Monday, November 28, 2022

Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at Hugo's Chicago

Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at Hugo's Chicago Private Dining

For a key partner and team dinner we dined at Hugo's Frog Bar on trendy Rush Street in Chicago. Hugo's is part of the Gibson's Restaurant Group, with Gibson's and Hugo's locations throughout Chicagoland including our hometown, Naperville, nearby Oak Brook, and their adjacent flagship locations on Rush Street, the center of the near north nightlife district. 

For our key business dinner we dined in Hugo's upstairs private dining room. With our grilled beefsteaks we selected this popular long time reliable crowd pleaser wine - Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Jordan is to Sonoma Alexander Valley, what the popular well known Caymus is to Napa Valley.

Since its founding by Tom and Sally Jordan in 1972, Jordan Vineyard & Winery has produced a popular reliable go-to wine that is widely available, approachable for early gratification when young, yet has the ability to age for decades or more. 

At the outset, Jordan enlisted the legendary André Tchelistcheff as consulting enologist, inspired by his work producing Frencophile style cabernet based Bordeaux blends at Napa Valley Beaulieu Vineayards. 

Tchelistcheff hired and mentored Rob Davis, who headed Jordan winemaking from the inaugural 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and inaugural 1979 Jordan Chardonnay until his retirement in 2019.

This continuity along with the tenure of but two winemakers over four decades since the winery’s inception, led to the remarkable quality and consistency of Jordan wines.

Jordan Cabernet is actually a Bordeaux-style California Cabernet Sauvignon based blend sourced from Jordan estate in northern Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.

Upon taking ownership of their property, Tom and Sally planted more than 200 acres of vineyards on the valley floor and methodically began to produce a single wine, modeled after the first growth philosophy of the finest producers in Bordeaux. To that end, they planted only cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes.

Second-generation John Jordan took over as hands-on CEO vintner and winemaker in 2005 taking on full ownership of the winery in 2007. He carried on the legacy and heritage of Jordan Vineyard & Winery producing award-winning wines year after year making Jordan one of the top Cabernet Sauvignon brands in California.  

Jordan Sonoma County Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

The 2018 vintage harvest in Napa and Sonoma was one of the biggest and best in several years with each phase of the growing season  seeing near-perfect weather conditions. The quality of the fruit was exceptional and the harvest was about 25% to 33% above average resulting in holding prices steady for exceptional wines, providind good value QPR (quality price ratios) across the range with this label being no exception. 

Winemaker notes: "The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is a showstopper vintage. Its black cherry, boysenberry and black fig aromas jump out of the glass and, the wine’s smooth, rich tannins go on forever, making this a vintage that will age gracefully.'

"Rich aromas of black cherry, Mission fig and dark chocolate mingle with clove and nutmeg. The palate is filled with flavors of blackberry and boysenberry that are enveloped in silky tannins, showing complexity beyond its years. Enticing flavors of vanilla bean and hazelnut carry through a velvety richness that lingers on the finish."

This is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec. It was aged 13 months in 100% French oak, 35% new and 65% one-year-old barrels with 37 total months aging.

Wilfred Wong gave this 92 points and Wine Enthusiast gave this release 90 Points. 

This was a perfect complement pairing with the wedge salad, creamed spinach, grilled beefsteak and dark chocolate gateaux.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex concentrated bright vibrant blackberry and black currant fruits with cedar, bitter dark chocolate, cassis, black tea, and clove spice with bright acidity and a layer of oak on the long moderate tannin finish.  

RM 91 points.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Monteviejo Lindaflor 'Petite Fleur' Red Blend

Bodega Monteviejo Lindaflor 'Petite Fleur' Red Blend 2006, Valle de Uco,  Mendoza Argentina 

For Sunday night carry out pizza I pulled from the cellar and aged big red blend from Argentina. 

This is from the producers with vineyards of Le Gay, La Violette, and Montveil in the Pomerol Region of Bordeaux France comes this Bordeaux Blend from Valle de Uco,  Mendoza, Argentina. Bodega Monteviejo is owned and operated by Chateau Le Gay in Pomerol, Bordeaux, France. Both wineries share the same winemakers, including the highly respected Michael Rolland, the world renouned consulting winemaker to many of the great Merlot based labels in France, California and Washington State, and beyond to the new world emerging wine regions such as Mendoza, Argentina.

The Monteviejo winery lies in Vista Flores, Tunuyán, in the heart of the Uco Valley. The 320 acre property sits nestled at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The estate is owned by the Péré Vergé family while winemaker, enologist and general manager, Marcelo Pelleriti, renowned in the industry in his own right, has worked in both France and Argentina under the guide of his mentor, legendary Michel Rolland.

For more than 15 years, Marcelo has directed the harvests in Bordeaux for Château La Violette, Château Le Gay and Château Montviel, living in France between September and November and opposite seasons down-under in Argentina, every year since 2001. 

He is know for his expertise in both these two distinct terroirs and has gained international renown for exceptional wines that consistently receives high ratings, often earning 95 points and above in both France and Argentina.

Mendoza has come to be known as the Malbec capital of the world, a lesser known Bordeaux varietal  that is increasingly combined as part of a Bordeaux style blend. While Malbec is usually a very small component in Bordeaux wines, it is the primary component in this Argentinian label, representing half of the overall blend.

