Monday, March 29, 2021

Viader Napa Valley Syrah 2004

Viader Napa Valley Syrah 2004

Following a gala dinner, Linda brought out her decadent chocolate dessert. On request, I trolled the cellar and pulled a hearty Syrah to map on to the Viader Proprietary Red Blend we had with dinner

We discovered and acquired this label in 2005 during our visit to the Viader estate property on lower Howell Mountain in 2008. A travelogue of photos of our visit are shown here or a selection are featured below.

This is sourced from the Viader estate vineyard on the lower reaches of Howell Mountain in the north east corner of Napa Valley. 

Designated a Napa Valley wine from the area normally suggests the source site is below 1200 feet elevation. Above that level would warrant a Howell Mtn designation. This is due to the demarcation point that the morning and late evening fog rises to that level thereby cooling the ripening grapes, resulting in a different microclimate above and below. In this specific case, the vineyard is at 1300 feet and they use Napa Valley in the greater content of region that encompasses several sub-appellations. 

Notably, according to the (rear) label, the fruit for this label is sourced from both Hermitage appellation in the French Northern Rhone River Valley and the Australian Barossa  valley appellation - two districts/regions known for distinctive Syrah/Shiraz. Accordingly, they attribute 'spice and fruit concentration' to the Barossa vines, and 'sleek and fragrant nuances' to the Rhones. 

This release was awarded 92 Points by The Connoisseurs Guide.

Dark garnet colored, medium plus bodied, black berry fruits accented by spice, earthy leather, black olives and pepper on a moderate finish.

RM 89 points. 

400 cases were made of the French-Oaked Syrah.


Views of visit to Viader estate vineyards and winery. 




Viader Napa Bordeaux Blend 1997

Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Bordeau Red Blend 1997

Our first dinner with the newlyweds Alec and Viviana upon their arrival in Illinois, Linda prepared a beef roast and I pulled from the cellar this Viader Napa Valley Red Blend. As I have written in these pages, this is one of the numerous "V" labels we have fun with as a tribute to our new daughter-in-law, Viv.

We met proprietor winemaker Delia Viader at a tasting hosted by Binny's Chicago Lakeview back in 2005, and visited the property on lower Howell Mountain in 2008

Our collection of Viader dates back to this 1997 vintage so it was with interest to see how this vintage has held up over the years to calibrate the lifespan of the other vintages. In the style of many Viader releases, this blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Cabernet Franc in the profile of a top Graves from Bordeaux.

We expanded our collection of Viader wines following our visit to the Viader winery estate on the lower reaches of Howell Mountain during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008.  

A travelogue of photos of our visit to the Viader are shown here or a selection are featured in the follow-on blog.  

We have since acquired and still hold close to a dozen vintages dating back to this 1997 release. As usual, as part of cellar collection management, I pulled this '97 vintage release, the oldest vintage in our collection.

The Viader 23-acre estate sits on the lower mountain at 1200 foot elevation overlooking Napa Valley. The vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah. Viader is known for its Bordeaux-style blends. 

The 1200 foot elevation of the estate is significant and notable as that is the height that the fog reaches above the valley floor and hence is the point at which below is designated Napa Valley, and above it designated Howell Mountain. This climatic difference creates a distinctive terroir due to the effects of the fog on the ripening vines.  

Napa Valley view from the Viader estate

This follows our tasting last evening of another of the 'V' series of labels we enjoy with and in tribute to to Viviana, the Venge Vineyards Scout's Honor.

The 'V' is the prominent branding of the producer and winemaker Delia Viader, a remarkable and impressive lady who was born in Argentina and educated in Europe before earning graduate degrees in the U.S., a notable role model for any career minded female. Delia spent much of her formative years in Europe and in France where she earned a doctorate in Philosophy from the Sorbonne University in Paris, then pursued advanced business studies in the US at MIT, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

Recognizing the potential Napa Valley wine industry in the 1980's, Delia acquired the Howell Mountain property and set out to create a world class wine estate, and continued studying Enology and Viticulture at University of California, Davis.  During this time she also raised her four children in the wine environment and culture.

Shown here is our meeting Delia Viader during a producer tasting evening sponsored by Binny's here in Chicago back in 2005. 

