Sunday, September 15, 2019

90+ Cellars Lot 94 Napa Cab

Ninety Plus Cellars "Lot 94" Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Tonight, I opened the last remaining bottle of this high QPR (quality price ratio) value special wine that I acquired a year ago. I wrote a feature at the time about Ninety Plus Cellars and their negociant business where they buy excess fruit from growers, or bulk wine, or in some cases bottled but unlabeled wine from producers, and bottle or release it under their own private label series.

Once in a while this results in an extraordinary value in a wine offered at a fraction of the original producer's or grower's offering price, hence the need to keep the source secret and release under their own or private label. This Lot 94 is such a wine.

The challenge of course is that you can't get too attached to a wine because there may not be a follow on vintage, or there may be sporadic intermittent releases every couple of years, or perhaps only in lesser years when the quality of the product is not up the standards for the primary label. Or, you may get lucky, and the producer has excess inventory or product available and is eager to release it to a trusted outlet. 

Ninety Plus Cellars have built an extensive brand with an extensive selection of wines from around the world, released under their own label. Their nomenclature of the Lot number for any particular wine indicates the source of the product so consumers can identify such from one vintage to the next. 
The challenge of course is that true identity of the source is not revealed, although there are times when it can be determined, either through mis-steps in the packaging (once the bottles had already been filled and corked with corks branded by the original producer), or there have been times when the original wine can be determined by the unique blend of the vintage. 

Their Lot 150 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon label is a case where the identity of the source of the wine is not revealed, until one pulls the cork from the bottle to see it was corked by the original producer using their branded imprinted corks. In that case, the wine available through 90+ is about 1/2 the price of the 'secret' producer's grand vin.

There have been several Ninety Plus wines that I have discovered where I acquired all that I could obtain to keep for enjoyment and value over time, Lot 101, Washington State, Columbia Valley Syrah was one such example.

To replace this consumed bottle of this wine, I had to obtain the latest release of this label, still available as 'Lot 94' from 90+, albeit from the 2017 vintage. Following this tasting I went out and acquired a case of the latest release of the label. Watch for my review of that vintage release.

A replay of my review of Lot 94. Tonight's tasting was consistent with that earlier experience.

Ninety Plus Cellars "Lot 94" Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

According to Ninety Plus Cellars, "This distinguished Cabernet Sauvignon was made from fruit picked from vines situated on the east side of the valley in a vineyard that was first planted in the 1890s. Upon alluvial and volcanic soils these densely planted vines produce Cabernet Sauvignon that makes some of the best wine in Napa. This is an all-star Cabernet with a pedigree that's unrivaled by anything we've put in a bottle."

They assert that the offering price for the wine under the source producer's label is double the price of the discounted private label. That may indeed be the case. In any event, I'll testify that this is a high QPR - quality price ratio, great value wine that is comparable to product twice its price.

I originally acquired this when it was one of the wines of the week, featured at the Saturday tasting of the local Vin Chicago outlet (since closed as they succumb to the competition of on-line retailers). So it was, that after tasting at the Vin Chicago Saturday tasting, I grabbed a couple bottles to bring home and try again with different foods or accompaniments. I expect I'll be going back to buy more for great value high quality every day drinking, as well as for special occasions.

This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, complex sweet black currant and berry fruits, with notes of mocha, tangy clove spice, herbs, tobacco and hints of spicy oak and vanilla with a smooth polished finish.

RM 91 points.

Terlato Chapoutier - St Michelle Cab - Lalande-Borie

Terlato & Chapoutier - St Michelle 50th Anniversary Cab - Lalande-Borie for BBQ Dinner

We were invited to Sean and Michelle's for a gala dinner of BBQ ribs and tenderloin. They also served grilled asparagus, brussel sprouts and baked potatoes. The tenderloin was in a marsala sauce and with a horseradish sour creme sauce on the side.

