Monday, July 27, 2020

Heitz Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Heitz Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018

With fresh halibut dinner we opened this Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc from legendary producer Heitz Cellars.

I wrote about Heitz Cellars and their role as pioneers of modern California winemaking and Napa Valley wine history in a recent blogpost. Notably, the Heitz family involvement in the estate and brand ended in 2018 when the estate was sold to new ownership and leadership. This label would represent the last vintage release under the Heitz family stewardship.
 Heitz of course are known for Cabernet Sauvignon but they also produce this Sauvignon Blanc, a similar varietal also popular in Nap Valley.

This label is sourced from 45 acres of estate vineyards planted 1996 on Howell Mountain in the northeast corner overlooking Napa Valley.

Heitz Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Winemaker notes speak of this terroir influence in the release - "Our Sauvignon Blanc captures the liveliness of the grape with its bright, crisp flavors.  Refreshing and light, this wine has the joie de vivre to make every occasion a bit more exciting. The fruit is estate sourced from the lower elevations of our Ink Grade Vineyard. In this idyllic spot, the geography and microclimate are uniquely suited for Sauvignon Blanc. The mornings are extremely cold and the afternoons are warm, a variation of temperature that allows for exceptional ripening. This vineyard is organically farmed and the grapes are certified organic. The combination of hillside and high valley fruit gives the wine a complimentary balance of flavors, imparting tropical and citrus notes. Fermented and aged four months in stainless steel, our Sauvignon Blanc is classically fresh and vibrant."

This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Straw colored, light medium bodied, bold notes of zesty citrus fruits of lime and grapefruit with note of lychee and tropical fruits with pronounced minerality and moderate acidity.

RM 88 points.

This label was given 90 points by Wine Spectator.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3263214

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2003

Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2003

Quiet evening at home, watching a movie, I finished off my leftovers from our dine-out Italian dinner the other night with some artisan cheeses. I pulled from the cellar this vintage Napa Cabernet. I admit I don't know much about this label and find it a bit of an enigma.

Atlas Peak is/was a small lot producer whose winemakers source grape from vineyard partners with mountaintop and lower-elevation vineyards on the both sides of Napa Valley; Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mount Veeder. Since the producers do not own the land and wines are produced from purchased grapes, these would not be considered Estate bottled or Estate wines. The rear label says it is a combination of estate vineyards and partner vineyard sources in the wine.  

Atlas Peak write that they focus on these 'cornerstone mountain vineyards' for their Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon since they provide "ideal growing conditions for building bold, well-structured wines that express the rugged elegance that comes from great fruit and hard work in hard-to-reach places. Atlas Peak’s most valuable hidden resource is literally underfoot: the elevation of its vineyard at over 1,000 feet. Grapes at high elevation, above the natural fog line, experience much lower daytime temperatures than those on the valley floor, allowing the grapes to stay cool while gaining maximum exposure".

According to the Napa Wine Project, they make their wine at their sister winery, the Geyser Peak Winery located in Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County) in Healdsburg. They write further that "the fruit for their Atlas Peak wines come from their own vineyard and fruit for their other mountain grown wines comes from premium vineyards on Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mt. Veeder. The wines from these other mountain regions are their “Mountain Series”', distinguished by the black label versus the one white label.

According to the Napa Wine Project, Atlas Peak Winery was founded in 1987 with the intent to focus on Italian varietals including Sangiovese. However over time their relatively high altitude vineyard location, specific soils & climate proved to be very conducive for growing premium Cabernet Sauvignon and now this varietal is their main focus. The actual winery was located on Atlas Peak – but they actually make their wine now at a large winery in Healdsburg (Sonoma County). Their vineyard land comprises about 500 acres making them one of the larger growers on Atlas Peak."

Interesting that they designate this as Napa Valley appellation wine, since it is inconsistent with the fact, on Howell Mountain, based on the fog line reaching up the hill to 1000 foot elevation, grapes above that level are considered Howell Mountain appellation grapes, while grapes below that level are considered Napa Valley. 

With this vintage release in 2003, 'Atlas Peak’s entire philosophy of wine production changed to a focus on the extraordinary fruit grown on the best mountaintops surrounding Napa Valley. The Mountain Cabernet series is now the centerpiece of Atlas Peak’s offerings."



At seventeen years of age, this is still holding up well with the fruits just beginning to diminish and give way to the non-fruit notes of leather and tobacco.

Winemaker Notes - The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon is rich with the flavors of ripe dark fruits and blueberries, surrounded by subtle hints of vanilla bean. The Cabernet is well structured with tannins that are soft and supple. This wine is perfectly suited for a rib eye or T-bone steak cooked to perfection, and is also an excellent match with grilled scallops. - Winemaker's notes from Wine.com

Wine Enthusiast gave this an 86point rating and said, "Atlas Peak Cabernets have always seemed overly tannic, and so is this wine. But it's fruitier and riper than in the past, and may develop. It's tough and astringent, but packs a whallop with black currant flavors." 

This was dark garnet/ruby colored with medium full body, complex with concentrated sweet blackberry and black currant fruits that are accented by notes of cassis, licorice, cola, leather and hints of cigar box and Asian spice.

