Thursday, April 2, 2020

Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2013

Tablas Creek Vineyards Estate Grown and Bottled Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2013

Tablas Creek Vineyards is a joint venture between two internationally renowned wine families: the Perrin family, proprietors of the legendary Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the Haas family of the leading importer Vineyard Brands.  Together they developed vineyards in western Paso Robles where they grow and produce Rhone River varietal wines based on Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Rousanne including this Estate bottled label.

Our visit to Château de Beaucastel was one of the highlights of our visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape back in 1998. We visited the region and appellation again last year in 2019.

Robert Haas is known for his work in the American wine industry for over half a century, beginning as a buyer for his family's New York wine merchant retailer M. Lehman starting in the 1950s. His travels to the cellars of France forged lifelong relationships with premier wine producers such as the Perrins.

In the mid-1960s, he set out on his own to import fine estate wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, where he met the Perrins. He convinced family patriarch Jacques Perrin to appoint him exclusive American importer. Working with Jacques' sons Jean-Pierre and Francois Perrin, they established Beaucastel as one world's leading estates and well known brands.

They were convinced that the Rhone grape varieties, well suited to the sunny south of France, would thrive in California's Mediterranean climate. In 1985, they began looking for property to develop, searching for a close match to the climate and high pH soils of Château de Beaucastel.

In 1989, they purchased a 120-acre parcel twelve miles from the Pacific Ocean in what is now the Adelaida District west of Paso Robles. They named the property Tablas Creek Vineyard after the small creek running through the property. The Tablas Creek property terroir elevation, soils and climate are similar to those at Beaucastel.

Robert Haas was recognized by the Paso Robles Wine Community as 2007 Wine Industry Person of the Year, and in 2014, received a lifetime achievement award from Rhone Rangers for his contributions to the American Rhone movement. Haas passed away in March 2018. His son Jason, has run the estate since the mid-2000's. Jason was voted 2015 Paso Robles Wine Country Wine Industry Person of the Year and 2017 San Luis Obispo County Wine Industry Person of the Year.

Wines produced in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in accordance with the Appellation Controlle regulations can consist of thirteen different grape varieties, with another eight approved in the Côtes du Rhône appellation. Initially, Tablas Creek focused on nine key varieties of wine grapes of the Southern Rhône for their Paso Robles estate vineyard: Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, and Counoise for the reds, and Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Picpoul for the whites. 

In recent years, they have imported seven additional grape varieties, with the goal of having the complete Chateauneuf du Pape collection: Clairette, Bourboulenc, Vaccarese, Cinsaut, Picardan, Muscardin, and Terret Noir. 

Today Tablas Creek produces a range of red and white wines comprised of estate-grown Rhône varietals Viognier, Grenache and Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne. 

Tablas Creek actually imported vine cuttings of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc from the Beaucastel estate. In 1992, they planted rootstock fields and built greenhouse facilities to propagate and graft the cuttings. The resulting grapevines were planted in their estate vineyards beginning in 1994. In 1996, they began selling vines and budwood to growers through the Tablas Creek Nursery. Since then, they have sold nearly five million cuttings to more than 600 vineyards and wineries from California to Washington State to Virginia and Texas.

Tablas Creek Vineyards Estate Grown Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2013

The Tablas Creek Vineyard 2013 Côtes de Tablas Blanc is a blend of four estate-grown white Rhône varietals - 39% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc and 20% Marsanne and 12% Roussanne

This release was awarded 90 points by Jeb Dunnuck of The Wine Advocate and Antonio Galloni of Vinous.

Winemaker notes: The wine, like most wines of the Southern Rhône, is a blend of varietals, featuring the floral aromatics and stone fruit of Viognier, the crisp acids and rich mouthfeel of Grenache Blanc, and the structure and minerality of Marsanne and Roussanne.

This was straw colored, medium bodied, creamy notes of citrus, floral, hint of lime and minerality. 

RM 88 points.



Wednesday, April 1, 2020

L'Aventure "Optimus" Paso Robles Red Blend 2004

Stephen Vineyards L'Aventure "Optimus" Paso Robles Red Blend 2004 with Barbecue Ribs

Following our COVID shut-in virtual family dinner and wine tasting last evening where son Ryan had barbecue ribs and L'Aventure "Optimus", (and our original such event last weekend), Linda prepared grilled barbecue ribs and I pulled from our cellar the same label for pairing. 

