Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Sis-in-law Pat visited and Linda served left over Beef Bourguignon from our Christmas Family Dinner the other night. For a proper wine pairing we pulled from the cellar a memorable wine which we enjoyed together during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2013 at the Hall Napa Valley Rutherford Estate Winery and Vineyards (shown right) one of the highlights of that trip.

We tasted this latest vintage release of this label from the winelist which I featured in this blogpost - Hall Estate Napa Cabernet at Harry & Izzy's Steakhouse Indy.

As I wrote at that time, we hold a dozen labels from Hall and close to a decade of vintages of this label, so it is one we know well. That evening was our first encounter with this vintage release and it exceeded our expectations, prompting us to rush out the next day and pick up several bottles. 

Our tours and visits of the Hall Rutherford Winery Estate Appellation Tasting, cellar and cave tasting room have been highlights of several of Napa Wine Experiences. We enjoyed meeting Kathryn Hall at their Flagship namesake Kathryn label 2015 vintage release tour wine club tasting in Chicago in 2018, pre-covid. We first discovered Hall and their Napa Valley wines during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2003.

Hall Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

This may be one of the best releases of this label that I remember, resembling the higher priced premium and ultra-premium labels from their extensive portfolio of a dozen Napa Valley Cabernets. 

Even though this is their standard estate label, its a sophisticated Bordeaux blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot.

This is sourced from vineyards throughout Napa Valley, from Hall organic estate vineyards to 'small rugged hillside' sites of our partner growers. Hall states: "By blending these various lots, we create a rich panorama on the palate, a landscape of complexity and character that clearly depicts Napa Valley."

Winemaker notes for this release: "Our 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet is deep ruby in the glass, and displays effusive aromas of crème de cassis, dark plum, anise and dried herbs. The palate is lush and layered with fine-grained tannin supporting flavors of dark berry, cocoa, and a hint of freshly turned earth. The long and supple finish showcases the impeccable growing season that allowed us to coax the very best from each of our unique vineyard sites."

This exceptional estate bottling reflects the near perfect growing season of the Napa 2018 vintage. Hall describes the "season began in late February. Our Spring weather was mild, and allowed for extended flowering that produced very uniform grape clusters. Temperatures throughout Napa remained steady and warm during the majority of summer and fall, without any heat spikes, making for a long and unhurried harvest. The resulting wines are incredibly smooth and polished, with magnificent texture and color."

This is one to pick-up and enjoy for early gratification or hold for a decade or more. It will be fun to see how this evolves from graceful cellar aging for some time.

Wine Spectator, James Molesworth gave this release 93 points.
Dark inky purple garnet colored, full bodied, complex with rich concentrated dark berry fruits accented by layers of dark mocha, crème de cassis, oak, earthy tobacco and slight hint of cedar on the lingering tannin laced finish. 

Tonight I give this RM 92 points.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Family Dinner and Big Syrah Blends with Beef Bourguignon

Christmas Eve Family Dinner features Big Red Syrah Blends with Beef Bourguignon

Much of the family gathered at our house after Christmas eve church service for a dinner celebration. Linda prepared Beef Bourguignon, mashed and sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus, and salad.

I pulled from the cellar two big Syrah based red blends to accompany the rich meat and vegetable stew in red wine reduction sauce - a perfect complement. 

Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend Napa Valley Red Blend 2012

Randy and Debbie Lewis established their family winery in Napa back in 1992. We've been fans since the earliest days and hold and keep and extensive collection of their wines - Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs, and this unique blend of both. 

We enjoy Lewis wines as  I've often written in these pages about the fun we have with this branding, with its signature 'L' on the label, ala Laverne and Shirley, or wife Linda, or her mother Lucy, or our daughter Erin Leigh, or her daughter, our first grandchild/daughter Lucy, and now our recent grandaughter Lavender! That coupled with the Hoosier heritage of Randy Lewis, Indy 500 race driver from our native Indiana, and, their affinity to family, naming labels after their grandkids - Alec, Ethan and Mason,  we adopted Alec's Blend as a signature label for son Alec and feature it often at family celebrations such as tonight.

Lewis wines are family favorites for such special occasions, and this is one of our go-to wines, a 'signature wine' for son Alec, his namesake Blend for Dennis Lewis' son Alec. Lewis Cabernets are some of our favorites and we have a decade long vertical of Alec's as well as their Cabernets, dating back to the inaugural release in '97.
The label is dedicated to Randy and Debbie Lewis' first grandson, Alec, who was born on the day of the harvest of the grapes for this wine leading to the name.

One of the most anticipated wine producer visit tastings at our just completed Pour Boys 2017 Napa Wine Experience was a visit to the Chateau of Lewis Cellars.

This 2012 vintage release was the oldest of a decade of vintages we hold in our cellar of this label. 

This is a powerful yet balanced blend of 79% Syrah, 13% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot. 

Winemaker's notes: "One of our best bottlings ever, the 2012 Alec's Blend carries the casual confidence of a 17-year old. Deliciously complex...layers of lifted ripe blackberry, black cherry, cola, malt chocolate, Heath bar and bramble never quit. There's great acid and structure here too with a balanced arc of tannin and toasted cherry wood spice."

This release was awarded 93 points by Wine Spectator and 90 points by Connoisseurs Guide.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, rich bold full round ripe blackberry fruits with  mocha, spice, toasty oak, smoke  and graphite with a long and persistent finish.

RM 92 points. 




Mollydooker "Carnival of Love" McLaren Vale Syrah/Cabernet 2011

This is another fun label that we have designated one of our family signature wines that we love to serve at family occasions. 

I've written often in these pages about Mollydooker husband and wife winemaking team, Sara and Sparky Marquis, who happen to both be 'lefties', hence 'Mollydooker', the Aussie term afforded what in America we would call a 'southpaw' or a left handed person. 

You gotta love our Aussie friends and their sense of humour. They emerged on the American wine scene with Marquis Phillips and their whimsical 'Roogle' or half kangaroo half eagle character for the Australia - American joint venture with their US distribution partnership back around the turn of the century.