RM 87 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=270380

http://atlaspeak.com/

Del Dotto Napa Valley Merlot 1997

Del Dotto Napa Valley Merlot 1997

We tasted and acquired this wine at the winery upon its release back in 1999 during our Napa Wine Experience 1999. This was the beginnings of our extensive cellar collection of Del Dotto estate wines dating back to their early years, that today spans more than a dozen labels. Del Dotto has grown from their 13 acre estate on Hwy 29 and Zinfandel Lane on the south edge of St Helena, the site of Del Dotto Winery Caves, to dozens of labels sourced from over 400 acres of vineyard sources across a dozen vineyard sites Napa and Sonoma Counties.

R&L with Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto at TraVigna, 1999

Over the past three years, we've visited the Del Dotto Rutherford Estate and Caves in St Helena and the Piazza Del Dotto Estate Culinary experience - both were highlights of our Napa Valley tours those years. 

In that year, 1999, Del Dotto first introduced their renowned barrel tastings in one of Napa Valley’s oldest caves at Historic Del Dotto over in the southeast corner of Napa Valley near the bottom of the Silverado Trail. Today, they have cave cellar tours at three different locations.

That 1997 vintage was heralded as top rated with promise to release long lived high quality wines. I've written often in these pages how that vintage was tight and closed and took several years to reveal its potential while at times it was overshadowed by the much panned lesser '98 release.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Merlot 1997

This '97 Merlot at 23 years shows the longevity of that vintage as it showed well and still revealed body, structure and fruit flavors, albeit showing its age as the fruit is starting to give way to the non-fruit leather and tobacco notes.

The label, foil and cork were in perfect condition and the fill level of the bottle was ideal - all indicators of the conditions of our cellar being suitable for long term aging of fine wine.

Winemaker Notes - The wine is dark purple in color, jammy, berry aromas, with soft approachable tannins, other flavors include cinnamon, nutmeg, and cocoa powder.

Dark purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied, the firm black berry and black cherry fruits are slowly declining giving way to the non-fruit leather and tobacco notes, accented by notes of cinnamon spice, cedar and cassis, with moderate soft approachable tannins on the tangy lingering finish.

RM 87 points.

@DelDottoWine

http://www.deldottovineyards.com/



Friday, July 24, 2020

Bread & Butter California Chardonnay 2017

Bread & Butter California Chardonnay 2017

Picked up this low-cost Chardonnay at Sam's Club to try for simple every day summer sipping. We opened it with dinner of sauteed cod and it was a perfect pairing.

This is a reasonable QPR selection for an every day wine - ideal for such an occasion as mid-week dinner selection.

Bread & Butter California Chardonnay 2017

This was awarded 93 points at the NY International Wine Competition. If you scour enough festivals and events you'll find a top rating eventually for a label.

Winemaker Notes: "This Chardonnay opens with rich notes of vanilla bean and almond husk, reminiscent of a decadent crème brûlée. The creamy notes are balanced by a soft minerality and a hint of tropical fruit. Those creamy notes continue to your palate where they are joined with bright acidity and well-integrated oak that leads into a long, creamy finish."

The producer downplays the fact this is a 'California' wine citing the producer's locale as being Napa, California, that the inattentive might take to mean this is a Napa Valley wine which it is not. The narrative defines it aptly as a California Chardonnay, meaning the grapes are sourced from California with no further specificity offered or required. It notes that it is 'Vinted and Bottled' By the producer, Bread and Butter, whose website offers a broad portfolio of varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, all non-specific California designated.  

At a $15 retail pricepoint this meets expectations for pleasurable casual every day sipping. S

Slightly brownish straw colored, medium light bodied, rather single dimensional with forward expressive notes of vanilla and buttery oak on the long finish the producer describes as creamy.

RM 86 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3155096


https://www.breadandbutterwines.com/wines/chardonnay/


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Blend 2015

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Blend 2015

Dining outdoors at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria, we took BYOB from our signature producer for such occasions, this Bordeaux Blend from Napa Valley producer Del Dotto. Readers of these pages know we have been collecting Del Dotto dating back to their inaugural vintage release in 1993 and still hold decades of vintage release of more than a dozen labels - one of the largest producer holdings in our cellar collection.

We tasted and acquired this vintage release during our Del Dotto Winery Caves Tour during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017.

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Blend 2015

This Del Dotto Caves Blend label is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot.

At five years of age, this has improved with some aging and is more integrated and balanced than in its youth. Dark purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright vibrant, nicely integrated and balanced black berry and black raspberry fruits with tangy notes of clove spice and hints of bitter dark chocolate turning to cloying tannins on an lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Winemakers' notes for this release: "Dark garnet color with a bright bouquet of sweet blueberries, wet rock and fresh cut violets & flowers. Earthy flavors with hints of clove and all spice. This wine has a long, balanced finish with a kiss of oak."

https://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2017/08/del-dotto-napa-valley-cave-tour-barrel_12.html

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2381300

http://www.deldottovineyards.com/

@DelDottoWine 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Grand Veneur Les Origins CDP 2006


Domaine Grand Veneur "Les Origines" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006

Linda prepared bbq ribs and scalloped potatoes with grilled asparagus and I pulled from the cellar this vintage Châteauneuf-du-Pape to accompany our dinner.

