Sunday, January 30, 2022

El Che Pulenta Gran Corte Filet Dinner

El Che Steakhouse & Bar for Spectacular Wine, Beefsteak and Seafood Dinner

Dearest friends Eric and Cathy visiting from Indy, treated us to dinner at El Che Steakhouse & Bar on the edge of the trendy Chicago West Loop's 'Restaurant Row'. Taking its name from its site in the old Checker Taxi Association Building on West Washington Street, just off Halsted, El Che has earned a reputation as one of Chicago's premier steakhouses. 

Executive Chef/Partner John Manion and partner John Boyd have fashioned El Che after Argentina's asados, the traditional backyard barbecues featuring platters of rustic flame-finished grilled beef with its custom 12-foot hearth for live-fire cooking. The massive open hearth at the end of the restaurant, includes two grills, a small wood-burning oven/smoker and three separate chapas (flat-top grills) - one each for vegetables, seafood and meat.

Chef‐Owner John Manion was raised in Detroit until his family moved to São Paulo, Brazil, when he was just 8 years old. He spent the next five years immersed in the culture and food. It was this experience that rooted his passion and ultimately his signature brand, Latin‐local.

In 2012, Manion opened his first restaurant La Sirena, which means “hidden mermaid,” offering the dark and slightly mysterious atmosphere of a hidden spot one might stumble upon. 

In 2016, he opened El Che, housed in the former Checker Taxi building, fulfilling his dream to bring authentic Latin cuisine to fine dining in Chicago.

El Che offers diners a range of experiences, seating at the bar, individual tables in the open dining room or an adjacent more private room, or two special price-fixe experiences, the Chef’s Counter, seated in front of the hearth with a 10-course tasting for two, or the Hearth Table offering three courses served family style. There's an adjacent private dining room or for general seating, there is a wine pairing offering to accompany menu selections from a broad WBTG - Wine By The Glass list. 

During the first week of every month Wine Director/GM Alex Cuper selects from the winelist a B-T-G list featuring the different regions, varietals and winemakers of South America. 

The menu features South American-tinged meats, seasonal vegetables, seafood, and novel barrio-inflected snacks with an imaginative award winning wine list with the midwest's largest selection of South American wines, the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence list showcases a veritable who's who in progressive South American winemakers. 

El Che Steakhouse & Bar has received praise from critics and locavores alike, including a “Top 50 Chicago Restaurants” by the Chicago Tribune, "Best New Steakhouses in America" by Conde Nast Traveler, and "10 Best Steakhouses in Chicago" by USA Today.

The upbeat trendy chic 100-seat restaurant and bar is a must try spot for fine wine and dining.  

Our dinner was fabulous, hitting on all cylinders with delicious food, perfectly prepared and presented, ideally paired with a spectacular wine from the extensive South American winelist, all served with attentive exemplary service. 

Following a pre-course of olives and wedge salad, we dined on filet of grilled beef, and scallops with parsnip puree, apples and chives (shown right), with sides of garlic parmesan french fries and creamed spinach. We finished with the decadent flowerless dark chocolate sea salt cake for dessert.

Not being especially knowledgeable in South American wines, I spent time earlier in the day studying the winelist and researching the offerings. I chose and came to dinner with three rank order winelist selections. I also brought a bottle BYOB in the event they were not available. Notably, our first choice was available and it proved to a wonderful, ideal selection as a perfect compliment to our dinner. 

Pulenta Gran Corte VII Mendoza Red Blend 2018

This is from the Pulenta family who have been producing wine in Argentina since emigrating from Italy back in 1912. Third generation brothers Hugo and Eduardo, started Pulenta Estate in 2002 to produce small lots of premium wines from two vineyards their father Antonio planted in the early 80’s and 90’s, one in Alto Agrelo in Luján de Cuyo, and the other in Los Árboles, Valle de Uco. Second generation Don Antonio Pulenta, planted Viñedos 'Don Antonio' in 1981 and Finca 'La Zulema' in 1992. 

The estate covers a total of 992 acres with 870 acres planted to vines, the Agua Amarga, Tunuyán and Finca 'La Zulema' vineyards located at the heart of Mendoza's premier growing region - Luján de Cuyo - near the town of Alto Agrelo, were among the first vineyards to be planted in the higher-altitude growing region of Mendoza at elevations between 3200 and 3900 feet. 

They are planted to Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris grape varietals. They are bottled under a portfolio of Pulenta Gran, Pulenta Estate, and La Flor labels.

The overall portfolio consists of more than two dozen labels, the Pulenta Estate portfolio of varietal wines are each represented with a roman numeral that identifies a varietal or a blend produced with grapes from the estate vineyards in Alto Agrelo and Valle de Uco. The portfolio is Estate Sauvignon Blanc VI, Estate Pinot Gris XIV, Estate Chardonnay VII, Estate Malbec I, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon III.

The Pulenta Estate Gran Corte label is the flagship premium blend, produced from the best barrels, selected by Eduardo and winemaker Javier Lo Forte. Each vintage is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Tannat, although the proportions vary year on year.

The family has stated they believe the 2018 bottling is one of the best yet: a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Tannat, from a memorable harvest season in Mendoza, it represents a perfect expression of Pulenta’s terroir and potential for remarkable consistency, balance and harmony.

The grapes come from select vineyard blocks from their Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco vineyard locations.

The blend for the 2018 vintage release is 10% Tannat, 14% Petit Verdot, 18% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Malbec.

This release was awarded 94 points by James Suckling.

This was bright ruby colored with sprites of purple, full bodied, complex, nicely balanced, bright expressive ripe blackberry, plum and black cherry fruits with notes of spice, black-tea, tobacco and cocoa with round texture and silky tannins on a tangy acidic lingering finish. 

RM 93 points. 