After several successful releases, Sara and Sparky set off on their own and never looked back developing an extensive brand and line-up of labels, all with whimsical names and colorful cartoon characters (see select library below - a more complete library is on our winesite Aussie 'M' Mollydooker label library).

Aside their flagship 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz which nears $200, their two premium labels in the release price $80 range are this one, and 'Enchanted Path', a Shiraz and Cabernet blend. Their line includes an extensive collection from an entry level Shiraz to Cabernet, Cabernet-Shiraz blends, Merlot - even a sparkling Shiraz.

The story of these wines according to the winemaker is: "Our whole family is involved in making our wines, and all the wonderful people who drink them become our friends, so we named this wine Carnival of Love, because the wines bring us together. If you look closely you will notice that the Lefty characters are all included in the label and when you join the Carnival of Love and the Enchanted Path together, the two labels form one beautiful continuous love story."

Alas, the Enchanted Path and Carnival ended a couple years ago when Sara and Sparky split and went their separate ways. Sara took over and runs the business and serves as CEO, Winemaker, producer and philanthropist. Sparky, it turns out is a racing car buddy of my associate down is Australia who builds and races cars in his spare time when not tending to running the APAC region for my software business. 

Since Sarah took over the business, Mollydooker’s wines have been praised globally, including receiving five 99-point Wine Advocate scores by renowned wine critic, Robert Parker. Its Carnival of Love Shiraz has also been listed a record three times in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines in the World. Under her leadership as sole owner Sarah Marquis, the company has been recognised for its business success, being chosen as the 2019 South Australian Business of the Year at the much revered Telstra Business Awards.

At these price points, these are not every day wines for us ordinary folks, but wines for special occasions. 'Carnival of Love' has become one of our family tradition wines which we serve at wife Linda's and family birthday parties, since Linda is a Lefty, and we happen to have three family birthdays in the span of several weeks.

Mollydooker have continually won high acclaim with Carnival receiving 95-ish ratings consistently over the years; 2010, RP95, WS94, 2009; WS94, RP93, 2008; WS94, 2007; RP96, WS95, 2006; RP97, WS95. This 2005 release got 98 points from Robert Parker, rarified space indeed for only very special highly acclaimed wines.  
Like the Alec's Blend above, this is also Syrah (2/3) based accented by Cabernet Sauvignon (1/3), just without the Merlot that comprises 1/3 of the Bordeaux varietal components in the Alec's Blend. Being from South Australia, it is remarkably similar to the profile of the California based Alec's Blend - dark inky purple, rich, concentrated, syrupy, chewy fruit filled. Both share a profile of spicy, clove accents.

This unique blend really works with the Cabernet adding breadth and depth to the big black inky purple colored full bodied Shiraz. The result is a powerful full bodied complex wine with concentrated forward chewy tongue coating black berry and black cherry fruits accented by ripe plum and spice, a layer of leather and hints of anise with fine silky tannins on the long finish.
Winemaker's notes on this release: "This is the wine I tell all my friends about. To see the look on their faces after their first sip is priceless. The 2011 Carnival of Love so clearly shows the essence of Mollydooker. It has elegance; a complete, intense, seamless flavour spectrum; a sumptuous mouth feel and perfect balance. At 92% Fruit Weight it is a wine to go WOW about, an absolute beauty." 

This release was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who said "Drink it from 2014 to 2022+."

This is my third review of this label and tonight's experience was consistent with the earlier ones. Like tonight, both previous blogposts were on family celebration events.

My post from 8/17/2020 - "This was dark inky garnet purple colored, full bodied, expressive fragrant floral notes, dense, deep concentrated, complex fruits of sweet black cherry, black raspberry and hints of blueberry fruits accented by creme de cassis, cinnamon and clove spices with a layer of charcoal that detracts from the harmonious desirable fruit and spice notes. The finish is long with crisp acidity and soft silky tannins."


And, previously back in 2014 - "This 2011 continues with a big powerful concentrated, dense, deep and complex wine, black inky purple in color, with super ripe blackberry and raspberry and layer of blueberry flavors that are a bit over the top for my preference, almost being raisiny and hint of herbs in their concentration, with tones of spicy cinnamon and clove, and hints of creme de cassis, mocha and black pepper on the lingering sinewy tannin finish. This is not for the faint hearted and needs a big steak, bold cheeses or dark chocolate to offset its in-your-face power,such as tonight's beef burgundy which was perfect."


Both times, as with tonight, I gave this 92 points.



Friday, December 23, 2022

Mt Brave Double Diamond Napa Reds at Morton's Steakhouse Naperville

Mt Brave and Shrader Double Diamond Napa Reds at Morton's Steakhouse Naperville

Son Sean and d-in-law Michelle took us to trendy upscale Morton's Steakhouse here in Naperville (IL) for a festive Christmas dinner outing. Morton's are one of the premier upscale steakhouses, with over 65 restaurants nationwide since opening the first in Chicago in 1978. Morton's specializes in steaks with complementary seafood and accompaniments, with each location offering a deep broad extensive award winning winelist. 

Sean, Linda and I each ordered beefsteak entrees, Sean the Waygu, me the surf and turf beef filet with lobster tail, and Linda the beef filet Oscar selection with crabmeat. Michelle ordered the lamb chops. We ordered family style side dishes of creamed spinach and smoked gouda cheese au gratin potatoes.  

Morton's has an award winning winelist that features 275 different selections, mostly American, with an inventory of 1500 bottles, showcased in the elegant glass enclosed wineroom cellar adjacent to and separating the bar from the dining room.

From the winelist I ordered a Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon from Mt Brave.

Perusing the winelist I noted they offered Shrader Double Diamond Oakville Napa Cabernet by the glass. Of course this wine was just awarded Wine Spectator's #1 Top 100 Wine of the Year for 2022.  I couldn't resist and ordered a glass to try this momentus wine only to be advised it was sold out, but they just acquired a case of half bottles of the label, so we took advantage and partook of one.

