Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Santo Ciello Naperville - unique wine dine experience

 Santo Ciello Restaurant in Naperville - a unique imaginative wine dine experience

We dined at Santo Ciello in Naperville (IL), atop the Indigo Hotel overlooking downtown Naperville and the DuPage River. Several friends and all our kids have been there and gave it a thumbs up. 

The menu and cuisine is a bit eclectic and funky, and the ambiance and atmosphere has a jive to it.

As their website proclaims: "The inspiration for our food lies within the idea of a “globally inspired kitchen.” This means staying true to our midwest roots while extending our vision to other countries & cultures. We source our ingredients responsibly by seeking out local purveyors, aiming to be sustainable and seasonal whenever mother nature allows. We also strive to provide the highest quality of freshness in all aspects of our creations."

The highlight of Santo Ciello may be its setting with riverfront window seating offering views overlooking the river and downtown Naperville and its RiverWalk that are spectacular. 

Santo Ciello interior dining room

I have to say, the experience exceeded my expectations with a delicious dinner and wonderful wine and food pairing. 

Once again, as earlier in the week, we took advantage of Restaurant Week Chicago and their special menu dinner offering. The special feature provided one of two starters, to share, one each of three entree choices, and one of two desserts to share. 

We chose for our selections the Roasted curried cauliflower with cucumber-cilantro raita, spiced honey and mint, and the Chicken Bao, teriyaki chicken, kimchi aioli, pickled carrot, fresno chili, sesame and cilantro.

For entree selections amongst us we chose all three of the entree selections on offer:

  • Gnocchi & Short Rib,  chicken stock beurre monté, pickled fennel & fresno chili

  • Atlantic Corvina, carrot ginger puree, bok choy, edamame, seasonal pickles, togarashi vinaigrette, rice chicharron

  • Roasted 1/2 Chicken, free-range chicken, creamed collard green, charred okra, chimichurri, sweet potatoes

For dessert both couples ordered the Seasonal Sorbet which was an imaginative Guava and Blackberry.

On first view, the wine-list is limited, sparse and eclectic, with a couple offerings in each wine category delineated by wine style. In each category there is from one to nearly a dozen offerings. 

The wine categories are, such as for the whites: 

  • Light + Crisp/ Mineral-Driven
  • Aromatic + Expressive
  • Round + Textured
And for the reds: 
  • Elegant + Floral for a selection of Pinot Noirs
  • Structured + Earthy for a broad diverse selection of varietals including Tempranillo, Malbec, GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), Gamay, Grenache, Garnacha, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Sangiovese and Red Blends, and,
  • Bold + Spicy for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blends, a Syrah, a Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc-Merlot, and assorted Red Blends.
There are also awine category selections
  • Bubbles + Skin Contact + Pink Matter for Sparkling wines, and,
  • Before + After Dinner for after or before dinner wine selections.
While initially perhaps confusing, once you get the approach its imaginative, helpful and useful. In the end, its challenging in that if you're offering but one or a few selections for a category, picking the right labels need be done with care. For example, I was initially put off when as is so often the case, my first wine choice was not available, from a selection of but two Bordeaux labels. But in the end we had a delightful wine that paired perfectly with our food that was a great selection for the category.

For our wine selections I was wanting from the winelist Chateau Lassegue '12, Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc-Merlot, especially since it was available by the glass or by the bottle, which allowed us to try multiple wines. Unfortunately, it was not available. This seems to happen to me very often, where from a broad selection of choices, I will pick the one, or the two or even three choices that are not available. 

Beyond that label, I was interested in these interesting, imaginative labels:
  • Mocali '15 / Brunello di Montalcino / Sangiovese
  • Chateau La Peyre '15 / Bordeaux / Cabernet Blend, and the
  • Domaine Corbis '19 / Cornas / Syrah 

I was also very intrigued with and hoping to try the Matthiasson, “Linda Vista Vineyard”, '21 / Napa Valley / Chardonnay. Our group opted for a Red, but I'll look forward to coming back and trying this label sometime in the future! 

 In the end, we selected the 2019 Domaine Courbis "Champelrose" Cornas Syrah which proved to be delightful. 

Domaine Courbis "Champelrose" Cornas Northern Rhone Syrah 2019

This is 100% Syrah from the Cornas appellation in the Northern Rhone river valley. Established in 1938, Cornas designated wines are only reds made solely from the Syrah grape. A contributing factor to their style is the distinctive terroir with its granitic soil and that the Syrah based wines are made traditionally and often spend two years in oak. The result is strong and powerful wines, a style we like a lot. Other Northern Rhone wine appellations that feature Syrah are St Joseph, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie, with Cornas being a cross between them, but typically with slightly less finesse.

The Cornas appellation is small comprising a mere 370 acres. It is located south of St Joseph on the west side of the Rhone river. The name “Cornas” comes from an old Celtic dialect term, meaning “burnt land”, reflecting the fact that the steep terraces there, facing south, have temperatures that are significantly higher than those in Hermitage, which is just five miles away.

The soils of Cornas are a combination of limestone and granite, which are ideally suited to the Syrah grape, producing reds that result in a style somewhere between those of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie which are strong and powerful wines, with forward acidity and a robust, rustic style with prominent tannins. 

Domaine Courbis has been in existence in the Courbis family with the estate dating back to the 16th century. Recently, the brothers Dominique and Laurent Courbis succeeded their father, Maurice, in the early 1990s. Since then they have established themselves as leaders of the modern school of winemaking in St Joseph and Cornas. The Courbis brothers produce some of the most compelling examples of St. Joseph and Cornas being made today. The Courbis style might be summarized as offering wines filled with intense aromas and concentrated fruit with great purity and length.

The Domaine Courbis estate covers 80 acres divided as follows: 20 in Cornas; twelve in St Joseph Blanc; 45 acres are of St Joseph Red, and 2 1/2 acres are Syrah Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche. The vineyards all face south and east on the slopes in the communes of Châteaubourg, Glun and Cornas. 

The wines are aged in barriques, some new and the rest up to three years old and they are bottled between 18 months and two years after harvest. 

