Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

We discovered Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon through Winebid, the online wine auction site. Over the years we've acquired close to a decade of vintages of this label through that vehicle. We've also acquired another Dunham label, Trutina, a Bordeaux Blend from Vin Chicago, a local merchant.  

We stopped by the tasting room during our Washington Wine Experience back in 2018 but it was a drive-by without a reservation and the place was packed. We didn't realize they had the Walla Walla facility and we failed to connect there while we were in town during our Walla Walla Wine Experience in 2018. 

Dunham was founded by Winemaker Eric Dunham. Eric started his career with a 6-month internship at Hogue Cellars in Washington, moving on as Assistant Winemaker at L'Ecole No. 41 in the Walla Walla Valley. With Winemaker Marty Clubb's blessing, Eric began making small lots of Dunham wine at L'Ecole with his first bottling the 1995 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon I.

After a few successful vintages with Dunham's receiving great acclaim, with some help from his parents, he set out on his own in warehouse space in an old WWII airplane hangar in Walla Walla. A couple of years later, David and Cheryll Blair were introduced to the Dunhams and joined the business to pursue their collective dream of making and pairing great wine with hospitality.

Part of the branding approach from that first vintage was to affix to each vintage the Roman Numeral of the numerical order of each release. Hence, this 2003 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon, the ninth vintage release, adorns IX on the label.

Dunham Cellars Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

For tasting with grilled burgers I pulled from the cellar this 2003 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon, the IXth successive release of this label. 

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Washington State Columbia Valley vineyards; Lewis Vineyard, Frenchtown Vineyard and Double River Estate Vineyard. It was aged in 60% French and 40% American Oak, 70% new oak and 30% used; 1955 cases were produced of this vintage release. 

At eighteen years of age, this was holding its own, showing no diminution of aging. 

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, a structured core of black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of spice, anise and black tea with hints of oak.

RM 89 points 



Sunday, June 28, 2020

Château Croizet Bages, Pauillac, Bordeaux 2014

Château Croizet Bages, Pauillac, Bordeaux 2014

Anne-Françoise Quié,
Owner of Château Croizet-Bages
at UGCB Chicago
I have had the pleasure of meeting Anne-Françoise Quié, owner of Château Croizet-Bages several years at the annual release tours of the UGCB tastings in Chicago.

Ever since, I have sought out the chance to acquire and to taste their labels including vintages of this fifth growth Grand Cru Bordeaux. Their other property, Château Rauzan-Gassies, a great growth of Margaux, seems to be more popular and more widely distributed and thus easier to obtain.

So it was that I was delighted to find a couple vintages of Château Croizet Bages at Binny's last weekend and I picked them up and was eager to taste them.

We drove by the estate property on the plateau of Bages, near Lynch-Bages and Grand Puy Lacoste, during our visit to the Pauillac area last year. The 30 hectare estate vineyards lie just off the highway, as you enter Pauillac from Saint Julien, there near the landmark Cordeillan Bages property on the Route D2 as you approach the city of Pauillac. We'll look forward to including it on our next trip to the region when our focus will be on Pauillac. 

According to the producer, Château Croizet Bages dates back to the early 18th century when the Croizet brothers, both members of the Bordeaux parliament, consolidated a number of small vineyard plots in order to form a wine estate in the famous hamlet of Bages, in Pauillac. The estate was designated among the fifth growths in the famous 1855 classification under the name of Château Croizet-Bages, which remains to this day.

Jean-Baptiste Monnot, an American citizen and owner of the famous Klaxon brand, acquired Croizet Bages soon after the First World War. He sold it to Paul Quié, owner of châteaux Rauzan-Gassies (a great growth of Margaux) and Bel Orme Tronquoy de Lalande, in 1942. Monsieur Quié undertook a renovation of the vineyard during the postwar period. This was completed by his son, Jean-Michel, who took over management in 1968. who continued to upgrade the vineyards and build a new winery and vinification facilities.

Ownership and management remains with the Quié family, Jean-Michel Quié is assisted by his children, Anne-Françoise and Jean-Philippe who took over the reins of the property in 2004.
Château Croizet Bages 5ème Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, Bordeaux 2014

Antonio Galloni of vinous.com says "The 2014 Croizet-Bages is a gorgeous wine, not to mention a potential sleeper for the vintage", and rated it 91 points.

The blend is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon 28% Merlot 6% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot.

We would've first tasted this label at the UGCB North American Release Tour tasting in 2017

Classic left bank Bordeaux characteristics, dark garnet color, medium bodied, dark berry fruits with notes of licorice and black tea, hints of graphite and cherry with pleasant approachable tannins on a graceful finish.

RM 89 points.



Sweet and tart with plums, earth and tobacco on the forefront with a conspicuous note of rusticity in the tannins surfacing in the end notes.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-tasting-note/?vintage=2014&wine=Ch%E2teau%20Croizet-Bages
Sweet and tart with plums, earth and tobacco on the forefront with a conspicuous note of rusticity in the tannins surfacing in the end notes.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-tasting-note/?vintage=2014&wine=Ch%E2teau%20Croizet-Bages

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Once & Future Napa Valley Petit Sirah 2017

Once & Future Wine Napa Valley Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah 2017

I found this at Binny's and was intrigued to try it. Only 201 cases were made so its not surprising I had never seen or heard of the label before. Upon further research, they're known for producing Zinfandel. The premium packaging with the heavy bottle with its deep punt was impressive and we love Petite Sirah, a cousin of Sirah/Shiraz, an under represented varietal in Napa Valley, so, I took a chance and bought all six bottles in the store.

