Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bibi Graetz "Testamatta" Rosso Toscana 2015

Bibi Graetz "Testamatta" Rosso Toscana 2015

Ryan also brought from his cellar this Sangiovese produced by one of Tuscany’s most popular garagist cult winemakers, Bibi Graetz. With no formal training, Graetz burst on the wine scene in 2000 when he began crafting wines from his family’s ancestral castle, the Castello di Vincigliata, and its five acres of vines. Focusing on creating singular wines with their own identities separate from the traditional Brunello/Chianti DOCs or the Super Tuscans, Graetz has gained popularity making some of the most distinctive wines in Tuscany. 

He is now considered  “one of Italy's finest growers" accordingly to Antonio Galloni. This release of his flagship Testamatta 2105, 100% Sangiovese, was declared by James Suckling as “the best Testamatta ever made". He cited it the #5 Italian wine of the year (out of 3500 tasted), giving it 99 points, he said, "Tuscan artist/winemaker Bibi Graetz has helped redefine the modern super-Tuscan by crafting IGT wines of tremendous distinction in his home town of Fiesole."

This needed some tangy pasta as a proper pairing to showcase its character. A bit closed and tight, dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, black berry fruits gave way to notes of black tea, and what Suckling called 'bark, wet soil and leather' with silky smooth tannings on a luscious finish. 

RM 92 points. 


Close out 2020 with Diamond Mtn Cabernets

Close out year with two top flight Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Cabernets

Family gathering to close out the year, son Ryan and I pulled two diverse Diamond Mountain Cabernets to share and compare. The Diamond Mountain appellation label was Ryan and Michelle's favorite of all those served during their tasting at the Cliff Lede estate. They acquired this as part of their wine club allocation shipments. 

Cliff Lede Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Robert Parker writes that Cliff Lede Vineyards is one of the best-run wineries in Napa Valley. Cliff Lede Vineyards was established in 2002 by Canadian born Bordeaux enthusiast, Cliff Lede, when he acquired the sixty acre estate in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. 

We've visited the Cliff Lede estate on several of our Napa Valley wine trips and our wine several of our wine buddies including son Ryan source allocated wines as members of their club. 

Determined to produce optimal top rank Bordeaux varietal wines from estate vineyards, Lede tapped David Abreu, considered the best viticulturist in Napa Valley, to replant the vineyards. Lede decided to name each vineyard block after some of his favorite rock songs and albums—from “My Generation” to “Dark Side of the Moon,” creating what is known today as the Cliff Lede Vineyards “Rock Blocks.”

In 2005, he built a state of the art, 25,000 square foot winery and cave system was etched into a hillside overlooking the estate vineyards. Lede spared no expense in creating a magnificent property, and assembling a top rank team to achieve his vision of top quality wines. He also sourced grapes from prime properties across Napa Valley. Winemaker Christopher Tynan crafts Cabernet Sauvignons from the flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the steep eastern hillside portion of the estate to appellation designated labels from Stags Leap, Howell Mountain, and this label from Diamond Mountain in Northwest Napa Valley. 

This Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from an exceptional, low-yielding vineyard with classic, legendary volcanic ash and gravelly loam soils in the Diamond Mountain appellation. The site is on the Mayacamas Range on the northwest side of Napa Valley above Calistoga.The sun-drenched mountain vineyard with steep hillside slope of old vines has northeastern exposure and late afternoon breezes that ripen the fruit slowly and evenly. The vineyard was planted and is farmed by David Abreu Vineyard Management.

Christopher Tynan, Winemaker writes of this release: "A deep,dark purple in color, this extraordinary mountain Cabernet offers loads of Pauillac-like aromas of graphite, cedar, cassis, and blackberry. Layered in with these classic scents area lovely array of powdered cocoa, black fig, and tobacco.The essence of terroir is echoed in the gravelly loam and pine forest notes that appear in the generous aromas and flavors. The long opulent palate tastes of liquefied minerals and possesses a voluptuous velour-like texture. Lucky imbibers of this rare elixir are privy to a wine made from a legendary site in an epic vintage.   

This is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot. Production was 466 cases. 

This was dark, inky purple, full bodied, rich concentrated but elegant and polished with lush black berry and black raspberry fruits with layers of cassis, clove spice, sweet oak, black tea, mocha and vanilla bean, with smooth silky soft tannins and nicely balanced acidity on the finish. 

RM 93 points.


