Friday, March 1, 2019

Carnival of Love and Robert Craig & Stags Leap Napa Cabs

Carnival of Love and Robert Craig and Stag's Leap Napa Cabernets

Visiting son Alec in his tony flat in Chelsea, NYC we went to his neighborhood wine merchant and picked up several bottles for dinner and casual sipping for the weekend.

One of our favorite premium selections for special occasions such as this is Mollydooker Carnival of Love.

This was fabulous with a selection of artisan cheeses before dinner - sharp cheddar, blue and brie with fig jam.

Mollydooker "The Carnival of Love" Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia 2014

The year 2014 was quite a year for Mollydooker and the Carnival label, the 2012 Carnival was recognized as the #2 Wine in the World and was named Winestate's Wine of the Year for 2014.

Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, firm structured backbone with intense concentrated black and bluc fruits accented by creme de cassis, anise, violets, blackberry liqueur, and hints of mocha, crushed mint, and black peppercorn with an exceedingly long finish.

While bold at 16.5%. alcohol, this still is approachable and nicely balanced.

RM 94 points.

Winemaker's notes:

"Luscious cherry, blackberry and plum jam fruit flavours marry together, forming this powerful yet elegant Shiraz. Made from a selection of McLaren Vale’s premier grapes, its deep colour and fragrant nose leads to quite a voluptuous palate of fruit intertwined with rich mocha, coffee and chocolate, with traces of licorice and toffee. Carnival of Love offers exceptional complexity while remaining balanced and delightful to drink." 

This was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator.
The grapes for Carnival of Love are from the Gateway vineyard in McLaren Vale. It was aged in almost entirely new American oak.

For dinner Alec prepared rib-eye steaks and brussel sprouts for which we picked up this Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This proved to be an ideal selection as a complement to the cheese and the steaks.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

I write this review with many mixed emotions. This is our first tasting of this new label of what was the inaugural release of what Craig called "the next generation of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Craig Winery".

This label replaced Affinity as the entry point of the portfolio as explained by Craig website. "Our primary mission is to produce wines that feature pure site expression, and this new Cabernet Sauvignon bottling is no exception. Selected half from our estate vineyards, half from exceptional vineyards around the valley, we present this plush, beautifully structured wine, with the depth and power you expect from a Classic Napa Valley Cabernet. As Affinity moves to a single-vineyard bottling, this wine steps in to take its place in our portfolio."

Rick, Linda and Robert Craig
Of course we love Affinity and still hold around twenty vintages dating back the inaugural release back in 1993 as the Craig portfolio remains one of our largest holdings in our cellar. We've visited the Robert Craig Winery Estate high above Howell Mountain several times over the years including their release party back in 2009 (shown right).

So Affinity will now be a single vineyard designated label sourced from the Robert Craig La Londe estate vineyard located just south of Stag’s Leap, in the Mt. George Foothills on the eastern side of the Napa Valley. The La Londe estate vineyard has been sourcing exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon for the Craig portfolio since Bob Craig purchased the property back in 1993. Affinity will continue to be a Bordeaux Blend of the Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.

I approached this wine with great anticipation as the new Craig standard. I must say I was pleased and found it reflecting the style and profile I have come to expect with the Robert Craig brand.

Dark inky purple colored, medium full bodied, firm structured core of blackberry and black raspberry fruits with a layer of spice, hints of graphite mocha and lavender on a lingering supple smooth tannin laced finish.

RM 92 points. gave this wine 93 points - "Beautiful and refined, the 2013 Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignon excels as a poster child of a superior Napa Valley vintage. Delicious and well-balanced, this wine brings red currants, dried leaves and sweet oak into a perfect synergy of elements. Young at the moment—a pairing with a seared porterhouse steak and a topping of blue cheese would seem to be in order." Wilfred Wong (Tasting date: August 4, 2016, San Francisco, CA)
James Suckling gave this 92 Points and wrote, "Intense aromas of blueberry and blackberry. Hints of minerals. Full body, ultra-fine tannins and a fresh and clean finish. A firm and well-formed red with interest."

Stags' Leap Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Alec picked this up at the local wine shop as his 'go-to' red wine for such occasions. 

Winemaker's Notes: "The 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and dark, with an abundance of blackberry, cherry and dark plum alongside nuances of lifted violet, sweet cinnamon and clove spice. On the palate, the dark berry fruits proliferate with blackberry, plum and cassis, but there is also a beautiful savory quality exhibiting notes of leather, tobacco and earth, giving this Cabernet a classic old-world feel and elegance. Seamlessly integrated oak and refined tannins provide a smooth mouthfeel and add layers of complexity, all wrapping up with a spicy lengthy finish. Incredibly approachable and pleasing upon release, this wine is sure to dazzle and pair well alongside many culinary treats."

Varietal Composition: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot 

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, full forward complex black berry, raspberry and cherry fruits with notes of graphite, cassis, tobacco, spice and leather with a graceful, smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points.