This was ideal for casual sipping on the deck with artisan cheeses and fresh hot-house Flavor-Bomb tomatoes.

Winemaker Joel Peterson says, "It's my opinion Napa would be famous for Petite Sirah if it weren't for Cabernet Sauvignon."

According to the Once & Future Website, "Up until the 1960s, Petite Sirah was the most widely planted grape variety in Napa Valley. The few examples show that grown in the right places it does very well producing bright expressive full bodied wines that can be even darker and spicier than Zinfandel, that other “California grape” from Europe. Those that produce the varietal offer a distinctive and interesting choice (not to mention, often with better QPR - quality price ratio) over the leading Napa grape varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon.'

One site ideally suited to Petite Sirah is the narrow riparian canyon just east of the town of Calistoga, at the foot of the magnificent Palisades cliffs. There, cobbly loamy soil of the alluvial fan with hot summers, cool westerly morning breezes, extended sunlight and adequate winter rainfall combine to provide the perfect terroir for exceptional concentration and depth.

Viticulture in the area dates back to 1878, when James Horn, a settler from Scotland, first planted grapes. In 1908, Italian immigrants Domenico and Gilda Barberis, planted more vines along Horn’s Creek. Seven years later, they established “Bonded Winery Number 118” on the site. Despite expanding capacity to more than 20,000 gallons, the winery didn’t survive Prohibition, closing down in 1932. The vineyard survived. however and they continued farming it until 1992. Domenico and Gilda’s son Frank planted Petite Sirah on St. George rootstock in 1968 through the mid-70s.

In the 90s the property was bought by Anne Carver and Denis Sutro who farmed the property, preserved the Petite Sirah, and, as importantly, preserved the Palisades by putting the 500 acres directly below the massif into a land trust.

In 2015 Felicia Woytak and her husband Steven Rasmussen, retained Jim Munk to take over, continuing the place’s traditional of dry farming and head-trained viticulture. Today they source the fruit for this Petite Sirah from those Palisades Vineyard dry-farmed, head-pruned, 44-year-old vines planted in bale loam. The winemaker is Joel Peterson.

Once & Future Wine Napa Valley Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah 2017

This label was awarded 92+ Points by Erin Brooks of The Wine Advocate. The 2018 Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah Napa Valley was awarded 96 pts by Vinous Antonio Galloni. The only Cellartracker reviewer gave it 93 points. 

This was aged in 100% French Oak, 30% new barrels.

This was opaque dark inky purple-black in color. Initially it was closed and tight but opened up after 30 to 45 minutes to full-bodied, firm, tightly wound black and blue fruits, floral notes with cassis, black tea, vanilla, with hints of black pepper and oak with a long gripping tannins on a moderate but lingering finish.

RM 91 points.



Thursday, June 25, 2020

Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2007

Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2007 (Last posting for this label)
I pulled this from the cellar for enjoyable mid-week sipping with dinner. I often say that I can't afford to drink my own cellar. More to the point, I can't afford to replace my cellar. I write often about 'every day', 'once a week or month' and 'special occasion' wines. Here is an example where our investment in a deep cellar, after a period of time, we're holding a wine that we enjoy for once a day or week enjoyment, based on our purchase price, that would now be a once a month price point. 

Robert Craig represents one of the largest holdings in our cellar with his 'four mountains and a valley' represented with Cabernet Sauvignon from Craig sources on Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, Mt Veeder, Atlas Peak and Napa Valley.  

The Affinity label is Craig's Bordeaux Blend with the predominant Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the various Craig vineyard sites. Our Cellartracker records show we hold twenty vintages of this label dating back to the inaugural vintage release in 1993.

I last wrote about this label vintage release six months ago, "this 2007 vintage release, twelve years old (now thirteen), not too old, not too young, but presumable just right for the occasion, probably at its apex but certainly will continue to be drinking nicely for several more years." 

We visited the Robert Craig estate winery high atop Howell Mountain on several occasions, including the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 back in 2009, when we first tasted some of the 2007 vintage release labels from barrel and when we would have acquired this wine.

I wrote about Affinity and this release in a blogpost back earlier last year.

Since that time this wine has appreciated in value significantly from the release price we paid to the current selling price published at $89. This is largely due to the high ratings this release was awarded, 96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and the fact that Craig has raised the price of this wine over the ensuring years. 

I wrote in a recent tribute to the recently departed Robert Craig, he used to say he took pride in holding the price point of this label so as to provide high QPR - Quality Price Ratio, the branding strategy innuring perceived value to the brand as a whole and this label in particular.  

