Sunday, September 25, 2022

Viader Napa Proprietary Red Corley Reserve

Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend, Corley Reserve, Scount's Honor with grilled beef tenderloin for gala family celebration dinner

The entire Berganzi family came to town and gathered with clan McNees (below) to celebrate the dedication of grand-daughter Marylin, son Alec and Vivianna's baby.

Following the ceremony at Compass Church, Alec and Vivianna hosted all for a gala family dinner of grilled tenderloin beefsteak, salmon, roasted potatoes, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and carrots. 

Alec grilled two whole beef tenderloins on the grill. Before dinner we had a selection of artisan cheeses and charcuterie followed by ceasar salad with a Champagne toast. 

We opened the wine-flight with Hill Family Estate Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay

There was so much to celebrate across the family - Marylin's dedication, Alec and Viv's second anniversary, Henry and Grace's engagement, Sean and Michelle's new home, and Johnny's birthday!

To celebrate the occasion and accompany the festive dinner, I pulled from the cellar a magnum of this Viader Napa Valley Red Blend. As I have written in these pages, this is one of the numerous "V" labels we have fun with as a tribute to our daughter-in-law, Viv. We wrote about fun with this branding in an earlier blogpost, Viader Napa Bordeaux Blend 1997.

We met proprietor winemaker Delia Viader at a tasting hosted by Binny's Chicago Lakeview back in 2005, and visited the property on lower Howell Mountain in 2008

Our collection of Viader spans a decade of releases dating back to the mid-nineties vintages. It was with interest to see how this vintage has held up over the years to calibrate the lifespan of the other vintages. In the style of many Viader releases, this blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Cabernet Franc in the profile of a top Graves from Bordeaux.

We expanded our collection of Viader wines following our visit to the Viader winery estate on the lower reaches of Howell Mountain during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience 2008.  

A travelogue of photos of our visit to the Viader are shown here or a selection are featured in the follow-on blog.  

The Viader 23-acre estate sits on the lower mountain at 1200 foot elevation overlooking Napa Valley. The vineyards are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah. Viader is known for its Bordeaux-style blends. 

The 1200 foot elevation of the estate is significant and notable as that is the height that the fog reaches above the valley floor and hence is the point at which below is designated Napa Valley, and above it designated Howell Mountain. This climatic difference creates a distinctive terroir due to the effects of the fog on the ripening vines.  

Napa Valley view from the Viader estate

This follows our tasting last evening of another of the 'V' series of labels we enjoy with and in tribute to to Viviana, the Venge Vineyards Scout's Honor.

The 'V' is the prominent branding of the producer and winemaker Delia Viader, a remarkable and impressive lady who was born in Argentina and educated in Europe before earning graduate degrees in the U.S., a notable role model for any career minded female. Delia spent much of her formative years in Europe and in France where she earned a doctorate in Philosophy from the Sorbonne University in Paris, then pursued advanced business studies in the US at MIT, UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

Recognizing the potential Napa Valley wine industry in the 1980's, Delia acquired the Howell Mountain property and set out to create a world class wine estate, and continued studying Enology and Viticulture at University of California, Davis.  During this time she also raised her four children in the wine environment and culture.

Shown here is our meeting Delia Viader during a producer tasting evening sponsored by Binny's here in Chicago back in 2005. 

Delia Viader was a visionary pioneer in Napa Valley investing in developing a mountain estate at a time when most of the vineyard plantings were on the valley floor.

Born in Argentina, Delia Viader came to the United States after spending many years in Europe. In 1986 the love of wine Delia acquired during her time in Europe lead her to purchase a 25 acre property 1200 feet above the Napa Valley floor northeast of St. Helena on the steep, rocky slopes of Howell Mountain. During this time when 99% of Napa’s vineyards were planted on the valley floor, Delia was considered a bit crazy-headed to plant vineyards in such foreboding terroir. But it was exactly terroir that she was after.

Delia’s first release of this proprietary red blend called simply Viader, was the 1989 vintage , a blend of almost equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine has gained an international reputation as one of the iconic wines of the Napa Valley and has become the signature wine for the winery.