Saturday, January 29, 2022

Field Recordings Central Coast White Wines

Field Recordings Central Coast Vineyard Select Imaginative White Wines offer good QPR

This interesting label in one of a broad portfolio of wines from 35-year old California winemaker Andrew Jones whose work  as a vine nursery fieldman, planning and planting vineyards for farmers across Central California has provided insights and access to some of the best fruit sources across the region. As his website explains, "having stood in just about every vineyard on the Central Coast, he’s all about finding those underdogs with untapped potential. As friendships are made and opportunities are embraced, Andrew produces small quantities of soulful wine from these unusual, quiet vineyards. (He) has developed a keen eye for diamonds in the rough: sites that are unknown or under-appreciated but hold enormous untapped potential. He strives for unique wines loaded with personality and a one-of-a-kind experience." 

'Field Recordings is Andrew’s personal catalog of the people and places he values most. He quotes: “Our wines are all about the flavor — with none of the pretension.”'

The Field Recordings website shows two dozen wines sourced from no less than twenty-two vineyard sources, shown on a map of the California Central Coast wine region from Carmel in the north to Solvang in the south. 

I picked up a selection of these wines to have on hand to try for special occasions and everyday sipping. Indications and experience show Field Recordings tends to provide quality wines at great value high QPR - Quality-to-Price-Ratios. 

Our first encounter was a white blend, "Hock", that I selected and served at our family Thanksgiving celebration dinner

Field Recordings "Hock" is a traditional Alsatian Edelzwicker field blends (easydrinking whites)... a zesty and snappy blend of 50% Gewurztraminer, 35% Pinot Gris and 15% Riesling. Its complexity and range of the blend provided an ideal accompaniment to the range of foods served.

This is the type of wine that is meant to be drunk anytime with food with a combination of fruit and floral tones. The blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer is a special project for Andrew. Something that allowed him to embrace his love of Alsatian wines:

“The 2018 Hock is my play on a Eldezwicker (an Alsatian wine term taken from the German words edel (noble) and zwicker (blend) dating back to 1944.) My favorite table wines are Alsatian Blends and it’s one of my favorite old world wine regions. This wine is pretty much dry, with just a touch of residual singular in it to balance the acidity. There are no rules for making this wine vintage after vintage- it’s a regional white blend to represent the area and the varieties that are allowed there. This year there is way less Gewurztraminer and a lot more Pinot Gris in it, which gives it a lot more of an aromatic, crisp and refreshing feel.” 

Edelzwicker is traditionally a historical blend of regional grapes from Alsace, on the border of France and Germany, whose German name owes to past border disputes and occupations of the region over the years. 

Lemon straw colored, light medium bodied, complex, bright and expressive full round textured, floral notes accented by crisp apple, lemon zest and pear with hints of apricot and what the winemaker refers to as "freshly cut hay and just a hint of petrol from the Riesling".

RM 88 points.

Field Recordings Morro View Grüner Veltliner 2019

Interesting to follow the Alsatian Blend with this white wine featuring the varietal grape associated with the Alsace Loraine region of France - Grüner Veltliner. This too would have been a good selection for Thanksgiving dinner but I opted for the more complex blend that day.

We opened this with hearty moderately spicy winter chicken tortilla soup with a selection of artisan cheeses. This is 100% Grüner Veltliner, sourced "From our favorite vineyard in the heart of the Edna Valley. The extra rock and limestone in the soil never allowed it to be used for row crops like the majority of the other vineyard sites in Edna. The acidity from each variety pulled from Morro View is what makes them all special. The Grüner really shines in the glass. Notes of lychee, Yuzu, Jasmine tea, electricity," as written by Winemaker Andrew Jones.  

I gave this 88 points - I defer to fellow Cellartrackers, who all use the wine popular cellar management system and share their wine tasting notes, and their reviews of this wine that interestingly served at Thanksgiving or served with Chicken Tortilla soup. 

OldHick95, Likes this wine: 89 Points "Off-dry. Wonderfully aromatic with Tropical fruit and a barely detectable petroleum note. Ripe pear, some green apple. Medium acidity balances the mild sweetness."

Chairmanzian, Likes this wine: 91 Points "Opened it for Thanksgiving - highly aromatic with honey and floral notes. Pleasantly acidic on the tongue with detectable sugar and finish of grapefruit. Not as dry as would have expected."

Dlowrey99, Likes this wine: 87 Points "paired with chicken tortilla soup, worked well; nice wine, subtle notes of pear and white flower balanced against just enough acidity; off-dry sweetness-more than i expected."

Apologies and thanks to fellow Cellartrackers mentioned from the label record below:



Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Robert Craig Affinity 2007

Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 - at or approaching its peak with a decade of more enjoyment to go.

For casual midweek dinner I took BYOB to Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood Italian Trattoria, from our cellar, this Napa Bordeaux Blend from one of our favorite producers, a known label from a good vintage for a dependable good selection for the evening. 

This release of this label was awarded 96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 92 points by Wine Enthusiast.

With Robert Craig at the estate high atop Howell Mtn
back in 2008.
Robert Craig represents one of our largest holdings in our cellar. We've held many wine dinners with Robert and Lynn Craig and attended many events at the estate and winery. 

We visited Robert Craig's site high atop Howell Mountain several times with sister Jan and bro-in-law Bill, and Bill and Beth C. 

One of our memorable trips featured a picnic lunch at the site overlooking the valley below shown below. It was during that trip that Bill discovered and subsequently sourced Howell Mountain Cabernet, Affinity and Robert Craig Zinfandel which they served at daughter Krista's wedding. 

Sadly, Robert passed away in 2019 and I wrote about him in a Tribute Blog at that time. I opened a 2007 vintage of his favorite label, Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon that evening.

We bought a case of this upon release and still hold most of it of this label from this vintage - one of a dozen vintages we hold dating back two decades, all totaling more than four cases. I've blogged tasting notes of this label numerous times with similar results, five of which are summarized below:

 My Cellartracker record for this label shows a half dozen tasting notes for this release going back from 21 to 2010 as shown below. 

As posted: 4/8/2021 - This exceeded my expectations for this label and indeed was one of the best drinking Affinity's in memory. Mini-vertical tasting alongside 2000. Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegant, polished and smoothly balanced, black berry and black currant fruits with notes of mocha chocolate and spice, hints of cassis, smoke and cedar with smooth silky tannins on a lingering cloying finish. 93 Points 

6/28/2020 - Consistent with earlier tasting notes.