Domaine Grand Veneur is a 170-acre estate based in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Southern Rhone Valley. The estate is at the northern edge of the appellation on the southernmost outskirts of the city of Orange. It has been owned and operated by the Jaume family since the early 19th century and is run by Alain Jaume and his two sons.

In addition to the family’s vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they also have parcels in Cotes du Rhone and Lirac, the appellation on the other side of the Rhone River. Grand Veneur produces red and white wines, and the family also has a negociant business called Alain Jaume & Fils. Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Grand Veneur “one of the best run estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

We hold a half dozen releases of this label dating back to the turn of the century.

This label release got 94 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast and 90 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. 

This is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 30% Mourvèdre, the three primary varietals that are required to be in the blend according to Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation rules. 

I write about the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation in our blogpost from our visit to the region in 2019.

Domaine Grand Veneur "Les Origines" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2006 

This is dark garnet colored with a slight tinge of purple. Medium-full bodied the dense firm black berry, black currants and black cherry fruits are accented by notes of graphite, licorice, cola and what several of the critics refer to as 'smoked meats', and hints of tar, turning to tangy tight tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 90 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=467202

Saturday, July 18, 2020

McGah "Scarlett" Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

McGah Family Vineyards "Scarlett" Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Son  Ryan pulled from his cellar this big red. We both discovered this label at a tasting at Vin Chicago, a Chicago wine merchant who had a store here in suburban Naperville at the time. They featured regular tastings, usually offering at least one premium label offering such as this. 

That tasting was my first encounter with McGah Family wines, previously known as McGah Family Cellars and rebranded in 2015 in honor of its flagship wine, Scarlett, which is named after the founder’s daughter.

The McGah family has a long history in Northern California dating back over a century when E.W. McGah first settled in the San Francisco bay area.

In the 1960s, McGah co-founded the Oakland Raiders football franchise. E.W.’s stake in the Raiders was passed down to his to his son E.J. “Eddie” McGah in 1983. E.J. was already a notable sports figure in his own right starting with his signing by the Boston Red Sox at age 17. He continued playing baseball while serving in World War II and was one of the top five players nominated for the 14th District Naval MVP in 1945. After released from service in December 1945, he returned to the Red Sox for two more seasons, playing on the 1946 pennant title team.

Sherratt Reicher, E.J.’s grandson, carried on the sports tradition and worked as a defensive assistant and scout for the Raiders until 2002 when he left to form the Hudson Companies, a diversified company whose holding included Scarlett Wines and McGah Family Vineyards.

The McGah family maintained its ownership in the Raiders until 2005. Sherratt continues to oversee the family’s winemaking interests and is involved in all aspects of Scarlett Wines.

They own and operate 64 acres of vineyards in the storied Rutherford appellation on the east side of the central valley near Silverado Trail. They sell fruit to other producers and also offer Scarlett Wines under their own, recently rebranded label named after the producer/founder's daughter.

McGah Family Vineyards "Scarlett" Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This was awarded 95 points by Wine Advocate and 93 points by Wine Spectator.

As I wrote in a previous blogpost back in 2016, this is a monsterous big red with gripping mouth coating tannins, highlighted by bright vibrant sweet sprites. 

Dark inky, blackish ruby purple colored, immense, full bodied, rich, chewy, firm, structured, complex core of sweet blackberry was accented by a layer of black raspberry, cassis, hints of mocha, touch of vanilla and sweet spicy oak. Despite its huge gripping tannins it was sensual, smooth and polished on the long long finish.

At the time I gave it RM 94 points.

Today this exhibited black fruits accented by that classic Rutherford Dust, with notes of licorice and cigar box. The fruit was slightly more subdued than that earlier tasting but the profile remains the same.

RM 93 points.
 
https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2071763

http://www.scarlettwines.com/

http://vinchicago.com/ 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Darioush Napa Valley Shiraz 2013

Darioush Napa Valley Shiraz 2013

Attending family birthday celebration for grand-daughter Marleigh, son Ryan pulled from his cellar this Darioush Shiraz. We've been fans and collectors of Darioush Napa estate wines for decades.


We visited the magnificent opulent Darioush winery, designed in the style of a Persian temple, sitting at the bottom of the Silverado Trail against the bottom of the mountain overlooking the Napa Valley floor during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017.

The wildfires of a couple years ago came down the hill just above the estate sparing the property but devouring the Signorello Estate nearby, the highlight of our Napa Valley Experience back in 2013.

We attended a gala wine dinner hosted by Darius and Shaptar Khaledi along with Domaine de Chevalier, Olivier Bernard at swanky Everest in Chicago back in 2003.

We visited the estate back in 2003 and had a private barrel tasting with Darioush winemaker Steve Devitt at the chai behind what was then the construction site of the current Winery Hospitality Center.

Known for their flagship Signature Series anchored by Cabernet Sauvignon, they also produce this Signature Shiraz which is a standard bearer for the varietal for Napa Valley.

Darius relishes this label attributing the fruit to Shiraz, named for his birthplace, Shiraz, Persia, Iran, although some pundits attribute the designation could also be granted to the varietal Petit Syrah.

