Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Blend Syrah 2014

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Blend Syrah 2014

For mid-week sipping with some hearty cheeses, we opened this 100% Syrah from one of our favored producers, Lewis, known for Cabernets and another big bold blend, Alec's Blend.

We featured a vertical tasting of another Lewis label, Alec's Blend, a family signature wine for our son Alec, at his wedding celebration last week. Like Alec's Blend, this Ethan's Blend is named for one of the Lewis grandsons. We feature a lot of Lewis wines in these pages from our collection that goes back three decades. 

Our visit and private tasting at the Lewis Cellars chateau was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2015.  Alec and new bride Vivianna were scheduled to visit Lewis during their Napa Valley honeymoon this week but their trip is bring severely disrupted and is day to day due to the Glass Fire ravaging the Napa region.

Lewis Cellars Ethan's Blend Syrah 2014

This 100% Syrah is crafted from small lots of Mt. Veeder and Pritchard Hill mountain fruits resulting in a big bold thick concentrated style that we love in a Syrah. 

This wine got 94 points from Wine Spectator.  One reviewer describes it as "minerals, charred meat, scorched earth, vanilla, violets and dark chocolate."

Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, thick concentrated, firmly structured, not for the feint of heart, ripe black berry and ripe plum fruits are accented by a layer of spice, smoke, bittersweet dark chocolate, hints of licorice and creosote on a full firm tannin laced finish. 

RM 92 points. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Wedding Wines - Birthyear and Big Bottle Extravaganza Continues

Wines for a Wedding Celebration - Birthyear and Big Bottle Extravaganza Continues with Quivira Cabernet Cuvee' Imperial, Pahlmayer and Pieper Heidseick Magnums - and Top Rated Birthyear Vintage Wines

The family gathered in Conneticut for son Alec and Vivianna's gala wedding weekend; we started off the festivities with a dinner with the wedding party, generously hosted by the B's, our new in-laws. 

The Big Green Truck with its on-board Pizza oven was on-site and prepared a broad selection of custom hand-made pizzas made with the finest ingredients and toppings. 

It was a perfect food-wine pairing with the California Cabernet Cuvee' Bordeaux Blend from Alec’s birthyear vintage, served from a 6 liter large format Imperial bottle I brought from our cellar collection for the occasion, as well as several other wines served.

As I presented the big bottle, I discussed the irony of it being one of our 'V' wines, this one also featuring a boat on the gold painted bottle, in light of the fact that I acquired this bottle decades ago in anticipation of this event. 

Frank B, father of the bride is an avid boater and the wedding party men spent the afternoon on his boat cruising the Westport and Southport Conneticut coast of Long Island Sound (below).

The special limited release commemorative bottle was signed by Quivira Vineyards and Winery founders and then owners, Henry and Holly Wendt. It came packaged in its own OWC, Original Wood Case
Quivira Vineyards has a long history of significance in the evolution of grape growing and winemaking in Dry Creek Valley
Founders Henry and Holly Wendt sold the property in 2006 to current owners Pete and Terri Knight. They were struck by Henry’s vision for better wine through innovative vineyard management using biodynamic and organic farming techniques. 
Since purchasing the winery and vineyards in the summer of 2006, Pete and Terri rallied the Quivira team around a strong sense of purpose and focus on a ‘sustainable, holistic approach’ to growing grapes in the quest of producing distinctive wines. 
Today, Quivira’s philosophy is driven by the mission and vision of quality shared between winemaker Hugh Chappelle and owners, Pete and Terri Knight. Together, they have invested in the vineyards and winery with the intent of growing wines based upon the ‘thoughtful commitment to sustainable and organic farming’. 
Quivira Vineyards, today, is a leading producer of terroir driven Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rhone varietals.

Quivira Dry Creek Cabernet Cuvee' 1990

This 1990 Cabernet Cuvee' was sourced from select grapes from the Quivira estate vineyards in Dry Creek Valley at the confluence of Wine Creek and Dry Creek in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. It is a blend of Bordeaux varietals, 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 21% Merlot. Cellartracker records show this label was produced in the years 1987 through 1992.  
I've written in these pages about the impact a large format bottle has on the aging of wine, extending the life and drinking window of a wine due to the larger vessel and its reduced air to wine surface area and greater volume for increased stability for more graceful and consistent aging. 
This wine exceeded my expectations with its drinkability, still showing vibrant fruits and showing little sign of diminution from aging. This is most certainly attributable to the large bottle and to the quality of the 1990 vintage harvest. 
Sons Alec and Ryan, the groom and co-best man, carefully removed the wax capsule seal and extracted the cork, in near perfect condition, using a Ahso, two pronged cork puller. Shown below with our host, father of the bride, Frank B, and the boys, the 6 liter Quivira.

