Saturday, July 30, 2022

Boy's Night Out Cellar Tours Wine Tasting

Boy's Night Out Cellar Tours Wine Tasting 

Son Ryan and neighbor Dave M hosted a wine tasting opening their two cellars and a flight of spectacular wines accompanied by artisan cheeses, smoked salmon, charcuterie and assorted eats.

Evening hosts, Ryan M and Dave M

Dave is the principle of Elements, the banquet meeting facility, wine and food service associated with Hotel Indigo in Naperville (IL). We recently hosted our global team summit there for a week, where we met,  and learned he was my son's neighbor and a fellow oenophile and serious wine collector, and hence the planning began for wine get-togethers such as this!

Dave's Cellar

Ryan anchored the tasting flight with a couple of ten year old labels and suggested I bring some vintage in five or ten year increments in light of my cellar collection spawning several decades. I pulled from my cellar two twenty-five year old labels from the 1997 vintage to round out the tasting.

What great fun and how special to share a father-son shared interest experience such as this.

Ryan started with three classic Napa Valley labels from his cellar, accompanied by a selection of artisan cheeses and charcuterie. 

  • Dominus Napa Valley Proprietary Red 2012
  • Vineyard 29 Napa Valley Aida Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  • LaJota Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc 2018

From my cellar we opened two vintage Napa Cabernets.

  • Lokoya Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
  • Plumpjack Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

My tasting notes of these labels appear in a separate blogpost here

We moved around the corner to Dave's house with his magnificent cellar from which he offered our choice of wines to open.  His home is full of wine themed artwork and artifacts besides the incredible rec room, wine room and cellar. The formal dining room features this spectacular wine art from famous wine paintings artist Eric Christensen. This rare Giclée oil print by America's Watercolor Master is a hyper-realistic oil featuring the Napa Valley producer Duckhorn and their Discussion bottle with many imaginative and intriguing reflections. 

Once down in the cellar - we focused on selecting the continuation of the evening's wine flight. Dave has set the tone having opened the legendary producer Scarecrow and their Napa Valley Red M Etain. 

Ryan pulling down an OWC
(original wood case) from Dave's
cellar collection

We pulled from Dave's extensive cellar collection and tasted a spectacular flight of extraordinary Napa Valley Cabernets.

  • Scarecrow M Etain Napa Valley Red 2017
  • Continuum Napa Valley Red 2014
  • Realm 'The Tempest' Napa Valley Red 2014
  • Hall Vineyards Kathryn Hall 2015  

And from Argentina, Nicolás Catena Zapata, Adrianna Vineyard in the Gualtallary District, Tupungato Alto Region, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina this Malbec,

  • Adrianna Vineyards River Stones Malbec 2015

To end the evening, late into the early morning, we retired to Dave's outdoor patio for closing out the remaining wines, some aperitifs and cigars. 

What a spectacular evening, looking forward to our next Caroline Crew wine event.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Boys Night Out Cellar Tour and Tasting

 Boys Night Out Cellar Tour and Tasting - Lokoya and Plumpjack Napa Cabs

We gathered at son Ryan's and his neighbor Dave's for a gala cellar tour and tasting. I took from our cellar these two aged twenty-five year old vintage classic Napa Cabernets.

Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 

This is from winemaker producer Chris Carpenter who besides

"Given the high elevation of the sites, the vineyards demand constant attention. The deep understanding of the vineyard trajectory in each vintage comes from Winemaker Christopher Carpenter’s years of expertise. Intervention is kept to a minimum both in the vineyard and in the cellar, leaving the fruit to express itself as naturally and eloquently as possible."

This is sourced from the W.S. Keyes estate Vineyard at the northeastern side of Napa Valley’s Vaca Range, Howell Mountain Appellation. The estate W.S. Keyes Vineyard was planted in 1888, and has been the exclusive source for the Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon since its first vintage in 1995. The vineyard sits at 1,825 feet, high above the fog line, where temperatures are cool but moderate, and Cabernet Sauvignon in particular thrives with extra time to ripen. The vineyard is subjected to a steady breeze and sunlight, surrounded by a forest of ponderosa pine. The lean, quick-draining soils force the vines to struggle, yielding small grapes that possess deep, concentrated flavor with a signature minerality and earthy undertone.

Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

At twenty-five years, from a ideal vintage with expected longevity, this was probably at its apex, nearing the end of it prime drinking window, and not likely to improve any further with aging. The fill level, foil, label, and most importantly, the cork, were all in ideal condition. 
Winemaker notes: "Wines from Napa Valley’s mountainous slopes need time to develop and show their full potential. Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon’s profound tannin structure and concentration of flavor provide the optimal profile for aging. These are wines meant to lay down and mature for 30 years or more." 
So, here we are, exhibiting patience and opening this at twenty-five years.

“Our goal is for Lokoya to be something that people in the wine world will recognize forever.”

– Winemaker Christopher Carpenter

This label release was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points by Wine Spectator and Vinous. Robert Parker notes, "Several 100 point scores from Robert Parker have launched this wine to Cult Status."

Dark inky purple-colored, full bodied, dense rich but balanced and nicely integrated dark berry and black plum fruits, a layer of smoke and leather settling in perhaps due to age at 25 years, with earth, spice, hints of cassis with smooth polished tannins on the long finish.  

RM 93 points.

Plumpjack "Estate" Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

I also brought this Napa Oakville Estate Cabernet. 

We still hold half a dozen vintages from this era, many Reserve labels, and selected this one based on my tasting notes from historic tastings, and to allow for a mini-horizontal tasting of this vintage in its twenty-fifth year.

This is from the estate attributed to Gavin Newsom, current Governor of California, but its widely known that the history of the estate and label is from the investments and holdings of Gordon Getty, philanthropist and descendant of the legendary J.P. Getty oil tycoon and industrialist. 

Getty and Newson first teamed up to open a simple wine store in 1992 in the Fillmore neighborhood of San Francisco. They called it PlumpJack Wines, inspired by one of Shakespeare’s memorable characters, Sir John “PlumpJack” Falstaff, a down-to-earth, fun-loving, irreverent character, rivaled only by his fierce loyalty to Prince Hal (Henry V), with whom he shared many goblets of wine at the local tavern.  

