Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Big Red Wine Flight for BBQ Rib Dinner

Big Red Wine Flight for BBQ Rib Dinner

Continuing our family reunion and related festivities, Linda prepared BBQ ribs and we opened a couple Big Red Blends suited for the pairing. As is our custom, we have fun with wine labels and we served two signature wines, one, Alec's signature namesake wine, and one of the 'V' wines that we commemorate to Vivanna, this one from Venge Vineyards. Also, as Alec and Viv just acquired their new puppy, this is a tribute as this label honors the late and beloved Venge family pet and vineyard dog, Labrador Retriever, Scout.  We met Scout when we toured the vineyards with patriarch, legendary winemaker Nils Venge back in the mid-nineties. 

Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend 2003 

More on Alec's Blend 2003 from my last tasting and blog post five years ago

Venge Vineyards Scout's Honor 2018 

This is a mainstay of our cellar that we keep on hand for such occasions. We have a half dozen vintages of this label in our cellar, drinking and cycling the oldest, replacing it as we go with the latest current release. This is the latest, most current release in which they introduced the new branding of a painted wine bottle as opposed to the more traditional and modest glued paper label. This was our first tasting of this vintage release that just appeared in distribution in Chicagoland in recent weeks and is slated for general distribution this winter. 

This wine is based on a tradition of producing a full bodied, robust, fruit filled red wine based on old-vine Zinfandel and blended with dry-farmed Petite Sirah, old-vine Charbono, and finished with mountain vineyard Syrah. 

The result is an unpretentious, generous mouthful of red wine that we recommend be opened and enjoyed immediately upon release.

The blend for this release is 63% Zinfandel, 16% Charbono, 12% Petite Sirah, and 9% Syrah; aged in 50% new American Oak and the balance in once-used tight grained French Oak for 14 Months.

Grapes were farmed and harvested from four single vineyards in Napa Valley. The Zinfandel was picked from two, old-vine (60 to 100+ years old), dry-farmed vineyard sources: Venge’s newly acquired “Signal Fire Vineyard” estate, and the Frediani Vineyard—both located in the heart of Calistoga. The Charbono is from old, dry-farmed vines (60 to 100+ years old) also planted in the Frediani Vineyard. Robbie Mondavi’s Oso Vineyard located on Howell Mountain supplies the Petite Sirah; the Syrah from  Napa’s finest, from Stagecoach Vineyard, high in the mountains of the Atlas Peak AVA.

The Winemaker notes sum it up perfectly: "The result is an unpretentious, generous mouthful of red wine that we recommend be opened and enjoyed immediately upon release.'

"This vintage has a gorgeous, concentrated assemblage of violets, anise, honeysuckle, blue herbs, and a touch of vanillin. The palate is pure richness with loads black fruits and currants, pepper spice, and an enveloping masculinity of char and tannins from the Syrah, Charbono and Petite Sirah. A seamless balance and mouth coating deliciousness lead to a wine that is quite pleasing to the senses. Cellared correctly it will age for 5 to 8 years."

Everyone loved this wine, especially with the tangy BBQ ribs. 

RM 92 points. 

Finally, in follow up to our Mt Veeder Appellation tasting the other evening, another wine from a producer that we visited and tasted during that Napa Mt Veeder Wine Experience back in 2011.

Godspeed Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 

We discovered and acquired this wine at the vineyard/producer during our Napa Mt Veeder Wine Experience back in 2011. I wrote back in 2015 about this label, "This was drinking very nicely in its twelfth year and may be at its prime, not likely to improve further with more aging. This 2004 was the best showing of this label that I have had to my recollection. This is a small production label from this boutique producer. Ironically, I saw some available just this week at Total Wine in Minnesota.' 

"Dark blackish purple/garnet colored, medium-full bodied, aromatic, black berry and black raspberry fruit flavors, a bit tight and firmly structured with tones of truffle and spice with hints of cedar, tobacco and green pepper, turning to moderate tannins on the long finish."

As this has aged another five years, it has lost some of its finesse and polish. RM 88 points.


Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

With the remote family in from both coasts for a wedding and a funeral this week, we're having some fun pulling from the cellar different labels from producers that we have visited together during various trips to Napa Valley. This Napa Cab is from legendary producer Randy Dunn whom we visited together with Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience back in 2008. We were hosted by Kristina Dunn that day but we had the privilege to meet winemaker, producer, patriarch and Napa Valley pioneer Randy Dunn. 

Randy started his wine career working for Charlie Wagner as the first enologist for Caymus. He was  instrumental in establishing Howell Mountain as a sub-AVA of Napa Valley. He is hands on from the vineyards to the cellars.

While not one of the larger holdings in our cellar in terms of number of bottles, it may be one of our broadest holdings in terms of number of vintages in our vertical collection of this label, and the flagship premium label Dunn Howell Mtn Cab.  We also collect Randy Dunn's "Feather" label that he produces for the Long Shadows Vintners Collection Series in Washington State.

Our Cellartracker records indicate we have a vertical collection of several mixed cases of each label from almost two dozen vintages dating back to 1981. 

Selections from Vertical Collection of Dunn Napa Valley Cabernets

This label release got 90 points from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. It has a Cellartracker average rating of 92.1 from 81 user reviews. I acquired this ten years ago when it was already ten years of age.  

With Randy Dunn at Dunn estate high atop Howell Mountain.

Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

Dunn is known for age-worthy Napa Cabernets, especially the premium Howell Mtn label. At 21 years, this label is still holding its own although past both its prime and projected drinking windows. While at this stage, many wines lose their fruit flavors to non-fruit tones, the fruits in this bottle are still holding their own, while also showing pronounced complementary and tertiary flavor tones.

We hold another bottle of this release and we'll note it needs to be consumed in the next year or so before it begins to diminish beyond enjoyable drinking. 

This was garnet colored, medium-full bodied, muscular, full forward rustic blackberry and black cherry fruits with notes of tobacco, graphite, leather and expresso, moderate acidity with firm lingering tannins on the long finish. 

I had trouble characterizing an underlying lingering flavor in the profile - Wine Spectator mentions mineral, iodine and dill - Tanzer speaks of raw meat ... 

RM 89 points.


 The following evening we did a gala beefsteak dinner and opened another Dunn Cabernet, Howell Mountain 1987.