Saturday, May 29, 2021

Tomahawk Rib-eye and Napa Cab Dinner

 Cowboy Tomahawk Rib-eyes and Duo of Napa Cabs Dinner

Saturday night holiday weekend dinner, son Alec, bach'ing it for the weekend, joined us for grilled Cowboy tomahawk beefsteaks and a duo of Napa Cabs. 

Linda prepared perfect Pittsburgh style bone-in ribeyes and I opened two diverse Napa cabs, a classic Grgich Rutherford and a Piazza Del Dotto. 

 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998

As part of proper cellar management, consuming bottles that are at or nearing the end of their drinking window before they deteriorate, I pulled this 1998 vintage cab, the last of that vintage in our cellar, I believe. I've written often in these pages about the 1998 vintage that was a lackluster vintage overshadowed by the much hyped '97 and the follow on '99. Yet, for many years, the 98's were drinking very nicely, moreso than the much-heralded '97's that needed more time to open and reveal their true potential. And, they represented great values relative to their surrounding vintages. 

I have written in these pages before about Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a legend in the wine world and Napa Valley. He gained international recognition at the celebrated 'Paris Tasting of 1976' known as the Judgement of Paris, the historic blind tasting by a panel of eminent French judges did a comparison tasted of notable French wines opposite selections from upstart California Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked to learn they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich,  as the finest white wine in the world. The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world. The story chronicled in the book 'Judgement of Paris' and is told in a fantastic pop culture movie 'Bottle Shock'.

Thirty two years later, in 2008, 93 year Mike Grgich was was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in honor of his many contributions to the wine industry. His hallmark is a sporting blue beret. My earlier post chronicled his whimsical 'Blue Beret' label designated Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay.

Alas, after two decades, this last '98 represents the end of the drinking window for this vintage, it will certainly diminish from here on. 

This bottle actually was holding up well, showing only slight diminution from age with the garnet color losing its luster and that Rutherford Dust layer starting to overtake the fruits slightly. 

The ageability of this vintage was diminished by the somewhat austere fruits with lack of firm structure or backbone. At this point the fruits were hanging on but moderate. 

Showing its age, the label was soiled, but the fill level, cork and foil of the bottle were near perfect for the age.

This is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

Wine Spectator wrote about this label: "Well-balanced (for the vintage), austere and dry, with cedar, black cherry and green plum flavors that are appealing and complex. Turns tannic on the finish."

K&L, the respected and notable Bay Area wine merchant wrote, "the resulting flavors are a complex fusion of herbs, cherries and red currants. One of the riper 1998's we have tasted. Superb for the vintage!" 

Garnet colored with a ever-so-slight cloudy gray-brown hue starting to set in, medium bodied, balanced black cherry and plum fruits are starting to be overtaken by notes of cedar, wood, herbs and black tea with tannic acidity on the moderate finish. 

RM 88 points. 

Piazza Del Dotto Napa Valley American Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

As with the bottle above, practicing cellar management, I pulled the oldest of the several vintages we hold of this label. 

We tasted and acquired this wine during our visit to Piazza Del Dotto during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018 and the spectacular Del Dotto Delicacies Food and Wine Experience. We also tasted and acquired other variations of this bottling during our Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Tour Barrel Tasting during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017.

In contrast to the aged 1998 release above, this label is probably drinking at the apex of its drinking window now. I selected this as a perfect pairing with our grilled steak dinner and it proved to be right on!

Winemaker notes - Ripe red plum and baked almonds on the nose lead to oak-influenced clove and sweet tobacco with subtle layers of Mexican chocolate.  The first impressions on the palate burst with black cherry, black raspberries, stewed strawberries and rhubarb with a touch of pink peppercorns and kiss of oak with a long, clean finish.  

As I have written in previous blogposts, this American Oak bottling is part of a series where Del Dotto feature specific oaks in several of their bottlings including their classic Connoisseur Series.

This was an incredible perfect pairing with the the grilled steaks. 