2/10/2019 - Earlier tastings of this label cited this release being "a bit tight and slightly closed on opening, but after an hour opened up to show wonderful black and blue berry fruits". 92 Points

This week this was more approachable on opening and even appealing in the couple of following days, better than when young. It showed the same profile as earlier, garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex black berry and black currant fruits with slight hint of mocha - nicely balanced and polished with velvety well integrated smooth silky tannins on a nice lingering soft finish.

5/9/2013 -  90 Points 

A bit tight and slightly closed but after an hour opened up to show wonderful black and blue berry fruits, red currant and slight hint of mocha - complex, polished, velvety well integrated smooth silky tannins on a nice lingering soft finish.

3/27/2010 - 93 Points - Initially a bit tight and closed but after an hour opened up to show wonderful black and blue berry fruits, red currant and slight hint of mocha - complex, polished, velvety well integrated smooth silky tannins on a big long soft finish.

Robert Craig "Affinity" Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2007  

In 2009, Robert Parker wrote, "I think these are the finest wines that I have ever tasted from Robert Craig Cellars." 

Wine Enthusiast wrote about this release, "Craig has produced his best bottling since the late 1990s." In 2010 they wrote, "Enjoy now or hold up to 20 years."

In 2009, Parker wrote in another review, "Give it 2-3 years of cellaring and drink it over the next 15 or possibly 20 years. This is the best group of wines I have ever tasted from Robert Craig Winery."

Tonight this was delightful, perhaps approaching the apex of its drinking profile and window. Knowing I have about half the case left, I'll need to be patient to enjoy watching this mature and age over the next decade.

Consistent with earlier tasting notes, tonight, "Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegant, polished and smoothly balanced, black berry and black currant fruits with notes of mocha chocolate and spice, hints of cassis, smoke and cedar with smooth silky tannins on a lingering cloying finish. 

RM 93 points


Friday, January 21, 2022

Carpenter Creek Cellars Merlot

Carpenter Creek Cellars Merlot

For simple casual sipping with some pasta leftovers from last other night's dinner, I pulled from the cellar this Merlot from Carpenter Creek Cellars in Northern Indiana. We tasted and acquired this wine during a visit to the winery last fall, picking up a couple bottles for such an occasion. I wrote in detail about Carpenter Creek Cellars in an earlier blogpost here

Carpenter Creek Cellars American Merlot NV

Winemaker's notes: "A medium bodied red with an herbal aroma with hints of walnut and tea leaves."

This is labeled as an 'American Red Wine' indicating it is comprised of grapes sourced in America without further specification. It is produced at the winery in North Central Indiana from grapes sourced from various suppliers and growers in Northern California. They procure some of the grapes through a middleman so in some cases they do not the precise provenance or specifics of the grower.

Ruby colored, medium bodied, tangy red berry fruits with notes of black tea, tobacco leaf and hints of leather and white pepper on the finish. 

RM 87 points.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Saggi Long Shadows Sangiovese Red Blend

 Saggi Long Shadows Vintners Collection Sangiovese Red Blend with Angeli's Italian Dinner

We dined with Sean and Michelle and newborn grand-daughter, Lavender at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria. To accompany our Italian cuisine selections, I pulled from the cellar this unique Sangiovese red blend from the notable Long Shadows Vintners Collection which was a perfect pairing thereby amplifying the enjoyment of both the wine and the dinner.

We obtained this limited release label through our Vault Key Club release allocation shipment of Long Shadows Vintners Series which we discovered and signed up for this during our Washington Wine Experience when we visited the winery tasting room in Woodinville last fall.

Our visit to Woodinville was part of our Seattle Culinary and Wine Experience. During our visit to Long Shodows we discovered and acquired this wine. This is a selection of the Long Shadows Vintners Collection, a portfolio of seven ultra-premium wines showcasing the viticulture of the Washington State Columbia Valley growing region and the artwork and expertise of internationally acclaimed winemakers who crafted them. 

This Saggi label is crafted by the father-son team of Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious Tuscan wine families from A. & G. Folonari Tenute that produces a collection of small, ultra-premium wines from the family's numerous Tuscan estates. The Folonaris teamed with Allen Shoup to produce a wine that showcases Washington State's terroir with plenty of Italian character through the Long Shadows Vintners Collection program. Saggi (meaning "wisdom") is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. 

Vibrant and lively, this weighty Sangiovese-dominant blend offers enticing aromas and flavors of red berries and currants with an appealing hint of nutmeg and sweet spice. An elegant and refined wine, its bright acidity pops on the palate with expressive red fruit character that echoes across a long-lasting finish.

The 2016 Saggi is mostly Sangiovese at 60%, but has 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Syrah.

Bright ruby-colored, medium-full bodied, nicely balanced and polished, black cherry fruits are accented by with notes of spice box, dried flowers and hints of cedar and vanilla, smooth sweet tannins linger on a clean, graceful finish.

RM 92 points.

Wine Advocate Jeb Dunnuck gave it 92 points noting, "It's certainly one of the best expressions of Sangiovese from Washington."


Monday, January 17, 2022

Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Buehler Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

For casual sipping with some pasta we opened this try-before you buy (more) wine I picked up at the wine shop. This is one of those classic wines that come along every so often that offers great  Vineyar - Quality Price Ratio. Not one of those that I say, RUN, don't walk to the local wine shop to grab up while supplies last, but one worth picking up if you see it. With 15000 cases produced, you should be able to find it.

A long time producer of modest offerings, this is one of those situations where 'all boats rise with the tide', in a top rated vintage, second and third labels or so rank producers can produce wines above their usual pay grade or weight class, whatever metaphor you wish to apply. Buehler also produce two premium label cabernets from their reserve selections and a single vineyard designated label.

Buehler Vineyards estate has been producing wine in the Napa Valley for over four decades under the direction of the Buehler Family. Buehler have three hundred acres five miles east of St Helena situated high in the mountains above Conn Valley and near the base of Howell Mountain. The Buehler Estate vineyards are planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon and some Zinfandel. 