 In the last few years, Delia’s children have come back to help manage and operate the business making this a true family concern. Alan Viader is Director of Operations and Winemaking, Janet Viader is Director of Marketing and Sales. Mariela Viader (married to Alan) is in charge of the Culinary Program.

Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Bordeaux Red Blend 2004

Winemaker Notes: "Since its first release in 1989, Delia Viader has made her Proprietary Blend using only the best fruit from her Howell Mountain Estate vineyards. The Viader blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc captures an ideal balance between the two varieties. The Cabernet Franc contributes to the early approachability, elegant structure and violet-like aromatics while the Cabernet Sauvignon adds complexity and character as well as providing the backbone structure for long aging potential."

"The 2004 Viader is intense, upfront, floral bouquet laced with chocolate, coffee, anise, earth and leather. Lingering, complex tannins firm up in the finish which is rounded by the powerful aromas of blackberry, blueberry and mint. Approachable now, bottle aging will further develop bouquet and complexity. Awonderfully elegant mountain beauty!"

This release was awarded 92 points by Vinous,  17.5/20 points by Jancis Robinson.

We love this blend of Napa Valley 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon accented by the structure, grip and spice of 40 percent Cabernet Franc. At eighteen years this was wonderful, probably at the apex of its drinking window, but likely with a decade of life still left. The fill level, label and cork were all pristine. As a result, I pushed the Cellartracker drinking window for my remaining bottles of this vintage release out to 2024. I raised my earlier rating from 92 to 93 points.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied and firmly structured ripe black raspberry fruits with notes of coffee, mocha, leather, graphite, sweet oak and spice with firm gripping by elegantly smooth polished tannins on the long finish. 

RM 93 points.


Alec followed with a big Napa Valley Cab, closing out with another Napa Valley Big Red blend from another one of our whimsical fun 'V' labels, Venge Scout's Honor Red. 

Corley Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

We were introduced to this wine when Alec served it at a father-brothers-sons dinner last year.  I wrote about this wine in an earlier blogpost at that time -

This is produced by the Corley family who are long time grape growers in Napa Valley that produce a small limited amount of wine of their own label, only in extraordinary vintages. The Corley family owns and manages some of the finest vineyard properties in Napa Valley at their 80 acre Monticello Vineyards estate with vineyards and winery, tasting room, as well as culinary and hospitality center.

Founded by Jay Corley in 1970 when he began searching for sites to grow wine, in pursuit of his personal passion for Burgundian-style wines led him to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in what is now known as the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.

They produced this wine at Monticello Winery on Big Ranch Road in the Oak Knoll District of south Napa Valley. We visited this winery estate back in the late nineties when it was operating as a custom crush facility and we did a tasting of boutique producer Elan Wines with producers Patrick and Linda Elliott-Smith

This was a special bottle as the boys know and are friends with one of the members of the Corley family and were able to source this special limited release bottling.Today, Corley is managed by their third generation.

Since it’s first bottling in 1982, our Corley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is the Corley Family flagship wine. It is sourced from each of their five estate cabernet sauvignon vineyards and the diversity of four distinct sub-Appellations - Rutherford, Yountville, St. Helena and Oak Knoll District.

This is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot.

Ken's Wine Guide Tasting Panel summed this up perfectly when they wrote about this label, "This very dark garnet colored Cabernet Sauvignon from Corley opens with a mild black currant and black licorice bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and savory. The flavor profile is a fruit forward fruit bomb featuring stewed plum and black currant with notes of graphite and toasted oak. We also detected a hint of blackberry. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins show very nice length. The Panel suggested pairing this Cab with a New York strip steak. Enjoy - KWGTP"

I echo their tasting experience and give this 92 points. Dark garnet color, medium-full body, nicely balanced and integrated blackberry and black currant fruits with notes of anise, hints of graphite and toasted oak with smooth polished moderate tannins on a lingering finish.

Winemaker notes: "Typically luscious, powerful and richly textured our Reserve is full-bodied and while ready to drink is also a wine to lay down for the years to come. This wine once again shows nice consistency and balance throughout the entire experience – from the aromatics through to the finish. The mouth-feel is rich in texture and with a finish framed by firm but rounded velvety tannins, one of the hallmarks of this wine."

