Sunday, November 15, 2020

Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2018

Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2018

 A couple weeks ago we opened this unique varietal Napa Valley Petite Sirah from a traditional producer of Napa Valley Zinfandels, Robert Biale.

That bottle exceeded my expectations for a big fruit forward sipper. (It got 95 points from  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 92 points from Wine Spectator noting it as "Highly Recommended").

We enjoyed that bottle so much with its rich, concentrated full bodied flavorful fruit, a style we love, I sought to replace it. Naturally, the 2013 release was no longer available but I was able to acquire several bottles of the 2016 vintage, and a few of the 2018. 

Binny's Beverage Depot, the Chicagoland wine superstore indicated on-line that it had a several bottles of the 2016, but not at a convenient location. I called a couple local independent merchants about obtaining a few bottles and ended up placing a special order. When they arrived they turned out to be the 2018 vintage. Several days later I was at a Binny's location that had the 2016 in stock and I obtained a few more.

As I wrote at the time, Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa Valley dates back to the 1930s when the Biale family grew Zinfandel grapes and other produce, selling the grapes to local wineries, saving some for their own wine production. During prohibition, to obfuscate their banned trade selling bottles of illicit homemade Zinfandel, they would refer to their dark fruit filled wines as "Black Chickens" over the party line phone service.

Biale Winery was formally founded in 1991 when Aldo Biale and his son Robert formed a partnership with winemaker Al Perry and wine salesman Dave Pramuk. Their initial product was Zinfandel, eventually adding Petite Sirah grown on their 25 acres in Napa Valley.  

Despite its popularity, the Petite Sirah grape is somewhat rare with less than 10,000 acres planted worldwide, with the bulk of that in California. In France, the grape is referred to as Durif. 

Not to be confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah is a cross of the two grape varietals Syrah and Peloursin.  Robert Biale’s Royal Punishers got its name from scrambling the letters of both parent grapes. The resulting wine is darker and fuller, deep, inky and powerful, appropriately named, it deserves its reputation as one of Napa Valley’s top Petite Sirahs.

According to Biale, Petite Sirah was the most commonly planted grape in Napa Valley for nearly a century and now there is a resurgence and new appreciation for this historic varietal. Known for its dark color, firm structure, and deep blue and black fruit flavors, it is perfectly suited to Napa Valley’s moderate and dry growing season. Petite Sirah was also a favorite grape among winemakers looking to pump up underpowered wines in need of deep fruit, color, and structure. Its natural versatility made it a great counterpart to all red varieties including Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Biale Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petit Sirah 2018

With the kids in from out of state for the weekend, we opened this Big Red for late night adventurous sipping.  

Robert Biale sources this Royal Punishers Petite Sirah from Carpy-Connolly Ranch in Rutherford. There the well-drained gravel and sandy loam soils, and warm daytime temperatures are ideally suited for ripening Petite Sirah grapes.

Winemaker's notes for this release, "The 2018 Royal Punishers has a deep, blackish purple color with aromas of currants, blueberry, quince, violets, figs, molasses and graphite. The entry is weighty with a broad mid-palate structure which has layers of ripe, black fruit flavors. The oak profile is balanced and the tannins are medium grained which hold the fruit profile and carry a long, lingering finish."

While not as big and powerful as the 2013, this was bold and concentrated with rich extracted inky purple colored fruit, black raspberry, black currants, black tea and tobacco notes with a moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 91 points.


Fabulous premium wine flight for tenderloin surf and turf dinner

 Fabulous premium wine flight for tenderloin surf and turf dinner

We had a double newlywed dinner with Sons Alec and his bride Vivianna, back from New York, and Sean and his bride Michelle joining us for a gala post celebration dinner. Linda prepared beef tenderloin that Alec grilled (right) and lobster tails, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, haricurt verts and ceasar salad. 

I pulled from the cellar a selection of premium wines to commemorate the occasion - wines that have special significance on many fronts. Alec and Vivianna visited Napa Valley for their rescheduled honeymoon and visited Lewis Cellars and Piazza Del Dotto wineries. 

Due to the extensive fires in the area their tasting at Hall Wines and others were canceled. Never-the-less, our wine flight included the trifecta of Hall, Lewis and Del Dotto premium labels. 

Prior to dinner we opened Champagne. We also tasted a Chateau St Michelle Merlot, a fun wine recognizing our daughter-in-law. We closed the dinner with a birth year vintage port with desserts. 

We opened the evening toasting the newlywed couples with Champagne - Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé.  

Consistent with earlier tasting with a layer of smokiness ... Rustic orange color, crisp, full-bodied, complex and zesty, lively red currant, red berry and citrus fruits with a good core, fine acidity, crisp texture, chalky minerality and hint of apple, smoke and spice with a long, vibrant finish.

RM 89 points.

