Friday, April 29, 2022

Doffo Winery Temecula Wine Experience

Doffo Winery Temecula Wine Experience

Visiting Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill in SoCal, they took us to Temecula Valley to experience the wine region there. I was not prepared for the dramatic large modern winery estates there - how large they were, and how new they were. Nor was I prepared for the breadth and depth of wine offerings.  

Temecula Valley lies east from the Pacific coast, over the Santa Ana Mountains that follow the SoCal coast, in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains that are the wall framing the central valley desert, lying about equidistant between LA, Orange County, Palm Springs and San Diego. The wine region is  concentrated in one area with close to fifty wineries tucked into the valley with its distinctive terroir well suited for growing wine grapes.

At exit Highway 15 lies the old historic town of Temecula to the west, and head east, inland out Rancho California Road and one passes fifteen large modern wineries with another dozen off the side roads. Continue out to Glen Oak Road and loop back on De Portola Road and you'll pass another dozen plus estates.

We visited Doffo Winery and Vineyards, one of J&B's favorite producers of the area. Not only is it an extensive wine estate but its a vintage motorcycle museum as well. Sited at the far end of Rancho California Road, Doffo Winery claims to be the first true petite winery in Temecula Valley. 

Founded in 1997 by Marcelo Doffo, he draws on his experiences growing up as a youngster working on the family farm back in Argentina.

Marcelo immigrated to the United States in the mid-1970's and eventually opened an auto body shop, in Orange County, where he also collected and restored vintage motorcycles.

In 1997,  he visited the old country in the northern region of Turin, Italy and discovered that like every good Italian, his great uncle still made wine the old fashioned way, in his basement. Marcelo returned home anxious to try his hand at winemaking, creating his first batches in his garage. 

He continued his crafting wines and by 1997 he had expanded his knowledge and developed his skills as a winemaker, and was awarded the silver medal from the Orange County Wine Society. 

Based on this success, that same year he purchased fifteen acres of an old cattle ranch in rural Temecula, California, complete with an historic one-room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse reminded him of a similar place he attended as a small child in Argentina. Some Doffo labels feature a simple image of the old historic original school house that once sat on the original property, which has since been removed. Marcello attempted to restore it but was unable to gain cooperation and requisite permissions from the county authorities.

Marcelo prepared the soil and installed trellises and irrigation lines and planted his first vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with a small percentage of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. He released his first vintage wine four years later, and called it “Mistura.”  

While establishing Doffo Winery, Marcelo's MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection grew to nearly 200 motorcycles and scooters from around the world. He built amongst the vineyards the MotoDoffo Barrel Room on the winery grounds to house his motorcycle collection. 

Over the ensuring years Marcello was joined by son Damian, and his daughters Brigitte Doffo-Cartaya and Samantha in planting with other varietals and establishing a hospitality center for marketing, promotions and special events.

Marcelo adheres to the philosophy that good wine making begins in the vineyard. From hand-planting each vine to the meticulous viticulture tending the vines, Marcelo, his son Damian, and their crew take great care to produce the best fruit achievable on their estate. 

Doffo Winery produces small batches of wine in comparison to many other wineries in Temecula Valley, and the attention to detail that this affords results in intensely rich fruit and bold, complex wines.

Damian grew up working the farm and vineyards. In the early days making wine in the backyard, Damian helped out by washing bottles for 10 cents apiece. Working closely alongside his father, he eventually developed into a promising winemaker, developing a sophisticated palate in his years as Marcelo’s assistant winemaker. With his father’s teaching, his knowledge expanded to include all aspects of owning and managing a winery and vineyard. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, and an initial career in corporate sales, Damian returned to the winery as General Manager. 

Today, in addition managing Doffo, Damian sits on the Temecula Valley Winegrower’s Association Board of Directors and helps guide this coalition of winemakers.

As the winery has grown, they have established an exceptional visitor experience. Marcelo’s daughter, Brigitte Doffo-Cartaya, serves as Tasting Room Director, managing the wine tasting experience. Marcelo’s daughter, Samantha, serves as Events Coordinator and has turned Doffo Winery into a  destination in Temecula Valley, hosting weddings and other private events.

Touring the vineyards, we had the privilege meeting Marcello who was working in his automotive workshop where he spends his time these days, having turned the winery and vineyards business operations over to the next generation.   

The estate tours are often given directly by family members, or specific designated members of the staff. Our afternoon was hosted by Sal, an almost-family member who was deeply knowledgeable of the property, history, viticulture and winemaking practices. He went to great effort to describe some of the intricacies of the viticulture methods of the property. 

Sal took us on an extensive tour of the property estate and every vineyard describing the vines, varietals, and techniques employed in grooming, irrigating and managing.  

Our estate tour was then followed by a tour of the barrel room, storage facility and then a wine tasting back at the hospitality center. 