We acquired our entire available allocation of single vineyard designated labels from Robert Craig for this vintage year and are being rewarded for their quality and value. Robert Parker said of this vintage, "This is the best group of wines I have ever tasted from Robert Craig Winery. Not only is there not a single disappointment in this portfolio, but these are all noteworthy wines, with thrilling levels of quality. Moreover, they are moderately priced for Napa Valley as well as ageworthy. I think these are the finest wines that I have ever tasted from Robert Craig Cellars."

Wine Enthusiast gave this a 92 rating and said, "the ’07, Craig has produced his best bottling since the late 1990s."

We still hold several cases across the portfolio for this vintage release. 

Bright garnet colored, medium-full bodied, black berry and black raspberry fruits, nicely balanced and structured with hints of graphite, accents of currant, mocha, sweet oak and smoky cedar flavors, turning to smooth approachable finely ground tannins on a long, dry, spicy finish.

RM 92 points.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend 2013

Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend 2013

Its easy to find a superb drinking wine for $40. Its hard to find one for $25. Imagine a sophisticated complex pleasant drinking Red Blend for under $20. Buy it, try it, and go and get some more for high QPR (quality-price-ratio) every day drinking.

We opened this for casual easy shipping over the course of a couple evenings, comparing and standing up against several wines. For the price point, it held its own and stood up well against wines multiple times its price. 

I write often that buying wine for home consumption for a wine lover entails everyday wines, once a week wines, once a month wines, and special occasion or once a year wines. Here is a wine worthy of serving for special dinners and quests at everyday drinking prices.

The question I get asked more than any other is what is a high value quality drinking wine at everyday prices. This is such a wine - a 'Rick's Pick'.

Columbia Crest H3 wines is AVA designated wine from the Horse Heaven Hills. Les Chevaux is French for “the horses”, named for wild horses that once roamed the region. It is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Malbec with small portions of Cabernet Franc and a little Viognier red varietals from Horse Heaven Hills, in the Columbia Valley in Central Washington State. The wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels for around 22 months.

Wine Spectator gave it 90 points.

 This is great every day drinking but good enough to serve at a nice wine dinner as well. Its readily available as over 70,000 cases made. Amazing that they can produce this quality and value in such quantities.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm, concentrated, complex, dark berry and plum fruits with notes of dark mocha chocolate and leather with hints of licorice with nice approachable tannins on a supple finish.

RM 88 points. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Davis Estate Hungry Blonde Carneros Chardonnay 2016

Davis Estate Hungry Blonde Carneros Chardonnay 2016

For the kid's last night at home before returning back to the east coast, Linda served Halibut and grilled filets of beef with twice baked potatoes. We served one of our favorite drinking Chardonnays from the cellar, Hungry Blonde, which was a fun label to serve our two blonde future daughters-in-law.

We discovered this wine from the winelist at Fiora Restaurant in Geneva during a lunch outing there last summer. We liked it so much we went out and bought all the remaining inventory in local merchants, then special ordered the then new vintage release.

We love the distinctive taste profile of this full bodied, forward fruit filled Chardonnay. "There's 2000 cases of the 2015 Chardonnay Hungry Blonde, and it's one seriously good Chardonnay.  It's the real deal and will keep for 5+ years. At 30 bucks it's a killer value." He gave it 94 points.

James Suckling gave the 2016 90 points. "A chardonnay with plenty of butter, apricot, flan and bread dough. There is good density to this and the acidity gives some form and clarity'"

Davis Estate Hungry Blonde Carneros Chardonnay 2016

Winemaker notes for the 2016, "Our Hungry Blonde Chardonnay is the perfect expression of cool-climate Napa Valley Chardonnay from the Carneros region. Inviting aromas of lemon zest and white flowers make way for waves of bosc pear, Tahitian vanilla, and baked apple tart. All held together with fresh acidity and a supple texture inviting another sip."

According to Wine Country Connection, Hungry Blonde is made by the well known Napa producer Cary Gott. The fruit comes from the Poe Vineyard, which sits adjacent to the world renowned Hyde Vineyard. Larry Hyde’s HDV Chardonnay, sells for $60.
Straw colored, full bodied, a rich concentrated buttery flavors that resemble butterscotch, notes of vanilla, oak and citrus fruits, stone fruit and white flowers. 

RM 91 points. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Branson Coach House Barossa Greenock Block Shiraz 2004

Branson Coach House Barossa Valley Single Vineyard Greenock Block Shiraz 2004

For casual sipping in front of a movie, the kids and Linda wanted a hearty flavorful Shiraz so I selected from the cellar this big bold Aussie Shiraz.

I discovered and tasted this wine with Wine Manager Bill and the Aussie wine buyer at the wine desk at Binny's in Glen Ellyn back upon release. I liked it so much I bought their entire allocation which was only a couple six packs.

This property was taken over by Two Hands after the passing of proprietor Malcolm Asden, the result being these wines are now made alongside Two Hands by their winemaker Matt Wenk. The acquisition was made possible by capital from outside foreign investors.

Along with the winery and brand came eighteen acres of Greenock vineyards planted in mature high quality Shiraz which will continue to be produced under the BCH label. Subsequently, Two Hands wine production is also done at the BCH Greenock facility.

They continue to produce BCH premium single vineyard designated labels Coach House Block Rare Single Vineyard and Greenock Block Single Vineyard Shiraz's sourced from the vineyards that surround the winery.

