Friday, May 31, 2019

Double Diamond (Schrader) Cabernet Sauvignon Mayacamas Range 2003

Double Diamond (Schrader) Cabernet Sauvignon Mayacamas Range 2003

In the tradition of the benchmark Schrader Cellars Cabernets, Double Diamond is the 'second label' produced in the Schrader tradition of excellence with a more affordable offering targeted at a broader audience of wine lovers. The first Double Diamond label release was in 2001. Subsequent releases were sourced from this Mayacamas Range estate vineyard in Sonoma, the Amber Knolls Vineyard in Red Hills across the Vaca range to the northeast if Napa Valley in Lake County, and estate vineyards in Oakville in central Napa Valley. As of 2016, the label is planned to be sourced solely from the Oakville Napa site. 

We hold a half dozen vintages of the range of Double Diamond labels. They provide good QPR (quality price ratio) quality Cabernet Sauvignon from a notable producer at a fraction of the price of their flagship brand.

Like the flagship Shrader brand, Double Diamond is also crafted by acclaimed winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown and his team, using the finest techniques and natural resources available. The producer site says of the label: "It provides character-driven expression of America’s premier wine region in the tradition of earning critical acclaim and attracting passionate fans that Fred Shrader has established since 1998 with Schrader Cellars."

Garnet ruby colored, medium full bodied, black berry, black cherry and tangy plum fruits with notes of clove, mocha, smoke, game and baking spices turning to a layer of oak on the dry tannin finish. 

RM 89 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Indy Race Car Driver Wines for Raceday

Indy Race Car Driver Wines for Raceday Barbeque Dinner

The Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, I consider it one of the special highlights of the Memorial Day weekend festivities and family activities. Son Ryan hosted a family barbecue featuring beef brisket he smoked over night. I brought two special wines, each produced by a former Indy Race driver - Mario Andretti and Randy Lewis, for the occasion, for watching the race.

We also celebrated my birthday after the fact and I was honored with a cake from all the grandkids!

We've long been fans of Lewis Cellars wines for numerous reasons, the eponymous 'L' label, reminiscent of the 'L' of Laverne and Shirley days, and L for wife Linda, and our two Lucy's, Granddaughter and her namesake Great-Grandmother. And, of course, the series of Lewis Cellars wines named for their grandchildren, and Alec's Blend being the namesake for our son Alec and Lewis's first grandson. For the occasion I brought a Lewis Cellars Ethan's Shiraz (Syrah) 2012.

Today, Mario Andretti was honored by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and his grandson ran in the race. We visited Andretti Cellars in Napa last summer and have since collected select Andretti premium wines, the Montona Series brand named for his birthplace city in Italy. I brought an Andretti Montona Reserve Gran Vino Cabernet Sauvignon. We discovered and acquired this wine during our visit to the Andretti Winery Estate during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018.

Prior to dinner, Ryan opened a Stonestreet Bear Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2012.

Ryan's spent 10 hours smoking the beef brisket on his smoker grill and it was extraordinary, undoubtedly the most succulent tasting beef I've ever encountered. It was perfectly matched with the big bold forward concentrated Lewis Syrah, and only slightly overmatched for the Andretti Cabernet.

Ryan's smoked beef brisket

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah 2012

This is our favorite profile for a Syrah. (Wife) Linda loves this style of big rich chewy black and blue berry fruits.

Lewis Cellars was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2017.

From the winery: " Like a switch hitter, this wine shows Rhone character both North and South. Ripe plum, violet nectar and vanilla, plus pencil lead, loam and crushed flowers. Pure fruit on entry is lithe and athletic picking up power and lean muscle that plays seamlessly to a long clean finish." 

Dark inky purple, full bodied, rich, concentrated thick chewy tongue coasting black and ripe blue berry fruits with layers of accent tones - licorice, brown spice and graphite.

RM 93 points.

Dark garnet purple colored - full bodied - rich moderately concentrated and nicely balanced and polished black and blue fruits are accented by a layer of mocha chocolate and hint of vanilla offset by a somewhat hard tinnish graphite edge that detracts from the firm full finish.