We toured the Barrel Room Motorcycle Museum with many of the two hundred vintage motorcycles in the collection. 

The Doffo wine-tasting offers several tasting flights from their basic portfolio of Doffo wines, their MotoDoffo line, their Latest Releases to their Reserve and Library Wines, as well as the complete list of wines by the glass or by the bottle. 

We tasted their Reserve and Library flight of premium wines served with their charcuterie and cheese plate with some fresh fruits. Their Library and Private Reserve wines are packaged in premium heavy glass bottles with painted labels. 

Our tasting flight:

  • Doffo Vineyards "Paulina" Brut Sparkling Wine 
  • Doffo "Concreto" Temecula Valley Malbec 2015
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Petite Sirah 2018
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Syrah 2016
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley "Mistura" 2018 

Doffo Vineyards "Paulina" Brut Sparkling Wine 

Winemaker Notes: "
Brut made from a Chardonnay with just a touch of Muscat. Perfect for a hot day! The Paulina Sparkling was named after Marcelo's mom. Salute Nona!!"

Straw colored, medium bodied, light refreshing spritz with notes of citrus, stone fruit and hints of peach.

RM 88 points

These wines generally were complex, with concentrated forward round fruits. Doffo produces these wines with meticulous care and attention to detail in the vineyards and in the production and aging of the wine. They are testament to the importance of terroir and the distinctive suitability of a site and how that place manifests itself in the fruit, and the ultimate blend of the wine.

In summary, these wines exceeded my expectations for each label. I was not expecting Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. However, they defy the ultra-premium price point they are asking - from $95 to $150 for these Private Reserve labels. I felt they lacked the finesse, polish, balance and elegance of wines commanding these premium prices. Perhaps their entry level and mid-tier estate wines provide better QPR's (Quality-Price-Ratios). We did not find one standout favorite inspiring label.

Doffo "Concreto" Temecula Valley Malbec 2015

Winemaker Notes: "Following in the footsteps of our wildly popular Viognier and our luxurious Concreto Cabernet Sauvignon, we are proud to present our first-ever concrete-fermented Malbec!'
"Using only the finest fruit from our Malbec vineyards, primary fermentation takes place in our egg-shaped concrete tank. The natural insulation of the concrete stabilizes the temperature and limits the speed of fermentation, which makes for great extraction of the aromas. The fruit is then pressed and only the free run (the wine) undergoes secondary fermentation in our Italian Garbellotto cask, where it is allowed to age and develop for 60 months.' 
"The result is a refined and balanced Malbec worthy of opening for special occasions or laid down to continue maturing in the bottle for years to come. Only 98 cases produced."

Barrel: Concrete fermented and aged 20 months in 1st use medium toast Garbellotto Italian Cask 

Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley "Mistura" 2018

Winemaker Notes: "The 2019 vintage of our original field blend takes on more of a bordeaux style with its low alcohol percentage and subtle oak profile. Fragrances of plum, ripe strawberries and rose petals give way to caramel, cacao and vanilla, and its velvety mouthfeel and balanced acidity linger on the palate."
Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Petite Sirah 2018
Winemaker Notes: "
A new entry to Doffo's portfolio of reserve wines, the 2018 Petite Sirah Private Reserve immediately shows off the varietal's inky, purple color in the glass. An elegant array of aromas including prunes, blueberries, and cherries give way to spicier notes of black pepper, dark chocolate and cloves. This wine is round and balanced on the palate and leaves a pleasantly lingering finish."

Composition: 100% Petite Sirah

Barrel: Aged 24 months in 100% French oak
Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Syrah 2016
Winemaker Notes: "Doffo's Syrah Private Reserve makes a comeback with the 2016 vintage, which promises to satisfy even the most discerning Syrah lovers. Straight away the maturity of the wine is evident by the orange rim set against the deep ruby red backdrop.' 
"Fruit-forward aromas of cherries, ripe blackberries and strawberry jam are balanced by notes of black olives, licorice and vanilla, with just a hint of smoke that is characteristic of the varietal. This full-bodied wine is balanced, round and smooth on entry, with a fine acidity and a lingering finish."

Composition: 100% Syrah

Barrel: Aged 48 months in 100% 1st use American oak

Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 

Winemaker Notes: "Using only the best Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from our vineyards, the 2018 Private Reserve is deep ruby red in color and is purely delightful on the nose. Aromas of strawberries, bell pepper, and mint give way to dark chocolate, black currant and plum.' 
"Making a strong entrance onto the palate, this elegant wine boasts a full mouthfeel with firm tannins and a long finish with a hint of red berries."

Barrel: Aged 20 months in 40% 1st use American oak, 37% 1st use French oak, and 23% 2nd use American oak

Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Constant Napa Cab at Louis' Newport

Constant Diamond Mountain Cab BYOB at Louis' By the Bay, Newport Beach

Visiting sister Jan & Bro-in-law Bill in SoCal, we dined at Bill's favored dinesite, Louis' in Newport. 

