Pour Boy, wine buddy, Dr Dan and Linda hosted us for a artfully prepared gourmet dinner with an elegant flight of wine pairings. They prepared pork chops in a brown mushroom sauce, haricot verts, an imaginative BLT - bacon and lettuce stuffed tomatos and extraordinary stuffed giant portabella mushrooms (shown below) and rosemary potatoes.

Before dinner we had a selection of artisan cheeses, stuffed peppers, and a baked shrimp casserole.

Pork-chops in mushroom sauce
After dinner, for desert featured baked apple strudel with vanilla bean ice cream. For the desert course Dan served Rosalack Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Auslese and I brought a Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaker's Release Late Harvest Chardonnay.

The wine flight:

Château François Gaunoux Pommard 1er Cru Les Grands Épenots 2011
 Château Clinet Pomerol 2005
Château Larcis Ducasse St Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux 2004

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac Bordeaux 2011
Rosalack Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Auslese 2009

Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaker's Release Late Harvest Chardonnay 2012

Tasting notes:

Château François Gaunoux Pommard 1er Cru Les Grands Épenots 2011

With the cheese course of artisan cheeses, olives and cheese stuffed green peppers, Dan opened this Burgundy Pinot Noir.

Garnet colored, light medium bodied, this was elegant and refined with fresh with dusty rose violets, earthiness, red currant and plum and fruits. It showed smooth silky fine-grained tannins with excellent length on the balanced, delicious and complex finish.

RM 91 points.

Château Clinet Pomerol 2005

We just tasted the spectacular 2016 vintage release of this wine earlier this week at the UGCB release tour tasting with owner Ronan Laborde at the Drake in Chicago.

This 2005 was amazing, arguably the best Clinet I've experienced and is certainly at it's apex; hard to imagine this improving further with more aging.

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, silky smooth polished, nicely balanced, dark fruits accented by tantalizing elegant floral notes of lavender and violets with subtle notes of mocha, spice and tobacco on a lingering soft tannin finish.

RM 95 points.

Ronan LABORDE,Owner
( Pomerol )

Sea Smoke Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir Southing 2009

Cellartracker Somm David T's tasting notes sums up this wine eloquently and thoroughly.

"The nose reveals, sweet, slightly sour and ripe; blackberries, some black raspberries, dark cherries, plum, blueberries cranberries, pomegranate, candied cherries and baked strawberries. Big vanillin, soft cinnamon stick, touch of clove, dark spice, herbaceous notes, mixed berry cola, dark, rich, moist soil, dry clay, dry stone, limestone minerals with dark red, blue fresh & withering flowers.

The body medium full. Tannins nicely resolved but, still have tarry teeth. The structure and tension nicely softened. The 09 is beautifully integrated. The length and balance have hit their high point. Ripe; blackberries, some black raspberries, dark cherries, plum, mix of some purple fruits, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, candied cherries and juicy strawberries. Red licorice/cola, good presence of vanillin, soft cinnamon stick, touch of clove, dark spice, black licorice, herbaceous notes; bay leaf, mint, eucalyptus, dark, rich, moist, soil, clay, river stones, limestone minerals and dark red, blue fresh & withering flowers with violets. The acidity is round and like a rain shower. The finish is extremely well balanced, seamless, elegant, rich, persistent for minutes with ripe fruit, medium dark spice that brings some mild heat and haunting fragrant violets for minutes".

Château Larcis Ducasse St Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux 2004

Like the Clinet above, we tasted the 2016 vintage release of this wine earlier this week at the UGCB release tour tasting with commercial director David Suire, so I pulled from the cellar this twelve year old vintage release to compare.

 This was dark garnet colored, with a slight brown/orange rim starting to set in, medium-full bodied, smooth polished with delightful complex aromas and flavors of plum, black currant and blackberry fruits with tones of earthy leather, black tea, cigar box and spice with hints of truffle, cedar and cassis on the smooth polished tannin finish.

RM 89 points 

David Suire of Chateau Larcis Ducasse

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac Bordeaux 2011

Like the Clinet and the Larcis-Ducasse above, we also tasted the 2016 vintage release of this wine earlier this week at the UGCB release tour tasting. Again we had the privilege of tasting this with sales director David Launay, (shown right with Céline Villars-FOUBET, Owner, of Château Chasse-Spleen) so I asked Dan to pull this one too from the cellar this twelve year old vintage release to compare.

