Monday, March 30, 2020

Covid Shutin virtual dinner - Calera Ryan Vineyard - Jack's Masterpiece - Conundrum Red

Calera Ryan Vineyard - Jack's Masterpiece - Conundrum Red for another Coronavirus shut-in virtual family wine dinner

Tonight, we're continuing our COVID shut-in virtual family dinner and wine tastings, (and our original such event last weekend),virtual dinners and wine tastings across the family, sharing texts, photos and videos of our selections as we're all shut in due to the Coronavirus. As the Coronavirus shut-in enters week three, sons Ryan and Alec and daughter Erin joined us to conduct another virtual family dinner and wine tasting.

Daughter Erin joined in with texts and pictures of their family activities capped off by Richie's Journal setting the tone for the whole situation, and Lucy's art tribute to recently departed pets.

Son Ryan grilled filet steaks with evoo, garlic and rosemary, seared finished on the grill, and Michelle prepared twice baked potatoes and lemon vinagrette grilled asparagus. For their wine selection they selected Hall's Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an extraordinary wine from the Hall collection that was rated 99 points.

Hall's Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This is a great virtual wine tasting selection since we have both visited the magnificent Hall Winery and hospitality center at their Rutherford Estate. Son Alec selected Hall's Excellenz from their super premium collection for special gifting to clients for the holiday a year ago.

We also hold bottles of Jack's Masterpiece, a fun wine and great selection for such an event since it is dedicated to Hall's former winemaker and current president, Mike Reynold's son Jack.  The wine is named for the label artwork created by Mike’s then 18-month-old son Jack as a Father’s Day gift.

Lastly, the vintage selected is also the birthyear of grandkids and cousins from both sides of the family, Marleigh and Richie.

This was awarded 99 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points from Wine Spectator and 93 points from Vinous.

This is a premium blend, selected from the finest grapes from Hall's finest vineyards. All the pundits say it needs several years to shed its 'formidable tannic heft', and that it has three decades or more of longevity. 

From their reviews: "opaque purple color, opulent, full-bodied mouthfeel, deep, plush texture, dark, powerful and explosive, blueberry and blackberry fruits, blackberry jam, dark berry flavors, mocha-scented oak and notes of blackberry, licorice, hazelnut and brownie, espresso, chocolate, leather and super-sweet tannins.

Ryan's incredible grilled steaks
and asparagus

Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 2011

Sharing our dinner and wine selections across the family over the internet, Linda and I selected a Calera Pinot Noir from Mt Harlan near Hollister in North Central California.

This is a single vineyard designated wine from the Ryan Vineyard. Part of our reason for selecting this wine was the whimsical fun that is it shares the name of Ryan our oldest son. 

For casual pleasurable sipping with cheese, dried fruits and chocolates we opened a Pinot Noir, a lighter wine for such an occasion. Readers of this blog know we don't do a lot of Pinots, opting instead for bigger, bolder, more fruit forward wines. There are occasions when a lighter, more subtle wine is more suitable and Pinot Noir, the wine of Burgundy is ideal. Such wines are not simpler however and can often be equally complex and even elegant.

Our cellar is full of labels selected as signature labels for a family member or friend due to Vineyard names, special bottlings, or logos on the bottle as remembrances or tributes to someone special. These selections are in addition to our penchant for collecting wines from birth year and anniversary and special occasion year vintages as well.
Add to all this exuberance the selection of the producer Calera Vineyards and its founder winemaker Josh Jenson who is the epitome of Pinot Noir in California, or perhaps America.

As featured previously in this blog, Josh Jensen and his legendary Calera Vineyards were featured in Marq Devillier's wonderful 1994 book - "The Heartbreak Grape: A California Winemaker's Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir". The story tells the tale of Josh's quest to grow the very finnicky Pinot Noir grape in California in the early days before Pinot was cultivated here. In pursuit of his dream to create authentic Burgundian style wines, he sought to find the place in California suitable to achieve that goal. 

Devillers tells of Jenson's quest and research to find the right terrior - all the attributes of the right location, soil, climate, drainage, and other nuances of 'place' that make up the character and personality of a wine from grapes of a particular site. Josh chose Mt. Harlan, an area not then know for grapes or winemaking. 

The rest, as they say, is history. While it is a human interest tale, it also provides a rich insight into the challenges and travails of setting up a winery, and a business, and achieving one's dream to make noteworthy wines. 

Calera’s Mt. Harlan Vineyards are located in Hollister, California, in the Gavilan Mountains, 25 miles east of the Monterey Bay. The site was chosen for its limestone soils and ideal climate. At an average elevation of 2,200 feet it is among the highest and coolest vineyard sites in California.