Louie’s by the Bay is a modern Italian steakhouse located on the waterfront along the picturesque Mariner’s Mile in Newport Beach with a 180-degree view of Newport Bay.

As classic steakhouse with several Italian offerings and a couple seafood selections, they have a basic winelist of the core varietals and regions, California and Italian, to accompany the menu selections. 

They publish a high end Captain's list of super ultra-premium labels, French, American and Italian, but apparently no longer hold any of them for offer, as they weren't able to produce an updated list for us to review, perhaps a post Covid casualty. 

We ordered from the menu and shared family style two of the house specialties, a dry aged bone-in ribeye and their classic Crispy Lasagna Bolognese with bechemel and parmigiano reggiano with side accompaniments of Prager Creamed Corn, Broccolini with Bagna Cauda Butter, and mashed potatoes. 

Before the entrees, we had the wedge salad, chopped and for starters, Octopus Cacio e Pepe.

Every selection was delectable and provided for a ideal full course family dinner and the service was impeccable as well.

To accompany our dinner, I brought from our home cellar, BYOB, a Napa Cabernet from Constant Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Vineyards.

With Bill & Beth, Bill & Jan, and
Freddie Constant
I brought this since we discovered, tasted and acquired this wine when we visited together with Jan and Bill the spectacular picturesque Constant Vineyards estate high atop Diamond Mountain during our Diamond Mountain Appellation Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011.

The Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyard sits at the peak of Diamond Mountain on the Mayacamas Range separating Napa Valley to the east and Sonoma Valley to the west and is one of the area’s highest, oldest, and smallest wineries in the region. At 2121 feet above sea level, it may be the highest, or certainly one of the highest, vineyards in the region. 

We still hold close to a case of Constant wines and tonight we were rewarded for being patient as this wine has developed very nicely.

Our tasting and visit back then were hosted by proprietor Freddie Constant, founder and proprietor. Sadly, Freddie passed away in 2014. Tonight as always, we remember him fondly and toast him each time we drink his wine. 

Constant Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

This was a perfect compliment to the grilled beefsteak and the tangy hearty robust lasagna pasta. 

At sixteen years of age, this is likely at its apex and won't improve with further aging, but still has several years life left. 

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, big, round, bold dark fruit - blackberry, black currant with some plum and a hint of black cherry, with notes of creosote tar, dark mocha chocolate, tobacco and black tea with full but approachable tannins on the long finish. 

RM 92 points.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Mayacamas Mt Veeder Merlot 2006

Mayacamas Mt Veeder Merlot 2006

I pulled this from the cellar for casual sipping with some cheese and pate. I was longing for a Merlot, something a bit lighter than a firmer more structured Cabernet, and more subtle than a big forward fruit filled Syrah, two of our more common selections.

We’re heading to SoCal this week to visit sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill, so I pulled from the cellar a couple of wines to take along to share when we’re together. I picked wines that we tasted together at the winery or estate. Hence, this wine was a prelude to those, one we picked up on one of our trips together to Napa. 

We tasted and acquired this wine during our Napa Valley MtVeeder Wine Experience back in 2011. During that last two decades, we learned to focus our trips and pare them down to wineries close to each other. This vastly simplified our planning, transit from site to site, and overall in-depth study and understanding of the area. We learned to focus on one appellation (wine region with similar characteristics of terroir – soil, elevation, climate, terrain, and so on.

We visited the Mayacamas estate, winery and vineyards on our last day of that trip.

Mayacamas Mt Veeder Merlot 2006

Dark garnet purple colored, medium full bodied, round, concentrated full black berry fruits with notes of bramble, smoke, pepper, spice and hint of tobacco with tangy acidity on the tongue puckering lingering finish. There was a fair amount of sediment that I should have strained or decanted off but in the simplicity of the evening, I simply popped and poured.

RM 89 points.



Friday, April 22, 2022

Grüner Veltliner with ham cheese fruit plate

 Grüner Veltliner casual sipping with ham cheese fruit plate

Relaxing decompress Friday night at home we prepared a simple plate of sliced ham, assorted cheese and fruits with paired wine. 

After an enjoyable lunch and delectable food and wine pairing at Queensyard at Hudson Yard in NYC, I went out and picked up the latest release of the WBTG selection - Gruner Veltliner. I wrote in more detail about Weingut Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner in these pages at that time

Tonight was an earlier vintage of that label, we opened the 2019 which paired nicely with the smoked Gouda, Sharp cheddar, baked ham, crisp apples and pineapple,.

Grüner Veltliner Weingut Bründlmayer 'L&T' Kamptal, Austria 2019

This was a ideal food wine pairing accompaniment. From the producer Weingut Bründlmayer in the Lower Austrian Kamp Valley, estate vineyards' “ancient” vines, some older than 90 years of age, their most important varietal is Grüner Veltliner, the primary varietal grape in the Langenlois. 