Readers of this blog know we love Shiraz/Syrah, and we love big bold fruit forward and structured wines. What could be better, then, than a big fruity Syrah, bolstered by structure of Cabernet Sauvignon, augmented by highlights of dark fruits and backbone of Petit Verdot! And, what better pairing for such a wine than barbecue ribs

Frenchman Stephan Asseo studied oenology L'Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy and began making wine in 1982. He established Domaine de Courteillac in Bordeaux and with his family, later purchased Chateau Fleur Cardinal and Chateau Robin in the Cotes de Castillion, Bordeaux. Over the next 15 years he honed his craft as an artisan winemaker and gained a reputation as a maverick vigneron.  

After searching for over a year among the world's great wine regions for an ideal location to produce his wines, he fell in love with Paso Robles. In 1996, he came to America with his wife, Beatrice and his three children, where he would not constrained by the strict rigorous French AOC regulations. He started L’Aventure on a 127-acre estate in 1998 in Paso Robles in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range on the California Central Coast. He released his first vintages the late 1990s and today crafts innovative blends of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals including his flagship wines Optimus and Estate Cuvee, both blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 

It is always a priority at L’Aventure to harvest the individual clusters of the grapes and work the various blocks in the vineyards at the optimal time. This attention to detail and commitment to quality costs L’Aventure up to five times the labor and production costs of other producers. 

Syrah is the primary varietal planted at L’Aventure, planted up and down the four hillsides that make up the estate vineyards. As the crowns of each hill mature, they are the hilltops to be picked pick. It could be a week or two later before they descend on the middle band of vines, and it can be up to a month later before they pick the bottom third of the hill, which retains more water, enjoys richer soil, and therefore matures fruit later.

Robert M. Parker has written that “Asseo continues to go from strength to strength, producing a fabulous portfolio of wines that makes L’Aventure one of the bright, shining reference points for the region. This is one of the California Central Coast superstars…”  

L'Aventure "Optimus" Paso Robles Red Blend 2004

The 2004 Optimus, L'Aventure's signature "Paso Blend," is a blend of 57% Syrah, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Petit Verdot. This was the greatest percentage of Petit Verdot ever to be used in the Optimus blend resulting in tight focus and extraordinary grip. 

Like Ryan's experience the other evening, as soon as the cork was released from the bottle, the room erupted with aromas of black berry fruits.  

Dark blackish inky purple colored, full bodied, concentrated forward rich blackberry and black raspberry fruits are accented by blue notes, floral, licorice, hints of espresso, smoke and black tea with a long tannin laced finish. 

RM 92 points.  

Wine Spectator gave this release 91 points. The latest 2017 release got 94 points from Jeb Dunnuck.

Sunset Magazine called this a "Paso Gem": "A Syrah-Cabernet blend with an iron core. Mint, chocolate, sweet pipe tobacco, and blackberries."


Monday, March 30, 2020

Covid Shutin virtual dinner - Calera Ryan Vineyard - Jack's Masterpiece - Conundrum Red

Calera Ryan Vineyard - Jack's Masterpiece - Conundrum Red for another Coronavirus shut-in virtual family wine dinner

Tonight, we're continuing our COVID shut-in virtual family dinner and wine tastings, (and our original such event last weekend),virtual dinners and wine tastings across the family, sharing texts, photos and videos of our selections as we're all shut in due to the Coronavirus. As the Coronavirus shut-in enters week three, sons Ryan and Alec and daughter Erin joined us to conduct another virtual family dinner and wine tasting.

Daughter Erin joined in with texts and pictures of their family activities capped off by Richie's Journal setting the tone for the whole situation, and Lucy's art tribute to recently departed pets.

Son Ryan grilled filet steaks with evoo, garlic and rosemary, seared finished on the grill, and Michelle prepared twice baked potatoes and lemon vinagrette grilled asparagus. For their wine selection they selected Hall's Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an extraordinary wine from the Hall collection that was rated 99 points.

Hall's Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This is a great virtual wine tasting selection since we have both visited the magnificent Hall Winery and hospitality center at their Rutherford Estate. Son Alec selected Hall's Excellenz from their super premium collection for special gifting to clients for the holiday a year ago.

