Sunday, August 30, 2020

Special wines for Family gathering ...

Special wines for Family gathering ... 

On the eve of the wake memorial service for step-father Keith, family arrive from both coasts for a week of family events, a funeral and a wedding. Sister Jan and her family arrived from SoCal, son Alec and Vivianna from NYC. 

We gathered at our house and had a somewhat poignant gala reunion with dinner of grilled steak fajitas, fresh fruit, artisan cheeses, and wines. 

McNees Conrad Clan

I invited Bro-in-law Bill to select wines from the cellar and he asked for some single varietal wines and the flight was on. I pulled a selection of family oriented wines from Spring Valley Vineyards in Walla Walla. We visited the tasting room and picturesque vineyards in during our Walla Walla Wine Experience 2018. Out at the vineyards site we met grower producer Dean Derby. 

As I have featured numerous times in these pages, the Spring Valley portfolio is branded with labels each named for an ancestor going back three generations. Several of the labels are single varietal specific wines, perfect for the occasion and Bills request.

We started with a Napa Valley Petite Sirah, followed by Spring Valley Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, then a Merlot based Bordeaux Blend before moving on to more adventurous labels. 

I wrote earlier this week about the commemoration to Keith Lorentzen and Robert Craig and our wine selections based on visits together to the various wineries during our Napa trips over the years. 

We pulled a Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2006 vintage, that we tasted with Jan and Bill during our private tour and tasting at the estate winery high atop Howell Mountain back in 2008. Following that, we opened another Howell Mountain Cabernet from Ladera which we also visited together during that trip

In recognition of our trip to France a year ago with Alec and Vivianna, we opened a Rhone varietal Grenache, but from the notable Australian producer Clarendon Hills.  

 The flight:

Katherine Corkrum Cabernet Franc 2011

Sharilee (Corkrum) Petite Verdot 2012

Uriah Red Blend 2010

Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 

Clarendon Hills Romas Grenache 2007 

Long Meadows Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2017 

Stay tuned as the festivities of the week play out we unwindwine many more wines.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Our favorite signature summer dinner, we grilled rib-eye steaks 'Pittsburgh' style, served with sweet corn, baked potatoes, and wedge salad with blue cheese, bacon and tomatoes. Our mourning and tribute to stepdad Keith continues and coupled with the remembrance of Robert Craig, I pulled from the cellar this Robert Craig Spring Mountain District Cabernet from 2005


The 2005 was the inaugural first release for the Robert Craig Spring Mountain label. It was sourced from the picturesque Joan Crowley vineyard perched at 2000 foot elevation along the summit of Spring Mountain, high above the town of St Helena in the Mayacamas Range that forms the western slope of Napa Valley. The incredible site is primarily dry-farmed, reducing vigor and crop yield resulting in small, flavor-packed berries. 

As I have written often in these pages, Robert Craig focused on, specialized in hillside and mountain fruit from leading producing regions of Napa including Mt. Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain. Add Mt George and Atlas Peak above the town of Napa and you have the four corners of the Napa Valley. He often referred to it as four mountains and a valley in describing his portfolio of Cabernets.

While Robert Craig Winery owned the majority of their vineyard sources, they buy fruit from select vineyards on the various mountains. They worked with Napa Valley based hillside vineyards generally 1,600 feet or higher. 

Robert started his career up on Mt Veeder, initially developing the William Hill vineyard, and then later, at The Hess Collection as their General Manager. In addition, he helped develop 300 vineyard acres on Mt. Veeder for the movie star comedian Robin Williams estate. Robert Craig sourced Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from there for over two decades for the Mt Veeder designated Cabernet label until Robin's passing and the recent sale of the estate and the Pym Rae vineyard to the French Tesseron wine empire Family. Their recent first release label from that property was priced at $350. Robert often said that Mt Veeder was his favorite of his Cabernets. He was instrumental in forming sub appellations for both Mt. Veeder area and Spring Mountain.

Robert passed away a year ago in September 2019 from complications from Parkinson’s disease. 

The Robert Craig Winery is perched at an elevation of almost 2300 feet high up on Howell Mountain on the north east side of Napa Valley. It is among some of Napa’s highest vineyards. At this elevation they actually see some snow in the winter at times. The location sits above the town of Angwin and their permit at the actual winery limits them to an extremely small number of visitors, as well as only several events per year at the actual winery, hence, they maintain a tasting room in the city of Napa. 

We attended a private tasting there at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Estate in 2008 and then we attended the Harvest Party at the estate in 2009.

My recollection is that I first tasted this Spring Mountain label upon its release during that visit in 2008. It was a comparison tasting against the Mt Veeder and Howell Mountain labels, the Spring Mountain was served from the barrel, and it was my standout favorite, being slightly sweeter than the other two. I remember the allocation for Club members was limited to three bottles. I negotiated a mixed case purchase of twelve bottles of the 05, 06 and 07 vintages, most of which I still hold to this day.  