Bodega Monteviejo Lindaflor 'Petite Fleur' Red Blend 2006

This is a blend predominantly Malbec with Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon - all sourced from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina - reported to be 50% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 10% Merlot.

From the rear label (shown) -

"Petit Fleur of Lindaflor, surprising blend where Malbec is the main component. Merlot offers elegance and roundness, Syrah the mineral complexity and Cabernet Sauvignon the tannin complexity that contributes to the balance and structure. Due to its intensity of fruit, body and volume, we recommend to decant before drinking and to serve between 14C-16C.

50% Malbec, 10% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard density: 5500 feet per hectare.
Location: Clos de los Siete, 1100 msm. South of Mendoza, Argentina.
Soil: slimy and franc, increasing the proportion of gravels in subsoil.
Vinification and unbringing: maceration in tanks of 100 hl. For 30 days with manual pigeage.
Ageing in barrels for 12 months, only 30% new casks.
Other vineyards: Le Gay, La Violette and Montviel in Pomerol, Bordeaux, France.

While those Bordeaux labels will run a minimum of $40 to four or five times that amount, the lesser known upstart will cost a fraction of that amount providing quality drinking with tremendous QPR - quality price ratio.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, aromatic bouquet and flavors of plum and blackberry fruits with notes of smoke, licorice, spice, hints of cedar and leather turning to nicely balanced acidity, slightly chewy tannins and good length.

RM 88 points.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Andretti Montona Super Tuscan BYOB at Angeli's Italian

Andretti Montona Super Tuscan Napa Valley Reserve BYOB at Angeli's Italian

Saturday night dinner out with neighbor friends Mark and Shirley, we dined at Angeli's Restorante Italian, our favorite neighborhood Italian trattoria. 

I took a special Reserve bottle BYOB from our cellar for the occasion. This was a perfect selection for the evening and was a highlight of our dinner out - a tribute to Mark's career in the auto business from producer legendary race car driver Mario Andretti, a Super Tuscan Italian Blend, tribute to Shirley's Italian heritage, and a fabulous wine pairing for our Italian cuisine dinner.

Andretti Montona Super Tuscan Napa Valley Reserve Red Wine 2016

We discovered this wine and the Montona portfolio/brand when we visited the Andretti Winery and Estate in southeast Napa Valley during our Napa Wine Experience in 2018 I wrote about that visit in a more detailed blogpost earlier, and about the Montona brand and this particular label in another previous blopost.

This label is from the Montona Reserve brand, the high end premium line of the Andretti portfolio. The line is named for the village of Montona, the hometown of the Andretti family and birthplace of the legend racer turned wine producer.

Actually, the village where Andretti was born is in Croatia, home to another famous Napa ‘vintner producer’ Mike Grgich.

Andretti Winery was established in 1996 by the famed race car driver, Mario Andretti in a joint venture project with Joe Antonini, former CEO of Kmart, who was one of Mario’s sponsors during his racing days.

The property is actually owned by the Laird Family, prominent growers and producers. Andretti leases the winery on site as well as the tasting room. 

Andretti also leases about 42 acres of vineyards surrounding the winery, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. 

They also purchase grapes from other growers from select vineyards around Napa Valley which must include the Sangiovese which is a key foundation varietal in this blend.

The Andretti Winery features a small faux Italian/Tuscan building and courtyard with picturesque fountains and landscaping. There is a small cottage, patios and lawns that are available for small private tastings and picturesque grounds which would be ideal for an private event or special outing.

Andretti Montona Reserve Napa Valley Super Tuscan 2016

As noted above, this label is not Estate bottled, meaning the grapes for the juice in the bottles are not necessarily grown on the property, but rather, may have been purchased from contract growers. As such, the (rear) label cites the wine is merely "Bottled by Andretti Winery". 

Hence, with all due respect to the legendary Indy Racecar driver, Mario Anrdretti, and his benefactor investor partner in the winery venture, former CEO of K-Mart Joe Antonini, they are tenant wine producers, not landowners or winery estate owners. 

As a wine collector and eonphile, I would prefer to support family owned farmer/grower winemakers who produce wines from grapes produced on their properties. This provides a consistent source of fruit year after year and thereby allows for the focus on terroir and its impact on the wine from vintage to vintage, as a basis for comparison over the years, and as a comparison against other similarly situated terroir focused wines. 

In any event, this wine was delicious and I'd like to obtain more, especially in light of the fact we've run out of one of our favorite labels, the same grape varietal from the same vintage, that we drank this week as  I featured in the previous blogpost.

Having just written the comments above about this wine, and all the reasons why we may not continue buying and collecting such, I now admit, this may be the highest performing Montona Reserve label we have tried from Andretti. As with earlier tastings, this wine tonight exceeded our expectations for this producer and label release. At a super premium release list price of $110, one would hope and expect it to be a top performer.

The name "Super Tuscan" is a reference to the style and composition of this red wine blend - attached to wines from the Tuscany wine region in Northern Italy where the native and designated wine grape is Sangiovese. Producers there started growing French Bordeaux grape varietals and blending them with Sangiovese to craft what became known as Super Tuscan wines. 
As such, this is a blend of Italian varietal Sangiovese (50%), and Bordeaux Napa varietals Cabernet Sauvignon (46%), and Merlot (4%). Some vintages of this label also contain slight amounts of the Bordeaux varietal Petit Verdot - which is commonly and customarily added for dark color and structure.

