Saturday, January 30, 2021

Dowdell Napa Valley Soda Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Dowdell Napa Valley Soda Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

After our wine-dinner, we did another cellar dive and Dan pulled out this unique single label limited release Napa Cabernet that he picked up at auction. 

This label was marketed by Wilson Daniels a wine marketing firm who 'use education and brand-building to develop mutually rewarding, long-term relationships and strategic partnerships with luxury producers' to market and promote 'high profile fine wines featuring top terroir, that are benchmarks in their region'. 

One boutique merchant wrote in their promotion of this wine, 'We believe the project was initiated for a specific buyer in mind. That didn’t pan out and the wine wound up in limbo. Very little made to market. We just discovered it and we bought every single bottle we could get.' 

Essentially, someone had excess fruit, or wine, or as they said, proceeded on a wine production project that then needed marketing, promotion and distribution, developing a label and a brand. Since they were not owner producers, not producing 'estate' wines, these projects are often 'one-hit wonders', or less, if and when they don't live up to their hype or lofty expectations. They are fun and interesting experiments and experiences - just don't get attached to them as you may not see a follow on encore

This was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a single block of the former Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa, on the lower reaches of the Vaca Range above Silverado Trail, north of Atlas Peak, south of Howell Mountain. The Stagecoach Vineyard is one of the most storied legendary vineyards in Napa Valley.  Stagecoach fruit has sourced scores of premium and ultra premium bottlings by many top winemakers and labels over the years. The property was recently sold to E.J. Gallo which has caused much consternation through the Napa wine community and makes this independent bottling even more unique as a single vintage release appellation specific designated bottling, not likely to be repeated again? Cellartracker records indicate three vintages released - but only reviews for this 2014. With the only vintage reference on the rear label, who knows?

This label was crafted by notable winemaker Thomas Brown. According to The Terroirist Wine Journal, "Thomas Brown is the nation's hottest winemaker." He has received many 100-point scores from Robert Parker and James Laube. He was Food & Wine Magazine’ "Winemaker of the Year." He has lead or advised winemaking at Chiarello, Schrader, Outpost, Maybach, Revana, TOR, C. Mondavi, Jones Family, Harris Estate, Hestan, Seaver, Black Sears, Casa Piena and more.

I wrote about Thomas Brown and Chiarello in an earlier blogpost

This was aged for 19 months in 3 kinds of French Oak - Tonnellerie, Remond and Berthomieu.

This is packaged in an ultra-premium oversize, heavy glass bottle with a super deep punt. Unfortunately, the wine does not quite live up to the presentation of the packaging. 

Dark blackish inky purple, medium-full bodied, this wine is more defined by what it is not, rather than what it is, not overly dramatic or inspiring, not overblown, over-extracted or over-oaked, smooth, soft, balanced blackberry and black raspberry fruits with notes of cassis and tar, a touch of leather and spice turning to hints of aromatic floral notes and creme caramel on a smooth tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 90 points.

Super Big Red Wine Flight for Grilled Beefsteak Dinner

 Super Big Red Wine Flight for Grilled Beefsteak Dinner

Fellow Pour Boy wine buddy Dr Dan and Linda hosted Linda and I on a snowy winter evening. They prepared grilled New York Strip Steaks, baked potatoes, brussel sprouts, beets, and homemade baked onion soup. Before dinner there was a broad selection of artisan cheeses. These were great pairings with the Champagne and the Chardonnay.

Discussing the evening ahead of time, Dan offered he was going to serve a Howell Mountain Cabernet so I pulled one from the cellar to take as a comparison pairing.

The occasion was not only fellowship but also a celebration of Dan's recent successful surgery. 

The wine flight included vintage Champagne before dinner for the celebration and thanksgiving toast and to accompany the cheeses. Dessert was deliciously decadent Chocolate Tuxedo cake. I brought the remains of the dessert wine from the previous evening wine dinner for pairing. 

The wines:

Veuve Doussot Champagne Ernestine Millesime 2014
Gary Farrel Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017
Fleury Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Robert Craig Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Doubleback Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Château Suduiraut 1er Cru Classe Sauterne 2002

Veuve Doussot Cuvee Ernestine Brut Champagne Millesime 2014 

From the Aube region of Champagne, 150 km south of Epernay, midpoint on the route down to the City of Dijon. 

This vintage release is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It scored 92 points in Wine Spectator, and 91 points by International Wine Cellar.

Champagne colored, young vibrant nicely balanced fruit of apple and citrus with mineral texture and tight acidity.

Gary Farrel Sonoma County Russian River Valley Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Chardonnay 2017

This is a wine club exclusive allocated label. Dan became a member when we visited Gary Farrell with Dan and Linda during our Napa / Sonoma Wine Experience in 2017.. 

The grapes for this outstanding vineyard designated select Chardonnay come from two different blocks within the Allen Vineyard, planted just to the south of the Rochioli Vineyard. The diverse soil types and unique microclimates of this site provides ideal conditions for Chardonnay. Each clone and field selection were chosen to take advantage of the distinctive terroir of the specific soil type, elevation and exposure to the sun. 

Some of the oldest vines have been nurtured by three generations of the Rochioli family. This blend is composed of clones 76 and 15 from two blocks at the Allen Vineyard.