This brings me to today. Sister Jan and bro-in-law Bill were with us for that private tasting picnic lunch at the estate (above). They will be in town this coming week from SoCal for the family funeral and wedding. And, fellow Pour Boy wine buddy Bill C and Beth were with us at the 2009 Harvest Party when we tasted these wines (below). He and Beth will also be in town next week for son Sean's wedding, so, with this backdrop, I pulled the Spring Mountain label to taste as part of this tribute and in preparation for serving for extended family and friends dinners next week. I also went and purchased the current 2016 release to fill out the collection and replace the bottle we drank.


Robert Craig writes of this label; "The Crowley vineyard is a close fit for our mountain Cabernet portfolio from the highest elevations of Napa Valley. Overlooking St. Helena from its perch at 2,000 feet, this vineyard’s rocky volcanic soil, varied hillside exposures, and moderate climate produce densely concentrated winegrapes. Joan Crowley’s low-yield, biodynamically farmed vineyard has provided us with deep, aromatic and structured wines since our first vintage with it in 2005. The mountain is cooled by afternoon breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean, creating moderate daytime temperatures and cooler nights that allow grapes to ripen slowly without pushing high alcohol and sugars. The heady, deep perfume that is a Spring Mountain District signature is always present in this cabernet that is hard to come by." 

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon varietal grapes, Robert Craig also sourced from the Crowley vineyard Bordeaux varietal Petite Verdot.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Crowley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Fellow Cellartracker RicksPicks (not me, no relation) reviewed this wine on two occasions in 2010 and then in 2011: "Very dark fruit aromas and flavors - blackberry and blueberry with some earthiness dominate. Very rich and viscous mouthfeel. Tastes like ripe mountain fruit -- if there is such a thing. Rather round and full bodied. Lacked structure, but I liked it for its depth and richness."

RicksPicks gave this 90 points each time. 

"Similar to a prior bottle - ripe and rich, dark fruits, soft, lush mouthfeel. Very plush for mountain fruit. Nice, medium, fruity finish. Not a lot of structure, but still very tasty."

 WCC's review of the 2007 - Medium garnet in color. Surprisingly, this evidenced a much brighter profile than I expected. Typically, my experience with Spring Mountain has yielded a rather brooding, mellow profile with time. This was bright and full of raspberry and cherry. Medium bodied with a medium finish highlighted by some pepper notes. A bit unconventional and unexpected but tasty none the less.

Tonight this was bright garnet colored, medium bodied, with bright sprites of ripe black berry, black currant and plum fruits with notes of tobacco leaf, tangy spice, with hints of bitter dark chocolate and smoke with moderate tannins on the lingering  finish. 

RM 90 points.


Monday, August 24, 2020

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay 2017

 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay 2017

For casual Sunday night dinner, Linda prepared Mahi Mahi in cornmeal crust with butter and lemon with asparagus and Miso rice. I pulled from the cooler this everyday casual sipper Columbia Valley Chardonnay from Chateau Ste. Michelle. At a sub fifteen dollar price point, this is definitely one of those wines to keep on hand for casual every day sipping. Its an amazing value at this price with great QPR - Quality Price Ratio, and is a high overachiever. Amazing they can produce this quality in such quantity so as to be generally available to the masses. 

We visited the fabulous Chateau St Michelle estate during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour two years ago. They've done an amazing job promoting and establishing Washington State as a top wine producing region and have built an impressive extensive portfolio of wines. 

Chateau St Michelle has also become a cultural icon in the greater Seattle area with their extensive grounds that also serve as a concert venue for major events and groups. We attended a major concert there headlined by the iconic Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Chardonnay 2017

This is sourced from Chardonnay grapes from vineyards throughout the Central Washington State Columbia Valley. 

This label was #34 on Wine Enthusiasts Top 100 Best Buy List for 2019. It was awarded 89 points by both Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits.

Straw colored, light medium bodied, bright tangy notes of golden green apple with lively buttery spice sprites of lemon zest and subtle oak.

RM 89 points.




Sunday, August 23, 2020

Keith Lorentzen Tribute - Robert Craig Affinity 2011

Keith Lorentzen Tribute -  Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2011

With much of the family in town gathered in the final hours and passing of dearly beloved father/step-dad Keith, his four daughters, Becky, Heidi, Wendy and Mitzi, joined us at our house from the hospital for processing, reflection, planning and light dinner. I pulled from the cellar a Robert Craig Affinity in reflection of Keith and on the recent passing of Robert (Craig), in tribute to and remembrance of Keith and recently departed Robert. We toasted Keith and Robert, two delightful, generous, highly educated but humble gentlemen.