 Marco Di Giulio "Mark K Vineyard" Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

To compare in a side by side tasting, I brought to daughter Erin's this rare limited release Diamond Mountain vineyard private label from winemaker Marco Di Giulio. We hold a half dozen different labels of Marco Di Giulio releases from legendary vineyard sources, Mt Veeder Pym Rae, Progeny and this Diamond Mountain Mark K, all between 2001 and 2004 vintages, this 2001 being the oldest. 

Marco Di Giulio unique hand-crafted wines minimalist style wines were available under the winemakers' label and branding in limited quantities. They could be found in the boutique and specialist wine shops in Napa Valley or in the 'after market' via wine auctions. They were classic vineyard expressions of terrior, that unique expression of each vineyard's distinctive character, produced in very small quantities of 200 to 300 cases. His approach to winemaking was minimalist, letting the vineyard and each vintage speak for itself. As he says, he wants to “taste” each vineyard.

Marco produced his wines at Bin to Bottle, a high quality custom crush facility for a number of small Napa Vintners in South Napa where he is a partner.

As he writes on his Marcowines website, Marco was born and raised in San Francisco, California, shortly after his parents had emigrated from Tuscany and become successful Bay Area restaurateurs. Along with wonderful Italian meals, wine was an everyday part of their North Beach household life. As a result, Marco inherited his family's appreciation for great wine and food.

Marco developed an in-depth knowledge of winemaking and viticulture through education and experience in the industry. He graduated with a degree in Fermentation Science from the University of California at Davis in 1985.

After two years at Buena Vista Winery, Marco worked as cellar master at Pine Ridge Winery for more than four years. His next stint was as the production manager for Atlas Peak Vineyards, followed by his 1994 appointment as winemaker for Pezzi King Vineyards. Just before the 1995 harvest, he became the winemaker at Pepi Winery in Oakville. While making Pepi Wines, he also took charge of the Lokoya brand after the death of celebrated winemaker and mentor Greg Upton. It was at Lokoya that Marco's reputation for making world class Cabernet Sauvignon was first established.

Marco release his own label wines between 2001 and 2004. Today, Marco serves as consulting winemaker to many top labels and devotes attention to his personal projects: Vintage Wine Estates, Bin to Bottle, Lookout Ridge and Marco DiGiulio Wines where he strives to produce wines that reflect the rugged landscapes of the vineyard sources.  

Marco Di Giulio "Mark K Vineyard" Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Marco Di Giulio obtained the fruit for this label from Norm Kiken Cabernet Sauvignon from his Diamond Mountain Mark K Vineyard. Marco began working with the Kiken vineyards when he was the winemaker for Lokoya. Norm Kiken became renowned for his Reverie wines and collaborated with Diguilio in sharing a few tons of Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The grapes were sourced from rows that run East-West at a little over 1000 ft. above sea level on a steep south-facing slope. The soil consists of a well-drained volcanic loam and the vines are trained on a vertical trellis.

The 2001 vintage was a classic example of what Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon appellation has to offer.  The aromas that jump out of the glass are pure Diamond Mountain District with loads of cherry cough drop and black cherry fruit.  The oak adds layers of spice and a warm vanilla character. 

Giulio wrote of this release, "On the palate, the wine exhibits exceptional balance and nuanced character while still being big enough to handle anything you put it up against.  As in the nose, black cherry is the predominant fruit.  The mouthfeel is silky smooth and rich and the finish seems to go on forever.  Layers of brown spices and red fruits show themselves as the wine opens up in the glass."

On release, Di Giulio wrote of this wine, my sense is that with proper cellaring, this wine could easily continue to improve for another 8 to 12 years.

It took ninety minutes to open and reveal its true character. This was similar profile to the Lede but not as dark, rich or concentrated. There was still life left in this twenty year old, showing no signs of diminution from age.

Garnet colored, medium full bodied, black berry and black raspberry fruits with notes of cassis, black tea and hints of clove spice, oak and vanilla bean with smooth polished tannins on a lingering nicely balanced acidic finish. 

RM 91 points.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Château Larmande St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2005

Château Larmande St Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2005

Mid-week casual sipping, I pulled this from the cellar to enjoy with artisan cheeses and biscuits. 

It's hard to believe its been five years since I last tasted this label when I wrote,' at eleven years of age, I sense this is approaching the end of its prime drinking window as the fruits seem to have given way slightly to the emergence of the non-fruit flavors based on earlier tasting notes from three and five years ago'.  

That note was probably insightful as the trend of diminution seems to have continued and as I (blindly) demoted my score for this label by a point. It was still enjoyable none-the-less.

That earlier tasting was from a 375 ml half bottle while tonight was standard size 750, and I wrote at that time. "Knowing the small format half bottle will age less gracefully than full size or larger bottles makes me wonder if that affected this tasting - will find out when I open a standard format bottle of this label." 

