Saturday, July 29, 2023

Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir

Calera Mount Harlan Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir with Cheese, Berries and Chocolates

Following our selection of Pinot Noirs tasted over the last week and a half, we continued the hit parade with another Pinot from another favorite producer and label from our cellar collection.

As featured in these pages, we had the Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir at the Beach Walk Café, Henderson Park Inn, in Destin FL, then the Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir at Firefly Grill Effingham, IL, then the Belle Glos RRV Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir upon our return home. 

So, tonight I was eager to try another Pinot from our cellar collection to continue the comparison tastings of select Pinot Noirs. As I wrote in the earlier posts, in the midst of summer, its was a nice departure from the big bold hearty Syrah's/Shiraz's we enjoy, and the robust Bordeaux varietals to the finer, more refined, less bold and burdensome Pinot Noirs. Each of these tastings were delightful and frankly, exceeded our expectations for a ideal accompaniment to our various entrees. 

 For casual sipping and pairing with food, we started with a cheese plate with assorted crackers, fresh berries, honey and chocolate. 

Linda then prepared an imaginative cheese bread baked with fresh berry compote and fresh blueberries. The combination with the paired Pinot Noir was spectacular for an extraordinary, fabulous food and wine tasting experience.

I write often in the pages about the importance of pairing the food and wine, and how it can often multiply the enjoyment of both when done properly. 

Calera Mt. Harlan Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013

With a single designated Vineyard bearing the name of our eldest son, we typically reserve this wine for a family gathering or tasting when he is with us. But, tonight's tasting was special considering the odyssey we've been on the last two weeks, with the multitude of wine and food pairings. And this is a special signature wine we collect in light it being our son's namesake vineyard.

I love telling the story about the discovery of this producer and wine. 

As featured in earlier posts in these pages:

The Calera story was chronicled in the book, "The Heart Break Grape" back in the early nineties, about the challenges and turmoils of growing the finicky grape varietal Pinot Noir. Producer Josh Jensen pioneered growing Pinot in the 'new world' starting with his search of the perfect place to grow his grapes. During college he took time off to work in the cellars in the great domaines of Burgundy and then came back to his home state California to apply what he had learned. At the time, prevailing view was that Pinot Noir could not be grown successfully in California. He set out to prove that notion wrong.

He started with the search for the perfect place starting with limestone soil, and other elements of terroir to produce wines in the style of the greatest Pinots, the Burgundy wines of France. Josh Jensen's winemaker mentors in Burgundy emphasized the importance of limestone-rich soils, as present in the Côtes d’Or, to make great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay based wines. 

He returned from France in 1971 and spent two years searching throughout California to find suitable limestone soils. He settled on the site of an old magnificently preserved 30 foot tall masonry limekiln in the Gavilan Mountains of Central California, purchasing the site in 1974, a high-elevation parcel with a limestone deposit of several million tons. Limestone had been commercially quarried there on the Jensen Mt. Harlan property a hundred years earlier. 

To this day, the kiln on the site is the centerpiece of Calera branding, featured prominently on the lables, the name “Calera” being the Spanish world for “limekiln,”

Mt Harlan is near the town of Hollister, about ninety miles south of San Fransisco, twenty five miles inland from Monterey Bay on the Pacific Coast. Mt Harlan gained the distinction of its own AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 1990, in response to the petition to the Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau by Josh Jensen and the Calera Wine Company, the only commercial winery in the appellation. The appellation, the legally defined and protected geographical boundaries, also stipulates what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors that apply before the appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The Mt Harlan AVA is 7700 acres of which just 100 are planted in vines.

Josh planted his first 24 acres of pinot noir in 1975 in three separate parcels. In the Burgundian tradition, he named each parcel individually to recognize the terroir of each, that each would produce a distinct wine. The original vineyard designations remain to this day, the Selleck Vineyard (5 acres), Reed Vineyard (5 acres), and Jensen Vineyard (14 acres). These vineyards produced their initial tiny crop in 1978. The Ryan Vineyards, named after Jim Ryan, longtime vineyard manager were added later.  (Upper - 9.4 acres and Lower – 3.7 acres)

 Josh made Calera's first wine in 1975, 1000 cases of zinfandel, produced from purchased grapes. During his first two years as a winemaker, he made the Calera wines in a rented space in a larger nearby winery.  

Josh purchased property to build the winery in 1977, a 100 acre site on Cienega Road halfway between the vineyard and the town of Hollister. Located 1000 feet lower in elevation than the vineyard, this property had the benefits of development improvements such as a paved road,  telephone and electrical service (services which still to this day are unavailable on Mt. Harlan).

Three decades later, Calera have earned the distinction of the pioneer of American Pinot Noir. The legendary wine critic Robert Parker  has stated that: "Calera is one of the most compelling Pinot Noir specialists of not only the New World, but of Planet Earth."  

We first discovered Calera in the eighties, exploring wines from those earliest vintages. Decades later, we enjoy collecting Calera wines from the Ryan and Reed vineyards, as somewhat namesake signature wines for Son Ryan and his Reid. 

The Calera vineyards are enumerated and featured on the rear bottle label of the bottles as shown here. They are perhaps the most comprehensive and informative labels one will find anywhere on a bottle of wine. They spell out the information on the vineyard, geography, altitude, plantings, vines, the vintage and the bottling. The rear label itself makes for interesting reading, and insightful comparisons across the vineyards or vintages if one happens to have such bottles.

The Calera branding features the historic massive 30 foot tall limestone kiln that sits on the property from earlier days quarrying and processing limestone. Noting limestone in the soils of the legendary French Burgundy region, Jenson scoured the US seeking similar terroir to site his vineyards to produce Pinot Noir. He found such terroir and thoughtfully chose the property in the Central Coast region of California. The name Calera translates to 'limekiln' in in Spanish.

