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 dedicated 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 over the internet, 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. 

Also shut in due to the Coronavirus, Alec and Vivianna, out in Conneticut, 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.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Hazyblur Barossa Valley Shiraz 2003

HazyBlur South Australia Barossa Valley Shiraz 2003

"The vines so drenched with sunlight, they appeared to be radiating rays themselves. A magical sight to experience; - a hallowed blurry haze." 

From the rear label of HazyBlur Barossa Valley Shiraz 2003 and hence how it derives its name, hazyblur

We pulled this vintage South Australian Barossa Valley Shiraz for serious sipping with some artisan cheeses and soup. Living out the Coronavirus enforced exhile!

South Australia is the nation’s most important wine region. South Australia is to Australia what California is to the U.S. with about half of Australia’s wine produced there including many of the country’s most acclaimed producers. 

The prestigious Barossa Valley is located in central South Australia, and is akin to California's Napa Valley with scenic picturesque topography covered in grape vines. 

First farmed by 19th century German-speakers who immigrated from what is now Poland, the Barossa Valley is the crown jewel of the region. 

Like Northern California, South Australia has widely varying climates, from very hot, dry areas to cooler, high altitude areas. The region has more than 150,000 acres planted in vineyards, more than three times that of Napa Valley with just less than 50,000. (Compare that to 300,000 in Bordeaux!) Shiraz is king, the primary varietal of the region however it also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvedre, Chardonnay and Semillon. 

The Barossa was founded by Colonel William Light, the South Australian colony’s Surveyor-General, who named the Barossa in 1837 after the site of an English victory over the French in the Spanish Peninsular War. In the mid-1800’s Silesian and English immigrants settled in the area. 

HazyBlur Barossa Valley Shiraz 2003

The Barossa is comprised primarily of two distinct sub-regions: Eden Valley and Barossa Valley which is the warmer valley floor at 270m. The warm Mediterranean climate has hot dry summers with relatively low rainfall moderated by cool sea breezes from the Gulf of St Vincent, much like the southern end of Napa Valley. Like the southern Rhone river valley, hot northerly winds can occasionally dominate leading to vine stress. Like Napa and the Rhone, older established vineyards are dry-grown, but supplementary irrigation is being used more extensively. The valley is comprised of rich brown soils and alluvial sands.

We hold a half dozen vintages and labels of Hazyblur Shiraz from their sites in Barossa Valley, Baroota, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Plains, McLaren Vale and the broader South Australia region. This bottle from 2003 was selected as it is the oldest in our collection, as part of practical cellar management.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this vintage release 94 points.  Wine Spectator gave it 93 points and Vinous 90 points. 

This label if sourced from 40-year-old vines resulting in extraordinary, super-intense fruit. 
Dark purple colored, big, full bodied, forward intense super ripe and concentrated black and more subtle blue fruits, almost raisin and fig notes, are accented by creme de cassis, creosote, smoke and oak. 

Linda actually likes this heady, super ripe, rich and intense style more than I do. This is holding its own at seventeen years but will most likely not improve, but start to diminish with further age, so its time to drink. 

RM 89 points. 


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve 2008

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2008

Seeking a bottle to enjoy with artisan cheese and then a casual dinner at home, I pulled from the cellar this middle aged Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Bordeaux Blend from a vintage we tasted over the weekend as a mini horizontal vintage comparison. We hold over a dozen vintages of this label dating back to the early '90's. I pulled a 2008 vintage release to compare with the 2008 vintage Pride Napa Cab that we drank at dinner over the weekend.

In the profile of a true Bordeaux Blend, Tapestry is a blend of the all classic Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

I wrote about Tapestry recently in a blogpost when we tasted this label at a Chicago restaurant for a team dinner; "Tapestry is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon based Bordeaux Blend . I consider it a go-to wine, readily available and a safe reliable choice for easy drinking or special occasions, approachable when young but capable for aging. If your overwhelmed or intimidated by the plethora of wines available and not sure what to choose or take to or serve, Tapestry is a safe choice.'

"Our Cellartracker records indicate we hold more than a dozen vintages of this label dating back to the mid-nineties.  This is a classic Napa Valley label that provides high QPR - Quality Price Ratio for a Bordeaux Blend. Its another one of those high production label that I believe does a remarkable job achieving and maintaining the level of quality in high volumes and is approachable when young but also has significant aging capability for cellaring. James Suckling says this is "A wine that harkens back to its traditions.”

The predominant Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the historic BV Ranches No.1 and No. 2 Napa Valley vineyards in Rutherford, selected from specific blocks of reserve-quality grapes that give Tapestry the combined attributes of rich character and softer tannins for relatively early approachability. To complement the Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is added from Beaulieu’s vineyard in the Los Carneros region and the remaining grapes in the Blend from various Napa Valley vineyards. 

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2008 

We still hold three bottles of this release. This is aging very nicely as tonight's tasting eight years later was consistent with the last tasting note back in 9/14/2012 when I wrote:

"Wow. Immediately I stated that this is the most expressive Tapestry I can remember with its vibrant full floral perfume. Dark ruby color with a slight purple hue, medium-full bodied, polished, smooth and nicely balanced - big bright vibrant expressive floral tones that are pervasive throughout accented by sweet ripe black currant and black berry fruits, a layer of vanilla, hint of cassis and tangy cinnamon spice and pleasant sweet oak with fine smooth polished tannins with that clinging long floral essence that holds for minutes.This was remarkably approachable for such a recent vintage. Barrel aged in 50% new oak."

Very enjoyable, this was pleasant, approachable sophisticated yet easy sipping.

RM 91 points. This release also got 91 points from Wine Spectator.