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, well balanced, bright vibrant integrated black raspberry and blackberry fruits, polished and elegant accents of clove spice, tobacco leaf and hints of bitter dark mocha and sweet oak turning to tangy smooth tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 93 points.


Flinders Run Southern Flinders Ranges Shiraz 2005

Flinders Run Southern Flinders Ranges Shiraz 2005 

Hanging out for the holiday weekend, we opened our cellar for a tour to our new neighbor Mandy and her friend, colleague and guest Megan. She had professed to love big bold fruit forward wines, as we do. So, I pulled from the cellar a favorite big Aussie Shiraz for her to try for with the fresh garden salad and smoked grill dinner she and husband Chris were hosting/serving for the evening. 

As I have written in the past in this blog, this review from back in October, 2014 I wrote, "Favorite Aussie Shiraz - Flinders 2005 Aging Gracefully".

I raved about this wine when I discovered it several years ago and have featured it numerous times since in this blog. When I discovered this wine downstate in a local wineshop, I purchased some, then went back and purchased the remainder, then found and purchased more on-line. When I convinced local mega-merchant Binny's to obtain some more, I cleaned out their allocation too. At fifteen years, we still hold a half dozen bottles and continue to enjoy this big bold fruit filled Shiraz. Amazingly, tonight, it exceeded expectations and tasted as well as any remembrance I have of this label. 

Regretably, as I have noted in the past, this came on the scene with this and one other vintage release, then disappeared, not to be seen again. According to their website, it appears to still be in production, but its not to be found in distribution in Chicagoland, or in the on-line wine community.

Indeed, the Flinders Run website ( states, "We knew from the first trials of the 2001 and subsequent 2003 vintages that the Flinders Run wines were going to be something special, but nothing prepared us for the overwhelming success, we would experience with the release of the 2005 Vintage. Subsequent vintages have been crafted in the same careful manner exhibiting a consistency in flavour and style and most importantly capturing the elegance of region climate and above all varietal character."

That 2005 vintage got a raving 95 point review from legendary wine critic Robert Parker, 92 points from Steve Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and 91 points from Wine Spectator. Parker wrote,"Purple/black in color, the wine exhibits a big, brooding bouquet of pain grille, pepper, Asian spices, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice. This leads to a full-bodied (15.2% alcohol), super-rich, plush wine with layers of spicy black fruit flavors, excellent balance, and a long, pure finish. For a wine of this size, it is remarkably light on its feet. Give it 2-3 years to more fully evolve and drink it through 2020. This is quite a debut for Flinders Run!"

Winemaker's notes: "The 2005 Shiraz was aged for 18 months in French and American oak hogsheads with 50% new French oak staves. Purple/black in color, the wine exhibits a big, brooding bouquet of pain grille, pepper, Asian spices, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice. This leads to a full-bodied (15.2% alcohol), super-rich, plush wine with layers of spicy black fruit flavors, excellent balance, and a long, pure finish.

At fifteen years, this wine is ending its prime drinking window and starting to show its age as the intense fruit flavors are taking on a burnt raisin tone. Warning our neighbors and their dinner guest that this is not for the feint of heart, they dove in and loved the intense ripe raisin fruit tones and firm structure and gripping tannins.

I wrote about Flinders Run producer Emanuel Skorpos in an earlier blogpost. 

I recounted to the tasters that my recollection of the two vintages of this label, was that we liked the 2005 more than the 2006, being more approachable, more polished and balanced, while the '06 was bigger, more brooding and bold, but less polished or in no sense elegant. I selected the '05 tonight, dutifully to work off the older vintage, but also to test my recollection of it being my favored of the two, and to monitor its aging.

Consistent with our last post of this label,  Deep dark inky purple, "more subdued than the bigger '06, it retains all the nuances and character it exhibited in its youth - nicely balanced, polished, and flavorful. While the fruit is not as big and bold as its follow on vintage, the '05 still holds full, dense, complex layers of blue and black berry fruits, accented by licorice, hints of black pepper, and tones of black tea and what Parker refers to as 'pain grillé' which is the French word for 'toast'."

RM 93 points.