Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Pouilly-Fuisse, Chiles Valley Cabernet Duo

Jean-Paul Paquet Domaine les Vieux Murs Pouilly-Fuisse, Chiles Valley RustRidge Cabernet Duo Offer High QPR Complement to Business Dinner

Visiting our nation's capital on the eve of important client meetings, we dined with dear friend and alliance partner Jim K at his favorite neighborhood eatery and our regular meeting point, Idylwood Grill and Wine Bar in Falls Church (VA), where we dined regularly together for years.

Tucked away off the sidestreet in a strip mall behind a shopping plaza, Idylwood touts itself as French, Italian and Modern American Cuisine. Not overextended, they do all these very well with attentive service in an comfortable and intimate setting.

Idylwood Grill offers a modest but excellent, imaginative and well selected winelist to accompany the range of menu offerings, with many high QPR, great value selections. The wine list includes 44 white wines and nearly 70 red wines, with selections from California, Oregon and Washington among the U.S. wines, as well as international wines from Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy and Spain.

I ordered one of my favorite dishes and it was outstanding, truly delightful in the style that I prefer, Flounder Francaise, Flour-Egg Dipped with Lemon Butter Sautéed. Vegetables and Potatoes. What a treat to have one of my favorite entrees twice in a week, both served my way. Tonight's selection was as good as last week's dinner at Rosebud Steakhouse in Chicago at almost half the price!

Prior to dinner we enjoyed grilled calimari and the avocado salad, both were excellent. 

Idylwood Sautéed Flounder Francaise
From the winelist we ordered this Burgundian Pouilly-Fuisse Chardonnay, a good value high QPR selection.

Jean-Paul Paquet Domaine les Vieux Murs Pouilly-Fuisse 2018

From the Fuissé region in the south of Burgundy is 250-300 metres above sea level, this appellation is often overlooked. This is 100% Chardonnay grown in the limestone and clay soils of the Mâconnais vineyards. The Domaine Les Vieux Murs vines are 30 to 50 year old.

Producer Jean-Paul Paquet is joined by his son Yannick in the family business. Yannick has travelled widely to broaden his knowledge and has earned a great reputation. 

Straw colored, medium bodied, a predominant mineral and citrus character, complex with notes of fruity lemon, apple, tropical fruit, nut, grass, and wet stone, hints of vanilla and smoke, nicely balanced with crisp acidity and good texture.

RM 91 points.


RustRidge Estate Chiles Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

For a red selection, as a regular VIP diner, Jim was offered this special vintage selection that was not on the winelist.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is from the reputable but lesser known Chiles Valley,  just over the hill and to the east of Napa Valley, that as a result of its lower profile, offers good value over its high priced neighbors.

The estate winery sits about 1000 feet above the Napa Valley floor on the eastern side of the divide between Napa and Chiles Valleys. The day time climate is similar to the Oakville and Rutherford areas but the temperature are several degrees cooler at night. The cooler nights and the higher elevation delay bud-break which occurs two to three weeks later than the rest of Napa Valley. As a result, the grapes are harvested later in Napa Valley which, in part, lends distinctive flavor and character to the wines.

The secluded property was once a large thoroughbred horse ranch. Grape vines were planted in the mid 70's to Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

The property was purchased by the Meyer family in 1972 and the winery was founded by Stan and Grant Meyer in 1985. Their daughter Susan Meyer, Winemaker and her husband, Jim Fresquez, took over the operation in 1990. Helping Susan handcraft the estate-bottled wines produced by RustRidge is distinguished consultant winemaker Kent Rosenblum. The winery is housed in a renovated cattle barn.

Today, Susan and Jim follow their two passions: wine and horses. They produce about 2000 cases of craft wines annually, as well as breed and race thoroughbreds. Each spring; about the time new buds form on the grape vines, new foals are born. 

At thirteen years of age, this vintage release showed deep dark garnet scarlet colored, medium full bodied, concentrated rich blackberry and black cherry fruits. seductive dark chocolate and cola notes, hints of dried sage and black olive tapenade with gripping but ripe tannins are followed by a long and complex lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

This was aged 32 months in 25% New American and French Oak, 474 cases were produced.





Friday, January 24, 2020

Château LaGrange St Julien Bordeaux

Château LaGrange St Julien Bordeaux

Following the gala UGCB release tour tasting this week, I had the desire for another glass of Bordeaux for some casual sipping for the evening. I wanted to try something from a producer I had met the previous day, and one that we visited last summer during our visit to the region, so I pulled from the cellar this moderate aged 2003 vintage release from St Julien producer Château LaGrange.