Alas, we found out and my prognosis may have been correct as this seems to have diminished further albeit ever so slightly. We still hold three bottles of the case we acquired upon release. We'll need to consume these in the intermediate term, but it still has several years to go, yet.  

My published tasting notes for this label show nine postings with one a year ago when my notes were consistent with earlier tastings and project life still left in this release.

Château Larmande lies north of the town of St. Emilion, close to Soutard and Cadet-Piola. It consists of 25 hectares of vineyards planted with Merlot (65%), Cabernet Franc (25%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). Larmande was sold to the French insurance conglomerate, La Mondiale in 1991.

This vintage release was a blend of Merlot (65%), Cabernet Franc (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%).

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, aromatic blackberry and black cherry fruits accented by tones of tar, smoke, earthy leather, hints of cedar and spice, (earlier reports of mocha were not apparent), on a firm lingering tongue puckering tannin finish - fruits slightly diminished from earlier tastings with seemingly increased acidity.

RM 88 points.*

*PS. A postscript on this tasting, after a couple days open in the bottle, chilled, this wine returned to its earlier elegance, structured balance and fruit, regaining earlier rating of 89 points. Once again, I shouldn't P-n-P, pop and pour these complex aged wines, rather, give them respect, open them and allow them to breathe at least a couple hours before diving in!


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Spring Valley Vineyard Sheri-Lee Petit Verdot 2013

Spring Valley Vineyard Sheri-Lee Petit Verdot 2013

For our beef bourguignon wine dinner, we also opened this Washington State Petit Verdot. We tasted this label during our visit to the Walla Walla tasting room during our Walla Walla Wine Experience in 2019.  We acquired this label as part of our regular shipment of our club allocation.
All Spring Valley Vineyard wines are named in tribute to family members who have succeeded in farming the same land where the vineyard and winery now flourish. This Petit Verdot is named for Sharilee (pronounced Shar’ a lee) Corkrum Derby, granddaughter of Spring Valley founder Uriah Corkrum. Sharilee, known as Shari, married Dean Derby in 1954 and worked in farming the wheat fields at Spring Valley as her grandfather, father, Frederick, and mother, Nina Lee, did before her. 
Shari and Dean planted the first wine grapes at Spring Valley in 1993 beginning the tradition of Spring Valley Vineyards.  Following in the footsteps of ancestors Uriah, Katherine, Frederick, and Nina Lee Corkrum, Shari Corkrum Derby and her husband Dean Derby continue to operate the wheat fields, and now vineyards and winery, on the property that has been the family ranch for over 100 years. 
We had the pleasure of meeting Dean Derby when we visited the vineyards during our Walla Walla Wine Experience in 2019.  
The Spring Valley Vineyards lie 12 miles northeast of Walla Walla, amid the picturesque wheat fields of southeastern Washington and the Blue Mountains in the distance. The initial block of Merlot was planted in 1993 on a southern hillside facing southwest. The vines follow the north-south slope of the hills in vertical rows, an orientation that when combined with the declination of the slope, allows the vines to take optimal advantage of air drainage, sunshine, and the reflective nature of the surrounding wheat fields. 
Spring Valley Vineyards amidst wheat fields with views
of Blue Mountains in the distance
 The south facing slopes of Spring Valley Vineyards
Spring Valley take great care managing the vineyards with individual attention to each grape vine tended by hand, including crop thinning, leaf pulling, and harvesting, as well as hand-burying individual canes to protect them during the winter in southeastern Washington
Spring Valley Vineyard Sheri-Lee Petit Verdot 2013
This release is a blend of 80% Petit Verdot and 20% Cabernet Franc.
Winemaker Tasting Notes: “This 2013 Petit Verdot is very vibrant with peppers, spices, orange peels, pomegranates and figs on the nose. The palate is elegant and mineral. This is a great wine that can pair with almost any food. Great for a BBQ party too.” ~ Winemaker Serge Laville
Lighter and less fruit than expected, this was garnet purple colored, slightly opaque, medium bodied,  black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of herbs, dill, fennel and cola, medium acidity and a short finish. 

RM 88 points.



Monday, December 28, 2020

Ristow Estate Quinta de Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Ristow Estate Napa Valley Quinta de Pedras Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

We had Dr Dan and Linda over for Sunday night dinner and Linda prepared delicious beef bourguignon. I had considered an aged Bordeaux but pulled from the cellar this vintage big Napa Cab for the occasion. 