Winemaker's notes for this release: "Flecks of gold reflect brilliantly through an inviting straw hue as the 2017 Rochioli Allen Chardonnay is poured into the glass. Aromas of apple blossoms and chaparral clematis entice the senses upon first swirl. Elements of dried stone fruits coupled with citrus zest provide endless layers of complexity and verve. Focused minerality and crystalline acidity complete the package, delivering a stunning concentration of silky texture and balanced flavors."


Fleury Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Fleury Estate Winery is a family owned winery in Rutherford in the heart of the Napa Valley founded by Brian and Claudia Fleury in 2000, pivoting from a successful software business career in the Bay Area. We met Brian and Claudia at the Del Dotto Barrels and Beasts extravaganza shortly thereafter. Fleury and Del Dotto have been collaborators in various Napa Valley ventures. Back then I acquired some of their their earliest label, Lauren Bryce, named for their children. 

Fleury Estate wines are a favorite of son Ryan and several of his colleagues at Oracle.

Fleurys owns 50 acres of premium Napa Valley vineyards - eleven acres at the winery estate site in Rutherford, thirty acres in St. Helena, and six acres in Deer Park high atop Howell Mountain. This variation of different appellations and elevations enables Fleury to craft a portfolio of varying labels with consistent, high quality year after year. Total production is about 4,000 cases of wine per year.

The Fleury Estate, just south of St. Helena in Rutherford in the valley center, is home to the Fleury winery along with a hospitality center with tasting room, situated amidst the 11 acre estate vineyard. 

This label, Howell Mountain BDX is their play on the word Bordeaux, it is a red Bordeaux blend comprised primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Two hundred cases were produced.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, vibrant expressive blackberry fruit with sprites of plum and cherry accented by notes of tar, cigar box and leather with moderate tannins on a lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

I brought this from the cellar to compare with the Fluery Howell Mountain Cabernet. I've written often in these pages that Robert Craig, as well as Del Dotto are some of our largest holdings in our cellar collection, spanning more than two decades of vintage releases across numerous labels.

We've long been fans of Robert Craig and his family of appellation specific Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons featuring mountain fruits from three different Napa Mountains, Mt Veeder, Howell Mountain, and Spring Mountain District, and sometimes supplemented by another offering from Mt George.

We first met Robert back in the early 1990's when he was producing his handcrafted wines up on Atlas Peak. Robert started his winemaking career up on Mt Veeder and as such, this was his first Mountain designated release offering under the Robert Craig label, and fittingly, it is his favorite.

Shortly thereafter he released a Howell Mountain label which is typically my favorite, up until the limited release of his Spring Mountain District Cabernet in 2007 which I liked even more!

We've met with the Robert and Lynn Craig and various members of their team numerous  times during our Napa Wine Experiences (1998), during their visits here to Chicago, and have visited their Howell Mountain winery harvest parties and special events, and of course their tasting room in town in Napa.

Perhaps our most memorable Robert Craig experience was a special luncheon we held up at the winery during our Napa Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008 - Robert Craig on the lawn overlooking the vineyards, the valley below, and the opposing Mayacamas range across the Valley. A photo of that picturesque setting (shown above) was Linda's screensaver for years and the subject of one of her oil paintings. 

This Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is dark purple colored, medium-full bodied, focused blackberry and black raspberry fruits with smooth velvety texture, tones of soft sweet mocha with hints of cedar, spice and soft oak, a whisper of cedar and herbal notes on a polished smooth finish.

RM 92 points.


Doubleback Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Turning from Napa Valley and California to the north, Dan opened this Cabernet from Quarterback turned winery owner and producer Drew Bledsoe, very timely as we might have seen him play his last game in the NFL Playoffs series loss to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers who advance to the Super Bowl next week. 

We drove up to the Bledsoe property in the sloping foothills of the Blue Mountains in the southern reaches of the Walla Walla appellation during our Walla Walla Wine Experience back in 2018. 

This was Doubleback's first vintage to include estate-grown grapes in the blend. The 2011 cool vintage provided a challenge to winemakers in the Northwest as well as down in Napa Valley. This was crafted by legendary Columbia Valley winemaker Chris Figgins.

This won wide critical acclaim garnering 94 points and a 'Cellar Selection' from Wine Enthusiast, 92 from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and Wine Spectator.

Dark inky purple colored medium full bodied, vibrant ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruits, very similar to the Fleury above, but less complex, and lacking the polish and balance of the Robert Craig. Notes of truffle graphite and hints of creme de cassis with smooth tannin amid vibrant acid backbone cuts through its richness ending with a lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Château Suduiraut 1er Cru Classe Sauterne 2002

We enjoy sweet unctuous desert wines with salads, cheese or deserts. This was a nice finisher, a perfect complement to the final dessert course of decadent chocolate cake. 

This is a classic Sauterne, a blend of Semillon (94 %) and Sauvignon Blanc (6 %). Château Suduiraut is considered to be one of the finest Sauternes.

Golden honey, dark amber colored, full bodied yet delicate, nicely balanced fruit and floral aromas, complex roasted and candied notes of apple, vanilla and honey, medium sweetness and a long smooth silky finish.  Not as sweet and unctuous as some vintages, the fruit is more subdued lacking the apricot nectar and honey of some vintages. This showed plenty of botrytis, with predominate notes of smoke, marzipan, almond, ripe apple, and hints of vanilla on the tongue cloying finish.

RM 91 

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rated this wine 90-93 points, Wine Spectator, 90 points.