For the occasion we took a couple wines to match with the dinner. For the barbecue ribs I took this Australian Shiraz from a Southern Rhone producer, in partnership with a Chicago distributor, producer importer. For the grilled tenderloin I took a California Cabernet and a Bordeaux from our recent trip there.

Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz Lieu dit Malakoff 2013

Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier is a partnership between Anthony Terlato, founder of importer and marketer Terlato Wines International and Napa Valley vintner, and Michel Chapoutier, the esteemed Rhône grower and vintner whose wines are highly acclaimed and recognized by critics around the world.
 The origin of the Terlato & Chapoutier partnership in Australia dates back to 1998, when Chapoutier told Terlato about a top vineyard site that was available in Australia. The 500 acre site was in the Pyrenees Hills in western Central Victoria. It contained the 50 acre Malakoff Vineyard located on the southern edge of an eastern-facing slope with soils destined to produce “great wines,” according to Chapoutier. The soil profile of the Malakoff vineyard is remarkably similar to that of France's northern Rhône Valley where he produced world class Shiraz/Syrahs and the climate is ideal for growing superior quality Shiraz.

Terlato could not say 'no' to the legendary Michel Chapoutier. They formed a partnership in the Malakoff Vineyard to produce estate wines from the 'lieu dit Malakoff' from Shiraz planted there. The spectacular Malakoff fruit was grown and tended to produce low-yielding (less than 1 ton per acre), high-concentration Shiraz. The wine was made in the Chapoutier tradition and style: unfiltered and unfined and represented what Australian Shiraz can be when made by one of the great winemakers of Syrah.

When wine critic Robert M. Parker tasted the first release, the 2004 vintage, he called it a “lusty Australian blockbuster,” and awarded it 90-92 points. 

The wine was awarded 95 points from Jeff Dunnuck, 92 points by James Suckling, 91 points and a "Cellar Selection" by Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points by Wine & Spirits.

This 2013 release is bright ruby colored, medium bodied, smooth easy drinking, somewhat sweet black berry, sweet cherry with hints of blue berry fruits with some moderate astringency, hints of tea, anise, mocha, notes of  leather, and pepper with a long finish of modest tannins and acidity.

RM 89 points.

The second wine I opened was this whimsical tribute to Michelle in this St Michelle anniversary special bottling label Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau Ste. Michelle "50th Anniversary Edition" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

This received 93 points from Decanter Magazine. 

This is a complex Bordeaux style blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Syrah, 1% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot crafted from fruit sourced from Columbia Valley vineyards in eastern Washington including the Cold Creek, Canoe Ridge Estate, and Indian Wells vineyards.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, rich extracted complex concentrated black and red berry fruits, tightly would with a firm structure that is accessible style and approachable with moderate smooth tannins on a lingering finish. A great complement to the beef tenderloin with brown marsala sauce or the horseradish creme sauce.

RM 88 points.

Lalande-Borie St Julien Bordeaux 2016

We tasted the 2014 release of this second label wine while at the magnificent Ducru Beaucaillou estate in St Julien Bordeaux last month. We also tasted barrel samples of the 2016 Grand Vin along with some of the other top rated Chateau and the Saint-Julien 2016 vintage promises to be spectacular.

This second label from Bruno Borie and Ducru Beaucaillou is a blend is 55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon raised in 30% new French oak sourced from vineyards further inland from the Gironde estuary and the estate vineyards adjacent to the Chateau. While tight and closed, it needs a couple years to settle and open, it should prove to also be a wonderful wine with great value (QPR - Quality Price Ratio) in time.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, intense, concentrated, tightly structured, blackberries, black-currant and black raspberry fruits are accented by a graphite stony edge, notes of black tea, bramble, tobacco leaf and hints of spicy clove and cassis with silky fine grained tannins.

RM 91 points. 

James Suckling Wine Spectator gave this 93 points, Jeb Dunnuck and Wine Enthusiast 92 points, and 91 points from Decanter and Vinous.