We also hold bottles of Jack's Masterpiece, a fun wine and great selection for such an event since it is dedicted to Hall's former winemaker and current president, Mike Reynold's son Jack.  The wine is named for the label artwork created by Mike’s then 18-month-old son Jack as a Father’s Day gift.
 Lastly, the vintage selected is also the birthyear of grandkids and cousins from both sides of the family, Marleigh and Richie.

This was awarded 99 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points from Wine Spectator and 93 points from Vinous.

This is a premium blend, selected from the finest grapes from Hall's finest vineyards. All the pundits say it needs several years to shed its 'formidable tannic heft', and that it has three decades or more of longevity. 

From their reviews: "opaque purple color, opulent, full-bodied mouthfeel, deep, plush texture, dark, powerful and explosive, blueberry and blackberry fruits, blackberry jam, dark berry flavors, mocha-scented oak and notes of blackberry, licorice, hazelnut and brownie, espresso, chocolate, leather and super-sweet tannins.

Ryan's incredible grilled steaks
and asparagus

Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 2011

Sharing our dinner and wine selections across the family, Linda and I selected a Calera Pinot Noir from Mt Harlan near Hollister in North Central California.

This is a single vineyard designated wine from the Ryan Vineyard. Part of our reason for selecting this wine was the whimsical fun that is it shares the name of Ryan our oldest son. 

For casual pleasurable sipping with cheese, dried fruits and chocolates we opened a Pinot Noir, a lighter wine for such an occasion. Readers of this blog know we don't do a lot of Pinots, opting instead for bigger, bolder, more fruit forward wines. There are occasions when a lighter, more subtle wine is more suitable and Pinot Noir, the wine of Burgundy is ideal. Such wines are not simpler however and can often be equally complex and even elegant.

Our cellar is full of labels selected as signature labels for a family member or friend due to Vineyard names, special bottlings, or logos on the bottle as remembrances or tributes to someone special. These selections are in addition to our penchant for collecting wines from birth year and anniversary and special occasion year vintages as well.
Add to all this exuberance the selection of the producer Calera Vineyards and its founder winemaker Josh Jenson who is the epitome of Pinot Noir in California, or perhaps America.

As featured previously in this blog, Josh Jensen and his legendary Calera Vineyards were featured in Marq Devillier's wonderful 1994 book - "The Heartbreak Grape: A California Winemaker's Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir". The story tells the tale of Josh's quest to grow the very finnicky Pinot Noir grape in California in the early days before Pinot was cultivated here. In pursuit of his dream to create authentic Burgundian style wines, he sought to find the place in California suitable to achieve that goal. 

Devillers tells of Jenson's quest and research to find the right terrior - all the attributes of the right location, soil, climate, drainage, and other nuances of 'place' that make up the character and personality of a wine from grapes of a particular site. Josh chose Mt. Harlan, an area not then know for grapes or winemaking. 

The rest, as they say, is history. While it is a human interest tale, it also provides a rich insight into the challenges and travails of setting up a winery, and a business, and achieving one's dream to make noteworthy wines. 

Calera’s Mt. Harlan Vineyards are located in Hollister, California, in the Gavilan Mountains, 25 miles east of the Monterey Bay. The site was chosen for its limestone soils and ideal climate. At an average elevation of 2,200 feet it is among the highest and coolest vineyard sites in California.

Calera Pinot Noirs are single vineyard designated meaning they are each named for and produced from fruit sourced from one vineyard each. Their five vineyards planted in Pinot Noir are named for Josh's father (Jenson), Mills, a neighbor who mentored Josh in his early years, Reed, for one of Josh's dear friends and early investors, and in this case Selleck, for a family friend whom Josh attributes to introducing him to wine.

In 2002, the Ryan label appeared, named for Calera's vineyard manager since 1979. We've had fun with this wine collecting it for our #1 Ryan, serving it in celebration of his wedding a few years ago, and holding it in our cellar for special Ryan oriented occasions, or just fun occasions shared together such as tonight!