If you tend to procure wines based on vintage due to a particular anniversary or birthyear, or to fill out a vertical collection, 2011 was a challenging year in Napa and Bordeaux, this seems to be average from an average vintage, but decent value since the higher end labels were not markedly demonstrably better, this won't likely improve further with aging. 

This is a blend of 75 % cabernet sauvignon, 20 % merlot and 5 % cabernet franc.

This is one of our stalwart favorite go-to wines for Bordeaux, being more reasonably priced than the 'super second' more premium labels such as Pichon Lalande and Pichon Longueville, and Lynch Bages. This is one of my favorites of this tier of labels. It was fun to see David Launay move from St Julien favorite Gruaud Larose to this label a couple years ago, and seeing him in Chicago at the UGCB each year.

Garnet colored, medium bodied, good length, some leanness, classic Bordeaux style with flavours of dark berry fruits accented by notes of . cedar, leather and a touch anise and hint of mocha, nice balance of acidity with smooth polished tannins.

Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Rosalack Auslese 2015

Dan served this German Auslese with the desert course.

Schloss Johannisberg, from the German Rheingau wine region, is one of the most historic wine producers in Germany. They were the first German wine estate entirely planted with riesling, in 1720. Schloss Johannisberg tends to produce powerful and spicy wines relative to other Rheingau wines. Their wines exhibit minerality and elegance which are qualities of good quality Riesling. Schloss Johannisberg use large oak barrels for their wines, which contribute to the spiciness.

Schloss Johannisberg have 35 hectares (70 acres) of vineyards, just on the fiftieth parallel. Rosalack comes from the portion directly below the castle Schloss Johannisberg. They are one of a few historical German estates that have their own official vineyard designation, without village name. The vineyard designation is therefore simply Schloss Johannisberger.

This is a quality Auslese with nice acidity and good minerality with hints of botrytis, it is fresh and crisp rather than heavy as found in many sweet wines.

Straw colored, medium bodied, medium sweetness with high acidity, this is complex with fresh scents of peach, subtle notes of dried apricot, orange, botrytis and honey, finishing with citrus, green apple, honey and mineral.

Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaker's Release Late Harvest Chardonnay 2012

We toured the Russian River Valley in remote Sonoma County with Dan and Linda during our Sonoma Napa Wine Experience 2017 last year. 

Wine and Spirits writes of this release, "This takes the ripening potential of the Russian River Valley and runs with it, melding the coolness of the region’s fog with the sunny, floral notes of honeycomb. Its plump nectarine flavors gain complexity from touches of botrytis, which took off in the vineyard after several storms in late October and early November. Winemaker Mick Schroeter can’t recall another vintage with such a complete infection of botrytis. The result is a richly textured dessert wine, balanced to drink on its own." They rated this 91 points in 12/2013.

Light honey colored, full bodied, extracted apricot fruit flavor with  hints of lemon citrus accented by notes of honey, crème brûlée and vanilla bean on a smooth lingering finish.

RM 91 points.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

UGCB 2016 Release Tour Chicago

UGCB North American 2016 Vintage Release Tour Chicago

The UGC Bordeaux' (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour visited Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2016 vintage release wines. The Union is the association of 134 of the top premier estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations. This year's North American tour visited New York, Toronto, Chicago, LA and San Francisco.
As in previous years, our 'Pour Boys' wine group helped host the event in Chicago at the Drake Hotel in the elegant grand ballroom (shown below). We work with the Balzac team preparing the room, checking in trade registrants, and standing in for producers pouring their wines. As has happened several times in recent years, several producer's were delayed in travel and we were called in to service to pour wines, hence our moniker, 'Pour Boys'.

Close to a hundred producers were represented at the event that was attended by over five hundred members of the trade, media and industry.

This annual roadshow is a marathon trek across North America by the producers and their representatives offering wine professionals and eonphiles the chance to meet the Bordeaux principles, winemakers and commercial directors. 

As I've written in previous years, we appreciate the investment in time and effort expended by the producers and winemakers to visit Chicago. It provides a wonderful opportunity to meet them firsthand and discuss their perspectives on their brand, approach to crafting their style, their history, businesses, and their vintages including, of course, the current release.

