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.