The Calera vineyards are enumerated and featured on the rear bottle label of the bottles as shown here. They are perhaps the most comprehensive and informative labels one will find anywhere on a bottle of wine. They spell out the information on the vineyard, geography, altitude, plantings, vines, the vintage and the bottling. The rear label itself makes for interesting reading, and insightful comparisons across the vineyards or vintages if one happens to have such bottles.

Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 2011

We hold a half dozen vintages of this label in our cellar as one of our 'signature' wines we hold in fun tribute to son Ryan. 

Consistent with our last tasting for this label which we served for the family Thanksgiving diner back in 2015, this was translucent ruby red colored, medium light bodied, scent of dusty rose, cherry and raspberry fruit flavors with a hint of cola, spice and earthy mushroom turning to fine grained delicate tannins on the moderate lingering finish.

RM 89 points.

Another family connection for our evening's dining, Linda and I enjoyed some delicious artisan chocolates from France. 

These were part of a incredible holiday gift package from our 'French Family' friends whom we visited with son Alec during or French holiday last year.  

One of the primary reasons for our trip, and the purpose of visiting Aix-en-Provence was to visit with our ‘host’family, Jean Claude and Mireille, parents of Philippe who was an exchange student that lived with us on two different tours. His residency and friendship with our son Alec contributed to Alec’s fluency in French. Visiting the region to see Philippe and meet his family was one of the reasons for our trip, together with our son and Viv, his fiancée, to the south of France. 

Alec and Vivianna, out in Conneticut, also prepared grilled USDA prime New York strip steaks, charred Pittsburgh style, just like I would like them! 

With their steak dinner they drank a California Conundrum Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Charlie Wagner of Caymus fame. 

This is a blend of Petit Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from throughout the Northern California region, purpose crafted to be the perfect complement to grilled meats at a high QPR suitable for every day drinking.

Conundrum California Red Wine 2017

Crafted by Charlie Wagner, grandson of the legendary Chuck Wagner of Caymus fame, he says "We believe in being both serious and playful, and this wine fits the bill. A rich, dark red, it offers aromas of ripe berries and plums, warmed by a hint of cocoa.'

'Dried fruit and the taste of chocolate-covered cherries come through on the palate, while a wisp of smokines, makes this wine – created from dark red varietals including Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon – the perfect complement to grilled meats and full-flavored dishes.'

'Tannins are rounded out by the ripeness of the berries for a texturous but smooth mouth feel. The finish makes us think of lingering at the end of a long evening and still not wanting to go home, with layers of rich flavor that teasingly trail off." 

Coronavirus Shut-in Family Artwork and Journal

Finally, the most touching point of the evening was Erin sharing pictures of the family artwork highlighted by grandson's Richie journal for the day, setting the tone for the entire shut-in situation, and Lucy and her tribute to beloved family dog Jackie, that was put down as we entered the shut-in period. In the background is the classic family projects - the planets!


Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

As we enter week three of the bizarro world COVID19 shut-in, our tour and enjoyment of our wine cellar investment continues. Tonight, with Sunday night left-overs and a selection of artisan cheeses, berries and assorted nuts, we pulled this Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet.  

We visited the Harris' Paradigm Oakville winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 1999. We still hold more than a case from a half dozen vintages of this label dating back to the mid-nineties.

As shown on the special label affixed to the bottle, this bottle was acquired at the Napa Valley wine auction, not directly from the producer.

This label was last tasted two years ago in a comparison tasting with two other Napa Cabs. At that time I wrote, "Perhaps an unfair comparative tasting of three diverse Napa cabs, the Paradigm was slightly narrower and single dimensional compared the mountain fruit and complexity of the Bordeaux blends. It was delicious never-the-less and a top performing Napa Cab."

Tonight, this was enjoyable standalone and ideal for the occasion. Tasting notes were consistent with earlier, last published note. At eighteen years of age, this is holding well and not showing diminution from aging, but certainly not likely to improve any further.

This is labeled 'Estate Bottled', meaning all the grapes were sourced from producer owned vineyards on the property. 

This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright tangy black cherry and black berry fruits accented by notes of anise, tea, spice box and hints of dark mocha, caramel, and leather.