Mt Brave Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

We acquired a bottle of this label from the 2018 vintage but are holding it, aging in our cellar, so I've never tasted this wine and was eager to do so. 

Mt. Brave Veeder Peak Vineyard was formerly the Chateau Potelle Vineyard, since taken over the powerful expansive Jackson Family Wine Empire. The estate sits high atop Mt Veeder at elevations ranging from 1,400 to 1,800 feet, above the fog line, with the morning sun warming the grapes each day, and cooling at night from maritime breezes wafting up from the San Pablo Bay to the south. The sparse soils are comprised of gravelly loam with large and small rocks that hold the heat into the evenings contributing to the ripening of the grapes. The sparse nutrients and minerals in the soil coupled with the drainage from the steep slanted slopes result in tiny berries with concentrated and complex flavors. 

We toured Mt Veeder during our Napa Valley Mt Veeder Appellation Wine Experience in 2011

The wines of Mt. Brave show the characteristic brambly aromas and blue fruit flavors that are common to Mt. Veeder but are expressed here uncommonly well. They feature intense minerality, well-defined tannins allowing for extended aging, and recognizable mouth-pleasing acidity. The incredible structure suggests an extended development over time, but the wines have been crafted for enjoyment and celebration in the present.

The Mt Brave winemaker is Chris Carpenter known for legendary Napa winemaking for Lokoya and Cardinale, involved since the Mt. Brave project began in 2007. 

Chris, originally from Chicago, earned a BS in biology from the University of Illinois, then an MS in both viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis. He also holds an MBA in marketing and international business from the University of Illinois. He broke into the wine business with a prestigious research internship at Tenute Antinori in Tuscany and further study at Università per Stranieri di Perugia. Through these experiences he developed an old world sensibility paired with a new world ambition.

This label release is a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. It was barrel aged 21 months in 100% French oak, 80% new.

Winemaker notes on this label: "Grown on the rocky slopes of Mt. Veeder, the 2019 Cabernet shows notes of black cherry, blueberry, and Asian spice. On the palate, the wine has a profound density of fruit that is structured by fine tannins while the perfectly balanced acidity elongates a long savory finish."

This release was award 96 Points James Suckling, 95 points by Jeb Dunnuck, and 94 points by Wine Advocate.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex concentrated, bright expressive ripe blackberry and huckleberry notes with cassis, caramel, cedar turning to refined tannins and bright acidity on a lingering finish. 

RM 93 points.  





Shrader Double Diamond Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvginon 2019

This label is from the ultra premium producer Schrader as a separate second brand. We hold a half dozen labels from this brand going back a decade. Double Diamond labels are available from appellations vineyards in Napa Valley, Amber Knolls in Lake County, Mayacamas in Sonoma, and this from the Oakville appellation in Napa Valley, 70% from the legendary To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville. 

The winemaker for Double Diamond (Schrader) is Thomas Rivers Brown. I wrote about him in an earlier blogpost about Double Diamond Amber Knolls Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

What a surprise that a wine from their second label brand would gain infamy and notoriety as Wine Spectator's #1 Top 100 Wine of the Year for 2022. 

I've written in these pages about the consternation when a favored wine gains such notoriety resulting in exorbitant demand drying up availability, and significantly driving up the price from that moment forward.  It was timely and serendipitous that this wine was available at our dining site tonight.

Producer notes - "Our 2019 Double Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted by winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown in the Schrader Cellars tradition of making the best Cabernet Sauvignon that Napa Valley can offer. A unique expression of the Oakville AVA with harmonious integration of decadent fruit, refined structure, and silky tannins, the 2019 vintage of Double Diamond is ready to enjoy now and will continue to evolve over the next 3-5 years."

Winemaker notes - "The 2019 vintage of Double Diamond offers intricately woven layers of decadent flavor, complemented by exotic spice components and a refined tannin structure. It highlights all the best attributes of what defines Oakville as the epicenter for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.'

"In the glass, the wine displays a nearly opaque ruby-purple hue. Upon closer inspection, aromas emerge in waves suggesting framboise, nutmeg, toasted cedar bark, plum reduction, and pennyroyal mint. The sleek palate is marked by mouth-watering notes such as blackberry compote, dark chocolate shavings, cassis, oolong tea, flint, and lavender. The dynamic flavors interact on the mid-palate with a vivid harmony, carrying through to the long floral finish, which lasts for up to a minute. With a  pleasing acidity and fine tannic framework, this wine is very enjoyable today and should develop gracefully in the cellar for years to come."

This wine was awarded a rare consensus 94 points from Jeb Dunnuck, James Suckling and of course, Wine Spectator which also anointed it #1 Wine of the Year in its Top 100 wines of 2022. That accolade is awarded based on availability and value as well as quality and distinction. 

Dark garnet colored with hues of purple, medium full bodied, aromatic, elegant, round, nicely balanced and integrated ripe plum, black currant and blackberry fruits with notes of mint, cassis, bittersweet cocoa, tobacco, and hints of sweet caramel, turning to smooth polished tannins on a lingering finish. 

RM 94 points.  








Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Flowers Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

Flowers Vineyards & Winery Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2015

For mid-week dinner Linda prepared chicken cacciatore and we pulled from the cellar this hearty Chardonnay from Flowers Vineyards and Winery’s Fort Ross estate over near the Sonoma Coast. We visited the coastal Sonoma region during our Sonoma Wine Experience back in 2017. 

Flowers founders, producers Joan and Walt Flowers were pioneers in planting vineyards high in the rugged Coastal Mountain ranges near the Sonoma Coast. 

They also team with vineyard partners from teh area, Anderson-Ross Vineyard, Wildcat Mountain Vineyard, and Bohan Ranch, along with our Camp Meeting Ridge Estate to source fruit for the appellation and two single vineyard designated Sonoma Coast Chardonnays.    

The vineyards with their coastal influence, elevation, topography, and unique soils have proven to provide bright expressive fruits with terroir characteristic of citrus fruits and minerality. 