Prior to dinner with a selection of artisan cheese, fruits and nuts we opened this unique sipper - Moët & Chandon Petite Liquorelle - a cognac infused rich desert and sparkling wine. Linda found this cleaning out the pantry. We don't know where we got it or how long we've had it but it has been several years at the very least. It was very tasty, dark tea colored, full bodied, sweet, nutty with tones of sweet mocha. Like everyone else on Cellartracker reviewing this, there were no sparkling bubbles in it. It was novel and fun sipping as an aperitif, or as a digestive.

For our dinner we served this Ristow Estate Napa Cab. Ristow was located in the eastern hills of Napa Valley between Silverado Trail and Soda Canyon Road, a few hundred yards south of the Stags Leap District near the intersection of Oak Knoll and Silverado Trail. 

Ristow Estate was founded when Brunno Ristow, a plastic surgeon from Brazil, bought the property just east of the Silverado Trail in 1983.

Brunno and Urannia Ristow planted 9 acres of Cabernet in 1989 just south of the Stags Leap District. They called the vineyard Quinta de Pedras, Portuguese for "place of stones," aptly named for the topography of the rocky, inhospitable ground.

"From the very beginning, when we wanted to plant, people said, 'Are you crazy? There's no soil here,'" says Urannia, 55, whose family farmed coffee and vegetables in her native Nicaragua.

In 1991, they bought an additional 10 acres on softer ground. Encouraged by the quality of their early crops, they bought and planted eight more contiguous acres in 1992.

In those first few years, they sold the grapes to Raymond, Shafer, Leonetti and William Hill wineries. Brunno had intended to bottle a Ristow Estate label, but waited until the 1995 vintage by which time he was pleased with the vineyard's quality and volume of grapes. In 1995 they produced 1,000 cases. 

Winemaker Pam Starr, 39, joined Ristow in 1997 and crafted the 1996 Quinta de Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon which was already in barrel. After working with the vineyard for three years, Starr recommended replanting Block 1, the original vineyard. The rock was so thick in some places that even a massive bulldozer was unable to penetrate it. It took nearly six months and expenses skyrocketed costing $30,000 an acre just to split the rock.

The 1997 vintage Quinta de Pedras' was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator with 1684 cases produced. Ristow also grew Merlot and Petit Verdot, but they didn't make the final blend and Ristow released 100% Cabernet until the 2001 vintage release. 

Cecilia de Quesada Harris (Ristow's daughter, step-daughter) began working in the family wine business in 1998 running the marketing and sales for Ristow Estate. In 2005 Cecilia and her husband Wil took over Ristow. They also created Pedras Wine Company, the second generation of vintners to produce Cabernet Sauvignon from the family’s Ristow Estate vineyard. Wil a polo player owned El Ragon Argentine restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach, an MBA, he used to own some vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Brunno continued to oversee vineyard operations

The Harris's inserted Jamey Whetstone, 37, as winemaker to replace Starr. He was an assistant at Turley. The wines were made at the Napa Wine Company from 40% of the production, the remainder was sold to neighbor Signorella, Joseph Phelps and Maclean.

The vineyard was sold in 2012 but the Harris' continued with the Pedras label sourced with fruit from a historic vineyard in Rutherford. They produce limited production of their Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon, and from 2016, Pedras rosé of Pinot Noir sourced from Sonoma County. Their recent releases were 2017 Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, 2016 Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, and 2017 Pedras Pedras Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Cellartracker shows 27 vintages of Ristow Estate Quinta de Pedras Cabernet Sauvignon with vintage releases as late as 2016, however, only a dozen bottles are indicated in inventory and no tasting notes posted for the vintages 2006 through 2016. They also all show the same label photo. The last indication of life for the brand was 2005. Some published reports cite between 100 and 130 cases were produced of the Ristow label in the following years.

At twenty-one years, this 1999 Ristow Cabernet Sauvignon, Quinta de Pedras Vineyard was outstanding and showed no signed of diminution from aging whatsoever. There is much life left in this release, I could imagine it lasting another ten years. The label, foil and cork were perfect, the neck caked with a layer of sediment. 

For the 1999 release, the Ristow Estate winemaker was Pam Starr and production was 1960 cases. 

Winemaker's Tasting Notes:

The dark purple colored wine exudes aromas of cassis, blackberry, chocolate and exotic spices. These generous flavors follow the aromas with wonderful concentration and acidity on the palate. The intense flavors are balanced by a mineral earthiness reflective of the distinctive rocky terroir, the thumb print of the Quinta de Pedras Vineyard. The wine possesses soft but persistent tannins that finish seamlessly and provide structure for aging.