RM 90 points.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Covid19 Shut-in Prompts Curbside Carryout - Another Virtual Family Dinner

Covid19 Shut-in Prompts Curbside Carryout - Another Virtual Family Dinner

As the Coronavirus shut-in continues, we conducted another Coronavirus shut-in virtual family dinner and wine tasting like we did last week, sharing dinners and wine selections texts, photos and videos across the dispersed family, great-grandparents, us and our four kids and seven grandkids, shut-in in Conneticut and the western Chicago suburbs. It also provided the opportunity for us to support our local restaurants and order curbside carryout dinners.

Linda and I ordered carry-out from Angeli's Italian, to support our neighborhood Italian trattoria, open only for curbside pickup. I ordered the Angelis Veal Special in a Marsala sauce with mushrooms (right) whilst Linda ordered Grilled Salmon salad special.

We also ordered a side order of Angeli's Italian Sausage and Peppers.

For our wine accompaniments, we finished what was left from the Keenan Spring Mountain Cabernet Franc from our dinner the night before.

Sean and Michelle came over and joined us for dinner and had the Angelis Italian Special Mussels entree. With their mussels and salad, we served the remains of Stonestreet Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Chardonnay that were left from earlier in the week.

In honor of Sean and Michelle joining us, despite the extraordinary circumstances, and to celebrate Sean joining PureB2B team, we opened a birthyear bottle of Château Gruaud-Larose, 1985.

Our visit to Château Gruaud-Larose in St Julien Beychevelle was one of the highlights of our Bordeaux Wine Tour last summer.

We hold a dozen vintages of this producer dating back to the kids' birthyears in the eighties including Sean's 1985 vintage release.

We shared a virtual tour of our visit to Château Gruaud-Larose estate grounds, cellar, chai, library and hospitality center in St Julien from our unwindwine blogpost in these pages.

At Ryan's house not far away in Naperville (IL), he prepared for his family household dinner Carribean grilled ribs with baked beans and cilantro lime cole slaw.

Ryan prepared BBQ ribs on his super smoker grill, hand rubbed with home made and Dave's preparation, grilled and smoked with dried apple wood and cherry wood chunks with mixed charcoal - on for three hours, then 2-3 hours wrapped in foil.

Ryan's barbecue ribs
Kids plates - ribs, baked beans, cole slaw...
For his wine accompaniment with the ribs, Ryan and Michelle finished off the remains from the previous evening dinner, Maison L'Envoyé Two Messengers Willammette Valley Pinot Noir 2012

They then opened one of Ryan's favorites, L'Aventure Optimus Paso Robles Red Blend.

Stephen Vineyards L'Aventure Optimus Paso Robles Red Blend 2007

This is a blend of estate grown Syrah (49%,) Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), and 14% Petit Verdot.

Ryan noted, "it was a serious fruit bomb, showing no age, with firm backbone and notes of charred wood that was perfect with the smoked grilled bbq".

He also prepared a carry out care package to take to great-grandparents Keith and Evelyn at the assisted living center. The best we can do is for them to wave to them at the window from the parking lot! Such are these surreal times and circumstances.

Erin and Johnny and their family of six were, of course, also shut-in at home in nearby western suburb Western Springs. They also in support of one of their favorite local eateries, had BBQ ribs carry-out from Q-BBQ in nearby LaGrange.

Not being oenephile wine geeks like Ryan and me, and Alec, as we were sharing our wine label selections across the group text, Erin showed their family beverage of choice for their dinner, milk. For their four small children, especially Richie who is a ravenous milk drinker, Erin shared a photo of their family refridgerator showing no less than six, or was it seven? gallons of milk, an astonishing normal week's supply.

From Conneticut, shut-in Alec and Vivianna checked in and shared they were preparing Asian chicken lettuce wraps.

Before dinner they had a local Conneticut craft brew, Beer'D Dogs and Boats Double India Pale Ale with Citra and Mosaic Hops (no vintage given ;>)), more appropriate than one might think as they sit on the shore overlooking the Long Island sound. 

For dinner wine accompaniment, they opened K-Vinters Wahluke Slope Millbrandt Vineyard Shiraz 2016.