Darioush Napa Valley Signature Series Shiraz 2013

This is a full throttle, not for the feint of heart Shiraz, akin to some of the 'fruit bombs' from the Barossa or McLaren Vale -  a style we love and favor.

Fruit for this label is sourced from Darioush estate vineyards that adjoin the winery in the Oak Knoll District and others in the Napa Valley appellation.

Black inky bluish purple colored, full bodied, bold, concentrated, expressive black and blue fruits with a punctuation of tangy clove spice with notes of white pepper with hints of bittersweet chocolate, expresso and smoke turning to bright nicely integrated tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 93 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2289003

https://www.darioush.com/

@darioushwinery 



Cliff Lede Napa Valley Claret 2017

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Claret 2017

For daughter Marleigh's family birthday gathering, son Ryan pulled from his cellar several Red wines for dinner including this Cliff Lede Napa Claret. He is a member of the Lede wine club and gets regular allocations of Lede labels and has a broad selection including this label which is normally only available exclusively to club members. The term 'Claret' is the British moniker for a Red Bordeaux Blend.

We hold more than a dozen Lede labels ourselves and we've visited the Lede Estate in the Stags Leap district along Silverado Trail in lower Napa Valley during several of our Napa Valley tours.

Cliff Lede estate viewed from the Lede Poetry Inn across
Silverado Trail
Cliff Lede is a Canadian businessman who collected Bordeaux before he decided to start his own 60-acre estate in Stag’s Leap District in 2002. He charged notable Napa winemaker and viticulturist David Abreu to replant the vineyards. Rising star Christopher Tynan has been winemaker since 2012.

Lede produces a broad portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignons including several single vineyard block designated 'Rock Block' labels named for Rock & Roll albums. The flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, called Poetry earned 100 pts from Wine Advocate for the 2013 vintage release.

The Bordeaux varietal grapes in this Claret blend are sourced from the Lede Estate Twin Peaks Vineyard in the Stags Leap District and a few grower partners within Napa Valley. The blend is not specified. 

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Claret 2017

Winemaker Notes for this label: "The 2017 Claret is a fresh an elegantly delineated wine boasting a mix of inviting fruit and spice notes. This dark ruby colored wine is laden with chocolate covered cherries, powered cocoa, and cassis aromas. Summer raspberry and blackberry flavors coat the palate and luxurious blueberry jam flesh out on the long, expansive finish. This lovely Claret is lithe and playful, but manages to maintain a weighty seriousness. The black licorice, allspice, and plum notes persist on the finish tempting the taster for another glass."

We tasted this opposite the Darioush Shiraz and it was akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight - the Claret being muted and opaque in comparison to the massive, bold Shiraz. In a neutral setting, this would've been ideal with a grilled steak or moderate cheese course.

Dark purple garnet colored, slightly opaque, medium bodied, nicely balanced and integrated moderate blackberry and currant fruits with notes of tobacco and spice turning to moderate tannins.  Ryan knows this label well and said this vintage release was subpar, slightly austere to the normal vintage releases.

RM 89 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=3467545

https://www.ledefamilywines.com/

Monday, July 13, 2020

Emmolo Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Emmolo Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017

As the legendary Caymus family passes to the next generation, they also expand the Caymus portfolio with new labels that include the Emmolo and Mer Soleil brands. These are attributable to the next generation of the Wagner family extending into their wine family businesses, or developing new brands by the next gen.

We first discovered the Emmolo label during our visit to Caymus Estate during our Napa Wine Experience in 2018.


The Wagner wine business dates back more than 45 years with Chuck Wagner, along with his parents, Charlie and Lorna Wagner, founding Caymus Vineyards in Rutherford, Napa Valley. Caymus of course is known for two world-renowned Cabernet Sauvignons under the Caymus label from Napa Valley.

Chuck’s older son, Charlie, created the Mer Soleil branding consisting of coastal Chardonnay and a recently released Pinot noir. In addition, he is Director of Winemaking for Conundrum which includes Conundrum White, Red, and a Sparkling and Rosé label.

Wagner's older daughter Jenny is winemaker for Emmolo, a brand that includes Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot from Napa Valley. Emmolo is named after Jenny’s maternal family, and was launched twenty years ago by her mother, Cheryl Emmolo. Jenny’s great-grandfather, Salvatore Emmolo, starting the family’s grapevine rootstock nursery in St. Helena in 1923. Her grandfather, Frank Emmolo managed the nursery, but also grew Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot on the family property. Jenny’s mother created the wine label named Emmolo to carry the family name to the next generation.

Jenny started working alongside her father, Chuck Wagner, learning hand-ons grape farming and winemaking in the Napa Valley. She has taken on the Emmolo legacy as winemaker, Striving to produce quality Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

Emolo wines are sourced from fruit from the family Estate north of the Caymus property in the Rutherford district of Napa Valley. Jenny’s grandfather planted vineyards in the 1950’s and her mother launched Emmolo in 1994 and turned the reins over to Jenny in 2011.

As the brand expands, the wines will also be sourced from the Suisun Valley about thirty minutes east of Napa Valley. This label starting sourcing fruit from there from the 2019 vintage release.

Emmolo Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017

For a delicate grilled white fish dinner, I pulled from the cellar this Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc for pleasant simple sipping.

