Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Tensley Colson Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains Syrah 2020

Tensley Colson Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara Country Syrah 2020

For a midweek dinner cookout, we selected from the cellar one of our favorite, best drinking right now, full throttle Syrahs. 

It was just about a year ago that we discovered and acquired this and several other Tensley Santa Barbara County Wines, that I wrote about here, and replay below, during our Santa Barbara County Wine Experience. This was the standout of that tasting and best represents the style that we love.

We discovered Tensley Santa Barbara County Wines during that Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria Valley Wine Experience while driving the Foxen Canyon wine trail. One of the producer's we visited recommended we check out Tensley Wines, which was near that estate we were visiting. 

We drove by the Tensley vineyards on Alisos Canyon Road, (shown left) which was closed, so we stopped in the Tensley tasting room in downtown Los Olivos.

I was not aware of this brand prior to this trip. It was a top discovery and revelation and may certainly be one of our go-to boutique labels going forward. We joined their wine club to obtain a supply of their labels from those tasted and going forward. 

Colson Canyon Vineyard | Santa Ynez Mountains

Since joining their wineclub, we have acquired a half dozen labels from this producer, but this single vineyard designated label remains our favorite. Sourced from Colson Canyon Vineyard, high up in the Santa Ynez Mountains north of Los Olivos, it has been providing exceptional Syrah fruit to Joey Tensley since 2000. It is this fruit that helped Tensley become the one of most sought after Syrah's on the coast with consistent high ratings, one vintage flirting with Robert Parker perfection at 99 points.

Tensley released his first vineyard-designate Syrah from Colson Canyon in 2001 and the wine press took notice. That year Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator named two of Tensley’s 2001 Syrah’s to his list of the Top Ten Wines in the World. Robert Parker, Jr. scored all the ‘01’s in the high 90’s, calling them “serious, hand-crafted efforts.”

By 2008, Food and Wine Magazine named the Colson Canyon Syrah “Top Syrah in America Over $20.” Two years later, Robert Parker gave the 2008 Anniversary Series Colson Canyon Syrah 99 points, and Wine Spectator Magazine named the 2008 Colson Canyon Syrah "#17 of its Top 100 Wines in the World". The 2007 Colson Canyon Syrah was ranked #22 the year before. Since then, the string of high scores has been consistent.

Tensley and his wife Jennifer, purchased the Colson Canyon property about five years ago, ensuring that they would always be able to tap the most distinctive site. 

Perched high up at an elevation of 1,400 feet, the combination of warm days and cool nights produces dense, fruit-forward wines with opulent jamminess. The site covers 115 acres but has only 16 acres of grapes because the elevation and rugged terrain make so much of the site untamable. Tensley believes that only three more acres have the potential to be planted.

Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara County Syrah 2020

Winemaker Notes: "Everything we farm in house is something very special to us. This site is one of the most unique and special places in the world of wine. High (1400 elevation) in the hills north of the Santa Maria Valley with some of the most iron-laced soils I have seen in Santa Barbara County.'

"This wine always delivers juicy round seamless edges. This is the only wine we add some new French oak, as its weight and power integrates with the oak, adding a bit of toasty buttery complexity. Colson Canyon is such a beautiful example of fruit forward juicy California Syrah. Open it anytime and enjoy its blueberry, cassis and chocolate nuances or leave it 20 years and enjoy its leathery, almondy notes. It does not really matter when you open it, it will deliver."

1925 cases were produced.

This was awarded 94-96 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 96 points by Wine Advocate, 95-97 points by Vinous, and 95 points by Wine Spectator.

Might I consider this the Tensley 'flagship'? This reminded me of a couple other memorable highly rated Syrahs that has been standouts - Kongsgaard Carneros Hudson Vineyard and Penfolds Grange. Both are flawless, seamless, and notable for their smooth, polished, balanced profile. While not to that level of perfection perhaps, this is close and evokes the same experience. This bottle was from the Wine Club allocation we received from that visit. We're anxiously awaiting our fall release shipment that we're told was shipped this week.

We love this full throttle jammy rich fruit forward style of the 2020 Colson Canyon Vineyard Syrah. Notably it has been recognized with four scores of 95 points or more.

We wrote about this wine in January and before that late last fall. Each time I gave it 94 Points.

Consistent with earlier notes - even better with BBQ ! Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, thick concentrated unctuous juicy black and blue fruits with layers of cassis and chocolate nuances with notes of oak, leather and tobacco on a tongue coating lingering finish.

Earlier, last fall I wrote: "Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, thick concentrated unctuous juicy black and blue fruits with layers of cassis and chocolate nuances with notes of oak, leather and tobacco on a tongue coating lingering finish." 

RM 94 Points


Monday, May 29, 2023

Domaines Ott Château de Selle Côtes de Provence Mourvedre Blend Rose' 2020

 Domaines Ott Château de Selle Côtes de Provence Cru Classe' Mourvedre Blend Rose' 2020

We discovered and experienced this wine as part to the Premium Wine Pairing at Three Michelin Star Alinea restaurant earlier in the year. The entire dinner and wine flight are featured in this blogpost - Magnificent Dinner at Alinea Kitchen Table. From that experience, son Ryan acquired this and brought to our Memorial Day afternoon cook-out dinner on the deck for casual summer sipping. 

The Ott family own and manage three estates in two appellations in the wine growing region of Provence that sits along the Mediterranean coast of France, bordered by the Rhone River to the west and the Cote d’Azur on the east. The three estates combined produce a somewhat miniscule 800,000 bottles each year. 

The family business is managed by cousins Christian and Jean-François Ott. In 2004, Domaines Ott joined Louis Roederer and its extensive selection of wine craftsmen.  Jean-François Ott and his team continues "the unique savoir-faire of four generations of artisan-vignerons in the complete respect of nature. Inspired by an unchanged mission since the creation of the Domaines by Marcel Ott in 1896, they have constantly pursued their unique and free vision of the expression of the terroirs of Provence." 

Founder Marcel Ott, a graduate in agricultural engineering from Alsace, toured France’s vineyards in search of the perfect estate. At the time, phylloxera had destroyed much of the region’s vineyards and nearly crippled the wine industry. Hence, land was inexpensive since many of the vineyards would need replanting. Undeterred, Ott found a site, Chateau de Selle in 1912. After acquiring the estate and completely renovating it, he reconstructed and replanted the vineyards. His passion and determination led to the acquisition of two more estates and the beginning of the Domaines Ott legacy.