Tonight, even though my Cellartracker records show I am out of this label/release, I found two bottles left in the cellar, (in place of a different label/release from the same producer).

Now, at sixteen years of age, this is aging gracefully, but starting to show its age with slight signs of diminution of the fruits.

Upon opening it was slightly obtuse with a bit of an edge, but over the course of an hour it opened, softened and became more approachable.

Dark inky purple color, full bodied, thick, chewy layers of aromatic flavors of tangy black fruits, raspberry, black cherry and black currants, accented by tones of clove spice, graphite & hints of creme de cassis on a smooth polished moderate tannin finish.

RM 90 points, two points less than the last tastings back nearly four years ago on Aug 6, 2016 and then Oct 11, 2017


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Pahlmeyer Caldwell Vineyard Napa Valley Red Blend 1990

Pahlmeyer Caldwell Vineyard Napa Valley Proprietary Red 1990

For Fathers Day, after a golf outing with my three sons, we had a gala family dinner. Daughter Erin and her family were in Florida. With son Alec in from NYC we pulled from the cellar a birth-year vintage magnum of Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red for the occasion.

In a non-Covid world, we would've been drinking this bottle this week in celebration of Alec and Vivianna's wedding, but that event has been pushed back due to the travel and gathering restrictions in the NYC Tri-state area.

Linda prepared grilled striped sea bass, sea scallops, barbecue ribs with sweet corn, potato salad and wedge salad.

Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red is a classic Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, all sourced from the Estate Caldwell Vineyard.

Produced in limited quantities, each variety in the blend is harvested and held separately throughout fermentation and barrel aging. The lots are aged an average of 18 months in French oak Bordeaux barrels.

A successful trial attorney, Jayson partnered with John Caldwell, owner of a 55-acre site in south-east Napa Valley. Together, they began planting French clones of red Bordeaux varieties.

“All I wanted to do was to create my own ‘California Mouton’ – a rich, powerful Napa Valley Bordeaux blend, a wine that would drop wine lovers to their knees,” says Jayson Pahlmeyer.

After years of seeking assistance from viticultural professors at the University of Bordeaux who analyzed the soil samples, exposure, rainfall and temperature data, Jayson and his partner were able to acquire Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec vines and managed to smuggle their “suitcase clones” to the U.S. through Canada.

Planted in 1981, the French cuttings slowly adjusted. In 1986, with the help of Randy Dunn, one of California’s foremost winemakers, the Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red was made and launched.

Helen Turley took over winemaking in 1993 and further improved the quality and consistency of Pahlmeyer wines. Jayson’s daughter Cleo joined the team in 2008.

Today, the winemaker is Bibiana Gonzalez Rave. She received her oenology degree from the University of Bordeaux and has worked at estates in Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Santa Barbara County, Sonoma Valley and other locations in addition to Napa Valley. She was named Winemaker of the Year for 2015 by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pahlmeyer Caldwell Vineyard Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend 1990
From magnum, the cork and fill level were perfect after thirty years of age, another indicator of the conditions in our cellar for proper aging.

Deep ruby/purple color, medium-full bodied, moderately complex, well-balanced ripe currant and black cherry fruits, aromas of smoke, cassis, tobacco and spicy oak, followed by full tannins and acidity on a lingering finish. At thirty years, I sense the fruits were starting to fall off a slight bit to give way to non-fruit acidic notes of tobacco and smoke.

Repeating notes of a fellow Cellertracker, JIMN, "Probably time to drink up in the normal format, but the Mags should hold well for another few years."

Like Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, I give this 90 points.



Saturday, June 20, 2020

Whitehall Lane Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot Redux - Whitehall Lane

After the sensational Petit Verdot tasting with dinner the other evening, I pulled another 100% Petit Verdot from the cellar for a repeat, comparison tasting experience. We tasted another Napa Valley Petit Verdot, this time from Whitehall Lane which is just up the Route 29 Napa Highway from Piazza Del Dotto. This was the same vintage, 2014, as the Piazza Del Dotto we tasted the other evening.

We tasted and acquired this label during our visit to the winery during our Napa Wine Experience in 2018.

Whitehall Vineyards Napa Valley Rutherford Fawn Park Vineyard Petit Verdot 2014

This is 100% Petit Verdot, sourced from the Whitehall estate Fawn Park Vineyard, located in the Rutherford AVA, just off the Napa Valley floor on the eastern hillside in St. Helena. It is one of seven vineyards on the Whitehall Lane estate.

Like the traditional Bordeaux producers, consistent with the percentage of fruit in a typical Bordeaux Blend, the vineyard is planted primarily to high-power Cabernet Sauvignon with just a small two-acre block of Petit Verdot. As I wrote the other evening, Petit Verdot is usually added to the blend in a small portion, usually less than ten percent, to add color and structure to the mix.
According to Whitehall Lane, the vineyard has been producing for about twenty-five years but the property’s history pre-dates the vines or its buildings. It’s been told that local Native Americans mined the neighboring Glass Mountain where they turned the mined obsidian into tools and arrowheads. There is a home on the property that was constructed in 1865 with a second story addition made when Judge Chiles owned the estate in 1915.
A vintage barn pre-dates the house and was constructed in 1905 using timbers harvested from Howell Mountain. The property was originally used as a dairy to supply milk to the nearby St. Helena Sanitarium—now known as St. Helena Hospital.