The winemaker's notes about this wine: "Inspired by the idea that less is more, this wine is more minerality-driven than fruit-driven. Not grassy or overly ripe, it features delicate fruit flavors and steely, mineral notes that call to mind a first summer rain. Our grapes come from two family vineyards, and we harvest the fruit at just the right moment to achieve a balance of firm acidity and low alcohol.

Winemaker Notes  - "A luminous pale gold, this wine opens on the nose with freshness of a first summer rain, layered with scents of white peach and a hint of guava. The palate features a lively acidity balanced by delicate fruit flavors of peach and newly ripened honeydew."

RM 87 points. 

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=2974386

http://www.emmolowines.com/

https://www.wagnerfamilyofwine.com/ 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Big Napa Cabs and #9 for 4th of July Celebration Dinner

Big Napa Cabs - Heitz, Moffett and Marquis Philips '9' for 4th of July Celebration and gala family dinner

The family (sans Alec & Viv, returned to NYC) gathered at our house for a gala 4th of July Celebration and Dinner - bbq, bags, badmitton, beer, tractor rides, swings, fireworks and some fine wine. Our 2 1/2 acre estate property, surrounded by similar estates, provided the perfect setting for the occasion.

Ryan prepared a delicious beef brisket that was the centerpiece of the dinner and Linda prepared grilled burgers, sweet corn, baked potatoes, chips and dips, and more. Ryan brought a salad and Erin brought blueberry cheesecake and chocolate cake. Sean and Michelle brought fireworks.


Ryan selected and I pulled from the cellar two aged Aussie Shiraz's - '97 Rosemount Balmoral and '07 Marquis Philips #9. He brought from his cellar the remains of a Heitz Trailside Napa Cab, '06. I pulled a '06 Moffitt Reserve Napa Cab to compare.

Regretably, the Rosemount Balmoral, at 23 years, was beyond its enjoyable drinking window and we set it aside. The decade younger Marquis Philips was still at the peak of its drinking curve.

Hence my attention turned to the Napa Cabs - enjoying the Heitz, and selecting and trying a comparison pairing.

Marquis Phillips '09' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007

We're getting near the end of an era, the end of cellar holdings of this label that once spanned close to a decade, we have a few bottles left of 05, 06, and '07's.

Crafted by Sparky and Sarah Marquis before they moved to Mollydooker fame, this bold expressive forward wine begs for the tangy spicy bar-b-cue or hearty cheese, and vica versa!

 As I wrote in an eariler review of this wine, last summer, this full-throttle intensely concentrated classic South Australian Shiraz burst on the scene in 2001 with direction from Robert Parker to 'run, don't walk' to your wineshop to buy this wine.  Marquis Philps was the result of a partnership between the highly respected South Australian viticulturists /winemakers, Sarah and Sparky Marquis and their importer, Dan Philips of the Grateful Palate.

Like the other Marquis Philips/Mollydooker branding, this features a whimsical cartoon characterization, this time of a 'roogle', which is 1/2 eagle, and 1/2 kangaroo, representing the American Australian partnership of Marquis and US distributor and partner Dan Phillips. The brand of Marquis Philips produced high QPR wines immediately gained enormous success and a faithful following. This partnership disbanded and Sarah and Sparky Marquis went on to form the follow-on brand/label Mollydooker, launched in 2005. They split up with Sarah taking over, buying out Sparky a couple years ago.

Interesting that for the 2007 vintage, they produced this label as well as the Mollydooker premium Enchanted Path label. We tasted both side by side in another family holiday dinner tasting at Christmas back in 2017. As I wrote then, its not clear if there is any overlap here since their breakup of the venture may cloud the details of the sourcing of their labels. There could be some of the same fruit in the two different labels. In any event, the 2007 vintage '9' is also dark, big, full bodied and concentrated. It is not as complex or polished as the Enchanted Path blend. In addition to the black berry fruits accented by mocha, tobacco and leather, there is a layer of graphite in this that has an edge that tends to detract from the fruit.

This big, complex, concentrated powerful wine with super rich, ripe tongue-coating fruit. This release of  '9' was sourced from McLaren Vale (60%) and Padthaway (40%) in South Central Australia. 

Consistent with earlier review notes, "this 2007 vintage '9' is dark, big, full bodied and concentrated. It is not as complex or polished as some of the other vintage releases. In addition to the black berry fruits accented by mocha, tobacco and leather, there is a layer of graphite in this that has an edge that tends to detract from the fruit."

Lacking the blend of the Bordeaux varietal (s) would explain this wine being more single-dimensional and less complex, yet no less bodied or concentrated.

RM 89 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=651009

Heitz Cellars Trailside Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Legendary Joe Heitz and his wife Alice were pioneers of modern California winemaking when they moved to the Napa Valley in 1951. Joe earned an advanced degree in oenology from UCal Davis and he worked with famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards before he and Alice bought a small winery in 1961. Over the decades the estate grew to one of California’s most admired estates spanning 400 acres with vineyards planted in six of Napa Valley’s sub-appellations: Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Howell Mountain, Oak Knoll District, and Calistoga.