Family Ott acquired Château Romassan in 1956. They then spent the next thirty years re-developing the property, gaining experience with the old Château Romassan to produce great wines typical of the Bandol AOC appellation. They entirely replanted the estate with noble grape varieties in small plots that were reorganized and leveled to create terraced vineyards. The superb 18th-century building overlooking the vineyard was also completely renovated. 

Château Romassan sits at the foot of the hilltop village Le Castellet, a few miles north of the City of and Bay of Bandol in the south of France. This estate is located in the west of the Var department, in the heart of the celebrated Bandol winemaking region. The Mediterranean climate and the poor limestone and sandstone soils produce deep savory wines.  

 We drove through the region and the area vineyards during our Rhone Wine Experience in 2019.

Mourvèdre is the region's and estate’s primary grape variety. Indigenous to the area, it is particularly suited to the arid climate and austere soil. Its calm temperament is revealed in the strength of its harmonies, its robust structure and its staying power both on the palate and in the cellar. Producer Otts rely on mourvèdre for the bulk of their rosé (this one includes 30 percent cinsault and 15 percent grenache). 

Domaines Ott Château de Selle Côtes de Provence Cru Classe Mourvedre Blend Rose' 2020

The 2020 Bandol Rose Château de Selle is mainly Mourvèdre (60%) with smaller proportions of Cinsault (20%), and Grenache (20%). Many vintages also contain small amounts of Syrah. The vines have an average age of 25 years across the 180 acres of the estate. The vines draw their personality from the vineyard’s unique and distinguished soil. Chalk, sandstone and marl underlain with gravel, this singular land with its sun-drenched and particularly dry micro-climate produces sophisticated and very powerful wines.

This is blended and bottled in the new Château de Selle cellar, where part of the winery is exclusively devoted to its production. The entire process is controlled from blending to through storage ensuring the highest achievable quality expected of these wines.

Winemaker Notes - "Its pale, ethereal pink color tinted with gold or orange, releases a bouquet of citrus fruits and white orchard flowers. On the palate, the immediate effect is lively and bright, revealing notes of pink grapefruit, fleshy fruit and, once the wine has had a chance to breathe, hints of fruit tart. The finish is complex and lasting.'

"This 2020 reveals a brilliant light peach hue and a lovely aromatic intensity. The nose is fresh and fruity with hints of peach and grapefruit. After aeration, aromas of white flesh fruits start to emerge and are set off by some fine spicy notes. The palate is complex and luscious, buoyed by flavours of citrus and wild peaches. A touch of acidity on the finish gives this big and refined wine a pleasant persistence."

The 2021 was awarded 96 points by Wine & Spirits. This 2020 was awarded 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Vinous and Wine Enthusiast.

Opaque pink and light copper colored, medium bodied, firm and structured, complex, bright crisp core of peach, mineral and citrus flavors with a backbone of notes of wet stone and smokey roasted nuts, turning to what Josh Reynolds of Vinous refers to as "a repeating mineral note and a late hint of tarragon", and what Robert Parker describes as "zesty-briny and stony on the finish" in their reviews of the '21. 

RM 92 points.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Pour Boys Winers & Diners 23 Cityscape Beef Tenderloin Wine Dinner


Pour Boys Winers & Diners 2023 Cityscape Beef Tenderloin Wine Dinner

Our 'Pour Boys' wine group gathered prior to the Indy 500 race weekend in Chicago and were hosted by Lyle and Terry for their customary 'Winers & Diners' CityScape beef tenderloin dinner. 

As usual, it was a wonderful evening of friends and fellowship that included an extraordinary dinner and wine experience with a broad extensive selection of fabulous wines featuring some new labels and old cellar favorites. The gathering pulled together an extraordinary, spectacular selection of fine wines for the tasting - two rated 100 points and five rated 95 points or higher. 

The group were joined by 'Champagne John' who brought his customary spectacular sparklers, a pair of ultra-premium vintage labels, and Steve, who brought his usual ultra-premium vintage Borgogne. 

This year we were joined by newcomer Pour Boy, Tom C, who joined the Pour Boys in their traditional wine-pouring duties at the UGCB 2020 Vintage Release Tour Chicago 2023 tasting in January. Tom and Lisa brought a trio of premium Borgogne Chardonnays.

Host and hostess Lyle and Terry prepared their usual extensive fabulous dinner with Lyle grilling scallops and beef tenderloins, accompanied with escalloped potatoes and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.


 The Hor'd Ovres and starter courses before dinner included a broad selection of shrimp cocktail, grilled scallops, an extensive selection of artisan cheeses, with fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts, deviled eggs and more. The soup course included Vichysoiss with fresh baked biscuits. 

The Champagne course included a pair of vintage Billecart-Salmon vintage Champagnes brought by John, the  Elisabeth Salmon Cuvée 2008 and Les Clos Saint-Hilaire 2006. Ernie added a Veuve Clicquot Gold label.

Billecart-Salmon Champagnes

The Champagne House of Billecart-Salmon dates back to 1818 when Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon were married, a family story from the beginning with Louis Salmon, brother of Elisabeth, a talented oenologist, overseeing the creation of the wines. Continuing the family tradition for seven generations, they remain faithful to the motto: "Give priority to quality, strive for excellence".

The champagnes of Maison Billecart-Salmon are created from the estate of 240 acres, and sourcing grapes from an area totaling 750 acres across 40 crus of the Champagne region.

The majority of the grapes used for vinification come from a radius of 20km around the village of Epernay along the Marne River at the bottom of the Champagne region. There the Grand Crus of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay flourish in the vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.

We toured the region and vineyards during our Champagne Wine Experience back in 2006

Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Elisabeth" Brut Rosé Champagne 2008

The 2008 Billecart-Salmon “Cuvée Elisabeth” is named for the founder matriarch. This Rosé Champagne is made mostly from Grand Cru vineyards, but it is the 1'er Cru that goes into it that makes it so special. 

The blend includes about 10 percent red wine that gives this rosé its color that comes from a small plot of 80-year-old Pinot Noir in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ called the Valofroy. This parcel, adjacent to the Clos des Goisses faces due south and directly down at the Marne. 

The production from this ancient site is the limiting factor for the production of this rare tête de cuvée. 