Building on this branding, they acquired a century-old 42-acre vineyard in the Napa Valley, dating back to 1881, one of the oldest operating wineries in the Napa Valley, known originally as Mount Eden Winery, from part of the Fagiani Ranch.  

Proprietors James and Anne McWilliams hired winemaker Nils Venge to restore the vineyard and produce wines under the name of Villa Mt. Eden Winery. In 1986 they sold the brand to Stimson Lane Wine & Spirits, of the U.S. Tobacco Co.  The deal allowed Stimson Lane access to the vineyards but the wine was made offsite.  In 1994 Stimson Lane gave up the lease on the Oakville estate vineyard property and moved the Villa Mt. Eden brand to its current home at Conn Creek Winery.

From there, in 1995, PlumpJack Estate Winery was born when taken over by Newsom and Getty. We've visited the estate on Oakville Cross Road, down from Groth and across from Silver Oak, and acquired those earliest vintages of this label during our numerous Napa Valley wine excursions during the nineties and in the following years. During the nineties it was one of our favorite wineries to visit and was one of our favorite labels - before the political partisanship overtook the persona of the brand. 

Plumpjack "Estate" Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon  1997

This label release was awarded 94 points by Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, balanced black berry and black currant fruits with notes of smoke, black tea, tobacco and cedar setting in, perhaps from age, finishing with spice, oak and hints of anise with moderate lingering tannins. 

RM 91 points.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard RRV Sonoma Chardonnay

 Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard RRV Chardonnay 2013

Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay 2013

Nickel & Nickel is one of the brands of legendary Napa Valley producer Far Niente. They produce over two dozen single varietal, single vineyard designated wines, sourced from ten different Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley appellations. 

They specialize in Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays but also produce Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Merlot varietal labels as well. 

We hold a dozen different labels from this producer going back more than two decades, all Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.

Linda prepared a roasted pork loin in a delicious savory sauce that was a perfect complement to this wine. I've often written in these pages about how the perfect pairing of food and wine is a force multiplier, amplifying the enjoyment of both. This was certainly the case as indicated by a higher rating for this label than my two earlier tastings. 

We toured the Russian River Valley during our Napa Sonoma Wine Experience 2017 year before last. We stayed on the coast in Bodega Bay and traveled the back roads between there and Santa Rosa to witness and experience the climate and topology that comprises the notable terrior of the area.

This is from the Green Valley AVA in Russian River Valley where, the grapes benefit from a cooling coastal influence that helps them ripen slowly and develop complexity.

From the Green Valley AVA site: "Green Valley is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County. It lies in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley, bounded by the towns of Sebastopol, Forestville and Occidental. It is very tightly delineated, both geographically and climatically, and is the most consistent and distinctive of any North Coast appellation in terms of soil, climate and flavor. The fog is Green Valley’s trademark."

The 2013 vintage was a fantastic growing season in the Russian River, with dry, moderate temperatures and cool foggy mornings

From the winery: "The 2013 Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Chardonnay is consistent from year to year. Passion fruit and floral aromas offer a mere hint of what’s on the palate: flavors of Muscat and Meyer lemon enhanced by flint and stone. A pleasant oiliness adds suppleness to the mouthfeel, but the vibrant acidity cleanses the palate and adds a succulent quality that makes one eager for another sip."

This was golden butter colored, full bodied, very forward, almost obtuse with its firmness and intense buttery and oaky tones and structure that almost overpowers the fruits - passion fruit, melon, floral, lemon, flint and stone.

Linda liked this a lot, classic (over-the-top) full bodied, rich dense California Chardonnay style, and while I found it a bit much in an earlier tasting with delicate sole meuniere, tonight this was delicious and an ideal pairing with the pork chops in a savory brown sauce. 

RM 91 points.


Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay 


Sunday, July 24, 2022

Groth Napa Oakville Cabernet and Grilled Beefsteak

Groth Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon and Grilled Beefsteak

Sunday night dinner on the deck, Linda grilled one of the special extra thick cut T-Bone beefsteaks from our team dinner last weekend. Served with whipped potatoes and wedge salad, our steak dinner was a perfect setting and pairing for this aged Napa Cabernet from our cellar. 

We hold more than a decade of vintages of this label dating back to the 1990 vintage, birthyear of son Alec. Linda and I first visited the Groth Estate and Winery back in the mid nineties.  

Dennis and Judy Groth grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, eventually to be known as Silicon Valley. Dennis began his career as an accountant earning his  CPA in 1968. In 1978, he became CFO of Atari, the electronic games company, moving up to President in 1984. Atari was eventually sold to Time Warner.

In 1981, Dennis and Judy purchased a 121-acre vineyard parcel in Oakville, Napa Valley, and in 1982, added a second 44 acre vineyard just south of Yountville. 

The Groth Oakville Estate sits on the valley floor in the heart of the Napa Valley in the Oakville AVA, home to the finest Cabernet Sauvignons. The property is adjacent to Opus, Silver Oak and Plumpjack vineyards. The Groth estate 121-acre vineyard was originally planted between 1972 and 1974 by Justin Meyer, who went on to achieve great acclaim with Silver Oak.

The Groths moved with their family to Oakville in 1985 taking up residence on the estate. 

Today, Groth Oakville Estate is run by their daughter Suzanne Groth. Growing up in Napa Valley, living amongst vineyards with an estate winery, she decided early on a career in Wine.

After four years with the Henry Wine Group, a California wine distributor, selling fine wine to restaurants and retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area, she returned to the family business in 1998, working in sales, public relations and marketing before ascending to President and CEO in 2017. 

She says, “It was only after selling other people’s wine that I was able to appreciate how very special Groth Vineyards was.” 

It didn’t take the Groth family long to realize just how special their Oakville Estate was when they gained early recognition when Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate gave their Groth 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon the distinction of being the first 100-point Napa Valley wine.