Céline Villars-FOUBET, Owner, 

( Moulis-en-Médoc )
As a collector and holder of a significant collection of Bordeaux wines dating back four decades, I hold as many as a dozen vintages or more of some of these labels. Meeting the owners, family members, producer / winemaker / representative is a great privilege and offers a collector the chance to learn more about their investment and wines. As such, I tend to focus on and taste those wines that I know well and of which my wine buddies and I have holdings.

This was the ninth Bordeaux release event that I and my wine buddies assisted the team at Balzac Communications to work the event, helping with set up, logistics, and standing in to pour wine for any featured producers that were not able to attend in person. Earlier UGCB and related events are featured in earlier unwindwine blogposts

Again this year as in several earlier years, winter storms delayed or disrupted travel prohibiting some of the ambassadors to get to Chicago for the event, calling us to duty standing in, performing our duties as 'pour' boys.

This year's 2016 vintage was spectacular with several of the producer's having been awarded 100 points by the critics. I stood in for the Pauillac producers whose arrival was delayed by flight disruptions coming in from Toronto. It was a great honor to pour some of my absolute favorite wines: Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Longueville Baron, Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, Grand Puy Lacoste and Grand Puy Ducasse. I also served Chateau Les Ormes de Pez. 

The Pichon Lalande and Lynch Bages were spectacular, both standouts of the tasting. There were so many great wines in this vintage release. As is the case in a great vintage, all boats rise with the tide. Great wines are tremendous, but in a great vintage, the lesser second and even third labels are also wonderful. These often provide substantial QPR - quality price ratio, especially when the premier first labels often escalate in price due to demand for such a vintage. 

These vintages offer great opportunities for folks to stock their cellars in super wines at great values since they can fill in with the second and third labels at substantial discounts to the first premier flagship label of the brand.  

Coralie Bernard,
Domaine De Chevalier
The event is sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, (UGCB) under the leadership of President Olivier Bernard. It is hosted and orchestrated by Balzac Communications, boutique wine marketing and communications consultancy firm in Napa, under the leadership of Mike Wangbickler, President. Attending this year too was Paul Wagner, founder and President Emeritus of Balzac. Paul is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications and a leading member of the American Wine Society. It was great to see Paul enjoying his passion and remaining engaged whilst in retirement. 

The afternoon session is for the benefit of the press and trade and wine professionals. As is customary in Chicago, Binny's Beverage Depot, the wine superstore offers tickets to the evening session, open to their valued customers and the public. This year, over four hundred collectors and vinophiles registered for the event.

Scene's from this years' vintage release tasting.  

David Launay, Sales Director,
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse

Céline Villars-FOUBET, Owner, 
Céline Villars-FOUBET, Owner, 

( Moulis-en-Médoc )
Chateau Chasse-Spleen has been managed by women for the past thirty years: Jacques Merlaut’s daughter, Bernadette Villars, starting in 1976, followed by her daughter, Claire, beginning in 1992, and now her sister, Céline, shown above.

Fellow 'Pour Boy' Ernie Summers

Christine Lurton-de Caix, Marketing
Manager for Château La Louvière
( Pessac-Léognan )
The always dapper Count Stephan von Neipperg,
Château Canon-La-Gaffelière, sans his signature scarf.
Representing eight centuries of family winegrowing tradition, Count Stephan von Neipperg (above) has succeeded in promoting Château Canon-La-Gaffelière to Premier Grand Cru Classé de Saint-Émilion status.

Dany Rolland, wife of legendary winemaker Michel Rolland, co-founder of Rolland Collection family business, including Bordeaux laboratory specializing in wine analysis in the Right Bank town of Libourne.
Lise Latrille, Sales and Marketing Director,
  Château Prieuré-Lichine

 Ronan Laborde, Owner,

( Pomerol )
Loic Chanfreau, Chateau Fonreaud,
Sophie Solnicki-Thierry, Chateau Forcas-Hosten

Anne-Francoise Quié, family owner of
Châteaux Rauzan-Gassie
David Suire, Commercial Director
Rick serving Pichon Longueville Baron

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Italian Village Wine Dinner

Italian Village Wine Dinner Features Two Classic Aged Vintage Release Labels

For an important business dinner we dined at Italian Village in the Chicago City Centre, our go to venue for such occasions. We had a private dining alcove, ideally suited for our business dinner. Wine Director, Jared Gelband (right w/ colleague Jeff L, touring the wine cellar), served up a classic pair of aged wines that perfectly matched our dinner selections, a eighteen year old legendary Super Tuscan Guado al Tasso from a classic vintage, and a thirteen year old Sangiovese, Vigna di Pianrosso

Count on the deep deep broad wine list of over 1200 labels to offer such a selection. What a treat! Two aged bottles drinking at their apex and capable of aging for another decade, if they would last that long.

Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore 2000

This is one of my favorites, a classic premium label from a historic vintage. This was a memorable bottle ideally suited to our dinner entree selections, especially my Veal Marsala with its brown sauce and angel hair pasta.

While this is an Italian wine, its Super Tuscan blend is French Bordeaux varietals - 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and the remaining 10% Syrah with a mix of lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc and other red grape varieties.

Dark blackish garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm structure but elegant and nicely balanced;  forward blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by mocha, expresso, tobacco and spicy clove with tones of mineral on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points.

This got 93 points from Wine Spectator,
93 points from Stephen Tanzer.

Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona "Vigna di Pianrosso" Brunello di Montalcino 2004

We finished with Sangiovese to match our Italian entree selections. Once again, the depth of the IV cellar presented a fourteen year old vintage release.

Dark ruby colored, full bodied and structured yet approachable, intense forward black raspberry, black cherry and plum fruits, floral tones turning to earthy eather, dark spices, minerals turning to round smooth silky tannins on a long finish.

RM 92 points. 

The Pianrosso from proprietor Paolo Bianchini. Ciacci’s Pianrosso is an old-vines selection that spent 36 months in Slavonian oak.

92 points Wine Spectator
91 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

Monday, January 14, 2019

Quilt Napa Chardonnay 2016

Quilt Napa Valley Chardonnay 2016

I picked this up for a moderate priced, easy drinking, casual sipper. We opened it for holiday dinner and found it uninspiring and it was hardly touched ... set the remaining 2/3 bottle aside in the fridge for several days and pulled it out again and found it remarkably enjoyable. It's generally available at ~$30, relative to its 'published or release price of $35, it can be found in discounters for $27.

The Quilt label is named as the wine is "From A Patchwork of Prime Napa Valley Vineyards". This is a project of Joe Wagner, son of legendary Chuck Wagner of Caymus fame. Joe's signature is noted on the label. 

As mentioned above, it was much better the second time around for this bottle, reopening several days later, it was much more settled and enjoyable.

Quilt Napa Valley Chardonnay 2016

The Winemaker's Notes 

"A medium-bodied wine offering a complexity of flavors and a silky texture. Aromas of Fuji apple, buttery and toasty oak, honey dew melon and Meyer lemon are supported and lifted by flavors of apple tart, caramelized pineapple, buttered toast, salty popcorn, lemon curd and melon. The finish is long and satiny."

I found it light straw colored, medium bodied, with only slightly moderate complexity, but nicely textured, the initial notes of subdued melon, tart apple and buttery toasty oak gave way on the second tasting to a interesting, hedonistic predominant tone of subdued butterscotch, rather one-dimensional, but very appealing.

RM 89 points.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Cakebread Napa Valley Chardonnay for Raymes Seafood Dinner

Cakebread Napa Valley Chardonnay for Raymes Lisle Seafood dinner

Friday night out for a casual dinner we dined at Raymes Steak and Fish House in Lisle (IL), blocks from where I got off the train commuting home from the city. While Raymies is the primary fine dining restaurant in all of Lisle we have only dined there a few times in the decades we've lived in town.

Readers of these pages know we place a high emphasis on wine as part of our dining experience. Raymes have a minimalist, barely adequate wine list, and as such, we had not planned ahead so as to bring a bottle BYOB so we ordered from their winelist. Indeed, they promote themselves as 'Home of the King Sized Cocktail', and their logo even features a martini glass. So it shouldn't come a surprise that this is not a wine oriented restaurant. Hence, one of the reasons we don't frequent there. Based on this evening's experience, though, we will definitely return, presuming we can arrange BYOB to accompany the dinner.

Raymies Seafood Special - Grilled Sea Bass in lemon butter
This was our first time in the 'new' Raymes, totally rebuilt from the ground up on the location of the old restaurant on the site along the commuter rail blocks from downtown and the commuter station.

