Saturday, November 13, 2021

Cherry Circle Room dinner features super wine flight

Cherry Circle Room dinner features super wine flight of ultra-premium Dominus, Kongsgaard and Darioush Napa Valley wines

We spent a getaway weekend in the City (Chicago) and dined at the Cherry Circle Room in the old Chicago Athletic Club on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, opposite Millenium Park and the popular Cloudgate (Bean). I was there to scout the venue for some upcoming corporate events as well as for a superlative fine dining experience. 

The iconic Cherry Circle Room was the members' dining room at the Chicago Athletic Association for generations. It has been totally restored and updated melding the building's historic original features with modern design elements and was recognized as James Beard award-winning space for Outstanding Restaurant Design.

We dined with fellow 'Pour Boy' Dr Dan and our two Lindas. We both took BYOB from our cellars a bottle to share and compare with our dinner entrees. 

Wine flight: Darioush, Dominus Bordeaux Blends
Kongsgaard Syrah
Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 

We visited the magnificent Darioush estate in Napa with Dan and Linda during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2017, (Dan's) Linda's first trip to the valley. Years earlier, in 2003, Linda and I visited the Darioush estate for a private barrel tasting, during the time the new winery was under construction.

Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

We were first introduced to this wine by fellow 'Pour Boy', Bill and Beth when we were invited by them to a wine dinner at their Cress Creek Country Club in the late nineties.

We visited the winery during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2003. Their fabulous winery and tasting facility on Silverado Trail in southern Napa Valley was not yet open but was well under construction at that timeTonight's wine selection was from the case we purchased during that visit.  

We attended with Dr Dan a gala Darioush - Domaine de Chevalier Gala Wine Dinner in Chicago. This was a fabulous private dinner hosted by Darius & Shaptar Kaledi of Darioush Winery and Bernard Laborie of Domaine de Chevalier at Everest restaurant in Chicago in the summer of 2004. 

At twenty years of age, this big full throttle Napa Cabernet was probably at its apex, not likely to improve any further with aging, and nearing the end of its prime drinking window. 

Tonight's tasting was consistent with the last time we tasted this label's vintage release in 2013 when I wrote back on 1/26/2013:

"This remains a blockbuster wine, living up to the tone set by the large oversize, almost magnum size bottle - dark inky color, full bodied, complex but smooth and polished, full forward black berry and currant fruits with a layer of spicy cinnamon oak with tones of black tea, anise, tobacco leaf and dark chocolate - well balanced and polished with nicely integrated silky smooth tannins on the lingering finish. RM 92 points."

This is a Bordeaux Blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot.

RM 92 points.

Dominus Napa Valley Proprietary Bordeaux Red 2009  

Dan brought from his cellar vertical collection of this legendary Napa Valley super premium Bordeaux Blend label for our dinner. We've dueled with vintages of this label dating back to a case I bought on release of the 1986 vintage. We drank a bottle every couple of years until finally with only one or two bottles left, the bottle was finally emerging and opening to reveal its full potential and character after more than two decades. Such is this long lived ageworthy wine. 

This legendary label is from the legendary producer Christian Moueix who has been producing ultra-premium wines for over fifty years of producing wines in Bordeaux’s Right Bank and thirty-eight in the Napa Valley. 

Son of legendary Jean-Pierre Moueix, after completing agricultural engineering studies in Paris and graduate studies in viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis, Christian returned to France, at the age of twenty-four, to take on the responsibility of managing his family’s many chateaux, including Chateau Pétrus, one of the premier brands in the world. 

He managed Pétrus for over thirty-eight years and today he directs eight family chateaux including, in Pomerol, La Fleur-Pétrus, Trotanoy, Hosanna, and in Saint Emilion, Bélair-Monange. Since 1991 he has been the President of Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix, a top Bordeaux wine merchant.

In 1983, Christian Moueix began producing Dominus from the historic Napanook vineyard in Yountville. In 2008, he acquired a 40-acre vineyard in Oakville from which he launched the first vintage of Ulysses in 2012.

Collecting this label in those early years was fun with the artist series of pencil an water color drawings of producer winemaker Christian Mouiex which ended with the 1991 vintage turning to this basic label every since after close to a decade. My label library of Dominus and those early art series labels can be found at this link location.

This release was a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and the remainding 4% Petit Verdot. This is estate bottled from fruit sourced from the Napanook estate to the west of Hwy 29, St Helena Highway in Yountville, Napa Valley.

This release was awarded 99 points by  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 98 points by Jeb Dunnuck and James Suckling.

