Saturday, July 4, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marquis Phillips '09' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RM 89 points.

Heitz Cellars Trailside Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RM 93 points.

Moffet Cellars Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

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

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

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

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

RM 92 Points 

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

 -James Joyce

But there is no substitute for family!