My notes: Such a complex wine could easily of been mistaken for an aged, quality Bordeaux. Dark inky blackish purple colored, full bodied, intense bouquet of ripe black fruits exploded from the bottle upon opening, blackberry, plum, and black currant with aromas of exotic spice, herbs, anise, and dust,  fruit forward on the palate with ripe black fruits, cassis, dark mocha, spice, leather, earth, and a seamless integration of acid, alcohol and tannin with a long finish that went on and on and on.

RM 92 points.

This was was awarded  94 points by Wine Enthusiast and 92 points by Wine Spectator.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Château Mouton Rothschild Xu Bing 2018 Vintage label

Château Mouton Rothschild Selects Chinese artist Xu Bing design for Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2018 Vintage label 

My study in wine branding and marketing each year looks forward to the annual announcement of the selected artist and featured artwork for the vintage release of Château Mouton Rothschild

This week the legendary Château Mouton Rothschild announced the label for its 2018 vintage release. The new label will feature an original calligraphic artwork by Xu Bing, a leading Chinese artist printmaker and calligrapher. 

Xu Bing developed “square word calligraphy” as a system for writing English in the early 1990s after he came to New York. Although the rectangular units of writing resemble Chinese characters, each one is actually a word in English, in which the letters of each English word are organized into structures that resemble Chinese characters. 

Xu Bing's works have been exhibited at the British Museum in London, and the Museum of Modern Art and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, "An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy" from 1994-1996.

Xu Bing’s 2018 design displays the name ‘Mouton Rothschild’ written in a unique script called Square Word Calligraphy. Xu Bing developed this artistic form of writing by reshaping Latin alphabet letters to resemble traditional Chinese characters, suggesting a blending of different cultures. 

Xu Bing’s previous work has showcased in several leading galleries and museums around the world and covers many different media, including wood engraving, large installations, and sculpture.

The 65-year-old Xu, born in 1955, first visited Château Mouton Rothschild in 2013 at the invitation of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. “I was impressed by her energy, her warm personality and her knowledge of the arts. She said that one day I should create a label for Mouton Rothschild,” Xu said in a press release Tuesday.

After the Baroness passed away in 2014 at age 80, the estate and vineyards were inherited by her three children, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild.

“So when Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild contacted me to illustrate the label for the vintage 2018, I took it as both an honor and an opportunity to pay tribute,” Xu said.

“When I discovered Xu Bing, I was captivated by him as an inventor of signs endowed with incredible poetic power,” Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild said in the release. “And then I said to myself that our labels were also signs, each work of art referring to a year: the 1973 vintage can also be called the ‘ Picasso Mouton, ’ just as the 2018 vintage will be called the ‘ Xu Bing Mouton ’.”

I have written about the Mouton art series in these pages in the feature Mouton Rothschild Wine Label Art Series.

As I have written in these pages, any 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 label.

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. Most 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.

Mouton Rothschild Artist Labels have been produced by the world's most famous contemporary artists, Chagall (1970, Dali (1958), Picasso (1973), Miro (1969), Andy Warhol (1975), as well as other luminaries such as Prince Charles (2004) and Hollywood director John Huston (1982). Many other producers have established artist series, but there is only one Mouton Rothschild.

In 1945, Baron Philippe de Rothschild conceived the original idea of crowning the Mouton label with a work of art created for this purpose by famous artists; these have included paintings by Miró, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Warhol, Bacon, Balthus, amongst others.

Since then, only 4 vintages have not had Artist's labels: 1953 which celebrated the initial purchase of the Mouton property, 1977 when the Queen Mother stayed at Mouton and the Baron dedicated that year's vintage to her, 2000 where the label is enameled in gold with a reproduction of Jakob Schenauer's Augsburg Ram (seen in the linked to library series), and 2003 which is devoted to Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild depicted in a period photograph celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1853 acquisition of the Mouton estate by the family. 
Other recent vintage release labels:
Annette Messager
Mouton Rothschild 2017 Annetter Messager label Annette Messager was selected as the artist for the Mouton Rothschild 2017 label. Her design named ‘Hallelujah’ features the word repeated many times in waves on the artwork. The artwork also features imagery of a woman's breasts that refer to the combination of milk and wine.

The producer said of Messager’s work, ‘In an approach that is both realistic and symbolic, [Messager] combines two substances, milk and wine, which the Bible often associates with each other, hymning the virtues of both.’

The artist Messager was born in Bereck in Northern France in1943. She is known as a visual and graphic artist and has exhibited her work in the some of the world’s best-known galleries.
She won the prestigious Golden Lion award at Venice Biennale in 2005 and the Praemium Imperiale in Japan in 2016.