 So it was that we pick up releases of Calera Ryan Vineyard Pinot Noir whenever we can, and selected one for our intimate tasting this evening. 

This may be the best release of this label I have tasted, being by far the most vibrant and expressive forward fruits I can remember.

This is not a wimpy wine but powerful, yet smooth and polished, a symphony of concentrated dark berry fruit flavors with layers of black raspberry, black cherry, hints of cranberry, graphite and tones of tobacco leaf, spices of thyme, bay leaf and floral violets with a long lingering tightly wound fine grained tannins on the finish.

RM 92 points

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinous both gave this 95 points Vinous; Wine Enthusiast gave it 92 points and a Cellar Selection

The Heartbreak Grape,  A California Winemakers Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marc de Villiers, 1994, Harper Collins

Calera’s Mt. Harlan Vineyards are located in the Gavilan Mountains 25 miles east of the Monterey Bay. The site was chosen for its limestone soils and ideal climate. At an average elevation of 2,200 feet it is among the highest and coolest vineyard sites in California. 
Winemaker Notes -Wafting aromas of bright strawberry and blueberry interweave with a deep, intense, earthy, enchanting palate of black cherry, sassafras and limestone minerality. This wine is big and taut and begs for bold cuisine. The generous tannins are firm yet smooth and continue into a provocative and long finish.
Production Notes - In 2013 we saw decreasing yields due to the second year of a drought with only 6.5 inches of rain for the entire season. Warm spring temperatures brought on an early bud break, but fortunately remained warm with no threats of frost. The summer months were fairly mild with abundant sunshine allowing us to pick the grapes with high acid and mature flavors. We picked the Ryan vineyard in three separate passes from September 4th to September 21st. Each lot was pressed 14 days after harvest, racked by gravity to French oak barrels, then aged without racking in those barrels, 30% new, for nineteen months. The lots were then combined and the resultant wine was bottled without filtration, as always.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Belle Glos RRV Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir

Belle Glos Russian River Valley Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

Following the pair of Belle Glos Pinots we had at two restaurants on our summer getaway to our Destiny Cove vacation rental the last week, when we returned home, I pulled from the cellar the third label in the series of vineyard designated labels from this producer. We had this with a home grilled pizza and it was a  delicious accompaniment.

Last week we had the Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir at the Beach Walk Café, Henderson Park Inn, in Destin FL, then the Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir at Firefly Grill Effingham, IL

We hold all these labels from various vintages in our cellar collection, so we tried the Belle Glos Dairyman Vineyard Pinot with home grilled pizza on the deck for dinner. 

Each of the Belle Glos Pinot Noirs are produced from top growing areas along the California coast: the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County; the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County; and the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. 

The wines showcase the distinctive climatic and terroir differences of the sites, notable for the amount of fog, wind, sunlight and soil type at each site.

The Belle Glos Pinot Noirs are very distinctively packaged with the top third of the bottles being dipped in red wax at an angle to form the  signature capsules protecting the corks.

The name Belle Glos (pronounced BELL GLOSS), honors Winemaker Joseph J. Wagner’s grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, a co-founder of Caymus Vineyards."  Wagner is a fourth-generation winemaker from a family with farming and winemaking roots in the Napa Valley since 1906.  

Belle Glos Sonoma County Russian River Valley Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

As reported in these pages, in the midst of summer, its was a nice departure from the big bold hearty Syrah's/Shiraz's we enjoy, and the robust Bordeaux varietals to the finer, more refined, less bold and burdensome Pinot Noirs. Each of these tastings were delightful and frankly, exceeded our expectations for a ideal accompaniment to our various entrees. 

As noted, each of the Belle Glos labels is from a designated vineyard in the different popular coastal influenced growing regions suited to growing Pinot Noir. This vineyard designated label is from their source in the Russian River Valley in Northern California, Sonoma County. Situated in the southern alluvial plains of the Russian River Valley, Dairyman Vineyard’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean results in a cool morning fog and afternoon coastal breezes that elongate the growing season.

While the Russian River Valley is a large and diverse appellation with multiple climate zones and soil types, as it meanders from the inland mountain and foothill valleys westward to the Pacific, it is best known for cool-climate varieties, with Pinot Noir as the most popular. 

Russian River Valley grapes benefit from the persistent late afternoon flow of Pacific Ocean fog through the Petaluma Gap and along the Russian River Valley that ensures slow and steady ripening and the preservation of grape acidity. 

Historically Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs had bright red fruit and delicate earthy, mineral notes. But changes in viticultural and winemaking practices have led to stylistic changes in some of the region’s wines. Adjustments to canopy management, among other techniques, have resulted in riper fruit and bolder wines as well. These show flavors of black cherry, blackberry, cola, spice and darker, loamy earth tones, accenting traditional Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, raspberry and light cherry.

The terroir of the site results in small, concentrated and flavorful berries, producing bright cherry characteristics, brown spices, and a keen minerality overlaid with a rich, velvety mouth feel. Named as a result of its history, once an old dairy farm, the pastureland was planted to Dijon clone Pinot Noir in 2000, preserving the longstanding agricultural history of the property.

Winemaker's Notes - "Dark ruby red in color with satisfying aromas of boysenberry, dark cherry and mulberry along with delicate hints of baking spices, dill, cola, nutmeg and vanilla. On the palate, bold flavors of cranberry, ripe plum, cherry and super-ripe strawberry are uplifted by gentle notes of cocoa powder and sweet fig for a generous and silky mouthfeel. This tremendously complex and broad-shouldered wine finishes with grace."
Like the earlier Pinots mentioned above, this was delightful, enjoyable drinking, bright ruby colored, medium full bodies, expressive black cherry and plum fruits with spicy notes of nutmeg, vanilla and sweet mocha with a smooth, almost elegant, balanced lingering finish. 
RM 91 points. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Belle Glos Pinot Noir at Firefly Grill Effingham, IL

Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir at Firefly Grill, Effingham, IL

Enroute back to Chicago from our Florida Destiny Cove getaway last week, we stopped and dined at the Firefly Grill in Effingham, IL for a delightful, memorable fine dining experience. Firefly American Grill is now on our itinerary and plans for future trips through the area.