This Cornas Champelrose cuvée label is 100% Syrah sourced from various vineyard parcels across the Courbis domaine, mostly from vines near the base of Cornas slope. They are blended to produce a wine ready for near term drinking upon release. It is subjected to 3 weeks of vatting to extract as much color and flavor as possible, then aged entirely in casks that are a mix of 25% new; 20% one year; and 55% 2-3 years of age for a barrel-aging for a period is 12 months. The wine is assembled in tank and aged for four more months before bottling, 

Dark purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied, with vibrant expressive intense concentrated sweet dark blackberry and black raspberry fruits accented by spice, black pepper, notes of violet floral, smoky minerals with bold acidity on a big long moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 92 points.

This was awarded 93-95 points by Josh Raynolds, Vinous.com

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Morton's Restaurant Week Special with HourGlass HGIII Proprietary Red

 Morton's Restaurant Week Special with HourGlass HGIII Proprietary Red

We took advantage of Chicago Restaurant Week, an annual 17-day celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene where more than 300 of the city’s top restaurants feature special dinner offerings to introduce patrons to their experience of a near-endless array of cuisines. This is the sixteenth year for Restaurant Week Chicago.

We dined at Morton's Steakhouse in Naperville, "The Steakhouse", one of our favorite fine dining sites, so close and convenient to home. We dined there earlier this winter for another wonderful exquisite wine dinner experience.

The dinner special offered a starter, an entree, an accompaniment and a dessert at a price fixe. Even at the Restaurant Week special, with a moderate wine selection, our dinner for two still cost $300. Never-the-less, it was a delightful evening out with perfect food and wine pairing.

Our selections for dinner, a Morton's Wedge and a Ceasar Salad, six ounce petit filets, mine done prepared perfectly, Pittsburgh style, mashed potatoes, sauteed cream spinach, and for dessert, creme brulee. 

For our wine pairing we selected this Napa Valley Proprietary Red from Hourglass.

Hourglass "HGIII" Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend 2019 

We discovered this label dining at the trendy stylish RH Restoration Hardware rooftop restaurant in Oak Brook recently when I posted this tasting review. This big bold complex round fruit forward red blend was a perfect pairing with our filet beefsteaks. As I write often in these pages, an ideal pairing of food and wine amplifies the enjoyment of both for an optimal dining experience.

This proprietary red blend is from Napa Valley Hourglass, who have been producing ultra premium super high-scoring Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot since their inaugural release in 1997. The estate sits at the northern center of Napa Valley and consists of two vineyards focused on Bordeaux varietals. 

Hourglass wines are crafted by veteran Napa Valley winemaker Tony Biagi who gained notoriety working at some of the Valley's elite wineries including Duckhorn, Paraduxx, Plumpjack, and Cade, where he was founding Winemaker before joining Hourglass. 

Biagi is a sixth generation Californian whose first memories of wine go back to his father making small amounts of wine in his garage. He earned a degree in Fermentation Sciences at U.C. Davis in 1995 before working for the listed well-known estates, then joining Hourglass in 2012.

HG III is Hourglass' proprietary red blend second label produced exclusively from the Napa Valley. Biagi has made a name for himself with the critically acclaimed Hourglass wines, known for elegant tannin structure, rich mouthfeel, layers of silky textural depth and harmonious balance of richness and acidity. Biagi says: “I want my wines to be rich, but if that’s all they are they become one dimensional and monotonous,” he outlines. Writes a leading pundit, "HG III delivers a big, rich, powerful red blend, but always impeccably balanced. A real showstopper, even better with a good decant".

The 2019 HG III harmoniously combines 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petite Syrah sourced from the Hourglass Blueline Estate vineyard and a select few top-of-the-line vineyards.

This is a somewhat unconventional blend, the core trio of varieties all offer distinctive characteristics yet harmony to the final blend: Merlot leads with finesse and approachability, Cabernet Sauvignon elevates with  structure and polish, and Petite Syrah grounds the blend with what one pundit calls 'gravitas and bass'. 

The 2019 vintage was aged 16 months in a combination of new and seasoned French oak, contributing to its multilayered complexity and smooth tannins.

Winemaker Notes: “The 2019 vintage for HGIII is a knockout – an unequivocal example of how this expansive, rich and deeply textured wine over delivers. Tony’s ingenious blend, the core trio of varieties all offer distinction and harmony to the final blend: Merlot leads with finesse and approachability, Cabernet Sauvignon elevates with structure and polish, and Petite Syrah grounds the blend with gravitas and bass. With red and black currant forming the aromatic core, dried herb and fennel are their verdant, savory counterparts. A ripe juicy frame of dark sour and red cherry mingles with inky black cassis laced with fine streaks of dark Belgian chocolate. Undeniably approachable now, and yet with the structure, density, and complexity for great ageability.”

This was rated 94 Points by Master Sommelier Kevin Vogt, and 92 points by Jeb Dunnuck.

We enjoyed this so much during that RH experience, I went home and went on-line and snatched up all the remaining bottles in stock at Binny's, our Chicagoland wine superstore. 

Bright garnet colored with hues of purple, medium full bodied, elegant, polished, full round forward,  nicely integrated briary blackberry and ripe plum fruits with notes of mocha dark chocolate, clove spice, hints of vanilla, and delicate floral, with a balanced long finish combining slightly chalky tannins. 

RM 93 points.







Friday, January 27, 2023

Château Léoville-Barton 1986

Château Léoville-Barton Grand Cru Classé Saint-Julien Bordeaux 1986

Following the gala tasting at the UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour in Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2020 vintage release wines, I was inspired to reach into the cellar for a vintage Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe. 

Linda prepared an exquisite mushroom sauce for a New York grilled beefsteak, served with mashed potatoes and a Maryland Crab Cake following a wedge salad. 

The Union is the association of 130 members of the top premier estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations. 

I just met the always friendly and delightful Lilian Barton-Sartorius from Château Léoville-Barton at the tasting this week and enjoying sharing with her that I'd just picked up a shipment of a recent vintage release for our cellar. 

Lilian Barton-Sartorius - Château
Leoville and Langoa Barton
We toured the grounds and vineyards at the estate during our visit to Saint Julien back in 2019. 

Tonight, this proved to be an extraordinary, perfect wine and food pairing that complemented and amplified both. I write often in these pages about such a pairing, when properly done will indeed attenuate the enjoyment of both the food and the accompanying wine. 