The property was owned by the Hultman Family from 1928 to 1978, and they ran the dairy and raised chickens there. In 1978, Loren Sorenson purchased the land, planted the vineyard, dug a spring-fed pond and continued a small farm for the local 4-H program. 

Whitehall Lane was founded in 1979 and was acquired in 1993 by the current owners, the Leonardini Family of San Francisco and Saint Helena.

The property is named Fawn Park Vineyard after the road that borders the southern side of the estate. This road was originally the stagecoach road going up and over Howell Mountain to Angwin and Pope Valley.

Tasting this again, I wish I had bought more as this is a big bold expressive fruit forward style that we love.

Consistent with our original tasting of this wine back in 2018, "Dark inky blackish purple, full bodied, structured concentrated rich tongue coating black fruits, hints of clove spice and earth, with tongue puckering chalky tannins that form distinct 'legs' on the glass. This wine begs for hearty cheese, grilled steak or darkest mocha chocolate."

RM 92 points. 




Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Red 2016

Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Red 2016

We discovered this wine label a decade ago and have been admirers of it ever since. With son Alec visiting from NYC for the week with fiance Vivianna, we've been opening some fine wines for dinners as well as casual sipping.

Tonight we opened a Petit Verdot to compare with the same varietal and vintage release as one we tasted the other night. I then opened this Bordeaux Blend from Washington State Columbia Valley  for casual elegant sipping with a tray of fine artisan cheeses.

Quilceda Creek CVR stands for Columbia Valley Red - their Bordeaux Blend which is their 'second label', subordinate to the ultra-premium flagship Quilceda Creek Cabernets and Red Blends, at a fraction of their $150 to $250 prices. It is made from 'declassified barrels' of fruit from all the Quilceda Creek estate vineyards, Champoux, Galitzine, Palengat, and Wallula Vineyards, It represents a great value high QPR relatively speaking but is still pricey at a release price of near $70. 

Quilceda Creek is family owned and operated with a long storied legacy and history of winemaking that dates back to the turn of the last century. Founder, Alex Golitzin is a descendent of Prince Lev Sergeevich Galitzine, acclaimed winemaker to Russian Czar Nicholas II's Abrau Dursau estate, and the Massandra and Novy Svet sparkling wine estates. Prince Lev Galitzine was known as "the creator of Russian champagne".

Alex was born in Paris where his family lived after fleeing the Russian Revolution. In 1946, after WWII, Alex and his family emigrated to San Francisco, California. During his youth, Alex regularly visited Napa Valley and his maternal uncle, André Tchelistcheff the legendary Napa Valley winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard, who was known as the "Dean of American Winemaking".

In 1967, Alex and his wife Jeannette moved to Washington State they established Quilceda Creek in 1978. They produced their first vintage was in 1979, making Quilceda Creek one of the oldest, family-owned and controlled wineries in the State of Washington.

The 2016 Quilceda Creek "CVR" Columbia Valley Red Wine was awarded 93 points by Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com and Owen Bargreen and the International Wine Report, 92 Points by Wine Advocate, and  90 points by Stephen Tanzer of Vinous.

It was aged in 60% new French oak; 6,675 cases were made. 

This is bright ruby colored, medium full bodied, rich, elegant and balanced, the aromatics burst from the glass on opening, black berry fruits accented by currant and plum are accented by a layer of graphite, licorice,and smokey herbs with notes of tobacco leaf and oak spices turning to full but smooth silky supple tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.



Thursday, June 18, 2020

Covid Breakout - Engagement Celebration Dinner

Covid Breakout - Dual Engagement Family Celebration Dinner

With son Alec and fiance Vivianna visiting from Manhatten, we met son Sean and his fiance Michelle for dinner at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. This  was our first dinner out since the opening restaurants for outdoor dining only in Illinois as the Covid lock-down is relaxed. For Alec and Viv this was their first dinner out since NYC is still shut down.

This was our first time getting together since both Alec and Sean got engaged so it was also a special celebration dinner. Alec and Viv were due to get married next weekend but due to the Covid disruptions, their event has been postponed. Sean and Michelle's is slated for September but the outcome remains to be seen due to the uncertainties of the Illinois handling of the crisis and associated regulations.

For the celebration we took a Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose Champagne.

Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Rosé NV

We served this last month at a Bridesmaid's Luncheon for Michelle. 

This got 91 points James Suckling, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points from John Gilman and earlier from Wine Spectator.

This is a a blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier.

Rustic orange color, crisp, full-bodied, complex and zesty, lively red currant, red berry and citrus fruits with a good core, fine acidity, crisp texture, chalky minerality and hint of apple, smoke and spice with a long, vibrant finish.

RM 89 points.


For the dinner entree's I took BYOB from our home cellar this Piazza Del Dotto Petit Verdot. Below is from my posting of this label from a BYOB dinner tasting on Linda's birthday earlier this year.

