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.