Château Léoville-Barton Saint Julien Bordeaux 1986

I recently purchased several bottles of a recent release of this label and was replenishing my stock and came across several bottles from the OWC (original wood case) from the acquisition upon release of this vintage label. 

The 1986 release was much heralded and highly acclaimed but also noted to a vintage to lay down for long term aging. That said, I'm not sure holding 36 years was ideal and was a bit concerned about the state of this wine, despite its known provenance, having been in our cellar since release. 

Two of the bottles appeared to be in perfect condition with proper fill level, foil and labels as one would best hope for, given their age. This one bottle had a soiled label and a lesser fill level due to some seepage over the years that was a cause for alarm. The cork extracted intact using an ahso two pronged cork puller, although it was a bit saturated and showed signed of seepage. 

What a relief to get aromas of fruit and appropriate positive accents, and good color as I decanted the wine. Even with the slightly deteriorated cork and evidence of prior seepage this bottle was still very much approachable and within its acceptable if not most desired drinking window! 

Alas, this is the joy of having a deep wine cellar with many vintages across which to compare, over time, even across the decades!  

My Cellartracker records indicate we have more than a dozen vintages of this label dating back to this vintage and the iconic 1982 and 1981 vintage, which we're still holding as birth-year wines for son Ryan and daughter Erin.

After three hours of settling prior to pouring, the wine showed exceptionally. 

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, complex yet nicely balanced and full round flavors of black berry and black currant fruits accented by very nice notes of all spice, tobacco and savory sprites of mushroom with hints of pain grille and touch of anise and cedar with smooth polished tannins on a delightful lingering finish - a perfect, almost magical match to the savory sauce accenting our grilled beefsteak. 

RM 94 points. 


After tasting, and writing this up the morning after, I checked the reviews of critics and pundits and was delighted to see this post by Decanter as recently as May of 2019, "Anthony Barton had been running Léoville Barton for three years at this point, but in 1986 - the year that his uncle Ronald died (after a tenure that had begun back in 1924) - it passed fully into his ownership. Huge tannins are still evident in this wine. It was pretty backward and unforgiving for many years but it showed incredibly well during this tasting and is definitely ready to be enjoyed. It displays tons of liquorice and blackcurrant, exotic spice notes and a swagger through the finish. (JA)  (5/2019)". 

They gave it 97 points! 

And, Robert Parker last wrote of this release in March of 2012 about a tasting he did in November 2011, "Tasted with Anthony Barton at the Saint Julien restaurant, this behemoth of a wine is definitely starting to pump on cylinders. As before, it needs considerable decanting, but it unfurls beautifully in the glass to reveal blackberry, dark plums, a touch of sandalwood and warm gravel. Coming direct from the property, there is a touch more fruit compared to other bottles. The palate is medium-bodied with great depth and breadth: less masculine than before, mellowing nicely with layers of lifted blackberry, plum, wild strawberry and cedar that leads to an extraordinarily long finish. There is a sense of harmony and composure to this wine that makes it utterly beguiling. Top class. Tasted November 2011. (NM)  (3/2012)"

He awarded it 94 points in  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Finally, Jancis Robinson cited similar notes in her tasting review back in 2008, " Still young-looking and – young-smelling. Very full and rich nose. Opulent. Slightly dusty. Even more robust than most other vintages. 17.5/20 points (JR) (1/2008)."

I will look forward to taking this label to our annual OTBN, Open That Bottle Night wine tasting to share with my fellow 'Pour Boys' wine group when we next meet in Charleston, the last Saturday next month. This is unless I find a more appropriate bottle to share, since I've already done this one! Can't wait to see what we present that night to the group. Stay tuned. 





Wednesday, January 25, 2023

UGCB 2020 Vintage Release Tour Chicago 2023

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) North American 2020 Vintage Release Tour Chicago Preview Tasting 2023 

The UGC Bordeaux (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour visited Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2020 vintage release wines. The Union is the association of 130 members of the top premier estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations

This year's North American tour visited Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, LA , Seattle and San Francisco. 

As in previous years, members of our 'Pour Boys' wine group (left) helped conduct the event in Chicago. 

This year, after a Covid disrupted alternate site last year at Chicago Union Station Grand Hall, which actually was delayed to June, as in years past, returned to the Drake Hotel in the magnificent grand Gold Coast Ballroom (shown below). 

The Pour Boys serve as volunteers, working with the hosts Mike Wangbickler, Kat and the Balzac Communications team, and the UGCB Bordeaux events team of Chloe Morvan and Marie Damouseau.

We help prepare the room and the wines, checking in trade registrants, and standing in for producers who faced travel or other disruptions, presenting and pouring their wines. 

We start early in the day unpacking and distributing the wines, carefully setting up each wine station for the arrival of the producers' and their representatives for presenting and pouring the wine during the afternoon session.

Several times over the years, several producers or their representatives were delayed in travel or had other disruptions and we were called in to service to pour their wines, hence we earned our moniker, the 'Pour Boys'.  This was our fourteenth year working this gala annual event.

As usual, close to a hundred producers were represented at the event that was attended by over five hundred members of the trade, merchants, hospitality and media.

As is their custom in the third week of January, this annual roadshow is a marathon trek across North America by the producers and their representatives offering wine professionals and oenophiles the chance to meet the Bordeaux principles, winemakers and commercial directors. 

As I've written in previous years, we appreciate the investment in time and effort expended by the producers and their brand ambassadors to visit Chicago. It provides a wonderful opportunity to meet them firsthand and discuss their perspectives on their brand, approach to crafting their style, their history, businesses, and their vintages including, of course, the current release.

Overcast skies and early morning snow
through windows of Gold Coast Ballroom

As collectors and holders of a not-insignificant collection of Bordeaux wines dating back four decades, we Pour Boys hold as many as several dozen or more vintages of some of these labels. Meeting the owners, family members, producer / winemaker / representatives of these great Chateaux is a great privilege and offers a collector the chance to learn more about their investment and wines. 

As such, I tend to focus on and taste those wines that I know well and hold verticals (multiple vintages of the same label), of which my wine buddies and I have holdings.  Shown left, Chateau Lynch Bages and Ormes de Pez.  

The new Lynch Bages winery was under construction during our visit in 2019. It is now open and in production with this 2020 release being the first vintage produced in the new state of the art facility. 