The Winemakers' notes on this wine: "The Montona Reserve Super Tuscan is an intense and complex wine achieved by blending our finest barrels of Sangiovese with our favorite Bordeaux varietals. Deep ruby red in color the 2016 Super Tuscan is bursting with aromas of rosewood and violet, followed by candied cherries and dark plum. On the palate the fruitiness explodes in your mouth with bright flavors of cherry, raspberry and plum layered with toasty vanilla and silky smooth tannins. Enjoy this wine with grilled meats, braised short ribs, or your favorite aged cheeses."

This was aged 20 months is 50% new French Oak.
Consistent with, but better than previous tastings, at six years this is hitting its stride, likely at the apex of its drinking profile - dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, elegant, polished and complex, yet wonderfully integrated, full round bright vibrant black currant, black raspberry and dark plum fruits accented by burnt caramel, vanilla, almond, black tea and sweet toasty oak with smooth polished tannins on a lasting silky finish.

RM 93 points. 


Friday, November 25, 2022

Father Son World Cup wine tasting

Father Son World Cup meet up and leftovers wine tasting 

Son Ryan came over to watch the USA-England soccer match and brought a couple wines left from their Thanksgiving holiday feast. I served up the remains of one of our's, a favorite wine left over from our dinner the other night. 

What great fun it is to share our wine interests together and experience the convergence of our respective cellar collections in producers' labels such as this one.  We've both have amassed a collection of Fantesca Napa Valley Spring Mountain District wines - Ryan most recently, collecting their ultra-premium special labels, while our collection goes back to the inaugural release and the ensuing early years. 

We first met producers Dwayne and Susan Hoff when they acquired the Spring Mountain property in St Helena in February 2004 and Fantesca was founded. Dwayne visited us in Chicago during one of his early promotion tours for the 2004 release of Fantesca Cabernet in 2006.
 We hold a vertical collection of more than a dozen vintages of Fantesca with their classy etched bottles, one of our favorites that we hold for special occasions and for special gifts.
In early 2008, Fantesca signed on veteran winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett, whose Napa Valley resume includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, and her own La Sirena.
Fantesca Estate and Winery Napa Valley "All Great Things - Honor" 2011 
This label "All Great Things" is Heidi Barret's annual Bordeaux blend produced for Fantesca - a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  
This is the third release of the series, which is inspired by the words of Winston Churchill:  “All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”  
Each vintage release commemorates one of those notable words from the legendary Churchill quote - freedom (2015), justice (2016), honor (2011, 2017), duty (2012, 2018), mercy (2013), and hope (2014) - this one christened the (first) "Honor" release.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, layers of firm bright black fruits with notes of dusty cedar, aged leather and spice, with notes of mocha chocolate and plum, with moderate tannins on the finish.
RM 92 points.

Boroli Brunella Barolo 2015 

Ryan then opened this vintage Barolo from Achille Boroli.

The Boroli family roots in Piedmont date back to as early as 1831. The family were entrepreneurs in the publishing business until Silvano and Elena Boroli set out to reconnect with venturing into winemaking business in 1997. 

The Baroli estate vineyards are located in the heart of Barolo in the towns Castiglione Falletto (Cascina La Brunella) and Barolo (Borgata Cerequio). All Barolo production and refinement takes place in the wine-making and ageing wineries at Cascina La Brunella, in the town of Castiglione Falletto. 

As an integration of the historic Cascina La Brunella, a new winery was built and opened in 2006, with all the modern building technologies.

Silvano and Elena Boroli managed the company 2012 when their son, Achille, stepped in to run the wine-growing and production business.

Achille Boroli grew up in the wine business and experienced every facet of winemaking shadowing the family's winery winemaker - tending to the grapes, blending the wines, tasting barrel samples - all aspects of  vineyard management and winemaking techniques. 

With the 2012 vintage, Achilles set upon to aim for the highest quality in Barolo achievable from their estate, applying the most meticulous methods in the vineyards and winery - cutting production levels, updating the winemaking technology, applying low intervention methods to raise the quality of the Boroli wines to the highest level, on par with the finest Barolo wines.
Boroli Brunella Piedmont Barolo 2015 
Barolo Brunella is 100% Nebbiolo, sourced from a single 7 acre estate vineyard in the territory of Castiglione Falletto, situated at the extreme western point of the ridge of Villero. It has vines with an average age of vines 40 years, was aged in large oak barrels (1000-1500L) for 18 months, and settled at least 1 year in bottle before release. It was first released in 2013.
Winemaker Notes for the 2015 release: "A clear ruby red color, with very light orange reflections. A net aroma in which licorice stands out at first, immediately followed by a fruity scent; the aroma makes you scent it again and again to discover different and pleasant facets. The fruity aroma magnificently prevails after a few minutes in the glass. A very enveloping, fresh and harmonious taste, with a delicate and tasty presence of wood. A long lasting taste that invites to sip it slowly again and again."
This release was awarded 93 points by James Suckling.

Bright ruby colour, medium bodied, elegant, smooth and polished fresh plum and cherry berry fruits with hints of licorice, mocha, fresh cloves and baking spices, with velvety mouthfeel with a persistent lingering soft sweet oak laced tannin finish. 

RM 92 points.