Kamptal has very little vineyard area bordering the Danube River (unlike Wachau and Kremstal, whose vineyards run along it). The region takes its name from the river called Kamp, which traverses it north and south. Kamptal’s densely planted vineyards represent eight percent of Austria’s total, the loess and sand with some gravel and rocks, make it suitable for Grüner Veltliner, the predominant grape planted in half of the zone. 75% of the world’s Grüner Veltliner coming from Austria.

Grüner Veltliner wines cover a diverse range from pleasant “light and dry” (such as this one labeled "L+T").

Winemaker Notes - Appealing nose of apples, fresh citrus and mild flowery aromas, as well as rosewood, green peas and asparagus. Fresh and crisp with flavors of sappy fruits on the palate followed 

Light straw colored, light bodied, bright crisp tangy acidic notes of pear and green and yellow-apple with hints of citrus, lime and herbs with crisp acidity on a smooth finish. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Celebration Dinner Wine Flight

Gala Easter Celebration Family Dinner with Wine Flight

The family gathered at our house for a gala Easter celebration dinner including an Easter Egg hunt for the (grand) children. We were joined by cousin, niece Becky and husband Keith, visiting for the weekend, and in-laws, Frank and Marylisa visiting the new parent kids and newest grandaughter Marylin, in from Naples. 

Linda prepared an extensive dinner with salad, baked ham, scalloped potatoes, french toast, baked beans, baked pineapple and apples, steamed broccoli and more. Prior to dinner we served a selection of artisan cheeses with crackers, fresh shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, a broad assortment of French pastry maccaroons, fresh fruit, and other delectables.

I pulled from the cellar a flight of wines for the various courses.

Besserat de Bellefon - Cuvée des Moines brut Rosé Champagne 

Long Shadows Dance Columbia Valley Chardonnay 2019 

Calera Ryan's Vineyard Mt Hollister Pinot Noir 2010

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

Les Brulières de Beychevelle 2016

Besserat de Bellefon "Cuvee des Moines" Brut Rosé Champagne

The Maison Besserat de Bellefon was founded in Aÿ in 1843 by Edmond Besserat. Originally from Hautvillers, he imposed his artisanal know-how creating cuvées that he sold to renowned hotels, restaurants and wine merchants of the day. After Edmond, his grandsons, Victor and Edmond, followed in his footsteps continuing his pursuit of excellence and high standards, one as technician, the other as emeritus taster. 

In 1920, the marriage of Edmond with Yvonne de Méric de Bellefon, of the noble Champagne house, sealed the beginning of the legend of Champagne Besserat de Bellefon and endowed the House with the family coat of arms.

This label, the Cuvée des Moines was conceived in 1930, comprised of a selection of the best Champagne wines. In the best vintage years, Besserat de Bellefon selects the best plots to produce the best wines of Champagne. 

Each non-vintage Besserat de Bellefon cuvée rests in the cellar for a minimum of three years; the vintage cuvée remains there for a minimum of five years, ageing in the cellar much longer than the minimum period required by the Appellation.

Besserat de Bellefon "Cuvee des Moines" Brut Rosé Champagne

This label of Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose is now part of the house of Besserat de Bellefon Simplicité Line in the brand portfolio. 

Besserat Bellefon produces a range of pure, fresh, lean and elegant low-pressure wines that do not undergo the typical malolactic fermentation. The Champagnes of Besserat de Bellefon are unique in that they are made at only 4.5 atmospheres of pressure across the range rather than the standard 6. The resulting quality, first-class Champagnes are made specifically to be paired with food, or are ideal served as aperitifs or celebratory sipping.

The NV Brut Rosé Cuvée des Moines is a blend of 45% Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

This release was rated 92 points by Wine Spectator, 90 points James Suckling and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Bright golden pink orange colored, ripe and tangy red boysenberry and yellow peach fruits are framed by crisp juicy dry acidity, chalk and smoke notes with hints of almond, lemon and ginger accents on the finish.

RM 92 points.


Long Shadows "Dance" Columbia Valley Chardonnay 2019

This label, Dance has special significance in that our daughter-in-law Vivianna's sister, Grace, was a career professional performing arts dancer having studied dance at New York Fordham University and then traveling with the world famous Alvin Ailey dance troupe. 

It was a great fun to serve this in tribute to Grace, who was just engaged to be married, to Vivianna and their parents, Frank and Marylisa, who joined us for our festive holiday dinner.

As written in this pages a couple of weeks ago, we discovered this label on the Catch 35 wine list during our dinner there a couple of weeks ago. We've been Long Shadows Key Club Members since our visit to the Woodinville tasting room during our Washington Wine Experience when we visited the winery tasting room in Woodinville back in the fall of 2018.

