Sunday, December 20, 2020

Pride Napa Valley Cabernet 1995

Pride Mountain Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

As part of our gala family Christmas celebration dinner, Ryan pulled from the cellar this aged vintage Napa Cab for tasting alongside the other Cabs. 

I noted in a tasting note recently, this wine is at its apex, will not improve with any further aging and should be consumed as it will start to diminish in due course. As such, this is our third tasting of this vintage label release this year as we drink up!

In a November blogspot tasting note I wrote: "At twenty-five years, this is amazingly showing well and not exhibiting any diminution from age. I noted in earlier posts several years ago that this was showing its age. Perhaps these were bottle variations which might explain the negative review, not the positive. Ideal provenance of this bottle in our cellar since release shows the true age worthiness of the label. While likely at its apex, it will not improve with any further aging and should be consumed as it will start to diminish in due course".

Earlier this year, in May, I wrote: "Consistent with earlier tasting notes, "Dark, full bodied, firm, initially closed and tight, after a while it opened up to reveal big full complex dark blackberry and black currant fruits accented by anise, with hints of spice, dusty cedar, and a subtle sweet dark mocha on the full firm lingering tannin finish."

Hill-Family Estate Origin Napa Valley Red 2016

Another wine served during our gala family Christmas celebration dinner ...

Hill Family Estate Origin Napa Valley Red 2016

The newlyweds Alec and Vivianna visited Hill Family Estate during their forest fire shortened honeymoon in Napa in September. They visited the new estate winery, located just minutes south of Yountville just off the highway. They tasted this wine there and acquired it as part of their wine club allocation.

The Hill Family, lead by patriarch and proprietor and fourth-generation farmer Doug Hill, started producing their own branded portfolio of wines after four decades of farming grapes for some of the finest Napa Valley wineries.

Doug grew up in Healdsburg on the family farm. After earning a degree in Plant Sciences at Cal State Fresno and traveling some, Doug returned home to Sonoma County in 1978 where he learned the art of vineyard management while working at Sonoma-Cutrer. 
After settling in Yountville, Doug managed the extensive holdings of the Jaeger family before starting Oak Knoll Farming. Doug and Darci Hill settled down on an acre of land at the northern edge of Yountville in 1981 where they raised their family, Ryan who runs the sales division, and Carly who lives and works in San Diego and hosts tastings and dinners in Southern California.

Hill Family Estate produced their first wines in 2001, a Merlot and a red blend called Origin.
Today, the Hill Family owns 120 acres of vineyards with a properties on Atlas Peak, in Carneros, Oak Knoll and American Canyon. They are 100% family-farmed, family-owned and family-operated. Production ranges between 9,000 to 12,000 cases annually sourced from 12 different estate vineyards allowing them to select the highest quality fruit for their wines. 
The Hill family began to select and plant their own vineyards in the 1980’s, using their intimate knowledge of the diversity of Napa Valley terroir - the range of microclimates, soil variations and the many subtle growing factors which influence the characteristics of the grape and the resulting quality of wine. They planted Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Albariño, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the Carneros appellation. They planted Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Oak Knoll district, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah at 1,500 feet elevation near Atlas Peak; both areas with a perfect environment to develop the rich berry flavor and intense fruit color that make these red wines some of the best in the world.
The Hill Family portfolio has grown to over twenty five different labels across the broad range of varietals, blends, and single vineyard designated offerings.  
Hill Family Estate winemaker Alison Doran joined the team and crafted the inaugural 2001 vintage. Alison was introduced to Doug while he was growing grapes and she was making wine for Lewis Cellars, another one of our benchmark favorite producers, and the other estate visit tasting the kids attended during their shortened honeymoon. Alison developed her skill while being mentored by renowned wine expert Andre Tchelistcheff, completing a degree in winemaking at UC Davis and spending time in the legendary wine region of Alsace, France. Today, Doug and Alison work closely together selecting the highest quality grapes and producing ultra premium wines
Origin is their Bordeaux blend comprising all five Bordeaux varietals sourced from Hill Family estate vineyards - Cabernet Franc that Doug planted at the Beau Terrior Vineyard which had its first harvest in this release, hillside Merlot at Beau Terroir in Carneros, and Beau Terre in Oak Knoll for added structure and plushy fruit, Malbec, adds big color and lower tannins, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc add serious texture to balance the Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon adds 'dignity' to all blends.  