Later, Ryan and Michelle stopped by with the kids and brought us some pastries from DeEtta's Bakery in Naperville that they also took to the grand, great-grandparents.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Keenan Spring Mountain Cabernet Franc 2005

Keenan Winery Spring Mountain District Cabernet Franc 2005

It's hard to believe we're coming up on two weeks of self lock-down due to the Covid19 crisis. So often I have joked that if ever such an event occurred we would be in good shape with more than a year of 'survival provisions' stored away in our wine cellar. Well, we're actually living through such an event and indeed enjoying the 'fruits' of our investment, enjoying nice wines to accompany our home cooked meals and accompaniments.
Keenan estate vineyard on Spring Mountain

After opening a Merlot the other evening, I was seeking something more adventurous as we enter the weekend, so I selected a Cabernet Franc from Keenan Winery high atop Spring Mountain on the east facing slope of the Mayacamas Range above Napa Valley St Helena.

We visited Keenan during our Spring Mountain tour back in 2007. Spring Mountain is home to several of our favorite amd notable producers - Pride, Fantesca, Keenan, Paloma and Spring Mountain Vineyards, and sources fruit for several of our favorite labels such as Robert Craig Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. 

We also have fun with this label having gifted it to special friend Jim Keenan and his family - no relation to the producer, but fun none-the-less. I fondly recall him telling me they 'toasted' me when opening a magnum of Keenan Mailbox Merlot for a gala holiday dinner that I had given him as a special memento.

We hold a half dozen vintages of Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon, but sadly only this and one other release of their Cabernet Franc. We need to get more! 

This release was produced from grapes grown on the Keenan Spring Mountain Estate from the highest elevation vineyard (approx. 2000 feet elevation) aptly named the “Upper Bowl”.

The winemaker for this release was the legendary Nils Venge whose labels we've enjoyed from Keenan, Fantesca, another Spring Mountain District producer, Venge Vineyards, Del Dotto and several others over the years. 

This is a blend of 98% percent Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot. Six hundred cases were produced. 

“Freakishly good” is how the producer describes this single vineyard Cabernet Franc, "the 2005 vintage has some of the most pinpoint laser-like flavors we have ever seen due to a higher than normal natural acid level at harvest."

 Tonight this Cabernet Franc was delicious with our simple selection of mixed nuts, artisan cheeses, biscuits and crackers followed by chocolates and sorbet with its vibrant fruits and spiciness.

At fifteen years, this is at the apex of its drinking profile and window, has life left but will not improve with further aging, dark garnet color, medium-full bodied, nicely integrated and balanced blackberry and black raspberry fruits with notes of kirsch, mocha, tangy spices, sweet tobacco, hints of soy and herbs turning to a pleasant lingering finish with nice balance of acidity and smooth tannins.

RM 92 points.

Robert Parker gave this label 93 points.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Twomey Napa Valley Merlot 2004

Twomey Cellars Napa Valley Merlot 2004

For midweek sipping with artisan cheeses and fresh fruits, I pulled from the cellar this Napa Valley Merlot. I still remember that we first discovered and tasted this label when we ordered it from the winelist at Uptown Cafe in Bloomington, Indiana while visiting son Alec attending Indiana U there. My online Wine Journal Index then says we tasted this in 2009 at a Board Meeting dinner at Champaign Country Club in Champaign, IL, ironically, home of another Big-Ten school, University of Illinois.

Twomey Cellars has wineries in Calistoga and Healdsburg and vineyards in Napa Valley and in Russian River Valley. The winery was established in the late 1990s when brothers David and Tim Duncan, who with their father Ray Duncan, owned the legendary Silver Oak Cellars, purchased a vineyard in the Soda Canyon Ranch area of southeastern Napa Valley. In 2000 they acquired a 9-acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley.

Twomey's winemaker is Daniel Baron who learned to make wine working with some of the greatest winemakers and cellarworkers in Pomerol and St. Emilion in the Right Bank of Bordeaux where Merlot is the primary varietal. Twomey is known primarily for Merlot, sourced from the single vineyard in Soda Canyon, but they also produce some Pinot Noir, sourced from their Russian River Valley property, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The winemaker's notes on the 2004 Twomey Merlot; "an elegant, concentrated wine that balances delicacy and expression of fruit. It has a dark ruby color and a complex nose of black cherry, raspberry, violets and dark chocolate, with hints of lightly toasted bread. It offers multiple layers of cherry liqueur, toffee, chocolate and amaretto flavors, culminating in a long fruity finish".