Pioneers in many aspects of viticulture, winemaking and branding, they produced Napa Valley’s first vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignon, the renowned Heitz Cellar Martha’s Vineyard 1965 Cabernet Sauvignon. Heitz traditional branding retains the original historic label for all the Cabernet Sauvignon selections, differentiated by the script vineyard designation. Each bottle contains a unique identifying bottle number for the vintage release.

Joe died in 2000 but his children continued to run the estate until 2018 when the estate was sold to Gaylon Lawrence Jr., a businessman whose family owns farmland throughout the Midwest and South as well as banks and industrial enterprises. Lawrence has brought in Napa wine industry veteran Robert Boyd as Heitz CEO.

Ryan and Michelle visited the winery last year and had the honor of being served by David Heitz. They tasted and acquired a selection of library wines including this Trailside Vineyard selection. The vineyard has been part of the Heitz estate since 1984 and produces one of their three, single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. sitting along the Silverado Trail, backing up to Conn Creek on the fertile, eastern side of the Rutherford appellation, only the best blocks are selected for this terroir driven Vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon.

The esteemed Trailside Vineyard is a prime slice of Rutherford dirt, hugging the Silverado Trail on its east side and descending at a moderate grade until its opposite boundary nudges the banks of the Conn Creek.

Trailside consists of sixteen blocks of cabernet sauvignon, planted with seven different clones across the layers of eight different soil types that span eighty five acres; legendary Trailside Vineyard is the quintessential expression of the Rutherford terroir.

“The alluvial soil combined with a gradual slope towards Conn Creek makes this site ‘textbook perfect’ for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. We have planted the vines on an east-west orientation to evenly ripen the fruit throughout the day with dappled, gentle sunlight, resulting in small berries and ultimately, a smooth and concentrated wine.” – Brittany Sherwood, Winemaker

The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon label takes five years to produce prior to release. Each block from Trailside is crushed and fermented separately and remains unblended during its year in neutral oak tanks before being moved to 100% new French Limousin oak barrels. Each lot is continuously tasted and evaluated for two years after which on the superior barrels are selected to become the Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are then aged separately by lot for one more year in barrel, for a total of four full years in oak, before finally blending together for bottling. Once in bottle, the Trailside continues to mature for another year, until its release from our cellar.

The 2006 vintage was a tumultuous year, with swings between flooding and a wet spring, to a record-setting heat wave in July, making a year requiring meticulous vineyard management. A cool down in August allowed grapes to ripen at a steadier pace, leading to a long harvest as different varieties were harvested at optimum ripeness.

This was bright ruby purple colored, medium-full bodied, balanced integrated bright vibrant plum, currant and blackberry fruits are highlighted by notes of anise, spice and sultry oak with chewy and gripping tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 93 points.

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=661099

https://www.heitzcellar.com/

Moffet Cellars Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

This wine is from Moffett Vineyard, a 20 acre site sitting 1500 feet up on Howell Mountain on the eastern slopes at the northern end of the range overlooking Napa Valley. 

The producer, Trent Moffett carries on the tradition started by his parents John and Diane Livingston, growing grapes and producing Napa Valley wines for over thirty five years.

Sourced from two Napa Valley vineyards: one high up on Howell Mountain and the other in St. Helena, it strikes a beautiful balance in the blend composed of 94% cabernet sauvignon and 6% cabernet franc. 

This is inky purple / garnet colored - medium-full bodied - polished and smooth with full flavors of blackberries, ripe plum and currants - the fruit slightly subdued from earlier tastings, highlighted by a layer of smoky creosote and black tea with tones of mocha chocolate and anisewith a touch of oak and spice - the wine shows great balance of toasted oak and acidity.

RM 92 Points

http://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2015/12/moffett-vineyards-cabernet-sauvignon.html

http://unwindwine.blogspot.com/2016/01/fantesca-chardonnay-dunham-cellars.html

https://www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=661237

http://moffettvineyards.com/ 






What is better than to sit at the end of a day and drink wine with friends, or substitute for friends.

 -James Joyce

But there is no substitute for family!


Friday, July 3, 2020

Key to Wine and Champagne Bottle Sizes


In Bottle Sizes... Bigger is Better
Key to Wine and Champagne Bottle Sizes

I often mention 'large format' bottles in these pages. There are actually seventeen different standardized bottle sizes for wines and champagne. Large format refers to larger than the standard 750ml bottle size. The larger sized bottles are produced in less quantity than the standard size bottle, and are typically worth more than just double or whatever multiple of the contents of the price of the regular size bottle accounting for the increased cost of the oversize packaging. 

Champagne is most popular and common in using larger bottles. The magnum is a double sized bottle (1.5 liters) and is one of the best selling sized bottles for Champagne. Many California Cabernet Sauvignons, Red Bordeaux, and Red Burgundies are produced and collected in these larger formats.

It is generally accepted that wine will age better - longer, more gracefully and uniformly, in a large format bottle - hence their popularity with collectors. This is due to the smaller proportion of air in the vessel in relation to the proportion of wine. 


Many of the larger format bottle sizes are named after Biblical kings, perhaps in reverence or remembrance to their size and stature. 

There is also great novelty and fun in opening and serving a large bottle. Often for special occasions, one will have all the quests sign the label of a large bottle as the labels are proportionately larger with the large bottles. 