Dr Keith Lorentzen 1921-2020
The Robert Craig portfolio is one of the largest holdings in our collection with labels across the brand dating back to the inaugural release in 1993.  Many of our Napa Valley trips were highlighted by visits to the Robert Craig estate high atop Howell Mountain, the Napa tasting room, or even the original winery crush facility up on Mt George Atlas Peak in the early days back in 1998.

Cellartracker records show we hold no less than nineteen vintages of this label, in addition to the numerous other Robert Craig sub-appellation select designated Cabernets.

The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Affinity is a classic Bordeaux Blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. As I have often written in these pages, Robert took pride in holding the pricepoint of this 'entry level' Cab to premium his portfolio providing good QPR (quality price ratio) as the brand evangelist/ambassador. 

The classic Bordeaux Blend was crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon grown at the Robert Craig estate in the foothills of Mount Geroge in Napa's Vaca Range south of Stag's Leap. The Cabernet is composed of small additions of Petit Verdot for color, Malbec to add weight, Cabernet Franc for structure and Merlot for silky mouthfeel to craft this wine. It was aged for 18 months in new and second-fill French oak, the resulting wine is powerful and ripe.

A quality sipper belaying an 'off' vintage, dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright vibrant ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruits, hints of cassis offset the slight herbal and vegetable notes found in so many of the Napa 2011's, only slightly detracting from the Bordeaux Blend.  

RM 89 points.

Visits to Robert Craig Estate -

Harvest Party 2009 -

Howell Mountain Estate Visit - 2008

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Reuling Sonoma Chardonnay Seafood Dinner

 Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012 with Seabass and Walleye Seafood Dinner

For the second time this week, for our Friday evening 'date night', we dined at Carnivore & The Queen Supper Club to take in their Friday Walleye Fish and Chips Special. We also tried the Seabass seared in white wine butter with shallots and preserved lemons. To accompany our seafood entrees we took BYOB from our cellar this Reuling Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

The 'Alterior Motive' locally brewed Beer battered Walleye was superb, even better than the Seabass entree at 1.5 times the price. At $25, it is pricey for 'fish and chips', but worth it. It was complemented by equally superb batter fried onion rings.  

This was the inaugural release of estate bottled Chardonnay from the famous vineyard owned by Tim and Jackie Reuling. It is one of the most lauded vineyards in the region having sourced fruit for notable Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. 

Timothy and Jackie purchased the 16-acre Reuling property in 1998 and planted 14.4 acres in 2000 to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. For over a decade, the vineyard was a source for top flight producers including Aubert Wines and Peter Michael Winery. Wines sourced from the property have been awarded as high as 99 points by Robert Parker. 

Joined by winemaker Matt Taylor, they began producing their own label wines. Previously Taylor was winemaker and vineyard manager for Araujo Estates and has worked with Joseph Swan Vineyards and Domaine Dujac. He considers the Reuling Vineyard to be one of the great vineyard sites in California.

The Reuling Vineyard initially gained notoriety by its association wtih Mark Aubert. Aubert grew up in Napa wine country where his parents owned a vineyard. After getting a degree from University of California at Fresno in 1985 he worked at Monticello. His winemaking career was propelled by his association with legendary winemaker Helen Turley. He served a 12-year stint at Peter Michael where he followed Helen Turley and was appointed head winemaker there at 28 years old. Aubert succeeded Turley again several years later at Colgin Cellars. 

 Since then, Aubert has been a winemaking consultant for several prestigious wineries including Sloan, Bryant and Futo. He launched his own brand in 1999 and his vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays quickly received critical acclaim. Aubert released his own wines with the 2000 vintage crafted from estate and leased vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. 


Reuling Sonoma Coast Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

At eight years of age, this Chardonnay was at its apex and probably at the end of its peak drinking window, not likely to improve, but rather to start to diminish with further aging so its time to drink up. 

Wine Enthusiast gave this release 94 points and a "Cellar Selection" saying "this is one to cellar 2019-2024".

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar gave it 91 points, Connoisseurs Guide 90 points.

This was straw colored, medium bodied, with an interesting aroma and flavor tone of what I was having trouble characterizing, describing it as corn with hints of smoke. 

Later I read the Cellartracker post by Slywka from Conneticut who is a Certified Sommelier. Lo and behold, he wrote, "Aromas of nut, buttered popcorn, papaya and hint of flowers. Flavors of buttered popcorn, mango, vanilla, mineral and touch of banana. Ends with a buttered popcorn infused finish of 25+ seconds." He pegged what I was struggling to describe, that flavor of 'buttered popcorn". The rest of his tasting note sums it up aptly and well. 

Slywka gave it 93 points. I gave it 90, detracted by the non-fruit corn notes and hints of smoke. RM 90 points.  


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kracher TrockenBeeren Auslese (TBA) #7 Nouvelle Vague

 Alois Kracher Chardonnay TrockenBeeren Auslese (TBA) #7 Nouvelle Vague 2001

We opened this for an evening of causal sipping with artisan cheeses and biscuits. May of the strong cheeses are best paired with the sweet wines such as this. 