We receive a case of Long Shadows wines every quarter and hold several cases of their labels in our cellar and this was the first time we have seen or heard about this label, purported to be the latest addition to the portfolio.

Following our enjoyment of this wine at our recent dinner, I promptly called Long Shadows and ordered a case of this limited release label, "Dance" as part of my wine club entitlement allocation. 

Winemaker's Tasting Notes - A layered, aromatic wine that displays minerality and white blossom fragrances with flavors of white peach, apple and a hint of baking spice woven throughout a subtle, creamy texture.

The aromas intrigue on the nose, with notes of clarified butter, straw, spice and pumpkin. The palate shows depth and breadth to the stone fruit flavors but also sophistication. The balance is exquisite.

The result is a rich, yet refined Chardonnay with a beautiful viscosity that carries the mid-palate
while the acidity persists across a lengthy finish.

Light straw colored, medium bodied, rich crisp clean green apple with notes of baking spice, pumpkin, stone fruit and hint of citrus on a bright tangy finish.

93 Points


Calera Ryan's Vineyard Mt Hollister Pinot Noir 2010

In the spirit of the family celebration, I pulled from the cellar a birthyear vintage wine of our eldest grand-daughter, Lucy, this single vineyard designated wine from an estate vineyard with son Ryan's name. 

Calera are one of the legendary classic California Pinot Noirs. Founder Josh Jenson was the pioneer of California Pinot Noir. 

As I have written in these pages, any lover of Pinot Noir would benefit from reading The Heartbreak Grape,  A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins.  

This is a wonderful true story that starts when Devillers becomes captivated by a wine served at a holiday party. The story evolves as his journalistic curiosity leads to researching the wine and its origins - the story of  Josh Jensen and Calera winery. 

He chronicles the challenges and travails of developing the Pinot Noir grape in California, and then turning it into a business, an industry, and pursuing a dream. 
The name Heartbreak Grape speaks to the challenge of pioneering bringing the Pinot Noir grape varietal to America - finding the right terrior, climate, terrain, soil, drainage - all the elements required to produce this wine. It then follows the story of an entrepreneur following his dream to build a business and a brand.  
From the namesake vineyard bearing son Ryan's name, I keep a half dozen vintages a label in our cellar for tasting during such family gatherings. This, 2010 vintage release, is the oldest in our cellar, selecting the oldest as part of appropriate cellar management. 

We've held onto this vintage release since it is a birthyear wine of one of our grandchildren. Also, it was the special 35th Anniversary Release Vintage, hence I was holding it for the possibility of gifting it or serving it from someone's 35th Anniversary celebration. 

Calera is an oenphile's wine - the rear label is one of the most imformative of any producer's label I know of, with detailed information on the vineyard, geography, harvest, location and terroir including a map of the estate of the vineyard sites.  

As shown, this release is 100% Calera Estate fruit from the 13 acre Ryan Vineyard at 2200 feet elevation on Mt Harlan in the Gavilan Mountains nine miles from Holister, California, twenty miles inland from Monterey Carmel on the Pacific Coast, ninety miles south of San Francisco.

In any event, this label was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points and *Cellar Selection* by Wine Enthusiast and "Outstanding" by Allen Meadows - Burghound.

Dark ruby colored, starting to take on a slight bit of discoloration at a dozen years of age, medium bodied, the complex flavors of plum, dark cherry and dried rose petals are showing slight diminution of the fruit from aging, turning to a textured tangy acidic firm tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 88 points. 


Ryan brought from home the remains of a bottle he had opened the night before. 

Cliff Lede Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Our visits to the Cliff Lede estate winey and vineyards have been a highlight of several of our Napa Valley Wine Experiences. Since son Ryan and fellow Pour Boy Bill C both are club members and receive regular vintage release allocations of this producer, we opt to collect a different producer, thereby affording all of a greater variety of tasting experiences. 

This Diamond Mountain appellation label is one of Ryan's favorites from his broad collection from this producer. We've enjoyed several vintages of this label with Ryan and Bill

Winery notes: "Our Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon comes from exceptional, low-yielding vineyards with volcanic ash and gravelly loam soils in the Diamond Mountain appellation, nestled in the Mayacamas Range on the northwest side of Napa Valley. The sun-drenched mountain vineyards have late afternoon breezes that ripen the fruit slowly and evenly. Both sites are planted to extraordinary old vines on a steep incline with historic Napa field selections and produce age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon with dark fruit, intense structure, minerality, and perfume." 

This was dark garnet colored, full bodied, complex, rich concentrated brooding layered black berry and black raspberry fruits accented by notes of graphite, dark mocha chocolate, tobacco leaf, leather and smoke on a tongue coating long finish. 

RM 93 points.


Les Brulières de Beychevelle Haut Medoc 2016

I found this label at Binny's, our wine and beverage super store recently. We know this producer well, having visited the Chateau Beychevelle estate vineyards and winery in St Julien Bordeaux during our visit to the region and appellation a couple of years ago.  