Firefly is just off the highway I57 in a large expansive freestanding building surrounded by flowerbeds, gardens and a pond. 

Firefly is a farm-to-table cuisine artsy restaurant that focuses on dedication to growing and serving "some of the best food on the planet", imaginative food creations crafted from the finest ingredients. They have a stated wholehearted dedication to their community, eco-system, clients, farm, the Earth and their teammates. 

Firefly is the handicraft of proprietors Kristie and Niall. They met in Puerto Rico while helping mutual friends open a new restaurant there, the Blue Macaw. Kristie and Niall embraced the challenge and wonderful experience of getting a restaurant off the ground.

After a few years in Puerto Rico, they decided to get married and return to the mainland. Niall had taken a job at Bradley Ogden's Lark Creek Inn outside of San Francisco. On the way to California, they stopped in Kristie's hometown, Effingham, IL. They commented to folks there how Effingham could benefit from a restaurant like the one they dreamed of and wanted to create someday.

The establishment of Firefly was the idea of local entrepreneur/developer Jack Schultz who orchestrated the fulfillment of the vision and dream of Kristie and Niall Campbell to open a restaurant. Jack had heard through the grapevine that Kristie was marrying a chef and that someday they want to open a restaurant. 

Jack loved their ideas and with the help of their incredible community, Jack and his team at Agracel, some investors, a visionary at Newton State Bank, and architect Cass Calder Smith, Kristie and Niall's dream to open a restaurant was born, in Effingham.

In Firefly, they created a space that is like coming into their own home, with the kitchen the heart of the Campbell house, with an exhibition kitchen, customers see everything that goes into the dishes firsthand.

Their vision of sustainability is also manifested in the building with recycled steel, reclaimed barn wood, chairs recycled from Hard Rock in Manhattan, and a pond that irrigates the gardens reducing firefly's carbon footprint. They grow mint in the gardens on the site, not only for the menu, but also to keep the mosquitos away. 

The rustic dining room with wood ceiling and hardwood floors is lively and almost boisterous. 

Food they can't grow themselves is sourced locally whenever possible by using sustainable fisheries, artisan farmers, and foragers. Their website lists about twenty suppliers including Trader's Point Creamery in Zionsville, IN, not far from several of our family and friends in the area that we occasionally frequent when in town. 

The firefly philosophy on food is: keep it simple, source the best ingredients possible, and stay out of their way.

We dined outside on the front porch overlooking the landscaped lawn with gardens and Illinois agricultural fields in view across the road.

From the lunch menu, we selected the wedge salad, I had the grilled petit filet with mashed potatoes and asparagus, and Linda ordered the beef wellington. For a wine accompaniment, I chose BTG the Belle Glos Pinot Noir.

Following the delightful tasting of Belle Glos Santa Maria Valley vineyard designated Pinot we had on vacation in Florida last week, it was fun trying another Belle Glos Vineyard Pinot. I wrote extensively about producer/winemaker Joe Wagner and the Belle Glos brand in a blogpost about that dinner.

Linda tried the Caymus Quilt Reserve Cabernet.

Belle Glos Monterey County Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir 2021

This is another single vineyard designated Pinot Noir. It is sourced from the 15 acre Las Alturas Vineyard located in one of the highest-plantable sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County. The yields are deliberately kept low in order to preserve the fruit intensity from the vines.
The name “Las Alturas” in Spanish means “the heights,” a fitting name for this vineyard located on one of the highest grape-growing benches in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA up to 1,200 feet. At this elevation, it has a terroir of sunny but very cool climate from the breezes that blow in from the Pacific coast that creates wines bearing all the hallmarks of the coastal region: robust, expressive, full-bodied, and balanced by a firm acidity

The wine was aged in 100% French oak (60% new) for up to nine months. After the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, it was racked twice before making the final blend.

Winemaker's Tasting Notes: "Rich crimson in color withfragrant aromas of blackberry, sage, cherry, and hints of rich dark chocolate. Bold and elegant on the palate with boysenberry pie, black currant jam, dark plum, and subtle notes of ground nutmeg. Balanced and structured, this wine has beautiful acidity that lingers through to a long, mouthwatering finish."

A wonderful accompaniment to the grilled beefsteak, especially on a warm summer afternoon, its a nice departure from the big bold hearty Syrah's/Shiraz's we enjoy, and the robust Bordeaux varietals, to the finer, more refined, less bold and forward Pinot Noirs. 

In the midst of summer, its a nice departure from the big bold hearty Syrah's/Shiraz's we enjoy, and the robust Bordeaux varietals to the finer, more refined, less bold and burdensome Pinot Noirs. 

What sets Belle Glos apart is its beautiful acidity that gives it a long, mouthwatering finish. It's a wine that is perfect for those who appreciate a well behaved structured, bold, and complex wine. With every sip, you feel the balance between the fruitiness and acidity making it a fantastic accompaniment to hearty meat dishes or simply enjoyed on its own as a sipping wine.

Winemaker Notes - Scarlet red in color with an aromatic medley of gooseberry, raspberry, and cranberry with hints of ginger, black pepper, and shaved milk chocolate. Dark fruit on the palate with flavors of wild berries, milk chocolate, toffee, black cherry, and ground nutmeg. Rich and structured, this wine has beautiful acidity that lingers through to a long, mouthwatering finish.