The mountain terroir has a topography of steeply sloped hillsides with eastern exposures against very gently sloping hills with southern and southwestern exposures. The soils reveal the tumultuous geologic past of the Estate; extensive faulting resulted in at least three distinct soil types. 

Grapes grown on the different terrains and soils give different characteristics to the finished wines; often as distinct as the differences across various Bordeaux varieties. This allows for crafting a blend showing the variety of Cabernet Sauvignon for a complex multi-faceted wine.

The 2018 season offered nearly perfect growing conditions for growers in the Napa Valley. The year was warm throughout the growing season but cooled right around harvest allowing everyone to pick their grapes slowly without the threat of overripening. 
Buehler benefited from a great vintage with all the stars aligning for a great wine that they offer at a price point more affordable than most other mountain grown Napa Cabernets. At street price around or under twenty five dollars, this represents good value and should be fairly readily available. A bit of flabbiness gives away its price point but it provides tasty and pleasant sipping none-the-less. Makes for a great pizza or party wine for casual sipping or respectably sharing with (non oenphile) friends.

This release was awarded 93 points by Vinous, 92 points by James Suckling, and 90 points by both Wine & Spirits and Wine Spectator. 

Winemaker Notes; "The wine is brimming with fruit aromas and flavors biased to the black fruit end of the Cabernet spectrum: plums, blackberry, and black currant. Rich and full-bodied on the palate, this Cabernet drinks well on release but will soften and develop with additional age."
Garnet purple colored, medium-full-bodied with round ample ripe black-currant  blackberry and some blueberry fruits, accented with notes of graphite, dried herbs, floral, mocha, spice and leather ending with moderate tannins on a flavorful finish. 

RM 90 points. 


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Top Rated Lewis Cabernet

Top Rated Wine of the Year, Lewis Cabernet for new home christening ...

Ryan and Michelle moved in to their new house and celebrated their first dinner opening this top rated Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. This label was the Wine Spectator #1 Top 100 Wines of 2016, Highly Recommended. Their new home boasts Ryan's new custom built atmosphere controlled wine cellar. As part of our house warming recognition for the kids, I gifted them from our cellar a birthyear vintage Dom Perignon 1983 in the original seal box, for a suitable occasion.

Ryan's Caroline Cellar

Our visit to Lewis Cellars Chateau in Napa Valley was one of the highlights of our Napa Wine Experience in 2017

As I've written often in these pages, we have fun with label with its prominent 'L' in their branding and on their on the labels which we open for special occasions with Linda and Lucy.  

Son Alec and Vivianna also had a private tasting at the Chateau during their honeymoon in the summer of 2019. We also have fun with their label, Alec's Blend, named for their so named grandson. 

We typically maintain a rolling collection of a decade of Alec's Blend vintages in our cellar that we serve on applicable occasions.

We also enjoy Lewis, sharing the Hoosier heritage with his affiliation with the Indianapolis Motorace. Randy was a professional race car driver for 23 years running in Formula Three in Europe, and in the US, Formula 5000, Can Am, and finally Indy Cars from 1983 to 1991. He drove in five Indy 500's qualifying in the 4th row three times and finishing highest at 13th.

When he crashed during trials for the 1991 Indianapolis 500, he and his wife Debbie decided to change careers, opting to pursue their love for wines. Heading to Napa Valley, they released their first wine in 1994, the first in a long string of successful award winning vintages. 

Randy learned winemaking, learning on the job working for friend and vintner Bob Miner at Oakville Ranch, while Debbie studied the business. When Miner died in 1994, they set out on their own with their own label and brand.

Lewis established agreements with growers throughout Napa Valley that allowed them to source the finest fruit from Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford and Oak Knoll for their red varietals, and Chardonnay from Oak Knoll and Russian River Valley. Each site was selected for a specific varietal character, with many of the vineyards being planted exclusively for them. 

Pour Boys wine tasting at Lewis Cellars
Randy handled all aspects of vineyard management as well as winemaking while Debbie tended to the business including sales and distribution. The Lewis brand grew to a total production of nearly 10,000 cases annually of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Comparing car racing to winemaking, Randy says the biggest difference between his racing days and those in the cellar is that he never had the best cars, but he does have the best grapes. 

Debbie passed away two years ago. Her son Dennis Bell has taken over as President and General Manager. He grew up with wine at a young age spending childhood summers in the orchards of his grandparent's ranch. He joined Lewis Cellars in 1999 and is winery president.

Josh Widaman oversees winemaking. After college he worked harvests internationally – in the Barossa, Hawke’s Bay and Burgundy – while earning a degree from UC Davis and pressing cuvée at Domaine Carneros. Before joining Lewis Cellars, James gained experience on the winemaking teams of Donum, Dutton Goldfield, Patz & Hall and Acacia.

In their selection of vineyard sites, they conducted severe grape selection and lavish oak treatment trending to their preferred ultra-ripe grapes, and holding on the vine, often among the last in the valley to harvest.

They produce a bold style that Randy discovered and favored when he started drinking wine while living in Europe in the 1970s, when he was racing Formula Three cars. His preferences gravitated to Bordeaux and to fuller-bodied reds from the Rhône Valley - styles that we also prefer and collect and consume. 

Following advice and wisdom of Helen Turley of Marcassin, the architect of Napa Cabernet powerhouses such as Bryant Family and Colgin, he applied her approach: 'Be patient and let the grapes hang until the desired peak, when flavor and tannin texture reach a sweet spot'. 

Lewis proved to be a remarkably consistent, successful producer. Since the debut vintage in 1994, they produced 60 Cabernets and blends, nearly all of which earned outstanding ratings of 90 or more points, with 15 in the classic range (95 to 100). Their wines earned repeated appearances in the Wine Spectator Top 100 and Top 10 of the annual Wine Spectator ranked list. In addition to their much heralded Cabernets, Lewis produced more than 125 other wines reviewed in that same period scored in the outstanding range, with 25 ranking classic by Wine Spectator.

Lewis own no vineyards, but sourced grapes through contracts with leading growers from top vineyards, they were able to consistently produce opulent yet graceful wines. The source of their grapes, the identity of the vineyards that supplied their blends, was always a well kept secret, subject to handshakes to rigorous confidentiality agreements. 

Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013 

This was rated 95 points and was awarded Wine Spectator’s Top Wine of the Year of 2016, selected from a pool of more than 18,000 wines by Wine Spectator editors in the magazine’s blind tastings. 

Selections are based on four criteria: quality (represented by score), value (reflected by price), availability (based on the number of cases either made or imported into the U.S.) and what Wine Spectator calls the “X-factor”—or, in other words, the excitement generated by the wine.

In 2013, Lewis Cellars bottled five Cabernets, all but one of them blends from a variety of grape sources, mostly located on the eastern side of the valley. The blends are all aged in 100 percent new French oak. The best barrels go into the Reserve and Cuvee L bottlings. 
That one of Lewis’ most affordable Cabernets was such an achievement speaks to the success of their winemaking. It is also a phenomenon I often write about in these pages, that is top vintages, the second and third labels often rival the premier flagship labels, thereby providing very high relative QPR - Quality Price Ratios.  Indeed, as too often happens, once awarded the highest award recognition in the industry, this label price has grown from the $100 release price to over $250, driven up by collectors and vanity buyers, seeking to own the #1 label.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegant, smooth and polished, blackberry and black currant fruits are accented by anise, spice and black tea with graceful long, lingering finish. 

RM 94 points.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Pour Boys Wine Dinner features Dual Pauillacs

Pour Boys Wine Dinner features Dual Pauillacs and favored St Emilion and Napa Merlot

Fellow 'Pour Boy' Dr Dan and Linda came over for beef tenderloin dinner and we opened a pair of a special Pauillac label from Château Duhart-Milon.

We reminisce about this label; it anchored a mixed case of wine we gave Dan for a wedding present in a stocked wine rack forty years ago. Being newbies to fine wine at that time, I left the price tags on all the bottles so he could discern every-day wines from once-a-week or once-a-month wines. 

Château Duhart Milon Rothschild (Lafite) was the or one of the most expensive labels in that flight. Dan attributes that gift selection as part of his introduction and indoctrination to fine wine.

Tonight, I pulled from the cellar a 2003 and 2004 vintage release of Duhart-Milon for our dinner, a 'mini' vertical - multiple vintages of the same label. 

Dan brought from his cellar a opposing, Right Bank Bordeaux from Château Figeac, one of our favorite and collected St Emilions. 

Prior to dinner we had a selection of artisan cheeses and ceasar salad. With the grilled tenderloin beef au jus Linda prepared roasted au-gratin potatoes, haricot verts and carrots. 

Following dinner we enjoyed Linda's incredibly delicious decadent Salted Caramel Chocolate Mug-cake dessert.

Part of the evening was spent discussing and planning this year's upcoming OTBN - Open that bottle night, our annual wine extravaganza. 

Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 2004

We drove by the Duhart-Milon winery in the village of Pauillac during our Bordeaux Wine Experience in 2019.  

This release was awarded 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by Wine & Spirits. 

This is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot.

At seventeen years, the fill level, foil, label, and most importantly, the cork were all in ideal condition for their age. 

Dark garnet color with purple hues, medium to full-bodied, very aromatic, the fruits erupted from the bottle as soon as the cork, in perfect condition, was extracted. Expressive but only slightly austere blackberry and black currant fruits with classic Pauillac tones tobacco, creme de cassis, earth, spice and hints of cedar turning to moderate tannins and a bright fresh tangy acidity.

RM 91 points.

Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 2003

This blend is 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot.

Similar profile to the '04 release above being the same wine but this release was rated higher, 94 and 93 points by Robert Parker, Wine Advocate who compared to the much heralded 1982, and said "may be the finest Duhart-Milon made ... ever' and 'this is the greatest Duhart-Milon I have ever tasted.... a breakthrough effort and clearly a sleeper of the vintage".

James Suckling gave it 92-93 points and said "One of the best I have tasted from this estate." 

Those reviews were when it was about five years of age and now at seventeen, I found the '04 much better than the '03, perhaps aging differently or bottle variation, but my reviews were upside down from the pundits when comparing the two vintages. 

Parker wrote further, "Anticipated maturity: 2007-2020. Duhart is a chateau to watch as the Rothschilds (of Lafite) are making serious investments and pushing full-throttle to upgrade the quality and image of this estate." So, perhaps it is at the end of its primacy and starting to wane as it moves beyond its prime drinking window.

Jancis Robinson gave it 17/20 and write last year, "Really rather charming! At peak? But with some Lafite restraint about it. Attractive peppery edge to the sweet fruit."

I found similar profile to the '04 release above, more ruby than garnet colored, not as structured and less full fruits with slightly more acidicity on the finish. 

RM 89 points.

Château Figeac St Emilion Bordeaux 2010

This is one of our favorite St Emilions, a collectable that is a 'signature' label that we collected for our son Ryan's birthyear, and for a vertical collection from thereon. 

We served this wine from a double magnum at son Ryan's wedding from the 1982 vintage. We hold a vertical collection of this label as well as it being part of a horizontal selection of Bordeaux from his birth year vintage. 

We served an aged 1982 Birthyear vintage of this Figeac label for a father-son dinner with son Ryan just last month. That was testimony to the long lived ageworthiness of this label in good vintage years.

Tonight's 2010 vintage release was a blockbuster for Figeac, getting 98 points from James Suckling, 97 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinous, and 96 points from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. In 2013 Wine Enthusiast gave it a "*Cellar Selection* Give this wine at least 10 years."

Dan served this wine at a dinner together at his place back in 2016 when I posted about this wine.  

I sense this wine was consumed too young back in 2016 and is just now coming of age to reveal its true character and potential. In 2013 Steve Tanzer of International Wine Cellar gave it 91 points and said, "its youthfully forbidding tannins call for at least eight years of patience. It will merit an even higher score if it blossoms in the bottle."

In 2016 I posted this below. 

Château Figeac St Emilion Bordeaux 2010

Tonight was similar to our earlier experience with this label. True to the style of the Merlot based blend, this was an appropriate opening wine, a bit softer and more approachable easier drinking than the Cabernet predominant blends.