 We hold more than a dozen labels of Kracher wines from this era. Its fun to watch quality dessert wines mature and change color over time, from straw color, to butter, then weak tea, and progressing darker and darker over time. Note this color of tea at seventeen years of age.

As I have written in the past, at their most desirable (to my taste preference) these wines are rich, thick, unctuous, and voluptuous with apricot marmalade, mango, toffee/brown sugar, and caramel notes. This may have been there at some point and perhaps passed that stage of its aging profile. If so, then it is time to drink although it will no doubt continue to age gracefully for several more years. But the rich, sweet apricot fruits nectar was gone and has turned more to a smokey charcoal layer over the fruits which were more subdued. Delightful never-the-less.

RM 91 points.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Carnival of Love for Anniversary Dinner

 Mollydooker Carnival of Love Shiraz 2011 for Anniversary Celebration Dinner

We have fun with the whimsical labels of Mollydooker with their cartoonish characters and circus poster themed labels. But, there is nothing whimsical about their big full-throttle Shiraz in their premium label Carnival of Love. We adopted this and the companion Enchanted Path years ago for family celebration dinners. So it was that we pulled this bottle from the cellar to take BYOB to our anniversary dinner. 

My interest in and appreciation for this label has been heightened recently when I learned that one of my protege's who manages the greater ANZ/APAC region for me is a personal friend of Sparky Marquis, founder and previous co-owner of Mollydooker, but since departed.

We dined at the whimsically named Carnivore and the Queen neighborhood fine dining restaurant, dining outside on the lawn due to the Coronavirus rules. 

This created what could have been the tongue twister headliner for this post - Carnival of Love at Carnivore and the Queen during Coronavirus pandemic

As I wrote last winter on an earlier post, Carnivore & The Queen Supper Club is designed after a bygone area of nostalgic dining, a contemporary revival of a classic prohibition-era supper club with a 'casual vibe & approachable classic food'.

Carnivore & The Queen is the work of husband-and-wife team Chris Matus and Kelli Lodico-Matus. It is located down the street from Lisle (Illinois) in adjacent Downers Grove.

They offer daily menus featuring their recipes and the seasons' local ingredients from localvor  farmers, fishmongers & ranchers. They strive to deliver an experience that both their mothers provided, like gathering the family around the dinner table every night. There is a price-fix three course and a five course offering. There is also a menu offering with wine pairings accompaniment.

Linda order the price-fixe dinner with the baked chicken special of the day. I ordered the BBQ ribs with house fingerling wedge potatoes. The five course dinner came with a cerviche' and then their signature relish tray with olives, marinated mushrooms, relishes, radishes, cauliflower and a vegetable spread with dinner crackers. 

We both followed with their wedge salad with blue cheese, maplewood bacon and tomatoes. 

After dinner dessert was their signature home-made key-lime pie, the 'best ever', according to Linda. 

Mollydooker Carnival of Love McLaren Vale South Australia Shiraz 2011

The 100% Shiraz grapes for Carnival of Love are from the Gateway Vineyard in McLaren Vale. It was aged in almost entirely new American oak. 

This release was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator and 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Consistent with my earlier tasting notes from 2014, This was dark inky garnet purple colored, full bodied, expressive fragrant floral notes, dense, deep concentrated, complex fruits of sweet black cherry, black raspberry and hints of blueberry fruits accented by creme de cassis, cinnamon and clove spices with a layer of charcoal that detracts from the harmonious desirable fruit and spice notes. The finish is long with crisp acidity and soft silky tannins,

RM 92 points.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

As posted in these pages earlier when I wrote about this producer and label, we discovered this wine and purchased it following our visit to the Ladera Vineyards estate and winery up on Howell Mountain in 2006 and then again during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008

We'd driven past the property, formerly the historic Chateau Woltner many times over the years on our treks up Howell Mountain. 

The fabulous historic winery building consists of production and barrel storage below and a rustic tasting room upstairs. It is surrounded by spectacular gardens, beds of lavender, and of course the vineyards.

Ladera primarily focused on Cabernet Sauvignon of which we still hold a several cases of four different labels across three vintages from this era. We also acquired some of their Pinot Noir which was sourced from Sonoma County, as well as this Malbec grown from estate fruit, of which we still hold a half case in our cellar.

Rick with Ladera owner/producer
Anne Stotesbery
The seeds for Ladera were planted in the early 1970s, when Pat and Anne Stotesbery fell in love while attending university in Northern California. Among their many shared interests, they discovered a passion for wine, and were soon taking wine classes together, and traveling to wine country for tastings.

The next two decades took them to Minnesota and Montana, where they ran a 3,200-acre ranch with 750 head of cattle, during which time, their interest in wine continued to grow.