The wine is composed of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay to which is added the old vine Pinot red wine that makes up about 10% of the total that gives this wine its color.

The 2008 Billecart-Salmon "Cuvée Elisabeth" Brut Rosé was awarded 98 points by James Suckling and Decanter, 97 points by Wine Advocate and Vinous, 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, and 94 points by both Jeb Dunnuck and Wine Spectator. 

Wine Advocate says "the 2008 Brut Rosé Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon is one of the finest wines I've tasted from Billecart in recent years."

Dark orange copper colored, full-bodied, silky texture and complex, super dry intense layered flavours of cherry, strawberry and nectarine with notes of clove and cinnamon spice on the long, elegant harmonious finish.

RM 93 points.

Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire 2006

This is a unique classic single varietal Blanc de Noirs cuvée that bears the name of the Patron Saint of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. This source Clos (vineyard) is a mere two acres that meets strict standards: a single, unbroken and enclosed plot planted like a garden in the middle of the Billecart property in Mareuil. The vines are all old massals that were planted in 1964. 

Only one press load of this 100% Pinot Noir was made for a total production of 3,700 bottles, the wine is completely barrel fermented, and dosed at just 2 grams per liter. This is a profound wine that ages 13 years on the lees  rendering immense concentration and power.  

Although it was disgorged in November 2020, winemaster Mathieu Roland Billecart held on and delayed the release, ageing post disgorgement that he cites "is just as important as that before it and sometimes overlooked".

The 2006 Billecart-Salmon "Le Clos Saint-Hilaire" Brut Blanc de Noirs Champagne was awarded 98 points by Vinous, 95 points by Wine Advocate, and 93 points by Decanter.

Vinous writes, "The 2006 Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is fabulous. In this radiant year, the Clos Saint-Hilaire has a touch more mid-palate sweetness and generosity, but that’s a good thing, as it balances some of the more austere leanings that can make young vintages hard to appreciate upon release. Apricot, lemon confit, ginger, graphite, spice and crushed rocks are strands in a gorgeous, captivating tapestry that dazzles right out of the gate. The precision here is just mind-blowing. Billecart's 2006 Clos Saint-Hilaire is a very special Champagne."

Golden rust colored, full-bodied, powerful, layered and vinous,  complex, concentrated, muscular with aromas of pear and plum, dried red cherry fruits, hints of brioche and nuts and spices with racy acids on a long, finish. 

RM 93 points.

Dan brought a pair of dessert wines for the cheese and salad course, a Sauterne Premiere Grand Cru Classe, and a label Yellow Muscat he acquired and brought from Slovenia.

Château Rabaud-Promis Premiere Gran Cru Classe 2009 Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend

The Rabaud-Promis castle lies opposite Chateau d'Yquem on the hill Rabaud and dates back to the late eighteenth century. The estate vineyards dating back to the birth of Sauterne surround the house on the gentle slopes. 

Premier cru classified in 1855, Chateau Rabaud-Promis was bought in 1950 by Louis Raymond Lanneluc. Today, the property is family managed by Michele and Philippe Dejean and his son Thomas, representing the 9th generation of winemakers in Sauternes.

Winemaker Notes - Full and intense, this vintage envelops you in its aromas of honeyed yellow fruit, apricot jam, quince paste, exotic fruit with a hint of lemon balm.

This was rated 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 93points by Wine Spectator.

Dark golden colored full bodied, rich, thick and unctuous with intense bouquet and flavors of pear, zesty orange and peach and with spicy honey and roasted nut on a persistent long acidic finish. 

RM 92 points.

Rodica Truške, Istria, Slovenia Rumeni (Yellow) Muscat 2016 

Dr Dan acquired this wine traveling to the region and brought back to share with our wine group.

From the Producer - "The Rodica Family Organic Winery is located in the heart of Slovenian Istria, in the village of Truške near Marezige above Koper. The wine cellar lies on top of a hill overlooking the sea of the Gulf of Trieste and the unspoiled nature of the Dragonja River. The vineyards are spread on the southern slopes of the Istrian hills at an altitude of 250 to 350 m. We cultivate 60,000 vines on 15 hectares, planted mainly with indigenous varieties of Refosco, Malvasia, and Yellow Muscat, as well as others, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinot Gris'. 

"The lands on which we have planted our vines were abandoned and overgrown for the past 50 years. Planted in poor, shallow soil, the vines grow modestly. By showing great respect for nature, thus, we grow great-tasting, healthful grapes from which we produce healthful and strong wines that reflect the character of our wine-growing district."

From US Distributor Vinum - "In 1998, Marinko Rodica, a car mechanic by trade, decided to start a new chapter in his life and became a winemaker. 10 years later, in 2008 Rodica family winery had sixty thousand vines and was certified organic. The brand new environmentally friendly and energy efficient wine cellar was completed in 2012. None of this would be possible without Marinko’s vision and passion and the support of his entire family. Today, Rodica estate organically farms 15 hectars of vineyards, with most of them planted with Malvasia and Refošk.:

Classification: Sweet white wine 

Varietals: 100% Rumeni Muskat (yellow muscat) 

Appellation: Truške, Istria, Slovenia 

Annual Production: 5,000 bottles 

Climate: Mild Mediterranean, with dry and hot summers, and mild winters. 

Terrain: The picturesque hills near Marezige and Truške are located 5 km from the Adriatic sea, more specifically the Gulf of Trieste. Rodica family vineyards are planted at 250-350 meters asl, terraced, facing South. They enjoy significant day-night temperature swings, constant breezes, which keeps the vineyards well-ventilated and naturally healthy for organic farming. The soil is rich with minerals, consisting predominantly of limestone. The vines are forced to “fight” to get water, which results in better quality grapes. 

Vinification: After de-stemming the grapes are macerated with the pulp and skins for just a few hours and spontaneous fermentation begins. The wine is then transferred into stainless steel tanks where it continues controlled fermentation process. Matured for 6 months in 2,500-liter acacia barrels and bottled unfiltered.

Tasting Notes: From Merchant MrDWine - "Our favorite Slovenian sweet wine, period! This wine combines the typical floral, honeyed lemon peel aromatics of yellow muscat with gorgeous acidity and earthiness. It offers so much more than a regular sweet wine. Beautiful pine notes on the nose, light freshness and mineral texture on the palate. Enjoy chilled with not-so-sweet desserts, or just by itself."

