Friday, February 18, 2022

Amon-Ra Aussie Big Shiraz for Tomahawk Dinner

Amon-Ra Aussie Premium Big Shiraz for Tomahawk Beefsteak Dinner

Friday night dinner culminating a week of celebrations, Linda prepared a fabulous dinner of Tomahawk Ribeye beefsteaks, with twice baked potatoes and a delectable sauteed spinach in her incredible special sauce of shallots, nutmeg, clove of fresh garlic, cream and shaved sharp cheddar cheeses, pinch of cayenne pepper offset with honey.

I pulled from the cellar a premium label Aussie Shiraz, one of Linda's favorites in the big bold expressive style that she loves. 

Ben Glaetzer "Amon-Ra" South Australia Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005 

When I brought this up from the cellar, Linda immediately cited "Hoboken", reminiscing a memorable getaway weekend dinner we had where we took this wine BYOB while visiting son Alec in NY/NJ.

I wrote in my blogpost about Hoboken dinner that night, that this big powerful big red overpowered the Italian dinner

Amon-Ra Barossa Shiraz 2008 - Amon-Ra Barossa Shiraz 2008 Overpowers Italian Dinner

I chronicled this wine in that blogpost October 26, 2013:

"If you read this blog, you'll see continually that we, and especially Linda, love big bold Shiraz, so she selected this label for tonight's dinner. This was our first adventure tasting the classic AMON-Ra and this is indeed a BIG wine ...  not for the feint of heart!  While it overpowered our Italian fare and begs for a big steak, dark chocolate or hearty cheese,it was delicious none-the-less.'

"AMON-Ra is the flagship wine of the Glaetzer Family who have been producing Barossa Valley wines since 1888. We hold several Glaetzer wines going back a decade including one of our favorites, GoDolphin, which has since been discontinued, Wallace, Annaperenna and Bishop. The branding and labels for these wines all feature hieroglyphic symbols from ancient Egyptian mythology.'  

Note - Ben Glaetzer was named New World Winemaker of the Year in 2006.

"Since AMON-Ra was considered to be the king of all gods, winemaker Ben Glaetzer chose that symbol for his flagship, top of the line ultra-premium label. Perhaps this is fitting since the temple of AMON-Ra was believed to be the first temple to ever plant a vineyard to produce wine for the citizens of the temple.'

"The eye on front of the AMON-Ra label is the all-seeing eye of Horus or wedjat ("whole one") - a powerful Egyptian symbol of protection. It is represented as a figure with six parts, corresponding to what Egyptians regarded as the six senses; touch, taste, hearing, sight, smell and thought.
Ben created AMON-Ra Shiraz to appeal to all these six senses. And it certainly does!'

"Fruit for Glaetzer wines is sourced from the small sub-region of the northern Barossa Valley called Ebenezer. Some of the vines are as up to 80-120 years old.'

Note, that night in Hoboken we drank the 2008 vintage release. My blogpost from then continues: "The 2008 release of AMON-Ra Shiraz is the eighth release of this label. The 2008 vintage in the Barossa was a difficult year for wine producers due to a heat spike during the vintage. As a result, Glaetzer limited the total production of AMON-Ra to maintain the quality of the wine. The strict fruit selections were rigorous and uncompromising to sacrifice quantity for quality resulting in the smallest volume released since the tiny 2003 vintage, lower than the 2007 production. This required carefully monitoring the vines and making multiple passes through the vineyards carefully selecting only grapes with the right intensity of fruit and balancing different levels of ripeness before the heat spike overstressed the fruit."

"This release was produced by winemaker Ben Glaetzer who was New World Winemaker of the Year in 2006. According to the producer, "the 2008 vintage shows great purity of fruit and firm but fine tannins, giving great structure and power to the wines."

Tonight we drank the 2005 vintage release of this label.
This release was awarded
98 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 95 points by Wine Enthusiast, 93 points James Halliday, and 92 points from Wine Spectator.   

Dunnuck calls this 'a monumental wine', the 2005 Glaetzer Amon-Ra Barossa Valley Shiraz is from a single vineyard in the Ebenezer region, 100% old vine Shiraz, dry-grown 100-110 year-old Shiraz vines, aged 14 months in 100% new oak, 20% American and 80% French (70% hogsheads & 30% barrique.)

I tasted and wrote about this label's 2005 vintage in my wine journal pages, back before I started publishing this blog.

"March 27, 2007 - Ben Glaetzer Barossa Valley Amon Ra 2005 - RM 93 RP 98 - $59 - Dark berry, graphite, mineral, cassis and a hint of vanilla with long silky firm tannins on the finish. Tasted at Vino Volo at IAD."

While Linda loves and prefers this big bold style, I would prefer and opt for a more balanced, elegant, complex style such as a Bordeaux varietal blend for a beefsteak or other fine dining experience. Never-the-less, this was awesome with tonight's dinner. 

At seventeen years, the fill level, foil, label, and most importantly, the cork, were all perfect. The cork was firm, tight and dry. This is probably at the apex of its drinking profile, but not likely to improve with further aging, it still has life left and should go for another five years and perhaps a decade.  

The Winemaker's Notes: "Brooding, vibrant black with bright purple hues. On the nose, absolute purity with black fruit aromas complemented by notes of fragrant spice.Seamless, rich and full-bodied with black plum flavors intermingling with dried spice and finely balanced supple tannin. Impressive yet restrained."

My rating tonight was consistent with that earlier post in 2007 for this label.

Deep garnet in color, with hues of inky blackish-purple, full bodied , muscular with firm grainy tannins, a bit of alcohol heat, rich, dense yet balanced, blackberry and black currant fruits, bramble, spices, bitter dark chocolate, licorice, savory soy with hints of pepper and cedar, fresh crisp acids on a bright vibrant long finish.

RM 93 points.

Gala Family Celebration Dinner at Angelis Italian

 Gala Family Celebration Dinner at Angelis Italian - Naperville

The family successfully pulled off a surprise birthday party for wife/mom/grandmother Linda for her deca-milestone year. We gathered in the private dining room at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria (Naperville, IL). We ordered a broad array of appetizers, our favorite dinner entrees from the menu and daily specials, followed by celebratory birthday cake, accompanied by our special BYOB wines. 

All our kids and their kids were able to attend, including a surprise pop-in visit from Alec and Vivianna, only hours after release from the hospital, with less than 48 hour old, just arrived, daughter, grand-daughter, Marylin - named after her grandmothers Mary-Lisa and Linda. This was everyone's first encounter meeting her and the first time hearing her name as this was announced as part of her introduction at the gathering. All this further amplified the excitement and special circumstances of the occasion.

To accompany the dinner I brought BYOB, from our wine cellar a magnum of champagne and two reds - Del Dotto Napa Cabernet and a Venge Vineyards Sangiovese. 

Piper Heidseick Brut Champagne (Magnum) 

There's nothing like Champagne served from a large format magnum bottle - especially for special occasions. This bottle is even more festive with its red holiday packaging.  We acquired several cases of these commemorative bottles upon release last year and have had fun serving them at weddings, holidays and special family occasions such as tonight. 


Venge Vineyards Sangiovese Family Reserve Penny Lane Vineyard 2010

I pulled this bottle for its traditional Italian Sangiovese varietal composition to accompany our Italian cuisine dinner.  This is from Venge Vineyards, one of the earliest growers and producers of this varietal based wine from Napa Valley sources. Nils Venge has long been a pioneer and thought-leader in Napa Valley.

The Venge (ven-ghee) family has farmed vitis vinifera varieties in Napa Valley for nearly half a century dating back to Knud Venge who emigrated from Denmark to the US in the early 1900’s. Knud's son, Per Venge, was passionate about wine and spirits and imported Western European fine wines and spirits. Per's son, Nils Venge started in the family business in the 1960's before leaving to study viticulture at UC Davis and then went on become an icon in the Northern California winegrowing community.

Venge family viticultural took root in Napa Valley in 1976 with the purchase of a 17-acre vineyard in the Oakville District that was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 
We've met Nils and Dianna Venge on numerous occasions at Napa events and visiting the Venge Vineyards in Oakville during the nineties. We first met their son, Kirk Venge, who engaged in winemaking from an early age while they were developing the Rossini Ranch Vineyards, Winery and caves up in Calistoga.  

Nils' and Dianna Venge's son, Kirk Venge, engaged in winemaking at an early age and has emerged as a talented winemaker like his father.