This was rated 91 by Wine Enthusiast. 

Dark ruby colored, medium-full bodied, aromatic, complex full flavors of black cherry with notes of toast, caramel, milk chocolate and hints of cola, toffee, spice and licorice.  

RM 91.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir Inniskillin Ice Wine at Beach Walk Café, Henderson Park Inn, Destin

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir and Inniskillin Ice Wine at  Beach Walk Café, Henderson Park Inn, Destin

Date night out during our vacation getaway to The Cove in Destiny East in Destin, Florida, we dined at the Beach Walk Restaurant at the Henderson Park Inn at the end of our beach adjacent the Henderson State Park with views of the Destin harbor towers in the distance.

Destin sits on the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle and is noted as one of the top beaches in the state, nation and world, by various travelogues and reviews, with its powdery sugar white sands. 

The Beach Walk Café at the Henderson Park Inn is an award-winning, fine-dining restaurant that overlooks the beach with views of the towering condo towers along the Destin beach and harbor two miles to the west. 

It has been named one of the most romantic restaurants in North America for its pairing imaginative cuisine rooted in the freshest, local ingredients with spectacular sunsets and starry skies amidst the surf.

Our server said she has stayed there for a half dozen years because of their executive chef, Destin native Daniel Peters. Daniel first worked a professional kitchen at the age of 26, gaining his first taste of fine food and wine knowledge at Chan’s Wine World. 

In 2011, he moved to Napa Valley to further his culinary skills and experience. There he studied under a number of world-renowned award-winning chefs, including Douglas Keane, Sang Yoon, Jake Rand and Stephan Barber. He returned home to apply what he learned to elevation Destin’s food culture, with his Gulf-to-table concept at Beach Walk.

For our dinner this evening, we started with the Corn and Crab Bisque and the Iceberg Wedge salad with Applewood Bacon, Shaved Red Onion, Tomato, Maytag Blue Cheese Crumble and Dressing.

For our entree we selected the fresh catch Snapper with Corn Truffle Risotto, Madeira Mushrooms, Truffle Fries in a Citrus Beurre Blanc.

While the limited but carefully selected wine list offered several favorite producers and selections such as Nils Venge Saddleback, Chardonnay and Cabernet, no less than five of our selection choices were not available. 

We settled on an our fifth choice the Belle Glos Pinot Noir, which proved to be a superb pairing choice, perhaps testament to the quality of offerings, but there were few alternatives at that point. 

When I expressed my displeasure at the out of date wine list, and admonished them that we brought more wine from our home cellar in Chicago for our week away, than they had available, General Manager Mike Frey appeared and was extremely gracious and attentive. He granted us a complimentary Domaine Chandon California Carneros sparkling wine, a taste of the evenings WBTG special offer red, followed by a premium icewine accompaniment to our dessert, another offering not shown on the winelist.

Despite it all, we had a delightful long discussion throughout the evening on common interests, backgrounds and fine dining and wine experiences.

The Belle Glos Pinot was delightful with dinner.

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2021

Belle Glos is the wine of owner winemaker Joseph Wagner, son of Chuck Wagner of Napa Valley Caymus notoriety. Belle Glos was the name of his grandmother, Chuck's mother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, Matriarch and co-founder of Caymus Vineyards, original land and vineyard owner. Joe focuses on single vineyard designated Pinot Noirs including this Clark and Telephone Vineyard from down in Santa Barbara County in the Santa Maria Valley.  

As a fifth-generation Napa Valley winemaker, Joe learned his way around a vineyard long before he was able to drink wine.

By the time he was 19 he knew that he would continue his family’s winemaking legacy, working alongside his father at Caymus Vineyards. In 2001, he created Belle Glos, with a focus on vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from throughout California’s best coastal regions.

More recently, he has launched a number of new brands under Copper Cane Wines & Provisions. Joe has a keen interest in contributing to the evolution of the wine industry, by discovering new wine growing locations and through experimentation in the cellar.

Joe lives in Napa Valley, has six children, and maintains a healthy balance between his family life and a passionate dedication to his business.

Belle Glos showcases distinctive Pinot Noirs produced from California’s most noteworthy coastal wine-growing regions.

While each vineyard location lies near the Pacific Ocean, the climate differences are significant, varying with the amount of fog, wind, sunlight, and soil type at each site. Each Vineyard Designate is crafted to distill the purest essence of the locale into elegant expressions of California Pinot Noir.

Owner/winemaker, Joe Wagner chose the name Belle Glos (pronounced “BELL GLOSS”) to honor his grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner. Lorna was a co-founder of Caymus Vineyards, an inspirational figure to Joseph and an avid lover of Pinot Noir.

I wrote last year about Belle Glos Vineyard Select Pinot Noirs from the Wagner family vineyards. This selection is from their Clark & Telephone Vineyard, named for its location near the corner of Clark Avenue and Telephone Road in the Santa Maria Valley. The site is cooled by wind and fog that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean following the Santa Maria River. The vineyard was planted in 1972 with the Martini clone of Pinot Noir, one of the first to be used along the California coastlands.

This was surprisingly robust and flavorful, yet smooth and polished so as to nicely complement the fresh seafood entree. 

Dark ruby colored, medium to full bodied, smooth and polished with nicely integrated full flavors of black raspberry, with hints of blueberry, subtle strawberry and cherry. There are tones of cinnamon, spice, sweet oak and tea on a lively acidity long finish with supple tannins.

RM 91 points.

With our desert course, Mike presented us with this ultra-premium Inniskillin Ice Wine.

Inniskillin Vidal Blanc Niagara VQA Icewine 2018

We visited the Inniskillin estate, vineyards and winery on the Niagara escarpment during our Inniskillin Niagara on the Lake Wine Experience back in 2012. It is the 'first growth' premiere grand cru of Canadian wines. 