We last tasted this label during a horizontal tasting of ten year old 2003 vintage release Bordeaux with our Pour Boys wine group back in 2013.

We visited the adjacent estates of Château Gruaud-Larose and  Château Branaire-Ducru
 last summer during our visit to the appellation and at that time drove over to see the Château La Grange estate and vineyards. The iconic Château that is recognized from decades of labels is more picturesque than expected or imaginable as it looks out on a small lake/pond as one approaches the estate.

The estate sits inland from the Gironde estuary, but behind and adjacent to or not far from neighboring St Julien producers Gruaud Larose and Branaire Ducru.

Château LaGrange vineyards span 118 hectares and rises to an elevation of 24 meters, the highest altitude in the appellation.

The property was taken over by the Japanese spirits producer Suntory in the mid 1980's. They made substantial improvements to the property and facilities through 2008 and modernized the entire winemaking facilities and cellars in 2013 which should no doubt result in increasing improvements and quality of the wines. Suntory also took over and made substantial investment in additions and improvements to nearby Château Beychevelle which we also toured while in the area.

However, the easiest way to think of Chateau Lagrange is by knowing all their vines are dispersed over 2, gently sloping, gravel hillsides, well placed in the west of the Saint Julien appellation, close to Chateau Gruaud Larose and Chateau Branaire Ducru. At the peak of their vineyards, the hillsides reach up to 24 meters, which puts their vines at the highest elevation in the Saint Julien appellation.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/st-julien/lagrange/
However, the easiest way to think of Chateau Lagrange is by knowing all their vines are dispersed over 2, gently sloping, gravel hillsides, well placed in the west of the Saint Julien appellation, close to Chateau Gruaud Larose and Chateau Branaire Ducru. At the peak of their vineyards, the hillsides reach up to 24 meters, which puts their vines at the highest elevation in the Saint Julien appellation.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/st-julien/lagrange/

Château LaGrange St Julien Bordeaux 2003

We still hold several vintages of this wine dating back to a birth year bottle from our daughter's vintage release in the early eighties, however the estate has turned over and undergrown substantial improvements over the years and the quality of product is vastly improved today.

When we tasted this back in 2013 I wrote, "This was bigger, more full, nicely balanced, smoother and more polished than I expected, one of the best LaGrange I have tasted. Medium to full bodied, dark inky garnet colored, aromas and flavors of black berry, black cherry, violet floral with hints of coffee bean, mocha, tobacco and earth with soft smooth lingering tannins."

This is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot.
 At seventeen years, this was showing no diminution from age and should last a few more years for  fine drinking. 

RM 91 points. 

This release was rated 92 points John Gilman, James Suckling, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points by Wine & Spirits and Robert Parker. 



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Post UGCB Dinner Rosebud Chicago

Post UGCB Dinner Rosebud Chicago

Following a day working and then attending the UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) wine tasting event at the Drake Hotel, Chicago, we 'Pour Boys' went next door and had dinner at Rosebud Steakhouse

I admit I am not a fan of Rosebud Restaurants and did not realize they had this iconic steakhouse as part of their group of nine restaurants spread across Chicagoland including our hometown Naperville. I associate Rosebud with their Taylor Street location in Little Italy and always thought of it as an Italian eatery. Founder/owner Alex Dana says of the group, "Rosebud (is), a real ‘Red Sauce’ experience! Every meal is prepared to order with authentic, 100 year old peasant style Italian recipes and our rare steakhouses are well done!"

Our dinner at Rosebud in the tony Streeterville Gold Coast neighborhood was wonderful - food, atmosphere, service, and the wine selections. The dining room faces the bustling street and is lined on one wall by the bar to the rear and an impressive wine wall in the main front dining room. Being footsteps away from the historic, iconic Drake Hotel, site of the annual UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) wine tasting event set the stage for the evening. 

Rosebud Steakhouse Chicago wine wall
Dan ordered pork chop, Lyle a prime filet of beef, and Ernie and I both ordered the Dover Sole and it was fabulous. Served in a heavy butter creme sauce, it was best of the preparations I had of this dish recently at a favorite seafood restaurant, and an upscale Italian eatery in New York. 

We ordered side dishes to share of creamed corn, brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes. Our Sole dishes were served with a side of brown rice. 

