Sunday, February 24, 2019

OTBN 2019 - Open That Bottle Night

OTBN 2019 - Open That Bottle Night

The last Saturday night in February is the night set aside for OTBN - Open That Bottle Night.

This marks the 20th Anniversary of the annual wine event that started at the Milenium. The event was invented by Wall Street Journal “Tastings” columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher.

Open That Bottle Night has become a world-wide celebration for wine lovers and regular  friends and family to share memories and use the occasion to finally drink that bottle of wine that has been set aside for an occasion that has not come, that was otherwise simply too special to open. So, on this special night set aside for such an occasion, pull and pop that bottle lest it ages beyond suitability.

As is customary, we hosted the gala OTBN with our Pour Boys wine group. Bill and Beth returned from South Carolina for the occasion, Terry and Lyle and friend John, Dr Dan and Linda, Linda and I, and we were joined by son Ryan, and Pat and Rodger, visiting from Indy.

As is custom, Linda prepared her classic beef tenderloin accompanied by haricot verts, scalloped potatoes, grilled carrots and brussel sprouts.

Prior to dinner we served shrimp cocktail, and a broad selection of artisan cheeses shown left, sans John's legendary 21 year old vintage sharp cheddar which had not yet arrived when this early evening photo was taken.

After dinner deserts consisted of Linda's chocolate cake, Dan's chocolate cake, and Terry's legendary orange cake.

Our wine flight selection started with vintage Champagne, a selection of whites and a broad selection of red wines - Sonoma Carignane, a selection of Napa Cabernets, Bordeaux, and a vintage port for the desert course.

We followed our usual Pour Boys wine flight ritual of tasting the various wines and setting the tasting order of the flight from lighter to heavier.

Much of the fun is the ceremonial opening and  tasting of the wines to determine the appropriate tasting order for the evening, aligned to the comparative courses and accompaniments.

The flight is listed below in tasting order.

The wines:

Billecort Salmon Champagne 2002
Porter Creek Chardonnay
Porter Creek Carignane
True Myth Paso Robles Cabernet 
Smith Haut Lafite 2003
Rubissow-Sargent Les Trompettes 1999
Arns Napa Valley Cabernet 2000
Arns Napa Valley Cabernet 2001
Troplong Mondot Grand Cru Classe St Emilion 2011
Cos d'Estournel St Estephe 2000
Freemark Abbey Josephine 2009
Fonseco Vintage Port 1992

The evening started with this vintage champagne that John procured for the occasion.

Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart" NFB Brut Champagne 2002

This is a classic selection considered one of the greatest wines of a great vintage. It was awarded 98 points by Decanter magazine and James Suckling, 96 points from Wine Enthusiast, and 95 points by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

This is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir (from premier and grand crus of the Montagne de Reims and the Grande Vallée de la Marne) and 40% Chardonnay (from the Côte des Blancs), with 20% vinified in oak barrels.

I'll be the first to admit, as primarily a red wine drinker, I do not have the discriminating palate for white wines or white sparkling wines. Hence, I defer to the accolades of the pundits which for this wine were notable:

"A very composed Champagne with plenty of still fresh lemon and white cherry fruits on offer. There's impressive clarity, power and richness here. The nose has candied peach, strawberry, white cherry and grilled nuts. Very flavorsome palate with pastry flavors adding savory notes to the stone fruits and citrus. Still so young and powerful!" James Suckling

"With its ripe fruits, rich texture and layers of toast, this is a great wine. It shows the quality of the great 2002 vintage brilliantly. It’s complex and concentrated with an array of mature fruit flavors that combine to a structured whole." Wine Enthusiast

""Billecart-Salmon's recent release of the 2002 Millésime Brut Cuvée Nicolas François is an amazing wine for lovers of matured, pure and spicy Champagnes. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

It opens with a deep, rich, intense, pure and chalky bouquet with ripe, yellow-fleshed stone fruits, citrus fruits and beautiful bottle maturity.  Wine Spectator

The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart comes across as rich, powerful and opulent. This is a distinctly vinous, almost shockingly raw, visceral Champagne from Billecart-Salmon. There is no shortage of volume or intensity, that is for sure. Wine & Spirits 
The 2002 Cuvée Nicolas-François ... looks likely to be one of the top recent vintages of this bottling. The wine offers up scents of green apple, quince, stony minerality, fresh pineapple, a touch of nutmeg and bread dough ...deep, full-bodied, crisp and quite tightly-knit, with a good core of fruit, fine mousse and very good grip on the focused and long finish.

