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.

Team cook-out dinner features Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance Napa Sauvignon Blanc

Team cook-out dinner features Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance Napa Sauvignon Blanc

For a global team summit meeting, I invited the early arrivals over for a Sunday afternoon beef-steak cookout and opened some accompanying wines for the occasion. 

Linda had the butcher specially cut extra thick t-bone steaks and grilled salmon which she served with twice baked potatoes and a wedge or caprese salad. For the steak I opened a large format magnum of a Napa Cabernet and for the salmon a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc blend. 

Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Blackbird Vineyards produces Bordeaux varietal wines sourced from Napa Valley’s most prestigious vineyards in high altitude sites on Spring Mountain and Atlas Peak, on the valley floor appellations of Saint Helena and the Oak Knoll district, and the cool climate region of Carneros.  

We've driven past the Blackbird Oak Knoll District vineyard near the corner of Oak Knoll Avenue and Big Ranch Road down the road from Trefethen and Lewis Cellars Chateau.  

The former walnut orchard was first planted with Merlot vines in 1997, hence the name is derived from the French patois for 'Merlot' is 'little blackbird.'

Blackbird's potential as a producer of top rated wine grapes was revealed when legendary winemaker Mia Klein of Dalla Valle fame created a Blackbird Vineyard designate for her highly acclaimed 1999 Selene Merlot (note that at least 95% of the fruit in the bottle must be from the named vineyard). Three of the top wine critics - Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and Wine Spectator's James Laube - scored this wine in the 90s.

Blackbird's inaugural 2003 bottling, was awarded 98 points by Vinfolio, proclaiming it, "the best Merlot nobody had ever heard of." 

Partnering with vineyard growers, this wine was crafted by notable winemaker Aaron Pott. After initially studying oenology at the UCalifornia, Davis, he work part-time in the research laboratory at Robert Mondavi Winery before completing his education with a master’s degree in Viticulture from the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon, France.

He then worked as assistant winemaker at Newton Vineyard, under Winemaker John Kongsgaard, then under the guidance and counsel of his first great mentor, legendary Michel Rolland. 

Pott lobbied Rolland to find him a job in France who found him the ideal position as winemaker at Château Troplong Mondot, Premier Grand Cru Classé, St. Emilion. Pott thereafter went on to become winemaker and general manager of Château La Tour Figeac, Grand Cru Classé, St. Emilion. 

Ironically, just last week at the UGCB North American annual release tour, I stood in for the producer pouring Troplong Mondot, standing adjacent to Château La Tour Figeac.

After nearly six years making wine in France, Potts returned to the States to take a position with Beringer Wine Estates as winemaker for the company’s international brands in France, Italy and South America.

After working as winemaker at St. Clement in St. Helena in 2001, he accepted the position as winemaker and general manager at Quintessa in 2004.

In 2007, he founded “Pott Wines” where he served as consulting for a limited number of notable producers, as well as making wines of his own. Currently, Pott is the consulting winemaker for Blackbird Vineyards, Seven Stones Winery, Fisher Vineyards, Quixote, Krupp Brothers Estate (Stagecoach Vineyard), St. Helena Estate, and Joseph Carr Wines.

In November 2012, Pott was named “Winemaker of the Year” by the highly-acclaimed, Food & Wine magazine. Today, he lives at his self-proclaimed “Châteauneuf du Pott” high atop Mt. Veeder with his wife Claire and his daughters Tosca and Isolde.

This label, "Dissonance" gets its name from being the outlier to Blackbird's traditional portfolio of red blend wines. Whimsically, the rear label says, "Please, don't wear red tonight."

This is a blend of 81% Sauvignon Blanc and 19% Semillon, sourced 50% from Napa Valley and 50% from Knights Valley in Northern Sonoma County. 

Winemaker Notes for this release: "Dissonance brings the bright acidity of cool climate Sauvignon Blanc into harmony with the lushness of Semillon and enhances its richness through gentle lees stirring in a combination of stainless-steel tanks, small clay amphora and French Oak barrels.'

"The 2020 Dissonance shines with a beautiful, complex bouquet of mango, acacia flower, honey, and toasted almond. Tropical fruit flavors delight on the palate with bright acidity upon first sip. The mid-palate is soft and balanced, leading into a finish of guava and passion fruit that lingers on the tongue."

This release was awarded 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and James Suckling, and 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck. 

Nice QPR (quality-price-ratio) value in this screw top pleasant casual sipper at $20.

Pale straw colored, medium bodied, vibrant fruits of pear, green apple and white grapefruit citrus with notes of mineral and wet stone gravel with a lingering crisp moderately dry finish.

RM 91 points.