The composition of 2016 Origin is
55% Merlot, 18% Malbec, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from Carneros, Oak Knoll, Yountville and Atlas Peak Appellations.
Production was 960 cases.
The blend was aged in 68% new oak barrels aged for 16 months (of the new barrels, 61% French oak (Nadalier, Treuil Terroir, Orion, Tonnellerie O), and 7% American oak (Canton).
Winemaker Alison Doran’s tasting notes: "The 2016 Origin has lovely aromas of raspberry and roses. The broad entry has a big mouthful of berries and crunchy cherry. The ripe and intense mid-palate rolls into more sweet fruit –blueberry, red currant, and plum, with subtle tannins rounding out the finish.

This was a superb addition to our two big hitters, the premium Bordeaux and Napa Cab. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright vibrant black raspberry, currant and plum fruits with spice, oak and tangy acidity on a full tannin laced lingering finish.

RM 91 points.


Gala Family Christmas celebration wine dinner

Gala Family Christmas celebration surf & turf dinner features festive flight of red and white wines

The family gathered for our gala Christmas celebration and we feasted on surf and turf and a festive flight of red and white wines. We Decked the Halls with a flight of Hall wines - a top ranked red and two whites, one from Napa and one from Sonoma.

Offspring ... kids, grand-kids ...

Before dinner we had an extensive selection of artisan cheeses and holiday sweets accompanied by Pierre Gimmonet et Fils 1er Cru Champagne

Dinner started with Linda's signature lobster tails on a ramaken of buttered croutons. With this we served a Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a Walt Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, and a Fantesca Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Dinner featured Linda's signature grilled beef tenderloin served with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, haricut verts, and sauteed spinach in a Madeira sauce. For the main course we served two very special wines, Château Léoville Las Cases 1990 and Hall Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet 2015, two memorable wines ideally suited to the occasion.

Later with deserts and after dinner treats Alec opened a Hill Family 'Origin' Napa Valley Cab, and Ryan pulled from our cellar a 1995 vintage Pride Napa Valley Cabernet

It was a wonderful memorable gathering with family after a tumultuous year.  

Château Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases, St Julien-Beychevelle, Bordeaux 1990
I wrote about birthyear celebration wines for son Alec's wedding this summer. To contribute and join in the celebration dinner, I took from our cellar a flight of very special wines I have collected over the decades and held for this occasion, from the birthyear vintages of the bride and the groom. Fortunately, his birthyear 1990 vintage was one of the most spectacular of a lifetime.
Three times, wines from that vintage were awarded #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine as part of their annual Top 100 Wines of the Year, all from the 1990 vintage. A testament to the global success of the vintage, one was from California, one from Bordeaux and one from South Australia, a further testament to the amazing spectacular 1990 vintage. 
We served those three wines at Alec and Vivianna's wedding celebration dinner. All those wines were acquired upon their release back in the early nineties, in some cases, even before being so recognized and heralded. A fourth wine from that vintage was also part of the wine flight, the 1990 Château Léoville Las Cases. 

At the time, I wrote that "we're holding a case plus several bottles of Alec's 1990 birth year release that we'll most assuredly celebrate with him, family and friends as part of his wedding festivities in the coming year". 
Since the wedding festivities were significantly scaled back due to the Covid pandemic, we didn't get to serve most of these. So, tonight, we opened another one as the 2020 celebrations continue. 

Linda's and my visit to the Chateau was one of the highlights of our trip to Bordeaux last year both because we've been fans of and have been collecting this wine for four decades, and because it was going to feature prominently in our once in a lifetime celebrations. 
This wine was awarded 96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, he projected the drinking window at the time, in 2009 to be "now-2035".  Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar gave it 94 points, Wine Spectator 93 points. Neal Martin gave it 95 points in his Wine Journal.  
As with an earlier tasting of this wine, this bottle had a good above neck fill level, the foil, label and cork were all in exceptional, excellent condition, the wine was great, drinking very nicely and still at a peak drinking level, showing no signs of diminution whatsoever, dark inky garnet purple, medium full bodied, elegant, polished, smooth, complex but perfectly integrated and balanced, sweet blackberry fruits, notes of graphite, leather, cassis, tobacco on a lingering balanced finish with tangy acidity and smooth approachable silky tannins. 

RM 94 points. 



