Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Team Beef Tenderloin Dinner features 2002 Napa Bordeaux Varietals

Team Dinner features Beef Tenderloin 2002 Napa Bordeaux Varietal Wines

I hosted my leadership team for a team building planning session kick-off dinner at our house. Linda grilled beef tenderloin and sockeye salmon with baked sweet potatoes and Idaho potatoes, with haricot verts. We served a horizontal flight of Napa Valley Bordeaux varietals with the dinner, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Franc, and a Bordeaux Blend of all five, all from the same 2002 vintage.

As noted in my blogpost about the fun of serving from Big Bottles, tonight we served the Flora Springs Trilogy from Magnum.  

Prior to dinner we served a selection of artisan cheeses with a refreshing white Sauvignon Blanc, which also complimented the caprese salad course, and the salmon entree.

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Prior to dinner we served a selection of artisan cheeses and a caprese salad accompanied by this Lede Sauvignon Blanc. 

As I've written numerous times in these pages, this is one of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs, one we keep on hand with each vintage release as one of our mainstay 'go-to' wines.

The primary vineyards and sources for Cliff Lede Napa Sauvignon Blanc are estate grown Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musqué. Another vineyard located in eastern Rutherford has old vines planted to a heritage Musqué clone and Sémillon.

Two other old-vine vineyards, both in Calistoga, contribute to the blend, one planted to Sauvignon Blanc and the other to Sémillon. 

In many vintages, they also include grapes from a cooler climate vineyard on the east side of Napa, imparting vibrant acidity and finesse to the wine.

A vineyard in Chiles Valley, a small pocket in eastern Napa County, east of Napa Valley, adds complexity with old vines of Sauvignon Vert planted in 1947.

The Cliff Lede winery estate and vineyards with their picturesque sculpture gardens at Yountville Cross Road and Silverado Trail are one of our popular visits during our many trips to Napa Valley. We've had many memorable visits there with the most memorable, our private tour and tasting during our Napa Wine Experience 2009.

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016

We hold nearly a half dozen vintages of this label and as part of cellar management, opted towards the oldest from 2016. It was still vibrant and refreshing and tasty at five years.

I wrote in a couple notes about this release that the peach sprites were more subdued or muted but tonight it resembled previous tastings where that was a highlight of the wine. Straw colored, light bodied, aromas of floral and apricot and flavors of peach predominate with tones of lychee, pear, apple, citrus and hints of lime with a crisp clean sharp tangy finish.

RM 90


Earlier tastings ...





Flora Springs 'Trilogy' Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2002

For the flight of Red Wines, we started with the most complex, a blend of all five Bordeaux varietals. Moreover, this was the most moderate and subdued wine, appropriately served first, before the more concentrated, bolder, bigger single varietals reds which would have overshadowed and overpowered this more delicate selection. 

We hold or have held over the years a dozen vintages of this label spanning three decades going back to the 1990, one of our favorite Napa Valley Bordeaux Blends. I chronicled this label in detail in a blogpost early last year

Tonight we served this from a larger format magnum. At nineteen years, this was still drinking quite nicely, still well within its acceptable drinking window, perhaps at its prime but not likely to improve any further with aging.

Tonight's tasting experience was similar to my notes from when I last wrote about this vintage release back in 2007 when I wrote, " Smooth, soft after an hour of settling, medium bodied but somewhat complex dark berry, black cherry, and a hint of essence of mocha on the medium finish." 

At that time, this release was awarded 92 points by Wine Spectator, 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points by Wine & Spirits. 

This release of this popular label was not limited to just three varietals as usual, this Trilogy contained all five Bordeaux grapes in the blend.

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, elegant and more subdued sophistication as opposed to bigger, more concentrated, bolder Napa Valley Cabernets, blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruits with notes of spice box, herbs, a hints of dark mocha with moderate soft tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 90 points.





Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2002

Colleague Ken was one of our guests tonight and he is a big fan of Del Dotto wines so I pulled this from the cellar for him. We're huge fans of Del Dotto, one of the larger producer holdings in our cellar. 

We've visited Del Dotto's several Napa Valley properties numerous times over the years dating back to their early years in the mid-nineties. Our most recent visits and tastings were highlights of our Napa trips - Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Tasting during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017. We then targeted the just opened Piazza Winery Delicacies Wine and Food Tasting Experience during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018. It was the highlight of our entire Napa trip.