With deep agricultural roots on both sides of their family, Pat and Anne Stotesbery acquired their first Napa Valley mountain vineyard in 1996. Their original vineyard was on Mount Veeder, the following year they purchased their second mountain vineyard, Lone Canyon.

In 1998, Pat and Anne made their first non-commercial vintage of 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 As a reflection of their commitment to making mountain Cabernet Sauvignons, they selected the name Ladera for their winery, which means “hillside, or slope” in both Spanish and Italian.

They moved their family to Napa Valley, and in 2000, they acquired a historic Howell Mountain property featuring an 82-acre vineyard. For the next 16 years, this property served as the home for Ladera.

Around 2008, their son Dan visited us while on a wine promotion trip and we took him around to several of the local wine merchants in the area. 

In 2016, following the earlier sales of the Lone Canyon and the Mount Veeder properties, with their children grown and pursuing careers of their own, Pat and Anne sold their land on Howell Mountain.

Rustic Ladera tasting area in the historic
chai and barrel building back in 2006.

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

 Ladera produce several labels of Cabernet Sauvignon including several sub-appellation designated labels from Howell Mountain and Lone Canyon. This is their basic label sourced from fruits from Howell Mountain and lower elevations in the foothills nearer the valley floor. 

At seventeen years, this is at its apex, if not past its prime drinking window and will not improve with any further aging. The fruits are a bit subdued, perhaps starting to diminish or were already that way. My only previous tasting note was ten years ago, October, 2010, when I wrote: "Dark garnet color - full bodied, a slight funky woody cedar aroma and flavor undercurrent on opening turning to full forward spicy boysenberry - almost whisky-like, and tones of licorice and black berry on a spicy, leathery moderate tannin finish."

At that time I gave it 88 points. Notably, I was going to give this 88 points based on tonight's tasting, before I read this earlier review and tasting note. 

Tonight it was consistent with that earlier note, with somewhat subdued fruits, dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a layer of black tea moderates the spicy blackberry and boysenberry fruits, turning to the notes of licorice and leather on the gripping tannin lingering finish.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot 2015

 Michel Rolland Crafted Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot 2015 for Grilled Beefsteak Dinner

Son Alec flew in from NYC to attend son Sean's, his brother's bachelor party and we celebrated the reunion with a hearty grilled beefsteak dinner including tomahawk rib-eye steaks. We selected from the cellar this Long Shadows Pedestal crafted by legendary winemaker Michel Rolland for the occasion. 

 Linda prepared beefsteaks prepared in our favorite Pittsburgh-style (charred with hot pink center) with baked potatoes, haricot verts, sweet corn and an iceberg wedge salad with fresh tomatoes and blue cheese. I must say this is a classic midwest summer dinner. During the years that we lived in Silicon Valley, California, I missed good steak, sweet corn and beefy sweet tomatoes! I often say, California (in this case, Washington State) do the grapes, and Indiana/Illinois the beef, corn and tomatoes!

Alec turned us on to the Michel Rolland own-label crafted from fruits from the notable Tokalon Vineyard in Napa Valley - (source for many ultra-premium labels including Opus). He had that wine with soon-to-be father-in-law Frank B. We researched the label and picked up a highly allocated three pack which I shared with fellow Pour Boy Dr Dan, and son Ryan for their cellars. We'll look forward to indulging in that super-premium label. 

Long Shadows Vintners' Collection 

I have written in these pages about Long Shadows, the brand portfolio of several labels, all crafted by world famous winemakers from fruits sourced in the Washington State Columbia Valley. This was the vision of Allen Shoup, former CEO of Chateau St Michelle, champion and evangelist for Washington State wines. He formed the brand and recruited a world famous winemaker for each varietal based label. Michel Rolland, Pomerol vintner and consultant to many of the world’s top wineries, was selected to produce this Right Bank Bordeaux Blend wine. He is the 'Master of Merlot', winemaker to some of the leading Bordeaux labels from the Right Bank where Merlot is the predominant varietal in the blend as well as the Napa based Merlot based Red Blend release cited herein. 

We've long known about the brand and joined their club while visiting their tasting room hospitality center in Woodinville WA during our Seattle Wine / Dine Experience in 2018. We remain Vault Club Members of the allocated portfolio and get a case each quarter of two of the varietal based selections including this Pedestal label.

Long Shadows Pedestal Red Blend (Merlot) 2015

The blend is a Right Bank Bordeaux composition, 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon,  8% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.  The production was 2,365 cases. 

The grapes for the 2015 Pedestal were sourced from several top, notable Columbia Valley vineyards, the Wahluke Slope’s Weinbau and Stone Tree Vineyards dominate the blend and give Pedestal its aromatics, bright fruit, texture and fine tannins. Conner Lee Vineyard adds richness, and Dionysus Vineyard grapes build complexity in the wine.