Since then, Groth wines have been ranked on Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 Wines list eight times in the winery’s history, most recently in 2019, when the 2016 Reserve Cabernet was No. 4.

Groth Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Michael Weiss, winemaker for Groth said: "The 2006 vintage in Napa Valley has, with age, turned into one of the best so far this century." 

This was a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot, aged in French Oak barrels for 20 months, 50% new French Oak. It was awarded 93 points by Wine & Spirits and 90 points by Wine Enthusiast.

At sixteen years this may be at its apex, but certainly has another decade to go at this level. I extended the Cellartracker drinking window from 2018 to 2026.

The fill level, label, foil and cork were in perfect condition.

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, complex, concentrated, structured yet perfectly balanced, smooth polished black berry fruits are highlighted by notes of cassis, graphite, dark chocolate, black tea and hints of anise with soft velvety tannins on a long lingering finish. 

RM 93 points.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino Sangiovese

Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino Sangiovese at Angeli's Italian

Midweek Wednesday night dinner, we dined at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood Italian Trattoria. I took BYOB from our cellar this aged Brunello di Montalcino Sangiovese for the occasion. 

Linda ordered Angeli's Special pizza for take home leftovers while I ordered the Angeli's House Special Lasagna.

Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sangiovese 2013

Sesta di Sopra is an estate of 108 acres located in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, south of Montalcino, a hill town and comune in the province of Siena, Tuscany, central Italy, west of Pienza, close to the Crete Senesi in Val d'Orcia, (42 kilometres from Siena, 110 kilometres from Florence and 150 kilometres from Pisa).

The estate was purchased in 1980 by Ettore Spina with his wife, Enrica. Ettore Spina worked in Turin at the San Paolo bank and purchased the estate as a place away from the city for his family. He selected this estate in Montalcino, partly because he was friends with the father of Paola Gloder (of Poggio Antico fame). At the time of the purchase there were about 100 acres of woodland and grain crops, the house, and only one hectare of vines.

Originally their vacation property in Montalcino, they planted vines in the early 1990s, focusing solely on Sangiovese Grosso vines to keep things simple as they expected to eventually sell off the grapes.

Today they have 6.9 acres of vines, 2.5 acres Brunello, 3 acres Rosso, and 1.5 ha IGT Rosso from which they produce Rosso di Montalcino DOC and this Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 

Ettore Spina serves as owner/winemaker and is assisted by their children, Stefano and Cristina, agronomist Federico Becarelli, oenologist Lorenzo Scotto and Paolo Vaggagini. Krenar Resuli (Albanian) as manager.

There is a small but functional cellar, with 30 hectolitre Slavonian oak casks, French oak barriques and steel barrels. Sesta di Sopra produce a mere 4,000 bottles.

This premium flagship label vintage release Sangiovese ran a serial numerical lineup, awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast and Vinous, 94 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Wine Spectator, 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points by Decanter. 

Bright Ruby red colored, medium bodied, plum, black cherry, leather, tobacco and tar and exotic spice flavors with tightly wound fine-grained tannins and bright acidity on the finish.

RM 92 points.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Venge Vineyards Napa Valley Brown Ranch Carneros Chardonnay 2019

Venge Vineyards Napa Valley Brown Ranch Carneros Chardonnay 2019 

This is one of our favorite chardonnays in our cellar right now, produced by Kirk Venge, son of Napa historic and legendary winemaker, Nils Venge. We met Kirk during a visit to Venge Vineyards back in 2005. He has since taken over the family business and developed his own portfolio and brands sourced from several properties across Napa and Sonoma Counties. 

I wrote in more detail about Kirk in a post "Visit to Venge Vineyards and Nils Venge" back in 2021.

I also wrote about how the Venge (as well as Viader) label (s) has become a fun signature label for the family, commemorating daughter-in-law Vivianna, and fun with the V (Viader) labels, in earlier posts.

This single vineyard designated label is from the 30 acre Brown Ranch (formerly associated with Saintsbury Winery and formerly a cattle grazing ranch taking its name from the former owner, Nadine Brown). The vineyard is bordered by two well known storied vineyards, HdV’s Hyde Vineyard and Beaulieu’s Vineyard No.9 on Old Sonoma Road. 

Sitting down in the Los Carneros region at the bottom of Napa Valley where it converges with the bottom of Sonoma Valley, near the confluence of San Pablo Bay. The cool and often foggy climate effects of the Bay allows for a slow growing season and optimal ripening. This climate aids in the balancing of acidity and lifting tropical aromas in the fruit and the resulting finished wine.

The property was purchased in 2012 by the Renterias when many of the twenty nine acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines were afflicted with a fungi disease, Eutypa (otherwise known as the Dead-arm Dieback) causing trunks or arms of the vines to essentially rot and die. Rather than pulling all of these vines out, their vineyard management team decided to keep the rootstock, cut off the trunk just above the soil and allow a bud from the varietal to grow, training it into a new trunk and then trellising it when it became of size. The Brown Ranch’s hillside alluvial soils, with Dijon Clone 76 set atop pre-existing rootstock, make a Chardonnay that is worthy of producing under the Venge name.

Notably, we've been long time fans of a Australian McLaren Vale Valley Shiraz from leading producer d'Arenberg called "Dead Arm", produced from fruit from vines that were similarly afflicted decades ago. The resulting vines with but one arm, (lacking their dead arm), produce rich and concentrated fruit for big bold rich wines. We've collected the Dead Arm label Shiraz dating back to the mid-nineties and still hold nearly a decade of vintages.

Similarly, this Brown's Ranch chardonnay produced from uniquely afflicted vines is rich, full, round and forward yet stylish and balanced.

Winemakers notes: "A light, pale straw presence in the glass with a bouquet of fresh orange citrus, toasted pine nuts, mild allspice, rocky flints, and toasted oak. Crisp, savory pineapple, sweet delicious apple, savory stone fruit, and ripe pear lead into mouthwatering deliciousness."
The Dijon Clones are modern strains of Chardonnay carefully isolated from grapevine nursery blocks in France. These strains are selected for their incredible ability to produce the best of what the varietal has to offer and therefore have become quite popular with cool climate growers today.  The vines were carefully hand harvested and delivered cool to the winery.