This is a blend of 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc.

Dark ruby colored, medium-full bodied, forward somewhat obtuse flavors of black berry and black cherry fruits with tangy acidic notes of cassis, tobacco leaf, tea and bitter mocha chocolate.

RM 88 points.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dunham Cellars Trutina Red Bordeaux Blend 2009

Dunham Cellars Trutina Red Bordeaux Blend 2009 for delightful mid-week dinner

The Covid19 shut-in continues and we remain at home enjoying intimate dinners and wines from our cellar. I have joked that if such a situation occurred, we'd be stocked for up to year with wines from our cellar, and here we are, albeit hopefully for a couple weeks duration.

Tonight, Linda prepared an imaginative meal with our leftover pot roast, asparagus, roasted walnuts, artisan cheese and fresh blueberries. I pulled from the cellar what proved to be a perfect match for the occasion - Trutina from Dunham Cellars in Washington State.

We hold close to a dozen vintages in a vertical collection of Dunham Cellars flagship Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Blend going back to the nineties. We discovered these Bordeaux varietal wines from Columbia River Valley in Washington, not well known for being a Bordeaux varietal region several years back. We stopped by the Dunham Cellars winery and tasting room during our trip to Woodinville, Washington, site of over a hundred tasting rooms of Washington State wines during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour year before last.

We discovered this second label from Dunham at Vin Chicago when they still had their brick and mortar store in Naperville. We bought some, tried it, and went back and bought more. We still hold about a half case and are being rewarded for doing so.

This Trutina Walla Walla Red Blend from our cellar was a perfect compliment to the beef pot roast with grilled asparagus, fresh berries, roasted walnuts and artisan cheese and accompaniments dinner.

Trutina is a second label from Dunham at a lower pricepoint offers great QPR (Quality to Price ratio) in this complex and expressive red wine blend. We continue to find many of the Columbia Valley Reds have great quality and aging ability and offer great value over their French and California counterparts.

Dunham Cellars 'Trutina' Columbia Valley Red Wine 2009

Tonight, this was consistent with our earlier tasting experience which is recorded in these pages from 9/18/2018, while not as complex or polished as the flagship label, Trutina was very impressive going on a decade of age.

This showed bright garnet and inky purple color, medium full bodied with huge aromatics of floral and lavender with full forward bright vibrant flavors of black currant and black cherry fruits with a layer of vanilla and sweet caramel mocha on a full cloying lingering tannin finish.

The blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Syrah, and 4% Malbec.

RM 92 points.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Culler La Pallette Napa Valley Red Wine 2005

Culler La Pallette Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine 2005

Shut in due to the Caronavirus lock-in, we opened this vintage aged Napa Cabernet for a Sunday afternoon dinner of leftover beef pot roast, baked potatoes and asparagus.

We discovered and acquired this label during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience when we visited Ladera Winery up on Howell Mountain. The producer of this label, Karen Culler, is/was the winemaker for Wolf Family Vineyards and Ladera Vineyards. She produced this label and another Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon cuvees under her own label.  

Karen Culler worked at Mondavi and set out on her in 1997. This label appeared in '97 and lasted for a dozen plus years until the '10 vintage, the last vintage recorded. 

This 2005 Proprietary Red La Palette is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot, all from Alexander Ranch fruit.

This label was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. 

Tonight, this was a perfect complement to our beef dinner and selection of artisan cheeses and fine chocolates afterwards. 

At fifteen years of age, this tasted much better and was more impressive than as noted in my tasting notes from the previous recorded tasting back in 2008 when I wrote: "October 3, 2008 - Culler La Pallette Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - RM 89 - Dark inky purple, fruit forward gooseberry, currant, red raspberry and silky firm tannins on the finish."

At that time I awarded this 89 points and I remember the tasting and found it interesting but rather uninspiring. Tonight, this was much more expressive and vibrant. Immediately upon opening, aromas burst from the bottle and filled the room.  

Consistent with that earlier tasting note, this was dark inky purple, fruit forward gooseberry, currant, red raspberry and silky firm tannins on the finish. 