The winemaker's notes for this release sum it up perfectly: "The 2015 Pedestal offers vibrant aromas of black cherry and ripe blackberries with accents of vanilla and freshly roasted coffee. Expressive and lively on entry, with a richly textured mid-palate and layers of huckleberry, bittersweet chocolate and oak spice that stretch across a lengthy finish." 

I note that at five years, this is still early in its tasting window and should continue to age gracefully for a few more years to integrate more and gain more balance and lose some of its still youthful astringency. It is dark inky garnet colored, medium full bodied, strong aromatics erupt from the bottle upon releasing the cork, bright tangy astringent black berry fruits with sprites of bittersweet dark mocha chocolate, spicy oak and notes of vanilla tobacco and expresso on the lengthy soft tannin finish.

RM 92 points. 




Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Del Dotto Piazza Napa Valley Petit Verdot 2014

 Del Dotto Piazza Napa Valley Petit Verdot 2014 

Trying to support our favorite neighborhood trattoria, Angelis Italian, we took BYOB from our home cellar this Piazza Del Dotto Petit Verdot. We dined outside which is the only option in Illinois as the Covid lock-down is relaxed.

This label is from one of our favorite producers, which is one of our largest holdings in our collection. It is our signature wine for taking BYOB to this establishment. It was a perfect complement pairing to the anti-pasta Fig Boretta Cheese plate and our Italian cuisine dishes, Margharita Pizza and my Breaded Veal Joey with capers, tomatoes and artichoke hearts. 

Below is from my posting of this label from a previous 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. 
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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 

For pairing with left-over BBQ ribs from the other night, with sweet corn and baked potatoes and some artisan cheeses, I pulled from the cellar this Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. The bright vibrant fruit was a perfect pairing with the dinner. 

Our visits to the Hall Rutherford Estate have been highlights of several of our Napa Valley Wine Experiences dating back to 2003.

 As members of the Hall Wine Club we acquired many labels of their allocated premium labels. We've attended several Hall wine tasting events including their release tour tasting in Chicago hosted by none other than owner producer Kathryn Hall (right).

 Hall have built an incredible franchise and brand with their multiple Napa Valley winery locations and their broad portfolio of labels including numerous premium and ultra-premium highly rated labels. This is Hall's 'basic' bottling of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fruit for this label is sourced from select fruit from across Napa Valley from Hall's organically farmed estate vineyards featured prominently, as well as fruit from partner growers' hillside sites. Praise from Robert Parker: "Hall has quickly become one of the great superstars in the Napa Valley firmament."

According to our Journal of Tasting Notes, we posted no less than ten different tasting notes for this vintage release dating back to 2010 including this mini-vertical tasting of multiple vintages we took from our cellar to our BNB vacation home in the outer banks for a family vacation.  At that time I wrote that "My Cellartracker records indicated we've consumed eight of the baker's dozen we acquired of this vintage of this wine and shows five tasting notes to date."

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Back in 2013 and then again in 2015 I gave this label 93 points. This time and the most recent tasting back in February I gave this 92 points, indicating the bright vibrant fruits are starting to give way subtly to the non-fruit accents cited below.

At fourteen years, this is drinking as well as ever, probably at the apex of its drinking profile, not showing any signs of diminution whatsoever, but not likely to improve further with any more aging. 

 Consistent with earlier tasting notes when I wrote, "Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, a symphony of flavors accented by bold expressive black berry and black raspberry fruits with highlights of anise and mocha with tones of cedar, sweet toasty oak and clove spice and hints of earthy leather turning to a smooth polished lingering finish."

After being opened a day, this is predominant anise licorice and smoke on the black berry fruit with hints of cedar and clove spice on the finish.

RM 92 points. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 2016

A year ago we were returning from our France Wine Tours. I continued reliving that experience by pulling from the cellar this Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Crau for Sunday evening dinner BBQ ribs

Our week of wine tours began with our visit to the historic Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Our visit to the estate hosted by proprietor Daniel Brunier was one of the highlights of our week. 

We've been fans of Vieux Télégraphe since the eighties and our visit there was a highlight of our trip to the appellation back in 1998 as well. We hold vintages of this wine dating back three decades.

Joe Czerwinski of The Wine Advocate writes that the 2016 La Crau is undoubtedly one of the top vintages of this wine and rated it 96 points; Vinous gave it 93-95 points.

This was a perfect pairing with our BBQ ribs and is one of our favorite labels from the region and a go-to wine for such occasions. We also hold several other labels from Vieux Télégraphe including Piedlong CDP and Domaine les Pallières Gigondas Les Racines that we discovered during our tasting at the estate.