Thus was dark inky purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied with vibrant black berry fruits accented by notes of mushroom, smoke, oak and hints of black tea and cassis with a nice smooth integrated tannin laced finish. 

RM 89 points.

The wines continued the following evening for the wedding banquet served in a magnificent setting on the lawn under the tent in the yard overlooking the Sound. 
Following the Quivira, we opened another large format bottle, a magnum of Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Caldwell Vineyard Red Blend, also from the same birthyear vintage year 1990.  
Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red is a classic Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, all sourced from the Estate Caldwell Vineyard. 
I wrote about this wine when I served a companion magnum of this bottle and label during a family gathering earlier this summer, the week of the original planned wedding event before being postponed due to the Covid Pandemic. 

To round out the flight of wines for the evening, Alec served his namesake signature wine, Alec’s Blend Napa Valley Red Wine from Lewis Cellars. This is another family favorite label from a favorite producer, featured often in these pages.

Son/brother Ryan gifted six bottles of recent releases of this label to Alec, and I swapped them with a vertical tasting flight from our cellar from the ‘99, ‘01, ‘03, ‘05, ‘07 and 2009 vintages. These were served alongside the current 2017 release. 

Following the wedding weekend, the bride and groom headed off to Napa to pay homage to the vines and visit several family favorite producers including Lewis, Del Dotto and several others, firestorm permitting. Alec and Vivianna have a planned visit to the Lewis Cellars Winery in Napa on their re-planned Honeymoon to Napa Valley.  

We also served for the weekend another bold vibrant proprietary red blend from Venge Cellars. Venge Scout’s Honor features a prominent ‘V’ on the label, a fun whimsical play on the initials for the bride Vivianna and a testament to the vineyard dog Scout of the Venge family, and a tribute to Alec and Vivianna’s new dog, Camella. 
Venge is another popular label and a family favorite. We have known and collected wines crafted by Nils Venge, the first California producer to craft a 100 point wine from the pundits, since his early days as a producer, and when he was consulting winemaker to several popular labels including Plumpjack, Del Dotto, Fantesca and others. 

Following the wedding ceremony, Frank and Mary-lisa, Vivianna's parents, hosted a magnificent gala celebration dinner in a tent on the lawn at their home overlooking Sherwood Island and Cob Cove on the Long Island Sound. 
The spectacular dinner featured prime filets of beefsteak and salmon entrees. This was a much abbreviated scaled down celebration from the originally intended and planned banquet at their club, which will now be rescheduled for another time. 
To contribute and join in the celebration dinner, I brought from our cellar a flight of very special wines I have collected over the decades and held for this occasion, from the birthyear vintages of the bride and the groom.
Three of the wines were each awarded #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine as part of their annual Top 100 Wines of the Year, all from the 1990 vintage. A testament to the global success of the vintage, one was from California, one from Bordeaux and one from South Australia, a further testament to the amazing spectacular 1990 vintage
All these wines were acquired upon their release back in the early nineties, in some cases, even before being so recognized and heralded. 
Three #1 Wine Spectator Top
100 Wines from 1990 vintage

I blogged about these wines and big bottles in a preview to this weekend's gala festivities. 

Chateau Grand Vin Latour Pauillac Bordeaux 1990 

This 1990 vintage release was the Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 Wine of the Year for 1993 and was awarded a perfect 100 points. We also served this wine from a six liter Imperial from daughter Erin's 1981 birthyear vintage, at her and son-in-law Johnny's wedding celebration.

Erin, Johnny and Fort family
at Sean & Michelle's wedding

Penfold’s Grange (Hermitage) McLaren Vale Shiraz 1990

This 1990 vintage release of this label was the Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 Wine of the Year for 1995. This was the concensus WOTN - Wine of the Night by many in the group, especially the younger generation. I acquired an OWC - Original Wood Case of his wine back on release. I remember obtaining it at Berry Brothers and Rudd in London and hand carrying back on the flight, back in the days when such activity was allowed. 
My notes from that previous tasting earlier: Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, flawless, elegant, polished, harmonious, perfectly balanced, silky smooth flavors of concentrated black berry and black raspberry fruits with notes of vanilla, licorice, spice, black truffles and oak with hints of spice and cedar turning to fine grained tongue puckering tannins on the long lingering finish.