Note - This label was not listed among the nearly 5 million labels in Cellartracker. I added it to the collection. Its hard and rare to find a label not already listed in their massive database.

For the transition from sweet wines and Champagne to the whites, Ernie brought this 2017 d'Yquem "Y" Bordeaux Blanc. 

 d'Yquem "Y" Bordeaux Blanc 2017  

This is an exotic dry white wine that could be considered the 'second wine' of famed ultra-premium producer Château d'Yquem.

This is a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Sémillon. 80% of the blend was aged in used Yquem barrels with 20% new oak.

This release was rated 98 points by James Suckling, 95 by points Wine Spectator, 94 by points Decanter, 92 points by Vinous, and 17.5 of 20 by Jancis Robinson, the same she gave to the grand vin.

Light silver straw colored, full bodied, crisp, seductive, exotic dry white with dense rich notes of tropical fruits - peach, mango, pineapple, yellow apple and lemon peel, with fine acidity on the smooth balanced finish. 

RM 93 points.


With the salads and soup course we enjoyed this trio of  Michel Colin-Deleger  Chassagne-Montrachet Burgundies brought by Tom and Lisa.

Michel Colin-Deléger et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru En Remilly 2015

From the original domaine located in Chassagne-Montrachet, founded in 1950, Domaine Michel Colin-Deléger was created in 1987 by Michel Colin-Deléger, the nephew of the great Georges Deléger. 

Michel Colin inherited part of the Chevenottes vineyard, combining it with holdings from the Colin family’s domaine. The 2015 vintage was Michel's last, as he finally retired after a stellar career in which he vinified some of the most esteemed climats of the Côte de Beaune.

Michel semi-retired in 2003, passing on his vineyard holdings to sons Philippe and Bruno Colin. Until his full retirement twelve years later in 2015, he continued to farm three small parcels, producing just a handful of barrels per year: Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru En Remilly, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Demoiselles, and Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru

Though the quantities were small, the mature master vigneron produced Chardonnay’s that represented the domaine's greatest terroirs. All three vineyards are within a stone’s throw of one another, with En Remilly just around the corner on the south side of Chevalier-Montrachet and Puligny Les Demoiselles on the northern edge of Le Montrachet. 

Michel Colin-Deléger continues to works with his sons, Philippe and Bruno to produce a notable portfolio of premium white wines.

Colin-Deleger owns nearly 50 acres of vineyards in the vicinity of Chassagne-Montrachet. These include the well-known Le Demoiselle, Puligny Premiers Crus La Tryufer, battery-Montrachet and Chevalier-Montrachet, from a crop from which the farm produce great wines with a fruity aroma and complex, full-bodied taste.

Currently Michel Colin is almost retired, handing the business over to the sons, but continues to control a limited edition wines of the most valuable vineyards - Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premiers Crus An Remiyi and Puligny-Montrachet Premiers Crus Les Demoiselle .  

Distributor notes -  Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru En Remilly has a brilliant yellow-gold visual aspect. Its nose is expressive, exhaling floral aromas with light buttery notes. There is beautiful substance on the palate, with a light richness and fairly marked acidity.

Pale straw coloredm medium bodied, concentrated, almost rich flavors of delicate peach, pear and a touch of lemon, white stone fruits with hint of sweetness.

RM 91

The interim pivot to the 'big reds' was filled by Steve's classic Vosne-Romanée Burgundy.

Domaine François Gerbet Vosne-Romanée 2014

Of course, the commune in the Côte-d'Or department in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté produces the region's, perhaps the world's most celebrated wines, all made entirely from the Pinot Noir grape.

While the appellation is known for the dynastic monopoly of four of the six grandest of grand crus, the village has at least forty growers that also comprise and share its vineyards. The wines produced from the vineyards are diverse but generally considered to be rich, silky and well balanced, with a complexity which surpasses many of the other wines of Burgundy. 

Wines from the famous village include several renowned premier cru level producers, aside the villages sensational and legendary six grand crus: Romanée-Conti, La Romanée, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant and La Grande Rue. 

While the Premiers Crus do not command the same prices as their grand cru neighbours, the village is home to many outstanding premier cru wines. Besides the legendary plots, the top vineyards include Les Gaudichots, Les Malconsorts, Les Suchots, Cros Parantoux, Les Chaumes, and Clos des Réas.  

A stand-alone Pinot Noir, this was one of the standouts of the evening with bright vibrant, elegant and harmonious fruits, although Steven had to pinch himself as he couldn't believe I was saying so!

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, aromas and flavors fresh bright vibrant strawberry, cherry and slighter subdued fruits of blackberry, accented by notes of spice and hints of tobacco and leather finishing with elegant smooth polished fine tannins.

RM 94 points.

We then moved to the entree course of beef tenderloin and the Bordeaux varietal reds. 

We invariably spend time at the beginning of each evening, setting up the tasting, sampling the wines so as to serve them properly in order, from lighter to heavier or bolder. The placement occurs and then is fine tuned throughout the evening as the wines open up and reveal their character and profiles. 

It was through this tuning that the St Estephe revealed itself and moved up front of the other Bordeaux, showing itself to be especially approachable and elegantly polished. 

Château Cos d' Estournel St. Estephe Bordeaux 2009

I started to write that this stand-out wine emerged as one of the stars of the evening, but then when I researched its rating and ranking, I realized that it was wholly noted and recognized to be deserving of such. Leave it to John to produce a (not-so) hidden gem of the evening. 

The ever modest John noted that this vintage release showed as well as the legendary 2005 vintage, and he was right on.  

Ernie and I reminisced about the impressive majestic and commanding Château with its gates overlooking the bages (right) as one turns the corner on the road climbing the hill into Saint Estephe from Pauillac. 

We were both visiting the region during the time that Château Lynch Bages was under construction, and we were directed to visit the Château de Pez estate immediately opposite Cos d'Estournel. In fact, Ernie ended staying there at the Château during his visit. 

The 2009 Cos d'Estournel, St-Estèphe was ranked 100 points by Jeb Dunnuck and Wine Advocate. It also received 98 points by James Suckling, and 97 points by Wine Spectator. 

This is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc.