Del Dotto Piazza Napa Valley Petit Verdot 2014

We tasted and acquired this wine as part of  our Del Dotto Piazza DELICACIES Food and Wine Experience Tasting at the winery during our Napa Wine Experience in 2018. 

Readers of these posts know we can be over-indulgent, even obsessive, we have fun with wine. Part of the fun is serving wines with 'V' when dining or tasting with Vivianna. Popular labels are from Venge or Viader for such occasions. Tonight, on a different twist, we served a Petit Verdot. 

This was a big hit for our dinner tonight, everyone loved this wine. 
Of course, Petit Verdot is one of the Bordeaux varietals, appellation authorized for inclusion in the blend. Most often, Petit Verdot is the fourth varietal in the mix, subordinate to the primary Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and the secondary Cabernet Franc.

Petit Verdot is added to a red blend for structure, backbone and colour, to round out, augment and enhance the profile of the blend. Standing alone, without the core Cabernet, and the softening roundness of Merlot, and the hint of tangy spice added by Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot comes across as huge, bold, muscular and forward, perhaps awkward or obtuse and overpowering to some.

Indeed, those are the characteristics we love in a wine and while lacking polish and balance of the harmony of the overall blend, its a wonderful wine with bold and full flavored food such as tonight. I wish I had ordered more and will savor what we have, and miss it when it is gone. I'll be looking to top up our holdings of this label.

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, reasonably balanced, firm forward concentrated black berry and black currant fruits, with notes of licorice, spice and hints of mocha and subtle pepper spice with bold but approachable lingering tannins.

RM 92-93 points.

We also acquired some of the 2015 vintage of this label which I took to a gala tasting of which I blogged about last winter in this posting below.





We also ordered from the wine list a white wine to accompany dinner, a Jordan Sonoma County Chardonnay.

Jordan Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2016

This is a popular widely available label from a long time iconic Sonoma County producer.

The winemaker's notes for this label, "Mirroring the classic elements of a grand cru Chablis, this is a rare expression of Chardonnay that shyly but exquisitely excites the senses. Pretty aromas of citrus blossom and passion fruit spring from the glass. Its elegant palate reveals flavors of lemon, Asian pear and kumquat with a beautiful weight and roundness—all supported by an attractive, crisp backbone of acidity. A lingering finish laced in succulent citrus begs you to take another sip.“

"There’s a beautiful balance to this wine. The opportunity to work with such delicately spiced fruit with such lively acidity was especially fun, offering so many aromas and flavors to employ on our vintage canvas. Similar to 2015, the 2016 Jordan Chardonnay will be remembered as very Chablis-like upon release. Expect this wine to take on more Puligny-Montrachet qualities with another 1-2 years of bottle age.” —Winemaker Rob Davis



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah 2009

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Napa Valley Syrah 2009

Son Alec and Viv are home, visiting from NYC. We grilled filet steaks with baked potatoes and opened this Lewis Cellars Ethan's Syrah. Our normal go-to wine with Alec is his signature namesake Alec's Blend from Lewis. Trolling the cellar, adjacent to the Alec's blend rack was the column of Ethan's so he pulled that to introduce this Lewis label, another of our favorites. 

Lewis Cellars are one of our favorite Napa producers with their 'L' branding and labels named for their grandkids, and their Indiana 500 racer heritage. 

Founded in Oakville, Napa Valley, in 1992 by Debbie and Randy Lewis, they own no vineyards but source their grapes from contract growers around the region from Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oak Knoll, and Carneros in Napa Valley to the Russian River Valley in Sonoma. The Oak Knoll estate produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Lewis produce 9,000 cases annually. Paul Hobbs was their original winemaker, but today the winemaker is Brian Mox. 

Despite not owning their own vineyard sources, they hold long-term contracts so they have developed a top reputation as California wine writer James Laube cites "all the estate’s wines are of unusually high quality.” 

Indeed, Lewis Napa Valley Cabernet 2013 was the Wine Spectator #1 Wine of the Year in 2016. That vintage also received a 100 point Robert Parker rating, the first wine to accomplish both accolades in the same year

Our visit and private tasting at the Lewis Estate Chateau was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017

Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Ethan's Syrah 2009

Like Alec's Blend, this is named for one of Lewis' grandsons. Unlike Alec's Blend, it is 100% Napa Valley Syrah

This is bold, fruit forward and concentrated in the full throttle style that we love.

This release got 94 points from Wine Spectator. Four hundred and seventy five cases were produced. 

This is dark inky blackish purple colored, full-bodied, intense, concentrated, rich, briary black fruits accented by mineral, vanilla, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon spice leading to ripe but firm tannins that linger with the spice on the finish. This lacks finesse or polish as there is a slight edge to this that detracts a bit from the overall experience.

Ironically, according to our Cellartracker tasting notes, the last time we tasted this was a year ago to this day, on Father's Day weekend when I wrote, "At ten years, this is starting to show its age a bit with a slight bit of an edge and alcohol heat, hence deducting a point from my previous score. I attribute this to age although it could be a bottle variation but I doubt it." 

As is so often the case, my tasting notes were consistent and I gave this the same score as earlier. 


RM 92 points. 