From the winelist we ordered a red and a white to accompany our entree selections.  

Brewer Clifton Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2016

Midway between a crisp Burgundian and a rich creamy oaky Northern California style, this was perfectly matched to the sole in its flavorful sauce. 

We ordered an ultra-premium California Chardonnay from the Reserve Wine List and it turned out to be unavailable. The Sommelier offered up this moderate priced alternative and it proved to be a good choice. This was rated 93 points by Decanter, and 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Vinous. 

Medium-bodied, straw colored, nicely balanced with quite a bit of alcohol, but the acid stands up to it nicely, Decanter writes of' a touch of hazelnut signals masterful and very restrained handling of oak - only neutral barrels were used', notes of citrus, apple, passionfruit and what Vinous calls 'a whole range of tropical inflections'.

RM 91 points.



With the steak and pork chop entrees we ordered this Napa Valley red.

Pine Ridge Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

We were torn between several offerings from the basic but carefully selected winelist, and opted for this 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap District nestled against the vaca range along the eastern ridge of the valley on the Silverado Trail.

Dark garnet, purple colored, medium-full bodied, it spent 16-18 months in American oak, big full ripe, nicely integrated and balanced notes of sweet blackberry and plum fruits are highlighted by spice, hints of cassis and vanilla bean, with  pure, full but approachable tannins on the pleasant lingering finish.

This got 91 points from reviewer Jeb Dunnuck.

RM 91 points.



UGCB 2017 Release Tour Chicago

UGCB North American 2017 Vintage Release Tour Chicago

The UGC Bordeaux (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour visited Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2017 vintage release wines. The Union is the association of 134 of the top premier estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations. This year's North American tour visited Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, LA and San Francisco.

Pour Boys, Ernie, Lyle, Dan, Rick
Sans Bill
As in previous years, our 'Pour Boys' wine group (left) helped conduct the event in Chicago. 

Once again it was held at the Drake Hotel in the magnificent grand ballroom (shown below). 

We work with the UGCB Events Manager, Olivier Crombez, host Mike Wangbickler and his Balzac Communications team preparing the room and the wines, checking in trade registrants, and standing in for producers who faced travel or other disruptions, presenting and pouring their wines. 

Several times over the years, several producers or their representatives were delayed in travel or had other disruptions and we were called in to service to pour their wines, hence we earned our moniker, the 'Pour Boys'.

Close to a hundred producers were represented at the event that was attended by over five hundred members of the trade, media and industry.

Owner Château Branaire-Ducru
As is their custom in the third week of January, this annual roadshow is a marathon trek across North America by the producers and their representatives offering wine professionals and eonphiles the chance to meet the Bordeaux principles, winemakers and commercial directors.

As I've written in previous years, we appreciate the investment in time and effort expended by the producers and and their brand ambassadors to visit Chicago. It provides a wonderful opportunity to meet them firsthand and discuss their perspectives on their brand, approach to crafting their style, their history, businesses, and their vintages including, of course, the current release.

As a collector and holder of a significant collection of Bordeaux wines dating back four decades, I hold as many as a dozen or more vintages of some of these labels. Meeting the owners, family members, producer / winemaker / representative is a great privilege and offers a collector the chance to learn more about their  investment and wines. As such, I tend to focus on and taste those wines that I know well and hold verticals (multiple vintages of the same label), of which my wine buddies and I have holdings.

Lilian Barton-Sartorius - Châteaux
Leoville and Langoa Barton
This was the tenth Bordeaux release event that I and my 'Pour Boy' wine buddies assisted the team at Balzac Communications to work the event, helping with set up, logistics, checking in the attendees, and standing in to pour wine for any featured producers that were not able to attend in person. 

Earlier UGCB and related events are featured in earlier unwindwine blogposts.

This year was especially exciting since we visited Bordeaux this past year and we got to visit with several of the producers' and brand ambassadors whose Chateau's or vineyards we visited on our trip. 

As usual, we focused on the Left Bank producers that we own and collect, but this year particularly, we focused on  those that we visited this year, as well as those we are targeting for our next visit to the Medoc.

Karine Barbier - Château Lascombes
The 2017 vintage was a bit challenging interrupting the streak of great harvests 2015 through 2019, primarily due to a frost that hit the region early in the season. 