Piazza Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 2016 

I then opened this Sangiovese left over from our dinner earlier in the week that we opened with Linda's spaghetti and meatballs. This has become our favorite go-to wines for Italian dining. I wrote in detail about Del Dotto Napa Valley wines and their history producing Sangiovese in an earlier blogpost.
  We tasted and acquired this wine at the Piazza Winery Delicacies Wine and Food Tasting Experience during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018. We had previously tasted and acquired the 2015 release a year earlier at our Napa Valley Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting in 2017

This is the last bottle of a couple of cases of this label we acquired during those visits. We've been trying to obtain more of this label and haven't seen it available on the Del Dotto shopping site or in the marketplace. We're hoping to find more. 

As we have written in recent tasting reviews of wine acquired during this Estate visit, this label is from Piazza Del Dotto, Del Dotto's newest project, a new winery south on St Helena Highway featuring an Italian-inspired “barchessa,” or barn, magnificently appointed with tasting rooms and dining areas. It is surrounded by fountain gardens with al fresco tasting cabanas, vegetable gardens, 17th century fountains and an outdoor barn with turkeys, peacocks, pheasants and doves. There are wine caves as well, all surrounded by 8.5 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards.

This is Estate grown fruit, I believe from the Rutherford vineyards that surround the Venetian Estate Winery & Caves, the site for the Del Dotto cave tours and barrel tastings.

This was ruby colored medium full bodied, delicious sweet ripe raspberry fruits accented by notes of sweet vanilla, cedar, tobacco and almond with supple smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Piazza Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 2016

Piazza Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese with Spaghetti and Meatballs 

Inspired by the fabulous Italian meatballs we had at Eataly Chicago last week, Linda prepared spaghetti and meatballs for midweek dinner. I found in the cellar Napa Valley Sangiovese one of our favorite go-to wines for Italian dining. I wrote in detail about Del Dotto Napa Valley wines and their history producing Sangiovese in an earlier blogpost.
We had previously tasted and acquired the 2015 release a year earlier at our Napa Valley Del Dotto Estate Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting in 2017

I thought we had consumed all of our collection of this label but I found this in our cellar, the last bottle of a couple of cases of this label we acquired during those visits. 

We've been trying to obtain more of this label and haven't seen it available on the Del Dotto shopping site or in the marketplace. We're hoping to find more. 

As we have written in recent tasting reviews of wine acquired during this Estate visit, this label is from Piazza Del Dotto, Del Dotto's newest project, a new winery south on St Helena Highway featuring an Italian-inspired “barchessa,” or barn, magnificently appointed with tasting rooms and dining areas. It is surrounded by fountain gardens with al fresco tasting cabanas, vegetable gardens, 17th century fountains and an outdoor barn with turkeys, peacocks, pheasants and doves. There are wine caves as well, all surrounded by 8.5 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards.

This is Estate grown fruit, I believe from the Rutherford vineyards that surround the Venetian Estate Winery & Caves, the site for the Del Dotto cave tours and barrel tastings.

Consistent with earlier tastings of this label, dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, delicious sweet ripe raspberry fruits accented by notes of sweet vanilla, cedar, tobacco and almond with supple smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 92 points. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Zaca Mesa Toyon Santa Ynez Valley Red Wine

Zaca Mesa Toyon a complex Santa Ynez Valley Red Wine Blend

I wrote earlier this week about receiving Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Syrah, our Zaca Mesa Wine Club fall allocation shipment, and notes on tasting that first label from that shipment. Here is the second label and our tasting notes from that distribution. This was a great accompaniment to hearty Rosati's "Monster" pizza with spicy sauce.

Brambly bushes and shrubs around
Foxen Trail Vineyards
Zaca Mesa Toyon is a red blend wine named after a native shrub found growing in the sandy hills and terraces that surround the estate vineyards. Toyon (also known as California Holly and Christmas Berry) is a native evergreen that grows into a dense 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide drought-resistant shrub. Covered in leathery leaves all year, it blooms pretty, but unspectacular, white flowers in summer.

Zaca Mesa Toyon is a unique blend comprised of a combination of Santa Ynez Valley Rhône and Bordeaux grape varietals, sourced from fruit grown on and off the estate.

Zaca Mesa Estate Vineyard adjacent the winery
Writing about the unique combination of grapes in this label's blend,  Matt Kettmann of Wine Enthusiast called it a "kitchen sink blend".  He gave the 2016 release of this label 90 points.

The primary grape selection is akin to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the so named appellation in the southern Rhône River valley where the primary grapes required to be in the blend are G-S-M - Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. 

The GSM combination and so-called label is a popular blend released by many producers in Australia, California and Washington State - areas where Rhône varietals are grown. 

But Zaca Mesa take it a step further and adds the popular Bordeaux varietal grape Cabernet Sauvignon to the mix creating a complex wine that is somewhat a cacaphony of flavors, although the producer calls it a "seamless wine that is unlike anything else we produce".