Circle Cherry room Somellier Anika opened and decanted this bottle and we gave it time to blow off some initial heat and aggressiveness, which it did after about an hour. 

Deep garnet colored, medium full bodied, well balanced, smooth, polished, concentrated yet elegant blackcurrant, black raspberry and ripe plum fruits with notes of floral, graphite, sweet mocha chocolate, hints of tobacco, vanilla and earth with finely grained silky soft tannins on a long finish.

RM 95 points.

Circle Cherry room has a modest moderate published winelist. There is however, an extraordinary Reserve Wine List of the property's impressive collection that is not published. We were shown this list by Sommellier Anika, who has served at Chicago Spaggia restaurant. From that list we selected this classic Syrah. 

Kongsgaard Hudson Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah 1999

This is from Fifth-generation Napa natives John and Maggy Kongsgaard who produce powerful, graceful wines which are high intensity expressions of vineyard and variety from a ten-acre vineyard they planted in the late 1970s on a rocky hilltop in southern Napa Valley which has belonged to the Kongsgaard family since the 1920s. In addition to these family acres, they direct the farming under long-term contract on another seven acres in Carneros, the Hudson Vineyard, where they grow Syrah and Chardonnay. 

Kongsgaard wines are produced at their winery, high up on the eastern rim of Napa Valley, in a cave drilled into the volcanic rock. These 97-99+ point wines are allocated and sell out quickly to the producer's mailing list and are pursued by insatiable collectors in the auction aftermarket.

John was mentored by historic and legendary pioneers of Napa Valley: André Tchelistcheff of Beaulieu Vineyard and Nathan Fay—who farmed the Fay Vineyard made famous by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ iconic single-vineyard Cabernet. After his first job in Sonoma, John took a job at Newton, experimenting with Old World techniques and bottling Napa Valley’s first unfiltered Chardonnay. In subsequent years, he worked with numerous world famous luminaries including Fritz Hatton, and Michel Rolland, and trained Aaron Pott and Andy Erickson.

This label was first inroduced in 1995. It is sourced from a two-acre plot of Syrah at the Hudson Ranch in Carneros—which was founded in 1981 by John’s Texas-born Davis classmate Lee Hudson. The terroir consists of proximity equidistant between San Pablo Bay and Napa and Sonoma Valley, and is comprised of volcanic soil. The vineyard was planted to John’s specifications. 

This Syrah is ferment on native yeasts, aged for two years in 40% new French oak, and bottled unfiltered resulting in a wine of complexity, depth, incredible power, and 'endless nuance'. 

Wine Access writes of this label, "Very few Napa Valley wines are mentioned alongside Bordeaux First Growths and the great collectible wines of the world—and they’re basically all cult Cabernets. 

Kongsgaard’s Syrah stands proudly alongside them, but also proudly apart. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind bottling from a master whose name evokes reverence and admiration from his peers. As a display of Napa Valley glory worth cellaring for years or passing on as an heirloom, you can’t do any better."

We drank this Kongsgaard Carneros Hudson Ranch Syrah for my father-son birthday celebration dinner earlier this year. 

We drank the Kongsgaard Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay at our Pour Boys Wine Dinner at Del Ray Beach Wine Kitchen back in June. 

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate call this “One of the Most Provocative” Syrahs in California

Winemaker and Robert Parker Wine Advocate notes for the 1999 Syrah Napa Valley:

The 1999 Syrah Hudson Vineyard is even better out of bottle than it was from cask. Its opaque black/blue/purple color is followed by an extraordinary perfume of barbecue spices intermixed with creosote, violets, blackberry and creme de cassis liqueur, explosive, full-bodied flavors of cassis, and an amazingly thick, juicy yet vibrant and well-defined personality. There is plenty of tannin, but the wealth of fruit and intensity is mind-boggling. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2020. Kongsgaard is crop-thinning down to one grape cluster per shoot in an effort to obtain Syrah at its most intense. There are 125 cases of the 1999 Syrah Hudson Vineyard. The wine is 100% Syrah fermented and aged in wood for 18 months, and then bottled without fining or filtration. The result is one of California’s most awesome as well as singular expressions of Syrah.  95 points

Inky purple-black in color, full bodied, dense concentrated muscular yet smooth and elegant, ripe blackberry and black cherry fruits with note of violet floral, cassis, black pepper, toast, allspice, bacon fat and herbs with elegant, plush tannins and on an incredibly long pleasant spicy finish. 

Still holding on at 22 year, likely at the end of its prime drinking window and not to improve with further aging. 

RM 93 points. 

Links mentioned in this blogpost: