Sunday, April 4, 2021

Holiday Family Dinner features special wines

Gala Easter Holiday Family Dinner features selection of special wines

The family gathered for a gala Easter Holiday dinner and we pulled from the cellar several select special wines for the occasion. Two of the wine highlights were a couple of birthyear vintage wines to commemorate special occasions. Son Alec and Vivanna are staying with us as they transition to their new Illinois home as soon as their furniture and belongings arrive from NYC. Moreover, it is Alec's birthday, hence we pulled a birthyear vintage label from a producer with a legacy of roots from Ryan's employer. Similarly, son Sean and Michelle are celebrating a family milestone announcement so we pulled a select label from a premier producer from his birthyear vintage. 

The boys also pulled from the cellar some special selections to taste for the occasion.  

Linda prepared beef tenderloin with baked potatoes, grilled asparagus and salad. Prior to dinner we had a selection of artisan cheeses, fresh shrimp and fresh fruits that we served with champagne. From Magnum we served Peiper Heidseick special bottling followed by a bottle of Moet Chandon Imperial. 

For the dinner course we had a selection of Bordeaux varietal wines from some special select producers and a range of vintages including two aged releases from son's birthyears:

Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990

Chateau Leoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 1985 

Dunn Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Cliff Lede Stags Leap District 2017



Château Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases, St Julien-Beychevelle, Bordeaux 1985

Our visit to Château Léoville Las Cases was a highlight of our visit to the St Julien appellation a year ago. I wrote about it in detail in a chronicle in these pages. Indeed, we booked the estate visit and arranged our travel and other events around this cornerstone event. At that time we were focus on our collection of 1990 vintage bottles to be served at son Alec's wedding. Tonight, we focused on the 1985 vintage release to commemorate son Sean's special family announcement. 

We hold a half dozen bottles in an OWC case that we acquired back upon release that we are at this stage holding for such special occasions, so I was eager to try this bottle to see how it is holding up and aging in our cellar. Indeed, our Cellartracker records include a tasting we did of this label for dinner the night before he set off for college fourteen years ago. 

Our last tasting of this label was in the month leading up to our Bordeaux trip and our visit at the Chateau. We opened a bottle when we received our invitation to visit the estate.

This is a classic Bordeaux Blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

At thirty-six years this is on the cusp of the end of the posted drinking window set for this wine by Cellartrackers - indicating it is at the end of its prime drinking window, not expect to improve further, rather expected to start to diminish from this time forward with further aging. 

True to form, I tasted and rated this without any indication or reference of earlier tastings or reviews for this label. My review was the same as the prior tastings and notes were consistent therewith as well. Tonight's tasting largely was consistent with that last experience twenty months ago, except that tonight the color held up well and did not exhibit any of the diminution of slight orange bricking. Notably, the cork was a bit saturated and softening and would soon be at risk of losing its integrity in the intermediate term.

Consistent with my last tasting back on 7/8/2019, "Deep garnet colored, medium-full bodied, elegant, complex but nicely integrated dark berry and black cherry fruits with notes of floral violets, tobacco, oak and hints of graphite, cigar box and leather on a tangy black cherry lingering finish of supple smooth, polished tannins. Over the course of the evening, it opened more to reveal layers of floral and fruits and accents."

RM 93 points.

This wine got 98 points from Wine Spectator who called it "A fabulous wine; one of the first great Las Cases.", 94 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 95 points Wine Advocate's Neal Martin.

Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990

To celebrate son Alec's birthday and relocation to Illinois from New York we opened a Napa Cab from his birthyear vintage. This producer was the family of the legendary co-founder and primary developer of Oracle software, son Ryan's company. So it was fitting and fun that we could open it with Ryan and son Alec in a special vintage release.  I wrote about the Oakville Ranch property, its history and terroir in a detailed blogpost at the beginning of last year.

This release was awarded 93 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points from Robert Parker. 

At thirty plus years of age it was still holding its body, color and fruit and was not showing signs of diminution from aging. The cork was most but still intact. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright expressive concentrated but nicely balanced and integrated black currant, cherry and plum fruits with notes of cedar, cassis, spice and oak with moderate balanced tannins on the long finish. 

RM 92 points.


 Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

Dunn Vineyards is one of he most extensive holdings in our cellar spanning four decades of vintages split between the producer's two labels, the Howell Mtn and this Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. 

For our gala wine dinner, the boys pulled from the cellar this classic Napa Cab from this legendary producer from the 2001 vintage, one that should be at its peak and drinking at its prime right now, as part of our flight spanning 35 years of vintages selected.

We also collect and hold numerous vintages of winemaker Randy Dunn's "Feather" Cabernet produced from Washington State Columbia Valley marketed under the Long Shadows Vintners Collection that features world class winemakers and Columbia Valley fruit.