Zaca Mesa Toyon Santa Ynez Valley Red Wine 2019

The actual blend consists of Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault grapes. Cinsault is another Rhône varietal. 
Actually, Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation regulations allow thirteen different specified grapes in the blend, however at least 70% is required to be GSM - Shiraz/Syrah, Grenache, and/or Mourvedre.
Toyon 2019 was aged 19 months in neutral oak

I write in detail about the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation regulations in my blogpost on Our  visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Château La Nerthe, back in 2019. Founded in 1936 when the decree of the appellation was published, Châteauneuf-du-Pape became the first wine-making Appellation-Origin-Controllee, AOC of France, which now governs all the major wine producing regions and has since been adopted in most major wine producing regions including Italy and the US. 
Indeed, the Bordeaux region alone has no less than 57 appellations that govern the viticulture and production required to bear the appellation seal of approval on the label. Napa Valley, America's premier wine growing region has seventeen officially designated appellations (AVA's) (See blogpost Mt Veeder Appellation and Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.)
This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex, a cacophony of flavors with strawberry, black cherry currant and plum flavors with a layer of vanilla, accented by herbs, sweet tobacco and cinnamon spice, notes of earthy cedar and anise and a bit of pepper on a moderate tannin tangy acidic lingering finish.
RM 89 points.

@zacamesawinery @zacamesa

Friday, November 18, 2022

Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Syrah

Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Valley Estate Syrah 2017 with Baby Back Rib Dinner

We just received our wine club allocation fall shipment from Zaca Mesa Winery. We visited the Zaca Mesa Estate and Vineyards in Santa Ynez Valley during our Santa Barbara County Wine Experience last spring. We joined their wine club after tasting their portfolio of Rhone varietal based wines highlighting Syrah, one of our favorite varietals. 

Zaca Mesa Estate Winery on Foxen Canyon Rd
Los Olivos, CA
We were eager to try this Reserve 'flagship' Syrah from this producer who specializes in California Syrah. Their feature of wine says, this "Mesa Reserve Syrah represents the best of our mesa top vineyard, focusing on our favorite blocks of Syrah on our estate, ranging in vine age between 9-22 years."

Zaca Mesa's focus on Syrah intensified when in 2004, they planted their "first true high-density vineyard,” said Director of Vineyard & Winery Operations Eric Mohseni, at the time. “This new vineyard was planted to new Syrah clones and rootstock combinations for Zaca Mesa. The resulting wines had a different tannin and flavor profile. This was the birth of the Mesa Reserve.”

The resulting grapes harvested from that vineyard site displayed a "purity of fruit, broad tannins, and complex aromas of the wine" such that they believed it merited a higher-tier "reserve level" Syrah. Such was the birth of this label Mesa Reserve Syrah, crafted from select barrels from the different sub-blocks to create this wine.

Zaca Mesa Estate Vineyard
This is a blend of fruit sourced from sites "high on a mesa top in Santa Ynez Valley, where the various clones of Syrah ripen in the sun. They are planted on multiple varieties of rootstock, huddled close together in a high-density planting scheme. The microclimate here is unique – several degrees cooler than the neighboring town of Los Olivos."

"The Mesa Reserve is more of a 21st Century wine,” says Brand Ambassador Dane Campbell. “It’s the culmination of our 38 years of experimentation with Syrah, leading to a match of the correct clones and rootstocks to our specific vineyard site.”

“These younger blocks offer a great contrast to older Syrah vines on the property,” says Winemaker Kristin Bryden. “These new clones planted and grown with modern viticultural practices give the Mesa Reserve a brightness of fruit and complex richness that is unique when compared to our older blocks.”

Zaca Mesa Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Valley Estate Syrah 2017

Winemakers' Notes on this release.  The 2017 Mesa Reserve Syrah’s black ripe fruits are saturated with aromatic notes of churned earth, smoked meat, sweet cigar, and dark chocolate. Upon the first sip, the texture and tannins are bold, delivering a decadent middle palate layered with flavors of plum and blackberry jam.

I love it and applaud that Zaca Mesa shares the credit across the winemaking and vineyard team - Kristin, Randy, Agustin, Ruben, José, Angel & Ramirez.

This is 100% Santa Ynez Valley Syrah, sourced from Zaca Mesa estate vineyard Blocks Mesa A, B3, C6 & Chapel G4, G5, it was aged 21 months in 25% new French oak. A total of 856 cases were produced.

The 2017 release was rated 93 points by Antonio Galloni, 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck.

To pair with this wine, Linda prepared Baby Back Ribs, baked beans and mashed potatoes - one of favorite food wine pairings. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm tight but vibrant aromatic blackberry and ripe cherry fruits, more restrained than those brooding overpowering unctuous fruit bombs, this shows more minerality and wet stone, highlighted by essence of what the winemaker aptly calls 'smoked' or another pundit calls 'roasted' meat, notes of soy, baking spices, hints of tobacco and bitter dark chocolate on the lingering moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 91 points. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Mayacamas Mt Veeder Chardonnay for Smoked Turkey Dinner

Mayacamas Mt Veeder Chardonnay for Smoked Turkey Dinner

For a weeknight dinner, Linda prepared a smoked turkey breast with mash potatoes, gravy, and mixed vegetables. For a wine pairing,  I opened one of Linda's favorites, Mayacamas Mt Veeder Chardonnay.

We tasted this wine at the historic old winery and vineyards high atop Mt Veeder at the south end of the Mayacamas mountain range that separates Napa and Sonoma valleys during our Mt Veeder Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011. We obtain and keep a half dozen vintages in our cellar ever since. 

We pulled this from the cellar for tonight's pairing, the oldest vintage release for this label, as part of effective cellar management.