Tonight it was more expressive and vibrant than I remember, and was more complex and polished, medium full bodied, black currant and black berry fruits with accents of floral, bitter chocolate, spice, graphite and notes of cedar on the tangy acidic lingering smooth tannin laced finish. 

RM 91 points.

Coronavirus shut-in virtual family dinner and wine tasting

Dispersed Family Conduct Coronavirus Shut-in Virtual Family Dinner and Wine Tasting

Locked in for the Coronavirus pandemic, our family, Alec and Viv in New York, and Ryan & Michelle, Sean & Michelle, and us, Linda and me, in Illinois, held a virtual family dinner and wine tasting.

Linda prepared a beef pot roast with carrots, potatoes and gravy. To complement our family dinner I pulled from the cellar a special vintage bottle of Château Gruaud-Larose, 1989.

Ryan and Michelle prepared beef bourguignon with half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (below). Prior to dinner they also had a selection of artisan cheeses. They accompanied these with an Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.

Alec, in New York City, prepared a grilled steak dinner, Pittsburgh style, to make his dad proud! He and Vivianna tasted a Sonoma Valley Arrowood Monto Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Sean, also shut in here in Illinois with Michelle, prepared a parmesan crusted halibut topped with micro green and fresh chives, picked from the nearby forest preserve, served with steamed artichokes, served with a Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc (below).

Funny that Sean mentioned the chives being picked from the nearby forest preserve. Linda, too, went out into our yard and cut fresh chives which she mixed into a home prepared fresh pimento plus cheese spread which we also enjoyed prima (before) dinner.

Both Ryan and Michelle and Linda and I prepared extensive cheese plates to accompany our wines before dinner. Our plate included remnants of a aged Old Amsterdam Gouda and an authentic Roquefort we bought last weekend, served alongside Linda's pimento cheese dip and an aged sharp cheddar.

Sharing and comparing our dinners and wines started in the afternoon via text messages and shared videos and pictures and continued throughout the evening and the following day. Perhaps the most memorable part, in addition to be connected and communicating virtually, was a commemoration to Linda's father, the boys' grandfather Ned, who was a farmer who raised beef cattle. The irony was noted that Alec, Ryan, and us all prepared elegant beef dinners - hailing 'Descendants of Ned' in tribute and remembrance! The Descendants of Ned, our boys created this tee-shirt commemorating what is becoming their annual boys getaway ski weekend visiting their visiting cousin Wesley in Steamboat.

Château Gruaud-Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1989

I pulled from the cellar this vintage label of  Château Gruaud-Larose which was a wonderful, perfect accompaniment to our beef stew dinner. This was special as our visit to the Chateau Estate in St Julien Beychevelle was one of the memorable highlights of our trip to the Medoc last fall.

The aged 1989 vintage release was also to compare with a vintage 1989 Napa Cabernet Phelps Insignia that I took to our recent OTBN wine dinner. 

Gruaud-Larose is comprised of 202 acres planted to 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 1.5% Malbec with about 300,000 bottles produced annually. 

January 2020
At thirty years of age, the fill level was above neck, ideal and appropriate for its age, the label and foil were near perfect, having been purchased upon release and held in or cellar since.

The cork was partly, nearly half saturated, yet intact and the seal in the bottle was perfect, actually releasing some pressure when the seal was broken. It was extracted routinely using an ahso two-pronged cork puller. I suspect it would not have surrendered (intact) using a traditional corkscrew.

Upon initial pouring, this was slightly cloudy but it cleared over the course of an hour. Initially there was some dusty mustiness, to be expected in a thirty year old, and this too cleared as the wine breathed and opened.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright tangy lively plum and black currant and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of floral, leather, forest floor, cigar box, tea and hints of cassis and creosote on a lingering floral minty finish of firm, silky-textured, smooth tannins.

Tonight's tasting was consistent with our recent tasting of this same label from our cellar back in January when I wrote, "This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, concentrated, bright, expressive black plum and currant fruits accented by pronounced brilliant violet floral and cigar box notes turning to tangy sharp tongue puckering tannins on the lingering finish."

This wine with our beef pot roast was a perfect wine and food pairing, enhancing the experience and enjoyment of both, exponentially. The magic is not only the food, or the wine, but the pairing of the two together, and the company, both in person and virtually! 

RM 91 points.

This label also got 91 points from Wine Spectator.