Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Family Dinner and Big Syrah Blends with Beef Bourguignon

Christmas Eve Family Dinner features Big Red Syrah Blends with Beef Bourguignon

Much of the family gathered at our house after Christmas eve church service for a dinner celebration. Linda prepared Beef Bourguignon, mashed and sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus, and salad.

I pulled from the cellar two big Syrah based red blends to accompany the rich meat and vegetable stew in red wine reduction sauce - a perfect complement. 

Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend Napa Valley Red Blend 2012

Randy and Debbie Lewis established their family winery in Napa back in 1992. We've been fans since the earliest days and hold and keep and extensive collection of their wines - Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrahs, and this unique blend of both. 

We enjoy Lewis wines as  I've often written in these pages about the fun we have with this branding, with its signature 'L' on the label, ala Laverne and Shirley, or wife Linda, or her mother Lucy, or our daughter Erin Leigh, or her daughter, our first grandchild/daughter Lucy, and now our recent grandaughter Lavender! That coupled with the Hoosier heritage of Randy Lewis, Indy 500 race driver from our native Indiana, and, their affinity to family, naming labels after their grandkids - Alec, Ethan and Mason,  we adopted Alec's Blend as a signature label for son Alec and feature it often at family celebrations such as tonight.

Lewis wines are family favorites for such special occasions, and this is one of our go-to wines, a 'signature wine' for son Alec, his namesake Blend for Dennis Lewis' son Alec. Lewis Cabernets are some of our favorites and we have a decade long vertical of Alec's as well as their Cabernets, dating back to the inaugural release in '97.
The label is dedicated to Randy and Debbie Lewis' first grandson, Alec, who was born on the day of the harvest of the grapes for this wine leading to the name.

One of the most anticipated wine producer visit tastings at our just completed Pour Boys 2017 Napa Wine Experience was a visit to the Chateau of Lewis Cellars.

This 2012 vintage release was the oldest of a decade of vintages we hold in our cellar of this label. 

This is a powerful yet balanced blend of 79% Syrah, 13% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot. 

Winemaker's notes: "One of our best bottlings ever, the 2012 Alec's Blend carries the casual confidence of a 17-year old. Deliciously complex...layers of lifted ripe blackberry, black cherry, cola, malt chocolate, Heath bar and bramble never quit. There's great acid and structure here too with a balanced arc of tannin and toasted cherry wood spice."

This release was awarded 93 points by Wine Spectator and 90 points by Connoisseurs Guide.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, rich bold full round ripe blackberry fruits with  mocha, spice, toasty oak, smoke  and graphite with a long and persistent finish.

RM 92 points.


Mollydooker "Carnival of Love" McLaren Vale Syrah/Cabernet 2011

This is another fun label that we have designated one of our family signature wines that we love to serve at family occasions. 

I've written often in these pages about Mollydooker husband and wife winemaking team, Sara and Sparky Marquis, who happen to both be 'lefties', hence 'Mollydooker', the Aussie term afforded what in America we would call a 'southpaw' or a left handed person. 

You gotta love our Aussie friends and their sense of humour. They emerged on the American wine scene with Marquis Phillips and their whimsical 'Roogle' or half kangaroo half eagle character for the Australia - American joint venture with their US distribution partnership back around the turn of the century.

After several successful releases, Sara and Sparky set off on their own and never looked back developing an extensive brand and line-up of labels, all with whimsical names and colorful cartoon characters (see select library below - a more complete library is on our winesite Aussie 'M' Mollydooker label library).

Aside their flagship 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz which nears $200, their two premium labels in the release price $80 range are this one, and 'Enchanted Path', a Shiraz and Cabernet blend. Their line includes an extensive collection from an entry level Shiraz to Cabernet, Cabernet-Shiraz blends, Merlot - even a sparkling Shiraz.

The story of these wines according to the winemaker is: "Our whole family is involved in making our wines, and all the wonderful people who drink them become our friends, so we named this wine Carnival of Love, because the wines bring us together. If you look closely you will notice that the Lefty characters are all included in the label and when you join the Carnival of Love and the Enchanted Path together, the two labels form one beautiful continuous love story."

Alas, the Enchanted Path and Carnival ended a couple years ago when Sara and Sparky split and went their separate ways. Sara took over and runs the business and serves as CEO, Winemaker, producer and philanthropist. Sparky, it turns out is a racing car buddy of my associate down is Australia who builds and races cars in his spare time when not tending to running the APAC region for my software business. 

Since Sarah took over the business, Mollydooker’s wines have been praised globally, including receiving five 99-point Wine Advocate scores by renowned wine critic, Robert Parker. Its Carnival of Love Shiraz has also been listed a record three times in Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines in the World. Under her leadership as sole owner Sarah Marquis, the company has been recognised for its business success, being chosen as the 2019 South Australian Business of the Year at the much revered Telstra Business Awards.

At these price points, these are not every day wines for us ordinary folks, but wines for special occasions. 'Carnival of Love' has become one of our family tradition wines which we serve at wife Linda's and family birthday parties, since Linda is a Lefty, and we happen to have three family birthdays in the span of several weeks.

Mollydooker have continually won high acclaim with Carnival receiving 95-ish ratings consistently over the years; 2010, RP95, WS94, 2009; WS94, RP93, 2008; WS94, 2007; RP96, WS95, 2006; RP97, WS95. This 2005 release got 98 points from Robert Parker, rarified space indeed for only very special highly acclaimed wines.  
Like the Alec's Blend above, this is also Syrah (2/3) based accented by Cabernet Sauvignon (1/3), just without the Merlot that comprises 1/3 of the Bordeaux varietal components in the Alec's Blend. Being from South Australia, it is remarkably similar to the profile of the California based Alec's Blend - dark inky purple, rich, concentrated, syrupy, chewy fruit filled. Both share a profile of spicy, clove accents.

This unique blend really works with the Cabernet adding breadth and depth to the big black inky purple colored full bodied Shiraz. The result is a powerful full bodied complex wine with concentrated forward chewy tongue coating black berry and black cherry fruits accented by ripe plum and spice, a layer of leather and hints of anise with fine silky tannins on the long finish.
Winemaker's notes on this release: "This is the wine I tell all my friends about. To see the look on their faces after their first sip is priceless. The 2011 Carnival of Love so clearly shows the essence of Mollydooker. It has elegance; a complete, intense, seamless flavour spectrum; a sumptuous mouth feel and perfect balance. At 92% Fruit Weight it is a wine to go WOW about, an absolute beauty." 

This release was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who said "Drink it from 2014 to 2022+."

This is my third review of this label and tonight's experience was consistent with the earlier ones. Like tonight, both previous blogposts were on family celebration events.

My post from 8/17/2020 - "This was dark inky garnet purple colored, full bodied, expressive fragrant floral notes, dense, deep concentrated, complex fruits of sweet black cherry, black raspberry and hints of blueberry fruits accented by creme de cassis, cinnamon and clove spices with a layer of charcoal that detracts from the harmonious desirable fruit and spice notes. The finish is long with crisp acidity and soft silky tannins."

And, previously back in 2014 - "This 2011 continues with a big powerful concentrated, dense, deep and complex wine, black inky purple in color, with super ripe blackberry and raspberry and layer of blueberry flavors that are a bit over the top for my preference, almost being raisiny and hint of herbs in their concentration, with tones of spicy cinnamon and clove, and hints of creme de cassis, mocha and black pepper on the lingering sinewy tannin finish. This is not for the faint hearted and needs a big steak, bold cheeses or dark chocolate to offset its in-your-face power,such as tonight's beef burgundy which was perfect."

Both times, as with tonight, I gave this 92 points.