See Rick's large format bottles, labels and large bottle feature in Wine Spectator Magazine

The 17 Standard Bordeaux/California Bottle Sizes

SPLIT
Made for Sparkling Wine.
187 ml.
1/4 of a standard bottle
HALF-BOTTLE
375 ml.
1/2 of a standard bottle
Standard BOTTLE
750 ml.
1 standard bottle
MAGNUM1.5 litersEqual to 2 standard bottles.
DOUBLE MAGNUM3 litersEqual to 4 standard bottles.
JEROBOAM - This is what Champagne and Burgundy call their 3 liter bottles. Equal to 4 standard bottles.
REHOBOAMAbout 4.5 liters.Equal to 6 standard bottles.
JEROBOAM
(Bordeaux / California wines)
5 litersEqual to about 6 3/4 standard bottles.
IMPERIAL6 litersEqual to 8 standard bottles.
METHUSALEM - This is what they call an "Imperial" in Champagne and Burgundy.
SALMANAZAR
This one is a case of wine in one bottle.
9 liters
12 standard bottles.
BALTHAZAR
12 liters.
Equal to 16 standard bottles.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR
12 to 16 liters
Depending on the country of origin this will be from 16 to 20 standard bottles. 
SALOMON

PRIMAT / GOLIATH

MELCHIZEDEC

 SOVERIGN
18 liters

27 Liters

30 liters

50 liters
24 bottles

  36 bottles 


40 bottles

 67 standard bottles


Big Bottle Display at Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou -
St Julien Beychevelle, Bordeaux


Birthyear vintage large format bottles
Served at daughter Erin's wedding

Six Liter Silver Oak Bonny's Vineyard 1990
in OWC - Serial #'s 41 & 44 -
Holding for son Alec's wedding
Standard Champagne Bottle Sizes

Bottle NameBottle EquivalencyCapacity
Split
1/4 bottle
18.7 cl
Half
1/2 bottle
37.5 cl
Bottle
1 bottle
750 ml
Magnum
2 bottles
1.5 l
Jeroboam
4 bottles
3 l
Rehoboam
6 bottles
4.5 l
Methuselah
8 bottles
6 l
Salmanazar
12 bottles
9 l
Balthazar
16 bottles
12 l
Nabuchadnezzar
20 bottles
15 l

Display of range of bottles offered at Moet Chandon Champagne House
in Epernay, Champagne, France
9 Liter Salmanazar
Served at daughter
Erin's wedding



Thursday, July 2, 2020

Our Wine Cellar

Our Wine Cellar - deep and diverse - horizontal, verticals, large formats and favorite styles and labels ...

I regularly refer to our wine cellar in these pages. I expose and feature it here. Each month the leading wine publication, Wine Spectator, features a collector in their Collecting column. We and our cellar collection were the feature in the June 15th, 2001 issue.

A highlight of the feature was our collection of birth year vintage wines for the birth years of our children, coupled with our collection of large format bottles of those wines - magnums, 3 liter double magnums, 5 liter Jeroboams, 6 liter Imperials, and a 9 liter Salmanazar.

Indeed, we served fine wines from those large format bottles at our all our childrens' weddings, and we're holding more for the others' upcoming weddings, anniversaries, and for other gala celebrations and events to come.
 
See links to Big Bottles, Birthyear Bottles, and Family celebrations: 


See my feature page Wine Bottle Sizes Explained on the different size bottles for different wine types. 
 
Large format, birth year vintage wines served at
our daughter's wedding.
Our cellar - Its not fancy, its functional, for a purpose. People often ask me about cellar design. Its a cellar - for wine storage. If you're creating a showroom or tasting or dining room, then so be it.. But who wants to dine in 58 degrees?

Racks? There are all kinds of racks and kits and professional designs and installations. Again, our cellar is utilitarian and the racks were somewhat of a 'family affair'. In fact, most of them were father-son projects over a period of time where we designed and built a wine storage rack as part of a fun, teaching, bonding, collaboration project. 
 
Each section and project provided an opportunity to spend time together and teach basic woodworking as well as project planning and management with my three sons. 

Hence, we have several wine racks of various  bespoke designs, not perfect, but uniquely 'ours', and each a special memory, and functional for the long run, especially those over-engineered or excessively designed, all purpose built for our cellar. 

Our cellar contains racks that were designed and purpose built for standard size 750 ml bottles - some for bulk storage and some for 'display'. 

We also built racks for our large format bottle collection - some for 1500ml or 1.5 liter 'magnum' bottles, 3 liter 'double magnum' bottles, and larger format bottles as well. 

We also have bulk storage racks designed to hold full original wood cases (OWC's) of wine - a format used for many premium and ultra-premium wines as well as many Grand Cru Classe and other quality Bordeaux wines. 

Also, many large format bottles have their own individual OWC's. Shown right are six liter bottles of 90BV6L - Silver Oak Bonny's Vineyard 1990 - one bottle per OWC, note serial numbers 41 and 47.

Temperature and humidity control - If building a cellar to store wine for more than the shortest term, temperature and humidity control are essential. Once again, there are residential and commercial grade units for temperature and humidity control. It's best to have these professionally installed as they can be complicated with needs for special wiring, water supply and water disposition. 