Andretti Cellars Montona Gran Vino Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

We tasted and acquired this wine during our visit to Andretti Cellars Estate in Napa Valley during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2018. Gran Vino is the ultra-premium flagship of the brand being their top of the line Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Named in honor of Mario Andretti’s childhood home of Montona, Italy, the premium Montona Reserve Series wines are crafted exclusively from estate-grown grapes and other stellar vineyards within the famed Napa Valley. Each vintage, Andretti Winemaker Bob Pepi takes the finest hand-selected fruit to create wines for this acclaimed series of labels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and a fabulous Super Tuscan. Produced in very limited quantities, these high demand allocated wines are made available only directly from the producer, first to Andretti Winery Wine Club Members and exclusively through the Napa Valley winery and website. We procure our allocation through our membership in the Wine Club.

The 2014 Gran Vino was dark garnet colored, flavorful, boldly structured, black cherry, dark plum, notes of clove, hints of cedar and black pepper, moderate approachable tannins and hearty oak on the finish. 

RM 90 points.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Domaine Serene Grand Cheval Red Blend 2015

Domaine Serene Grand Cheval Red Blend 2015

During our getaway weekend to Charleston Seabrooke Island visiting friends and fellow 'Pour Boy' Bill and Beth, we dined on the Kiawah Island village green for their Friday night summer concert series. We had an ideally sited table at the 48 Wine Bar which offers a superb selection of fine wines by the pour or by the bottle.

48 Wine Bar on Kiawah Island and 64 Wine Bar here in our hometown Naperville, are of the same owners. Both offer a wide selection of wines from the old and new world - California, Washington, and Oregon, Australia,  Argentina and Italy. They provide the opportunity to taste the wines from the serving stations, or by the bottle, with a selection of wine appropriate foods - starters, salads, sandwiches, select entrees, a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, and desserts - in a casual, trendy wine-food setting. 

From the selection, we were tempted with several selections for our favorites, Alpha Omega, Lewis Cellars, Cade, Cakebread, Caymus, Duckhorn, Mondavi, Odette - numerous ultra premium selections from Bond, Opus and Chateau Margaux, and numerous imaginative offerings for experimentation and discovery. 

We opted for a discovery wine - a new as yet unknown label, from a known trusted favorite producer. We selected this Grand Cheval Red Blend from well known Domain Serene, who are mostly known for their Willamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Noirs. 

Grand Cheval is a signature wine dedicated to Founder Jim Evenstad's grandfather, Carl Michelson, a Norwegian immigrant, and named for his legendary grand work horse that he used to work the fields and pull the sleigh to make his livelihood on the family farm back in Northern Minnesota. 

Grand Cheval is a Red Blend, sourced from select fruit from the Domaine Serene premiere Dundee Hills vineyard and various Oregon Walla Walla Valley Vineyard sites. We visited the Walla Walla appellation last fall and gained great appreciation for their wines. 

As I have written in these pages, the Walla Walla AVA is America's newest and 'most distinct' appellation. Also, it traverses the Oregon and Washington State border, the only American AVA to span two states. 

Notably, the grapes selected for Grand Cheval are sourced from Oregon Walla Walla vineyards. The label is based on some component of Syrah and Pinot Noir varietal grapes. 

Domaine Serene Grand Cheval Oregon Proprietary Red Blend 2015

'Grand Cheval' is a unique proprietary blend of Syrah and Pinot Noir, which is sourced from the Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla, as well as vineyards in the Dundee Hills. Pinot Noir is not generally considered a grape blending but the balance seems to work as neither grape dominates or overpowers the other. 

Garnet colored, full bodied, complex, concentrated expressive black fruits of black berry, black cherries and plums with notes of cassis, coffee and a touch of charred wood and black tea, a bit of heat on the firm tannin laced finish.

RM 92 points.