Hall Jack's Masterpiece Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

HALL Wines is a 500-hundred acre estate in the Rutherford Hills of Napa Valley. It was established in 2003 when Craig and Kathryn Hall acquired the historic Bergfeld Winery and then remade it into a state-of-the-art facility. Today Hall has ten estate vineyards and two wineries and hospitality centers, one in St Helena and one in Rutherford. 
Before getting into the wine business, both were successful luminaries with meritorius careers, Craig Hall created the HALL Group at the age of 18 in 1968, a business in college rooming houses and apartment buildings. Over time the company diversified into the HALL Park in Frisco Texas, the KPMG Plaza at Hall Arts in downtown Dallas and a financial services firm. Craig has invested in oil, American Airlines and the Dallas Cowboys.

Kathryn was a successful businesswoman, community activist, attorney and in 1991 ran for mayor of Dallas. She was Ambassador to Austria under the Clinton administration. Kathryn’s family had been in the wine industry for several decades as grape growers in Mendocino County where she and her brother managed their family property for 10 years. 

This is another very special wine for a several reasons; it is devoted to family, it is based on artwork, and it is a birthyear vintage for two of our grandkids. Our dearly beloved Lucy was an artist, our daughter Erin was educated in Art, Art History and Fine Arts, and taught art for several years, and Linda is a budding artist and studied and taught art history. 

Shown 2013 Jack's Masterpiece
Each year, HALL’s former winemaker and current president, Mike Reynolds, returns to his first love and blends a signature Cabernet Sauvignon known as “Jack’s Masterpiece,” named for a piece of artwork that decorates the label. The painting was created by Mike's son Jack as a Father’s Day gift  when he was only 18 months old. Every year Mike steps back into the cellar to create this signature blend and he chose this very special painting to appear on the label. Mike oversees the blending of this special wine to create a deeper expression of Cabernet Sauvignon. “This is a wine that really demonstrates the depth and muscularity of the fruit we source from our HALL St. Helena estate and Sacrashe vineyards,” he says. 

The 2015 HALL Jack’s Masterpiece is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Winemaker notes: "The 2015 yields highly complex aromas, lead by ripe dark fruits, espresso, dark chocolate and loads of crème de cassis currently on parade. The hedonistic nose continues to bring you back to the glass for more. Crème de cassis, pencil lead, dark cherry reduction, mocha, anise and red bell pepper flavors all marvelously build in the glass. Intense and focused, with moderate tannins, this is an extremely age-worthy wine that needs at least one more year of bottle age before it begins to hit its stride."

Dark inky purple colored, rich concentrated dense black fruits, powerful and structured yet elegant, polished, smooth and approachable with jammy fruits accented by dark chocolate, expresso bean, hints of licorice and baking spices with gripping sinewy fine grained tannins on the lenghty finish. This should be delicious over the next decade or more. 

RM 95 points. 

This release was awarded 97-99 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 96+ by The Wine Advocate, and 91-94 points by Vinous / International Wine Cellar.

Also see...

More to follow ... 

Kinsella Dry Creek Valley Cabernet 2017

Kinsella Dry Creek Valley Spencer Vineyard Cabernet 2017

Son Alec and wife Viv arrived from NYC as part of their journey to relocate to the midwest from Manhatten. Part of the campaign includes moving his wine cellar holdings to our cellar for interim storage. His collection includes a portfolio of exciting new labels we hope to be introduced to and explore in the time ahead. The exposition began with him opening this premium label Sonoma County Cabernet. 

This is the label of Kevin Kinsella who founded Kinsella Estates in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley in 2007. Kevin bought a 12-acre vineyard in the foothills of the western edge of Dry Creek Valley and hired legendary winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown to lead his project.

Kinsella is founder of the private venture capital fund, Avalon Ventures, which funded the first big data company, multiple billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, the first touch screen for the Apple iPhone, the first mega social gaming company and the radically new stealth vessel for the Navy SEALS. Avalon has participated in and helped develop more than 120 different companies. As a consultant to the Peruvian government, Kinsella developed the first international marketing plan for the remarkable Andean grain, quinoa. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Kinsella is also a Tony Award winner as he gained further fame and fortune as the largest individual investor in the musical Jersey Boys, which became a worldwide smash hit becoming the 12th longest running musical in the history of Broadway playing to nearly 23 million people worldwide in five locations worldwide over a decade. 