We hold several vintages of the grand vin Chateau Beychevelle dating back more than three decades, but have never seen this more pedestrian entry level label from this producer, so I was compelled to pick some up to try.

Clearly not the grand vin, or their second label sophistication or quality, but at a fraction of the price, this represented reasonable QPR - Quality Price Ratio for simpler every day sipping, a 'pizza' wine as I refer to such wines. Notably, this is a Haut-Medoc appellation labeled wine, not from the more prestigious and distinctive St Julien appellation.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, black cherry and black plum fruits accented by notes of smoke, herbs, green pepper, leather and a bit of wet earth and tar with a bright tangy acidic finish. 

RM 88 points. 





Saturday, April 16, 2022

Smith & Wollensky Chicago lunch w/ WBTG

Smith & Wollensky Chicago lunch w/ WBTG

We hosted niece Becky and Keith for the weekend so we took them into the city (Chicago) for a quick tour, introduction, having never been there before. We love and are proud of our hometown and enjoy taking in and sharing its culture, arts, architecture and attractions. We showed them the magnificent lakefront skyline and various cityscapes. 

We took them for a power lunch in a scenic setting at Smith & Wollensky on the river adjacent numerous iconic buildings and spectacular architecture - Trump Tower, Wrigley Building, Marina City and many more. 

Our dinner featured classic beef and seafood selections and an extensive extraordinary winelist. 

We selected for our lunch entrees the Scallops, BBQ Ribs, Salmon (shown below) and the Grilled Beef burger along with side dishes creamed spinach, whipped potatoes and the asparagus spears. 

For pairing with my entree selection I ordered from the WBTG offering this hearty Napa red.

Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2019

Dan and Margaret Duckhorn founded Duckhorn Vineyards in 1976, crafting classic Bordeaux varietals from the Napa Valley since then for 40 years. They have been steadfast producers of high-quality, dependable Merlot ever since.

Duckhorn Vineyards produces a portfolio of top-tier Napa Valley wines, with roots anchored deep in Merlot varietal wines. Since the winery was established in the late 1970’s, Merlot has been a key varietal in the red blends as well as a standalone Merlot based labels. Founder Dan Duckhorn has been a great fan of Merlot since traveling through St. Emilion and Pomerol in Bordeaux where Merlot is the predominant varietal in the blend. 

Duckhorn felt that the varietal known for elegance and soft velvety texture and structure was under-appreciated in North America and was a pioneer in producing Merlot as a standalone or predominant label. 

Duckhorn has been producing Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot since 1978 sourced from estate vineyards in Napa portion of Carneros where they are influenced by the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean San Pablo Bay. Carneros is ideally suited for growing exceptional Merlot, yielding a wine with beautiful structure, velvety texture and lovely layers of plum and mulberry.  

This 2019 vintage release is composed of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.

Winemaker's Notes - "From its tantalizing aromas of ripe cherry and black plum to its fine-grained tannins and lively complexity, this is a lovely expression of Napa Valley Merlot. On the palate, the flavors are rich and fleshy, with luxurious layers of black currant, red licorice, fig compote, blueberry and crushed rose petal flowing to a long, elegant finish.'
"2019 brought another exceptional vintage to Napa Valley, resulting in wines with alluring polish and poise! The season began with a wet winter followed by a mild spring. While this led to a slightly later-than-normal start to the season, ideal summer weather with no significant heat spikes ensured ideal flavor development, yielding complex and vibrant whites, and refined reds with elegant tannins, enticing aromatics and beautiful fruit flavors."

This was aged 15 months in 100% French oak 40% new, 60% neutral.
This release was awarded 92 points by James Suckling, 90 points by Wine Enthusiast, and 89 points by Wine Spectator. 
This was a delicious ideal complement to my Bar-B-Que ribs. 
Dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich concentrated elegant, nicely integrated and balanced black raspberry, ripe plum and black cherry fruits with notes of dark chocolate, sage and clove spice with toasty oak on silky smooth tongue coating polished tannins on the lingering finish. 
RM 91 points.





Sunday, April 10, 2022

Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah 2013

Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah 2013 with BBQ Rib Dinner

For a grilled BBQ Rib dinner we pulled from the cellar this hearty aged Syrah for a fabulous, perfect food wine pairing.

Carlisle are a small, family-owned Sonoma County winery specializing in the production of old-vine, vineyard designated Zinfandels and red Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah). They also produce a small selection of white wines, two of which are blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County's first ever Grüner Veltliner.

They strive for wines that are bold and intensely flavored, each reflecting its vintage and vineyard, but they also look to create wines of balance, complexity, and nuance. They have built a reputation for producing outstanding, pleasurable wine at a fair price - often at high QPR - Quality Price Ratios.