The wine is produced according to a Burgundian practice of winemaking wherein the grapes are traditionally whole cluster pressed and allowed to cold settle prior to filling once used French Oak barrels. Venge says their 'light handed usage of new French Oak, keeping it to an average of 45% of their Chardonnay, with gentle stirring of the lees in the early stages of ageing, further develops refined richness and length of body, while keeping the wine clean and fresh'. The wine is aged for 15 months. 65% native malolactic fermentation to build complexity and body, without compromising the structural integrity of the wine.

Bottled unfiltered, 395 cases were produced.

Golden straw colored, medium full bodied, rich, round flavorful apple and pear fruits with layers of notes of caramel crème brûlée, mineral and citrus with spicy oak on the finish. 

RM 92 points.


Saturday, July 16, 2022

Family dinner features broad diverse wine flight

Family dinner features broad diverse wine flight - Robert Craig, Del Dotto, Pirouette, Domaine Pegau and Hill Estate 

I wrote in the previous post about sister Jan and Bro-n-law Bill visiting from California with daughters Jenna and Krysta and her new grand-baby to meet the cousins, the family gathered at our house for a family reunion dinner. Linda prepared beef tenderloin and ribs with asparagus, whipped potatoes and mac-n-cheese, salads and desserts.

We opened a broad diverse wine flight to accompany the dinner courses and selections. 

For the beef tenderloin, we opened a series of reds including this family oriented and run Napa Cabernet from Del Dotto Vineyards, followed by Robert Craig, two of the largest selections in our cellar collection spanning three decades. 

We also opened a Long Shadows Pirouette Red Blend, from their Vintner's Collection, another producer label of which we own a broad collection spanning many vintages going back more than a decade.

For the ribs' accompaniment, son Ryan brought a CDP and son Alec brought a Napa Syrah to round out the flight.

A separate post covered the white wine offering I opened - Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling. 

Del Dotto Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Connoisseurs Series Juppilles Oak 2000

Del Dotto is one of the largest holdings in our cellar dating back to the inaugural vintage release back in 1993. Our association with Del Dotto dates back to several of our Napa Wine Experiences and wine producer and winemaker dinners back to the mid-nineties.

My blogpost features our last visit there during our Napa Valley Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting in 2017.

Tonight, I opened a large format magnum bottle of Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2000 vintage, an Estate and a bottle from their Connoisseur's Series.

Del Dotto produce this unique series featuring a wine aged in different oak barrels with different types of oak sourced from around the world. The premise is that different varieties of oak have specific characteristics that will act upon the wine differently resulting in subtle flavor variations.

The Del Dotto Connoisseur's Series features as many as nine different oaks in which they age the same wine. Oaks barrels are produced with wood sourced from numerous forests around the world including America and France - French Allier, Bertranges, Colbert, this one from Juppilles, Marsannay and Troncas oaks, and American Missouri and Minnesota oaks. As with the whole collection, the resulting differences are subtle and may not be discernible except to the most discriminating oenophile, but they provide a unique and interesting tasting experience. 

Del Dotto Connoisseur Series Cabernet
Sauvignon served at an earlier wine tasting

Still holding its own at two decades plus two years, this is certainly reached its prime and will not improve further with aging but was not showing any diminution from age, perhaps due to large format bottle, which tends to age better. 

Dark garnet purple colored, medium to full bodied, modest structure, black berry fruits, notes of cassis, black tea, leather and hints of creosote on a moderate finish. 

RM 88 points.


Robert Craig Mt Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

We're long time fans of Robert and Marilyn and the Craig team and their 'artwork'. Our friendship with Robert and our 'Affinity' for his wines dates back at our first visit to Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 1996, and then again at our Robert Craig featured producer wine dinners during our Napa Wine Experience 1998, and again in 1999.

We visited Robert Craig's estate high atop Howell Mountain with Jan and Bill back in 2008 (shown right) and we visited Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Mt Veeder Appellation Trail together in 2011.  
As I have written in these pages in the past, we've dined and tasted with Robert and Lynn Craig at the winery, in Chicago, and at numerous Napa Valley events over the years. I recall Robert saying that this label, the Mt Veeder was his favorite. 
Our Robert Craig collection of these labels is one of the largest holdings in our cellar collection.
Our records show we still hold over four cases of this label over fifteen vintages dating back to the inaugural vintage in 1993.

Tonight's tasting was consistent with our last one when we opened this label release in August 2018 when I wrote: "I like this wine: This was still drinking well but likely past the apex of its drinking window, not to improve further with aging, but still holding its own at seventeen years of age. Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, bright forward firm structured backbone of tangy black cherry and blackberry fruits accented by notes of cedar, spicy oak, leather, tobacco leaf and tea with firm but smooth approachable tannins on the finish." 

RM 90 Points


We also opened another Long Shadows Vintners Collection label, Pirouette, a red blend crafted by legendary producer/winemakers Phillip Melka and Agustin Huneeus, Sr.

Long Shadows Pirouette Red Wine 2004 

This is the Bordeaux varietal red blend from the Long Shadows Vintners's Collection that features world class winemakers and Washington State Columbia Valley fruit.

Two legendary winemakers, Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus, Sr. teamed to combine the heritage of old world winemaking with the advancements of new world technology, using small lots from Washington State’s finest vineyards to craft this exotic red blend.

Agustin Huneeus entered the wine business in Chile in 1960 to lead Concha y Toro, a company he grew to become Chile’s largest winery. In 1971, he moved to New York, then later to California, continuing in the wine industry before becoming a partner and president of Franciscan Estates in 1985.

In addition to building Franciscan, he also built well-known California wineries Estancia and Mount Veeder and Veramonte Winery in Chile. In 1999, he left Franciscan to establish Huneeus Vintners, a portfolio that includes Napa Valley’s Quintessa where he worked with talented winemaker Phillip Melka. 