Cliff Lede Landslide Fire Red Wine 2010

Cliff Lede Landslide Fire Red Wine 2010

During our getaway weekend in Charleston visiting Bill and Beth, Bill pulled from his wine cooler this limited release Cliff Lede Landslide Fire. This is a release from Cliff Lede that showcases the best of vineyard blocks that are named for classic Rock and Roll songs. The Cliff Lede Estate and these vineyards are in the Stag's Leap District appellation of south eastern Napa Valley.
Cliff Lede Stag's Leap District Estate and Vineyards
Cliff Lede is one of our favorite producers and we have extensive holding of his wines going back to his earliest releases going on two decades ago. We have visited the estate with Bill and Beth several times including this private tasting - Cliff Lede Stag's Leap District Vineyard & Winery Visit - Autumn '2009.

The majority of this fruit was sourced from two distinctive blocks named after the rock songs “Landslide” and “Light My Fire,” located on the estate Twin Peaks Vineyard. The gravelly loam in “Light My Fire” produces opulent Cabernet with ripe, dark fruit and plush tannins. The hillside, terraced vines of Malbec in “Landslide” offer an intense aromatic lift to the blend.

The wine underwent twenty-one months of elevage in 100% new French oak. The final blend is composed of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec.

Winemaker notes: "This rocking quartet of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec greets the senses with an aromatic prelude of blackberry, blueberry, and violet. The inky dark color of this ripe, voluptuous medley segues into a concentrated palate of cassis and cacao nibs, with harmonious notes of black licorice. The gravelly minerality of the Twin Peaks Vineyard is a finale that begs for an encore."

Bill's notes for this wine: "Medium ruby color. Bright, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, chocolate with a hint of licorice on the palate Full bodied with a long finish. Delicious on its own but would be nicely augmented by chocolate, cheese, pate, all the basic food groups."

WCC 90 points. 

I believe Bill underscored this wine with his 90 points (although its all in the eyes of the beholder and there are no right or wrong answers). I thought this wine was delicious, elegant, smooth, polished and complex - a symphony (pun intended) of nicely balanced and integrated flavors of black raspberry and blackberry fruits highlighted by notes of floral, mocha and hints of anise with a long supple smooth silky tannin finish.

RM 94 points.

Notably, Robert Parker gave this 95 points and Stephen Tanzer gave it 93 points. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

During our getaway weekend visiting friends and fellow 'Pour Boy' Bill, and Beth, we had an extraordinary wine dinner with several select wines. Prior to dinner, Bill also served this Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon.

We have visited the Robert Craig estate winery high atop Howell Mountain on several occasions with Beth and Bill including the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 back in 2009, when we first tasted some of the 2007 vintage release labels from barrel. Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernets, which are instantiated in at least six different labels including this vineyard designated select Mt Veeder, are one of the largest producer holdings in our cellar collection.

The previous time Bill and I shared this wine together, on his visit to our place, it was poignant tasting and reminiscing over this wine. We recalled tasting this wine with Robert Craig on numerous occasions and he recollecting this is his favorite of the vineyard selections. We talked of the recent end of the supplier relationship for this fruit source as the legendary Pym Rae Vineyard, previously owned by the late Robin Williams, was sold to a major French producer who acquired the sixteen hundred acre estate and plan to enter the Napa Valley marketplace. We recall Robert's reminiscences of Robin for whom he worked and managed the vineyards back in the nineties.

Rick, Linda and Robert Craig
Beth, Robert Craig and Bill

Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Bill's Cellartracker notes on this tasting:

"Big full bodied Mt Veeder. Medium garnet in color. Nose musty upon opening but reveals pencil shavings with some light floral notes. Dark cherry, raspberry, mocha and a hint of mint on the finish. Bigger and bolder than most Mt. Veeder. Medium bodied with a long, lingering finish."

WCC 90 points.

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Duo

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Duo highlight grilled beefsteak dinner

Getaway weekend in Charleston to visit dear friends and fellow 'Pour Boy' Bill and Beth on Seabrook Island, SC, I took a twenty year old Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow and Bill pulled a ten year old to share and compare with grilled beefsteak dinner.