This received 91 points from Vinous, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits and 17/20 points by Jancis Robinson.

At seven years this is likely at its prime and not likely to improve further with more age.  

Straw colored, medium light bodied, tangy bright crisp citrus fruits with notes of wet stone, lemon zest, subtle spice, pear, green apple and hazelnut with tangy acidity and hint of oak tannins on the finish. 

RM 89 points. 





Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Jonata Winery "Todos Everyone" Syrah

Jonata Winery "Todos" -  "Everyone" Syrah Vineyard Blend Red Wine 2017

For midweek pizza at home, I pulled from the cellar a Big Red from Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley which we visited earlier this year in late Spring. It was our first encounter with this producer and their unique style.

This Big Red Syrah based blend is from Jonata Winery, sourced from their estate vineyards in the Ballard Canyon AVA, which is part of the greater Santa Ynez Valley appellation, in the foothills and mountains to the east of the town of Los Olivos, site to over forty local winery tasting rooms.

Jonata is named for the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata which dates back to the originating1845 Spanish land grant. for land that covered a large part of the Santa Ynez Valley, site of the Jonata estate. The name Jonata was coined by the early pioneers, taken from the local Chumash Indian and means “tall oak”.

Owner Stan Kroenke acquired 586 acres of which 84 are planted to vineyards. Contrary to conventional wisdom at the time, the estate was planted with a host of varieties that are rarely cultivated side-by-side, Syrah, Sangiovese and Bordeaux, a highly controversial and questionable decision in the winegrowing community at that time.

The first harvest was in 2004, overseen by Matt Dees, Jonata’s winemaker. The result proved to be prescient when the vineyards produced extraordinary results.

Since then the estate has consistently produced a portfolio of wines that have garnered substantial critical acclaim from Robert M. Parker Jr., Jeb Dunnuck, Antonio Galloni and Stephen Tanzer. Today they produce ten different wines from the broad range of varietals and blended combinations - all seemingly complex, all with Spanish derived names - El Desafio, El Alma, La Sangre, Todos, Fenix, Tierra, Fuerza, Flor, and La Miel.

Winemaker Matt Dees earned a degree in Soil Science from the University of Vermont and then worked at Staglin in Napa, California and Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand where he developed an intricate feel for viticulture and wine production, from dirt to glass. His unconventional approach is reflected in the Jonata wines. Dees as winemaker translates his approach to structure, texture and tannin  in his wines. Matt is assisted in the winery by Drew Pickering.

It is written that 'Jonata's sandy site and its team’s winegrowing know-how produce wines that are widely recognized as some of the best achievable from the region.'

I guess I need to pay more attention to this producer and their wines. We went to Morton's upscale steakhouse last night and they had no less than three Jonata labels on their extensive, award winning winelist.

Jonata Winery Todos "Everyone" Red Wine Vineyard Blend 2017 

This label has been produced since 2006. This vintage release is a unique blend of 44% Syrah, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Sirah, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc - a Bordeaux blend with a backbone core of Syrah. 2370 cases were produced in this release.  
The rear label explains this wine "Todos or "Everyone" is our estate in a bottle, It represents all 10 grape varietals we grow - each one with a distinctive voice, from an unconventional estate, all coming together in seamless harmony."

"As always Todos possesses the most exotic, complex and compelling aromatics of the lineup. Highlighted by black truffle, jasmine, five spice, black pepper and clove. Driven by dried blueberry, Mission fig and aged balsamic. Hints of dried tobacco, mint and baking chocolate combine with a tidal wave of velveteen black fruit on the palate. A wine of extreme power, but also delicate and proportional balance. Strikes me as the most approachable Todos since 2006 and also possibly the finest since that date." - Matt Dees, Winemaker.

This release was awarded 94+ points by Jeb Dunnuck jebdunnuck.com, and 93 points by Antonio Galloni Vinous.

As one might expect, this was a bit of a cacaphony of flavors, fighting for attention and prominence. This is not for feint of heart. Linda loved the bold forward full fruits. I did too, but would've preferred something a bit less obtuse, with more balance and polish. 

Give this five years to settle and integrate and it might achieve that and be more approachable.

Dark blackish inky colored with a barely slight garnet ring, full bodied, aromatic, complex, firm, tight, structured with a bit of an edge, backbone of concentrated black fruits with notes of balsamic, spices, black pepper, black tea and hints of clove and truffles with a long tongue coating tangy finish. 

RM 92 points. 



Sunday, December 18, 2022

Exzellenz and aged Robert Craig Mt Veeder for holiday celebration gathering

Exzellenz and aged Robert Craig Mt Veeder for holiday celebration gathering

The kids and grandkids all assembled at our house following the annual ritualistic Santa's breakfast at our local Seven Bridges Golf Club, for Christmas celebration, opening presents, watching the FIFA World Cup final, dinner and some festive wines. 

Since we had a large breakfast together, Linda prepared a more informal lighter meal for the afternoon with lasagna, salad, shrimp cocktail and holiday deserts. 

For such a festive family gathering, the boys went down to the cellar and pulled two memorable, notable bottles, Hall's flagship ultra-premium Exzellenz Napa Cabernet, from the grandkids birthyear 2015 vintage, and the historic inaugural vintage release of Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993.

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

We discovered, tasted and acquired this label at the magnificent Rutherford Estate Winery during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017. This is sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard that lies just above the winery adjacent to the estate residence. We hold and have had some of the earlier single vineyard designated wines from this vineyard dating back to 1998. Who knew this would evolve and progress to such heights? Not often does one get to taste a 'perfect' wine. of course perfection is in the eyes ('eyze') of the beholder. The 2013 vintage of this label that we tasted that day in their magnificent tasting room in the cave at the Rutherford Sacrashe estate (shown below) got 100 points from  Robert Parker.