Marking four centuries of history and the culmination of four years’ hard work, the 2020 vintage, the first in the renovated cellars is commemorated in a new label design for the vintage.

The new cellars and vat room, were designed by architect Chien Chung Pei to put emphasis on natural light, functionality and innovative technologies. As such a light iridescent shadow suggesting the new building is set on the architectural architecture, while the vintage is handwritten by Chien Chung Pei to commemorate the collaboration.

Despite the inclement weather, this years event was well attended to a full house (shown below).

Earlier UGCB and related events are featured in earlier unwindwine blogposts.

Grand Cru Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Release Tour Chicago

 UGCB 2017 Release Tour Chicago

After working to set up the event, register attendees and fill in for late arriving producers' due to travel delays, we were able to partake of the release tasting. 

As usual, we focused on the producers that we own and collect, with particular interest in those that we visited during our last trip to Bordeaux, as well as those we are targeting for our next or futures visits to the region.

The 2020 vintage is another great year for Bordeaux. The year opened with a mild start triggering an early bud break and even flowering thanks to a warm and dry month of May. Early June brought frequent rainfall which provided reserves of water during nearly two-month period of drought which began from mid-June, continuing well into August.

While it was very warm in the first part of the year, significantly warmer than 2018 or 2019, the heart of the summer however was marginally cooler than those excessively hot years. Taken as a whole, 2020 was as warm as the baking 2018, but not as intensely hot during the summer.

By early August, a welcome flurry of rain showers swept over the region breaking the prolonged period of drought before entering a dry and sunny September, which pushed the grapes into their final period of ripening. The earlier ripening Merlot benefited from the superb conditions of an early September harvest.

Mid-September light rain falls provided a final infusion of freshness to the Cabernet grapes. Only those with late ripening plots of Cabernet Sauvignon were left in a rush to bring them in in before the concerning forecast pertaining to storm Alex at the beginning of October.

The overall harvesting conditions of 2020 were also perfectly suited for the earlier ripening Merlot grape, while the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines picked towards the end of September when warm winds imposed an evaporation effect on the grapes, resulting in unusually small berries with high levels of tannins. This translated into wines with deep colors, very concentrated flavors, and abundant, well-ripened, fine-grained tannins.

Anne-Francoise Quie Château Rauzan-Gassies
Lise Latrille - Château Prieure Lichine

For the white wines of 2020, the effects of the intense summer heat was compensated by the moisture reserves from the spring showers, producing dry whites which were less aromatic than in 2019, but with plenty of complexity and vibrant acidity. 

Although the grapes had reached a perfect level of ripeness by early September, the crucial rain showers did not arrive until October, which meant that only the most patient and diligent growers were rewarded by the small harvesting window with lower levels of wine produced.

James Suckling stated, “The 2020 vintage is another great year for Bordeaux, marking a rare trilogy of excellent vintages that produced wines at the same or very close quality level across the board from great named chateaux to lesser-known estates.” 

Jancis Robinson decreed, “Some stunning wines have been produced in 2020. On the Left Bank, they tend to be made by producers who can afford to be extremely selective in their final blends. There is a host of very successful wines on the Merlot-dominated Right Bank too. I have found myself falling back in love with St-Émilion” thanks to a continuing trend where “wines are so much fresher and more expressive than they used to be.” 

Jane Anson, reporting for Decanter says, ‘I would say 2018 is the most exuberant, 2020 the most structured and concentrated, while 2019 combines both and for me is the strongest of the three – certainly the most consistent.’ She also points out that ‘Yields overall were around 25% lower than in 2019, particularly with Cabernet Sauvignon but also Cabernet Franc in many cases."

Lilian Barton-Sartorius - Châteaux
Leoville and Langoa Barton
The event is sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, (UGCB) and is hosted and orchestrated by Balzac Communications, boutique wine marketing and communications consultancy firm in Napa, under the leadership of Mike Wangbickler.

As is the custom, the afternoon session is for the benefit of the press and trade and wine professionals, and in Chicago, the evening session in Chicago was hosted by merchant partner Binny's Beverage Depot, the Chicago-land wine superstore, offering tickets to the evening session to their valued customers and the public. This year, over four hundred collectors and vinophiles registered for the even. 

My perspective was that many of the wines showed better this year being more approachable at this early age with expressive forward and full fruits – especially the right bank Merlot based wines. 

One of my standout favorites of the tasting was the Chateau Canon which was especially approachable with bright vibrant fruits and a delicious sweetness.

From a branding perspective, in addition to Lynch Bages above, a couple other new special bottling or new labels emerged.

Château Léoville Poyferré presented a striking gold painted bottle with embossed molded emblem at the top commemorating their anniversary vintage. 2020 marks the symbolic centennial vintage for the Cuvelier Family, the centennial anniversary of their ownership of this Second Grand Cru Classé of Saint-Julien. 

And, for Sara Lecompte Cuvelier, fourth generation to be at the helm of the domain, this historic vintage is encapsulated in a special bottle to commemorate this significant milestone.

The unique bottle inlaid with gold, the details of which 'pay tribute to the enduring strength of Léoville Poyferré and its multifaceted terroir'. 
Our visit to and tour of Château Léoville Poyferré was one of the highlights of our visit to the region in 2019.

Another new branding approach is Château Siran who introduce in the post Covid era an artist label series featuring artwork that will be updated with each vintage release. 

The 2020 vintage marks the return of the family tradition of Château Siran’s illustrated labels with a collaboration with Federica Matta, a Franco-Chilean artist 'sensitive to the natural elements and the culture of wine'. 

Producers Sevrine and Edouard Miailhe wanted to memorialize the pandemic that paralysed the world in 2020. They chose a theme of an anti-Covid allegory recognizing the olfactory qualities together with the beneficial properties of red wines with the new label's bright colors, celebrating "the joy of living and the happiness of sharing". 

Charlotte Burckhard showing
new Chateau Siran label branding

'Pour Boys' Tom C, me, Ernie and Lyle with
UGCB Ambassadors Chloe Morvan and
Marie Damouseau

Anne-Francoise Quie Château Rauzan-Gassies
with enthusiastic patron

Earlier UGCB and related events are featured in earlier unwindwine blogposts.