What an interesting comparison of an iconic classic vineyard designated wine that is the epitome of terroir. Terroir refers to the elements of 'place', all the characteristics of a vineyard site that manifest in the wine - soil, elevation, drainage, sun exposure, proximity to climate impacting bodies of water ocean, bay or river valley, climate and micro-climate. 

Diamond Creek Vineyards is known for its vineyard designated select wines from the four legendary vineyards on the property that each have a distinctive terroir character and profile due to their individual geology on the opposing sides of the Creek and the valley. Each of the four vineyards are featured on their own Vineyard designated labels that describe the contributing geology to their distinctive component of terroir - Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, Lake Vineyard, and this label, Gravelly Meadow.

Legendary vineyards of Diamond Creek

Diamond Creek Vineyards - Rick, Dan, Bill in 2017

Diamond Creek Vineyards straddle the Diamond Creek near the bottom of Diamond Mountain, at the north end of the Mayacamas Range above the town of Calistoga, in the northwest corner of Napa Valley. All the Diamond Creek Vineyards wines are Cabernet Sauvignon.

We visited Diamond Creek Estate for a culinary tasting experience back in 2011, and then in 2017 for their release party for the 2015 vintage release open house in 2017.

Bill and Beth, Jan and Bill, Linda and I with Boots Brownstein,
Diamond Creek Owner, Proprietor, in 2011
Tonight's comparison tasting showcased the difference in age and its effect on the wine, in combination with the variations of two contrasting vintages, a ten year old from 2009 vs. a twenty year old from 1999. Vintage variations are mostly characterized by seasonal temperatures, the length of the growing season, and the amount and timing of rainfall.

The 2009 growing season was ideal in Napa Valley providing winemakers lush, beautiful grapes for great wine. Late spring rains delayed irrigation needs and the warm spell in June helped curtail excessive canopy development. There were nearly only four or five 100+ degree days, compared to fourteen in a typical growing season, thus helping to reduce demand for water when the resource was relatively scarce.

Rainfall was little more than two-thirds of normal but the timing of the precipitation was ideal for the vines. There was lack of frost and a mild, relatively cool growing season, resulting in the best scenario possible for the vines and optimal grape production.

In 1999 the long, cool spring gave way to a mild summer with only one heat spike recorded in the first part of July, the vintage ripened under conditions that allowed a long hang-time that resulted in fruit of concentrated varietal flavors with a strong backbone of acid. 

Diamond Creek Vineyards Gravelly Meadow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

My Cellartracker records indicate we hold ten vintages of this label going back to the 1983 vintage. We're holding this wine for our kids' birth years 1990, 1985, and daughter-in-law's 1983. We consider this a 'special occasion' wine. It's a special treat to compare multiple vintages.

At twenty years of age this wine is likely at the apex of its drinking window, certainly not to improve with further aging, but probably nearing the end of its prime drinkability.

Dark garnet color with purple sprites, medium bodied, complex moderate blackberry, black currant and plum fruits turning to tobacco, notes of graphite and cedar wood, frontal bright acidity is pronounced and a bit obtuse turning to gripping tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Diamond Creek Vineyards Gravelly Meadow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

A great example of the opportunity to taste two vintage releases side by side to appreciate the nuances of age and the different vintages.  The 2009 came across as more elegant and polished than the 1999 which in comparison was a bit flabby, no more or less complex, but the '09 benefiting from the more graceful and well behaved acid and tannins.

Bill's Cellartracker tasting notes on this wine:

"Deep ruby color. Nose consists of chocolate, graphite and a bit of earth. On the palate there are notes of black cherry, raspberry, chocolate, tobacco with well integrated, silky smooth, plush tannins. Full bodied with a finish that goes on and on. Drank this side by side with a 1999 Gravelly Meadow representing a 10 year old and a 20 year old mini vertical. The 99 still had plenty of fruit but had evolved to a more earthy bordeaux profile. However, there was no doubt of the parentage of the two wines. Style and profile were very similar. Delicious now. I know how long lasting Diamond Creek is having served birth year magnums from '82, '84 and '89 at my children's weddings. However, based in part on this experience, I wonder if I don't tend to wait too long. Think I will start drinking earlier."