Several of her major works have been seen as commentary on identity, particularly around the perceptions of women by society and individuals.


William Kentridge
Mouton Rothschild 2016 South African artist William Kentridge designed the label for the 2016 vintage grand vin. The artwork named ‘The Triumphs of Bacchus’ incorporated a series of silhouettes for the Mouton Rothschild 2016 label.

Kentridge, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955, and was the first artist from the African continent to illustrate a Mouton label.

The Kentridge label design shows a variety of silhouettes of Bacchus in what the first growth Château described as a joyful procession.

The work was inspired by Bacchic characters from the paintings of great artists, from Titian to Matisse, Mouton said.

One of the art forms most closely associated with Kentridge is the creation of animated film using charcoal drawings or black-card cut-outs, Mouton said. Kentridge has also become well-known for a variety of art forms, including sculpture and theatre.


Gerhard Richter
Chateau Mouton Rothschild Label 2015

The 2015 label was designed by German artist Gerhard Richter who is well known for a broad portfolio of paintings, abstracts, photographs and paintings on photographs dating back to 1962.

Since the mid 1980's he has created more than 2,000 Overpainted Photographs. His creation for the Mouton label is an abstract 'photo painting' using a unique 'flux' technique that combines photography and painting. The technique, involves spreading enamel paint on a plate of plexiglass which is then pressed against a glass plate. For the design, he photographed the fluctuating colours at the point he considered the composition to be 'momentarily harmonious'. The completed work consists of the one plate affixed of top of the other. His abstract style has been likened to famous artists including Picasso.

This year's artist and deign were chosen by Camille and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, the next-generation owners of the famous wine estate.

Richter was born in Germany in 1932. His 1986 painting ‘Abstraktes Bild’ set a record auction price for a work by a living artist in October 2015, when it sold at Sotheby’s for over $40 million.

 The collection of Mouton Rothschild labels are all shown on my legacy Mouton Rothschild Art Label Library.

The official library is presented on the original Mouton Rothschild Official Label Art Site.

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: 

Alpha Listing of Mouton Rothschild Label Artists

Chronological list of Mouton Rothschild artists with links to Wikipedia profiles and other artwork by Mouton Rothschild selected artists.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Grand Siècle Brut NV Champagne

Laurent Perrier La Cuvée Grand Siècle Grand Grand Cru Brut NV Champagne

We took this to Erin and Johnny's for Christmas Day gathering. There's always room for Champagne, especially special occasions and family holiday gatherings, so I took this special bottle from our cellar collection that we have been holding for quite a while. I recall this included in the blend wine from at least one of the kids' birth years. 

This is Laurent-Perrier's prestige cuvée that is a non-vintage blending from Laurent-Perrier's very best growths and most successful vintage years. Laurent-Perrier has always preferred to keep its prestige cuvée as a non-vintage blend to which they apply four rules:

  • Blending of a selection of 3 exceptional years, chosen from the rare vintages produced by Laurent-Perrier.
  • Blending of a selection of 11 of the 17 existing Grand Crus in Champagne, whose characteristics are specific to the Laurent-Perrier style.
  • A blend made from a base year (the youngest) and 2 additional years in order to reach an ideal balance and to perpetuate this style with each iteration.
  • A blend with a majority of Chardonnay supplemented by Pinot Noir and benefiting from more than 10 years of aging in the Cellars.

In the 17th Century, during the reign of Louis XIV, France enjoyed its most illustrious era. Louis XIV became known as the "Sun King" for his benevolence and his patronage of the Arts, which became the foundation of France's rich artistic heritage. At the Palace of Versailles Louis XIV was the first French King to drink Champagne in the Royal Court.

Louis XIV's era became known as the Grand Siècle - the "Great Century". Bottled in a replica of a 17th Century bottle, Laurent-Perrier's prestige cuvées "embody luxury, magnificence and elegance fit for a king".

Alec and Linda, Champagne 2006

The NV Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée is a Grand Cru Brut based on the firm's top selection, the only Cuvée de Prestige in Champagne based on the blend and not on the vintage. Grand Siècle is not a vintage wine. Each iteration is numbered, much more rarely than vintage years in Champagne. 

Only 24 iterations have been produced in 65 years compared to the 45 vintages declared over the same period.

Grand Siècle is sourced from twelve of the most prestigious villages' vineyards; all of them classified at 100% Grands Crus. From vineyards of these villages, only the very best plots are selected, and the finest musts from the pressings; Chardonnay 55% percent of the blend, from Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger; and Pinot Noir, 45%, from Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne and Verzenay.