Dan and Linda brought a Porter Creek Carignane which we all discovered and acquired during our visit there when we stopped into Porter Creek vineyards and winery during our tour of the backroads of the Russian River Valley back in 2017. Ironically, the tasting room wine director was from our native alma mater city Bloomington, Indiana, so it was fitting opening for us and visiting Hoosiers Pat and Rodger.
Porter Creek "Old Vine" Mendocino County Carignane  2015 

This is from Alex Davis, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager, Business manager, Owner and reluctant “boss” at Porter Creek Vineyards. He started his wine career at Sonoma Cutrer where he met Monsieur Feuillat, director of the Oenologie program at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon France. Monsieur Feuillat connected Alex with Christophe Roumier, considered one of the greatest winemakers in Burgundy. Alex studied and worked there learning from the master.

At the Université de Bourgogne, Alex studied Viticulture and Enology and worked the harvest in Burgundy working the Chardonnay with the Michelot-Mestre families in Meursault.

In Dijon, Alex met Philippe Guigal from the northern Rhone Valley, and worked a harvest season with his family at Domain E. Guigal as their first foreign intern.

In France Alex learned the craft working with Burgundian and Rhone varietals. Carignane is a red varietal from the Rhone Valley that was widely planted in California during the late 1800’s though the mid- 1900’s, mostly by Italian immigrants. Some of those old vineyards are still producing including the source for this label from a vineyard up in Mendocino County planted in 1939, hence the "Old Vine" designation on the label.

Garnet colored, medium bodied, fruits of black cherry black currants and plums with hints of spice, pepper, tree bark and smoke.

To augment our Porter Creek tasting I pulled their Chardonnay that we also acquired during that visit.

True Myth Paso Robles Cabernet 2016

Pat Rodger brought this bottle which was the feature wine at the regular eatery from their recent trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Garnet colored, medium bodied, black and blue berry fruits, notes of mocha, expresso and hint of graphite and smoke on the bright lively acidic finish.

Jeb Dunnuck's review of this wine: "The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was brought up in a mix of French and American oak and is 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 3% of Petite Sirah and Malbec, and 1% Petite Verdot. It sports a ruby color as well as notes of currants, spice-box and cedar, medium-bodied richness, polished tannin and solid balance/elegance. Drink it over the coming 3-5 years. ("

Chateau Smith Haut Lafite Pessac-Leognan 2003

Lyle brought this from his cellar.  This received 93 points from James Suckling, 92 points Wine Spectator, 91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Stephen Tanzer. 

This is another wine of which we hold numerous vintages of along with fellow Pessac Leognan Domain Chevalier and that we've tasted at several of the UGCB events.

Garnet colored, medium full bodied, blackberry and plum fruits with notes of tobacco, earth spice and cassis.

This was more balanced and flavorful than my earlier tasting notes for this label back in 2013 when this was ten years old and I wrote;

"Full bodied, dark garnet colored, this was full bodied, a bit tight and firm with black berry and black currant fruits, lead pencil, licorice, cigar box, herbs and cedar. This comes across with a bit of a woody almost slight green grassy taste that I can't get over. This was consistent with other tastings and other vintages of this wine. My experience isn't consistent with other's tastings and ratings." RM 89 points.

Rubissow-Sargent Napa Valley Mt Veeder Les Trompettes 1999

We tasted and acquired vintages of this wine with Bill and Beth during our Mt Veeder Napa Valley Wine Experience visit to the estate and winery high atop Mt Veeder back in 2011. We were hosted by and had the pleasure to meet founder and proprietor George Rubissow. This label dates back to the early days and the partnership between George and winemaker Tony Sargent. The fruit was grown on the estate high atop Mt Veeder in southwest Napa Valley and the wine was produced at the winery down in Berkeley.

Bill brought this vintage label from his cellar. At eighteen years old, this was drinking well and showing no diminution from age, albeit not likely to improve with any further aging.

This is a blend of 65% Cabernet Franc, and 35% Merlot.