Robert Parker wrote about producer. winemaker Mike Officer. "One of the great success stories in Northern California is the genesis of Carlisle Winery, whose owner, Mike Officer, began as a wine hobbiest / software developer and grew into a full-time wine producer who has done more to save head-pruned, old-vine Zinfandel vineyards than anyone else in the United States. He built his reputation on full-flavored red wines and continues to fine-tune these beauties, often field blends of what are generically referred to as “mixed blacks” planted primarily by Italian immigrants prior to Prohibition." 

Mike got hooked on wine in college, reading everything he could on the subject, became a collector, attended numerous wine tastings, and taught a course on wine appreciation.

After graduation, he worked as a software developer, but after three years, he pivoted to pursue his passion, applying his analytical skills and creativity, setting out on a career in Winemaking.

Starting with five gallons of Zinfandel in the kitchen, he progressed to a barrel of Zinfandel each vintage with the help of friends and wife, Kendall Carlisle. Encouraged by the results. he and Kendall moved to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County captivated by the old-vine vineyards with their ancient twisted vines with deep roots and long histories. By 1997 he was producing over 300 cases of “garage” wine, mostly vineyard designated old-vine Zinfandels, winning numerous gold medals in amateur competitions.

In 1998, he and Kendall with the support of family, launched Carlisle Winery & Vineyards, concentrating on old-vine Zinfandel and red Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah), with a goal to create small lots of distinctive, world-class wines from some of California’s most exceptional vineyards. Using vacation from his 'day' job, they produced 650 cases in that first vintage.

They sourced Zinfandel from some of the finest vineyards in the county, planted between 1888 and 1934, including their own vineyard planted in 1927. For Rhône varieties, they contracted with small, family growers, who were equally dedicated and passionate about growing grapes for making exceptional wines. 

After growing production to nearly 1000 cases in 2000, Mike was feeling over-extended in balancing the demands of the growing business and his career as a software developer. If he were to be a full-time winemaker, he would need to increase production to make a living. 

In 2001, he teamed up with Jay Maddox, an old college friend who had just earned a second degree in viticulture and enology from U.C. Davis. Jay joined Carlisle, bringing a wealth of knowledge, a keen palate, and the shared desire to produce the best wines possible. By 2004, they had grown to nearly 10,000 cases production, earning high praise from wine critics and consumers, and settled in to devoting full time to the wine business. 

Today Carlisle produce a dozen plus Zinfandels and nearly a dozen Rhone varietal red wines including this one, sourced from Sonoma estate vineyards and select contract growers.

This is a blend of 54% Russian River Valley Syrah from Papa's Block, 40% Sonoma Mountain Syrah from the Steiner Vineyard, and 6% Sonoma Valley Grenache from Rossi Ranch Vineyard.

 Syrah, sourced from the Papa’s Block and the Steiner Vineyard, which had previously been bottled as single vineyard labels. 

The Papa's Block in the Russian River Valley is named after the growers father, known as Papa to his grandchildren, a special 2-acre block planted to Carlisle specifications within the larger Atoosa's Vineyard.

The Steiner Vineyard, located on the northwest face of Sonoma Mountain has a history of growing grapes for over 40 years.  Carlisle got involved with the property in 2005 after it was taken over by Nate and Lauren Belden, working with vineyard manager Chris Bowland.

Carlisle Sonoma County Syrah 2013

This label release was rated 90-92 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 90-92 points by  Vinous. Cases Produced: 846

Dark garnet colored with hues of purple, medium-full bodied, rich, round blackberry and black cherry fruits with notes of anise, licorice, spices, floral and hints of mint on the full lingering finish. 

RM 90 points. 

Winemaker notes: Like our Rossi Ranch Grenache, this was one of the surprises of 2013.  Despite the perfect growing season, we felt our Papa’s Block Syrah lacked its typical uniqueness.  Rather than being an outstanding Papa’s Block Syrah it was merely an outstanding Syrah, but still worthy of bottling on its own.  We looked at potential blends and found that combining Papa’s Block and Steiner Vineyard Syrahs a wine much better than each component was produced.  

Tasting Note: Very dark ruby-purple.  With swirling, aromas of blackberry, smoke, game, and cracked black pepper emerge.  Surprisingly elegant, the wine flows over the palate with notes of blackberry, boysenberry, and a hint of bitter chocolate.  Like most of our 2013s, just tremendous balance.  Supple tannins and a gentle grip emerge on the long, focused finish.  A wine that drinks at several times above its price point.  Enjoy this beauty from late 2015 through 2023.



Thursday, April 7, 2022

Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon

Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon

This is from producer and vineyard of the same name, Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon from the estate located in Red Hills in rural Lake County, thirty-five miles north of Calistoga and the northern tip of Napa Valley. 

