Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Calera Mt Harlan Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004

Calera Mt Harlan Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004

For our gala family Christmas dinner, to accompany the baked ham that Linda prepared, I pulled from the cellar this aged Calera Pinot Noir. Readers of these pages know we don't do a lot of Pinot Noir except for special occasions or circumstances. For the gala family holiday dinner, I selected a label bearing #1 Son Ryan's name from a producer with a storied history in US and California Pinot Noir. I've written about the history of Calera Vineyards and the beginning of Pinot Noir as it was chronicled in the book, Heartbreak Grape.

As I have written in these pages, any lover of Pinot Noir would benefit from reading The Heartbreak Grape,  A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins.  This is a wonderful true story that starts when Devillers becomes captivated by a wine served at a holiday party. The story evolves as his journalistic curiosity leads to researching the wine and its origins - the story of  Josh Jensen and Calera winery. He tells of the challenges and travails of developing the Pinot Noir grape in California, and then turning it into a business, an industry, and pursuing a dream. The name Heartbreak Grape speaks to the challenge of pioneering bringing the Pinot Noir grape varietal to America - finding the right terrior, climate, terrain, soil, drainage - all the elements required to produce this wine. It then follows the story of an entrepreneur following his dream to build a business and a brand. 

Heartbreak Grape by Marc De Villiers The book talks about the difficulties associated with this particular grape varietal. I've contended that, as written by Devillers, Pinot Noir is the most finicky of grapes and one of the hardest to find a high QPR - (Quality to  Price) ratio value - a moderate priced pleasant drinking label. The book talks about the challenges and difficulty of growing this grape and producing great wine. My experience with this wine is further evidence to this truth. Being a wine aficionado and frequent taster of fine wines, I find this challenge is exacerbated by the characteristics of Pinot Noir - its sutble fine nuances and subtle delicate nature. Its harder to discriminate between the subtleties of one fine Pinot to another. As my wine palate has matured and become more sophisticated, I've come to appreciate the delicate refinements of Pinot, but I must admit, I find a truly great Pinot harder find than a Cabernet or a Shiraz, but I am partial to the bigger more expressive forward fruit of these other varietals. In the end its all about price and for enough money its easy to find a great wine. The search for a great one at a modest price is the fun of tasting and collecting wine.

Calera produce several single vineyard designated labels of their Estate Pinot Noir. Each vineyard has a story and is named for a founder, partner, a key figure in the history of, or a key contributor to the brand. The Ryan Vineyard is named after Jim Ryan, who has been Calera’s vineyard manager since 1979. Ryan Vineyard is the highest vineyard on Mt. Harlan, reaching elevations of 2,500 feet. With annual yields under 2 tons per acre, the 13.1-acre site delivers vibrant and inviting Pinot Noir, with expressive red berry layers and sophisticated minerality.

We hold a half dozen vintages of this label going back to this, our oldest vintage. This 2004 release was awarded 90 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.  The pundits recommended to wait till after 2010 to drink which was probably well advised. 

At fifteen years, this is probably nearing the end of its prime drinking window and should be consumed in the next year or so.  

The Calera Pinot Noir rear or secondary labels are exceptionally informative with substantial information on the vineyard and the vintage of the contents (see left).

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, predominant red berry tones with notes of black cherry and pomegranate, dusty rose and black fruits with hints of rhubarb, pepper, herb and mineral flavors accented by a earthy fine-grained tannic grip.

RM 88 points.

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut Limited Edition Red Magnums

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut Limited Edition Red Magnum Bottles NV

For our gala family Christmas dinner, and to have on hand for upcoming special occasions, I picked up these Limited Edition Red Magnum bottles of  Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne.

We served the Champagne with the starter courses of artisan cheeses, fresh shrimp cocktail and the salad course. Linda served baked ham, scalloped potatoes, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, fresh rolls and a medley of desserts.

The wine was a concensus highly rated selection being among the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2019 at #95.