Parker wrote of this wine; "This hails from the foothills of Rutherford and refers to Kathryn Hall’s ambassadorship to Austria between 1997 and 2001. A prodigious wine with beautiful floral notes intermingled with blueberry, blackberry, black raspberry and graphite, the wine hits the palate with a full-bodied force, but nothing seems pushed, cloying or out of sync. Gorgeously pure blue and black fruits cascade over the palate, a full-bodied presentation with remarkable purity and complexity. The finish is a good 45-50 seconds, and while there is significant tannin, the extravagance of the fruit and glycerin generally conceal it. This is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind, world class Cabernet Sauvignon that should prove compelling for at least another 30-40+ years."

Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate. 100 Points.

Sacrashe Vineyard at Hall Rutherford Estate
When Alec was living and working in Manhatten, his boss called me and asked about what wine should he order for a holiday selection for his most special clients. I suggested this wine. Of course the purchase allocation from the winery was two bottles, but after some negotiations and a ritualistic wine club mating dance, I obtained two cases for his holiday benefactors and our cellar. 

So, based on that memory and histrionic of this wine, Alec pulled this from the cellar for our special holiday family celebration. I am so glad he did! What a treat, and what better way to enjoy such a spectacular cellar selection than with family - especially my two sons who are becoming oenphiles in their own right, like me! 

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

As explained on the rear label, shown below, the name Exzellenz is German for Ambassador, in commemoration of Kathyn Hall's service as US Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. 

The bricks in in the magnificent tasting room in the cave at the Rutherford Sacrashe estate (shown right and above) and featured in a separate blogpost at this link)  are recovered and repurposed from a former royal castle in Austria.  

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard (shown above) at the Hall Rutherford Estate on the lower slopes of the Vaca Range overlooking Rutherford, Napa Valley. 

While this release didn't get 100 points, it came as close as possible, 99 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 97 points from Owen Bargreen of owenbargreen.com, and 93 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Parker wrote about this wine: "Composed of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and sporting a very deep purple-black color, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Exzellenz unfurls slowly, tantalizingly out of the glass to reveal powerful, intense scents of crème de cassis, Black Forest cake, blueberry compote and preserved plums with an undercurrent of Chinese five spice, molten chocolate, licorice and Marmite toast with wafts of garrigue and camphor. Very rich, full-bodied and concentrated on the palate, it coats the mouth with black and blue fruit preserves plus tons of spice and savory accents, held together by a rock-solid, grainy frame and finishing with epic persistence."

Spectacular! Delicious! Enchanting! Deep dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich, concentrated, round, rich, complex but elegant and seductive smooth blackberry and black currant fruits accented by savory clove/cinnamon spices, tones of crème de cassis, mocha chocolate, tobacco leaf and black tea, with a tongue coating dusty gripping but silky smooth tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 97 points.





Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Son Ryan wanted to open an older aged Napa Cabernet from the nineties so we pulled this 1993 Robert Craig. This was the inaugural vintage release of Robert Craig wines. 

I've written often in these pages about our collection of Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignons, one of the largest producer holdings in our cellar. We got to know Robert from the earliest years as he launched and developed his brand and evolved from a tenant using another producer's production facilities to being one of the premier producers in Napa Valley. His approach of  'four mountains and a valley' grew into a broad expansive portfolio of Bordeaux varietals. He loved Napa Valley mountain fruit and produced Cabernet Sauvignon based labels from Mt Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mt George, as well as the Napa Valley itself. 

Picnic with Robert at Craig Estate atop
Howell Mtn
with Jan and Bill, Andy, Linda and Me
We first met Robert and tasted these wines back at our first visit to Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 1996, and then again at our Robert Craig featured producer wine dinners in Napa Wine Experience 1998 and again in 1999. We were saddened by his passing and posted a Robert Craig Tribute at that time back in 2019.

We tasted releases of this wine with Robert and his crew at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 and during other visits such as our 2008 Robert Craig Vineyards and Winery visit up on Howell Mountain. Needless to say, we're long time fans of Bob and the Craig team and their 'artwork'.

We heard him often say, his favorite was Mt Veeder reflecting his heritage and history starting out there working in the earliest days as winemaker for Hess and the late comedian Robin Williams and his Toad Hollow brand which later developed to Pym Rae vineyard designated product. 

We hold a vertical collection of this wine that spans two decades going back to this first vintage release. We've held this looking for the right occasion to open such a unique bottle, and concerned that perhaps we'd held it too long and that it might be past its prime or even suitable drinking window. So it was with pleasant relief and surprise that this was approachable and drinking well, still within its acceptable drinking window.

This release was awarded 96 points by  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who called it "One of the vintage’s superstars, ,,, from a winery that is still somewhat under-appreciated for what they have achieved. It received 92 points from Connoisseurs Guide and 91 points from Wine Enthusiast.

 Wine Enthusiast compared this to the Robert Craig Howell Mountain release saying, this is "Riper, softer and more accessible than Craig's Howell Mountain Cab, this wine, grown at 1,800 feet, shows delicious cherry, currant and chocolate flavors, with the caramel and toast of new oak. For all the deliciousness, it still has mountain tannins, and should age well for a decade."

This is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. 

What a pleasant surprise to find this drinking nicely after so many years. There was a barnyard funkiness initially but this burned off eventually. 

Dark inky garnet colored, medium full bodied, blackberry black currant fruits with notes of spice, leather, tobacco and hints of bitter dark mocha, vanilla and sweet caramel on a tangy acidic moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 88 points. 




Saturday, December 17, 2022

Special Silver Oak Birthyear wines for Festive Holiday Open House

Special Silver Oak Birthyear wines for Festive Holiday Open House

Son Alec and d-in-law Viviana hosted a festive holiday open house so I brought from our cellar two special bottles - birthyear vintage wines of Silver Oak, labels. Tonight was a fitting occasion for a birthyear vintage bottle for Alec and Viv since this is their first holiday in their new home and as a family with their baby daughter. 

Every wine lover, and even casual wine folks know Silver Oak. I'd call it a cult wine since it has such a large devoted following but it has such broad appeal that I don't think cult does it justice. 