Monday, January 23, 2023

Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2020

Ridge Estate Chardonnay Ideally Paired with Chicken Breast stuff with spinach and feta cheese

Linda prepared a hearty chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta cheese over a bed of asparagus and mashed potatoes. The cheese took over the whole dish for a delicious wintry comfort food entree that begged for a full robust white wine. I pulled from the cellar this recent vintage premium Chardonnay from iconic producer Ridge. 

While I might normally select an older vintage to cycle our holdings as part of cellar management, and the pundits write that this should age well for 7-8 years and that this label often benefits from a few years of aging, I was eager to try this label from a lot that I just picked up recently.

Since 1962, Ridge has produced small bottlings of chardonnay that reflect the cool climate and limestone subsoils of the heralded Monte Bello Estate, high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, on the eastern facing slopes, of the Santa Cruz Range that separates San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley to the east, from the Pacific Coast to the west. 

The Santa Cruz range is also known for its alignment along the famous San Andreas fault, which can be easily identified from the air, and runs along the beautiful scenic I280, high above Silicon Valley, between San Jose and San Francisco. 

This is especially favored since we used to live up against the mountain, below but near where the vineyard sits, in tony Saratoga (CA) when we were in Silicon Valley long ago, early in my tech career.

From their website, "Ridge produced its first chardonnay in 1962 from fully-mature vines planted in the late 1940s on the Monte Bello Estate vineyard. Production never exceeded ten barrels, and Monte Bello Chardonnay was sold principally at the winery. Several great vintages, among them the 1973, ‘74, ‘79, and ‘84, showed that the cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to the varietal.'

"By 1985, the old vines were producing less then a half-ton per acre and were taken out. The younger vines, planted in the ‘70s, provide the majority of grapes today. Initially these newer plantings were on the “lower” vineyard—not yet farmed as part of the Monte Bello estate—so the wine was called “Santa Cruz Mountains” and these vines have long since been included. Since 2009 the wine has been designated Ridge Estate Chardonnay. In years when differences among lots are sufficient to warrant a separate bottling, they make a limited amount of Monte Bello Chardonnay as well."

The Monte Bello Estate vineyard is much heralded and historically renowned, best known perhaps for Ridge's flagship, "Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon", which we've had over the years, but, we've also had the vineyard designated Merlot from there as well, and now this Chardonnay. 

Ridge Estate Santa Cruz Mountain (AVA) Monte Bello Vineyard Chardonnay 2020

As is so often the case, we were fortunate enough to enjoy this ideal pairing that amplified the enjoyment of both the food and the wine!

This is 100% Chardonnay sourced solely from the legendary Ridge Monte Bello Estate vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation (AVA).

It was highly rated receiving a consensus 94 Points from Wine Spectator,  Wine Enthusiast, Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com and Owen Bargreen, OwenBargreen.com.

Fine Wine Review wrote: "I might mistake it for a Corton-Charlemagne."

Light straw colored, medium bodied, bold, full and round yet impeccably smooth and what Jeb Dunnuck decribes as "brilliantly balanced", elegant, buttery with layer of ash notes that Wine Enthusiast describes as "flinty aroma to the nose, like smoke from chiseled granite", crushed stone that permeates the subtle flavors of peach and apple with hints of toasted spice and what Wine Spectator calls "overtones of salted butterscotch" on an abrupt, crisp, clean finish with nice well behaved acidity.

RM 92 points. 




Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Château Quinault L'Enclos Grand Cru 2007

Château Quinault L'Enclos Grand Cru 2007

For casual midweek sipping with artisan cheeses, chocolates, nuts and fruits, we opened from the celalr this aged St Emilion Grand CruChateau Quinault L'Enclos is actually owned by the premiere Grand Cru producer Cheval Blanc and has a reputation for good value, honest wines. 

The Chateau is located in the suburbs of Libourne, in the heart of Libourne area, on the right bank of the Dordogne River in the St Emilion appellation to the east of the city of Bordeaux. The area includes several municipalities, the most famous of which are the Pomerol and St. Emilion. The wines of the region, known as the 'Right Bank', that area to the east of the river, are predominantly Merlot in the blend, whereas wines of the Medoc, on the 'Left Bank', to the west of the river, are dominant in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau Quinault L'Enclos has a history dating back to the Roman Era. It owns 50 acres of vineyards near the Dordogne. Their location is different with a special micro-climate with favorable soils ideally suited to the production of grapes for wines of high quality. Merlot dominates the vineyards with 83% of the plantings with the remaining area divided between Cabernet Franc (12%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%). The average age of the vines is 45 years, with the oldest vines dating back to 1934. These old vines make up a the heritage of the label that can be a complex multi-faceted wine.

For a long time the estate was owned by Alain Raynaud, who did much to preserve the terroir wines and glorification Libourne. Raynaud sold out in 2008 to Bernard Arnault Chairman of the Group LVMH, owners of the famous and renowned Chateau Cheval Blanc.

Since then, lead by the famous Pierre Lurton, with his team and their attentive care, the vineyards have been introduced to biological methods of farming and vinification aimed to produce precise and elegant fruit with soft tannins, the wines have become even more critically acclaimed with high-quality, depth and permanence. 

Château Quinault L'Enclos St Emilion Grand Cru 2007

Winemaker Notes :This wine is a beautiful crimson red color. Its aromas are complex, combining notes of fruit with some aromatic freshness. On the palate, the wine is fleshy and velvety, giving way to a long, fruity finish."

The 2007 St Emilion has aromas of blackberry with a touch of liquorice spice and mint. Juicy and intensely flavoured, with sweetened dark berry, violet and menthol flavours. Dense with a great length and grippy tannins. 

The blend is Merlot: 70%, Cabernet Franc: 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon: 10%

Merlot: 70%, Cabernet Franc: 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon: 10% More: https://winestyleonline.com

Robert Parker rated this release 91 points, Stephen Tanzer 89 Points, and Wine Spectator 86 points. 

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, dark berry and cherry fruits with flora, notes of bitter dark chocolate, tobacco, anise and smoke with hints of pepper and menthol, with fine acids and  a firm tannic backbone. 

RM 89 points. 



