Thursday, December 19, 2019

Venge Scout's Honor Napa Valley Red Blend 2013

Venge Scout's Honor Napa Valley Red Blend 2013

With Alec and Vivianna back from NYC for the holiday we dined at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. We took BYOB two bottles from our cellar.

Venge Scout's Honor Napa Valley Red Blend 2013

This is one of he 'V' wines I have fun collecting and serving when (soon to be daughter-in-law) Vivianna is here.

We've been enjoying Nils (and Kirk) Venge' wines since the early 1990's when Nils was featured by Wine Spectator Magazine in a 1994 article on up and coming wine producers. One of the labels of the Venge portfolio is Scout's Honor named for the family Labrador Retriever from that era. I remember Scout walking the rows in the vineyards with Nils (shown right from our 2002 visit).

Scouts Honor is based on a tradition of producing a full bodied, delicious and enjoyable red wine that can be opened and enjoyed immediately upon release however when cellared correctly it will age for 5 to 8 years.

Scouts Honor starts is a proprietary red blend with a base of old-vine Zinfandel and builds upon that with dry-farmed Petite Sirah, old-vine Charbono, and finish with mountain vineyard Syrah. The blend in the 2013 Scout's Honor is a red blend comprised of 71% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Charbono and 4% Syrah.

We have been collecting this label since the earliest releases in the mid-nineties and hold vintages dating back to this one, the oldest in our holdings. We typically keep a half dozen vintages of this label on hand for easy, enjoyable smooth sipping with everything fare, from BBQ to beef to cheese and fruits and chocolates. 

For the 2013 release, grapes were farmed and harvested from four single vineyards in Napa Valley. The Zinfandel was picked from two, old-vine (60 to 100+ years old), vineyard sources: Venge’s newly acquired “Signal Fire Vineyard” estate, and the Frediani Vineyard—both located in the heart of Calistoga. The Charbono is from old, dry-farmed vines (60 to 100+ years old) also planted in the Frediani Vineyard. Long family friends, Joan and Will Nord, have a small vineyard named “Trio C” in Yountville and a little over 10 acres are dedicated to Petite Sirah—we love this site.  And, legendary grower, Jan Krupp, farms some of Napa’s finest Syrah on his Stagecoach Vineyard, high in the mountains of the Atlas Peak AVA to complete the blend. 

The 2013 vintage in Napa Valley was a perfect growing season.

Winemaker's notes for this release: "This vintage has a gorgeous, concentrated assemblage of aromas, with black fruits, crushed blue herbs, violets, cherry, licorice and anise. On the palate is pure richness from the old-vine Zinfandel with loads of black cherry, pepper spice, and an enveloping masculinity of char and tannins from the Syrah, Charbono and Petite Sirah. A seamless balance and mouth coating deliciousness are found throughout the palate, with an extra long finish with a touch of barrel tannin at the end."

The wine was barrel aged for 14 months in 50% new American Oak and the balance in once used tight grain French Oak. 1710 cases were produced.

This was bright garnet colored, medium-full bodied with super sweet berry fruits accented by cherry spice, pepper and notes of licorice and anise. It was a perfect complement to robust spicy pasta dishes.

RM 93 points.

My review tasting notes from this spring for this release: "This was even better than when we tasted it last year with the fruit being more balanced and settled predominating more over the other complex notes - dark inky purple colored, full bodied, bold, chewy, tongue coating, mouth puckering, concentrated, complex yet smooth, polished and balanced, delicious sweet black raspberry, blueberry and black cherry fruits with notes of violets, dark mocha, truffle, anise and spices, with an long finish that almost tastes like candy." 93 points.

This release got 94 points from Wine Advocate.

Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006

Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006

We took bottle BYOB to Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria with Alec and Vivianna home for the holiday. This was our second wine of the evening following Venge Scouts Honor that we opened first.

This is a complex and sophisticated Cabernet that begs for some accompaniment of cheese or meat dishes. At a dozen years of age, it is probably drinking at its apex but could assuredly age for another decade and still drink at this level. We probably should've set this aside to save for a future date and drink an older wine already at or reaching the end of its prime drinking window.

The winemaker says of this wine, "This is the varietal that we believe will increasingly be recognized as the icon varietal of Washington State and comprises the majority of our production. This Cabernet is stylish, elegant, and impeccably balanced. We accomplish this by meticulous viticultural management, utilization of a rare sorting system, gentle handling of the fruit and the wine, customized practices for every lot no matter how small, and carefully selected French oak." 

Abeja founders Ken and Ginger Harrison went to Walla Walla Valley in the southeastern corner of Washington State in the late 1990s in search of land suitable for planting world class Cabernet Sauvignon. They found what they felt was an ideal vineyard location suited for grape growing and winemaking, but also had a historic farmstead with existing buildings. They set upon restoring the property to preserve the property’s rich heritage while creating a one-of-a-kind Walla Walla wine country destination.

Abeja, which is Spanish for bee, the name Abeja (pronounced 'ah-BAY-ha') was chosen to honor their respect for the environment. The Harrison's were joined by Winemakers Daniel Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler and today they craft acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot as well as much sought-after, limited-release estate and reserve wines, offered exclusively to mailing list members.

Abeja operate two Estate vineyards. Heather Hill and Mill Creek. Heather Hill is a 19-acre vineyard located on the southwestern border of the Walla Walla Valley appellation and is notable for its diverse soils, plateaus and slopes. The vineyard's elevation climbs from 850 ft. at the base to 990 ft. at the crest. Because of its varied topography, the site presents, three unique vineyards, each with its own distinct terroir. It was planted in 2002 with Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Cabernet Franc.

Mill Creek Estate vineyard is 12 acres of vineyard that surround the winery and The Inn at Abeja, located at the base of the Blue Mountains on the east side of the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) and sits at an elevation of 1300 ft. Because of its proximity to the Blue Mountains, the area is cooler than vineyards on the south side of the valley. Viognier and Syrah were planted here in the late 1990s. Chardonnay and Merlot were planted in 2006.

Abeja also works with a handful of Columbia Valley growers through long-term relationships with top vineyards including Bacchus, Dionysus, Weinbau, Celilo, and Conner Lee that allow the winemakers to work closely with the growers in their viticulture towards crafting their desired style.

Abeja also operate The Inn at Abeja with renowned gourmet breakfasts and refurbished farm cottages, gardens, vineyards and vistas of the Walla Walla Valley.

Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006

We discovered Walla Walla and explored the region during our trip there last year, our second wine trip to Washington State of the year! We believe the as yet undiscovered region offers world class wines on par with classic regions such as Bordeaux and Napa, the Rhone Valley and South Australia, available at high QPR - quality price ratios due to prices well below those of the more established regions.

This is a Bordeaux Blend comprised of all the requisite Bordeaux varietals in a mix found in a Left Bank Medoc label - 90% Cabernaet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 2,800 cases were produced.

This release was awarded 92(+?) points by Stephen Tanzer, 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and 91 points by Wine Spectator.
Garnet colored, medium full bodied, ripe, bright expressive nicely balanced black berry, black currant and cherry fruits accented by notes of mocha, black tea, tobacco, sweet oak and hints of lavender and pepper finishing with nice smooth soft well integrated tannins.

RM 91 points.