The mountain terroir at Mayacamas ranges from 1,800 to 2,400 feet in elevation and the estate spans 475 acres, only 50 of which are dedicated to vines.

The modern era Mayacamas dates back to 1968 when the property was taken over by Robert Travers who had worked at Heitz Cellars. He and his wife Elinor continued to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay striving to make wines of great character, depth, complexity, and longevity.

In July 2013, Mayacamas was purchased by Charles and Ali Banks in partnership with Jay Schottenstein and his son, Joey. Andy Erickson took over the Estate’s winemaking duties, and Phil Coturri took over farming and vineyard development. This release was crafted by Winemakers Andy Erickson and Braiden Albrech.

The old vines of the Terraces vineyard had been deteriorating, so after a long and productive life many were retired with the 2013 Harvest being their last. 

The 2013 harvest was small but was of exceptional quality, character, and intensity – a stand-out special release. That was bottled as a special designated one time bottling for the 2013 vintage year. 
Since then, many of the vines from the old historic vineyards have been replanted with only a few plots remaining from the old historic vines. 
In 2017, the Schottenstein family of Columbus, Ohio, took over the remainder of the 100% ownership of Mayacamas Vineyards to become sole proprietors of the estate and brand. As noted above, Jay Schottenstein and his son Joey had been partners in Mayacamas Vineyards since it was purchased from long-time owner Bob Travers in 2013. 
A month later in October 2017, the Nuns Fire reached Mayacamas Vineyards. One of the property’s historic buildings burned to the ground but the historic stone winery building constructed in 1889 survived intact.

The burned structure, was a building they called “the residence.” that served as the hospitality center for the winery (though Mayacamas is generally not open to the public for tastings). That building was completely destroyed.

This 2017 vintage of Mayacamas Chardonnay was the current era producer's team's fifth vintage release and they note it showcases both the site and vintage beautifully, a combination of old vines and new.
Mayacamas Mt Veeder Napa Valley Mt Veeder Chardonnay 2017 
The fruit for this 2017 release was sourced from Mt. Veeder Appellation vineyard sites, and harvested primarily from 40-year old dry farmed vines located between 1,800 and 2,000 feet in elevation above the fog line. It also includes some young vine Chardonnay from the newly replanted Hill Block. 
The producers were fortunate to have picked the grapes for this release well before the October 2017 fires that ravaged the area. Those that waited till late in the harvest were denied a harvest that year. 

The blend was aged 22 months in oak and 6 months in steel.
Winemakers notes for this release: "Aromas of ripe lemon honeysuckle and crushed oyster shell highlight the nose. On the palate, the wine has the classic Mayacamas acidity and is framed nicely by the textural richness in the mid-palate that comes from a warm vintage".
This release was awarded 95 points and *Editors' Choice* by Wine Enthusiast, 94 points by James Suckling and Vinous, 93 points by Decanter and 92 points from Wine Spectator.
Golden straw colored, full-bodied, structured and tight with dense but bright vibrant apple and pear fruits with notes of lemon citrus and peach and wet stone, with bright tangy acidity and creamy Oak on a lengthy finish.

RM 91 points.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Lunch at Eataly during Gala Wedding Weekend Chicago

Gala Wedding Chicago Weekend Getaway - Lunch at Eataly Chicago 

We had a momentus getaway weekend to Chicago to attend the gala wedding celebration of longtime dear Hoosier friends Dennis and Bev M's daughter Megan at the iconic Intercontinental Hotel on Grand Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile.

The ceremony was held in King Arthur's Court hall that was originally the historic Medinah Men's Athletic Club, back during the Roaring 20's, when it was the club's private smoking lounge. It features Edwardian wood paneling and an illuminated stain glassed wall and hand painted ceiling panels, overlooking Chicago's Michigan Avenue Miracle Mile. 

The reception celebration was held in the magnificent Renaissance ballroom on the 5th floor featuring ornate French King Louis XVI design, 22-foot ceilings with intricate hand-painted beams, crystal chandeliers, and ornate wood and stone carvings, dinner and dancing, with views spanning up and down the Magnificent Mile. 

The wedding festivities spanned Friday evening through to Sunday noon brunch in the Tower Suite. 

On Saturday afternoon, we trekked over and lunched at Eataly Chicago, one of our favorites and most vibrant high energy experiences in Chicago, with all things Italian - wine, eateries, restaurants, market, - dining, fooding and shopping.

The name Eataly is a fusion of Eat and Italy for “Eating Italian” which encompasses the history and the food culture of Italy and all aspects of its cuisine.The first Eataly opened in Torino, Italy, in an old vermouth factory in 2007, and has since expanded to more than 35 locations throughout Italy and the world.

Explore All Eataly Locations

While it may be a shadow of the original US Eataly on 23rd Street in the Flatiron neighborhood in New York, Eataly Chicago is a fun adventure and one of our favorite lunches in Chicago, almost, but not as much so as Eataly Flatiron NY.

Eataly is an Italian marketplace that features an array of several dining options, cafes, counters, restaurants, wine bars, a wine shop with over 1,200 labels, a cheese shop, Pasta Pantry, Bakery, Italian Ice, chocolates, meat and fish markets, Italian specialties of all kinds, private events space, even a cooking school.

We dined in the main restaurant and ordered a Kale salad, an Italian Meatball starter and Brinzano fresh fish entree, with accompanying selection of WBTG, wines by the glass. 