The new restaurant is open, airy and cosmopolitan in its black furniture contrasting the white tablecloths on the tightly packed grid of tables. When we arrived for early dinner at 530 we got the last window table and the dining room was wide open. By 700 the dining room was full at this point was lively and boisterous but not excessively noisy.

The American style menu has a great selection for our tastes; steaks, chops, ribs, meatloaf, pot roast and a great seafood selection with a half dozen entrees. Entrees come with potatoe or rice, soup or salad and a basket of fresh hot bread. The seafood special was Grilled Sea Bass served in basic lemon and butter. Other choices included Lump Crab Cakes, Sea Scallops, Grouper in crusted parmesan, and fresh water selections Blue Gill or Walleye.

We opted for the Grilled Sea Bass, Scallops, Crab Cakes and the Grouper. To accompany our entree selections we chose from the wine list the Cakebread Chardonnay which was an ideal compliment to the fresh seafood selections.

We tasted the Reserve version of  this wine during our private tasting at the Cakebread Cellars Estate during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018. This is a popular restaurant wine, quality, dependable, a well known brand that is widely available so as to be a safe and easy choice fpr consumers. For our taste and preference, it was the only premium selection on the wine list that offered only three wines at pricepoints of $30, $50 and the Cakebread at $75, winelist prices based on ~2 times retail.

Cakebread Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014

This is a French-inspired elegant wine with a bit more acid and mineral quality than the big fuller bodied oak infused buttery style commonly produced in California. Almost clear, light almond colored, medium bodied, crisp, clean, predominate lemon citrus tones laced with minerals and stone fruit.

RM 89 points. 

This is sourced from 91% Carneros district and 9% Napa Valley fruit. Grapes grown in the cool-climate Carneros district at the southern tip of the valley are subject to fog and cooling breezes from nearby San Pablo Bay. Hence, Carneros typically has a long growing season that ripens the fruit fully while retaining the bright acidity that gives Chardonnay freshness and vitality. Added to the Carneros fruit is grapes from warmer sites further up the valley that yield a bit riper, fuller chardonnay, the combination resulting in richer, more elegant and complex chardonnay, but not the fuller, highly oaked, big buttery fruit bombs that are predominantly Napa Valley fruit from the hotter upper reaches of the area.

Raymes Lump Crab Cakes and Asparagus

Raymes Sea Scallops Appetizer
Raymes, Lisle, IL - Lincoln Hwy (Rt 53) at Burlington

Friday, January 11, 2019

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Most visitors to Napa Valley have driven past the Whitehall Lane Winery on St Helena Highway in the Rutherford appellation just south of St Helena. The property has been owned and operated by Tom Leonardini and his family since they acquired Whitehall Lane Winery in March of 1993. Today the operations are managed by Tom, his wife and their five children.

We hold Whitehall Lane Napa Valley wines dating back to the turn of the century - Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Estate and Reserve. We too have passed by the Estate and Winery on St Helena Highway in Rutherford dozens of times during our trips to Napa Valley so this trip we decided to visit there during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018.

We tasted a flight of the Whitehall portfolio and acquired a selection of their current flagship Whitehall Lane Mancino Lanciatore Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 as well as
Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Syrah and their Petit Verdot from the 2014 vintage.

So when we went to the cellar to pull a Napa Cabernet to drink with a grilled steak dinner, I pulled this ten year old Whitehall Lane Napa Cab from the 2004 vintage.

The 2004 Napa Cabs were generally solid, dense, ripe Cabernets with plenty of power, richness, and longevity. It was an early harvest that was compact and proceeded at a rapid pace, with most growers finished by the end of September. Overall it was an excellent vintage that yielded superb, full-bodied, ripe, and powerful wines that were built to last.

The joy of a wine cellar is to drink wines over time and watch how they age and to enjoy them when they are seemingly at their peak. This label at ten years is probably at its apex, not likely to improve any further with aging, yet ageworthy to probably remain at this level for another five and perhaps ten years.

This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, nicely balanced, smooth and polished blackberry, currant and cherry fruits accented by notes of spicey oak turning to velvety tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

This got 91 points from Wine Enthusiast.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine 2016

Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine 2016

Following our visit to Long Shadows in Woodinville (Washington) during our Woodinville Wine Experience, last fall, having acquired, received and tasting several Long Shadows labels, I was surprised and delighted to see Long Shadows Nine Hats Red Wine in the local Malloys wineshop in Lisle (Illinois).