Dark deep inky garnet colored, full-bodied, while massive on the palate, it's elegance and flawless polish and balanced presented a remarkably approachable pleasurable drinking wine, plum, red currant and blackberry fruits with classic Saint-Estèphe notes of dried tobacco, creosote, earthy spices, and licorice with subtle graphite on silky smooth plush tannins and fantastic freshness, finishing very long and very spicy.

Clearly this was the best, and most memorable Cos I have ever tasted from the dozen or so vintages that I have had. I'll relish my collection with more reverence, and attention, going forward.

RM 96 points.

Ernie telegraphed he was bringing an 'older' Lynch Bages (1993), so I pulled from the cellar an aged vintage from the spectacular 1990 vintage to compare. Lyle rounded out the mini-vertical with a recent release. 

Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac Bodeaux, 1990, 1993, and 2018

As mentioned, Ernie and I jousted with our reminiscences of visiting the Château and estate vineyards on the outskirts of the commune of Pauillac during about the same time.

We've both served Lynch Bages at the UGCB event and hold a vertical collection of the label spanning (more than) three decades. Indeed, I am hold a large double magnum of the label from the early nineties of
which we need to find a suitable occasion at which to serve.

1990 Lynch-Bages Pauillac 

I violated one of my normal tenants and brought from our collection a birth-year vintage wine from son Alec's birthyear collection, holding for a family event.

I found this wine probably at its apex, the height of its drinking window, and likely to start to diminish from age from this point forward.  It was ideal to pair and compare with the other vintage (s). As one of the oldest vintages, I triple decanted this, allowing it to open, and it showed remarkably well from the outset.

From a spectacular vintage, this is another spectacular showing wine, this was awarded a near perfect 99 points by Wine Advocate. It also was awarded 96 points by Vinous, 94 points by Wine Spectator, and 93 points by Int'l Wine Cellar. I should also note that Jancis Robinson gave it 18.5 points on her 20 point scale. I should then note that I personally find her twenty point scale more logical, rationale and easier to manage, but the pack has taken commanded and the industry has subscribed to the 100 point model.  

Robert Parker wrote, "This magnificent Lynch Bages has been drinking well since the day it was released and it continues to go from strength to strength. The biggest, richest, fullest-bodied Lynch Bages until the 2000, the fully mature 1990 exhibits an unbelievably explosive nose of black currants, cedarwood, herbs and spice. The majestic, classically Bordeaux aromatics are followed by a full-bodied, voluptuously textured, rich, intense wine with superb purity as well as thrilling levels of fruit, glycerin and sweetness."

On the same vintage Vinous writes, "The 1990 Lynch-Bages remains the towering Pauillac it has always been, even if Jean-Michel Cazes personally prefers the 1989. It has a riveting, graphite-infused bouquet that is brilliantly defined, very focused and sharp as a razor-blade. Poured directly against the 1990 Lafite-Rothschild, this Fifth Growth beats it hands down. ...  this is an aristocratic Lynch-Bages with impressive grip after 28 years (in 2019)."

Note the price I paid on release of this wine back in early nineties. 

Dark blackish garnet colored, full bodied, blackberry and black currant fruits with notes of tar, herbs, spice, black tea, leather and hints of cedar, turning to silky tannins on a long, long finish. Probably a bit past its prime but still showing well.

RM 92 points. 

Its a bit remarkable that this label has a 'three digit' number out of the millions of labels now registered with Cellartracker in their vast database.

1993 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac

This release was awarded 91 points by Wine Advocate and  90 points by Int'l Wine Cellar.

Classic Pauillac Lynch Bages profile, dark inky garnet colored, medium full bodied, blackberry and black plum briary fruits with earthy leather and smoky, cigar box, spice, cedar, anise and black tea notes on a moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 90 points. 


Dan brought a Chateau Pichon (Longueville Comtesse) Lalande, so Lyle pulled from his cellar a vintage release to compare.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010 & 2014

Two more spectacular wines. These were both markedly tight and somewhat closed, perhaps, and likely in that awkward interim period of aging, needing a couple more years to open and reveal their native character and profile. Great to try and interesting tasting of one of my favorite labels and a typically classic long lived Bordeaux wine.  

This is one of my absolute favorite labels. Touring the grounds of the Château estate and vineyards was one of the highlights of our trip to the appellation in 2019. (below) 

Château Pichon Lalande 2010 

Another blockbuster wine with giant ratings, the 2010 Pichon-Lalande was also awarded 100 points by Decanter, 98 points by Vinous, 96 points and "Cellar Selection" (one for long term aging) by Wine Enthusiast, and 95 points by Wine Spectator. This is why we do tastings and make note of how they are aging at various stages of their life! 

One Cellartracker wrote in spring of 2013, "Too young to drink now, need years of further cellaring to show its deep potential." He gave it 96 points!

Decanter wrote, "For me this is getting better as it ages, starting to rival the 1982 at Comtesse, and I can't wait to keep tasting it over the decades to come. Last time I rated this wine, in 2016, I gave it 98 points, and I questioned whether to keep it there, which is already an exceptional score, but I want to mark just how clearly it stood out in this horizontal. (1/2020)

Vinous called it "An eternal wine, a total showstopper. The first impression is one of explosive power, but time in the glass brings out the wine’s more delicate, floral side. Violet, graphite, crème de cassis, licorice and menthol overtones recall the 1996.

Wine Enthusiast writes that "a stronger presence of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend than in the past, making it more structured than its predecessors, with a dominance of black currant flavor"

Classic Pichon Lalande tasting profile, dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm, tight and a bit closed surpressing that complex concentrated yet elegant and polished black fruit with notes of black tea, cassis, graphite and tobacco leaf with hints of truffle and anise on a firm lingering structured tannin finish. 

RM 94 points.

Chateau Pichon Lalande 2014

Ditto the comments on the 2010 above, very similar state, the   2014 Pichon-Lalande got monster ratings, awarded 97 points by Vinous, 95 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 94 points and Cellar Selection by Wine Enthusiast, 94 points, Wine Spectator, and 93 points by James Suckling and Wine Advocate.  

Vinous says "the 2014 Pichon Comtesse might very well be the wine of the vintage on the Left Bank."

Dunnuck wrote: "deeply colored (especially in the vintage) and delivers a heavenly bouquet of crème de cassis, ripe plums, graphite, cedar pencil, roasted coffee, and tons of building minerality and liquid rock-like nuances. Incredibly pure, textured, full-bodied, and with a seamless integration of its fruit, tannin, and acidity, it’s already approachable but will keep for two to three decades."