Ray Duncan founded Silver Oak with Justin Meyer in 1972, it’s now owned and operated by Ray’s sons, David and Tim. Silver Oak is famous for their Napa and Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons that aged in oak before release introducing many to the effect and impact it has on a quality California Cabernet. Silver Oak have large 40000 case production and do a remarkable job managing their signature Oak profile, much like Caymus and some others. 

Silver Oak became notable for aging their wines exclusively in American oak, determining that it is best suited and most applicable to achieving the flavor profile that has become synonymous with the brand. Silver Oak have a reputation for producing exceptional, food-friendly wines that are both drinkable upon release and worthy of cellaring for decades to come.

We had the unique pleasure of visiting and touring the Cooper's Oak Winery and OAK Cooperage, source of their distinctive American Oak barrels during our Missouri Wine Experience last year.  

Silver Oak's flagship winery and vineyards are in the center of Napa Valley. They also operate vineyard properties, winemaking facilities, tasting rooms and s cooperage in Sonoma County, Alexander Valley.

Silver Oak are unique among most large production Napa and Sonoma producers in that they focus primarily on the production of just one wine from each appellation: Silver Oak Napa Valley and Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.

Robert Parker writes in Wine Advocate: "One of America's favorite Cabernet Sauvignon producers, Silver Oak Cellars produces over 40,000 cases of their Alexander Valley and Napa Valley cuvees. As I have said so many times in the past, it is hard to dislike a Silver Oak Cabernet as they are ripe, deliciously well-oaked, soft, plump, multi-layered, and silky."

We served Silver Oak birthyear vintage bottles at their gala Covid restricted minimized wedding celebration dinner.I featured that festive celebration dinner and wine flight in these pages in this blogpost, Big Bottle Birthyear wines for Wedding Celebration.

We then served Alec's birthyear vintage Silver Oak special single vineyard select Bonny's Vineyard Cabernet from a large format six-liter bottle at their wedding celebration weekend a year later, featured in this blogpost, Big Bottle Birthyear wines for Wedding Celebration

We served a special large format (six liter Imperials) birthyear bottle of Silver Oak (Bonny's Vineyard) for that gala event. We also served Silver Oak Bonny's Vineyard from the 1982 vintage at our eldest son Ryan's wedding, as well as several other birthyear special wines.  The single vineyard designated label is very rare given the exclusivity of small production from the 2 acre vineyard. 

This has become the custom in our family celebrations, we served a couple of large format six liter bottles of wine from our kids' birthyear vintage from our cellar. We did so at each of their weddings

I've written often about our cellar and our collection of verticals, horizontals, big large format bottles and birthyear vintages. And I've written about 'signature' producers featured in that collection - Silver Oak is one of those signature producers. Our affinity and reverence for this producer and their wines spans decades, and memorable family events and celebrations. According to our Cellartracker records, our Silver Oak cellar holdings still consists of 49 bottles and 2 pending in 23 spanning different vintages/labels) wines, including large format magnums of each of the four kids' birthyears, and another remaining six liter bottle of Bonny's vineyard like the one we served at their wedding welcome reception.

Alec and Viv served up a broad selection of cheeses, charcuterie, bruschetta, shrimp cocktail and dips - a great showcase accompaniment to these aged wines. They also served a selection of sparkling wine, white and red wines including Stag's Leap Artemis, Orin Swift Saldo. 

Tonight, these wines actually showed better than that earlier tasting, likely due to bottle variations or provenance of aging over two decades since they were acquired at auction over that period of time.

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 Alexander Valley 1991

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1990

Both of these aged bottles, at 31 and 32 years were well preserved with perfect labels, foils, and importantly, ideal fill levels half way in the neck, reduced less about 3/8 inches from being perfect fill, and near perfect corks. 

Producer's notes on this release: "The 1990 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep tawny color at its core with light rust edges. The fading coconut characteristic is complemented by molasses and freshly sawn redwood and rose petals. It has a light entry but is soft and inviting with medium depth and cedar flavors on the mid-palate. It has a focused and somewhat tapering finish of raspberry, proving to be an elegant and balanced wine with solid back-end structure. Decanting may be necessary due to light sediment. Enjoy now."

Winemaker Notes: "The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has an intense ruby-red color and has the classic Silver Oak nose of cassis, blackberry jam, violets, chocolate, roasted coffee and ginger. This wine is full and rich in the mouth with a very long, slightly tannic finish."

Robert Parker gave this release 93 points writing in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate back in 1994, "The 1990 Napa Cabernet exhibits a Graves-like bouquet of tobacco, cassis, minerals, and spice. Chewy and full-bodied, with stunning extraction of fruit, this velvety wine should drink well for 12-15 years."

While past its prime, apex of its drinking window, this will not improve any further with aging, but is holding its own and will likely remain at this level of its drinking window for a couple more years.

Consistent with previous tasting of this label back in June of '19. Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, this had bright ruby garnet color, very slight bricking at the rim, with the black cherry and black berry fruits having given way to the predominant signature nose and flavor of infused sweet oak layer for which the brand is known and famous.

The black cherry and black berry fruit was subdued, somewhat Bordeaux like with accent by notes of spice, black tea and tobacco leaf with tangy acidity and soft moderate tannins on the lingering tangy finish.

This was more complex and concentrated but more subdued than the bright more tangy acidic bright expressive 1991.

RM 89 points.



Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1991

Producer note; "The 1991 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has a dense, rich, crimson hue with slight bricking. The aromatics are complex and very interesting with notes of sandalwood, caramel, black pepper, cedar and strawberry fruit. It has a moderate entry, with espresso bean flavors and a finish buttressed by fresh acidity. On the finish, leather and Roquefort linger on the palate. Decanting recommended due to light sediment. Enjoy now."

Winemaker Notes: "The 1991 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has a youthful glow, with an opaque crimson hue and no signs of bricking. It offers aromas of blackberry compote and sandalwood. It is a full-bodied wine upon entry, but is dominated by ample acidity and coffee flavors on the mid-palate. The finish has moderate length, lively tannins and flavors consistent with the mid-palate. Decanting suggested."