There is always opportunity to enjoy Champagne so I always keep a collection on hand for any occasion. Knowing we have two family weddings on the horizon, I went out on a limb and picked up several cases of these festive elegant limited edition bottles (shown below).

For the main courses, Ryan brought a special Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz and I also served from our cellar, a vintage Calera, Mt Harlan, Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir.

The Winemaker Notes for this release: "The Brut NV represents the epitome of the Piper-Heidsieck
style: a classic, well-structured, and fruit forward champagne.

Piper-Heidsieck carefully selects fruit from more than 100 of Champagne’s crus to blend the Brut NV. This adds great complexity and dimension to the wine and allows the bold Piper-Heidsieck style to shine through.

A majority blend of Pinot Noir provides structure to the composition while Pinot Meunier expands the wine with its brilliant fruit expression and fleshiness and Chardonnay bring elegant tones and acidity. The precious reserve wines create a consistent flavor profile year after year.'

"This Champagne teases and allures us with its festive, light-drenched, pale gold shimmer and joyful display of neat, lively bubbles. Notes of almond and fresh hazelnut accompany the precise ascent of its bubbles. It is lively, subtle and light, leaving a deliciously incisive sensation of smoothness, marked by the pureness of fresh pear and apple and a delicate hint of citrus fruits. A harmonious mixture of bright, crunchy pomelo, blonde grapes and juicy white fruits creates the delightfully surprising sensation of lightness embraced by the structure and depth from the Pinot Noir; all beautifully balanced."

This release achieved Critical Acclaim having been awarded WS 92 points by Wine Spectator, 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck and 90 points each by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast.

White-golden straw colored, balanced, fruity, fresh and elegant, medium-bodied, stimulatingly fresh and well-structured blend with gorgeous fruit and a clean, persistent finish, a mineral edge and final fruitiness, beautifully textured with a solid mid-palate, good density, and a clean, crisp finish.

RM 90 points

Mollydooker 'Velvet Glove' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013

Mollydooker 'Velvet Glove' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013

For our gala family Christmas dinner, Ryan brought this Velvet Glove Shiraz. This is the ultra-premium label of the broad portfolio of Mollydooker of South Central Australia McLaren Vale. We hold a dozen vintages of the range of Shiraz from Mollydooker dating back to their founding years and before when they were bottling under the previous brand Marquis Philips in partnership with their American producer.

Before dinner, for the salad course, shrimp cocktail and a selection of cheeses, I served a special Limited Edition bottling of Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut NV Champagne  from Limited Edition Red Magnum bottles

The name "Velvet Glove" refers to "the wine that wraps your entire palate in a ‘Velvet Glove’ of amazing fruit flavours that last forever", according to the producer. It is packaged in a non-standard shaped bottle that comes in a drawstring velvet cloth bag with the Velvet Glove logo embroidered in shiny silver.

The winemaker's notes for this vintage release: "An epic wine of amazing depth, complexity and precise balance. The 2013 Velvet Glove possesses all the flavours in the spectrum, with cherry and plum to the fore, then blackberry and mocha and finally liquorice and allspice. Only at the final moments on the palate does the fruit give way to finely poised tannins which ensure the wine has elegance as well as depth. Vibrant and rich, the Velvet Glove in 2013 creates Wow by combining opulence with finesse." ~ MattWalker-Brown ~

Lisa Perrotti-Brown of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this release a score of 97 points. Legendary Harvey Steiman, publisher and critic for ~ Wine Spectator gave it 96 points.

I wrote recently in these pages about lofty ratings for two other ultra-premium Shiraz' from two other Shiraz growing regions, the Northern Rhone and Chile.  

This was dark blackish inky purple colored, full bodied, rich, viscous multi-layered concentrated but seamlessly integrated and perfectly balanced raspberry, blackberry and plum fruits with hints of blue fruits, tones of expresso, spice and hints of menthol with cassis and mocha notes on the long structured firm but smooth fine tannin laced finish.

RM 95 points.

The grapes were grown on the Gateway vineyard in McLaren Vale, barrel fermented and matured in 100% American oak and 100% new.