We toured many of these villages and the surrounding vineyards during our Champagne Wine Experience region tour in 2006

The first Grand Siècle cuvée was unveiled by Laurent-Perrier in 1959. Each release is a blend of recent three declared vintages; one was released consisting of 2006, 2004, and 2002, another was a blend of the 2002, 1999 and 1998, another release was from the '99, '97 and '96 vintages. But, I am certain we've had this for nearly a decade longer and recall it included the 1990 vintage, birth year of son, Alec. Alas, my cellar records fail me on the provenance of this label further indicating I acquired it before my current record keeping systems were in place. 

The 1990 vintage was included in three releases, Iteration 15 ('90, '88, and '85), Iteration 16 ('93, 90 and 88) and Iteration 17 ('95, 93, 90).  Hence, my recollection is it is one of these three, however, I thought the bottles I purchased back on release contained at least two our kids' birth-years which would've been Iteration 15. This is the last remaining bottle of a half dozen we consumed over the years. C'est la vie.

The current release of Grand Siècle is Iteration 24 and consists of vintages 2007, '06 and '04.

The NV declarations make it difficult to track which release is which after an extended time but another release of this label got 97 points from Wine Enthusiast and a 'Cellar Selection' designation, 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 93 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

This or a similar label got 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and 90 points from Wine & Spirits.

While showing its age and possibly past its apex, certainly not likely to improve further with aging, this showed great character and a distinctive profile. Honey colored, (having darkened with age from straw then butter colored), medium bodied, complex, full predominant notes of smokiness combined with nutty pecan tones gave way to hints of pain-grille and caramel and dried pear with a smooth luxuriously balanced finish. 

RM 91 points.

This had remnant of the profile it showed in its youth as written by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, "It is pure, ripe and very elegant, mixing pain-aux-raisin and honey flavors with pure chalk. Ample, highly elegant, beautifully matured and fruit-intense, with fine caramel, honey and torrone flavors, this is a well-structured Grand Siècle with great finesse and delicate freshness. Awesome."

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar back in 2016 mentions the smokiness twice, on the main palate and again on the finish ... "A heady, mineral-tinged bouquet evokes dried pear, buttery brioche, lemon curd and anise, plus a smoky topnote. Chewy and expansive on the palate, offering concentrated orchard and pit fruit flavors and a touch of bitter quinine. The smoky note repeats on the finish, which shows impressive clarity and mineral-driven persistence."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Domaine de Beaurenard "Cuvée Boisrenard" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2004

Domaine de Beaurenard (Paul Coulon et Fils) "Cuvée Boisrenard" Châteauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard 2004

For a quiet Christmas eve at home together, Linda prepared BBQ ribs and I pulled from the cellar this Châteauneuf-du-Pape as an accompaniment.

Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate vineyards have been in the same family for 7 generations. Domaine de Beaurenard dates back to 1695 when was it was known by the name “Bois Renard.” 

Domaine de Beaurenard began making wine under the current branding in 1929 and remains a family run estate managed by Frederic Coulon and Daniel Coulon with sons Antonin and Victor Coulon becoming increasingly involved in managing the property. They were featured on the cover of and in a coverage article in Wine Spectator Magazine in November 2018. 

Wine Spectator coverDomaine de Beaurenard has 32 hectares (2.2 acres = 1 hectare) of vines in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, 28 hectares in red wine grapes and 4 hectares for making white Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine. 

The vines are located in 25 separate parcels with much of their Grenache planted in the Cabrieres lieu-dit. Domaine de Beaurenard also owns 15 hectares of vineyards in the Cotes du Rhone Villages, and 62 hectares of vines in the Rasteau AOC.  

The vines are dispersed across the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation with plantings in the Beau Renard, le Bois de la Ville, Cansaud, la Cerise, Colombis, la Crau, la Gardine, la Nerthe, la Pied Long and le Pradel lieux-dits.

The estate tasting room sits on the southern outskirts of the village of  Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the main route leading into town.

Domaine de Beaurenard grows all 13 Rhone grape varieties allowed by the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation (AOC) regulations for use in their red wines, the primary grapes used in the blend being Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and tiny amounts of varietals Counoise, Muscardin, Terret and Vaccarese. 

Some of the old vines of Grenache date back over 100 years.

Domaine de Beaurenard produces 4 red Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, and 2 white Chateauneuf du Pape wines as well as wines from the Cotes du Rhone and Rasteau appellations. 

The primary label, Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape is produced from a blend of 70% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah with 4% Cinsault, the rest of the blend is from assorted grape varieties sourced from vines that average close to 50 years of age.