Wine Enthusiast wrote, "It looks likely the wine will develop slowly, so don't drink before 2025."

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, classic Pauillac black fruits with Crème de cassis, licorice, lavender, licorice and sweet spices with notes of cedar and graphite turning to velvety-textured tannins on a long and flavorful finish.

RM 94 points. 


Bill projected he was going to bring a Robert Craig Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon, one of our favorites. Having just opened this label for my birthday dinner, the 2002, I was anxious to try another vintage, so I pulled from our cellar an aged vintage release to share and compare.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 & 2013

Bill and I have enjoyed a dozen vintages of this label over the years and still hold as many in our cellars. We've visited the Robert Craig estate up on Howell Mountain on numerous occasions including the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Harvest Party 2009  (with Robert, right).

I couldn't resist but to bring this aged vintage inaugural release of this legendary Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It was the 1994 release that Wine Spectator recognized in an article back then citing the vintage and noting Robert Craig as an up and coming producer to watch!. We were hooked and started collecting his wines and notably hold every vintage since of at least one of his labels. And, its time to drink them, so, tonight was an ideal occasion to open this classic label with folks that would appreciate it.

1994 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon  

Like the aged vintage Lynch Bages above, I also triple decanted this bottle as well. 

While showing its age and some diminution of the fruit and slight brickish coloring,  it was still in its drinking window and a notable pairing and comparison with the same label, and similarly aged vintage releases of the evening. This is what these broad tastings are all about, sharing and comparing such labels and releases!

This release got 90 points from both Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, both reviewed upon release back in 1997.  

Dark blackish purple garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex and concentrated Howell Mountain profile of black currant fruits with hints of classic clove and cinnamon spices, notes of anise, leather and lead pencil and a bit of cedar on a lingering tannin finish. 

RM 90 points.  

 2013 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 

Winemaker notes ; "2013 was the perfect example of the stark differences between mountain and valley vineyards in Napa. While valley floor yields were up 15-20% overall, Howell Mountain was down 5%*. Why such a difference? The valley saw mild weather during flower and fruit set, while the mountain had cool, very windy conditions. The result was small, loose clusters with tremendous structure, concentration and acid backbone."

Winemaker notes - While 2012 was a classic vintage for Howell Cabernet, 2013 raised the bar. Fruit complexity is off the charts, with stunning acid and tannin backbone. This wine, having spent two years in barrel and an additional year in bottle is showing lovely, lush fruit in its youth, with classic Howell bramble-berry fruit character framed by coffee, mineral and deep, dark, mountain violet tones. Patience, however, will prove to be a virtue: this wine will only get better with age. Cellar now for future rewards. 

"The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mt has an inky purple color that is certainly as saturated as any in the impressive Robert Craig lineup. This is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot with similar elevage as the other wines. Beautifully sweet tannin, whole berry, blackberry and graphite notes are present in this full-bodied, opulent, delicious Howell Mt Cabernet Sauvingon. The color is an opaque purple, the wine expansive, savory and impressive. Drink it over the next 20 years."
Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, 12/30/15

RM 92 points. 



Diamond Creek Napa Valley Red Rock Terrace Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 

Bill brought another spectacular label from a legendary producer. We Pour Boys have visited the Diamond Creek estate on Diamond Mountain on numerous occasions including when our group, Dan, Bill and we attended the vintage release tour there in 2015 (shown left and below). These are chronicled in these blog postings: 

Diamond Mountain Wine Experience - Diamond Creek Vineyards

 Diamond Creek Open House 2015 Release Tasting

As above, we just recently opened a family birth year vintage of this same label from this same producer for a family birthday celebration recently, so I was eager to try this release as a comparison

Al and Boots Brounstein founded Diamond Creek Vineyards in 1968. Al Brounstein was one of the first to produce Bordeaux varietals in the Napa Valley Mountains back in the 1970's. He was so captivated by the terroir of his Diamond Mountain property, from the beginning he bottled each vineyard separately as its own designated label. He was one of the first to do so, to recognize and memorialize each vineyard thusly.

The three vineyards Brounstein planted have produced some of the most long-lived, elegant wines from the state of California, wines that make the case "that Diamond Creek is the finest producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in America," according to wine writer Pierre DuMont. 

This is from a seven-acre section of the vineyard estate, Red Rock Terrace is a warm micro-climate on the lower reaches of the mountain, below the fog line and protected from the winds that sweep up from the San Pablo Bay, or in from the Pacific. It is seven acres of iron-rich, north-facing vineyard on Diamond Mountain. 

This vintage label release was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator, 93 points by Wine Enthusiast. and 92 points by Vinous.

Winemaker Notes: Our winemaker describes Red Rock Terrace as "having velvety tannins, rich and well balanced, medium dark ruby color with cherry, mint and black currant flavors."

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, pure, bright expressive black and red currant fruits with notes of earth, black licorice, anise and hints of cedar turning to silky smooth polished tannins on the moderate finish. 

RM 92 points.

Pivoting between the Bordeaux varietals and the desserts, Bill was generous to bring a bottle of this select, full bore Aussie Shiraz wine from his cellar.

Chateau Tanunda 100 Year Old Vines Shiraz 2008

We, the Pour Boys, discovered this wine at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Chicago when it was being poured by Chateau Tanunda's colorful principle, Dagmar O'Neill

Only 100 cases were produced. We manipulated/orchestrated a purchase of eight three packs in OWC's (original wood cases), which was the entire allocation shipped to mid-America, which we split amongst the wine team, pictured in this blogspot feature.

Taking stock around the table, this was Bill's last bottle of that acquisition, Dan's is gone, and Ernie and I still hold one bottle each in our cellars.

Bill's notes from a tasting back in 2014 - "Still the best Shiraz I have tasted and there is a great deal of separation from number 2. Layered and complex with spice, granite, minerals on the palate with a touch of softness not usually expected in a Shiraz. Drinking beautifully now but will last for years."

And then again in 2018, "Almost 4 years exactly since I last tried this and still spectacular with plenty of life still left. Deep, opaque, indigo color. Berry and a bit of smoke on the nose. If anything, some of the roughness of the spice has diminished ( but not by much), to be augmented by sweet, blackberry and raspberry fruit. Spectacular!"

WCC 96 points. 