The wine team of K&L Wines in the San Francisco Bay Area, Clyde Beffa and Ralph Sands, issued their 2017 Bordeaux vintage report following their tour to the region. 
2017 Bordeaux will be remembered as the year of the great frost that struck just after the tastings, April 27 and 28, with temperatures as low as -4 Celsius on both nights. But due to climate changes and increased knowledge on how to combat impending frost, the vintage is not the disaster that estates withstood in 1991.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/2018/04/2017-bordeaux-vintage-and-harvest-report/
2017 Bordeaux will be remembered as the year of the great frost that struck just after the tastings, April 27 and 28, with temperatures as low as -4 Celsius on both nights. But due to climate changes and increased knowledge on how to combat impending frost, the vintage is not the disaster that estates withstood in 1991.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/2018/04/2017-bordeaux-vintage-and-harvest-report/

The 2017 vintage year will be remembered as the year of the frost, but it’s also a vintage in which many of the top châteaux produced some very good wines. It was a year when location really mattered, the terroir really made a difference as those vineyards with proximity to the moderating effects of the Gironde estuary were less affected by the frost. And those with the rocky well drained soils recovered from the rains.

2017 was atypical with its early growing season, with early and successful flowering in late May, sunshine, then heavy rain in June, followed by a dry and cool summer, then late August heat, and many damp days just before the red harvest in September.

The quality of 2017 is much better than most people might expect. While it’s not in the same league as the outstanding 2016 and 2015 vintages, it not near the largely disappointing 2013.

The challenging year all round still produced some well proportioned red Bordeaux – and some excellent whites too, both dry and sweet. While not big, full and structured, many of the 2017 reds are approachable upon release and should provide early gratification in their youth.

Anne-Francoise Quie
Château Rauzan-Gassies

The whites showed especially well and the top Sauternes and a number of dry whites could definitely be on par with the efforts in 2015 and 2016.

2017 Bordeaux is a stylistic choice, you are going to like the character, which can be bright, focusing on red fruits or not. Generally, the wines are; medium bodied, fresh, aromatic and lighter in alcohol than sunnier vintages. The tannins are soft. The fruits are sweet and the majority of the wines will be enjoyable early in life.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/2018/04/2017-bordeaux-vintage-and-harvest-repor
Marie Helene-Dussech
Château Brane-Cantenac
The challenging vintages such as 2017, following some outstanding years, often offer opportunities for collectors to find some values to stock their cellars with wines that should provide enjoyable drinking soon, not requiring several years of cellaring to mature and reach their optimal drinking window.

Lise Latrille - Château Prieure Lichine
The event is sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, (UGCB) and is hosted and orchestrated by Balzac Communications, boutique wine marketing and communications consultancy firm in Napa, under the leadership of Mike Wangbickler, President. 

Attending again this year too was Paul Wagner, founder and Chairman Emeritus of Balzac. Paul is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications and a leading member of the American Wine Society. As with last year, again, it was great to see Paul enjoying his passion and remaining engaged whilst in retirement.

The afternoon session is for the benefit of the press and trade and wine professionals. Again this year, the evening session in Chicago was hosted trade merchant partner Binny's Beverage Depot, the Chicagoland wine superstore, offering tickets to the evening session to their valued customers and the public. This year, over four hundred collectors and vinophiles registered for the even. 

Setting up in the venue with care.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Heaven on earth - with Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto
in the garden at TraVigne
We opened this vintage Napa Valley Cabernet with fresh fruit and selection of cheeses and chocolates during a midweek evening at home.

We first discovered this wine during our Napa Wine Experiences in the late-nineties, sitting out in the garden of TraVinge (left) in St Helena, selecting bottles from the Cantina wine shop on the premises.

We have a half dozen of Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintages from that era through to this one. We still hold several bottles of the 2004 release which we last tasted  back in 2012.

Oakville Ranch is/was located located above the Silverado Trail up on the eastern slope overlooking Napa Valley.

The Oakville Ranch property was purchased in 1989 by Bob and Mary Miner. Bob was a co-founder and early key developer of Oracle corporation and the database management system. His wife Mary founded Oakville Ranch Vineyards and managed it following Bob's death at age 52 in 1994.

Bob Miner's nephew, Dave Miner took the helm as President of Oakville Ranch Vineyards in 1993. In 1996, Dave decided to become a custom crush client and start his own wine label and the now popular Miner Family Winery brand was born.

