Sunday, March 22, 2020

Culler La Pallette Napa Valley Red Wine 2005

Culler La Pallette Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine 2005

Shut in due to the Caronavirus lock-in, we opened this vintage aged Napa Cabernet for a Sunday afternoon dinner of leftover beef pot roast, baked potatoes and asparagus.

We discovered and acquired this label during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience when we visited Ladera Winery up on Howell Mountain. The producer of this label, Karen Culler, is/was the winemaker for Wolf Family Vineyards and Ladera Vineyards. She produced this label and another Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon cuvees under her own label.  

Karen Culler worked at Mondavi and set out on her in 1997. This label appeared in '97 and lasted for a dozen plus years until the '10 vintage, the last vintage recorded. 

This 2005 Proprietary Red La Palette is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot, all from Alexander Ranch fruit.

This label was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. 

Tonight, this was a perfect complement to our beef dinner and selection of artisan cheeses and fine chocolates afterwards. 

At fifteen years of age, this tasted much better and was more impressive than as noted in my tasting notes from the previous recorded tasting back in 2008 when I wrote: "October 3, 2008 - Culler La Pallette Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - RM 89 - Dark inky purple, fruit forward gooseberry, currant, red raspberry and silky firm tannins on the finish."

At that time I awarded this 89 points and I remember the tasting and found it interesting but rather uninspiring. Tonight, this was much more expressive and vibrant. Immediately upon opening, aromas burst from the bottle and filled the room.  

Consistent with that earlier tasting note, this was dark inky purple, fruit forward gooseberry, currant, red raspberry and silky firm tannins on the finish. 

Tonight it was more expressive and vibrant than I remember, and was more complex and polished, medium full bodied, black currant and black berry fruits with accents of floral, bitter chocolate, spice, graphite and notes of cedar on the tangy acidic lingering smooth tannin laced finish. 

RM 91 points.

Coronavirus shut-in virtual family dinner and wine tasting

Dispersed Family Conduct Coronavirus Shut-in Virtual Family Dinner and Wine Tasting

Locked in for the Coronavirus pandemic, our family, Alec and Viv in New York, and Ryan & Michelle, Sean & Michelle, and us, Linda and me, in Illinois, held a virtual family dinner and wine tasting.

Linda prepared a beef pot roast with carrots, potatoes and gravy. To complement our family dinner I pulled from the cellar a special vintage bottle of Château Gruaud-Larose, 1989.

Ryan and Michelle prepared beef bourguignon with half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (below). Prior to dinner they also had a selection of artisan cheeses. They accompanied these with an Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.

Alec, in New York City, prepared a grilled steak dinner, Pittsburgh style, to make his dad proud! He and Vivianna tasted a Sonoma Valley Arrowood Monto Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Sean, also shut in here in Illinois with Michelle, prepared a parmesan crusted halibut topped with micro green and fresh chives, picked from the nearby forest preserve, served with steamed artichokes, served with a Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc (below).

Funny that Sean mentioned the chives being picked from the nearby forest preserve. Linda, too, went out into our yard and cut fresh chives which she mixed into a home prepared fresh pimento plus cheese spread which we also enjoyed prima (before) dinner.

Both Ryan and Michelle and Linda and I prepared extensive cheese plates to accompany our wines before dinner. Our plate included remnants of a aged Old Amsterdam Gouda and an authentic Roquefort we bought last weekend, served alongside Linda's pimento cheese dip and an aged sharp cheddar.

Sharing and comparing our dinners and wines started in the afternoon via text messages and shared videos and pictures and continued throughout the evening and the following day. Perhaps the most memorable part, in addition to be connected and communicating virtually, was a commemoration to Linda's father, the boys' grandfather Ned, who was a farmer who raised beef cattle. The irony was noted that Alec, Ryan, and us all prepared elegant beef dinners - hailing 'Descendants of Ned' in tribute and remembrance! The Descendants of Ned, our boys created this tee-shirt commemorating what is becoming their annual boys getaway ski weekend visiting their visiting cousin Wesley in Steamboat.

Château Gruaud-Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1989

I pulled from the cellar this vintage label of  Château Gruaud-Larose which was a wonderful, perfect accompaniment to our beef stew dinner. This was special as our visit to the Chateau Estate in St Julien Beychevelle was one of the memorable highlights of our trip to the Medoc last fall.

The aged 1989 vintage release was also to compare with a vintage 1989 Napa Cabernet Phelps Insignia that I took to our recent OTBN wine dinner. 

Gruaud-Larose is comprised of 202 acres planted to 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 1.5% Malbec with about 300,000 bottles produced annually. 

January 2020
At thirty years of age, the fill level was above neck, ideal and appropriate for its age, the label and foil were near perfect, having been purchased upon release and held in or cellar since.

The cork was partly, nearly half saturated, yet intact and the seal in the bottle was perfect, actually releasing some pressure when the seal was broken. It was extracted routinely using an ahso two-pronged cork puller. I suspect it would not have surrendered (intact) using a traditional corkscrew.

Upon initial pouring, this was slightly cloudy but it cleared over the course of an hour. Initially there was some dusty mustiness, to be expected in a thirty year old, and this too cleared as the wine breathed and opened.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright tangy lively plum and black currant and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of floral, leather, forest floor, cigar box, tea and hints of cassis and creosote on a lingering floral minty finish of firm, silky-textured, smooth tannins.

Tonight's tasting was consistent with our recent tasting of this same label from our cellar back in January when I wrote, "This was dark garnet colored, medium bodied, concentrated, bright, expressive black plum and currant fruits accented by pronounced brilliant violet floral and cigar box notes turning to tangy sharp tongue puckering tannins on the lingering finish."

This wine with our beef pot roast was a perfect wine and food pairing, enhancing the experience and enjoyment of both, exponentially. The magic is not only the food, or the wine, but the pairing of the two together, and the company, both in person and virtually! 

RM 91 points.

This label also got 91 points from Wine Spectator.