The blend of this right bank Bordeaux is 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.

Deep ruby colored, medium-full bodied, black berry fruits accented by cedar, tobacco leaf and smoke with hints of green olive, cassis and oak turning to smooth gripping tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.

Tonight, this was dark inky blackish purple colored, full bodied and dense but velvety, polished and elegant, nicely integrated black fruits with tobacco, graphite, cassis, hints of spice and cigar box on a smooth soft tannin finish. 

RM 93 points.

Darioush Napa Valley Merlot 2000

To round out of flight and to complement the Merlot based Right Bank Figeac, I opened this aged vintage Napa Merlot from Darioush.

We tasted and acquired this wine when Linda and I visited the Darioush estate and did a barrel tasting with winemaker Steve Devitt at the estate while the new facility and hospitality center were being built back in 2003. 

Dan accompanied us when we attended an elegant dinner hosted by Darioush at the Everest Room in Chicago back in 2004

And, we all visited the magnificent, opulent Darioush winery in Napa during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017

I have to say this wine was the surprise of the evening, exceeding my expectations. I was concerned how it would show at twenty plus years, being from a somewhat modest vintage. 

As shown the fill level, label, foil and cork were in pristine condition; another testament to the provenance of our cellar, having held this since release. This is sourced from the Darioush Estate vineyards adjacent to the winery.

This was rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. 

Dark blackish purple colored, medium-full bodied, rich, supple concentrated black fruits, yet elegant and polished with notes of dark mocha chocolate, herbs, hints of smoke, toasty oak and vanilla, with silky tannins on a long smooth finish. 

RM 91 points.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tuscan Brunello 2013 Horizontal at Italian Village

Team Dinner Features Mini Horizontal of 2013 Tucsan Brunello di Montalcino at Italian Village Chicago 

Due to pandemic concerns and restrictions we significantly downsized our global team meeting scheduled for this week in Chicago. For the dramatically reduced, remaining set of the attendees, who were not involved in other activities this evening, we held an extended team dinner at our usual go-to venue, Italian Village, Chicago.  
Besides the team-building, fellowship and business interaction, one of the fun and entertaining aspects of hosting a small group dinner is the ability to serve and taste a variety of wines for comparison tasting. This was part of a continuum of numerous dinners which I've featured in earlier blogposts about our wine and dinners at Italian Village, Chicago's oldest, longest running continuously family operated Italian restaurant.
Taking advantage of and exploiting the extraordinary, extensive wine list and wine cellar of Italian Village, curated and managed under the direction of dear friend Jared Gelband, Wine Director, I selected a flight of wines. I selected from the vast cellar winelist a horizontal flight (wines of the same vintage), four 2013 vintage Brunello di Montalcino labels. In the end, three of the four labels we selected were available in stock in the cellar which we consumed. (The other label selection that was not available was Molino di Sant'Antimo Brunello di Montalcino 2013.)

The vast Italian Village cellar and winelist several pages of Brunello di Montalcino labels across vintages spanning more two decades. 

Brunello di Montalcino is the DOCG specified Italian wine classification, the highest in the rank order of the four levels. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation classification was established in 1980. It is one of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines.

Brunello is the local name for Sangiovese grape varietal based wines, used since 1865, when a producer in the village of Montalcino made Italy's first 100% Sangiovese wine.  

The name Brunello is derived from a grape varietal of the same name that over time became apparent it is the same grape as the popular varietal, Sangiovese. The Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is conferred on highest quality red wines produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino, in the province of Siena. The region is located about 80 km south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region. 

There are about 250 wineries in the region, mostly smaller estates with vineyards of about 50 acres, with a combined total of about 8500 acres of vines. Most are located in the western part of the region, the area most influenced by the climatic effects of the nearby Mediterranean sea. Several of the top producers and a regional map are shown above.  

Brunellos based on the Sangiovese grape with its thicker-skinned berries tend to produce wines with exceptionally bold fruit flavors, high tannin, and high acidity that extend the life of the wine.  Hence, they tend to be rather long lived wines, reaching their peak perfection after a decade or more. Taking advantage of the deep and broad selection available on the Italian Village cellar winelist,  I selected a flight of nine year old Brunello di Montalcino DOCG classified wines to accompany our Italian cuisine, and to compare different labels from the same vintage. 

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino 2013

The Tenuta Fanti estate has belonged to the Fanti family since the beginning of the eighteen hundreds, managed under the direction of Filippo Fanti since the early 1970s, joined by his daughter Elisa in 2007. The winemaker is Fillipo Artini.

The Fanti Estate is located in the heart of Tuscany, in the valley of Castelnuovo dell’Abate which lies to the south of the village of Montalcino. The estate spans 750 acres of land with eighteen different vineyards spanning 135 acres, several surrounding the new wine cellar built in 2004.

When Filippo Fanti took over leadership of the company in the early 1970's, he focused on striving for the highest quality wines that would express the terroir of Castelnuovo dell' Abate. Starting with the soils, he sustainably replanted the vineyards and olive trees after a careful selection of the most suitable plots within the estate. In 2004, construction began on a new modernized spacious gravity flow cellar for winemaking, ageing, and refinement.  

The Fanti Estate vineyards are planted mostly to Sangiovese but also include the Tuscan Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon and Merot, some Syrah and white wine grapes Viognier and lesser known grapes Trebbiano, Malvasia and San Colombano. There are also 150 acres of olive trees, 200 acres of seed crops and the remaining land in forest. 

Fanti produce a portfolio of nine different wines plus a grappa dessert wine, primarily Sangiovese based including this Brunello, as well as several Tuscans consisting of the Bordeaux varietals and the Syrah, and a couple white wines from estate grown Viognier

The first vintage of Fanti Brunello di Montalcino was released back in 1980, selected from twenty-five acres of Sangiovese grapes located on the different slopes of the Castelnuovo dell'Abate area.