RM 96 points.

Caymus Special Select Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 and 1991

This 1990 vintage release was Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 Wine of the Year for 1994. The 1990 vintage was so successful that nine of the Top Ten Wines of the Year in 1994 were from the 1990 vintage.  

To further celebrate the nuptials, I also brought several wines that we happen to hold in our cellar from the birthyear vintage of the bride including the Caymus Special Select 1991, in addition to the heralded #1 1990 vintage. Testament to this producer and their run of great releases, the 1991 was awarded the #2 wine of the Top 100 Wine Spectator Wines of the Year 1995. So, this mini-vertical duo of back to back vintages were #1 and #2 respectively in the Top 100, likely the first and only time that I can find that this has happened. 
I also brought back-to-back '90 and '91 vintages of Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Had the Coronavirus pandemic not derailed the couple’s original wedding plans, I was prepared to serve Silver Oak Bonny’s Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 from six liter bottles, (serial numbers 41 and 44). They remain stored in our cellar in their OWC - Original Wood Cases (shown below). We will hold these for (a) future celebration occasion (s). 
We served the 1982 vintage of Bonny's Vineyard from son Ryan's birthyear vintage at his and daughter-in-law Michelle's (below) wedding celebration, along with a horizontal collection of other birthyear vintage wines, several from large format bottles. 

We also served 1990 and '91 vintage Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
We also brought along and were prepared to open but didn't get to them, bottles of Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1990 and 1991. 
In all of these comparison tastings, the 1990 vintage showed significantly better than its 1991 counterpart, evidence that vintages matter. I've written in these pages that often, off-year vintages can out-perform, and, that in top exceptional years, all boats rise with the tide, and second and lesser labels can also be exceptional, often providing great QPR (quality price ratio) values. Tonight, though, we were fortunate enough to serve and partake of the best of the best - best wines of the best vintages!
We are still holding and looking forward to opening from our cellar collection birthyear vintage bottles of our kids and our anniversary years from our horizontal and vertical collections of several favorite Bordeaux producers including Chateaux Leoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou, Palmer, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Gruaud Larose, Chateau d'Yquem and a few others. We're still holding many of these as they appear to have longer drinking windows and hence can be held a bit longer. We visited several of these Chateaux during our Bordeaux region trip last year. We'll look forward to featuring them in future family celebration tastings.  
Author, Rick & Linda,
groom's parents
After dinner, with the wedding cake, we served from our cellar Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguay and Chateau Suideraut Grand Cru 1990. We're fortunate to hold some Chateau d'Yquem 1990 as well, but will hold this for appropriate celebrations in the future due to its extraordinary long aging and drinking window. We were also prepared to open and will also hold for future events a Warre's and a Dow’s Quinta de Cavadhina Ports from 1990.
Prior to dinner, and throughout the evening, we served large format magnum bottles of Pieper Heidseick Special Edition Champagne (above). 

Lastly and notably, this follows by just three weeks the wedding celebration and serving of other large format and birthyear wines at son Sean's and daughter-in-law Michelle's wedding earlier this month

Michelle and Sean, newlyweds of
three weeks at A-V's wedding


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Birthyear vintage labels and large format bottles

Gala wedding celebrations to feature special birthyear vintage labels and large format bottles and more ...

For son Alec and Vivianna's wedding celebrations, I assembled from our cellar a collection of birthyear vintage wines including several in large format bottles. I've written often in these pages about our collection of birthyear vintage wines for our kids, and our collection of large format bottles of special labels for special occasions. This, our final child's wedding is our last perfect storm to showcase and enjoy our wine cellar selections, one we've been preparing for for literally three decades. Indeed, our collection of 1990 vintage bottles of wine spans no less than 195 bottles from 65 different labels. 

A complication or added dimension to this whole concept and philosophy is that the bride is from a different vintage/birthyear. Hence, if we add the 1991 vintage to the inventory search of our cellar collection, we add another 42 bottles from 16 different labels. Of course, we did not anticipate and plan for this in our collecting over the decades, it just happens that we have these in our collection. 