Hall Exzellenz Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

A couple years ago, Alec's boss contacted me seeking advise on a celebratory wine to gift to key clients for the Christmas holiday. I suggested this label with its classic name, super premium standing, and of course its holiday festive red and gold label. While this was an allocated wine with limited access, we garnered our wine club privileges and obtained two cases of this wine. In light of recent celebratory events, it was fitting to open this tonight. 

This is sourced from the finest blocks of the Sacrashe Vineyard which is just above the Rutherford Winery adjacent to the estate home. We were introduced to this wine during our Winery Tour and Tasting back in the summer of 2017 and prior to that back in 2013.

Jeb Dunnuck gave this 99 points, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 95 points and Wine Spectator 91 points. 

Tonight this was the WOTN - Wine of the Night. 

Jeb Dunnuck describe this wine's "awesome depth and richness with crazy levels of purity".

Deep garnet-purple color, full-bodied, firmly structured yet perfectly balanced and silky smooth, elegant and polished, full concentrated black berry fruits with notes of crème de cassis, graphite, hints of cigar box and what Robert Parker described as tree bark turning to a long sinewy spicy oak laced finish. 

RM 96 points

Del Dotto Napa Valley Vineyard 887 St. Helena Connoiseur's Series Colbert French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

Succumbing to some sentimentality, I selected this label from our extensive Del Dotto holdings. The kids encountered the Del Dotto experience on their honeymoon last month. This label has a special place in my heart with fond memories of our prior trips to Napa. 

We tasted and then procured this wine during our Napa Valley, Del Dotto Winery and Caves Tasting and Tour in 2018. This single vineyard designated select label is crafted from fruit from the Del Dotto 887 St Helena Vineyard. This vineyard is named for the address, 887 St Helena Highway, on the south approaches into the town. 

The property is the site of a guest cottage, amidst the vineyard surrounded by the vines. Linda and I had the pleasure of staying in the cottage during a Napa Valley Del Dotto winery, estate, vineyards and cave tour back in 2003.

The single vineyard designated label didn't exist back then, it came along the next year, but we didn't discover the label until our 2018 estate and winery visit and tour. We purchased this label at that time, much in remembrance of that earlier visit, and had great anticipation of tasting this

This is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Crafted in the unique Del Dotto method, it is part of the Del Dotto Connoisseur's Series where the same wine will be aged in different oak barrels of different oak varieties for the ultimate comparison tasting experience. This version was aged in Colbert French Oak. Robert Parker gives this wine 95 points and an aging window of 2018 out to 2040. 

We have hosted wine dinners where we served a flight of the Connoisseur Series of the same wine aged in different oaks. Only the most discriminating experienced enophiles appreciated and discerned the subtle differences. 

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex, concentrated, forward, structured black berry and tangy black currant fruits with notes of pipe tobacco, black tea, graphite and hints of milk chocolate, anise and spicy cinnamon turning to firm but silky smooth approachable tannins on the long tangy acidic lingering finish. Needs a few more years to settle, soften and integrate further.

RM 94


Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2015 

 We tasted and acquired this wine during our Lewis Cellars Estate Visit and tasting in 2017. This label is a family favorite about which I've written many times in these pages. Like Del Dotto above, Alec and Vivianna also visited Lewis during their recent honeymoon.

The winemaker notes say; "Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" best captures the character of our rocking 2015 Reserve Chardonnay. Ripe succulent D'Anjou pear, gardenia blossom, sweet mineral spice and toasty brioche aromas come singing through. Broad shouldered with creamy textured leesy flavors, the wine reaches great depth while maintaining precision and serious structure."

Butter colored, medium full bodied, very pleasant bright vibrant crisp notes of citrus laced pear with notes of floral, soft sweet oak and hints of lychee fruits.

RM 92 points.

Warres Quinta da Cavadihna Vintage Port 1990

After dinner Linda served a medley of deserts and ice cream
with fresh berries. With the dessert flight we served a 1990 vintage release from Alec's birthyear, Warres Quinta da Cavadihna Vintage Port 1990.
Warre’s is a classic port producer that dates back to 1670. It was the first British Port company established in Portugal and therefore the pioneer of a great tradition; its history is synonymous with that of Port itself and the British influence in the trade.
Warre’s premium wines are sourced from Quinta da Cavadinha and Quinta do Retiro Antigo, two of the finest estates of the Douro valley. 
The owners and producers today are British, Peter Symington and his son Charles who assists in managing the vineyards and wine making. Symington has been made ‘Fortified Wine Maker of the Year’ an extraordinary 6 times by the ‘Wine Challenge’. Nobody else has won this important award more than twice. In 2003, his son Charles won the same award. 
Garnet colored, medium full bodied, hints of aniseed and liquorice with a touch of cinnamon with a backbone of pleasant raisin and fig notes. 
RM 90 points.