This is the premium flagship label, Domaine de Beaurenard Cuvee Boisrenard. It is produced from a blend of 60% old vine Grenache and the other appellation approved grape varieties. The vines range in age from 60 to more than 100 years of age.

I write extensively about the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation and its history and regulations in our blogpost from our visit to the area and the nearby estates

On average, close to 1,500 cases are produced of this label each year. 

Domaine de Beaurenard (Paul Coulon et Fils) "Cuvée Boisrenard" Châteauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard 2004 

I still recall I first discovered and tasted this wine during my first visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape back in 1998. This wine was first produced with the 1990 vintage release. We also still hold several bottles of that inaugural 1990 vintage, birthyear of son Alec that we're holding for a suitable family occasion.

This 2004 release got 94 points from Wine Spectator, 91-93 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, 90 points from  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 89 points from Wine Enthusiast. The recent 2016 vintage release got 96 points from Wine Spectator. 

Winemaker notes for this release: "Parcels of old vines 60-100 years in age, planted in soils of great character and complexity, provide the grapes for this wine. They are picked when fully mature and meticulously sorted by hand to further enhance concentration. These old parcels, in which different varieties are planted together, embody the symphony of 13 varieties, though Grenache predominates."

This is likely drinking at the apex of its profile and will not likely improve further with aging. This was dark garnet and inky purple colored, medium full bodied, nicely balanced black cherry, currant and blackberry fruits with notes of tobacco, toast, spice oak, black tea and hints of cassis and pepper on a smooth lingering moderate tannin finish.

RM 91 points.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Double Diamond (Schrader) Amber Knolls Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Shrader Double Diamond Lake County Beckstoffer Amber Knolls Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

I pulled this Double Diamond label from the cellar as the double diamond is a fun play on words sharing it with two sons who had weddings in recent months. Also, this provided another tasting of the handiwork of winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown who produced the Kinsella Estate Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon that Alec and Viv shared the other evening.

Thomas Rivers Brown was originally from South Carolina. After graduation from the University of Virginia he traveled the wine regions of France, and eventually made his way to Napa Valley in the mid-1990's. He worked with and earned the craft as cellar hand and lab enologist for notable winemakers Ehren Jordan and Larry Turley of Turley Wine Cellars.

In 2000, Thomas got his chance to produce his own wines when he was appointed winemaker for the new winery project Chiarello Vineyards which I wrote about in these pages a couple years ago

Since then, in addition to Chiarello, Thomas has overseen winemaking operations or consulted for many well known Napa Valley wineries including Schrader, Outpost, Maybach, Revana, TOR, C. Mondavi, Jones Family, Harris Estate, Hestan, Seaver, Black Sears, and Casa Piena. He also has his own wine label, Rivers-Marie, where Thomas Brown focuses his efforts on Pinot Noir.
Thomas Brown has been called "the nation's hottest winemaker." by David White of The Terroirist Wine Journal., He is one of but a few winemakers globally to have received multiple 100-point wine scores from the penultimate wine critic Robert Parker Jr. of The Wine Advocate, as well as from wine noted critic, James Laube of The Wine Spectator. In 2010, Thomas was honored as Food & Wine Magazine "Winemaker of the Year."

This is the second label of the classic super premium Shrader brand/collection. This is from the Amber Knolls Vineyard up in Lake County, over the hill from Howell Mountain to the northeast from Napa Valley, not to be confused with the Oak Knolls district in southwest Napa.

The Double Diamond brand, crafted by winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, has featured several different labels, sourced from a complement of prime vineyard estates in and around Napa Valley. "From rocky, high-elevation soils to the warm, rich valley floor, each incredible vineyard contributes its unique character to this enticing and eminently satisfying Napa Cabernet."

Consistent with last tasting .... this was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, forward expressive black berry fruits, smokey black creosote tones with hints of black licorice and touch of dark cocoa with moderate firm tannins.

RM 90 points.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 
The third white wine we opened for our Gala Family Christmas celebration wine dinner was this Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc from Hall Wine.
Sauvignon Blanc in the most natural of white varietal wines, vinified nearest to the core fruit and less adulterated than any other varietal. Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite white wines for serious wine and food pairings as well as purely simple pleasurable sipping. 
The bright fruit and crisp acidity of this label were markedly different, lighter, simpler and more focused than the two more complex Chardonnay's we opened to accompany the lobster medallions. Most folks tended to one side or the other. I preferred this. 
Straw colored, medium light bodied, bright sprites of peach predominated accented by notes of melon, subdued green apple, hints of grapefruit and wet stone with a lengthy smooth finish. 
RM 91 points. 
This was awarded 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and 91points by International Wine Review.