This is the best Vieux Télégraphe I recall ever experiencing. Bright garnet colored, medium bodied, nicely integrated and well balanced, polished bright expressive fruits of black raspberries and black cherries with hints of cranberry and pomegranate accented by notes of anise, Chambord and spice, turning to velvety tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 95 points.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Clos Saint-Julien St. Emilion Bordeaux 2005

Clos Saint-Julien St. Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux 2005 with Charcuterie and Artisan Cheese

Our series of tasting Bordeaux wines on the anniversary of our trip there continues as we vicariously relive our week in Bordeaux a year ago this week. 

Tasted at home with charcuterie, salad and artisan cheeses. This was a specially nice pairing with the toasted pecans in the salad with fresh fruits and the Kerrygold Dubliner Stout and Blueberry Lemon Goat Cheeses.

Rather strange paradox of a name that is of a different appellation from the opposite bank of Bordeaux. 

This tiny 1.2 hectare (2.5 acres) St Emilion vineyard is planted to 50/50 Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, nicely balanced and with surprisingly bright expressive forward fruits of black cherry and black currant with notes of  cassis and spice, hints of cedar, with full plus polished approach tannins and strong acidity on the medium to long finish. 

Not nearly as polished or elegant as the 100 point St Emilion of the other evening, but at a fraction of the price, this was a reasonal, nice QPR - quality price ratio, comparison.

Lots of life left in this release, at fifteen years probably drinking at its peak, showing no diminution whatsoever, but not likely to improve any with further aging. 

Wife Linda liked the bright expressive fruits and lack of earthy leather, tobacco and oppressive tannins she dislikes in many aged Bordeaux.

RM 91 points.


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Big Red Flight highlights grilled steak dinner

Big Red Bordeaux Blend Flight highlights grilled steak dinner

We visited fellow Pour Boy Dr Dan and Linda and they served a wonderful dinner of grilled steaks, baked potatoes, asparagus, cheese stuffed peppers and portabello mushrooms. Dan served a spectacular flight of red wines to accompany the dinner including two Bordeaux and a Sonoma Bordeaux Blend.

Continuing our tastings of Bordeaux wines on the anniversary of our trip there a year ago this week, we started the red flight with a St Emilion Château Troplong Mondot, followed by Château Lascombs Margaux, and closing out with Les Pavots from Peter Michael.

Before dinner with a selection of artisan cheeses, olives, nuts and tapenade, I took an Andretti Montonta Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay. One of the standout cheeses was a English Shropshire Blue Cheddar.

Château Troplong Mondot Grand Cru Classe' St Emilion Bordeaux 2005

What a treat to experience this vintage release that was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

The 2005 Troplong Mondot is a blend of 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.

There was irony in drinking this amidst the Coronavirus pandemic as years earlier Robert Parker had written in his review/notes: "It was emotional tasting this wine, thinking of the late Christine Valette, who made this compelling wine while battling with considerable courage against an insidious disease. It is a great effort and a superstar of the vintage. ... it is a tour de force, and a great tribute to an incredible woman. Kudos to the late Christine Valette!"

Vinous rated this 98 points, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Wine Spectator both gave it 96 points.

Dense dark garnet inky purple colored, full-bodied, powerful aromatics explode from the bottle upon releasing the cork, complex yet elegant and smooth, rich intense flavors of blackberry and black raspberry with layers of cassis, mocha, spice and notes of tobacco, a hint of truffle and some subtle background oak with silky smooth tannins on the long polished finish.

RM 96 points.


Château Lascombes Grand Cru Classe' Margaux Bordeaux 2010

This release was awarded 94 points by James Suckling, 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast, and 91 points by Wine Spectator, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Connoisser's Guide. 

This was a special treat to taste this label as a year ago this week in our trip to the Medoc, we stayed in Chambres de Marguax, literally across the lane from Château Lascombes. We walked around the property almost daily in a strolls around the commune or enroute to or from dinner in the village.

At ten years of age, this was a bit tight and closed, perhaps going through a period in this stage, deep dark garnet in color, medium to full-bodied, blackcurrant and blackberry fruits with notes of black tea, fresh herbs, and black olives with hints of clove spice, cedar and licorice, turning to chewy tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.

Peter Michael Les Pavots Knights Valley Bordeaux Blend 2012

Peter Michael produces one of the premiere ultra-premium Bordeaux Blends from Napa Sonoma. This is the flagship wine of the Peter Michael portfolio that is highly allocated directly from the winery with occasional limited quantities in distribution. 

Peter Michael is a huge and regretable lost opportunity for me as I spent fifteen years as a senior executive with an international company headquartered in Peter Michael's home town in Newbury, Berkshire, England. Peter Michael today owns hotels, resorts, golf club and restaurants in the town. I was ten years ahead of all of this development and missed potential engagement during my almost two hundred trips to the area. I regret not getting to meet and know Peter in those early years.  His wine operations started about the time I left that position and relationship just before the turn of the century.