The 350-acre Oakville Ranch was planted in 55 acres of vineyards of Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals − Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The vines have been tended in small vineyards and managed to produce small yields of few bunches per vine to maximize the quality of the fruit to be derived from the shallow red volcanic soil on the rocky mountain slopes.

The 2004 Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Estate's vineyards - 100% Oakville Ranch: 84% Vista, 9% Terrace and 7% Plateau blocks.

The juice was aged 18 months in 100% french oak barrels, 67% new.

725 cases, plus 8 cases of magnums were produced

At fifteen years of age, this is still showing and drinking consistent with earlier tasting notes, this wine is medium to full bodied, dark ruby in color. Aromas of floral, red raspberry and cherry fruits give way to soft oak. Dense full flavors of blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry fruits are accented by a layer of pipe tobacco, tones of spice, cassis and soft sweet oak and a hint of black pepper on a long lingering silky tannin finish. 

RM 90 points.



Sunday, January 19, 2020

Family Celebration Dinner Features Birthyear Vintage Wine

Family Celebration Dinner Features Birthyear Vintage Wine

We held a gala family dinner to celebrate the engagement of son Sean and Michelle at our neighborhood trattoria Angeli's Italian. To toast the celebration and accompany the dinner I brought BYOB from our cellar a Limited Edition red magnum of Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne, a magnum of Chateau Ste. Michelle "50th Anniversary Edition" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and a bottle of Sean's birth-year vintage Chateau Cos d' Estournel.

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

We also served this for our gala family Christmas dinner when I wrote, "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


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

A whimsical tribute to daughter-in-law to be, we served this namesake bottle from magnum. We took this wine to a dinner she hosted in the fall and it was well received. This received 93 points from Decanter Magazine. 

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

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

RM 88 points.

Château Cos d'Estournel St-Estèphe Bordeaux 1985

Lastly, from our wine cellar collection, a wine from Sean's birthyear. Our cellar is known for the horizontal collections of wines for the vintage birth-years of our kids and grand-kids, especially many in large format bottles. Indeed, our large format bottles were the basis of our cellar being featured in the Collecting column of Wine Spectator magazine back in June, 2001.

We visited the historic iconic Chateau Cos d' Estournel during our visit to the Medoc last summer.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel is a Second Growth Bordeaux from the Bordeaux classification of 1855. The estate is located on the border as one leaves Pauillac and enters St.-Estephe, adjacent to and looking across the vineyards at Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The historic iconic Chateau sits atop the hill and emerges in full view as one rounds the bend on the D4 route. The chateau is surrounded by 160 acres of vineyards planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot.

Founded in the 18th century by Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, the chateau’s wines were admired and in demand all over the world from the 19th century. The chateau was bought and sold many times during the late 19th and 20th centuries, and in 2000 it was acquired by Michel Reybier, who has managed it and maintained it's excellence.

Robert M. Parker Jr. has noted that Cos d’Estournel “has been particularly successful in difficult vintages” and “remains impeccably managed.” Some 200,000 bottles of the signature Cos d’Estournel are produced each year. 

Château Cos d'Estournel St-Estèphe Bordeaux 1985

Our Cellartracker records indicate we still hold a half dozen vintages of this label from the eighties and nineties. We still hold a half case of this vintage release.

My previous and last tasting note of this vintage was way back in 2001 when I wrote: "Very refined and polished - a robust nose filled with ripe blackberry and currant. This is a deep and complex wine that has a long and chewy aftertaste."

This vintage release was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Vinous. 

Parker said "it was one of the most forward wines from Cos". WS said, "This bottle constitutes the best example of the 1985 that I have encountered."

Initially a bit funky, after ninety minutes the fruit emerged, the color seemed to clear up and it opened up to show true St Estephe Cos character.  

We acquired and have held this bottle in our cellar since release - the foil and label are like new, the cork was intact with the lower quarter starting to saturate. Again, evidence our cellar conditions are suitable for decades aging fine wines.

Garnet colored with a slight tinge of brown rust bricking, medium full bodied, complex, concentrated, rich black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of leather, tobacco, coffee, herbs, spice and hints of cedar with lush tannins and crisp acidity on a long aromatic finish. 
RM 93 points. 



Friday, January 17, 2020

Lewis Cellars Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Lewis Cellars Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2004

Perfect complement to Friday night dinner lobster tails. Ideal drinking window for this is five to ten years. At sixteen, this is  past its apex and showing its age turning from golden straw colored to honey brown, and the fruits are starting to take on notes of smoke. This was delightful none-the-less, but time to drink.