WCC - 94 points.

Before dinner, Bill also served one of our favorites, Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, and then a classic Chateau St Jean Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet which I write about in this separate blogpost.

Chateau St Jean Sonoma Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

We tasted and Bill acquired this bottle when we visited the Chateau back in 2009. We have visited the Chateau St Jean estate in northern Sonoma Valley and had private tastings with Bill and Beth twice - during our Napa, Sonoma Wine Experience in 2017, and, back in 2009 during our Sonoma Harvest Tour '09 - Chateau St Jean.

Bill's Cellartracker tasting notes for this evening's tasting of this wine:

"Deep indigo in color. Mixed fruit on the palate...blackberry, black raspberry and cassis along with a touch of cedar, tobacco box and mocha. Great long lasting legs. Full bodied with a medium finish. I would say this is in the peak of its drinking window. Will still last several more years but unlikely to improve"

WCC - 90 points.

Bill and Beth at magnificent Chateau St Jean estate
Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Another one of our favorite producers and 'go to' wines, Cliff Lede and his Sauvignon Blanc. Also, another producer estate that we we have visited together with Bill and Beth during our Napa Valley Wine Experiences. We have visited the Cliff Lede estate together several times including this private tasting - Cliff Lede Stag's Leap District Vineyard & Winery Visit - Autumn '2009.

Bill's notes from this tasting:

"Crisp, clean and refreshing. Pale straw color. Zesty grapefruit and lemon on the palate. Nicely balanced acidity. Always a favorite."

WCC - 90 points.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Del Dotto Cinghiale Vineyard Fort Ross Seaview Sonoma Coast Syrah

Del Dotto Cinghiale Vineyard Fort Ross Seaview Sonoma Coast Syrah 2014

We've been collecting Del Dotto wines since their inaugural release back in 1993 and they represent one of the largest holdings in our cellar collection. We discovered, tasted and acquired this label during our food and wine culinary tasting at Del Dotto Piazza winery last autumn. It was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018 that week.

Just returning from France and South Africa where I tasted some great Syrahs from two diverse wine regions, I was eager to enjoy a top flight American Syrah from our cellar. Simply, this wine is delicious and represents the best of Syrah. It reflects the profile and style we love and was ideal for casual sipping with artisan cheeses and then some grilled ground beef.

The Del Dotto Cinghiale Vineyard sits atop the King Ridge, a cobbly, rocky hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Sonoma Coast, and the wine certainly reflects that terroir. Cinghiale is Italian for 'wild boar', a tribute to wild pigs that were found in the wild back country over the years.

The Del Dotto Cinghiale Vineyard is in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA (appellation). The newest Sonoma County AVA, it was carved out of the larger Sonoma Coast AVA to recognize its unique terroir of of elevation, coastal breezes and fog and the special characteristics of this remote and rugged region.

The Fort Ross-Seaview AVA has 500 vineyard acres that are known for most sought-after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but it also includes this Syrah and even some South African Pinotage grape varietals. The 27,500-acre Fort Ross-Seaview American viticultural area was awarded AVA status in 2011.

Dark deep inky purple garnet colored, full bodied, rich, concentrated but superbly balanced and polished and not the least bit overpowering, sprites of ripe berries up throughout, accented by sweet floral notes, sweet notes of sandalwood that almost conjure hints of root beer, turning to hints of smoke, menthol and black peppercorn on a full throttled flavorful finish with silky smooth nicely polished tannins.

RM 94 points.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Clos l'Église (Côtes de Castillon) Bordeaux

Clos l'Église Côtes de Castillon Bordeaux 2005

Just returned from France and an extended trip through EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa), Linda prepared for me a home cooked meal and I pulled this Bordeaux wine to accompany the grilled steak dinner. I was looking in the cellar for my bottle of Quinault L'Enclos to compare with the one we drank the other night but came across this instead.