I've written often in these pages how we have fun with this label with the prominent "V" in the branding, for special dinners with daughter-in-law Vivianna, such as tonight. 

This is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Charbono from the Venge estate Penny Lane vineyard in Oakville. 
Dark inky colored, full bodied, rich concentrated extracted fruit, aromatic,almost intense black cherry and black raspberry with notes of tobacco leaf, tea and hints of tar on a smooth silky tannin laced finish. This was and ideal accompaniment to our zesty Italian pasta!


Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Magnum)

We've been collecting Del Dotto Family Wine for over twenty-five years, since their inaugural release of this Napa Cabernet in 1993. The Del Dotto brand, holdings, portfolio and presence have grown substantially over those years, yet they still maintain their focus on small production, premium wines. 

Over that time Dave Del Dotto has acquired vineyards in some of the best American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) including Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena, Howell Mountain, and Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast. The portfolio and brand has grown proportionally as well. 

Today Del Dotto produce wines based on cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, sangiovese and sauvignon blanc from their Napa Valley vineyards, as well as pinot noir, chardonnay and limited amounts of syrah, sauvignon blanc, sparkling grenache and mourvedre from their Cinghiale (wild boar) Vineyard in the King Ridge region of the Sonoma Coast.

We still hold nearly two decades of Del Dotto wines dating back to that 1993 inaugural vintage release. 

Over the years we've held Del Dotto wine dinners with Dave and Yolanda such as our Napa Wine Experience back in 1999, and attended numerous Del Dotto hosted special events. More recently, our Pour Boys wine group did the Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting at the magnificent St Helena estate winery and caves. And, our Del Dotto Piazza DELICACIES Food and Wine Experience at the then new Piazza Del Dotto estate and winery (and now caves) was one of the memorable highlights of our Napa Wine Experience in 2018. 

Our collection of Del Dotto family wines remains one of the largest holdings in our cellar with both vertical and horizontal collections of favorite labels. Hence it was only fitting for a special occasion family dinner that I took a Del Dotto estate label, in magnum - especially since it was held at our local Italian trattoria. 

Our   -

Its hard to believe that with published tasting notes of no less than sixty-five different labels and vintage releases - and countless iterations thereof, I have not tasted, or published a tasting note or blogpost of this particular label vintage release. 

At twenty years, the fill level, label, foil and cork were all essentially perfect - indications of the aging environment in our cellar as we acquired this bottle upon release. This is probably at the peak of its drinking character and profile and not likely to improve with any further aging, but showed no sign of diminution whatsoever.

This vintage release was awarded 92-94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright vibrant ripe concentrated blackberry and black currant fruits with notes of earthy leather, tobacco, hints of spice and cassis with moderate tangy acidity and tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.


Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut Limited Edition Red Magnum Bottles NV

The Winemaker Notes for this release: "The Brut NV represents the epitome of the Piper-Heidsieck
style: a classic, well-structured, and fruit forward champagne.

Piper-Heidsieck carefully selects fruit from more than 100 of Champagne’s crus to blend the Brut NV. This adds great complexity and dimension to the wine and allows the bold Piper-Heidsieck style to shine through.

A majority blend of Pinot Noir provides structure to the composition while Pinot Meunier expands the wine with its brilliant fruit expression and fleshiness and Chardonnay bring elegant tones and acidity. The precious reserve wines create a consistent flavor profile year after year.'

"This Champagne teases and allures us with its festive, light-drenched, pale gold shimmer and joyful display of neat, lively bubbles. Notes of almond and fresh hazelnut accompany the precise ascent of its bubbles. It is lively, subtle and light, leaving a deliciously incisive sensation of smoothness, marked by the pureness of fresh pear and apple and a delicate hint of citrus fruits. A harmonious mixture of bright, crunchy pomelo, blonde grapes and juicy white fruits creates the delightfully surprising sensation of lightness embraced by the structure and depth from the Pinot Noir; all beautifully balanced."

This release achieved Critical Acclaim having been awarded WS 92 points by Wine Spectator, 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck and 90 points each by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast.

White-golden straw colored, balanced, fruity, fresh and elegant, medium-bodied, stimulatingly fresh and well-structured blend with gorgeous fruit and a clean, persistent finish, a mineral edge and final fruitiness, beautifully textured with a solid mid-palate, good density, and a clean, crisp finish.

RM 90 points