Friday, January 13, 2023

Wine Dinner Features Spring Mountain Wines

Wine Dinner Features Spring Mountain Wines  

We invited colleague Tom C and wife Lisa for an intimate wine dinner. Tom recently won his Sommelier Certificate, so we were eager to get together and share insights and perspectives over some fine wines. Linda prepared beef tenderloin, whipped potatoes and haricot verts. Prior to dinner we served a selection of artisan cheeses, 14 year aged Cheddar, Stilton Blue, Havarti and a Bellavitano. 

We toured our wine cellar and discussed appropriate wines for the evening and landed on Spring Mountain District Napa Cabernets. Tom and Lisa visited there and stayed at the fabulous Spring Mountain Winery Chateau, site of the former Falconcrest TV Series, so the area had special memorable significance for them. 

Of course we love Spring Mountain District wines, and have enjoyed visiting and touring there on many of our Napa Wine Experiences over the years visiting Pride, Fantesca, Keenan and others. We have a respectable collection from which to choose. Indeed, this follows on a Keenan Winery Napa Valley Spring Mountain Cabernet that we enjoyed just the other evening, featured in my most recent blogpost in these pages

After some deliberation we pulled from the cellar for tonight's dinner three selections: Paloma Merlot 2003, Robert Craig Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, and a Fantesca La Petite Soeur Red Bordeaux Blend 2007, which also provided a mini-horizontal comparison tasting of that vintage.

Tom and Lisa brought dessert and a Chateau Rieussec Sauterne. We also opened a Kracher TBA - Trockenberrenauslese for a comparison tasting.

I paired the Paloma Merlot with Fantesca Cabernet back in an earlier Spring Mountain tasting in 2013 which I posted in these pages. 

Paloma Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Merlot 2003

We started with this special 2003 release Paloma Merlot that followed the 2001 release that gained notoriety when the 2001 Paloma Merlot was awarded 95 points and named Wine Spectator's #1 “Wine of the Year” in 2003, out of over 15,000 wines evaluated. 

I reiterate my post about Paloma from last year here.

Paloma is Spanish for “dove”, the estate sits on a steep, tree-lined ridge at the very top of Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Mountain range that forms the west wall of Napa Valley, sitting between Bald Mountain to the south and Diamond Mountain to the north.

Founded by Barbara and Jim Richards in 1983, seeking a vineyard to highlight the grapes and terroir of their favorite region, they were turned on to the property by winemaker producer friend Dan Duckhorn. Over the next 25 years, Jim and Barbara worked to clear, plant, and cultivate 7,500 Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. 

The Richardses were transplants from Midland, Texas, where Jim worked as a petroleum geologist -- got the wine bug in the 1980s. He bought the property at the top of Spring Mountain Road in 1983. They planted it in 1985, choosing Merlot because they had tried Dan Duckhorn's Merlot and found it to their liking. Duckhorn, a Napa Valley Merlot pioneer, encouraged them to plant, and even bought their grapes in those early years. 

Spring Mountain is a cool spot and its grapes are often harvested late in the season. It's typically cooler in the day and warmer at night there than on the valley floor, and those factors come into play in the even-ripening that Paloma's grapes enjoy. Yet after the first few crops, which produced precious little fruit, the Richardses were concerned that they may have made the wrong decision. "I figured maybe Merlot won't do well at this elevation," recalls Jim, now 72, who speaks with a soft, west Texas accent.

But then, as the vines matured and Barbara cruised through the 15-acre vineyard on her ATV, quality picked up. The wine has earned outstanding marks in five vintages, and the debut 1994 is still awesome, says Foley. By 2000, the Richardses were ready to fly solo. Foley had helped them design a small winery and, Jim says, "I still ask everyone as many questions as I can" to find out how to improve on grape growing and winemaking techniques. The Richardses' son, Sheldon, joined the winery during this time and began learning the ropes.

Paloma was a vineyard back in the last half of the 19th century but was returned to forest around the turn of the century. There still remain old redwood grape stakes and a few old zinfandel vines that survive under amongst the large Douglas fir trees that surround the estate home. One historic vine near the house produces one or two clusters of grapes a year that are put into our Merlot blend for good luck.

In 1991, some of the grapes were sold to Pride to be blended into their Cabernet Sauvignon. Jim worked and learned enology alongside legendary winemaker, Pride’s very own, Bob Foley. In 1996, Paloma released their first-ever vintage, the 1994 Merlot  - 575 cases total. Paloma’s first commercial Syrah was released in 1998.

Paloma built the estate winery in 2000 where they crushed their own fruit that year for the very first time.

Their son, Sheldon, joined the business in August of 2003, just in time for harvest and for the release of the award-winning 2001 Paloma Merlot. The follow-on 2002 and 2006 vintages were also recognized as  the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 at 54 and 65, respectively.

The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sheldon’s first solo vintage as winemaker), received high praise from James Laube of Wine Spectator in two separate articles written in 2007 and 2009.

Jim and Barbara passed on in 2009 and 2016, but their legacy lives on under the stewardship of son Sheldon as owner and winemaker. 

Paloma reflects the terroir and specific micro-climates of the area and the high altitude Spring Mountain property. The topography of the area has its own weather patterns being among the the coolest, wettest place in the Napa Valley.  High above the Napa Valley and the morning fog, Paloma Vineyard is generally 15 to 20-degrees cooler on hot summer days than the valley floor vineyards. The more moderate temperatures and the volcanic soils are what make Paloma wines so special, adding layers of complexity to the mid-palate and long finishes.

Springs appear throughout the area after a good rain, hence the area’s name. The combination of the summer heat and low pressure from the cool coastal air that approaches the summit from the west lengthens the growing season into late fall. The prolonged hang time – several weeks longer than warmer Napa Valley floor – add resonance and concentration to the resulting small clusters.

The vines are planted on mostly steep, east-facing hillsides. The Sonoma volcanics and Franciscan sandstone soils stress the grapes, forcing them to stay small, with a higher skin-to-grape ratio. The resulting mountain wines tend to be more concentrated and intense, softened by the gradual temperature fluctuations. The wines from the site are bright and bold but with a surprising softness and elegance.

Paloma Napa Valley Spring Mountain Merlot 2003

We love Napa Valley mountain fruit wines with their richness, focus and concentration, and Spring Mountain wines are amongst our favorites. We're long time fans and collectors of Pride Mountain, Fantesca and Robert Craig Spring Mountain Cabernets. 