So, for the festivities, there are numerous story lines, themes and approaches to how we will serve these wines. Non super wine geeks may tune out at this point and move on to the next blogpost. 

Birthyear / vintage highlights: I've written in these pages about the vintages of the birthyears of our kids, and how the 1990 vintage, birthyear of son Alec was extraordinary, one of the best of the century and perhaps in history. Not only were there three Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 wines from this vintage, three years in a row, but they hailed from three different disparate regions of the Old and New world, France, US Napa Valley, and Australia. All three were spectacular wines from ultra-premium absolute premier legendary labels:

Chateau Grand Vin Latour Pauillac Bordeaux 1990 - Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 Wine of the Year for 1993

Moreover, for this vintage, nine of the Top Ten Wines of the year were from the 1990 vintage. 

Caymus Special Select Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigon 1990 - Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 Wine of the Year for 1994

Penfold's Grange (Hermitage) Shiraz 1990 - Wine Spectator Top 100 #1 Wine of the Year for 1995

So, if you had a child born in 1990 and wanted to collect special birth year wines to enjoy sometime in the future, it was easy to do, or hard to go wrong.  We got lucky and were blessed in so many respects, this being but another one. We'll have the luxury of tasting each of these wines this weekend. Watch for our tasting experiences.

The second dimension, the bride/groom's birthyear. In our case, our son's fiance, Vivianna was born a year later, in the following year, the next vintage, so to speak. Here I got lucky, I already had picked up the Caymus Special Select 1990 and 1991. The #2 wine in 1995 was, alas, Caymus Special Select 1991. That turns out to be the premier finest label selection from the vintage, during this era. Bingo! The other 1991 vintage labels from this period in the top tens were FLORA SPRINGS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1991 and CROFT Vintage Port 1991. I happened to have also picked up the Flora Springs Napa Cab 1990 and 1991 over the years, so we have another perfect pairing for the betrothed couple. And we'll serve vintage ports collected from the vintage as well.  

Watch this space as we open and enjoy these vintage select special bottles as part of our celebrations. 

The next dimension of our celebrations is large format bottles. We have a collection of large format bottles from the vintage that we'll serve this weekend, and on special occasions in the future. This includes four six liter Imperials, and numerous Magnums of select wines. Watch for these as they are presented and served as part of our family and friends celebrations.  

Lastly, as you have seen in these pages, we have fun with various labels and producers based on numerous criteria. One example is namesake labels, wines sharing names of our family or friends. One of our favorite such producers and labels is Alec's Blend by Napa Valley Lewis Cellars. This is one of our namesake labels for the groom, Alec. Watch as we serve a decade vertical of vintages of Alec's Blend Napa Valley Red Wine this weekend.  

Lastly, we also have find with labels in other ways. Watch for how "V" (for Vivianna) becomes centerpiece of some of our wine selections this weekend as well! 

One other factor in a horizontal collection (a collection of multiple wines from the same vintage) of a particular vintage, is the intersection with a vertical collection, where we hold a series of vintages of the same label. In this case, there are a number of labels where we have collected a series of vintages including each of the birthyears of our four kids, and in many cases, now, also the birthyear vintages of our grandkids. This allows for comparison tastings of a particular label from different vintages seeing how the wine ages over time and how it compares in different vintage harvests. A top vertical collection will invariably also include top rated years as well, as standard bearers and benchmarks for comparison. There are a dozen or more labels where we hold such vertical collections that include key vintages including, of course, birthyears and anniversaries. Many of these are the basis for our studies into the producers' and their histories, estate vineyards and their terroir, and contributing producers' winemakers and consultants. 
These pages are filled with references and features of our visits to producer estate wineries and vineyards where we hold deep vertical collections of such wines. Our visit to Bordeaux last year featured tours of estates of which we hold extensive collections spanning several decades - Château Ducru Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases, Château Gruaud-Larose and Pichon Lalande, for example. 
Lastly, a wine flight over the course of a dinner can include champagne, white wine, multiple red wines matched to food pairings, a dessert wine and an after dinner port or aperitif.  Watch how many different wines or wine types we can present from multiple (large) formats or vintage year releases over the course of a dinner or multiple events.