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Kilikanoon Oracle Clare Valley Shiraz 2007

Kilikanoon Oracle Clare Valley Shiraz 2007

With bbq grilled ribs and baked potatoes, we opened a Kilikanoon Oracle Clare Valley Shiraz. Kilikanoon is a boutique Clare Valley winery founded in 1997 when winemaker and proprietor Kevin Mitchell purchased the property of the same name in the hamlet of Penwortham in South Australia's picturesque Clare Valley.

The Kilikanoon property, featuring a circa 1860s stone cottage housing Kilikanoon tasting room, was originally settled by early English migrants who named it after an historic old mansion in Cornwall. By purchasing the property, Mitchell acquired 30 year old Shiraz, Cabernet, Grenache and Riesling vineyards, many of which were planted by his father, Mort, in the 1960s.

Kilikanoon has grown from producing 25,000 bottles in that first vintage, to now exporting to over 25 countries and has become one of the leading brands in Australia.

In the 2002 Clare Valley Wine Show chaired by prominent Australian wine writer and judge, Huon Hooke, Kilikanoon gained notoriety by winning 6 of the 7 trophies awarded. Oracle Shiraz has twice won 'Best Shiraz' at International wine shows, and James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion named Kilikanoon 'Winery of the Year' in 2013. In 2014, Kevin Mitchell was inducted into the inaugural Clare Valley Hall of Fame as Winemaker of the Year.

The Oracle label has long been the flagship wine since Kilikanoon first opened doors back in 1998. Starting off as a single vineyard wine from the famed 'Mort’s Block' Clare Valley vineyard, it has been cited as the benchmark of what Clare Shiraz can achieve, a low yielding Shiraz from single 40 year old vineyard, it typically has an ageing potential of at least 12 - 15 years with careful cellaring.

We love this full throttle, complex, concentrated style of full fruit forward shiraz and hold a half dozen vintages of this flagship label. Tonight we pulled the oldest vintage as part of cellar management.

The 2007 vintage release of Oracle was awarded 93 pts by Wine Enthusiast, 92 pts by Stephen Tanzer, 91 pts by Wine Spectator, and 90 pts by Robert Parker and Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Dark inky purple, full bodied, bright vibrant blackberry, black raspberry and cherry cola flavors are accented by notes of licorice, dark cherries and mocha chocolate and hints of graphite and oak with nicely integrated firm tannins leading to a smooth finish. 

RM 91 points. 


Twitter: https://twitter.com/kilikanoon

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Two Rock Solid Big Reds for Family Celebration

Two Rock Solid Big Reds for Family Celebration - Carnival of Love and Scarlet Love

For grandson Reid's birthday, son Ryan served two spectacular giant red wines, Mollydooker Carnival of Love Shiraz and a Cliff Lede Rock Block Series, Scarlet Love. It was a family gathering of cousins and in-laws, with pizza, DQ Ice Cream cake and snacks on a perfect summer day on the deck and with a bounce house and yard games.

The Mollydooker brand of wines is named for the affectionate Aussie term for 'Left-Hander' - because Sarah Marquis, the powerhouse winemaker based in McLaren Vale Australia, is a lefty!
Prior to Mollydooker, Sarah was involved in various Robert Parker high-scoring wineries including Fox Creek, Henry's Drive, Parson's Flat, Shirvington and her own label with former husband and distributor partner, Marquis Phillips.

The whimsical colorful labels are cartoonish with the premium labels styled as circus posters. This is the premium estate bottled Shiraz.

Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2013

This label was No.2 of the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of the World 2014 (Carnival of Love Shiraz 2012) and has been among 8 appearances of Mollydooker wines in the Wine Spectator Top 100.

This release was awarded 95 Points by The Wine Advocate and 94 Points by Wine Spectator.

This is produced of 100% Shiraz from a single vineyard, the 2013 Carnival of Love was aged in American oak, 97% new.

Winemaker's Notes:
Dark opaque violet with deep crimson hue, this wine bursts from the glass a dense melange of berry fruits, dark plum, licorice, and fragrant spice. The palate displays layers of sweet fruit with creamy mocha oak, black pepper hints and superbly balanced tannins, seeming to last for an eternity.

Very deep purple-black in color, full bodied, dense concentrated, complex, intense nose of blueberry preserves, creme de cassis and warm black cherries, the blackberry fruit is accented by licorice, mocha, vanilla, with notes of baking spices, toast and hints of eucalyptus, turning to supple firm velvety smooth tannins on a very long finish.

We love this style and character profile of wine with intense colour saturation, intense aromas and dense textured, super concentrated and ultra rich palate.
RM 95 points. 

Cliff Lede Rock Block Series Stags Leap District "Scarlet Love" 2014 
Cliff Lede Estate, Winery (right) and Wine House (left)
as seen from hillside Poetry Inn and surrounding vineyard

The Cliff Lede estate vineyard blocks (shown right) in the Stag's Leap District, called the 'Rock Blocks' as they are named after Cliff’s favorite rock songs.

The name of this blend is derived from Grateful Dead’s "Scarlet Begonias" from the Twin Peaks vineyard and from Cream’s "Sunshine of Your Love" in the flagship steep hillside Poetry vineyard above the Silverado Trail overlooking the estate across the valley.