Winemaker Notes for this wine: "A Proprietary Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Very limited production. The name Trompettes refers to the 2 trumpets on our label which are heralds of excellence representing the partnership of our two families, the Rubissows & the Sargents. The figure’s knees evoke Mt. Veeder’s two peaks. The contoured lines suggest the rows of steep vineyard whichblanket the mountain.'

"This is an extraordinary vintage of Trompettes. The 99 shows layer upon layer of black cherry,chocolate, mint and spice flavors. The nose displays the consistent Trompettes complex aromas of ripe plum, bay, briar and earth, Smooth tannins and bright acidity provide the framework for the exceptionally long finish.'

"In 1999 we harvested most all the Cabernet Franc and Merlot vineyards in the middle of the night! The goal was to deliver night-cooled fruit to the winery for early morning crushing, thus avoiding ‘cooking’ the grapes in the baking-hot Napa Valley sun."

Arns Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 and 2001

Ryan came by and brought this Arns 2000, so I pulled a 2001 vintage release as a mini-vertical comparison tasting.

Very fitting for tasting since Bill and Beth were with us when we visited the Arn's estate during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2013

Arns is a very small family-run winery just outside of St. Helena. They specialize in high-quality, estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon. Sandi Belcher and John Arns have been making wine in the Napa Valley for over 25 years.

Rodger and Ryan
From the winery: "Arns Winery is located on the hillside east of the historic City of St. Helena, California, in the heart of the Napa Valley.

The 160-acre parcel sits at an elevation of 800 feet above the valley floor and below the Howell Mountain Appellation. The soil for the ten acre all-Cabernet vineyard is red aiken loam, which was planted in the mid-to-late 1960s. 
Arn's wines represent selections from ten different blocks, with clones from Bordeaux and the Napa Valley. The vines consist of up to 2,900 plants/acre trained in a vertical shoot positioning."
Tannins softer than I anticipated; medium in body, but with finesse like a Julia Roberts, not to old, not too young, just a touch of attitude and refined. Not real big on the fruit either. balanced.

92 points Wine Enthusiast 
Incredibly aromatic and redolent of black cherry, black currant, plum, chocolate, coffee, spice, vanilla, toast, herb and anise. Rich, lush, long and elegant on the palate with corresponding flavors that don’t disappoint. A full-bodied expression of great Cabernet.  (11/2003)


Château Troplong Mondot 2011

Dan brought this right bank Bordeaux that we tasted during the producer's release unveiling at the UGC Bordeaux US Release Tasting Events in Chicago. Robert Parker cited this as one of the "superstars of the vintage". This is a blend was 89% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc.

This received 95 points from  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 94 points Jeb Dunnuck, 93 points James Suckling and Wine Enthusiast, and 92 points from Wine Spectator.

This was opaque blue/purple, nearly black color, medium full bodied and featured black raspberries, blackberries accented by note of licorice, camphor, what Parker and Jeff Dannuck call 'forest floor' and hints of leather, tobacco leaf and touch of peppar.

Cos d'Estournel St Estephe 2000 

John brought this notable producer, Cos d'Estournel Left Bank Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, from the classic 2000 vintage.

This was rated 96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 93 points James Suckling and 92 points by Wine Spectator.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied with ripe tannins, this had firm but approachable structure with dense black berry fruits, notes of graphite, expresso, leather, tobacco leaf and hints of dark mocha with a supple finish.

RM 92 points.

Josephine Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Red Wine 2009

Bill brought this classic Jospehine, the flagship of the legendary Freemark Abbey portfolio.

We've had much fun tasting Freemark Abbey cabernets spanning the last three decades together, culminating in our visit to the library cellar at the historic Estate with Wine Director Barry Dodds during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2009 (shown right).

This is the signature Freemark Abbey wine, named for Josephine Tychson the founder and matriarch who built and operated the original cellar on the estate back in 1886. She cultivated the land and became the first female winemaker on record in Napa Valley. She sold the property to Antonio Forni who constructed the historic winery in 1887 using stones from nearby Glass Mountain. That winery is the one that still stands to this day at the site on Highway 29 just north of the town of St Helena on the route to Calistoga.