The Veal and Pork Meatball dish with red sauce and cheese, was the most succulent and flavorful I've every had, which we paired with a Chianti Classico Corleone Sangiovese.

We had the Brinzano white fish whole and it was succulent, served minimalist style with a side dish of baked then fried potatoes that were also delicious. 

With the fish course we tasted by the glass the Montenidoli Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2020

We had this Chianti Classico Tuscan Sanviovese with the meatballs. 

Tenuta di Carleone, Chianti, Classico, Tuscany, Sangiovese 2019

Tenuta Carleone di Castiglioni
dates back to the year 1078 when monks first founded it in Chianti, named for the village of Castiglioni meaning “small castle.”
Consequently the winery “Tenuta Carleone di Castiglioni” named after the small village of “Castiglioni” (small castle). The property located in the heart of the Chianti region is covered with wooded hills, vineyards planted to the native varietal Sangiovese vines and olive trees. It was operated as a farm over the centuries, not developed as a winery until Tenuta di Carleone was established in 2012.

Austrian entrepeneur Karl Egger and his family had been visiting the region of Tuscany for decades and were most fond of the small corner, just outside the medieval town of Radda in Chianti between the cities of Siena and Florence.

Karl and his sister Kristine Egger began to restore the ruins of the old Castiglioni castle, just outside of Radda in 2012.
They farm the estate that consists of just under 50 acres of small plots nestled among wooded hills, small streams and aged olive trees. The whole property, which covers an area of approximately 240 acres, comprises of wooded hills, small rivers and fertile plains. Nestled in between there are around 50 acres of mainly Sangiovese vineyards and some olive trees, some of them older than 60 years. 

The Egger Family has renovated the beautiful “Castiglioni” hamlet with its old chapel and the nearby farmhouse of “Pian Vecchio”. Some vines were planted in the 1970’s, with others more recently established or replanted. There is also a typical tuscan farmhouse called “Pian Vecchio” (old plain) on this land, where the family recently planted some white

They teamed up with winemaker Sean O’Callaghan in 2012 to operate the winery. Sean moved to Chianti in 1991 after studying winemaking in Germany. He was head winemaker at a renowned estate for 25 years and upon leaving, joined Eggers to pursue his dream at Tenuta di Carleone. Although not a native, Sean has a special affinity with the Sangiovese grape and a unique knowledge and understanding of the region.

makes Sangiovese in the classic way, with nothing added to the wine, grappa, or cold-pressed olive oils. They produce several labels of estate grown Sangiovese, Il Guercio, Uno, Chianti Classico, and a classic Sangiovese grappa named “Zero.”

They produce the wine in two garages while they are currently renovating an old terra cotta factory to serve as the new cantina. Sean strive as winemaker to producing Sangiovese based wines that are a balance between structure and fruit. 

Tenuta di Carleone, Chianti, Classico, Tuscany, Sangiovese 2019

Winemakers' Tasting Notes: "The Carleone Chianti Classico is a notably fresh take, with red fruit on the nose and palate, notes of red cherry and strawberry. Nice grip with finely textured tannins for excellent drinkability."

“The Winery is right in the middle of Chianti Classico, within the original borders of the Chianti Storico. So we decided to honour the area and make a 100% Sangiovese that expresses our little corner of Radda in Chianti”.

Bright Ruby colored, medium bodied, expressive, polished,
raspberry, plum & cherry red fruits with notes of herbs, tobacco and spice with nice acidity and soft smooth tannins on a moderate finish. 

RM 89 points.


Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2020 

The estate dates back to Roman times, located just outside of the famed tower city of San Gimignano on the western border of the Chianti zone in Tuscany. The house of Montenidoli was first built by the Etuscans who planted olive trees and the rootstock of their early vines.

Montenidoli Tradizionale
Vernaccia Di San
Gimignano 2020
The Montenidoli estate consists of 500 acres of woods on the hill overlooking San Gimignano, in front of the Chianti Classico, between Florence and Siena. Elisabetta and her husband bought the property in the 60’s, renovating it from its abandoned state. 

When they arrived, in 1965, the land was abandoned and the woods had taken over the fields, the olive trees were running wild, the vines were covered by the bushes. They set upon restoring the property from the soil to the vines. They pruned only in winter when the vegetation was dormant and returned all the cuttings to the ground, fermented to make a compost to go back to fertilize the plants. 

This label is 100% grape varietal cultivated and produced in accordance with Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG appellation rules. It is called “Tradizionale,” a throwback to the old methods of vinifying Vernaccia, which were done like a red wine. 

Winemaker notes: "Not only is this Vernaccia mineral-forward and complex, the skin contact it undergoes imparts texture, concentration, and body." 

"A classic Tuscan white, structured though delicate and elegant white.  It has aromas of hay, white pepper and almond, the palate is medium bodied with notes of citrus, dried herbs, a slight nuttiness and great minerality."

Straw colored, medium light bodied, hints of delicate pear and citrus with stone fruit, hints of almond nut and white pepper on a crisp mineral finish.

RM 89 points.


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

California 2013 Duo BYOB at Vistro Hinsdale

California 2013 Duo BYOB at Vistro Prime Hinsdale

Dear friends Mark and Gayle returned to Chicago for a short visit and we met up for dinner at Vistro Prime Steakhouse in nearby suburban Hinsdale, (IL).  We've been wanting to try Vistro, sister restaurant to Vie in nearby Western Springs. I was attracted to the Dover Sole a la meunière entree selection, one of my favorite dishes, so I took BYOB from our cellar a hearty rich Chardonnay for a wine pairing. 