Viader Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 1997

This release was awarded 97 points Wine Spectator and was Ranked #2 Top 100 Wines of 2000.  It received 92 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who wrote, "The terrific 1997 Proprietary Red is the finest Viader I have tasted. It is a wine of exceptional finesse and elegance, yet undeniable richness and intensity." 
We acquired this label upon release and I first tasted and published a tasting note back in May 2000 when I wrote, "
Supposed to be one of California's best Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blends, this mountain-grown wine is bold yet moderately structured,  currant, blackberry, cassis and herb flavors. I found this unexciting and a bit flat - perhaps it needs more time... (RM 89)." 
My lackluster rating at that time was somewhat typical of my experiences with the 1997 vintage that underwhelmed relative to its lofty ratings and high volume hype. Indeed, it took a decade or more for many of the labels to emerge and open up and reveal their true character and profile and live up to their potential. 
Here is another example where, at two decades, it is now showing vibrancy in the fruits, moreso than when young. It showed subtle signs of diminution from aging with ever-so-slight signs of opacity and rust color hues setting in with a bit of funkiness as fruits give way to non-fruit notes, mostly upon opening which burned off somewhat after an hour. 
The fill level, label, foil and most importantly the cork, as shown, were perfect, as if new.
Vinous wrote in 2017, "This wine has a distinctly cool element, as well as more fruit retention than the Cask 23, and I could easily enjoy it for dinner tonight. Supple and fully evolved; seems just past its peak even if sweetness remains."

Dark garnet color with hues of purple, medium full bodied, complex but nicely balanced, black cherry, black currant fruits with notes of spice, toasty oak and hints of graphite and dark mocha on the tangy crisp acid and smooth silky tannin laced finish. 
RM 92 points. 




Venge Vineyard "Scout's Honor" Napa Red 2015

Venge Vineyard "Scout's Honor" Napa Valley Red Blend 2015

Son Alec and daughter-in-law Viviana arrived from Florida as part of their circuitous relocation from New York City to Chicago. As part of our welcome to them we opened this bold expressive casual sipper, one of our "V" wines, those featuring the letter 'V' on their labels or in their branding, as a tribute to Viviana, that we have fun with in our collecting and serving. 

As I have written often in these pages, we've been enjoying Nils and Kirk Venge' wines since the early 1990's when Nils was featured by Wine Spectator Magazine in a 1994 article on up and coming wine producers. 

One of the labels of the Venge portfolio is Scout's Honor named for the family Labrador Retriever. I remember Scout walking the rows in the vineyards with Nils during a visit to the Rutherford Penny Lane estate back in the nineties (shown right from our 2002 visit).

This wine was initially meant to be a fun sipper for the Venge tasting room, yet it became — and remains — one of the most popular wines of the Venge portfolio which has now grown to nineteen labels. 

 Scout's Honor is based on a tradition of producing a full bodied, delicious and enjoyable red wine that can be opened and enjoyed immediately upon release however when cellared correctly it will age for 5 to 8 years.

Scout's Honor starts as a unique proprietary red blend anchored by a base of old-vine Zinfandel and builds upon that with dry-farmed Petite Sirah, old-vine Charbono, and finish with mountain vineyard Syrah.  

The blend for 2015 70% Zinfandel, 14% Charbono, 9% Petite Sirah and 7% Syrah.

We have been collecting this label since the earliest releases in the mid-nineties and hold a half dozen vintages. We typically keep a half dozen vintages of this label on hand for easy, enjoyable smooth sipping with everyday fare, great with BBQ, burgers, pizza to hearty cheese, beef, fruits and chocolates.
I was surprised when I went to write up this tasting note that this was my first recorded tasting of this vintage.

Nil's has stepped down into retirement and winemaker and production duties are now with son Kirk who has raised the bar taking this label to new heights in recent years, earning 93 or 94 points from Wine Advocate for vintages 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

 Wine buddy Andy and I visited Kirk and Nils up at the Calistoga estate and the Signal Fire Vineyard back in 2002 (shown right).  

From a branding perspective, this may be the last year you see this packaging with a paper label as the 2018 release went to a more upscale painted on glass bottle label marking, moving to a more premium positioning for this label. It remains to be seen what happens to the price point. It is already priced at the high end of the Zinfandel range, but well worth it with its sophistication and complexity and quality of the blend. 

2015 Venge "Scout's Honor" Napa Valley Red Blend

This release got
94 points from Jeb Dunnuck and 93 points from
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

 Winery notes: "The base starts with old-vine Zinfandel from Venge's Signal Fire Vineyard in Calistoga (where some of those vines have been producing for over 100 years!) and build upon that with dry-farmed Petite Sirah, old-vine Charbono, and finish with mountain-vineyard Syrah from the Stagecoach Vineyard. The result is an unpretentious red wine that will satisfy time and time again. This vintage has a gorgeous, concentrated assemblage of aromas of stone fruits, crushed blue herbs, violets, cherry, anise, and a touch of honeysuckle. On the palate is pure richness from the old-vine Zinfandel with loads of super-ripe blackberry, pepper spice, and an enveloping masculinity of char and tannins from the Syrah, Charbono and Petite Sirah. A seamless balance and mouth coating deliciousness are found throughout the palate, with an extra-long finish."

Deep garnet-purple colored, full bodied, rich, bold expressive dense, forward, especially ripe black berry and black currant fruits, this is another fruit bomb that is almost a bit over the top with its super ripe fruits' opulence, almost bordering on raisin notes with a bit of burnt coffee and tobacco notes turning to anise and dark bitter mocha with hints of cedar and pepper on the long moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 89 points.