 Innisklillin Wines was founded in 1975 by Austrian-born Karl J. Kaiser, and native Canadian Donald J.P. Ziraldo, a decendant of a family of winegrowers in Northern Italy. They were granted the first winery license granted in the province of Ontario since 1929. 

Inniskillin was founded dedicated to producing the finest possible wines from vinifera wine grapes grown in the Niagara Peninsula. Karl and Donald tested the ground of Niagara, seeking the optimal terroir and located the Inniskillin estate and vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the historic Brae Burn Estate. Inniskillin gained international notoriety when its pioneering 1989 Vidal Icewine was awarded the Grand Prix d'Honneur at Vinexpo 1991 drawing worldwide attention to Canada's burgeoning wine industry.

VQA Icewine is a highly concentrated dessert wine made by harvesting grapes naturally frozen on the vine at -10 C in December-January. Inniskillin VQA Icewine is internationally awarded and recognized and is exported throughout the world.

 Vidal is a hybrid grape varietal, produced from Ugni Blanc and Seibel varietals, that has a thick skin suitable for harvesting late in the season. It is the most popular Icewine grape grown in Ontario. It’s noted for good natural acidity that gives great structure to the lusciousness of its tropical aromas and flavors of mango and lychee.  Inniskillin produces Vidal Icewine in two distinct styles, one without oak aging to highlight the fresh fruit emphasis, and with oak aging for added complexity.

This is the same wine, one vintage removed from that which we tasted at a fine dinner we had at the Herrington Inn Atwaters Restaurant in Geneva last fall.

Winemaker Notes - "Aromatics of tropical fruit including mango and orange dominate, on the palate fruit flavors including peach, nectarine and lemon are balanced by crisp, lively acidity. Perfect on its own; a variety of cheeses (blue veined, aged cheddar, rich cream cheeses with dried fruits); seared scallops; lobster; rich pates; fruit based desserts."

This release was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 93 points by Decanter

The 2018 Vidal Icewine comes in with 245 grams of residual sugar, 10.5 of total acidity and 9.5% alcohol. An early harvest began on December 14 and continued for several consecutive days. 
Golden straw colored, fulled bodied, rich concentrated unctuous classic peach and apricot notes with tongue coating sugar sweetness, hints of spiced orange, caramel and almond in the lingering finish. 
RM 93 points. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Beau Vigne Napa Valley Proprietary Red

Beau Vigne Napa Valley Proprietary Red for elegant refined casual sipping on holiday

For our getway week at our Destiny East Cove vacation rental in Destin, FL, we took several wines from our cellar, along with some artisan cheeses, to enjoy during our week away including this Beau Vigne Napa Valley Proprietary Red.

We acquired this wine directly from the producer as it is not available in distribution in our hometown Chicagoland marketplace. It is available, however at Total Wine the super merchant stores on the east coast from Florida, including the nearest store in Pensacola, to Connecticut, as well as various Midwest cities including Indianapolis.

While best enjoyed with a grilled beefsteak, this was fabulous casual sipping with a selection of artisan cheeses. 

We first wrote about this wine when we received our shipment from the producer last fall in this featured blogpost - Beau Vigne Reserve Proprietary Red Wine.

Beau Vigne Reserve Proprietary Red Wine 2013

This producer first caught my attention when buddy Bob brought it to our Pour Boys OTBN - "Open-That-Bottle-Night" 2022 in Charleston and I pegged it as WOTN - Wine of the Night, my personal favorite. Bob picked up the bottle at his local Total Wine beverage superstore in Boca Raton Town Center. I saw the label when there and also at the new Total Wine in Indy.

So, when son Ryan got their wine club promotional mailing and shared it I was eager to pick up a mixed case of their Signature Series Bordeaux varietals including this aged vintage release from their library close-out. My shipment just arrived and I was eager to try this. It did not disappoint.

Beau Vigne (pronounced bo-veenya), was founded by Ed and Trish Snider with their first vintage release in 2002. Translated from French it means beautiful vineyard in French.

Ed’s family has a long history in Napa Valley dating back to his Swiss Italian grandfather Martin Garzoli who arrived in Napa in 1913. He grew up on a ranch in Carneros and worked on farms in Napa and Sonoma. Martin made his own wines at home in the evenings. His son John Garzoli played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1955 and went on to coach football at St. Helena High School in the center of Napa Valley where children of many vintners attended school. A number of Ed’s former students are now in the wine industry.

In 2018, they sold Beau Vigne to Don Dady and Jason Kyle from Arizona. Jason was a former NFL football player, a long snapper for five different teams including the San Francisco 49ers. In addition to his wine interests, Jason is co-owner of Press Coffee Roasters with locations in Arizona.  Partner Dady is co-founder of Annexus, a financial company in Scottsdale and also owns Seven Apart Winery in Napa Valley just north of the city of Napa. 

Beau Vigne sourced fruit for their estate wines from their 10 acre Stags Ridge Vineyard at the top of Soda Canyon Road on the slopes of Atlas Peak at about 1650 feet elevation. The site was planted to 8 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and an acre each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Ed sold the vineyard and it is now a part of Seven Apart Winery’s estate. Beau Vigne continues to source grapes from there and other premium vineyards in Napa Valley.

Since 2019, Beau Vigne has partnered with Appellation Trading Company to distribute Beau Vigne as part of their portfolio of brands. 

Over the years, Beau Vigne has been crafted by several highly regarded Napa Valley winemakers. Their founding winemaker was Dave Phinney who went on to develop several successful brands, most notably, Orin Swift Cellars and the Prisoner portfolio of wines. One of our favorite winemakers, Kirk Venge of Venge Vineyards has also crafted Beau Vigne wines. Today the winemaker is Julien Fayard.