The 1994 Top 10
Rank Wine Score Price
#1 CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 1990 98 $75
#2 E. GUIGAL Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 1990 98 $135
#3 FLORA SPRINGS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1991 97 $33
#4 LEONETTI Merlot Washington 1992 96 $25
#5 FERRARI-CARANO Chardonnay Alexander Valley 1992 93 $20
#6 DOMAINE ZIND-HUMBRECHT Gewürztraminer Alsace Grand Cru Goldert Vendange Tardive 1990 96 $45
#7 LUCIANO SANDRONE Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1990 96 $46
#8 JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE Hermitage 1990 96 $63
#9 CROFT Vintage Port 1991 94 $32
#10 RIDGE Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Pagani Ranch Late Picked 1992 93 $16


#1CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 1990 98 $75
The 1994 Top 10
#1CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 199098
#2E. GUIGAL Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 199098
#3FLORA SPRINGS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 199197

The Top 10 Wines of 1993

Wine Score Price*
1. CHÂTEAU LATOUR Pauillac 1990 100 $80
2. GAJA Barolo Sperss 1989 96 $60
3. SILVERADO VINEYARDS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Limited Reserve 1990 97 $40
4. CHÂTEAU LA LOUVIÈRE Pessac-Léognan 1990 94 $22
5. LOUIS LATOUR Corton-Charlemagne 1990 95 $83
7. MOUNT VEEDER Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1990 94 $15
8. TENUTA DELL'ORNELLAIA Ornellaia 1990 96 $42
9. CHÂTEAU LAGRANGE St.-Julien 1990 95 $26

 The 1995 Top 10

Rank Wine Score Price
#1 PENFOLDS Shiraz South Australia Grange 1990 97 $100
#2 CAYMUS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 1991 99 $100
#3 THE HESS COLLECTION Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1992 94 $18
#4 FONSECA Vintage Port 1992 96 $45
#5 COMTE GEORGES DE VOGÜÉ Musigny Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 1993 96 $140
#6 ZACA MESA Syrah Santa Barbara County Zaca Vineyards 1993 94 $13
#7 CAMPOGIOVANNI Brunello di Montalcino 1990 95 $43
#8 KISTLER Chardonnay Sonoma Valley Kistler Vineyard 1992 94 $40
#9 BERINGER Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Private Reserve 1992 95 $45
#10TRIMBACH Riesling Alsace Cuvée Frédéric Emile 199096$27

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Goldschmidt Hilary Napa Oakville Charming Creek Cabernet

Goldschmidt Hilary Napa Valley Oakville Charming Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 

We hosted wine buddy, fellow Pour Boy Dr Dan and Linda for a wine dinner. We came across this label, Oakville, single vineyard designated Napa Cabernet, namesake to Dan's daughter, so we picked it up for the occasion. 

On further investigation of this label we learn it is the product of Yolyn and Nick Goldschmidt,  owner/vintners, with Nick, the winemaker. Hailing from New Zealand, Yolyn and Nick have spent time living and working in the wine areas of New Zealand, Australia and South America. They operate out of winery offices in Healdsburg from where they operate Goldschmidt Vineyards, a "'vehicle' by which Nick and Yolyn present their innovative way of wine making and wine presentation. There are two brands under their portfolio – the prestigious Goldschmidt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon label, and the international Forefathers label', according to their website'.

"The Goldschmidt Vineyard label is a program designed to showcase single vineyard source wines from both the Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Oakville appellations. The goal is to create wines that highlight the distinct characters, benefits and attributes derived from these site specific harvests. Goldschmidt Vineyards Cabernets are crafted with the best possible resources to achieve exceptional richness, quality and balance – the hallmarks of world-class wines."

I deduce they are negociants, of sorts, procuring excess fruit from numerous sources and crafting their own wines under their own series of private labels. Several of the wines are  named for their children, which they furthr explain that, "Joined periodically in the field by their five children, the Goldschmidt expertise is being passed down to the next generation, as evidenced in the wines released under the labels Chelsea Goldschmidt, Hilary Goldschmidt and Katherine Goldschmidt."

This label is sourced from the Oakville district in Napa Valley, so it was a fitting comparison to the Plumpjack Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon that we also served this evening

Goldschmidt describes the Oakville appellation, "where the coolness of the south meets up-valley warmth in perfect equilibrium. Oakville isn’t too hot; it isn’t too cold. It’s just right. That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville so perfectly expresses the essential qualities of the varietal in deep, complex wines that can last for decades."