Tonight, while this was a bit more subdued at fifteen years of age, its still a huge thick chewy Shiraz. I can only think of a few that have been this dense and each of them are memorable tastings. It begs for a thick juicy steak or tangy barbecue. 

Full bodied, complex, concentrated, full lingering tannins predominate the dense, black and blue berry fruits with hints of liquorice, plum and spice and spicy oak.

RM 92 points.


Terry and Lyle served up their traditional medley of desserts including Terry's decadent Orange Cake, and Chocolate Profiteroles with fresh berries and whipped cream. 

Ernie pulled out his signature ultra-premium Château d'Yquem Sauterne from his extensive broad vertical collection of the label that spans several decades.

To accompany the wine he brought a selection of carefully selection artisan cheeses, drizzles and roasted nuts, to showcase the wine. These were superb in a terrific pairing. 

Château d'Yquem Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend Sauterne 2007

A special treat, as usual, this wine was exquisite, a spectacular pairing iwth the dessert and specially selected cheeses. This is 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, carefully selected from the most ardent and rigorous viticulture and harvesting. 

When picking, they may pass through the vineyards more than two dozen times, in the middle of the night, when cool, to carefully hand select grape by grape, only those at perfect ripeness and brix (sweetness) levels to add to the blend.

This release was awarded 98 points by Wine Advocate. 96 points by Wine Spectator, and 17.5 of 20 by Jancis Robinson.

Distributor notes: "Exquisite. Presents a lovely amber colour, reminiscent of a golden sunset. The nose is an intoxicating blend of honey and apricots, a bouquet that is mirrored in its taste. Additional layers of complexity are revealed through notes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice, adding depth to the honeyed apricot core. The wine is beautifully balanced, with a vibrant acidity that cuts through the sweetness, leading to a long, luscious finish. It's a wine that truly engages all the senses, leaving a lasting impression. Drinking very well already."

Deep orange golden colored, medium to full bodied, complex, rich unctuous and elegantly smooth with notes of dried pineapple, candied honey mango and apricot, hints of grapefruit and lemon on a tongue coating finish. 

RM 96 points. 


As a closer with the chocolates and cheeses, I had this aged Vintage Port open at home from the other evening and brought it to share.

Guenoc & Langtry Estate Vineyards and Winery, Guenoc Valley Estate Vintage Port 2000

I served a bottle of Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon at our Pour Boys OTBN tasting dinner back in 2014. 

This is from the Lily Langtree Estate, the hollywood silent screen actress from early last century. That's her period photo that adorns the label. 

The Guenoc Estate Winery & Vineyards are in Lake County, over the hill and on the back of Napa Valley Howell Mountain to the north and east.

We visited the estate back in the early nineties and acquired some Cabernets, one of which I served from a large format bottle at a special event a decade later, exceeding my expectations.

Lillie Langtry, was a famous actress and socialite during the 19th century. She was born on the British Island of Jersey in 1853 and was the only daughter of seven children of the Dean of Jersey. Although she never received a formal education, Lillie went on to have a successful acting career. She starred in many plays in England and the United States. 

In 1888, Lillie purchased 4,200 acres of land in California that would become Langtry Farms where she raised horses and founded the Langtry Farms Winery that is still in operation to this day. She set out to craft the world’s finest claret from the grapes grown at the highest elevation of her farm. During that time, she resided at the Langtry House which is still operating today, available for private events.

According to the rear label, this is from the Guenoc Valley Serpentine Meadow Reserve Estate Vineyard. 

They still offer this label on their website dating back to the 1994 vintage. The 1994 Guenoc Valley Port is made from Petite Sirah with a touch of Petit Verdot added to "lend elegance and subtle tones of blueberry and spice." The 1999 Guenoc Valley Serpentine Meadow Petite Sirah Port is crafted from Petite Sirah grapes.

I was intrigued when I saw this bottle on auction back then and acquired it. It has been sitting in our cellar for more than a decade and I opened it last week on a whim. Once again, it exceeded my expectations and was worthy of pairing with our desserts this evening. 

Wine Enthusiast rated this 94 points. 

I posted a tasting note about this label back in 2011, probably shortly after acquiring a couple bottles.  My note from then: "Great paired with cheese cake, fresh strawberry and chocolate fondue dessert. Full bodied - black and deep purple color - taste of brandy, black berry, black raspberry, deep blueberry, dark chocolate, cassis and black cherry, sweetness a nice complement to the dessert - would be great with a stilton cheese."

RM 89 points.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Birthday Surf & Turf Dinner with favorite Howell Mtn Cabernet

Birthday Surf & Turf Dinner with favorite Howell Mtn Cabernet

For my birthday dinner, we grilled out surf & turf New York Strip steak with lobster tail, served with grilled asparagus and baked potato. To pair with the steak I pulled from the cellar one of my favorite Napa Cabernets from Howell Mtn. 

I pulled from the home cellar this Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet. This was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled steak beef and the lobster tail. 

Robert Craig Cabernet is featured often in these pages as it is the largest or one of the largest producer holdings in our cellar collection. 

Of the five or six different Cabernet labels offered by Robert Craig, his Howell Mountain is my perennial favorite. Indeed, if I had to choose my favorite appellation of the seventeen found in Napa Valley, it would be Howell Mountain.

We have visited Robert Craig's estate winery and vineyards high atop Howell Mountain several times over the years, for a private tasting, release parties and tasting tours. One of our memorable trips featured a picnic lunch at the site overlooking the valley below. 

We hosted Robert and Lynn at a wine producer dinner at the CIA back in 1998 and met them for one here in Chicago years later.

Sadly, Robert passed a couple years ago and I offered a Robert Craig Tribute in this blogpost.

We've focused on and visited Howell Mountain producers on several of our Napa Valley trips including most notably, Arns, Dunn Vineyards, Clark Claudon, Viader, Ladera, Lamborn and of course Robert Craig. 

Our holdings of these labels from Howell Mountain may be the most represented appellation of the more than 1000 Napa Cabs in our cellar. Indeed, our cellar collection includes seventy-five bottles of fifty different labels that also include LaJota, Lakoya, OShaunessey, Outpost and Pilcrow. This includes a dozen vintages of Robert Craig and sixteen vintages of Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain.