I've chronicled that visit and several of those tastings in these pages, the portfolio of signature wines, each produced by a legendary, notable winemakers. This label was here-to-fore undiscovered, and at a price point near $20, a fraction of the price of those wines. Hence, this is in a different class and category but I snatched up a bottle to try and compare in any event.

I thought this was an unspecified Red Blend, sourced from the Columbia Valley. Naturally, at a dramatically lower price point, this is an every day wine vs a once a week or once a month, or special occasion wine, depending on one's budget. According to Cellartracker holdings, this is the tenth vintage release for this wine, dating back to 2007.

On further review, the Nine Hats website showcases a portfolio of no less than eight different labels in this family of wines. 

Nine Hats Columbia Valley Red Wine 2016

My initial suspicion was that this was most likely produced from the fruit left over after careful selection for the premium labels, and as such, the blend would depend on the availability and quantity of the excess fruit. Hence, the terroir or source from the grapes and the composition of blend is subject to change from vintage to vintage.

On further investigation of the Nine Hats website, this is specified as a blend comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 25% Syrah - the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Benches Vineyard at Wallula in the Horse Heaven Hills appellation 'providing a sturdy backbone and long, pure finish'.

Never-the-less I found this naturally less refined, polished or balanced than those more premium labels.

Bright garnet colored, medium bodied, pronounced red berry and currant fruits with notes of cranberry, dusty rose, with hints of mocha, cedar and camphor. A bit flabby and obtuse, but with bright fruit sprites that begs for lively pizza, pasta, cheese or meats. A decent but not substantial value.

RM 85 points.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Force Majeure Collaboration Series Syrah and Mollydooker Carnival of Love

Force Majeure Collaboration Series Syrah and Mollydooker Carnival of Love

Sis Dr Pat visiting for the holiday, the kids and g-kids came over to visit with the cousins. We shared details and showed pictures of our recent trip to Walla Walla (Washington) wine country and our visit to Force Majeure Vineyards. So, we opened this Force Majeure Syrah to commemorate the trip, for sipping with cheese and fruit plates. Ryan brought over this Mollydooker Carnival of Love to go along.

After meeting Force Majeure winemaker Todd Alexander and marketing, distribution and branding exec Carrie Alexander during the Chicago stop of their promotion tour in 2016, we acquired a selection of Force Majeure Columbia Valley and Walla Walla wines. That set up our Walla Walla Wine Experience 2018 this fall to see the appellation and their vineyards and in-process new winery.

Force Majeure Collaboration Series VII Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2013

When we met with Todd and Carrie, they told us about the Red Mountain appellation, the smallest in Washington State, but perhaps one of the most select for Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. They also talked of their work in Walla Walla, developing Estate vineyards there, and building a new winery production and hospitality facility.

This vintage release predates Todd's arrival and work at Force Majeure, but it did introduce us to the appellation and terroir driven fruit from there.

This label was produced by Chris Peterson (of Avennia) and was the only vintage of this cuvee that was be made since they have since moved to all estate bottlings.

This 2013 release Collaboration Series VII was a blend of Red Mountain fruits, 96% Syrah, 2% Viognier and 2% Roussanne.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, concentrated and rich black berry and black cherry fruits accented by a layer of chalky minerality with notes of tobacco leaf, pepper, wild herbs, and hints of anise aromas and flavors with firm but approachable smooth tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points. Wine Advocate gave this wine 96 points.

Mollydooker "Carnival of Love" Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia 2012 

Ryan brought over this big full throttle Shiraz from Mollydooker. At eight years old, it provided an interesting comparison tasting of two diverse styles from two disparate regions of similarly aged Syrahs (Shiraz').  

This is deep purple-black in color, full bodied, powerful, rich, concentrated forward ripe black berry, black raspberry and blue berry fruits with a layer of creme de cassis, anise and dried herbs with notes of lavender and dark mocha with tongue coating firm, structured, lingering tannins on the very long finish.

This is 100% single vineyard sourced Shiraz.

RM 93 points, This got 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and from Wine Spectator, and was their #2 on the Top 100 Wines of 2014.