Philippe Melka attended the University of Bordeaux earning a master's degree in agronomy and enology, before working at some of the most famous wineries in the world: Château Cheval Blanc, Pétrus and Château Haut-Brion, among others. There he developed a passion for and expertise in cabernet-based blends. 

In 1994, Philippe settled in Napa Valley where he developed his reputation making wines for such celebrated wineries as Hundred Acre, Quintessa, Bryant Family, Seavey, Dana Estates and Vineyard 29 before joining the dream project partnering with Agustin Hunneus from Quintessa and Allen Shoup at Long Shadows. 

The Pirouette Vintners' Collection label collaboration was launched with the inaugural 2003 vintage. This, the second release in 2004 was a unique red blend consisting of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot and 11% Syrah. 

Seeking to create a wine with complexity and layers, the winemakers chose a diverse selection of Columbia Valley vineyard sites, each contributing unique characteristics to the blend. Grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills vineyards (32%) contributed depth; Wahluke Slope (24%) provided richness, concentration and dark fruit; Columbia Valley (25%) added ripe fruit character; the Yakima Valley (5%) gave the wine its balance and acidity; and Petit Verdot from Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain (14%) further enhanced balance and complexity.

The Winemakers' Tasting Notes for this label release: "A full spectrum of bright aromas and flavors gives the 2004 Pirouette wonderful complexity and style. Cabernet Sauvignon makes for a rich, structured wine; Syrah and Merlot add vibrant, dark fruit and a hint of licorice and spice; Petit Verdot contributes to its balance and liveliness. Lush and concentrated, the flavors continue through a lingering finish."

The wine was aged 21months in 100% all French oak (75% new) barrels.

This release was awarded 93 points by Wine Advocate.

The expressive nose offers up pain grille, scorched earth, blueberry, and blackberry liqueur. This is followed by a thick wine with silky tannins, superb depth and richness, and layers of flavor.

This was consistent with earlier tasting, CT records show we last opened this label and tasted it over the holidays in December 2018 when I wrote: "I like this wine: While it is a blend of Bordeaux varietals Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, it also contains a percentage of Syrah. It seems the Syrah almost predominated with a residual sweetness un-befitting the blend. The blend is 49% Cabernet, 37% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot and 11% Syrah. It is showing no signs of diminution from aging at fourteen (now eighteen) years and seems to still be at the apex of its drinking window.'

"The cork came apart on opening so the server had to decant this and strain it to remove the crumbled cork and residual sediment. Bright ruby colored, medium-full bodied, vibrant, rich concentrated forward black and blue fruits with highlights of black cherry, notes of cassis, spice and hints of cedar and creosote giving way to sweet almost obtuse bing cherry notes on the tangy lingering finish." 

RM 90 points.


For pairing with the baby back ribs, we opened two bottles brought by Ryan and Alec respectively.

Domaine du Pegau "Cuvée Reservée" Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2003

We drove past the Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate and vineyards during our tour of the area during our Rhone Valley Wine Experience in 2019. Our visit to the estate of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe was the other highlight of our visit to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, and then to a visit to Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

We lasted tasted this label when Ryan brought this from his cellar to a family celebration dinner on my birthday back in 2015 when I wrote: "This was tight and a bit closed with the fruits subdued and overtaken by a layer of black tea, tobacco leaf, with hints of creosote over the black berry fruits. This needs bold zesty bar-be-que to offset the tight firm black fruits and non-fruit layer." Tonight's tasting experience was consistent with then. At that time I gave this 87 points. I'd add at least another point perhaps reflecting the complementary pairing with the food.

This blockbuster vintage release got 99 points from Jeb Dunnuck. 98 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 97 points from Wine Spectator. 

Robert Parker wrote about this release in Wine Advocate back in 2010: "The 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee stands out as one of the all-time great wines made by Laurence Feraud and her father, Paul." Later in 2014 he wrote, "Starting with the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Reservée, this wine showed spectacularly on release, closed down for a few years, and has now emerged, at close to full maturity, and is straight-up fabulous."

Parker's tasting notes at that time referred to 'currants, garrigue, pepper and beef blood'.

Wine Spectator in 2006 cited this "Highly Recommended, #5 in Top 100 Wines of 2006" and described it with notes of "bramble, licorice, tar and pain d'épices flavors before a flitter of game and garrigue on the finish."

Its a tough comparison, this old world style compared to the modern era style and more robust, vibrant and expressive fruits from Bordeaux varietals. A wonderful tasting when compared with the BBQ ribs in any event.

Hill Family Estate Napa Valley Clarke Vineyard Syrah 2018

Alec brought this hearty Syrah to pair with the ribs. We've written often in these pages about his discovering this producer and their portfolio during his and Vivianna's Napa Valley honeymoon that was disrupted by the raging fires. They acquired this label as part of their wine club allocation shipment.

Winemaker's notes about this wine: "The Clarke Vineyard in American Canyon has a cool breezy climate that brings out the depth and finesse of the Syrah grape. Clone 877 is used for body and raspberry chocolate fruit, and a little Clone 383 for extra color and smoky complexity. A small amount of Viognier was co-fermented with the Syrah to add its exotic appeal. We brought the grapes in on October 23 at 27 Brix. We gave the tank 3 days of cold soak before adding FX10 yeast, then pressed it on November 4. The 2018 Clarke Syrah offers intriguing aromas of dark plum, black cherry, iris flower and wafts of mezcal. The wine glides across the tongue with flavors of raspberry and melted milk chocolate."

Dark purple colored, full bodied, notes of blackberry and black raspberry fruits accented by dark mocha chocolate hints of smoke and black tea. 

RM 91 points.


Friday, July 15, 2022

Family dinner opens with Washington Columbia Valley Riesling

Family dinner opens with Long Shadows Washington State Columbia Valley Riesling 

Sister Jan and Bro-n-law Bill visiting from California with daughters Jenna and Krysta and her new grand-baby to meet the cousins, the family gathered at our house, and then at Erin's for family reunion dinners. Linda prepared beef tenderloin and ribs with asparagus, whipped potatoes and mac-n-cheese, salads and desserts.

We opened a broad diverse wine flight to accompany the dinner courses and selections. Son, Ryan brought a CDP and son Alec brought a Napa Syrah to round out the flight.

For a white wine offering I opened a newly discovered label from a producer portfolio we know well.

Long Shadows Poet's Leap Columbia Valley Riesling 2019

My review of this wine is almost embarrassing, as it sounds like a promotion for this label. Never-the-less, this was a nice surprise wine find discovery! 

We've written often in these pages about Long Shadows and their Vintners' Collection, crafted from selected winemakers from around the world. We collect this portfolio as members of their wine club but discovered this other label in the wine shop this week. This one, inspired by the great wines of Germany and legendary winemaker Armin Diel, Long Shadows winemaker Gilles Nicault crafts this Poet's Leap Riesling in the style of its original winemaker.

The consulting winemaker and varietal grape specialist for this label was Armin Diel, owner of the Schlossgut Diel in Germany's Nahe region. He came to Washington in 2003 to collaborate with the Long Shadows team to make a Riesling sourced from local grapes. The legendary German was responsible for the first release by Long Shadows in 2004 sourced from grapes from Sagemoor Farms and The Benches in the Columbia Valley

From that first vintage, Long Shadows' director of winemaking Gilles Nicault collaborated with Armin on Poet's Leap's vineyard selection, fermentation and blending to establish a consistent style for the wine. Gilles assumed winemaking responsibility for Poet's Leap in the fall of 2016, after Armin found it increasingly challenging to make the numerous trips overseas that the project required. Gilles continues to produce this label, crafting the same style wine the team originally aspired to produce.
"My emphasis was to preserve Poet’s Leap Riesling with as much freshness as possible with a small amount of residual sugar." - Armin Diel

The 2019 Poet’s Leap Riesling is a blend of two distinct vineyards from German clones from The Benches in the Horse Heaven Hills that provide s minerality and Sagemoor Farms in the Columbia Valley, just outside of the Tri-Cities, which contributes citrus aromas and flavors and appealing acidity. Production was 4,200 cases.

This release was awarded 93 points by Owen Bargreen, a rare consensus 92 points by Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, Jeb Dunnuck, James Suckling and International Wine Reviews, and 91points by Stephen Tanzer and Connoisseurs Guide.

Wine & Spirits cited it as the Year's Best US Riesling and Sommeliers Choice Awards cited it the Wine of The Year By The Glass.

Normally, we are not Riesling fans but this exceeded all expectations and was enjoyed by everyone that tried it, being what I call a 'crowd pleaser', and providing great QPR - (Quality Price Ratio) as well. Its definitely worth picking up this label for every day casual enjoyable sipping. 

Straw colored, light medium bodied, clean, crisp, complex, aromas of apple and lime, slightly off-dry with hints of lychee, peaches and baking spice with a subtle mineral and nicely balanced acidity on the textured finish.

RM 91 points. 

Interesting, I would not consider this a wine to lay down and hold, reviewer Stephen Tanzer writes, "This wine will age for a decade or more with the petrol notes increasing as time goes on. I cannot wait to taste this wine again in 5 and 10 years time."

Owen Bargreen writes, "The 2019 Poet’s Leap Riesling is another sensational effort that is truly one of the great wines of its kind made in Washington."  This is amazing and says a lot, considering Allan Shoup, CEO and Founder of Long Shadows was CEO and Chairman of Washington State Chateau St Michelle in Woodinville, the largest wine producer in the state, and the largest Riesling producer in the world! 

Connoisseurs Guide wrotes similarly, "it is thoroughly delicious now, yet, as evidenced by last September's report on Poet's Leap Rieslings dating back to the 2008 vintage, it is a wine with a marvelously long life ahead and should evolve famously for a good decade or more."

It's a textbook picture of Washington Riesling at its best. Editors' Choice— Wine Enthusiast


I'll continue the rest of the wine flight review in a follow on post.


Thursday, July 14, 2022

Robert Craig Affinity at Angeli's Italian Trattoria

Robert Craig Affinity at Angeli's Italian Trattoria 

Sister Jan came in to town from SoCal so we dined at Angelis Italian, our favorite neighborhood Italian Trattoria. I took from our cellar BYOB this Robert Craig Napa Cabernet for the occasion. 

We visited Robert Craig winery and vineyards many times over the years including a special estate visit high atop Howell Mountain for a private tour and lunch with Jan and Bro-in-law Bill back in 2008 (shown above and below).

 Robert Craig "Affinity" Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2007 

I wrote about this label in detail in a blogpost back in 2019

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

We first tasted this wine from a barrel sample and acquired this release during the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 back in 2009. 

Robert Parker wrote in 2009, "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. Not only is there not a single disappointment in this portfolio, but these are all noteworthy wines, with thrilling levels of quality. Moreover, they are moderately priced for Napa Valley as well as ageworthy. I think these are the finest wines that I have ever tasted from Robert Craig Cellars."

Wine Enthusiast wrote of this release, 'Craig has produced his best bottling since the late 1990s'.

This year’s blend is heavier on the petit verdot, with a composition of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec.

In that last tasting bogpost back in 2019 I wrote,  "This exceeded my expectations for this label and indeed was one of the best drinking Affinity's in memory. At fifteen years, this seems to reaching the apex of its drinking profile."

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.

Earlier Robert Craig Affinity and estate visit blogposts:



Tuesday, July 12, 2022

St Clement Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

St. Clement Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Pulled this from the cellar for midweek sipping with left over beef steak, mashed potatoes and salad.

This moderately priced Cab is from a historic Napa winery that was purchased by Beringer in 1999 to add to their broad and expanding portfolio that includes Beringer Wine Estates, Meridian Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean, Napa Ridge, Chateau Souverain and Stags' Leap Winery. 

Such is the case these days, that the large or mega producers are consolidating or voraciously gobbling up so many of the formerly 'independent' producers. Many of the brands or labels remain but their individuality is variously being diluted as it melds into the corporate or parent's persona.

St. Clement Vineyards continues to produce small lots of premium wines under the same winemaking staff, with the intent to produce the best wines possible from the available fruit. 