Josephine is blended from the most select grapes from the range of Freemark Abbey vineyard sites - the Ahern Vineyard, Van Z Vineyard and Estate Freemark Abbey Vineyards in St. Helena, and the York Creek and Yverdon Vineyards from nearby Spring Mountain.

Bill's tasting notes for this evening: "Deep garnet color in the glass. Full of bright cherry, raspberry and a hint of cola on the palate. Full bodied with a medium finish. We struggled to sequence this in an OTBN lineup consisting of a couple of Napa cabernets and several classified Bordeaux. We ended up positioning this just before a 2000 Cos d’Estournel at the end of the lineup. Despite the length of the drinking window on Josephine, I think this is better when consumed earlier."

He gave it 92 points. 

Fonseco Vintage Port 1992

We finished the evening with this classic vintage port that Lyle brought from his cellar, which has become somewhat of the custom of our OTBN events when he brings a such a wine.

This selection from this classic vintage was rated 97 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. It got 94 points from Wine Spectator.

Dark inky black/purple in color, full bodied, rich, thick, unctuously-textured, concentrated jammy black fruits with earthy fig notes and tones of licorice, chocolate, and spices.

RM 92 points. 

Other celebrations ...

Pour Boys OTBN 2019 - Open That Bottle Night

Pour Boys OTBN 2018 - Open That Bottle Night

Pour Boys OTBN 2016 - Open That Bottle Night 

Pour Boys OTBN 2015 - Open That Bottle NightBordeaux Anchors OTBN 2015

Pour Boys OTBN 2013 - Open That Bottle Night 2013

Pour Boys OTBN 2012 - Open That Bottle Night

Also see our feature from  ...

Pour Boys OTBN 2011 - Open That Bottle Night.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Lewis Cellars "Alec's Blend" Napa Valley Red Blend 2001

Lewis Cellars "Alec's Blend" Napa Valley Red Blend 2001

Celebrating a career impacting event for son Alec, we pulled this vintage release of  'Alec's Blend' to celebrate, albeit virtually, remotely from Alec in NYC.

Our visit to Lewis Cellars was one of the most anticipated wine producer visit tastings at our  Pour Boys 2017 Napa Wine Experience . As I've often written in these pages about the fun we have with this branding, with its signature 'L' on the label, ala Laverne and Shirley, or wife Linda, or her mother Lucy, or our daughter Erin Leigh, or her daughter, our first grandchild/daughter Lucy! That coupled with the Hoosier heritage of Randy Lewis, Indy 500 race driver from our native Indiana, and, their affinity to family, naming labels after their grandkids - Alec, Ethan and Mason,  we adopted Alec's Blend as a signature label for son Alec and feature it at family celebrations.

As I have written in these pages, Lewis wines are family favorites for such special occasions, punctuated by this namesake Blend for son Alec. This blend is dedicated to Randy and Debbie Lewis' first grandson, Alec, who was born on the day of the harvest of the grapes for this wine leading to the name. I learned at our tasting that this is the inaugural vintage of this label/blend of which we still hold two bottles, and every

Lewis Cellars "Alec's Blend" Napa Valley Red Blend 2001

8/6/2005 - I wrote: 92 Points

Full firm rich berry, currant, raspberry and sweet milk chocolate on a long smooth fruit-filled finish.

Its hard to believe its been over a dozen years since we last tasted this vintage of this label. Alas, we hold vintages of this label dating back to 1999.

The 2001 is 60% Syrah and 40% Merlot. Its big rich and complex loaded with black and blue berry fruits that are taking on more of a raisin metallic layer accented by lavender, as it ages and approaches the end of its prime drinking window.

Earlier accents of mocha, sweet oak and vanilla and spice are giving way to the tones of super ripe aged fruits, earth and leather. The blue fruits are becoming extraordinarily predominant.

Earlier tasting notes of this label:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Hall Estate Napa Cab 2006

Hall Estate Napa Cab 2006

We hosted our small group for a fellowship dinner and Linda prepared lasagna and beef tenderloin. For a follow on meal with the leftovers, I pulled this Hall Estate Napa Cab 2006. This was a good comparison against several recent vintage Napa Cabs of the past week. Also, this the anniversary year of daughter Erin and Johnnie, for which I've pulled a 2006 Napa Cab to celebrate their anniversary year dinner.