Calera Pinot Noirs are single vineyard designated meaning they are each named for and produced from fruit sourced from one vineyard each. Their five vineyards planted in Pinot Noir are named for Josh's father (Jenson), Mills, a neighbor who mentored Josh in his early years, Reed, for one of Josh's dear friends and early investors, and in this case Selleck, for a family friend whom Josh attributes to introducing him to wine.

In 2002, the Ryan label appeared, named for Calera's vineyard manager since 1979. We've had fun with this wine collecting it for our #1 Ryan, serving it in celebration of his wedding a few years ago, and holding it in our cellar for special Ryan oriented occasions, or just fun occasions shared together such as tonight!

The Calera vineyards are enumerated and featured on the rear bottle label of the bottles as shown here. They are perhaps the most comprehensive and informative labels one will find anywhere on a bottle of wine. They spell out the information on the vineyard, geography, altitude, plantings, vines, the vintage and the bottling. The rear label itself makes for interesting reading, and insightful comparisons across the vineyards or vintages if one happens to have such bottles.

Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 2011

We hold a half dozen vintages of this label in our cellar as one of our 'signature' wines we hold in fun tribute to son Ryan. 

Consistent with our last tasting for this label which we served for the family Thanksgiving diner back in 2015, this was translucent ruby red colored, medium light bodied, scent of dusty rose, cherry and raspberry fruit flavors with a hint of cola, spice and earthy mushroom turning to fine grained delicate tannins on the moderate lingering finish.

RM 89 points.

Another family connection for our evening's dining, Linda and I enjoyed some delicious artisan chocolates from France. 

These were part of a incredible holiday gift package from our 'French Family' friends whom we visited with son Alec during or French holiday last year.  

One of the primary reasons for our trip, and the purpose of visiting Aix-en-Provence was to visit with our ‘host’family, Jean Claude and Mireille, parents of Philippe who was an exchange student that lived with us on two different tours. His residency and friendship with our son Alec contributed to Alec’s fluency in French. Visiting the region to see Philippe and meet his family was one of the reasons for our trip, together with our son and Viv, his fiancée, to the south of France. 

Also shut in due to the Coronavirus, Alec and Vivianna, out in Conneticut, prepared grilled USDA prime New York strip steaks, charred Pittsburgh style, just like I would like them! 

With their steak dinner they drank a California Conundrum Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Charlie Wagner of Caymus fame. 

This is a blend of Petit Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from throughout the Northern California region, purpose crafted to be the perfect complement to grilled meats at a high QPR suitable for every day drinking.

Conundrum California Red Wine 2017

Crafted by Charlie Wagner, grandson of the legendary Chuck Wagner of Caymus fame, he says "We believe in being both serious and playful, and this wine fits the bill. A rich, dark red, it offers aromas of ripe berries and plums, warmed by a hint of cocoa.'

'Dried fruit and the taste of chocolate-covered cherries come through on the palate, while a wisp of smokines, makes this wine – created from dark red varietals including Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon – the perfect complement to grilled meats and full-flavored dishes.'

'Tannins are rounded out by the ripeness of the berries for a texturous but smooth mouth feel. The finish makes us think of lingering at the end of a long evening and still not wanting to go home, with layers of rich flavor that teasingly trail off." 

Coronavirus Shut-in Family Artwork and Journal

Finally, the most touching point of the evening was Erin sharing pictures of the family artwork highlighted by grandson's Richie journal for the day, setting the tone for the entire shut-in situation, and Lucy and her tribute to beloved family dog Jackie, that was put down as we entered the shut-in period. In the background is the classic family projects - the planets!


Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

As we enter week three of the bizarro world COVID19 shut-in, our tour and enjoyment of our wine cellar investment continues. Tonight, with Sunday night left-overs and a selection of artisan cheeses, berries and assorted nuts, we pulled this Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet.  

We visited the Harris' Paradigm Oakville winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 1999. We still hold more than a case from a half dozen vintages of this label dating back to the mid-nineties.

As shown on the special label affixed to the bottle, this bottle was acquired at the Napa Valley wine auction, not directly from the producer.

This label was last tasted two years ago in a comparison tasting with two other Napa Cabs. At that time I wrote, "Perhaps an unfair comparative tasting of three diverse Napa cabs, the Paradigm was slightly narrower and single dimensional compared the mountain fruit and complexity of the Bordeaux blends. It was delicious never-the-less and a top performing Napa Cab."

Tonight, this was enjoyable standalone and ideal for the occasion. Tasting notes were consistent with earlier, last published note. At eighteen years of age, this is holding well and not showing diminution from aging, but certainly not likely to improve any further.

This is labeled 'Estate Bottled', meaning all the grapes were sourced from producer owned vineyards on the property. 

This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright tangy black cherry and black berry fruits accented by notes of anise, tea, spice box and hints of dark mocha, caramel, and leather.

RM 90 points.