Other notable Howell Mountain producers we hold are Outpost, Cakebread, Duckhorn, Cade and Robert Foley, but there are many more emerging as the number of producers and labels continues to increase. 
In my opinion, Howell Mountain wines have one of the more distinct and distinguishable terroir based profiles in Napa Valley. The characteristics of Howell Mountain wines are my favorites, big bold fruits driven with highlight tones of mocha, clove and cinnamon spices. I still remember my first Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet from back in 1990 with its distinctive cinnamon spice accents.
Robert Craig vineyard high atop Howell Mountain

Howell Mountain is located in the northeast corner of Napa Valley at the north end of the Vaca mountain range that forms the eastern boundary wall of the valley. The elevation of its vineyards ranged between 1,400 and 2,200 feet above sea level. This is interesting and notable since the elevation means that the vines are located above the fog line which rolls in from the south San Pablo Bay and the valley floor. 

That fog line reaching up to 1200 feet in elevation is the demarcation point between the Napa Valley and the Howell Mountain appellations, since it's impact results in different sub-climate growing conditions, thereby resulting in the distinctive terroir of the two areas. Being above the fog lines results in more sunlight, cooler days and warmer nights.

The Howell Mountain A.V.A. (American Viticultural Area, as designated by the US Dept. of Treasury Alcohol And Tobacco Bureau) was the first sub appellation of Napa when it was designated back in 1983. The area is notable for its two soil types: volcanic ash, also known as “Tuff’, and a dry red clay, both of which are nutrient deficient.  Combine that with the steep hillsides and rocky and porous terrain and you have an environment that places high stress on its vines, resulting in rich concentrated fruit. Stressing the vines produces smaller harvests and smaller berries, but the fruit that is produced is more concentrated, intense and complex, perfect for making superior wines. 

Robert Craig Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

This Robert Craig Cabernet from the Howell Mountain appellation vineyards showed all those classic characteristics that showcase the terroir of the appellation.

At twenty-one, this bottle is drinking wonderfully right now but may be a bit past its peak as it is showing slight signs of diminution as the fruits are just starting to fade. 

The fill level, label, foil and importantly the cork, were all in ideal condition, aside the label being slightly soiled.

Tonight's tasting was consistent with earlier tasting notes of this label dating back to September, 2009, and August, 2010.

Dark inky garnet colored, medium full bodied, concentrated complex core of black raspberry and black currant fruits accented by a layer of sweet mocha chocolate turning to tones of clove and hints of vanilla and spicy oak, turning to smooth fine tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 93 points. 


Son Ryan and kids joined us for our cook-out dinner and he brought from his cellar these two favorite producer premium labels that he had opened at home earlier. 

Long Shadows Saggi Columbia Valley Red Blend - Sanviovese, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

We're members of the Long Shadows wine club and hence get regular Vault Key Club release allocation shipments of their top labels of which we share our case lot with son's Ryan and Alec and fellow Pour Boy Dr Dan. We've written in these pages about the Vintners Collection wherein Long Shadows collaborates with world class winemakers to craft varietal compositions from Washington State fruit

This label is inspired by the great wines of Tuscany and father-son winemaking team Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, winemaker Gilles Nicault crafts Saggi in the style of its original winemakers.

The 2018 Saggi is a Columbia Valley Blend: 58% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Syrah. The Sangiovese is sourced from two distinct Washington State Sangiovese vineyards, both planted in 1998. Both sites with have terrior of well-draining soils, important to managing Sangiovese’s vine vigor and controlling berry size. Candy Mountain Vineyard Sangiovese is a warm vineyard that delivers grapes with ripe, black currant aromas and flavors. Boushey Vineyard Sangiovese, grown in the Yakima Valley, is a cooler site that brings brightness and balanced acidity to the blend. 

The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, included to add a silky texture to the wine. The Syrah adds a darker hue and another layer of complexity.

Winemakers' tasting notes: "Easily one of our favorite Saggi bottlings to date, this wine showcases the quality of our vineyard sites and the warmth of the growing season. A brilliant garnet-red, the 2018 Saggi is elaborately fragrant, brimming with red cherries, ripe strawberries and notes of nutmeg. Vibrant and
well-integrated with balanced natural acidity, this is a textured wine with great richness and flavors that linger across a generous finish. Drinking beautifully now, the wine’s concentration and structure also make it an excellent candidate for the cellar."

This is becoming a go-to wine for us for Sangiovese complemented Italian cuisine, but bigger and bolder than your typical Sangiovese Brunello di Montalcino. Son Alec, who also shares in our club allocation cites this as one of his favorite wines.

As usual this is a stand out with its big bold style, bright garnet-red colored, full bodied, nicely balanced and well integrated vibrant forward fruits of raspberry, red cherries and ripe strawberries with fragrant floral and notes of nutmeg and clove spices. 

RM 93 points. 

Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This is one of our favorite producers and labels of which we hold a decade of releases in our cellar. We have visited the state and done tastings there on numerous occasions. Ryan is member of their wine club and regularly gets this along with their other premium and single vineyard designated labels as part of his regular allocation shipment. 

Winemaker Notes - Inky purple with blood-red tinged edges, the elegant and seamless 2013 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon's multilayered perfume fills the glass with notes of violets, lavender, and spring flowers. Intertwined with the floral notes are heady layers of plum, blackberry, and red currents. Silky, unctuous flavors of smoked cardamom, cinnamon, and black licorice lay out on the palate and finish with the taste and texture of liquefied rocks. 

The fruit for this release was sourced from the hillside terraces of the legendary Cliff Lede Poetry Vineyard, as well as Lede's Twin Peaks Vineyard estate surrounding the winery, and a few neighboring vineyards in the Stags Leap District. The wine is composed of small lots from the best blocks, representing a diverse range of carefully selected clones and rootstocks. From Poetry’s exposed, rocky terraces that are volcanic in origin, to the ancient riverbed alluvial soils of Twin Peaks, the breadth of contributing sites translates into a wine of impressive complexity.

According to, this is a blend of Bordeaux variteals: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot 

This release was awarded 94 points by Wilfred Wong of, 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate,

Robert Parkers said the 2013 Cliff Lede Cabernet appears to be one of the vintage's top wines. 
Dark dense ruby/purple color, medium full bodied, floral notes highlight blackberry and black rapsberry fruits with notes of crème de cassis, cinnamon spice and hints of graphite and forest floor on a long silky tannin laced finish.
RM 92 points.