The Hall Estate at Rutherford tasting experience has been a highlight of several of our Napa Wine experience over the past several years. We hold a dozen vintages of this label as well as several labels of the Hall portfolio which has grown substantially in recent years. This is the standard Estate label of the Hall line.

Hall Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Consistent with earlier tasting notes when I wrote, "Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, a symphony of flavors accented by bold expressive black berry and black raspberry fruits with highlights of anise and mocha with tones of cedar, sweet toasty oak and clove spice and hints of earthy leather turning to a smooth polished lingering finish."

After being opened a day, this is predominant anise licorice and smoke on the black berry fruit with hints of cedar and clove spice on the finish.

RM 92 points.

Vie Culinary Wine Pairing Dinner

Vie Culinary Wine Pairing Dinner

We dined at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs to celebrate several birthdays, most notably, Sean and Michelle's, and post Erin's from two weeks earlier and Linda's coming up a week later. Vie were featuring their Chicago Restaurant Week Special dinner with wine pairing. This is the second time in recent years we've dined at Vie for such an occasion that occurred during their restaurant week special.

We love Vie's cozy atmosphere with its' chic, stylish, cosmopolitan, contemporary setting. There are  tables and settee's around a fireplace, dining settings surrounding the bar, progressing further inward to several interior dining areas and rooms, each artfully decorated with stylish wall coverings or black and white framed photographs.

Vie normally offers a five-course and an eight-course chef's tasting menu, each available with optional wine pairings. Tonight, they offered a limited selection that regrettably failed to showcase their culinary capabilities.

The last time we dined there, it was also during the Restaurant Week special feature with the same result. That night, they featured two of the four courses with the same profile of a heavy emphasis on smoked pork.

This night the limited menu selection featured some strange flavor pairings where the quest for elegance or imagination seemed to miss the mark and resulted in dishes that were lackluster and uninspiring.

My first course was crunchy rice 'tahdig',  braised chicken leg and smoked chicken breast, saffron, roasted turnips, and pickled baby summer squash. As with our previous experience, smoke was the featured and most predominant flavor. The 'tahdig' was crunchy but flavorless, an uninspiring start to our dinner flight.

The course was appropriately paired with 2015 Johann Geil Bechtheimer Heilig-Kreuz Scheurebe Rheinhessen Kabinett.

The highlight of my course selection was the roasted carrot soup with the cherry bomb pepper and caramel, an explosion of a trio of competing flavors, accented by textures of spiced pumpkin seeds which was a bit annoying.

This was an interesting combination of dueling contrasting flavors - the sweet caramel and the spicy cherry bomb pepper. To my taste, the pumpkin seeds pushed it over the top.

The wine pairing for this course was a 2015 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Parallèle “45” from the Rhone River Valley in the south center of France

Once again, as with our earlier visit, pork loin was the feature, this time complemented with cannellini beans and slow cooked greens. The highlight of the course was an andouille sausage which actually outshone the pork in flavor and pairings. There was also listed a blueberry aigre doux pork sauce which might have been a savior but I don't recall it being apparent or having an impact.

This course was paired with 2015 Montinore Estate Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley, a thoughtful and appropriate pairing selection.

Apparently, it is hard to showcase their culinary artwork at a reduced price point that is the Restaurant Week feature. This is unfortunate because we love the atmosphere and independent upscale fine dining experience with the talent and professionalism that Vie offers, that is so needed in the near west suburbs.

The dessert course was a lemon creme donut. Really? A donut? Yes, but, the saving grace was the accent of gedeo coffee ice cream and milk chocolate gianduja ...

The highlight of the course was the thoughtful wine selection to accompany the course - 2017 Maculan Moscato Dindarello Passito from Italy.

Its easy to select wines to pair with food when you have a budget to choose $50 wines. Its a challenge to select and offer appropriate wine pairings when you're offering sub twenty dollar wines. Vie did a commendable job offering interesting and acceptable wines to pair with each course.

The wine pairings for the dinner were:

2015 Johann Geil Bechtheimer Heilig-Kreuz Scheurebe Rheinhessen Kabinett 
2015 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Parallèle “45”
2015 Montinore Estate Willamette Pinot Noir 
2017 Maculan Moscato Dindarello Passito Italy