They attribute the source for this label is "Charming Creek, located on Route 29 just north of Oakville Cross Rd. One retailer says of this label, "this particular Oakville Cabernet comes from a secret vineyard that borders OPUS ONE on the North Side…  Sounds expensive right?  Fortunately for us, this one was created by Nick Goldschmidt whom many of you recognize from his Crazy Creek Cabernet which is arguably the best value in California Cabernet."

I admit, I came across this at Cosco, which further leads me to believe it is a negociant sourced 'excess fruit or bulk wine' produced, packaged and sold under private label. As I have often written in these pages, the challenge with such labels is that they often are the 'second' picking or are composed of fruit not selected for the primary label. And, they're one-time wonders, not subject to long term contracts, hence any concept of terroir is a one time chance encounter. For a collector, don't fall in love with it because you may never see it again, or not in a string of continuous releases. If it proves to be that good, it'll end up back in the grand vin.

On the other hand, these labels often provide great QPR - quality price ratio, available at times for a fraction of the grand vin price. Hence, they're typically anonymized by the private label and the source is obfuscated so as not to diminish the primary source's brand and price point, as indicated by this retailer referring to the 'secret' vineyard. While under such circumstances, once in a while you get a sixty dollar wine for forty bucks, in this case, I think one got a thirty dollar wine for that price-point.

Alas, this was characteristically, lesser fruit and a lesser effort, belaying the potentially premium or ultra-premium source. Even if they reproduce in next year in a follow on vintage, I won't hold my breath for it to be memorable, or even a significant QPR value. 

Goldschmidt Hillary Napa Valley Oakville Charming Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 

Winemakers' notes: "The old Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon vines here give perfumed aromatics but also silkiness, deep color, power and richness. Also typical of Clone 7, the wines age very gracefully and show good acidity and structure when older. After 10 years this vineyard will still show dark fruits and supple tannins."

"Tasting Note: Deep garnet-purple; concentrated aromas of chocolate and black cherry alongside notes of cinnamon and hazelnut. The entry of this wine is juicy with a silky-smooth texture that builds through the mid-palate. Blackberry and black current flavors are supported with well-integrated oak. Nicely balanced and shows the fresh acidity on the finish that Oakville is known for."

Dark garnet purple colored, medium bodied, straightforward black berry fruits with note of mocha, cinnamon and hazelnut with bright acidity that seemed a bit flabby and obtuse on the finish. 

RM 87 points.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Plumpjack Founders Reserve Cabernet - Seasmoke Chardonnay - Paul Misset Clos Vougeot Vieilles Vignes

Plumpjack Founders Reserve Napa Cabernet - Seasmoke Chardonnay -
Paul Misset Clos Vougeot Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru

Fellow Pour Boy, wine buddy, Dr Dan and Linda came over for a wine dinner evening and I pulled from the cellar this vintage release Premium Napa Cabernet for the occasion. We tasted and acquired this wine during a visit to the Plumpjack estate on Oakville Crossing Road in central Napa Valley back in 1999. During that trip we hosted several winemaker dinners including one at Meadowood Resort featuring Mary Pisor, then winemaker for Plumpjack (below). We also visited Nils Venge Saddleback Vineyards who was consulting winemaker to Plumpjack in the early years. 

PlumpJack, in Oakville, was founded by Gordon Getty, the San Francisco composer and philanthropist, and Gavin Newsom, Governor of California back when he was mayor of San Francisco. 

The entrepreneurs initially opened a wine shop in San Francisco in 1992 called PlumpJack, a reference to Shakespeare’s character Sir John Falstaff, who enjoyed food and wine. The partners then founded PlumpJack winery in 1997 when they acquired 53 acres of vineyards on Oakville Cross Road. 

The PlumpJack Group expanded investment holdings in to resorts, hotels, restaurants and spas. 

Governor Newsom's father, Bill, was a lifelong friend of Gordon Getty, the son of oil magnate J. Paul Getty going back to their early years when they attended high school together. Bill Newsom later managed the Getty family trust on behalf of Gordon, estimated by Forbes to be worth more than $2 billion in 2018. Bill Newsom was so close with the family that he helped deliver the ransom money after the  famous 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, John Paul Getty III. The Gettys’ have been instrumental patrons and supporters of Newsom and have played an important role in Gavin Newsom’s personal, professional and political life.