I remember obtaining this label back when Del Dotto were producng was one of, if not the first vintage releases of this varietal in Napa Valley. Del Dotto were one of the first producers to bottle Cabernet Franc as a standalone bottling, a varietal typically used as part of a Bordeaux Blend to add depth and breadth of spice and structure or character to the blend. This is a great wine to keep on hand for special pairing with food highlighting the distinctive characteristics of this varietal. 

Like the other two 2002's, this was still drinking quite nicely, still well within its acceptable drinking window, perhaps at its prime but not likely to improve any further with aging.

I recall I had to bargain to obtain more than a very few of the allocated bottles at the time. Of course, by itself its big, bold. forward and expressive. 

At our last tasting of this release, four years ago, I wrote, "At fifteen years, this is aging very nicely and still holding well within its drinking window. Consistent with earlier tasting notes, dark garnet color, full bodied, bright cedar, cinnamon spice, raspberry, and hint of mocha on a big, long silky smooth tannin finish."

RM 91 points.  




Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 

This was the WOTN - Wine of the Night, darker, bigger, bolder and more fruit forward than the others, perhaps reflecting Mountain fruit vs those from the Valley floor.
It was apparent why Robert Craig considered his favorite of his five Napa Valley Cabernets (Mt Veeder, Spring Mountain District, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley Mt George in some vintages. 
As the biggest wine, it was appropriately served last, so as not to overpower the 'lesser' more delicate,  complex wines.

We've written throughout these pages of our Robert Craig cellar collection, one of our largest holdings, and our numerous visits to the estate winery and wonderful memories of hosted dinners with, and Tribute to the late Robert Craig.

This is a blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 
Robert Parker gave this 90 points, Wine Enthusiast 91 points, and Vinfolio 94.
Dark inky garnet colored, full bodied, rich concentrated, structured black berry and black raspberry fruits integrated with notes of cassis, clove spice, currant and licorice, turning to silky smooth  finely textured, supple tannins on the supple finish.
RM 92 points.  


After dinner Linda served grilled peaches and Tuxedo Chocolate cake with fresh berries. With the dessert court we opened this unique limited release Augusta Missouri Port.

Mt Pleasant Augusta Appellation Missouri Vintage Port 1988

For a dessert wine, I pulled from the cellar this label from the State of Missouri in light of the irony, that two of our guests tonight, colleagues Stacy and Kevin, are both from the area. Kevin actually knows this producer and has visited the winery on numerous occasions. 

We discovered and acquired this wine during a visit to Mount Pleasant Vineyards in Augusta, Missouri on our way to a Colorado ski trip thirty years ago shortly after its release. Interesting, amazingly, the Augusta Appellation AVA (American Viticultural Area) was the first government-appointed wine-growing district in the United States. 

We've held this thirty-three year old 1988 vintage release in our cellar since then, thinking we'd one day consume it with friends celebrating a 1988 anniversary or birthyear of one of their kids. That occasion never came, but tonight, it served its purpose commemorating the regional home of two of our guests.

Ironically, after thirty years, this producer winery was recently in the news as it was acquired by the Hoffmann Family of Companies, their sixth Missouri vineyard, adding to the 700 + acres that they already own in the area.

Mount Pleasant Vineyards is the oldest winery in the Missouri Augusta Appellation, established in 1859 with buildings dating back to the 1820’s, It was originally founded by the Muench brothers who built the first cellar in 1881, which is still used today to age Mount Pleasant’s estate-bottled wines including this award-winning Augusta Port. Their 1986 Vintage Port was the only Missouri wine to ever take a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Awards in London. 

The winery was closed and vineyards destroyed during prohibition. 

In 1966, it was revived when Lucian Dressel and his wife Eva purchased the property and Mount Pleasant was reopened as a winery. They replanted the vineyards with self-rooted vines and classic grafted European varieties, turning Mount Pleasant into a destination.

In 1980, Augusta was chosen to be the first government-appointed wine-growing district. The first officially designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) became known as the Augusta Appellation.

Keeping the winery in the Dressel family, Chuck Dressel’s family purchased Mount Pleasant from their uncle, Lucian Dressel, in 1992, and then, earlier this year in 2021, it was purchased and is being restored by the Hoffmann Family of Companies to it’s original colors and prestige.

Today, the Augusta estate grows nine grape varieties on 125 acres overlooking the Missouri River Valley.

Tonight, at thirty-three years, while this was past its prime, it was still within it acceptable drinking window, but nearing the end and time to drink. The color was garnet colored, albeit somewhat opaque as it was taking a bit of gray cloudiness, berry fruits with notes of raisin, dark mocha chocolate, hints of cassis, roasted nuts and bit of smoke and creosote on the finish. 

RM 85 points.