Vistro Prime is the sister restaurant to Vie in adjacent Western Springs which we have been to many times, including for our  Gala Anniversary Prix Fixe Dinner with Wine Pairing, just the month before last. Vie was the initial restaurant of Chef Paul Virant, where he focuses on seasonal Midwestern selections featuring local sourcing utilizing traditional methods of preservation. He was a finalist nominee for the James Beard Foundation Award's Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2011. He authored the 2012 cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-Doux.

Vistro Prime is primarily a steak house with aged prime steaks. It boasts several seafood dishes, including the Dover Sole a la meunière that attracted me. There is a selection of a dozen starter dishes, three salads, which were very hearty, and a broad selection of a dozen sides, each of which we ordered were also delicious. 

We like the ambiance with its openness, comfortable seating, bright and airy white walls and tablecloths. There is an adjacent bar in the front of the dining room while the rear has a row of tables with booths along both walls. 

Dover Sole a la meunière

Being a steakhouse, I also took this Beau Vigne Proprietary Red that we also took BYOB to Herrington Inn Atwaters Restaurant Geneva last weekend, for those choosing steak, and in the event I did so as well. I took this Proprietary Red Blend since it was so tasty then, but was projecting that may be at its prime at going on ten years and thus time to drink. I also brought a hearty full bodied Sonoma Chardonnay, also from the 2013 vintage.  

The Vistro winelist is largely American, pretty basic and straight-forward. They have a Reserve List that is limited but well selected with several favorites that we love. The prices on the primary list are customary but the prices on the Reserve tend towards being expensive, from 2x to as much as 3x retail price for all three of the bottles I almost brought, as it listed three wines that we hold in our cellar that I considered bringing. The core list covered all the wine groups to pair with every menu selection - sparkling, red, white, aperitif and after-dinner selections, while the Reserve listed one sparkling, three Chardonnays and a dozen reds split between Bordeaux varietals and Pinot's.

With the salad course, my Dover Sole and Linda's salmon we enjoyed this hearty Chardonnay that I brought from our cellar. I featured this wine in an earlier blogpost in these pages - Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard RRV Sonoma Chardonnay

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 varietals. This bottle is the last of a half case of this label we acquired back near release. It has been one of our favorite drinking Chardonnays for such occasions and at going on a decade is nearing the end of its prime drinking window and time to drink.

This was a perfect complement to our entrees and precourses and was enjoyed by all. 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.  

As I have written in these pages, we toured the Russian River Valley during our Napa Sonoma Wine Experience 2017.. 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, with some firmness and intense buttery and oaky tones and structure that amplifies the fruits - passion fruit, melon, floral, lemon, flint and stone.

Linda and Gayle liked this a lot with its classic full bodied, rich dense California Chardonnay style, and like an earlier tasting, I found it a slight bit much with delicate sole a la meunière, it was delicious none-the-less.

RM 91 points.


Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay 

Gayle and Mark both ordered filets of beef which was ideally paired with this aged Napa Bordeaux Red Blend.

As I wrote earlier about this wine.

Beau Vigne Reserve Proprietary Red Napa Valley 2013

Beau Vigne, (pronounced bo-veenya), translated from French means beautiful vineyard, is the same wine I received just last week from the producer and I was eager to share it as a perfect accompaniment to our diverse dinner. 

I wrote about this wine and producer in detail the other day upon receipt of this wine. This producer first caught my attention when buddy Bob brought it to our Pour Boys OTBN - "Open-That-Bottle-Night" 2022 in Charleston and I pegged it as WOTN - Wine of the Night, my personal favorite.

Beau Vigne Reserve Proprietary Red Napa Valley 2013

This 2013 is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. The producer cited it amongst the best wines Beau Vigne had made to date. That says a lot since Robert Parker awarded the 2013 Beau Vigne "Cult" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 96 points in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. He also awarded the Beau Vigne Reserve Cabernet from this vintage a stellar perfect 100 points.

Parker wrote about that wine: "Profound, with a stunning aromatic display of blue and black fruits, charcoal, graphite, and spring flowers. The wine has a flawless entry and mouthfeel, with a full-bodied density, opulence and an incredible finish of close to a minute."

He also awarded the 2013 Beau Vigne "Cult" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 96 points in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate . That wine too contains the same Cabernet Sauvignon as in this blend. That blend contained 98:2% while this one is 70:30. Parker wrote of that wine: "Similarly styled is the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Cult, which is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. The biggest cuvée of any of these wines, the color is blackish/purple as a moonless night. It offers fabulous fruit and incredible density and richness, with lots of camphor, blackberry and cassis fruit, hints of espresso bean and chocolate as well as some background oak. This is a big, full-throttle, savory style of wine that should age effortlessly for 20-25+ years (RP)."

As a blend of the same fruit as those wines, it has a similar profile. Dark blackish purple colored, full bodied, dense, rich concentrated black fruits accented by a layer of camphor that initially may be a bit unnerving to some, with notes of cassis, expresso and dark bitter mocha with some graphite and oak on the full lingering finish. 

RM 93 points.