Friday, June 25, 2021

Napa Reds and Sonoma Chardonnary for Surf & Turf dinner

Mini horizontal vintage tasting of diverse Napa Valley Bordeaux varietals and Sonoma Chardonnay for surf and turf dinner

We hosted 'in-laws' Jeff and Melissa visiting from California for an evening and grilled beefsteak and wine dinner. Jeff and Melissa are in-laws to my sister's daughter, our Niece Krysta. Linda prepared lobster tails and her classic tomahawk rib-eye steaks for the occasion. 

We pulled from the cellar two vintage Napa Valley wines that we acquired during a trip with our common connection, sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill. I also pulled a classic Sonoma County Chardonnay to accompany the lobster medallions.

We opened this hearty robust Sonoma Chardonnay with the lobster medallions served in ramakans on bread with drawn butter and ceasar salad.

Our wine flight with dinner .... 

Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay 2013

We toured the Russian River Valley during our Napa Sonoma Wine Experience 2017 year before last. We stayed on the coast in Bodega Bay and traveled the back roads between there and Santa Rosa to witness and experience the climate and topology that comprises the notable terrior of the area.

This is from the Green Valley AVA in Russian River Valley where, the grapes benefit from a cooling coastal influence that helps them ripen slowly and develop complexity.

From the Green Valley AVA site: "Green Valley is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County. It lies in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley, bounded by the towns of Sebastopol, Forestville and Occidental. It is very tightly delineated, both geographically and climatically, and is the most consistent and distinctive of any North Coast appellation in terms of soil, climate and flavor. The fog is Green Valley’s trademark."

The 2013 vintage was a fantastic growing season in the Russian River, with dry, moderate temperatures and cool foggy mornings

From the winery: "The 2013 Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Chardonnay is consistent from year to year. Passion fruit and floral aromas offer a mere hint of what’s on the palate: flavors of Muscat and Meyer lemon enhanced by flint and stone. A pleasant oiliness adds suppleness to the mouthfeel, but the vibrant acidity cleanses the palate and adds a succulent quality that makes one eager for another sip."

In my previous tasting I wrote that it was a bit much, almost overpowering for my more delicate sole entree at that time. Tonight this was an ideal pairing with the lobster medallions and I raise my rating as a result. This seemed to have softened and become more approachable with some additional age, or perhaps there was some bottle variation between this bottle and one I tasted two years ago. 

This was golden butter colored, full bodied, forward, round and firm with intense buttery and oaky tones and structure with expressive fruits - passion fruit, melon, floral, lemon, flint and stone.

RM 90 points.

Moving to the main course, son Alec assisted Linda in preparing tomahawk rib-eye steaks.  

Yates Family Vineyards Flower Merlot 2005

We tasted and acquired this wine during our visit to the Yates Family Estate vineyards high atop Mt Veeder during our Mt Veeder Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2011.  That was our custom in those days to focus on visiting one appellation per trip. This was especially useful as we could be efficient in not traveling long distances between sites, and it provided for a comparison tasting experience of like wines of similar terroir. 

Too many folks try to cover a too much during Napa Valley visits, or underestimate the time and effort to get from one site to another, especially if traveling up into the mountains. Having visited Napa Valley many times, we know the broader area and the specific appellations so we don't need to try to visit more than one area per trip. This is immensely more productive and enjoyable and significantly less stressful. 

Also, we plan our trips so as to visit in the off-season, off-peak, non-prime-time, when the producer's are more available and more relaxed. 

Many folks regale in visiting during the 'crush' (harvest) or at peak times when the producers are occupied and focused on running their business, tending to the most critical aspects of viticulture, harvest, or winemaking, bottling and so on. When meeting the actual producers and winemakers, this is much appreciated and respectful of their invaluable and precious time.  For many, this is the only time they really can focus on hospitality and promotion of their brand. Other times of the year, they need to delegate these tasks to subordinates who are dedicated to these tasks, if they have such resources at all.

We mastered this approach to visiting different wineries or estates, visiting off season, and by starting at the top of the mountain and working our way down from there. Then the worst drive, going up the mountain was at the beginning of the day, and it was 'downhill' from there the rest of day, literally and figuratively! 

It is also much easier to remember which trip was which, when a particular trip was dedicated to visiting one appellation, rather than several trips with no organization to differentiate the theme or focus of each. On this, our Mt Veeder focused trip, its easy to remember the estates and producers we visited and met, as it is for other similar approach trips such our visits to Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, and Spring Mountain, each separate and individually focused. 

We tasted, and acquired, the broad portfolio of the Yates Family Mt Veeder Estate Wines during our visit. A decade later, we're down to less than half a case and are enjoying these wines at fifteen years of age, or thereabouts, very likely at their apex of their tasting profile and window. We're also down to the last building of most of the half dozen labels that acquired during our visit to the estate.

While predominantly Merlot, this includes in the blend some Cabernet Sauvignon (4%) and Cabernet Franc (2%).

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant black berry, black raspberry and black cherry fruits, lively acidity, dark spices on a long moderate tannin finish.

RM 91 points.

We also opened another bottle from the same vintage, hence a horizontal tasting, two wines from the same vintage, but allowing for two diverse styles and terrior. The other bottle we opened was also from a visit with Sister Jan, and Bill, but to Howell Mountain, on the opposite 'corner' of Napa Valley. 

Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

From the same 2005 vintage, we opened about Napa Cab from a winery estate that we visited with sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill.

We've written numerous times in these pages about Ladera and our visits to the estate on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. We discovered this wine and purchased it following our visit to the Ladera Vineyards estate and winery up on Howell Mountain in 2006 and then again during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008
We last wrote about this vintage release of label back in 2017 and tonight's tasting experience was consistent with that one when I wrote the note below.

This exceeded my expectations as I had forgotten how good this release was. It was a proper succession from the lighter and softer Merlot based Yates with its firm structure and the big concentrated bright forward fruits. Tonight was consistent with earlier tastings, earlier this year and a previous tasting in 2017.

Dark blackish purple colored, full bodied, rich concentrated chewy forward black berry and black currant fruits with a firm backbone structure accented by notes of cedar and hints of graphite and subtle oak with a tangy nicely balanced lingering finish.

RM 92 points. 

Earlier tasting blogposts:

We were joined by neighbors Mandy and Chris, son Sean and daugher-in-law Michelle and another friend Bobby D. As a result we opened a flight of big reds. 

I feature these in a follow on post.