Originally from France, Julien began his career as a winemaker producing quality rosé at his family’s winery in Provence. He worked at legendary Chateaux Lafite Rothschild and Smith Haut Laffite in Bordeaux before relocating to Napa Valley where he was Philippe Melka’s director of winemaking for a few years before setting out on his own.

Julien earned his Master in Agri-Business from ESA France and his Master in Winemaking from Toulouse France. In 2011, he received his MBA from UC Davis. 

Recently, Beau Vigne became part of a select collection of vintners represented at Vintner’s Collective, the city of Napa’s oldest collective tasting room. They showcase wines from an elite group of premier Napa Valley producers who do not have their own tasting rooms. Select bottlings and vintages of Beau Vigne are available for tasting and purchased there. 

Beau Vigne bottles wines under three different brands; the Legacy Series, the Signature Series and the Discovery Series.

Beau Vigne Reserve Proprietary Red Napa Valley 2013

This 2013 is a Blend of Bordeaux varietals, 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. The producer cited it amongst the best wines Beau Vigne had made to date. That says a lot since Robert Parker awarded the 2013 Beau Vigne "Cult" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 96 points in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. He also awarded the Beau Vigne Reserve Cabernet from this vintage a stellar perfect 100 points.

Winemaker notes: "When tasted, it was still locked and loaded. Dense and dark, with notes of soil incense, violets, black cherry and black raspberry elements are also still present. The wine is full-bodied, opulent, with great vigor and delineation. This is a sensational example what happens after nine years in the bottle."

The Beau Vigne Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from this vintage, the same fruit that forms the foundation for this blend, was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker. 

Parker wrote about that wine: "Profound, with a stunning aromatic display of blue and black fruits, charcoal, graphite, and spring flowers. The wine has a flawless entry and mouthfeel, with a full-bodied density, opulence and an incredible finish of close to a minute."

He also awarded the 2013 Beau Vigne "Cult" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 96 points in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate . That wine too contains the same Cabernet Sauvignon as in this blend. That blend contained 98:2% while this one is 70:30. Parker wrote of that wine: "Similarly styled is the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Cult, which is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. The biggest cuvée of any of these wines, the color is blackish/purple as a moonless night. It offers fabulous fruit and incredible density and richness, with lots of camphor, blackberry and cassis fruit, hints of espresso bean and chocolate as well as some background oak. This is a big, full-throttle, savory style of wine that should age effortlessly for 20-25+ years (RP)."

As a blend of the same fruit as those wines, it has a similar profile. Dark blackish purple colored, full bodied, dense, rich concentrated black fruits accented by a layer of camphor that initially may be a bit unnerving to some, with notes of cassis, expresso and dark bitter mocha with some graphite and oak on the full lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Jordan Chardonnay at Louisiana Lagniappe Destin Seafood

Jordan Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020 at Louisiana Lagniappe Destin, FL

During our getaway week to our Destiny Cove vacation rental, with our daughter and grandkids, we dined at Louisiana Lagniape on the inner Destin Harbor in Destin, FL. Louisiana Lagniappe Destin is one of our favorites and a must try for spectacular fresh seafood when in the area.

As I wrote from our last visit back in May, Louisiana Lagniappe is somewhat of an institution in Destin, FL, opened in 1984 and established inside the Sandpiper Cove condominium community on the waterfront of the Destin Harbor lagoon.  Since then, Louisiana Lagniappe has developed a loyal following due to the quality of the food and the attention to detail of the service, consistently serving only the freshest Gulf seafood and steaks prepared with a Creole flair.


 Lagniappe is consistently ranked in the Top 10 restaurants on TripAdvisor and wins the Award of Excellence every year. 

As is necessary to get a table, especially with a group or with kids, we arrived shortly before 5:00 pm and were seated immediately on the outside deck overlooking the waterfront. By the time we left, the huge dining room inside and all the others were full and there was a line outside waiting for tables. There was a long line of cars waiting to be parked by the valet parking associate. 

Their extensive menus offers ten appetizers, ten 'Chef's Selections', eleven 'Lagniappe Favorites', three fried seafood and four steak offerings - all served with their delicious homemade hush-puppies, house salad and twice-baked potato.

With twenty delectable mouthwatering seafood dishes Louisiana Lagniappe is a landmark for finest Seafood in the area. 

For starters we had house salads, the Lagniappe favorite Corn & Crab Bisque - A rich, cream soup with jumbo lump crabmeat and fresh yellow corn and the Oysters Lagniappe - Baked Lagniappe stuffing and jumbo lump crabmeat. Each of the entrees comes with their delectable hush puppies and a choice of twice baked potato or rice.

I love meuniere sauce preparations and they have several from which to choose. Tonight, I had the Grouper Pecan Meuniere - Fresh Gulf Grouper, pan sautéed and topped with toasted pecans and meuniere sauce. It was a bit dry, I would prefer more of the meuniere sauce. Need to ask next time!

Following the incredible Shrimp & Grits at The Red Pony in Franklin, TN, Linda went for an encore and had the Lagniappe Shrimp & Grits - Jumbo Gulf Shrimp tossed in a smoked tasso ham cream sauce served over stone-ground cheese grits. It we delicious, not as good as The Red Pony, but delicious none-the-less.

The kids shared the Lagniappe Twin Lobster Tails and Blackened Bay Scallops served with a pineapple-rum butter sauce. After a do-over due to them being far too spicy, despite being ordered non-spicy, they were fine. Generally, that aside, everything was fabulous, perfectly prepared and presented.

With our dinner we ordered from the fundamentally sound basic wine list, an old standby favorite, Jordan Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay. This provides reliable casual easy sipping with great QPR - Quality Price Ratio.