The use of the word premium is taken from the producer and needs some clarification. The vast majority of wines sell from under $20 - in fact most for closer to $10. Hence, the pricepoint for premium is for wines above that those levels, and the widespread use of superlatives such as ultra premium since so many wines are many times that, and many producers now have $100+ wines, and $300+ wines and above. 

Notably, this brand produces a higher priced premium or ultra-premium label, Orropas, of which we hold several bottles from numerous vintages. That rather odd name is derived from spelling the then parent company's name backwards, having been acquired and managed for a period by the Japanese Saporro beverage group, of Saporro Holdings, today Sapporo Breweries Ltd., the oldest brand of beer in Japan and Sapporo Premium, the #1 selling Asian beer in the US.

The company has five breweries in Japan, the Sleeman brewery in Canada, and Sapporo Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and most recently they acquired Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, where, from which they now manage Saporro U.S. 

For a period, the global giant diversified into the wine business, abandoning it a short time later to return to and focus on their heritage and mainstream beer business.

I would call this an standard level estate Napa Cab, above the budget or modest (sub $20), priced in the $25 to $40 range, commonly referred to as 'premium'. 

Winemaker Notes: "This Cabernet Sauvignon gives a classic example of Napa Valley, combining valley floor terroir and mountain fruit power. The grapes for St. Clement's Cabernet Sauvignon span several sub-appellations in Napa Valley, including vineyards in Rutherford, St. Helena, Mt. Veeder, Coombsville and Diamond Mountain."

Producer's Wine Tasting Notes: "The Cabernet Sauvignon gives a classic example of Napa Valley, combining valley floor terroir and mountain fruit power. An aromatic bouquet of sweet dark cherry, blackberry, plum and red berry is followed by an attractive clove spice. The bright and juicy palate intrigues with hints of mint and cocoa, and finishes with intense fruit and fine-grained tannins." 

I echo the winemakers' description above finding it accurately representative and consistent with mine. 

RM 90 points.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Team cook-out dinner features grilled beefsteak and diverse wine flight

Team cook-out dinner features grilled beefsteak, salmon and broad diverse assorted wine flight

This continues our earlier post on the cookout dinner we hosted for my global team, wherein I wrote about the white Napa Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc blend we served to accompany the grilled salmon. 

Over the course of the Salmon, grilled T-bone beefsteaks, assorted salads, cheeses, fruits and desserts, we opened a broad diverse wine flight of white, red, red blend, tawny port, and pair of dessert wines. 

We served a Sauvignon Blanc from Blackbird Vineyards and were discussing their vineyard site on Oak Knoll Road at Big Ranch Road in southern Napa Valley, down the road from Trefethen Vineyards and Winery. 

Guest and colleague Rick K mentioned he was a member of the Trefethen wineclub and collected several of their wines over the years. Mark B, visiting from the UK, discussed the likely geneaology of the Trefethen name and his shared Welsh family heritage. 

Hence, I pulled from our cellar a special Trefethen select blend as an additional pairing with the grilled T-Bone steaks, and comparison with the other Napa Cab, Clos du Val.

To accompany the grilled T-bone beefsteaks, I opened the pair of red Napa Valley Cabernets starting with . Clos du Val Napa Cab in a large format magnum bottle. Both were ideal pairings with the steak.

Clos du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Clos Du Val is French for “small vineyard estate of a small valley,” was founded in 1972 in the historic Stags Leap District by Franco-American entrepreneur John Goelet. Monsieur Goelet conducted a global search for vineyards where he could build a world class winery - and craft world-class wines. His search ended with the purchase of 150 acres in the Napa Valley Stags Leap District, and 180 acres in the Carneros region at the bottom of Napa Valley near where it meets Sonoma, near the confluence at the top of San Pablo Bay.

In 2012, Clos Du Val’s Winemaker Kristy Melton became only the third winemaker in the four-decade history of Clos Du Val. Previous she had worked at Seresin Estate in New Zealand, and Iron Horse and Saintsbury in California.

I first posted a tasting of this label back in November 2015 when I noted "I like this wine" and rated it 93 points; "Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a symphony of smooth polished complex flavors - tightly wound blackberry, black cherry, hints of plum and currant fruits accented by tones of black tea, black olive, hints of vanilla, light toast, and tobacco on the finely integrated supply sinewy tannin finish."

I then wrote about it again almost a year ago to the day on 7/16/2021 when I wrote: "At eight years, this is just now starting to hit its stride and has a long life ahead and may not yet have reached the apex of its drinking/aging profile. It might settle down and integrate a bit further for more polish and nuance, but it is delicious now as it is."

'Bright garnet/purple colored, medium full bodied, vibrant, forward expressive blackberry, dark cherry and black currant fruits with notes of graphite, smoke, floral, herbs, black tea and tobacco turning to firm but smooth approachable tannins and a pleasing bright tangy lingering finish."

This Clos Du Val 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was rated 95 points by Antonio Galloni of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinous, and 92 points by James Suckling.

Served from large format magnum which I believe contributed to its being somewhat more settled balanced than earlier tastings, at nearing a decade, this is hitting its stride and likely at or nearing the apex of its tasting profile and window. 

Consistent with earlier notes, bright ruby purple colored, medium full bodied, bright vibrant, complex but nicely balanced blackberry, black currant and dark cherry fruits with bitter dark chocolate, baking spice, black tea, with some smoke and leather on a tangy acidic finish and moderate soft tannins on the finish. 

RM 92 points.

As mentioned, based on the discussions about Trefethen above, and the unique nature of this label and its heritage, I pulled from the cellar this red Bordeaux blend from them.

Trefethen Dragon's Tooth Napa Valley Red Wine 2018

We discovered and wrote about this label when we visited the Trefethen Estate winery and vineyards at the entrance to Napa Valley just above the City of Napa in the Oak Knoll District during our Napa Wine Experience in 2013.  

Founded by Eugene and Catherine Trefethen in 1968, today, it is managed by the third generation of the Trefethen family.

This label is a tribute to the winery's matriarch Catherine Trefethen, who was from Welsh ancestry. 

