Saturday, July 13, 2019

Château Ducru Beaucaillou 1985

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1985

Leading up to our visit to Bordeaux and Château Ducru Beaucaillou, we opened a special birth year bottle of the top ranked Second Growth St Julien from our cellar. We selected a bottle from son Sean's birth year vintage of which we hold a case as part of a horizontal collection of different producer's release from the vintage to commemorate his birth year vintage.

Our visit to the historic Château was one of the highlights of our trip to the St Julien Appellation. We hold more than a dozen vintages of this label and consider it one of the stalwarts of our cellar, designated as one of the 'signature' wines that we collect for a vertical collection of our kids' birth year vintages. As such we're still holding bottles from the 1981, 1982, 1985 and 1990 vintages, and several in between and many since. We also hold some large format bottles in magnums and 3.0 liter double magnums of the label that should provide for longer term aging.

We opened this bottle for a family dinner with Sean and son Ryan and the rest of the family over for a bar-b-que dinner.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1985

A testament to the longevity of this wine. It is still available at K&L Wineshop in the (SF) Bay Area (for $199), and as Clyde Beffa on staff there notes, "This 30 year old wine is less expensive than the 2009 or 2010 and you can enjoy it right now."

Indeed, this is drinking very nicely and doesn't come across as a 30+ year old in the least.

The capsule, label, and cork were all in perfect condition, like new. The fill was into the neck. No signs whatsoever of diminution from age. 

Dark garnet-colored, medium- to full-bodied, Parker describes it as "a wine of extraordinary charm and elegance", a floral, cedary nose with red and black currants, plum, notes of spice and cassis, firm tannins on a long, smooth silky finish. Still has some years left but assuredly not likely to improve with further aging.

RM 92 points.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this release a rating of 92 points.


Marilyn Merlot 2016

Nova Wines "Marilyn Merlot" Napa Valley Merlot 2016

Wine geeks, oenophiles,  often take their passion for wine way too seriously, or certainly so to those not so compulsive or fixated, which is most folks. Its important to back it down and simply have fun with wine too.

This blog focuses on wine tasting and collecting. Another discussion thread is a study in wine branding and marketing. One unique approach is Marilyn Wines, of the entity Nova Wines, who have created an entire franchise on one celebrity identification theme based on a play on words - Marilyn Merlot featuring the iconic starlet Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Wines holds an exclusive agreement with the estate of Marilyn Monroe for the use of the name and the images in their wine marketing and packaging.

The brand is the creation of Bob and Donna Holder of Rutherford in Napa Valley, who initially crafted a homemade Merlot back in 1983 using some purchased grapes and some grapes from the Holder property. They started selling their wine and created the brand.  In the early days, they purchased bulk wine, then, in 1997, they shifted from purchasing bulk wine to purchasing grapes. The wine is made at the Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, CA.

Marilyn Wines has extended the brand to a broad portfolio of labels based on Marilyn Monroe. In addition to Marilyn Merlot, they also produce Marilyn Meritage, Sauvignon Blond, Marilyn Cabernet and Norma Jean, a lesser label with 'younger' second label grapes. The brand has grown further with the release of Marilyn Merlot Rose and Marilyn Monroe Chardonnay.

Of course the most famous or notable iconic collector series is Mouton Rothschild. A study in wine branding and marketing at some point invites a discussion of art label series featuring original or reproductions of notable art or artists on the wine labels. No wine producer in the world captures the imagination or attention of wine collectors and wine art enthusiasts more than Mouton Rothschild with their annual artist series artist featured wine labels.

Each year a renowned artist is commissioned to do the artwork for that vintage. The featured artist is said to be paid ten cases of various vintages of the classic Chateau Mouton Rothschild for their work. Every collector dreams of collecting a 'vertical' collection (wines of multiple vintages of the same wine) of the classic premium First Growth Bordeaux to display the 'artwork' of Mouton.

My Winesite Label Library lists the Mouton Rothschild Label Library Series Artists and associated works by the artists for reference or to aid in further exploration or research of the library and its history.

As with Mouton Rothschild, I've assembled a portfolio of Marilyn labels in my label library on my winesite

The 2016 vintage release of Marilyn Merlot this annual feature label just appeared this week in stores in the Chicagoland market.  They also just released Norma Jeane, the 21st vintage of the Norma Jeane.

Playing on the name of the famous cinema starlet, Marilyn Monroe, the marketers at Nova Wines have  built the brand on an annual release of moderate priced Merlot varietal featuring an authentic Marilyn Monroe photo on the label. What might have started out as a whimsical or even corny idea has turned into a fun wine that has an almost cult following in some precincts of collectors.

The producer tries to maintain a delicate balance and moderate the hype of the collectability of the wine and the valuation of bottles over time versus the novelty and fun of the wine. It appears they've earnestly worked to improve the pedigree and quality of the product to produce a wine more worthy of and capable of long (er) term cellaring by sourcing from notable vineyard sources and producing a Red Bordeaux varietal blend. As such, the release price of the wine has crept up in recent years as well. This year's release price is $36 however the 'street price' still remains at the traditional price point in the $25 to $28 range.

The producer site says, "Each new vintage of Marilyn Monroe Merlot sells out quickly. While collectors have made Marilyn Monroe Merlot one of the fastest-appreciating wines on the market, it is wine enthusiasts with a sense of humor who have long enjoyed the playful spirit behind Marilyn Merlot wines that are now also seeking the Marilyn Monroe Merlot because of the emphasis on making a notable wine from prized Napa Valley grapes. While the concept and engaging label of these wines has given these bottles a degree of fame, it is the wine in the bottle that merits the enthusiasm of those who seek it out every year.'

"This wine is every bit as special as its package," says Donna Holder, one of the owners of Marilyn Wines. "It is a must for collectors, but is also a Napa Valley Merlot that stands beautifully on its own."

The producer promotes highly escalated prices for vintage bottles of the label asking high prices that far exceed the pedigree of the wine, explicable only due to the marketing/branding of the label collection. I know of one reputable wine shop in a mid-size midwestern city that until recently held a 1985 Marilyn Merlot that they were offering at $3500.

I've assembled a portfolio of Marilyn labels in my label library on my winesite. And, I admit I've collected a 'vertical' collection of the wine and am still holding what now spans fifteen vintages. Indeed, we drank a dozen year old 2006 recently and it was drinking quite nicely. We do have fun gifting these wines to friends for suitable occasions, great for those not into the wine so much, but taken by the clever packaging. The Marilyn Merlot label is now in its 32nd year.

The 2016 vintage release is a blend of 91% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from Napa Valley. The Vineyard source for the fruit in the 2016 vintage release wine is primarily from grapes from Andy Beckstoffer’s Missouri Hopper vineyard near Oakville with a supporting cast of vineyard sources in Napa Valley including merlot from St. Helena and Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Helena and Oak Knoll appellations.

The iconic photograph adorning the label for this 2016 release was taken by photographer Milton Greene of Marilyn Monroe in September, 1953. It features a extraordinary close-up photo of Marilyn in a large green sweater.

The Winemaker's Notes for this vintage: The 2016 Marilyn Merlot is a rich scarlet hue with purple tones that immediately catch one’s eye as it is poured in the glass. The aromas exhibit a complexity of characters, including but not limited to, cherries, cinnamon, plums, juniper berries and hints of mocha. This merlot has wonderful structure and weight on the palate, is well balanced with suitable tannins for aging. The flavors amplify the aromas with added nuances of tart, rich, blackberries, and vanilla. Very enjoyable now but will improve with 4-7 years of aging.

Try it and enjoy the novelty as well as the grape juice. Have fun with wine.