Dark garnet color, medium-full body, nicely balanced and integrated blackberry and black currant fruits with notes of anise, hints of graphite and toasted oak with smooth polished moderate tannins on a lingering finish.

RM 91 points. 

Alec opened another Big Napa Red, another of the 'V' series of labels we enjoy with and in tribute to to Viviana, the Venge Vineyards Scout's Honor.

Venge Vineyard "Scout's Honor" Napa Red 2019

As I have written often in these pages, we've been enjoying Nils and Kirk Venge' wines since the early 1990's when Nils was featured by Wine Spectator Magazine in a 1994 article on up and coming wine producers. 

One of the labels of the Venge portfolio is Scout's Honor named for the family Labrador Retriever. I remember Scout walking the rows in the vineyards with Nils during a visit to the Rutherford Penny Lane estate back in the nineties (shown right from our 2002 visit).

This wine was initially meant to be a fun sipper for the Venge tasting room, yet it became — and remains — one of the most popular wines of the Venge portfolio which has now grown to nineteen labels. 

 Scout's Honor is based on a tradition of producing a full bodied, delicious and enjoyable red wine that can be opened and enjoyed immediately upon release however when cellared correctly it will age for 5 to 8 years.

Scout's Honor starts as a unique proprietary red blend anchored by a base of old-vine Zinfandel and builds upon that with dry-farmed Petite Sirah, old-vine Charbono, and finish with mountain vineyard Syrah.

We have been collecting this label since the earliest releases in the mid-nineties and hold a half dozen vintages. We typically keep a half dozen vintages of this label on hand for easy, enjoyable smooth sipping with everyday fare, great with BBQ, burgers, pizza to hearty cheese, beef, fruits and chocolates. I was surprised when I went to write up this tasting note that this was my first recorded tasting of this vintage.
Nil's has stepped down into retirement and winemaker and production duties are now with son Kirk who has raised the bar taking this label to new heights in recent years, earning 93 or 94 points from Wine Advocate for vintages 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

 Wine buddy Andy and I visited Kirk and Nils up at the Calistoga estate and the Signal Fire Vineyard back in 2002 (shown right).  

From a branding perspective, this may be the last year you see this packaging with a paper label as the 2018 release went to a more upscale painted on glass bottle label marking, moving to a more premium positioning for this label. It remains to be seen what happens to the price point. It is already priced at the high end of the Zinfandel range, but well worth it with its sophistication and complexity and quality of the blend.

Winemaker's Notes: "Full-bodied, concentrated and gorgeous, this vintage features an assemblage of violets, dried cinnamon, white flowers, fresh cut blue herbs, and a touch of barrel toast. The palate has loads black fruits and sweet currants, pepper spice, and an enveloping masculinity of char and tannins from the Syrah, Charbono and Petite Sirah. A seamless balance and mouth coating deliciousness lead to a wine that is quite pleasing to the senses. Cellared correctly it will age for 7 to 10 years."

The 2019 blends 63% Zinfandel with smaller amounts, 16% Charbono, 12% Petite Sirah and 9% Syrah aged 50% new American Oak and the balance in once-used tight grained French Oak.

The Zinfandel was picked from two, old-vine, 60 to 100+ years old, dry-farmed vineyard sources: Venge’s Estate “Signal Fire Vineyard” and the Frediani Vineyard, both located in the heart of Calistoga. The Charbono was sourced from old, dry-farmed vines 60 to 100+ years old, also planted in the Frediani Vineyard. Robbie Mondavi’s Oso Vineyard located on Howell Mountain supplies the Petite Sirah, and, Napa’s finest Syrah from Stagecoach Vineyard, high in the mountains of the Atlas Peak AVA.

This was rated 93 points by The Wine Enthusiast.

After the more subdued and focused Viader red blend, this was a monstrous super sweet fruit bomb, begging for hearty cheese, spicy pizza pasta or dark bitter chocolates. Dark garnet purple colored, full bodied, rich, thick concentrated sweet super ripe black currant fruit with notes of that Howell Mountain cinnamon spice, violet floral notes, pepper and pain grille.

RM 90 points.