Setting out to produce their own wines, three founders/partners Michael Terrien and brothers Peter Molnar and Arpad Molnar discovered an abandoned orchard of bonsaied walnut trees on a steep ridge half a mile above sea level on volcanic slopes in the Mayacamas Mountains in the hills above Clear Lake in Lake County, California in 1998. The three founded what is today Obsidian Wine Co., planted their first vines in 1999 and 2000 and debuted their first Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002 followed by their first Poseidon Vineyard Chardonnay the next year.

Today, they own and farm their our own vineyards, vinify and produce their own wines, and even 'cooper' their own barrels. They produce a dozen labels, primarily cabernet and red blends.

Their vineyards are planted in rich red volcanic soil primarily to cabernet sauvignon across three climactic zones ranging from 2,300 to 2,640 feet. The uppermost portion sits above the inversion layer on the steepest, rockiest slope, ten degrees warmer on average than the lowest elevation of the vineyard. As a result, vines above 2,500’ bud and ripen a month earlier and produce powerful, ripe flavors. The lower third of the vineyard has the gentlest slope and the coolest temperatures, yielding wines that are the most aromatic and nuanced. The central portion of the vineyard is the most protected site, affording vines the longest hang time and yielding beautiful balance.

Co-founder and Managing Partner Arpad Molnar, grew up riding three-wheelers over mounds of pumice at the family vineyard where his dad grew grapes for Napa Valley wineries. In the early '90s, he and his brother Peter moved to Budapest, Hungary and began exporting barrels from a cooperage which sourced wood from the storied Tokaj forest. Today this cooperage, Kádár Hungary, is the company’s exclusive supplier of oak and is owned by the Molnar family, in partnership with the Taransaud cooperage. 

Before beginning his entrepreneurial adventures in wine, Arpad graduated from UCLA and Harvard Business School. Along the way, he picked up skills in strategy, operations, and finance, working for GE, The Boston Consulting Group and the obligatory technology start-up.

Co-founder, brother, Peter Molnar grew up tending to vineyards as a teenager, suckering and tying vines and driving irrigation tractors during summers in the vineyard where his father grew grapes for Napa Valley wineries. He moved to Budapest, Hungary in 1990, working in the World Bank and USAID programs to privatize the country’s wine industry after the fall of communism. In the four years before returning home to manage the family vineyard in 1994, Peter helped build a winery, started a négociant company, and began collaborating with Kádár Hungary, a cooperage located in the renowned Tokaj region, that the Molnars now own, in partnership with the de Pracomtal family of Taransaud Cooperage, in Cognac. In 1995, the Molnars teamed up with winemaker Michael Terrien to vinify their first Pinot Noir from Poseidon Vineyard, aged in Kádár barrels. 

Michael Terrien, Co-founder grew up in Maine but headed west to California, where restaurant work piqued his interest in winemaking. Michael earned a degree in Enology at U.C. Davis and made wine at Acacia and Hanzell under the tutelage of some industry greats. With friend Peter Molnar they decided to make some wine together, starting with just a few dozen cases for friends and family, eventually founding Obsidian.

For more than a decade winemaker Alex Beloz who has crafted Obsidian wines applying artistry and his engineering degree, Alex' intimate and longstanding knowledge of the vineyards and Obsidian's coopering has raised to a high art the skill of matching oak to wine. 

Obsidian wines are the only Cabernet Sauvignons in California (perhaps the world) aged in 100% Hungarian oak barrels. They exclusively use barrels made from Tokaj oak by Kádár Hungary, the cooperage that they have owned for the nearly three decades. Their oak for their barrels is sourced from Kádárok Völgye (Valley of the Coopers), the region of the Tokaj appellation has a written history of over 1,000 years of coopering.

The forest in Tokaj is planted to the same oak species used in France, Quercus Petraea, however the trees grow more slowly due to the volcanic soils, resulting in 30% higher density of the wood. These super-tight-grain barrels are low in vanillan and relatively high in eugenol, which tends to emphasize herbal and spice components, and are toasted slowly at low temperatures to avoid imparting overt toasty notes. For this Estate bottling, they use exclusively Kádár Tokaj barrels from our own cooperage, 40% new, aged 18 months.  

Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills-Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

This flagship estate cabernet sauvignon reflects the terrior, personality and verticality of the complex mountain estate, sourced from eight vineyard blocks harvested in over 20 unique lots. 

This release was awarded 93 points and *Cellar Selection* by Wine Enthusiast, and 91 points by Wine & Spirits.
At a dozen years old, the fill level and most importantly the cork were still perfect, there is still life left in this mountain Cabernet with no signs of diminution from age whatsoever.
This is a good value, high QPR (quality price ratio), quality California Cabernet, being from Lake County, not carrying the 'Napa tax' of the price afforded the cache' as Napa prices have escalated in recent years.
Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex dense powerful mountain fruit flavors of black berry accented by notes expresso, smoke, spice and cedar with bright acidity and tongue puckering dry tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.