This label release was awarded 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 91 points by Wine Spectator, one of  their *Highly Recommended, Top 100 Wines of 1995*.

This bottle was pleasantly dramatically different than that last tasting in 2019 of this label release, when it showed diminution from aging, past its prime and nearing the end of its drinking window. Tonight, this exceeded expectations, showing life remaining in its drinking window with little if any diminution from aging.

Dark ruby color, medium full bodied, bright full expressive tangy dark plum, cherry and black currant fruits with herbs, spics and notes of sweet oak on the acidic long finish.
RM 90 points. 




Friday, December 16, 2022

Hidden Ridge 55 % Slope Sonoma Cabernet

Hidden Ridge 55 Degree Slope Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 

I pulled this from the cellar to have with pizza, and wow, what a combination. This wine was bigger, bolder, brighter and more expressive than I remember from earlier tastings - a great pairing with zesty pizza!

This is from Hidden Ridge Vineyards which is located in rugged mountainside terrain, as the name indicates, between Mount Hood and Diamond Mountain in the Mayacamas mountain range that separates Napa Valley to the east and Sonoma Valley to the west. 

Hidden Ridge Vineyard was founded by the husband and wife team Lynn Hofacket and Casidy Ward who bought the property back in 1991.  The location is so remote that you can only access it by four wheel drive, by foot or by helicopter. Lynn spent six years terracing the 55 acres and planting the vineyard while taking courses on viticulture at Santa Rosa University.

The estates vineyards fall between the range's 'saddles' creating some of the most dramatic vineyard sites on the Sonoma side of the summit crest of the mountain. It lies near the mountaintop estates of Pride , which actually straddles the summit therefore lying in both Sonoma and Napa, and Paloma Vineyards, near Pride on the Napa side, high atop Spring Mountain. The vineyard sits at elevations of 900 – 1700 feet, making it among the highest elevation vineyards in either Napa or Sonoma.

The terraced vines are on a steep mountainside in a valley with eastern, southern and northern exposures and the typical decomposed granite and alluvium soils of the Mayacamas Mountains. The vineyard site experiences cool mornings and evenings and moderate temperatures during the day that allow the fruit to hang for a long time without over-ripening.   The soils and the steep slope contribute to the vineyard’s drainage and to the tannic structure of the fruit, giving it a big, brawny structure that mountain vineyards are known for.

Hidden Ridge Vineyards is comprised of 55 acres, with approximately 46 acres in Cabernet, 1 acre in Petite Verdot and 1 acre in Chardonnay. The Cabernet planted in in 21 different blocks.

The winemakers for this release were Marco Di Giulio, consulting winemaker to several leading Napa labels, and of his own label of which we hold several vintages in our cellar from 2001 through 2004, and Timothy Milos

Lynn and Casidy hired Timothy Milos as consulting winemaker. Timothy grew up in the Bay Area and did undergraduate studies in Cell Biology at U.C. Berkley and Sonoma State University, then earned a graduate degree in Plant Pathology at Cornell University. He studied winemaking at the UC Davis Masters Program. He worked at wineries in New York’s Finger Lakes district before returning home to California where he did stints at such notable producers Opus One, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Cliff Lede.

"That's some good grape dirt up there," Oklahoma native and owner Lynn Hofacket points out eyeing his property. Adds winemaker Marco Di Giulio, "A vineyard so steep, so well developed, so interesting in its planning scheme and with so much vision behind it that I could not help but be blown away. I bring my other winemaker friends out there because I like to see the awed expressions on their faces. Yeah, it's really that amazing."

I first discovered this wine at Morton's Steakhouse in Crystal City, Arlington, near Washington DC where it was available by bottle or by the glass. During the ensuing years we enjoyed the 05, 06 , 07 and then this '09 vintages there. We also picked up the '05 at BRIX in Napa and tasted at dinner during our Mt Veeder appellation trip in the Napa and Sonoma Mt Veeder area. 

Hidden Ridge has since been taken over by new owners Timothy Martin and Randy Nichols. Timothy Milos continues as winemaker. 

Timothy Martin spent two accomplished decades in restaurant and hospitality management, then worked with legendary producer Robin Lail, and her wine project, Lail Vineyards. He worked there helping establish the Lail brand for ten years, then launched Gauge Branding, a marketing company in 2004 with partner Mark Wiegard.

In 2008, he began a joint venture, Tusk Estates, with his friends Michael Uytengsu and Philippe Melka with a goal to create the next great luxury wine brand.

Partner Randy Nichols traveled to the Napa & Sonoma valleys for 30 years before discovering Immortal Estate. Founder of the Nichols Partnership, he specialized in commercial and multi-family real estate. 

Hidden Ridge was rebranded into Immortal Estate and produces ultra-premium highly allocated labels "Slope" and "Impassable Mountain".

In 2014, Wine Spectator rated this 2009 “55% Slope” #32 of the Top 100 Wines of the year.

The 2012 “Impassable Mountain Reserve” achieved a 97 points from Robert Parker and in March 2016, received a perfect score of 100 points by Robert Parker. The 2013 sells on the website to members only for $375.

Hidden Ridge 55 Degree Slope Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 

Winemaker notes: "Dark and brooding, the bouquet offers intense huckleberry, red cassis and black tea aromas, laced with hibiscus flower and brown sugar. The palate is firm initially, but with aeration opens up to give layers of dense cocoa, sweet spice, ripe black fruit, and iodine, with touches of violet. The finish completes with a coda of hibiscus, sweet huckleberry, smoky tea, and cocoa tannins."

This vintage release was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points by Wine Spectator and was #32 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2014, and 91 by Wine Enthusiast.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate said "this stunning 2009 is one of the finest Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignons ever produced. Drink it over the next 15+ years." 

Wine Enthusiast said, "Give it until at least 2017." Wine Spectator said, "Drink now through 2024."

My previous tasting of this label were in 2014 and before that, my review and blogpost in 2019 and I must say, tonight this blew me away, exceeding expectations set by those earlier tastings. This appears to be just hitting its stride at fourteen years and is the best I've had from this producer to date.