We visited the Dunn Vineyards estate up on Howell Mountain and met legendary producer Randy Dunn during our our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience back in 2008.

 Randy Dunn Cabernets are known to be long-lived and we are holding many vintages dating back four decades - longer than we would similarly situated wines. We pulled this one at two decades to get a taste of a vintage likely showing well, perhaps at the peak of its drinking profile.

This label was awarded 91 points by Connoisseurs Guide and 90 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Deep ruby/purple colored, medium to full-bodied, expressive forward black berry and black currant fruits with notes of floral, oak, earthy leather and hints of cola, pencil lead and what Connoisseur's Guide referred to as "black walnuts".

RM 91 points.


Cliff Lede Stags Leap District 2017

Ryan brought this from his cellar as a young recent release comparison in our diverse flight of reds. He's a member of the Lede wine club and has an extensive selection of labels. We've visited the Lede estate and vineyards in Stags Leap District on several of our trips to Napa Valley. 

The fruit for this label was sourced from the hillside terraces of the Poetry Vineyard, the Twin Peaks Vineyard estate surrounding the winery, and a few neighboring vineyards in the Stags Leap District. The wine is composed of small lots selected from the best blocks, representing a diverse range of carefully selected clones and rootstocks. The diversity of Poetry’s exposed, rocky terraces boasting volcanic origins, to the ancient riverbed alluvial soils of Twin Peaks, the breadth of contributing sites translates into a wine of impressive complexity. We hold a vertical collection of this label going back a dozen vintages.

Winemaker Notes
The 2017 Stags Leap Cabernet is darkly ruby/purple colored and possesses vibrant aromas of violets, lavender, blackberry, huckleberry, black licorice, and warm chocolate covered cherries. Juicy, penetrating, and conveying terrific depth, this gorgeously flavored wine possesses layers of blood orange, cardamom, cocoa powder, and slate. The long opulent finish continues on with notes of minerals, loam, pan grille, cassis, whilst the supple tannins go on supporting the well framed structure.
Production was 5,648 cases.
This wine was awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast, 94 points by Vinous and 91 points by  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. It contains small amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc for complexity and structure. 
This was the standout of the diverse flight being the youngest, but also was the most vibrant and expressive with dark garnet color, medium full body, complex bright bold dark fruits, notes of menthol and clove spice turned to mocha, floral and hints of menthol on a soft tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 93 points.


A selection of photos from our visit to Château Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases, St Julien-Beychevelle, Bordeaux

The Grand Vin is the product of exceptional terroirs from the former Léoville estate. The estate vineyards are located mainly in the Clos Léoville Las Cases along the D2 route running along and overlooking the Gironde River. They lie at the northern edge of the appellation just outside the village of Saint-Julien Beyechevelle village as you descend the hill heading north toward the appellation and village of Pauillac. There they meet and are adjacent to the legendary First Growth Chateau Gran Vin Latour estate and Pichon Longueville Comtess de Lalande, and Pichon Baron just across the road, in the Pauillac appellation. The vineyards extend over nearly 135 acres comprised of Bordeaux sanctioned varietals Cabernet Sauvignon (66%), Merlot (24%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) with an an average age of 52 year old vines.
The Clos represents a terroir of very great complexity composed of Quaternary gravel ("graves") over gravelly sand and gravelly clay subsoils. The vineyards run along the Gironde River and the proximity to the river has created the wide diversity of soils, formed over various geological periods.

The legendary estate produces distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc Bordeaux grape varietals that are predominant in the blend resulting in a complex, polished expressive  characteristics which are unique to the Grand Vin of Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases that has been widely recognized as one of the premier producers of the Medoc for decades. 


The chai contains a series of connected buildings with production facility, blending halls with laboratory and command and control center, the barrel storage halls, bottling room, shipping and storage room and the historic vintage library storage area.  

The grand vin is kept in the prime tanks while the second wine is produced in the square tanks in the another production hall. The control center has precise control over each tank during all phases of the process.

The barrels are racked monthly to remove any sediment and top off the level that is lost to evaporation. The aging barrels are kept in a precise temperature controlled facility.

It was a great treat to tour the cellars and see the extensive Las Cases library of vintages dating back in the 20th century including historic legendary top vintages such as 1959, 1961, 1975, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1990 and others. Here is our 1985 vintage!

The historic Chateau contains lounges, meeting rooms and a elegant formal tasting room. The Chateau overlooks a formal garden and fountain with views of the Gironde River in the distance.

The Clos du Marquis vineyard to the south of the Leoville Las Cases Grand Clos vines, overlooking the Gironde river, covers 12 acres. It is planted with 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.