This exceeded my expectations, perhaps based on its price-point which rendered a high QPR (quality-price-ratio).

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, dark berry fruits accented by notes of leather, tobacco, tea and hints of menthol, turning to nice fine grained tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 88 points.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Auberge Etchegorry Authentic French Basque Dining Experience

Auberge Etchegorry Authentic French Basque Dining Experience

For our last night in Paris, wrapping up our EMEA roadtrip, we sought a simple, casual but authentic French dining experience. We found that plus a bit of history in Auberge Etchegorry, just a short walk from our hotel, as a perfect option. 

Located in the 13th, just a 5 minute walk from Place d'Italie Metro station, or from our Rive Gauche Marriott, Auberge Etchegorry sits in the charming Gobelins area on a quiet cobblestone street over looking a park. A former cabaret, it offers a step back in time with its original setting, its red and flowery facade and period decoration. 

According to history and legend,  the house was frequented by Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand and Beranger and was then called the Cabaret of Madame Gregoire. 

The bar features a mural painting of the eighteenth century Cabaret of Mrs. Grégoire. The restaurant and adjacent hotel du Vert Galant have been in the same family for 6 decades.

Today, Auberge Etchegorry ("Red House" in Basque) is known for its Southwestern specialties: Chipirons in ink and pequillos stuffed with cod, homemade pudding with caramelized apples, paupiettes duck with foie gras, sweetbreads, scallops scented with morels, terrine of foie gras marinated with Jurançon.

There are but a couple of al fresco tables out front, a small dinning room adjacent the bar on the ground floor, and a small dining room looking out over the treetops on the second floor.

Three of us feasted on the house specialty,  Roasted duck breast in honey and spices. One of us chose another house specialty, the seared Foie gras that looked delectable and was reported to be 'to die for'. I opted for the Foie gras terrine flavoured with Jurancon wine and toast, which was excellent. 

Our other colleague had the Hake fish with hazelnut crust, celery puree. 

Following dinner we had the cheese plate and then the Le gâteau basque. 

The portions were generous, the our server Wallace and the rest of the waitstaff were attentive and the selections were delicious, especially the Foie gras.  

Domaine Pradelle Crozes-Hermitage 2016

For our opening courses we ordered this Croze-Hermitage Syrah which went supurbly with the Foie Gras starters. This was a nice comparison to the Croze Hermitage we tasted just yesterday. In comparison, this label is a fraction of the price of the one we had yesterday and was relatively less polished and not as nicely balanced. It was enjoyable and appropriate for our none-the-less.

Deep purple in color, medium in body, with soft tannins and medium acidity, aromas and flavors of ripe black currants, blackberries, cloves, as well as freshly cracked pepper leading to a moderately long finish.
RM 87 points.  

Château Saransot-Dupré Listrac-Medoc Bordeaux 2011

We finished with this Left Bank Bordeaux which was a nice accompaniment to our entrees, the cheeses and the dessert course. 

Dark garnet color medium bodied, complex and forward blackberry, plum and black cherry fruits with notes of tobacco, earth and herbs with firm tangy tannins on a lingering finish. A nice value QPR (Quality Price Ratio) wine.

RM 88 points.

French Wine and Dine experience - Parisien business dinner

French Wine and Dine experience - Parisien business dinner

For a valued customer and partner meeting, we dined near the client site in the business district of Paris-La Défense, in the heights of the Puteaux neighborhood at La Escargot 1903

In the Paris-La Défense area, it is less than 10 minutes from the Porte Maillot and 5 minutes from the Pont de Neuilly-sur-Seine. The restaurant is situated in a cottage-house atop the hill above the train, a short one block walk from the station.

The restaurant held a Michelin Star, earned under the leadership of young Paolo Boscaro, then lost it when he left to head the brigade of the Swiss restaurant of Anne-Sophie. The post has now been taken over by Chef Yannick Tranchant, (formerly La Grande Cascade and Neva) who is working to restore it to earlier prominence and achievement. 