We've visited the estate several times and our tastings there have been highlights of several of our Napa Valley trips. 

Lede describes this vineyard sources for this wine, "The Cabernet Sauvignon in “Sunshine of Your Love” is planted in shallow volcanic soil and farmed to low yields, contributing concentration and classic Stags Leap character to the backbone of the blend. “Scarlet Begonias” is a small block of Petit Verdot that provides depth, structure, and a luxurious perfume of floral and spice notes."

Ryan gets this label through his Cliff Lede club allocations. This ultra-premium label got 97 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points from Vinous.

This is a blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Dark blackish inky purple, full bodied, intense, concentrated, complex yet nicely balanced, elegant, smooth and polished black and blue fruits are accented by graphite, licorice, smoke, leather with a long silky smooth tannin laced finish. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Blend 2008

Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2008

This is a Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend that has been around for decades. Its one of the go-to wines in our cellar, one that we collect from vintage to vintage, as it represents a style we like, is reliable, produced in sufficient quantity to be generally available and provides reasonable QPR - quality price ratio, despite the fact the price has crept up precipitously over the years.

For midweek dinner at home with grilled steaks, baked potatoes and grilled asparagus spears I pulled from the cellar this Bordeaux Blend from Napa Valley. We have collected and served Trilogy from Floral Springs for decades and still hold nearly a dozen vintages dating back to 1990 in our cellar.

I chronicled this wine earlier this year when I wrote the following: Trilogy is Flora Springs’ flagship wine, dating back to 1984 when they decided to make the finest wine possible sourced from the highest quality wine lots from their estate vineyards in Napa Valley. Back then it was one of Napa Valley’s first proprietary red blends. 

It has long provided sophisticated drinking at good value. Indeed, the name Trilogy refers to the three primary Bordeaux varietal grapes in the blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc although they also grow and sometimes include in the blend the other Bordeaux varietals, Malbec and Petit Verdot. In line with that theme, four different generations of the branding and label imagery going back to the 1980's have all adorned the three grape varietals' leaf shapes in the label artwork.

To this day, this Bordeaux-style wine continues to be sourced from the Floral Springs Komes-Garvey estate vineyards. The Komes and Garvey’s have always been farmers first, and over the years the family has acquired 500 acres throughout Napa Valley, 300 of which are planted to vineyard. With estate properties stretching from the cool, rolling hills of Carneros to the famed sub-appellations of Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena, Flora Springs produces varietal wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other red Bordeaux varietals.

Each year the family selects a small percentage of the yield for their own wines, selling the remaining fruit to neighboring Napa Valley wineries. This selection puts the focus on quality, not quantity, resulting in hand-crafted wines that meet the family’s exacting standards.

Flora Springs was founded by the children of Jerry and Flora Komes. Jerry and Flora were married back in 1935 in San Francisco but moved throughout California and Texas over the years as Jerry pursued an engineering career with the giant San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel. The couple had three children, Mike, John and Julie, and eventually settled back in San Francisco when Jerry settled in a corporate job in international relations at Bechtel HQ in the Bay Area.

When Jerry retired in 1976, he and Flora began looking for a place to retire in Napa Valley. They came upon a property at the end of West Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, and Flora saw magic hidden behind the decades of neglect, overgrown ivy, and the shifting rock walls of the old ghost winery.
“There are so many wonderful things about Napa Valley and St. Helena. I just fell in love with that property and that was it.” Jerry and Flora purchased the estate believing it to be the perfect place to grow grapes and become farmers. But when their son, John, proposed that the old winery building on the property be revived, Flora Springs became a new career for Flora, Jerry and their children.

They had the wisdom and prescience to craft a Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley sourced Bordeaux varietals in the early days as Cabernet was becoming the king of Napa Valley. We've collected this wine since those early days and still hold bottles dating back to our kids' birthyears in 1990-91.

Perhaps whimsically, I latched on to this as a regular favorite partly due to the namesake that wife Linda is a descendant of the Flora family, founders of her hometown Flora, in Indiana, no relation of course to the California Napa Flora (first name) Kombs. but fun and a tribute none-the-less.

To this day, Trilogy is a mainstay go to label in our cellar offering quality sophisticated drinking at reasonable value relative to the premium Napa and Bordeaux Blends. Hence, to fullfil the urge for a Bordeaux with our steak on this evening, we opened this decade old Trilogy.

Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2008

Perfect complement to grilled steak.  Wine Enthusiast gave this release 94 point, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave it 91 points.

With dark inky color, this exhibited medium-full bodied, nicely balanced and well integrated forward black and blue berry and black currant fruits with a layer of mocha and hints of sweet oak - a pleasant, very tasty, simple easy drinking wine, smooth soft tannins on the lingering finish.

As indicated by the three grape leaves on the label, Trilogy is a blend of  79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 2.5% Petit Verdot. It was aged for 22 months in 100% new French Oak.

RM 91 points.



We've enjoyed Trilogy since the 80's and still hold vintages dating back to 1990 and 1991 in our cellar. This one is as forward and flavorful as any I remember however perhaps not as complex as some vintages.