We still hold several vintages of this label dating back to 1999 and our patience is rewarded tonight enjoying this aged nineteen year old.

Paloma Merlot is a blend of estate grown Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon ranges from 14 to 16 percent depending on the vintage. 

Winemaker notes: The wine is a big, world-class red capable of improving with bottle aging for at least 20 years in most vintages. Although the characteristics of the wine vary with each vintage, they have a consistent thread of complex aromas of blackberry fruits, black stone fruits, chocolate, tobacco, spice, and floral notes with a mineral overtone. On the palate, the wine has a silky mouthfeel, is well balanced with flavors of berries, fruit, cocoa, cassis, and spice, and enjoys a long spicy finish. The addition of the Cabernet Sauvignon adds structure, rich fruit, and a subtle increase in tannins." 

This release was awarded 90 points by Wine Spectator and 89 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 

I first wrote about this wine in September 2013 when I gave this 93 points and wrote that I like this wine: "At ten years old this may be at or approaching its apex as it is drinking better than any of the previous half dozen bottles we've tasted from our case. I was worried at first when decanted as the color seem a bit dark with a slight brown hue but the aromas were pure berry. Medium bodied, silky smooth, elegant and polished with complex layers of raspberry, sweet current, blue and black berry highlights. This tasting was consistent with my last posted tasting notes from a year ago this week (September 2012) when I wrote, "Medium full bodied, smooth polished, complex harmonious symphony of finely integrated aromas and flavors - predominant sweet black currant, red raspberry, milk chocolate, a hint of ripe plum, sweet oak and a bit of burnt sugar caramel on the long smooth polished finish." Based on this tasting, I extended my drinking window in Cellartracker which was listed as drink by 2011 to 2016.

At nineteen years, the fill level was perfect, as was, importantly, the cork, reflecting the ideal conditions of our cellar for long term aging. Of course, as show, Paloma bottles are painted rather than having glued paper labels. Like I did back in 2013, tonight I once again extended the drinking window for this wine, to 2022, as it is still showing well, holding its own, likely at the peak of its drinking window, perhaps nearing the end such that it might now start to diminish from further again.

This was dark inky purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied, with intense firm concentrated structured rich black currant and blackberry fruits with notes of cedar and nutmeg, black tea, dark mocha and cigar box with firm focused tannins on the gritty lingering finish.

RM 92 points. 




We tasted this label on posted tasting notes in Cellartracker back in 2012 and 2013.  



Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

This Robert Craig Spring Mountain label was first released in 2005. It was sourced from the picturesque Joan Crowley vineyard perched at 2000 foot elevation along the summit of Spring Mountain, high above the town of St Helena in the Mayacamas Range that forms the western slope of Napa Valley. The site is primarily dry-farmed, reducing vigor and crop yield resulting in small, flavor-packed berries. 

As I have written often in these pages, Robert Craig focused on and specialized in hillside and mountain fruit from leading producing regions of Napa including Mt. Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain. Add Mt George and Atlas Peak above the town of Napa and you have the four corners of the Napa Valley. He often referred to it as 'four mountains and a valley' in describing his portfolio of Cabernets. 

We hold a vertical collection of Robert Craig Cabernets going all the way back to their inaugural vintage release in 1993. It is one of the largest producer collections in our cellar across seven different labels and three decades of vintages.

While Robert Craig Winery owned many of their vineyard sources, they bought fruit from select vineyards on the various mountains. They worked with Napa Valley based hillside vineyards generally at altitudes of 1,600 feet or higher. 

Robert started his career up on Mt Veeder, initially developing the William Hill vineyard, and then later, at The Hess Collection as their General Manager. In addition, he helped develop 300 vineyard acres on Mt. Veeder for the movie star comedian Robin Williams estate. Robert Craig sourced Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from there for over two decades for the Mt Veeder designated Cabernet label until Robin's passing and the recent sale of the estate and the Pym Rae vineyard to the French Tesseron wine empire Family. Their recent first release label from that property was priced at $350. Robert often said that Mt Veeder was his favorite of his Cabernets. He was instrumental in forming sub appellations for both Mt. Veeder area and Spring Mountain.

We memorialize Robert who passed away a year ago in September 2019 from complications from Parkinson’s disease in this blogpost - Robert Craig Tribute.

The Robert Craig Winery is perched at an elevation of almost 2300 feet high up on Howell Mountain on the north east side of Napa Valley. It is among some of Napa’s highest vineyards. At this elevation they actually see some snow in the winter at times. The location sits above the town of Angwin and their permit at the actual winery limits them to an extremely small number of visitors, as well as only several events per year at the actual winery, hence, they maintain a tasting room in the city of Napa. 

We attended a several tastings and dinners over the years with Robert and Lynn Craig and sometimes staff when various events. 

Some of the highlight over the years were a private dinner with Robert and Lynn at the CIA back in 1988, another was a private tasting there at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Estate in 2008, where we also attended the Harvest Party at the estate in 2009.



My recollection is that I first tasted this Spring Mountain label upon its release during that visit in 2008. It was a comparison tasting against the Mt Veeder and Howell Mountain labels, the Spring Mountain was served from the barrel, and it was my standout favorite, being slightly sweeter than the other two. I remember the allocation for Club members was limited to three bottles. I negotiated a mixed case purchase of twelve bottles of the 05, 06 and 07 vintages, the remains of which we're enjoying tonight.  

Robert Craig writes of this label; "The Crowley vineyard is a close fit for our mountain Cabernet portfolio from the highest elevations of Napa Valley. Overlooking St. Helena from its perch at 2,000 feet, this vineyard’s rocky volcanic soil, varied hillside exposures, and moderate climate produce densely concentrated winegrapes. Joan Crowley’s low-yield, biodynamically farmed vineyard has provided us with deep, aromatic and structured wines since our first vintage with it in 2005. The mountain is cooled by afternoon breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean, creating moderate daytime temperatures and cooler nights that allow grapes to ripen slowly without pushing high alcohol and sugars. The heady, deep perfume that is a Spring Mountain District signature is always present in this cabernet that is hard to come by." 

