Sunday, December 18, 2022

Exzellenz and aged Robert Craig Mt Veeder for holiday celebration gathering

Exzellenz and aged Robert Craig Mt Veeder for holiday celebration gathering

The kids and grandkids all assembled at our house following the annual ritualistic Santa's breakfast at our local Seven Bridges Golf Club, for Christmas celebration, opening presents, watching the FIFA World Cup final, dinner and some festive wines. 

Since we had a large breakfast together, Linda prepared a more informal lighter meal for the afternoon with lasagna, salad, shrimp cocktail and holiday deserts. 

For such a festive family gathering, the boys went down to the cellar and pulled two memorable, notable bottles, Hall's flagship ultra-premium Exzellenz Napa Cabernet, from the grandkids birthyear 2015 vintage, and the historic inaugural vintage release of Robert Craig Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993.

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

We discovered, tasted and acquired this label at the magnificent Rutherford Estate Winery during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017. This is sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard that lies just above the winery adjacent to the estate residence. We hold and have had some of the earlier single vineyard designated wines from this vineyard dating back to 1998. Who knew this would evolve and progress to such heights? Not often does one get to taste a 'perfect' wine. of course perfection is in the eyes ('eyze') of the beholder. The 2013 vintage of this label that we tasted that day in their magnificent tasting room in the cave at the Rutherford Sacrashe estate (shown below) got 100 points from  Robert Parker.

Parker wrote of this wine; "This hails from the foothills of Rutherford and refers to Kathryn Hall’s ambassadorship to Austria between 1997 and 2001. A prodigious wine with beautiful floral notes intermingled with blueberry, blackberry, black raspberry and graphite, the wine hits the palate with a full-bodied force, but nothing seems pushed, cloying or out of sync. Gorgeously pure blue and black fruits cascade over the palate, a full-bodied presentation with remarkable purity and complexity. The finish is a good 45-50 seconds, and while there is significant tannin, the extravagance of the fruit and glycerin generally conceal it. This is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind, world class Cabernet Sauvignon that should prove compelling for at least another 30-40+ years."

Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate. 100 Points.

Sacrashe Vineyard at Hall Rutherford Estate
When Alec was living and working in Manhatten, his boss called me and asked about what wine should he order for a holiday selection for his most special clients. I suggested this wine. Of course the purchase allocation from the winery was two bottles, but after some negotiations and a ritualistic wine club mating dance, I obtained two cases for his holiday benefactors and our cellar. 

So, based on that memory and histrionic of this wine, Alec pulled this from the cellar for our special holiday family celebration. I am so glad he did! What a treat, and what better way to enjoy such a spectacular cellar selection than with family - especially my two sons who are becoming oenphiles in their own right, like me! 

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

As explained on the rear label, shown below, the name Exzellenz is German for Ambassador, in commemoration of Kathyn Hall's service as US Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. 

The bricks in in the magnificent tasting room in the cave at the Rutherford Sacrashe estate (shown right and above) and featured in a separate blogpost at this link)  are recovered and repurposed from a former royal castle in Austria.  

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard (shown above) at the Hall Rutherford Estate on the lower slopes of the Vaca Range overlooking Rutherford, Napa Valley. 

While this release didn't get 100 points, it came as close as possible, 99 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 97 points from Owen Bargreen of, and 93 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Parker wrote about this wine: "Composed of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and sporting a very deep purple-black color, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Exzellenz unfurls slowly, tantalizingly out of the glass to reveal powerful, intense scents of crème de cassis, Black Forest cake, blueberry compote and preserved plums with an undercurrent of Chinese five spice, molten chocolate, licorice and Marmite toast with wafts of garrigue and camphor. Very rich, full-bodied and concentrated on the palate, it coats the mouth with black and blue fruit preserves plus tons of spice and savory accents, held together by a rock-solid, grainy frame and finishing with epic persistence."

Spectacular! Delicious! Enchanting! Deep dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich, concentrated, round, rich, complex but elegant and seductive smooth blackberry and black currant fruits accented by savory clove/cinnamon spices, tones of crème de cassis, mocha chocolate, tobacco leaf and black tea, with a tongue coating dusty gripping but silky smooth tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 97 points.



Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Son Ryan wanted to open an older aged Napa Cabernet from the nineties so we pulled this 1993 Robert Craig. This was the inaugural vintage release of Robert Craig wines. 

I've written often in these pages about our collection of Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignons, one of the largest producer holdings in our cellar. We got to know Robert from the earliest years as he launched and developed his brand and evolved from a tenant using another producer's production facilities to being one of the premier producers in Napa Valley. His approach of  'four mountains and a valley' grew into a broad expansive portfolio of Bordeaux varietals. He loved Napa Valley mountain fruit and produced Cabernet Sauvignon based labels from Mt Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Mt George, as well as the Napa Valley itself. 

Picnic with Robert at Craig Estate atop
Howell Mtn
with Jan and Bill, Andy, Linda and Me
We first met Robert and tasted these wines back at our first visit to Robert Craig during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 1996, and then again at our Robert Craig featured producer wine dinners in Napa Wine Experience 1998 and again in 1999. We were saddened by his passing and posted a Robert Craig Tribute at that time back in 2019.

We tasted releases of this wine with Robert and his crew at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party '09 and during other visits such as our 2008 Robert Craig Vineyards and Winery visit up on Howell Mountain. Needless to say, we're long time fans of Bob and the Craig team and their 'artwork'.

We heard him often say, his favorite was Mt Veeder reflecting his heritage and history starting out there working in the earliest days as winemaker for Hess and the late comedian Robin Williams and his Toad Hollow brand which later developed to Pym Rae vineyard designated product. 

We hold a vertical collection of this wine that spans two decades going back to this first vintage release. We've held this looking for the right occasion to open such a unique bottle, and concerned that perhaps we'd held it too long and that it might be past its prime or even suitable drinking window. So it was with pleasant relief and surprise that this was approachable and drinking well, still within its acceptable drinking window.

This release was awarded 96 points by  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who called it "One of the vintage’s superstars, ,,, from a winery that is still somewhat under-appreciated for what they have achieved. It received 92 points from Connoisseurs Guide and 91 points from Wine Enthusiast.

 Wine Enthusiast compared this to the Robert Craig Howell Mountain release saying, this is "Riper, softer and more accessible than Craig's Howell Mountain Cab, this wine, grown at 1,800 feet, shows delicious cherry, currant and chocolate flavors, with the caramel and toast of new oak. For all the deliciousness, it still has mountain tannins, and should age well for a decade."

This is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. 

What a pleasant surprise to find this drinking nicely after so many years. There was a barnyard funkiness initially but this burned off eventually. 

Dark inky garnet colored, medium full bodied, blackberry black currant fruits with notes of spice, leather, tobacco and hints of bitter dark mocha, vanilla and sweet caramel on a tangy acidic moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 88 points.