We dined on the Menu du Chef, a six service selection, and a flight of accompanying wines from the wine list. 

The wine flight from the winelist:  

The food courses and accompanying wines:

Egg, peas, bacon

Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2016 

I asked for the St Joseph but they were out and substituted this label instead. This is exactly the style and profile that I was seeking.

From the vineyards of Crozes Hermitage that surround the hill of Hermitage, though they do not rise as high, nor are they on the steepest slopes. The difference between the wines of Crozes Hermitage and Hermitage is mainly the soil, as one comes down the Hermitage slopes the soil profile changes from hard granite rock to denser, sandier, clay rich soils.

Alain Graillot has been producing wines since 1985. Born in the Northern Rhône, he left to pursue a career in business, but returned home to his dream of creating great wines. Without the opportunity of stepping into an existing family winery, Alain undertook formal studies in Burgundy while seeking the guidance and inspiration of the best of the new generation of winemakers including Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac. He has 15 hectares of vineyards in Crozes Hermitage as well as 1 hectare in St-Joseph. He matures his red wines in one year old french oak barrels from Burgundy.

Bright ruby colored, medium full bodied, notes of floral and violets, black berry and dark plums fruits with silky smooth tannins.

RM 90 points.


Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts Val de Loire 2014

The Savennières appellation, including its ‘Grand Cru’ sub-appellations of Roche Aux Moines and Coulée de Serrant, is planted with 156 hectares of vineyard (100% Chenin Blanc) and produces some of the most noble and age-worthy dry white wines of France. Damien Laureau is widely acclaimed as one of Savennières’ top producers.

Often referred to as one of the appellation’s ‘new’ superstars, Damien has 20 vintages of experience. Coming from a family farming background, he started out working with his uncle at a small vineyard in Anjou in the mid 1990s.

By 1999 he had acquired his first vines in Savennières and in 2006 he abandoned the Anjou appellation to focus specifically on Savennières. Since then has gradually increased his vineyard sources through both acquisition and leasing, to the still very boutique total of 8.5 hectares.

Straw colored, light medium bodied, lively acidity highlights notes of green apple, pear and hints of peach, floral, and crushed stone, turning to a long finish of spice, tangy acid and minerality.

RM 88


Xavier Monnot Maranges 1er Cru Clos de la Fussière Côte de Beaune 2016

Xavier Monnot is a leading producer in Meursault. Prior to the release of the 2005 vintage, the property was known as Domaine René Monnier (Xavier's grandfather). In 2005, along with improvements in the vineyard and cellar, Xavier began bottling his wines under his own label.

Domaine Xavier Monnot is a 42 acre estate in Meursault with vineyards stretching from Beaune to Maranges. 60% of the Domaine's production is white and 40% red with several premier crus in Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Beaune, Volnay, and Maranges. Xavier maintains an average vine age of 30 to 40 years and practices lutte raisonnée (“reasoned struggle”).

Clos de la Fussière is a 2.6 acre block within and towards the bottom of La Fussière premier cru in Dezize-les-Maranges. It is a monopole belonging to of Xavier Monnot’s family for five generations. It is a steep, south-facing site that gives a wine that is rich, fleshy and dense.

Three villages at the southernmost end of the Côte de Beaune make up the Maranges AOC: Cheilly-lès-Maranges, Dezize-lès-Maranges and Sampigny-lès-Maranges.

Bright ruby color, medium body, vibrant floral spice and cherry fruits with dusty rose and soft smooth tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 88 points.

Jean Marc Grussaute Jurançon Costat Darrer 2017

Since 2015, grape harvests at the estate of Jean-Marc Grussaute were not acceptable or sufficient for production, so fruit was sourced from neighboring winegrowers GC Pedeflous, SD Lacazette and P Vignau, hence the subtitle of the wine "the grains of friends". 

Grape variety: 20% big manseng and 80% small manseng

Winemaker Notes: This wine of pleasure is characterized by its fruity and freshness. Its assertive character remains bordered by a soft and velvety sensation on the palate and a fruity finish. Very good balance between sugar and acidity. The aromatic range always expresses ripe and exotic fruits (tangerine, grilled pineapple, mango ...)