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon varietal grapes, Robert Craig also sourced from the Crowley vineyard Bordeaux varietal Petite Verdot.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Crowley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

This release was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator, and 17.5/20 by Jancis Robinson.

Parker wrote, "This is a very exciting wine that should drink well for 20-25 years." (RP) 94+  (12/2009)

Production of the 2007 release was a mere 640 cases.

Winemaker notes on Spring Mountain and the Crowley vineyard.
The Crowley vineyard is a close fit for our mountain Cabernet portfolio from the highest elevations of Napa Valley. Overlooking St. Helena from its perch at 2,000 feet, this vineyard’s rocky volcanic soil, varied hillside exposures, and moderate climate produce densely concentrated wine grapes. The mountain is cooled by afternoon breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean, creating moderate daytime temperatures and cooler nights that allow grapes to ripen slowly without pushing high alcohol and sugars. for a sense of place that establishes a wine’s unique identity, is the perfect concept to describe the qualities of Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignons.  

Dark garnet purple colored, full-bodied, complex, dense concentrated full and round blackberry, wild berry and plum fruits with notes of spice, smoked meat and cassis with a lingering smooth polished finish.

RM 93 points. 

In 2009 Robert Parker wrote that this is a very exciting wine that should drink well for 20-25 years. Wine Enthusiast said this this is a good wine to seek out for the cellar. The producer comments on the 2019 vintage release of this label - "That is to say, it is one of the highest quality red wines to be produced anywhere in the Napa Valley at any price."






Fantesca La Petite Soeur Red Bordeaux Blend 2007

Fantesca Estate and Winery is one of our favorite Napa Valley producers. We hold a vertical collection of more than a dozen and half vintages of their estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Fantesca was conceived and founded by Duane and Susan Hoff, who moved on from their careers as executives at Best Buy Corporation to Napa Valley winery and vineyard proprietors when they acquired this historic Spring Mountain District estate. The vineyards, winery and home sit above St Helena on the lower reaches of Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Range between Mt Veeder and Diamond Mountain. 

We visited their spectacular mountainside estate during our Napa Wine Experiences in 2007 and in 2009.

We hosted Duane here at our home during his initial release promotional tour visit to Chicago back in 2004. 

Duane Hoff pouring 2002 vintage while visiting Rick & Linda
in Chicago during 2004 vintage release marketing outreach.

Their's is a story book tale that started when Minneapolis natives, Susan and Duane Hoff were college sweethearts and entrepreneurs at heart, who both had meteoric careers at Best Buy Corporation, from the earliest startup days to corporate leadership roles. They left Best Buy and moved their family to Napa Valley in 2004 upon acquiring and founding Fantesca Estate and Winery. Today, Susan and Duane enjoy growing a business with their adult children – one of whom is an aspiring winemaker, and the other, a budding biotech entrepreneur.

Fantesca Spring Mountain District

Initial the early year 2002-2007 vintages from the estate were managed by winemakers Nils and Kirk Venge; then in 2008 they teamed up with legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett. The celebrated winemaker has been referred to as “The Wine Diva of Napa” and as “The First Lady of Wine.” She gained fame and recognition producing exceptional high quality wines that she produced for famous labels.

In addition to Fantesca, her current portfolio includes Amuse Bouche, Paradigm, Lamborn, Kenzo Estate, Au Sommet, Vin Perdu and her own labels, La Sirena and Barrett & Barrett. She has worked previously with Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Jones Family, Grace Family, Vineyard 29, David Arthur, Barbour Vineyards and Showket.

Heidi grew up in a winemaking family in the Napa Valley and attended UC Davis, where she received a B.S. in fermentation science. After several harvests in Napa Valley and abroad, Heidi became the winemaker at Buehler Vineyards at age 25. It was at Buehler that she began attracting recognition by greatly improving the wines. After five years with Buehler, she moved on as an independent winemaker — and was quickly hired by Gustav Dalla Valle of Dalla Valle Vineyards.

Heidi made her mark at Dalla Valle creating powerful yet elegant Cabernets, including the cult wine “Maya,” a Cabernet blend awarded 100 points by Robert Parker for the 1992 and 1993 vintages.

In 1992 Heidi began crafting wine for Screaming Eagle and again received two perfect 100-point scores, for the 1992 and 1997 vintages. At the Napa Valley Wine Auction of 2000, a 6-liter bottle of Heidi’s 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet set a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine at $500,000. The following year, a vertical offering of this cult wine went for $650,000.

From their initial ten acre vineyard, they produced ultra-premium 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and there is an acre planted in Petit Verdot. They also sourced grapes from the Sonoma County Russian River Valley to produce a bright crisp full flavored Burgundian Chardonnay, the first ever by Heidi Barrett.

Recently, Fantesca have brought on Master Sommelier DLynn Proctor as wine ambassador and evangelist. I met DLynn when he hosted a Penfolds Tasting that featured Legendary Grange at our local Binny's back in 2014, when he was Penfold's Ambassador and Education Director for that icnonic Australian producer. 

What fun to meet DLynn in person (right) having enjoyed watching his pursuit of his Master Sommelier Certification in the entertaining documentary movie SOMM which is a feature on Netflix. We saw DLynn on the Amazon Prime Somm III documentary the other night prominantly wearing this Fantesca jacket.

Fantesca products make for festive serving features or as elegant gifts as are lavishly packaged in stylish heavy etched glass bottles with painted 'labels', or in original wood cases.

In 2007 Fantesca released Le Petit Soeur, so named as Fantesca's 'little sister'. This Bordeaux Blend label is the unique small limited production blend that Heidi crafted for Fantesca initially to incorporate their their Cabernet and Petit Verdot for Fantesca family and friends. This 2007 release is a classic Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Petit Syrah of which 194 cases were produced. We acquired this label as part of our wine club allocation back in those early years.

I posted a tasting note of this label to Cellartracker back in 2010. At that time I gave it 91 points. 

At fifteen years of age this has integrated nicely and evolved into an interesting sophisticated blend, probably at the apex or peak of its drinking profile and window, and not likely to improve any further with more aging, but likely to age gracefully for several more years.

Dark garnet and purple colored, medium to full bodied, nicely balanced blackberry and dark cherry fruits with notes of tobacco, black tea, spice, hint of clove and cedar with moderate smooth tannins on a tangy finish.

RM 91 points.