This is clearly crafted in the California versus the classic Burgundian style with layers of big rich oak, straw color turning dark to honey, medium bodied, note of of creamy vanilla, otes of nut taking on hints of smoke, nice acidic balance for crisp pleasurable drinking. Its density calls for drinking with food and was perfect with our buttery lobster.

RM 88 points.

Downgraded from 90 points at last tasting to 88 points due to signs of aging diminution.




Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bogle Merlot Cugino's Italian Lansing Michigan

Bogle Merlot at Cugino's Italian Dining in Grand Ledge, (Lansing) Michigan

Visiting client State of Michigan in Capital city Lansing, we dined in nearby town of Grand Ledge at local favorite, Cugino’s Italian Restaurant.

I ordered the Fettuccine Florentine,  Fettuccine alfredo sautéed with spinach, combined with mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan cheese, spices and topped with grilled chicken.

From the modest winelist I ordered BTG (by the glass) Bogle Merlot, a classic reliable California high QPR (quality price ratio) Central Valley and it was a perfect complement to the entree. A delightful dining experience in a lively setting and great value pricing.

Bogle California Merlot 2016

From Bogle Vineyards, located in Clarksburg situated minutes from Sacramento in the California Central Valley, this offers great value and good reliable every day drinking at this pricepoint. 

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, moderate berry fruits accented by tones of mocha, tobacco, cedar and hints of oak in this basic moderate pleasant sipper.

Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator both give this 86 points.

RM 86 points.


Cugino’s Italian Restaurants

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at Italian Village Chicago

Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon at Italian Village Chicago

Mid-week business dinner with colleague Jeff L, (shown with Jared, left) we dined at my usual dine-site, Italian Village, Chicago.

Jared Gelband, wine buddy and wine director pulled from the cellar this recent acquisition, Force Majeure Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, to which he was introduced by me when we took producers Todd and Carie Alexander to the Italian Village Restaurant in Chicago and introduced them to Jared.

That was during producers Todd and Carrie Alexander release tour to Chicago a couple years ago. Jared has been stocking and offering Force Majeure ever since.

This was especially fitting for this evening as my guest, colleague Jeff L, heralds from Seattle and is an avid collector of Washington State wines. 

Our visit to Force Majeure vineyards was one of the inspirations for and objectives of our Walla Walla Wine Experience 2018. As mentioned above, we first met Force Majeure winemaker Todd Alexander and marketing, distribution and branding exec Carrie Alexander during their Chicago stop of their promotion tour in 2016 when we hosted them at Italian Village in Chicago. Since then we've acquired a respectable collection of Force Majeure wines.

We tasted and acquired this wine when we visited the Force Majeure estate during our Walla Walla Wine Experience year before last.  

FORCE MAJEURE Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

This estate Cabernet Sauvignon is grown primarily along the south-west ridge of the Force Majeure  vineyard, in soils that are deep and loamy but contain many small rocks of fractured basalt, concreted ash and granite from Missoula flood erratics. 

The 11 year old vines produce small berries with lots of power and concentration. This wine spent 22 months in 75% new French oak barrels, 340 cases were produced.  This is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot,1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot.

This wine was awarded 99 points by Jeb Dunnuck who wrote; The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain Estate is a thrilling effort from winemaker Todd Alexander that rates with some of the most monumental wines to come out of Washington State.  It reveals a saturated purple color that's followed by a rich, primordial bouquet of crème de cassis, espresso roast, crushed rock, and graphite. It needs considerable air to start to show its potential yet is a full-bodied, powerful wine that has subtle oak, plenty of sweet tannins, and a huge, layered finish that won't quit. It's the tannin management that's truly spectacular. This brilliant wine needs to be forgotten for 4-5 years and will keep for 2-3 decades.”  

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this 93+ points.

Dark garnet purple colored, rich, concentrated, full bodied, bright expressive ripe sweet black berry and black raspberry fruits, notes of creme de cassis, mineral, spice and dusty sweet oak on a long full flavored finish. Needs a couple years to settle and integrate the bold bright aggressive flavors.

RM 93 points. 