The label, foil level and most importantly, the fill level and cork were all perfect.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, deep, rich, intense, concentrated expressive blackberry, black raspberry and black cherry fruits with notes of licorice, dark mocha chocolate, tobacco, cedar, hints of charcoal, truffles, and graphite with firm, structured but approachable tannins and nicely balance acidity on a long firm polished finish. 

RM 93


There were 3,385 cases produced and thankfully we have several more bottles to enjoy over several years ahead of this vintage plus several other vintages dating back to the 2004. 


Hidden Ridge is now - 


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Team Dinner and Go-to CasalFerro Wines at Italian Village Chicago

Team Dinner and Go-to CasalFerro Wines at Italian Village Chicago

With my tech leadership team in town for a week closing out the year, and final planning for the year ahead and the next chapter in our strategic plan, we dined at our usual go-to eatery and enjoyed some of our favored go-to wines with dinner. 

Tonight was a repeat of several earlier such team dinners we've had at Italian Village.  I last wrote about this wine in a blogpost, Team dinner at Italian Village Chicago in November last year.

Team working dinner at Italian Village Chicago features Super Tuscan and Bolgheri Chianti Classico

I've written in previous blogposts about our wine and dinners, about Italian Village, Chicago's oldest, longest running continuously family operated Italian restaurant in Chicago. 
As is our custom, tonight, we dined in one of the private tables/rooms in the Village, one of the three restaurants on the premises, a perfect setting for an intimate or business dinner.
Part of this ritual is hooking up with friend and wine-buddy IV Wine Director and buddy Jared Gelband and Gerry Castillo, IV Vivere restaurant 'floor manager', who has become our 'designated' server when we come in, all shown together below. 

From producer dinner, wine buddy Dr Dan,
Gerry, me and Jared.

With dinner, tonight I selected these two wines from the winelist, from the same producer, Baron Ricasoli, composed of the same varietal and vineyard sources.
This is a label I know well and have collected over the years, one of the small selection of Italians in my cellar collection, which tends to be French and American.

When I picked these two wines from the extensive, vast Italian Village winelist, I didn't realize we've enjoyed each of them before, but never together in a mini-vertical comparison tasting. I don't think I had realized the 'vertical' aspects of the two labels, being the varietal from the common  estate sources.

Jared shared with us how he visited the
Baron Ricasoli estate and staying in the magnificent Brolio Castle located within the town of Gaiole during his last wine country producer tour, He talked about meeting the proprietors who represented the 32nd generation of the family to manage the estate, and and explained how the similarity between the two labels and how they used to blend Merlot in this earlier release. 

The 2000 vintage release was classic Chianti Classico native Sangiovese accented with a bit of Merlot, which has since been dropped in later releases to focus on and showcase the estate Merlot, as in the other label below.

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro (Sangiovese) Toscana IGT 2000

We also had this label back in the early 2020 which I featured in a blogpost Ricasoli CasalFerro & Livio Fellugo Saso, at the time.  
This 2000 vintage release is a blend of 75% Sangiovese and 25% Merlot. It was aged in small french oak barrels for 18 months which along with the Merlot in the blend, softens the tannins. 
The grapes were sourced from estate vineyards set 350 – 400 meters above sea level, mainly from the vineyard of the same name with southwest exposure, with a predominance of calcareous sandstone and Alberese stone.

Today production of this label is 135,000 bottles in a prodigious vintage year.

Wine Spectator awarded this vintage release 90 points.

At twenty-one years, this was starting to show its age and is reaching the end of its drinking window. The fill level, foil and cork (shown left) were ideal for the age. 

While past its prime, this wine was an ideal pairing with our entree selections, my Butternut Squash with Fig puree and mushrooms, the Filet of Beef, and the Lamb Chops, a new Italian Village Chef Jose Specialty.

While this was initially a bit funky with some barnyard earthiness which burned off after decanting and aerating back and forth three times, it was better than our previous tasting, due likely to bottle variation over two decades of aging. 

This was dark garnet colored with a bit of browning on the rim, medium full bodied, powerful full and forward black fruits are starting to give way to notes of cedar, black tea, olive tapenade, leather and hints of creosote on the deep, full, lingering tannic finish.

RM 89 points.




We lasted tasted this other wine during a similar team dinner back in the fall of last year when I wrote about Italian Village Wine & Dine Chicago.

Tonight, members of our group selected for our entrees the beefsteak, the lamb chops, and I chose the butternut squash with fig puree and mushrooms - all perfectly complemented by the combination of these two wines.  

Baron Ricasoli Cassalferro Castello di Brolio 2015

Ricasoli is the most representative wine producer in the Chianti Classico area Italian wine region. The estate covers the 1,200 hectares of property include almost 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves covering rolling hills and picturesque valleys with thick woodlands of oaks and chestnuts.

Since taking over in 1993, Baron Francesco Ricasoli has been guiding this central Tuscan company according to the principles of his renowned ancestors, producing wines that showcase the distinctive terroir of the soil types, the climate and clonal selections of the Brolio Sangiovese. He has also totally renovated and completely mapped the vineyards.

This label, Casalferro,  was  first  produced  in  1993  when  Francesco  Ricasoli  became  president  of  the company. This is 100% Merlot produced only during the best years. Casalferro is sourced from the vineyard  of  the  same  name  located  at  400  meters  above  sea  level  and  facing  south.  
The  brown  clay  loam  soil  with  little  organic  content  contributes  to  the  exclusive  personality  of  this  great Chianti Merlot.

This release was awarded 95 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Wine Spectator, and 92 points by Robert Parker Wine Advocate.  

Bright Ruby colored, medium bodied, expressive black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of leather, anise licorice and dark cocoa and herbs, medium plus acidity and medium plus tannins on a long finish. I agree with one review that wrote that this tastes more like a Sangiovese than a Merlot from the New World, or the Right Bank.

RM 90 points.