The musical Jersey Boys not only provided resources to pursue his passion for wine but also was the impetus for the name of one of the three vineyards on the estate named after the musical.

Kinsella Estates is situated in a private valley in the foothills of the western edge of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg, situated at an elevation of 500 feet above the Russian River. The valley provides a warm climate that seldom sees a winter frost, some hills even grow citrus trees. The valley runs east-west and is planted with 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines on steep eastern hillsides made of loamy, metamorphic soil.

The estate has three vineyard blocks; the six acre Jersey Boys Vineyard, Spencer Vineyard is four acres, and two acre Heirloom Vineyard (formerly Tamara Vineyard), a steep sloping 17-year-old parcel wedged between an arroyo and a knoll of Spanish oaks, 

The Kinsella Estate property is a bit unique spot because the Dry Creek AVA is known primarily for the predominant varietal Zinfandel and not much Cabernet. This vineyard however gets plenty of sunshine to provide appropriate terroir for the Bordeaux varietal. 

The Heirloom Vineyard was planted in 2001 with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Jersey Boys Vineyard was replanted in 2008, utilizing four Cabernet Sauvignon clones, with two thirds of an acre planted to Wente clone Zinfandel and eight rows to Petit Verdot. 

With the purchase of the the 12-acre vineyard estate, his business instincts took over. "Part of the philosophy of venture capital is to go with the best people you can," explains Kinsella, who hired talented winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown as winemaker in 2007. Prior to Kinsella, since 2000, Brown had crafted 37 individual bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon for Schrader Cellars. Twenty of those releases earned ratings of 95 points or higher on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale, including a pair of 100-point 2007s. Ninety-one is the lowest score in the bunch.

Working with Thomas Rivers Brown are viticulturist Kelly Maher and Josh Clark of Clark Vineyard Management. Josh is the son of Tom Clark of the family wine label Clark-Claudon. Josh says he started in this business at age 12, when he would spend the day with “the vineyard as his playground", and where he “practically grew up on a tractor.” Josh took over the family business in 2003 that Tom Clark, started in 1978 so that Tom could focus on the Clark-Claudon label. Notably, we hold twenty vintages of the Clark-Claudon label in our cellar collection dating back to the inaugural vintage 1994.

Kinsella Estates is the only vineyard property Josh farms in Sonoma County with the rest of his clients being in Napa County. Josh says Kinsella vineyards receive even sunlight throughout the day and the soils are well drained to accommodate Cabernet.    
The Kinsella team quickly set their sights on making the best-tasting Cabernet from Dry Creek, an area better known for Zinfandel. Success came swiftly with their very first vintage, the 2008, scoring 95 points at Wine Spectator.

Kinsella Estates produces 2,000 cases annually and has no plans to expand outside of what the vineyard has to offer, as Kinsella prefers to remain a single estate production. "Buying grapes to supplement a label would be considered absurd in Burgundy or Bordeaux," he says. Instead, he wants the Kinsella story to be about a single estate. "I have no need for other varietals," Kinsella says. "No need to amp up production. I'd be very happy just to do this perfectly." 

Kinsella Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley Spencer Vineyard Cabernet 2017

The premium label comes packaged in an extra heavy bottle (as heavy as I have ever seen in a standard 750ml!) forged to hold an embossed coin emblem with the Kinsella moniker and motto, "Su Una Stretta Di Mano" which is also on the rear label.

"Su Una Stretta Di Mano" (on a handshake) is a line from the Broadway show, Jersey Boys, but expresses perfectly the enduring bond forged among us, the sun, rain and soil, our excellent winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, our dedicated vineyard team... and our customers, who by buying and enjoying our wine - our passion - have joined that circle of friendship.'

Our wines let the fruit speak for itself - an expression of the terroir, the exceptional clones and the seasonal variation of sun and water in our vineyard. Kinsella Estates wines showcase beautiful expressions of the vineyard blocks from which they are made. Characteristics of the wines include expressive floral and dried herb aromas combined with bright fruit flavors and seductively smooth tannins.

Kinsella Estates Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot. Production was 508 cases.

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, intense concentrated forward black fruits accented by notes of menthol, cedar, cinnamon and clove spices with hints of cassis and leather on a bright acidic finish. Give it some time to settle and become a bit more approachable.

RM 91 points. 

The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Spencer Vineyard was awarded 95 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate in 2016.