Jordan Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020

Winemaker's Notes - "Not a typical California Chardonnay, Jordan honors the finest white Burgundy with its crisp fruit flavors, vibrant acidity and lingering finish. This balanced, elegant style of Russian River Valley Chardonnay can be cellared for 5-8 years.'

"The 2020 Chardonnay is packed with delicious aromas and flavors. The Fuji apple aromas are always the mark of a good vintage, but the way that it is interlaced with Asian pear, lemon, persimmon and white flower is what sets this vintage apart—along with its mouth-watering acidity and French oak backbone.'

"Delicate aromas of Fuji apple, freshly cut persimmon and citrus blossom entice the nose. Upon first sip, mouthwatering grapefruit and bright lime interplay on the palate. The lively acidity balances seamlessly with French oak nuances, enticing you to take another sip."

"Following fermentation and sur-lie aging in a combination of stainless steel and barrel, this wine spends five and a half months in 100% new French oak, bringing out tropical notes of pineapple and gardenia. Crisp acidity and precise minerality entertain on the bright mid-palate. Tangerine, apple, and mint are focused and edgy yet tempered by that delicate oak influence.'

"The bouquet offers delicate aromas of Fuji apple, citrus, nutmeg, honey, and lightly toasted oak. The Jordan 2020 Chardonnay delivers lively and complex flavors of Asian pear, key lime, and Marcona almond. These refined notes offer a seamless expression of rich, bold flavors with a long, elegant finish. This wine is delicious now and will continue to gain honeyed richness with an additional 3 to 5 years of aging. Serve between 55 and 60 degrees to ensure the full flavor development."

This was aged 5 months in new french oak, 100%.

 RM 89 points.

Can't wait to return! Get there early. 

They also have a sister restaurant just across the state line on the Alabama shore at Perdido Beach in Orange Beach, AL.



Monday, July 10, 2023

Glaetzer Anaperenna Barossa Valley Shiraz

Ben Glaetzer Anaperenna Barossa Valley Shiraz with BBQ Ribs

With grilled BBQ ribs, crescent rolls and balsamic buratta salad on the deck, I pulled from the cellar this aged Aussie Shiraz for the occasion. 

This is from producer/winemaker Ben Glaetzer whose family first settled in the Barossa Valley in 1888 after emigrating from Germany. They settled in a country town called Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley where they were some of the earliest recorded viticulturalists in the Barossa Valley and Clare Valley.

Over a century later, winemaking patriarch Colin Glaetzer established Glaetzer Wines, a boutique family owned winery producing premium Barossa Valley wines. Today Colin’s son Ben carries on the wine making legacy and traditions at Glaetzer Wines.

My research and records show that the Glaetzer label "Godolphin" Shiraz Cabernet had it's name changed to Anaperenna between the 2005 and this 2006 vintage. Godolphin's Shiraz Cabernet name was changed to 'Anaperenna' due to a dispute or confusion of the name with another label from another producer.

Anaperenna is the same wine from the same producer/winemaker, from the same renowned vineyard sources with up to 85-year-old vines from the Ebenezer district in the northern Barossa Valley, considered by many as the finest sub-region in the Valley, with the same branding and symbol on the label as its predecessor.

The name Anaperenna is inspired by Anna Perenna, the Roman goddess of the New Year. Anna Perenna symbolised the year's cycle and her name translates as 'enduring year'. Romans honoured Anna Perenna with a festival held on the first full moon of the Roman calendar. On March 15th they would ask Anna to grant them longevity, and a healthy year for each glass of wine they drank on that day.

All Glaetzer labels are branded with a ancient historic Egyptian symbol. The Annaperenna label is the Egyptian Ankh (pronounced: onk). Historically the ankh symbolised sunrise, regeneration, regrowth and renewal.

We hold several vintages of several wines from the Glaetzer portfolio including their ultra-premium flagship wine, Amon-Ra.

Glaetzer "Anaperenna" (formerly GoDolphin) Barossa Valley South Australia Shiraz-Cabernet 2006 

At seventeen years, the fill level, foil, label, and importantly, the cork, as shown, were in ideal condition. This is still holding its own with life left to last perhaps another five years at the apex of its drinking window. The Cellartracker drinking window was through 2023 and as a result of tonight, I extended mine to 2025. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate wrote in 2007, "Give this classy wine 4-6 years in the cellar and enjoy it through 2030." Wine Spectator (JR) wrote in 2009, "I'd give this at least another four of five years of bottle aging."

This label release was awarded 94-97 points by Wine Advocate, 94 points by James Halliday and Wine Enthusiast, 92 points by Vinous, and 91-92 points by Wine Spectator, and Jancis Robinson gave it 18.5 on her 20 point scale (which frankly I prefer as I find it easier to encode and interpret).

Winemaker Notes - "The 2006 Shiraz (75%) – Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) "Anaperenna" is the wine formerly known as Godolphin, the change resulting from a trademark dispute. It was aged for 15 months in new French and American oak. Opaque purple, it offers a sensational bouquet of pain grille, scorched earth, meat, game, blueberry, and black currants. This is followed by a surprisingly elegant yet powerful, structured wine with gobs of spicy fruit, ripe tannins, and a plush texture. The long, 60-second finish is succulent and sweet. 

This is a blend of 75% Shiraz and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. t was aged for 15 months in new French and American oak.

Harvey Steinman of Wine Spectator artfully noted: " ... juicy currant and cedar flavors of Cabernet whistling through the blackberry and exotic spice of the Shiraz."

This is classic Aussie style Shiraz with full dark ripe fruits blackberries, plums, and blackcurrants with layers of cassis, dark chocolate, tobacco, and hints of spices.