Our cellar employs two methods of temperature and humidity control. First, it is a true cellar, placed in a basement under the house at nine feet deep below grade. It is sided by concrete walls on three sides that are exterior below grade. So the basic temperature is naturally moderate and rather stable. 

Additionally, we have a passive temperature control system. Living in an unincorporated location without municipal services, we have our own well for water service to our home. As part of that system, we have a large well water tank to pressurize and supply our property with water. That well tank is in our wine cellar and provides a constant 55% degree heat sink to moderate the cellar environment. 

We also have supplemental air conditioning to provide auxiliary cooling for the cellar when needed. 

At the end of the day, (or decade), the true test is how well bottles age in the cellar. We regularly open aged vintage bottles of wine that have been stored in our cellar since being acquired upon release, ten, twenty and as long as thirty-five years earlier. Invariably, the bottles, corks, labels, and most importantly, the wine have aged gracefully and appropriately. We often say, whatever we are doing, keep doing it, when we open such bottles of well maintained, properly aged, fine wines, in superb condition.  

We hold about 2500+ bottles in our cellar, plus more in a couple wine coolers adjacent to the kitchen for staging. While we're at a stage of life where we should be consuming our wine, we still tend to acquire our share as well so the holdings remain the same. We have almost as much  fun acquiring the wine, as we do drinking it, as this blog will atest. 

As to be expected, 95 percent of our wine cellar is Red wines. Only a couple cases of whites and Champagnes are held for short duration cellaring, nearer term drinking. We do have a collection of white dessert wines which do age well and can be held for decades or more but its single digit cases. 
 
People regularly ask me where I buy my wines. The answer is, wherever wines are sold. Actually, we regularly 'audit' the local wine shops, both the wine superstores, and the local independent merchants. We're always on the prowl for values, but also trying and buying wines in the styles that we prefer. We're also always buying and trying new labels, and occasionally, new regions or styles.  
 
We also acquire wine from favorite produces through their 'clubs' or memberships - ensuring continuity and access to favorite labels - especially for our collectibles. Much of the fun of collecting is comparing a label from vintage to vintage, over time as it ages, at different stages of its tasting/aging profile. One of the benefits of having a wine group of wine buddies is that we mix it up, spreading and sharing the club memberships. This way we can participate in three or four times as many clubs between us, and then we share the case purchases between three or four of us.
 
Lastly, we're always filling out our collections with new vintages of our verticals or new labels of our horizontals. (A vertical collection is many vintages of the same label; a horizontal is multiple labels of the same vintage). 
 
Readers of this column know we have vertical collections of favorite labels that span as much as 25 years (obviously age-worthy wines) and horizontal collections for each of our childrens' (and now grandchildren's) birth-years. 
 
Selection from Vertical Collection of Dunn Vineyards
Cabernet Sauvignons
These pages are filled with different examples of tasting events of various verticals or horizontals. We hold vertical collections spanning as long as three decades of numerous producers including Del Dotto, Robert Craig, Clark Claudon, Dunn Family Vineyards, Fantesca, Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Las Cases, Gruaud Larose and others.

See the following features from our earlier blogposts highlighting vertical or horiztonal tastings: 

Ducru Beaucaillou Vertical Showcases Pour Boys Wine Dinner

Kathryn Hall Vertical Tasting - Hall Wine Release Tour 2015

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Vertical

 In some cases we did a mini horizontal and vertical in one tasting:

Caymus and Del Dotto Napa Cabernets - 1995-96 horizontal - vertical !

Example of a gala Horizontal Vintage tasting from our Pour Boys Wine Group:

Bordeaux 2003 Horizontal Tasting on the Cityscape Deck - Grilled Steak Dinner

2003 Vintage Bordeaux Horizontal Flight
 
As mentioned often in these pages, we maintain our cellar inventory in CellartrackerI was developing a personal app on my own and had a vision for essentially the same solution, however, I'm a marketing guy, not a software engineer with the skills to develop a comprehensive sophisticated application. I spoke of my vision for such a site in my Wine Spectator interview in 2001.

CellarTracker was originally created in March, 2003 by Eric LeVine who was working for Microsoft at the time, to track his own collection. After extending access to several friends the site quickly grew to 100 users tracking 60,000 bottles.

LeVine launched the site to the public in 2004 and left shortly thereafter to manage it full time. Since then, the site has grown steadily every since.

Today, CellarTracker is the leading cellar management tool with hundreds of thousands of collectors tracking more than 75 million bottles. CellarTracker has also grown to become the largest database of community tasting notes with more than 5.8 million notes as of late 2016. The site is also visited by millions of wine enthusiasts annually to read the reviews and get wine recommendations. Patron members who contribute a voluntary fee get access to cost information - the aggregate average price paid for a wine by the community. This in of itself is worth the annual contribution investment, the ability to validate the price of any particular wine across a wide community of mostly astute consumers.

Finally, here is a link to a gallery of our friends' wine cellars, many of which you see featured in these pages over the past years, or certainly the wines from such cellars.  Friends Cellars - Take a look at the cellars of our Pour Boy wine group and other friends