Plumpjack winery specializes in premium Cabernet Sauvignon, though it also makes Merlot, Chardonnay and a Syrah. Robert M. Parker Jr. notes that all the PlumpJack wines “are fabulous, thanks to the brilliant efforts of winemaker Tony Biagi and consultant Nils Venge.” 

Interestingly, a bit of wine world trivia: PlumpJack was the first Napa Valley producer to use screw caps in the packaging in 2000, starting with the their high end Founders Reserve flagship premium label. 

The PlumpJack estate winery and vineyards sit in the heart of Napa Valley’s renowned Oakville Appellation (AVA), surrounded by the 42-acre estate vineyard which has become highly regarded for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The winery building and the vineyard date back to the 1800s, when winemaking pioneers first took advantage of a unique position on the valley floor. The east side of the vineyard lies along the foothills of the Vaca mountain range and yields grapes with the kind of bold fruit character that comes from well-draining hillside soils. The western boundary of the estate lies in the Napa River flood zone. Here the vines take root in rich, deep clay soils, for grapes with softer, more supple varietal character. 

Oakville AVA is one of the two or three most prestigious appellations in the United States. Located in the heart of Napa Valley, it consists of 5,000 vineyard acres that produce some of the world’s most acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon, including such California “cult” Cabs such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate. 

Even before those boutique producers rose to fame in the 1990s, Oakville was already renowned as home to Robert Mondavi, Opus One and Groth Vineyards, among others. Along with the famous wineries, there are premier vineyards in the AVA, including Martha’s Vineyard and To Kalon Vineyard. To Kalon was first planted in 1868 by H.W. Crabb, one of California’s first viticultural researchers. He named the vineyard after the ancient Greek phrase for “most beautiful.” 

The Oakville appellation is ideal and favorable to the Bordeaux varietals and is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, however Merlot, and white varietals Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also frequently planted. Oakville Cabernets are noted for their richness, complexity and weight. 

Oakville was designated as an AVA in 1993.  

We visited the Plumpjack Oakville Estate vineyards and winery again during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018 (below).

We served a  flight of artisan cheeses including Old Amsterdam, English Shropshire Blue, and Delice Borgnogne Brie, now available and distributed by none other than Murray's Cheese from NYC Greenwich Village Bleaker Street. 

From his cellar, Dan brought a Burgundy and Chardonnay which were ideal with the cheese and then salad course and the transition to the beefsteak dinner entree.  

SeaSmoke Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2013

Dr Dan brought from his cellar this limited production highly allocated estate Seasmoke Sta Rita Hills Chardonnay. He is in their wineclub and receives this label as part of his allocation. 

This release got 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 92 points from Wine Enthusiast.

This was wonderful, ideal with the artisan cheeses before dinner.

Golden colored, medium-full bodied, rich, warm nicely integrated white peach, stone and citrus fruits with layers of floral, buttery oak and slate minerality with nice balance of oak and acid on the full mouthfeel lingering finish. Wine Enthusiast describes "its touching intriguingly on sweet Maui onion and finishing with light vanilla-custard flavor".

RM 92 points. 

Domaine Paul Misset Clos Vougeot Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru 2009

This was an ideal transition from the cheese and salad to the beefsteak entrees. 

As I often write in these pages, I am not a pinot guy, and hence probably don't give this the reverence or appreciation that it deserves. 

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, tangy black cherry and red berry fruits with notes of perfume, dusty rose, asian spice and hints of pomegranate on a lingering finish. 

RM 89 points.

Linda prepared grilled rib-eye beefsteaks with baked potatoes, an ideal pairing for the aged Oakville Cabernet. Dinner was preceded by Ceasar salad and followed by Linda's signature chocolate mousse with notes of expresso served with fresh berries. 

Plumpjack Founders Reserve Napa Cabernet 1996

Linda and I visited the Plumpjack estate and winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018. We tasted the current release of this label and they had on offer this vintage release in the library, available for the asking. 

At twenty five years, the wine fill level, bottle foil capsule, label and cork were in pristine condition, further testament to the ideal conditions in our cellar for long term aging, having held this bottle since acquisition on release. 

Dark inky purple colored, medium-full bodied, at twenty five years the fruits are somewhat subdued with the blackberry giving way to notes of cassis, hints of creosote and smoke with a moderate acid firm but smooth tannin laced lingering finish.

RM 90 points.