Tonight this was completely consistent with my last tasting notes posted on 12/6/2020  when I wrote,

"Deep inky black dark garnet-purple colored, medium-full bodied, complex, intense, concentrated black berry black raspberry and blueberry fruits with notes of graphite, cassis, pain grille, vanilla, mocha and spice turning to a long lush smooth tannin laced nicely balanced oak finish."

92 points.  


Sunday, July 9, 2023

Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2005

 Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2005 with grilled beefsteak

For Sunday night dinner at home with grilled steaks, baked potatoes and grilled asparagus spears I pulled from the cellar this Bordeaux Blend from Napa Valley. We have collected and served Trilogy from Floral Springs for decades and still hold nearly a dozen vintages dating back to 1990 in our cellar.

This is a Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend that has been around for decades. Its one of the go-to wines in our cellar, one that we collect from vintage to vintage, as it represents a style we like, is reliable, produced in sufficient quantity to be generally available and provides reasonable QPR - quality price ratio, despite the fact the price has crept up precipitously over the years.

I chronicled this wine in detail back in 2020 when I wrote the following: Trilogy is Flora Springs’ flagship wine, dating back to 1984 when they decided to make the finest wine possible sourced from the highest quality wine lots from their estate vineyards in Napa Valley. Back then it was one of Napa Valley’s first proprietary red blends. 

It has long provided sophisticated drinking at good value. Indeed, the name Trilogy refers to the three primary Bordeaux varietal grapes in the blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc although they also grow and sometimes include in the blend the other Bordeaux varietals, Malbec and Petit Verdot. In line with that theme, four different generations of the branding and label imagery going back to the 1980's have all adorned the three grape varietals' leaf shapes in the label artwork.

To this day, this Bordeaux-style wine continues to be sourced from the Floral Springs Komes-Garvey estate vineyards. The Komes and Garvey’s have always been farmers first, and over the years the family has acquired 500 acres throughout Napa Valley, 300 of which are planted to vineyard. With estate properties stretching from the cool, rolling hills of Carneros to the famed sub-appellations of Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena, Flora Springs produces varietal wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the other red Bordeaux varietals.

Each year the family selects a small percentage of the yield for their own wines, selling the remaining fruit to neighboring Napa Valley wineries. This selection puts the focus on quality, not quantity, resulting in hand-crafted wines that meet the family’s exacting standards.

Flora Springs was founded by the children of Jerry and Flora Komes. Jerry and Flora were married back in 1935 in San Francisco but moved throughout California and Texas over the years as Jerry pursued an engineering career with the giant San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel. The couple had three children, Mike, John and Julie, and eventually settled back in San Francisco when Jerry settled in a corporate job in international relations at Bechtel HQ in the Bay Area.

When Jerry retired in 1976, he and Flora began looking for a place to retire in Napa Valley. They came upon a property at the end of West Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, and Flora saw magic hidden behind the decades of neglect, overgrown ivy, and the shifting rock walls of the old ghost winery.

“There are so many wonderful things about Napa Valley and St. Helena. I just fell in love with that property and that was it.” Jerry and Flora purchased the estate believing it to be the perfect place to grow grapes and become farmers. But when their son, John, proposed that the old winery building on the property be revived, Flora Springs became a new career for Flora, Jerry and their children.

They had the wisdom and prescience to craft a Bordeaux style blend from Napa Valley sourced Bordeaux varietals in the early days as Cabernet was becoming the king of Napa Valley. 

We've collected this wine since those early days and still hold nearly a dozen vintages including bottles dating back to our kids' birthyears in 1990-91. We served those vintages at their wedding rehearsal and celebration dinner party back in 2020.

Perhaps whimsically, I latched on to this as a regular favorite partly due to the namesake that wife Linda is a descendant of the Flora family, founders of her hometown Flora, in Indiana, no relation of course to the California Napa Flora (first name) Kombs, but fun and a tribute none-the-less.

To this day, Trilogy is a mainstay go to label in our cellar offering quality sophisticated drinking at reasonable value relative to the premium Napa and Bordeaux Blends. Hence, to fulfill the urge for a Bordeaux with our steak on this evening, we opened this nearly two decade old Trilogy.

Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2005

Perfect complement to grilled steak.  

At eighteen years, the fill level, foil, label, and importantly, the cork, as shown, were in ideal condition. This is still holding its own with life left although likely at the end of the apex of its drinking window and won't improve with further aging. 

This was the 30th anniversary wine of producer Flora Springs, their flagship Trilogy is a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec. It was aged for 22 months in 100% new French Oak.

This release was sourced from Flora Springs estate vineyards on the bench of the Mayacamas in the farthest northwest corner of the Rutherford appellation.

Winemaker Notes - "In 1984, we set out to make the best wine possible by hand-selecting the highest quality lots from our estate vineyards. Using a blend of three Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot - we created Trilogy, one of the original Meritage wines.'

"Flora Springs has built its legacy on beautiful and complex wines that can be enjoyed either as young and vibrant or as cellared and graceful. The 2005 Trilogy may be our boldest statement yet. It exhibits all the classic Trilogy attributes with a lovely cassis and cherry bouquet as well as huge black fruit flavors that envelope the palate. Each varietal is vital to the outcome - the Cabernet exhibits black cherry and dark cocoa character, while the Merlot carries these flavors to the back of the palate where the Cabernet Franc adds notes of coffee and toffee to the finish. Unrelenting with power and grace, the 2005 Trilogy is the perfect wine to mark Flora Springs' 30th anniversary year."

This release was awarded 95 points and Editors' Choice by Wine Enthusiast and 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Dark garnet colored with a some purple and very slight amount of rust hue starting to set in, full-bodied, dry, rich, complex, nicely balanced integrated flavors dark berries and currants, with notes of dark cocoa, graphite, leather, tobacco leaf, cedar and spice with lingering firm but refined tannins.

RM 91 points.