This 2013 vintage release was awarded 93 points by James Suckling, 92 points by Vinous A. Galloni, and 90 points by Wine Advocate Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

The producer's tasting notes for this release: "Color: bright ruby red, medium intensity. Nose: complex notes of cherry, red fruits and violet, alongside with pepper, licorice and cinnamon. Fresh balsamic note. Palate: tannins are dense and well integrated, great acidity, elegant, vertical and slightly sapid. Well balanced. The retro nasal recalls perfectly the nose."

This was bright ruby colored, medium bodied, black cherry and red berry fruits with notes of floral, a bit of sweetnesss with spicy cinnamon, licorice and hints of white pepper with soft tannins on a crisp clean tangy finish.

RM 91 points.

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2013

This renowned premium label is owned by the famous fashion designer Massimo Ferragamo, and Chiara Ferragamo, who purchased the historic property of nearly 5,000-acres, formerly a medieval village, in 2003. They set upon enhancing and modernizing the facilities, renovating the historic Borgo and villas, and updating the winery and cellars.

The history of Castiglion del Bosco dates back to the 1100's and great Sienese families who settled the area. The estate was farmed over the ensuing 800 years. 

The historic castle was erected in 1100 in classic medieval style. At the dawn of the thirteenth century, the Cacciaconti family of Trequanda had stone walls built around the stronghold that stands on the hilltop, still visible today with the stone tower.

In 1318, Sienese Ciampolo Gallerani declared himself lord of the fortress. He claimed that one of his descendants, Cecilia Gallerani, was the girl depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in his famous painting “Lady with an Ermine” (1488). On his death, in 1338, Castiglion del Bosco fell under the rule of the Piccolomini family, who initiated widespread renovation of the fortifications.

Castiglion del Bosco is one of Montalcino's most isolated vineyards with its 150 acres of vines surrounded by nearly 3000 acres of woodlands. The Castiglion del Bosco name is derived from the word bosco,(wood), surrounding the Castiglion (walled castle), 'fortress in the woods'. The estate retains the same historic boundaries with the famous Borgo, school, stables, and the crop fields, vineyards and olive groves. The rolling Val d'Orcia land has been the subject of landscape paintings for generations of Tuscan artists. 

Castiglion del Bosco was one of the founding members when Montalcino's wineries teamed up and created the region's official Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino 1967. The Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium was one of the earliest Italian wine producing regions to earn Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status. From the originial 25 founding members producing about 850,000 bottles annually, today’s production now exceeds 6,000,000 bottles from the consortium membership that has grown to 140 wineries.

In 2010, the Castiglion del Bosco Golf Club was developed, the only private golf club in Italy, a stunning 18-hole course designed by Tom Weiskopf is sited near the world-class winery and a five-star resort set on nearly 520 acres.

The vast parkland that surrounds the Castiglion del Bosco estate contains the Art, Nature and Culture Park of Val d’Orcia, established in 1967 as a Protected Natural Area. Castiglion del Bosco Val d’Orcia was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, acknowledged as a place of outstanding universal value.

In 2021 the 2016 vintage Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino was awarded 99 points by James Suckling and it came in second place in his Top 100 Wines of Italy 2020, listed along with the best wines of any Italian wine region and appellation.

The estate of Castiglion del Bosco grows primarily Sangiovese, and its line of wines is an expression of the two local denominations: three different interpretations of Brunello and the Rosso di Montalcino.  Prima Pietra, the second vineyard property of Massimo Ferragamo  lies in Riparbella, on the Tuscan coast, with 27 acres of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. 

This was garnet colored, medium bodied, expressive black cherry and black raspberry fruits, notes of toast, leather, tobacco, spice and hints of pepper with a nice balance of acidity and tannins on the long engaging finish. 

RM 91 points.

Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de' Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino 2013

Another of the vast Marchesi de' Frescobaldi properties of Tuscany, one of seven estates they own and manage across the Northern Italian Tuscany Bolgheri region, some of which have been in the family dating back to the 1300's.  

This Brunello di Montalcino property lies in the historic Castelgiocondo village, the area dominated by an ancient castle, in a small medieval village south-west of Montalcino, the ancient stronghold built in 1100 to defend the road leading from the sea to Siena.

The village of Castelgiocondo overlooks the historic Frescobaldi estate. The property was one of the first to begin producing Brunello di Montalcino in 1800, its historic importance represented on the label of Castelgiocondo by the figure of a condottiere from a celebrated fresco of the Sienese artist Simone Martini.

The label features the artist’s depiction showing Guidoriccio da Fogliano, commander of the troops of Siena who in 1323 led the attack on the Montemassi castle; an historic moment that coincided with the initiation of the Frescobaldi family’s centuries-old adventure in the world of wine.

This label release was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and by Wine Spectator.

The Castelgiocondo 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows dark garnet color, medium body, nicely balanced, round full blackberry and black cherry fruits with earthy spice, tobacco and leather with bright acidity as firm but approachable tannins.
RM 92 points.

I was disappointed that one of the labels I was especially eager to try and compare with the others from this same region and vintage, Molino di Sant'Antimo, was no longer available in the cellar, so we opted for this perennial high value and dependable favorite Tuscan red blend.

Antinori Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Il Bruciato 2019, Bolgheri DOC

This is from another famous prodigious Tuscan family, owners and producers of a broad portfolio of wines sourced from their vast estate holdings across the regions. 

As written in recent blogposts on this wine, this is from the Guado al Tasso estate, located in the small but prestigious Bolgheri DOC appellation on the coast of Upper Maremma, about one hundred kilometers southwest of Florence. This appellation has a relatively recent history as it was established in 1994, but has gained worldwide recognition as a new reference point in the international oenological scene. The estate covers an area of 2500 acres, of which about 790 acres are planted with vines. 

The Guado al Tasso estate is one of nine major well known brands of the vast Antinori family wine empire. Guado al Tasso’s vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Vermentino grapes; this last cultivated with both with white and red varieties. Adjacency to the nearby sea provides a mild climate with constant breezes mitigate summer heat and alleviate harsh winter weather, maintaining a clear sky and a high level of sunlight exposure. 