Light honey colored, medium body, tangy stone fruit, hints of peach, tangerine and mango.

RM 88 points.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Dinesite London 34 Mayfair for classy business wine dinner

Dinesite London 34 Mayfair for classy business wine dinner

For a team dinner upon our first and only night in London, we dined across Grosvenor Square from our hotel at 34 Mayfair Restaurant in the shadow of the old US Embassy, now being completely renovated into a chic upscale hotel.

34 Mayfair is trendy, cosmopolitan, chic and vibrant with a steak and seafood menu and a superb upscale winelist – ideal for our team dinner the night before our UK customer roundtable.

Normally, I would opt for Dover sole, especially on this side of the pond, but I was intrigued by the Saltcoats Scottish beef steak, especially when colleague Alastair shared with us that it was raised from where his ‘mum’ hails, hence we opted for the local fare – each of us in the bone in ribeye (shown).

For the entrée course we ordered from the winelist a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe which proved to be a perfect complement to our steak dinner selections.

Château Quinault L'Enclos St Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2012

We have tasted this wine at the UGCB annual release tour on several occasions and hold several vintages of this label dating back to 2003. This vintage release adorns a different new branding label from our older vintages, which apparently was changed around the 2009 vintage.

This was more forward, expressive and vibrant than I ever remember for this label.

This was bright ruby colored, medium full bodied, nicely integrated and balanced, bright vibrant forward fruits of black berry, black currant, spice, notes of oak and a layer of tangy cherry on the pronounced tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

Chapoutier and Laughton La Pléîade Heathcote Shiraz 2013 

For our dessert course, I was intrigued by and selected this Heathcote Shiraz, from Victoria Australia, partly due to the notable well known Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier, and this wine's Australian origin, and the distinctive creative label branding. I was previously not aware of an Australian offering from Michel Chapoutier. 

This particular label is named after the celestial constellation Pléîade, which adorns the front label solely, sans any other markings or information, save a couple wine blots. 

La Pléiade is a collaborative effort between Michel and Corrine Chapoutier and Ron and Eva Laughton. Their intent was to make a terroir driven wine out of simple land right on a clay fault in Australia. In 1990, the idea of terroir was new to that continent. 

A former food scientist, Ron Laughton and his wife Elva created their Jasper Hill estate in Heathcote, Victoria in 1975 (70 miles north of Melbourne), drawn by the region’s distinctive geology, namely an iron-rich seam of Cambrian clay on which the vineyards are strategically located.

According to the rear label, the partnership between Michael and Corrine Chapoutier and Ron and Elva Laughton is imported into the UK by Yapp Brothers Ltd,, so it is not necessarily available in the US, hence an interesting find to taste when the chance presents itself.

This may have been produced with the British or European palette in mind. At 14.0% alcohol it was much more tame and subdued than many of the big Aussie Shiraz’s imported into the US to a market favoring big bold concentrated and firmly structured fruit forward and high alcohol content wines.

Ron Laughton has a longstanding friendship with Michel Chapoutier who formed this joint venture vineyard planted with a mixture of Heathcote Shiraz and Hermitage Syrah in 1998. The resultant wine was called 'La Pleiade', named after the constellation visible from both hemispheres.

The partnership between Michel Chapoutier from France's Rhone region and Ron Laughton of the Heathcote estate, Jasper Hill was founded in 1997. Their first vintage release was in 2003. Initially called "Cambrian," "Cluster M45" is now the U.S. label for this wine, known as "La Pleiade" elsewhere. It is made from 100% Shiraz from a 20-acre single vineyard just south of Jasper Hill's Georgia's Paddock, which is planted with a 50/50 mix of vines taken from Jasper Hill and Chapoutier's vineyards (imported from France). 
This was garnet colored, but medium bodied with black berry fruits with notes of spices and hints of tea, leather, tobacco leaf and mineral on the moderate finish.

RM 89 points.