Les Pavots is
sourced primarily from the vineyard
of the same name on the slopes of Mount St. Helena in Knights Valley in Sonoma County. The vineyard spans 49 acres ascending to an elevation of nearly 1,400 feet with Merlot and Cabernet Franc Bordeaux varietals growing on the cool upper slopes and Cabernet Sauvignon just below.

The blend of Bordeaux varietals is 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.

This release was awarded 96-98 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate,  97 points by James Suckling and 95 points by Wine Spectator.

Winemaker notes for this vintage: "Deep dark color with saturated ruby color and vermillion nuance, 2012 Les Pavots reveals a deep bouquet of Cacao powder, fudge cookies, black cherry, blueberry and blackberry, licorice, with nuances of cedar, cigar box, black tea, graphite, vanilla, a stylish ‘garrigue’ touch and black truffle. Extremely full-bodied, the wine offers the same rich, ripe fruit impressions on the palate. The mouth feel is dense and round, with elegant tannins, which lead to a long finish. Complex, the 2012 Les Pavots will age gracefully for two decades and provides a classic presentation of our estate’s terroir."

Dark inky/purple-colored, big bold, full-bodied, complex, rich, ripe dense round dark black cherry, black berry brambley fruits with nuances of spice, cedar, cigar box, black tea with hints of licorice, graphite and black truffle turning to bold tangy tannins on a long finish.

RM 94 points.

Andretti Montonta Reserve Napa Valley Carneros Chardonnay 2014
The Montona series is the premium Reserve brand available at the winery and to Club members. It is named for the Croatian village, birthplace of Andretti. 
We have fun with this brand with Dr Dan, a fellow Hoosier and Indy 500 Race enthusiast, supporting legendary driver and car/team owner Mario Andretti.
This was suprisingly good, better than expected. 
The golden honey color has a slight rust hue that was initially disarming but the wine was fine, medium bodied, nicely balanced and polished with integrated bright expressive notes of peach, apricot and citrus fruits with notes of vanilla and soft oak on the sinewy finish. 

RM 91 points. 


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Château Talbot St Julien Bordeaux 2011

Château Talbot St Julien Bordeaux 2011

Continuing the theme of revisiting our trip to St Julien Bordeaux a year ago this week, we opened another label from a producer estate that we saw last year. We toured and did a private tasting at nearby Château Gruaud Larose that used to be part of the Cordier Family holdings. While we didn't do a tasting and tour of Château Talbot we did drive over to see the estate that sits adjacent to Gruaud Larose.

We've had the pleasure of meeting fourth generation Philippine Bignon of the Cordier family, during her visits to Chicago as part of the UGCB North American release tour. The family have been proprietors of Château Talbot for four generations dating back to the turn of the last century.

Patriarch and her Great-great-grandfather Désiré Cordier wrote in his memoirs, "to be and to remain the owner of a well respected vineyard, one must be endowed with a real aristocracy that identifies itself with the vineyard and the wine. Everything must be sacrificed for this, to be a grand cru owner, you must in some way be in love with it…”

His son Georges and then his grandson, Jean, succeeded him as the head of the estate. Under their guidance, Talbot became one of the most famous growths in the Bordeaux region.

Following the death of Jean Cordier, his daughters Lorraine and Nancy, took over Talbot, building upon the knowledge and experience of past generations, they worked together to carry on the traditions and commitment to excellence to do justice to the Grand Cru.

Today Nancy Bignon Cordier, her husband Jean-Paul, their children Philippine, Marguerite and Gustave Bignon carry on the legacy of Talbot; a long history which has always united the destiny of the family to the vineyard.

We've held this label going back almost four decades and still hold vintage releases dating back to 1985, 1986 and 1989.

Tonight, in partial vicarious revisiting our St Julien trip, and to follow on and compare to the St Julien Clos du Marquis we enjoyed the previous evening, we pulled from the cellar this almost ten year vintage release for pleasurable drinking with leftover grilled steak, bbq beef, sweet corn and balsamic vinagrette caprese tomatoes with fresh home grown basil.

Château Talbot St Julien Bordeaux 2011

This estate bottled flagship
Château Talbot is sourced from the vineyards with classic St Julien Medoc gravelly soil and 50 year old vines that surround the Château, and is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. It was aged in 50% new French oak for fifteen months.

The 2011 vintage followed the legendary vintages of 2009-2010 and therefore was perceived as an off year with warm weather and low rainfall in the spring, one hot weekend in the end of June, followed by a cold summer, rainy August and finally a hot September. As with many lesser rated vintages, especially those adjacent to a top rated vintage, the 2011 could be considered underrated thereby is more affordable and offers good drinking and reasonable ageability for a decade or more. In its ninth year, it is likely as its apex and not likely to improve with any further aging.

Dark garnet colored, light medium bodied, minimal structure with moderate backbone, bright black berry and currant fruits with notes of cassis, cedar, graphite and subtle oak with moderate underlying tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 88 points.