The Il Bruciato label was created in the year 2002 as the the second wine under the flagship Guado al Tasso. It is crafted to represent the unique terroir of Bolgheri and give it a greater visibility and recognition. The first blend to be used was that of Guado al Tasso only to see, in the years which followed, a modification of the varietal composition and the identification of a series of vineyard plots intended to be used exclusively for this wine. 

Il Bruciato is now regarded as a modern interpretation of Bolgheri’s unique terroir made from carefully selected Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grapes from all around Guado al Tasso’s vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with Merlot, Syrah and a small percentage of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and the final blend was reintroduced into barriques where it was left to age before bottling.

A widely popular wine known for great value with exceptional QPR - quality-price-ration, this is one of the few Italian labels I regularly keep in our cellar for dependable everyday sipping, but also respectable for a fine dinner accompaniment. 

I served the 2016 release of this label at a team dinner reecntly, the last of my holdings from that vintage. I write more about this label in that blogpost. The 2018 release sold out very quickly making this 2019 even more anticipated. While this is a wine that has increased in price significantly over the past few years it remains a great value and is a real must-buy for regular Bolgheri enthusiasts. 

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant expressive black cherry and black berry fruits with  spices, tobacco, milk chocolate, cedar and notes of graphite on the tangy acidic finish.

RM 91 points. 

Winemaker's Tasting Notes: Il Bruciato 2019 is intensely ruby red in color. Its nose expresses notes of small dark fruit, sweet spices and tobacco. Its well-structured palate is harmonious and very pleasant to drink. Fresh fruity notes dominate the finish. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona Merlot 2005

Avignonesi Desiderio Cortona Merlot 2005 at Italian Village, Chicago

With much of the team in town for meetings, we dined at our regular go-to place, Italian Village, Chicago. Many of our alternate sites are still closed due to the pandemic.

This winery is named after the Avignonesi family, founders of the original estate. It was acquired in 2009 by Virginie Saverys who before moving to Tuscany in 2007 to pursue her passion for fine wines, had a highly successful legal career in Belgium. 

She bought Avignonesi with the intention of taking on an established winery recognised for its quality, innovative research and experimentation and take it to a new level of excellence. Introducing sustainable farming methods and biodynamic viticulture, Avignonesi has become to the largest biodynamic winery in Italy. Saverys' aim for Avignonesi is to produce authentic, unique wines, that mirror the distinct identity of Montepulciano which are also healthier for her customers, land and future generations.

The estate has grown to 420 acres of vineyards including the purchase of a state-of-the-art winemaking facility in the Montepulciano appellation. 

Avignonesi is overseen by CEO and Winemaker Matteo Giustiniani. Florentine by birth, he studied oenology and viticulture at the University of Florence and later gained a Master in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux. 

Assisting Giustiniani is COO and Agronomist Alessio Gorini. Alessio joined Avignonesi in 2014. Born in Pistoia, Alessio has worked and studied in some of the most important wine areas in the world, including Bordeaux, Burgundy and New Zealand, where he developed understanding of biodynamic viticulture. He defines himself as a “foot-soldier of the vine”. 

At Avignonesi, they say, "the 'heavy lifting' is done in the vineyard with the close collaboration between the agronomist and the oenologist and their capacity to observe and act in the best interest of nature, fruit, staff and final consumer."

The Avignonesi brand now produces a broad portfolio of eighteen different labels. most produced primarily from Sangiovese, but also some Bordeaux varietal red wines, and some white wines and Blends comprised of Chardonnay, Malvasia, Trebbiano, Sangiovese and Grechetto. Their Cantaloro brand consists of every day wines in red, white and rose. They also produce a Grappa and a Grappa Reserve. 

The Tuscany wine region, or Toscana in Italian, is Italy’s best-known wine region and its most diverse. Historically Sangiovese was the primary grape grown in Tuscany and Chianti was considered the purest expression of Sangiovese. Sangiovese and its many clones are still important, and they are the grapes used for the Tuscan appellations of Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano, Chianti, Chianti Classico and Carmignano. 

Over the last 50 years, innovative producers, many of them in southwestern Tuscany in the area called Maremma, have also planted traditional Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Some producers have gone against tradition and blended those varietals with Sangiovese to produce respectable wines that do not conform to Italy’s appellation regulations. Such wines are called Super Tuscans.

I selected this label from the extraordinary, extensive Italian Village wine list and wine cellar. Wine Director and friend Jared Gelband was tied up, busy serving other patrons. When he later came to our table to check on us, seeing this bottle he exclaimed, 'I saw the order ticket for this label placed and suspected that was probably you!"

This label, Avignonesi Desiderio is comprised of Bordeaux varietals, primarily Merlot, sourced from the Cortona area of Tuscany.  

This wine gets its name from Desiderio, the name of a large bull that lived on Avignonesi’s Capezzine Farm more than one hundred years ago, and became something of a legend. At that time Desiderio was the largest bull in Tuscany and because of his excellent genes, helped refine and define the Chianina cattle race, specific to the region. 

This Merlot label is a tribute dedicated to the majestic beloved bull, a testimony of the wine’s origins, and as a symbol of its powerful, yet sensuous character.

This release is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The fruit for this label is sourced from the Cortona Central Coast estate vineyards, Le Badelle estate vineyard, planted in 2000, La Selva estate vineyard, planted between 1973 and 2004, Selva Nuova and Selva Vecchia, La Selva estate: planted between 2003 and 2005; Ribuio, La Selva estate: planted in 2000, and Paggino, La Selva estate vineyards planted in 1973.

In recent years, 36000 bottles, 3000 cases were produced of this label. 

Recent releases of this label were awarded 95 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Veronelli and 91 points by Wine Spectator. This release was awarded 89 points by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.

At going on seventeen years this was probably at the apex of its drinking window, not likely to improve with further aging. The fill level, label, foil and cork were in perfect condition for their age.

Dark garnet purple colored, nicely balanced, smooth and polished, black berry fruits accented by smokey clove spice, licorice, tobacco, hints of dark chocolate and herbs with earthy Tuscan notes indicating Tuscan terroir, turning to dusty tannins with tangy acids on a long finish. 

RM 91 points