Monday, January 13, 2020

Chateau Buena Vista Napa Cabernet

Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

I drove all the way up to the Binny's in Bloomingdale to pick up a case of wine that was out of stock in the other stores. I got into a protracted discussion with wine consultant Don Rauba and one thing lead to another resulting in him sharing a taste of this wine remaining from an earlier tasting. I liked it and bought some but didn't recall at the time until I came home and checked my blogposts that we tasted this wine when visiting out east last summer when I wrote this note.
At that time, Alec has picked this up at the local wineshop in Westport, CT. From the legendary Buena Vista Winery with arguably one of the more colorful histories of the wineries in California with its founder, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” Agoston Haraszthy, an eccentric pioneer of California wines.

We visited the Buena Vista winery estate during one of our first visits to the Napa Sonoma wine country back in the mid-eighties. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista was one of California’s first premium wineries. The legendary brand is being re-born today under the vision of owner Jean-Charles Boisset. The estate and winery is located just outside the town of Sonoma, the original winery is now a California Historic Landmark.

The Count immigrated from Europe in 1840 in pursuit of opportunity in the burgeoning American West. Following the spirit of the forty-niners in search of gold in the hills of Northern California, Haraszthy sought “purple gold” – the perfect ‘terroir’ where he could grow grapes to make exceptional wine. He ultimately settled in Sonoma, birthplace of California and capital of the short-lived California Republic, where he founded Buena Vista Winery in 1857.

In the 1860’s Buena Vista covered more than 6,000 acres that ran up into the foothills and past the Mayacamas Mountain range into what is today Napa County.

In 1861, founder Count Haraszthy journeyed to Europe in search of the finest grapevines. In Bordeaux, he obtained Cabernet Sauvignon and brought choice cuttings back to California where he planted them at Buena Vista, thereby bringing Cabernet Sauvignon to the Napa Valley.

The inaugural release of this new label offering, Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon, was in 2013 as Buena Vista returned to Napa Valley. In recent history, Buena Vista has generally been considered and known for Sonoma Valley wines, based on its popular historic winery and cellar near downtown Sonoma.
This new addition to the Buena Vista portfolio is packaged in a large oversize heavy bottle of a premium wine but is moderately priced for a Napa Valley Estate Cabernet thereby offering good QPR (Quality Price Ratio). At $40, this drinks like wines tasting half again to two times more.  

Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
This 2016 release was sourced from Oak Knoll to St. Helena, from vineyards along Napa Valley’s eastern slope. The backbone of this is grapes from 10 acres of the Bartalucci Vineyard just south of St Helena, in Napa Valley near Raymond vineyards, a recent acquisition for Boisset. 

Like this earlier tasting, but sweeter than I recall or reported, this was bright garnet colored, medium full bodied, rich and opulent with intense structure, slightly obtuse, rich aromas and flavors of sweet ripe black berry, black cherry and black currant with notes of milk chocolate and touches of spice and licorice, fine-grained tannins that are soft with a full-bodied mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish.

RM 91 points.



Friday, January 10, 2020

Arn's Napa Valley Melanson Vineyard Syrah 2010

Arn's Napa Valley Melanson Vineyard Syrah 2010

Friday might, end of week dinner we went to Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria and took this, one of our favorite Syrahs BYOB.

As I have written in these pages before, we have been long time fans of Arns and their Napa Cabernets so we arranged a visit and private tasting with producer John Arns at the estate on lower Howell Mountain during our 2013 Napa Wine Experience.

John's wife Sandi Belcher is the winemaker. It was during that visit that we discovered and acquired this single vineyard designated Syrah made with fruit sourced from the Melanson Vineyard on Pritchard Hill which I write about in an earlier blogpost.

This wine is so good, I almost don't want to let out the news for fear I'll create more demand and have to compete for it in the marketplace. Supplies are limited as for this vintage of this Syrah, only 80 cases were produced. Arns is available directly from the winery, in select stores in Napa Valley, and at Bassin's MacArthur Wines in Washington DC, (as I explain in separate Arns blogposts) which is where I first discovered it. I pick some up every trip to DC.

We acquired this label at the winery, then reordered more, and actually acquired this bottle when we picked up an entire lot on Winebid.com.

This is serious juice. The 2010 vintage was aged in one year old French oak for three years. The concentrated extracted fruit is apparent as soon as you pour the dark inky purple juice into the glass.

Full bodied, huge aromatics explode from the bottle as soon as the cork is pulled, thick, concentrated black and blue fruits are accented by a pronounced layer of sweet spicy oak laced caramel that turns to black licorice on the rear pallet with smooth sinewy tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 93 points.