This is an interesting, unique blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot, 100% Estate, sourced from new plantings from the rockiest part of Trefethen's vineyard where obsidian flakes occasionally remind them of the toothy smile of Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon) guardian and symbol of Wales.

The blend for this release is 49% Malbec, 27% Petit Verdot and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. 
Winemaker Notes for this vintage release: "This wine opens with expressive aromas of cherry and blackberry accented with notes of fig, tobacco leaf, and sarsaparilla. Full-bodied and balanced, the integrated flavors of ripe dark fruit lead to a lush and abundant finish."
This release was awarded 94 points by James Suckling, 92 points by Vinous, 91 points by International Wine & Spirits Competition, and 90 points by Wine & Spirits and Decanter World Wine Awards.
Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, perhaps too young to reveal its true character and potential as it was a bit tight and closed, still full round ripe black cherry and berry fruits with notes of dark mocha, spice, leather and black tea notes with full tannins on a long finish.
RM 91 points. 

At this point, one of our guests mentioned a liking to port wine which turned the discussion to suitable and appropriate after dinner wines for such an occasion. I returned from the cellar with a half dozen bottles from which the group selected a Tawny Port and a pair of diverse dessert wines. 

Cockburn's Twenty Year Tawny Porto Director's Reserve (Bottled in) 1994

Our British guest, Mark, noted the proper pronunciation of this producer's name, which is British, Scottish, is "CO-burn", with the ck being silent. 

Cockburn's dates back to 1815, when Robert and John Cockburn, two brothers from Scotland, bypassed the stuffy merchant’s fair in Porto and bought the best grapes directly from farmers upriver in the Douro region of Portugal to produce their own wine, which continued thereafter to this day. 

Cockburn's 20 Year Old Tawny is blended from older, mature, cask aged wines and then refreshed by the addition of younger wines. The average age of this blend is no less than 20 years.

Notably, this Bottle numbered OP 293941, was bottled in 1994, one of the best most highly acclaimed vintages years for port in history. That would render this wine to be going on 20 plus (2022-1994) 28, or 48 years of age. 

This is interesting in that while they indicate on the label that this bottle was produced in 1994, it is not a Vintage Port, since the actual wine is a blend from the highest quality wine frmo across numerous vintages, with an average age of twenty years, hence called a "20 Year Tawny." 

Cockburn produce their flagship premium Vintage Ports in designated vintage years, which is the custom in Porto, a '10 Year Tawny', a '20 Year Tawny', and a 'Late Bottled Vintage' (LBV), sourced from the same vineyard that produces the Vintage Ports, the LBVs are aged in large oak vats for four to six years before being bottled, produced to be ready to drink.

It was wonderful, not the least showing any diminution from age whatsoever. It was enjoyed by all, not just the more hearty robust aged wine aficionados. The Cellartracker drinking window for this wine was 'Drink by 2017', rendering this warning, "This wine is past its drinking window. DRINK UP!!" I dutifully updated the Cellartracker Drinking Window to 2024, based on our experience with this bottle.

My photo of this bottle, with my watermark '', indicates I published it before I obtained and started using the '' internet domain name and branding.  

Winemaker Notes for Cockburn's 20 Year Old Tawny although not necessarily this release: "The wine is star-bright, in color somewhere between rose hip pink and dark honey. A seductive, delicate nose evokes subtle hints of raisins, cedar wood, walnuts and cinnamon. Silky and light yet still with a distinct grip the wine is very much alive. The finish is nutty and sinewy and lasting. The character of this wine is similar to that of a fully mature vintage port of a very great year."

Of course, due to the age of our bottle, it was darker, more the color of iced tea.

The recent Cockburn 20 Year Tawny was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator and 91 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Dark golden colored resembling iced tea, full bodied, rich, unctuous, notes of smoke, nut, hints of butterscotch, toffee and honey. 

RM 91 points.

More to come .. being updated further ... 

Continuing the wine journey, we opened a pair of aged vintage dessert wines with the dessert course which also included assorted cheeses and fresh fruits. 

We opened, in small format, 375 half bottles, an Italian and a French dessert wine, two disparate styles, profiles and tastes. 

Calvalchina Bianca Del Veneto Passito IGT 2004 Trebbiano Blend 

Several from our group know and have had this wine together during our team dinners at Italian Village, Chicago, many of which have been chronicled in these pages.

I've written about this label on numerous occasions as this is one of the several remaining bottles from a case of 24 half bottles we acquired of this wine for every day casual sipping, ideal for such occasions such as this evening.

Upon release the color of this wine was straw, then turned to butter, and over time has consistently darkened to honey color and it is now the hue of weak tea.

Consistent with some earlier notes, back in 2016 I wrote: Medium-full bodied, the apple fruits, subtle tangerine and hint of apricot and peach flavors have given way, overtaken by tones of burnt caramel, smoke and nut on a flavorful lingering finish.

RM 87 points.

Then to compare with a different style and varietal from a different region, we turned to a Sauterne from Bordeaux from a near vintage allowing for nearly a horizontal (same vintage comparison) tasting of similar purpose produced wines.

Château Suduiraut 1er Grand Cru Classe' Sauternes Bordeaux 2002, 2005

The full flight photo above shows a 2005 vintage release of this label. That is the bottle we consumed this evening. Additionally, we had the remains of this 2002 vintage release from a few nights earlier that we also finished out tonight.  

This is a label we know well as we have a vertical collection spanning more than two decade of vintages. As I written often in the past, its great fun to watch these Sauternes wines age and turn from the straw color on release, darkening over time to butter, then honey colored to weak tea colored.

Dark honey colored, medium full bodied, not as sweet and unctuous as some vintages, the fruit is more subdued lacking the apricot nectar and honey of some vintages. This showed plenty of botrytis, with predominate notes of smoke accented by marzipan, almond, ripe apple, and hints of  vanilla on the tongue cloying finish. 

This was a perfect compliment to the fresh berries, selection of profiteroles and chocolate desserts.

RM 91 points.

Tasted from a 375ml half bottle.