Friday, January 6, 2023

Celebration Dinner features top rated Reds

Celebration Dinner features top rated Reds

Celebrating closing out a major business transaction that leads to a new chapter in my career, we were invited to a gala dinner at fellow Pour Boy Dr Dan's and Linda's. They laid out an extensive selection of artisan cheeses and charcuterie featuring a full shank of cured ham. 

This Covap Jamon Iberico Bellota Ham Leg is produced in The Valle de los Pedroches, located in northern Cordoba in Southern Spain.  The valley has the largest extension of centuries old oak trees in the world, and more than 750,000 acres of continuous pasture-lands.  The unique setting provides acorns that are feed for 100% Iberico Breed pigs raised there where they graze with 2 ½ acres per pig. The vegetarian diet of the Iberico Breed pigs based on acorn and grass from the pastures contribute to the distinctive product. The processed ham is aged for a minimum of 3 years in aging cellars that is key to the curing process.

Starting dinner was a chopped dinner salad and a delicious roasted red pepper tomato basil soup. 

For dinner they prepared pork chops stuffed with a chanterelle mushroom dressing, haricot verts and butter whipped potatoes. 

Dan pulled from the cellar a pair of top ranked vintage champagnes from which I selected one. 

Dan then pulled out a Champagne sword with which to strike neck of the bottle to open for serving. I admit I've never done this before and wasn't sure how its done. 

Dan prepped the bottle by cooling the neck stiffening the cork and surrounding glass rim. Then following the seam in the glass of the bottle, he instructed me to strike the lip of the rim of the bottle, which cleanly broke off, taking the cork with it and cleanly disgorging the Champagne. 


Tattinger Domaine Chandon Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditional Carneros Vintage 2012 

This is a méthode traditionelle sparkling wine from Domaine Carneros in Napa Valley, the best known high profile estate and grower-producer of what most folks would think of as champagne. However, only sparkling wine produced in that legendary well known French region and appellation can truly, or legally be called or attributed to Champagne. Even though the estate vineyards and beautiful French Château are owned by famed Champagne house, owner producer Taittinger, its sparkling wine produced in the authentic méthode traditionelle is sparkling wine.

Founded by the noble family behind Champagne Taittinger, Domaine Carneros was established in 1987 when Claude Taittinger selected the 138-acre parcel in the heart of the Carneros wine production appellation at the very bottom of Napa Valley where the Mayacamas Range that separates Napa from Sonoma Valleys foothills meet the bottomlands of San Pablo Bay. The Domaine Carneros Château is a stunning landmark on the highway between Napa and Sonoma.

For years, the Domaine Carneros winemaker was Eileen Crane, often referred to as America's doyenne of Sparkling Wine who oversaw the development of the Taittinger style in Carneros. In 2020, after 33 years, Crane passed the torch to a new CEO, Remi Cohen, who carries on the Taittinger tradition.

Domaine Carneros has always faithfully produced méthode traditionelle sparkling wines in the distinctive style across a portfolio that ranges from classic non-vintage and vintage-dated Brut cuvee to this ultra-premium luxury vintage label and their flagship Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs. 

Only the premier sparkling wines are vintage specific productions, crafted from the finest grapes in good vintage years. All others are NV or non-vintage blends.

All Domaine Carneros wines are estate labels, 100% sourced from their six estate vineyards comprising 400 acres in the Carneros appellation.

The 2012 Domaine Carneros Blanc de Blancs is a blend of 36% Pinot Gris and 64% Chardonnay.

Light gold colored, light medium bodied, complex fruit flavors of green apple, nectarine and lemon citrus with notes of stone and brioche and a bit of tartness with lingering moderate acidity.

RM 91 points. 

Dominus Estate Napa Valley Red Wine 2010 

This is kind of become one of Dan's signature wines, being one of the hallmark ultra premium labels in his cellar collection dating back a couple decades. 

This is the American label of legendary Christian Mouiex, producer of Chateau Petrus, arguably one of the most storied labels in the world. 

We lasted tasted this wine back in 2014 when I wrote, "While this got a 100 point rating from Robert Parker, the most noted major reviewers, like so many Dominus releases, it may take a decade or more for it to reveal its full potential."

"While clearly a spectacular wine, at this young age, its a bit closed and tight suppressing its fruits and other nuances."

The legendary label release was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 99 points by James Suckling, 98 points, Vinous, and 96 points by Decanter.

My view of so many of these extraordinarily highly rated wines, its not that they stand out as being so spectacular, rather, they're notably in their lack of negatives. In other words, they're flawless, lacking any detracting traits. Like a flawless diamond, this stands out as having no negatives, as opposed to highlighting particular positives! 

In its 98 point review, back in 2015, Vinous wrote, "Dominus is a powerhouse that will require a number of years to soften. A wine of baritone-like depth and explosive structure, the Dominus is a long-distance runner. The firm tannins beg for patience. Today, my impression is that Dominus will be one of the last 2010s to open up." 

Eight years later, it is just starting to open up and settled to lose that closed and tight status to reveal its true character and perhaps full potential.

Blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, firm, dense, concentrated and complex yet polished and elegant with layers of black fruits, black tea, graphite, creosote and anise with hints cedar of spice and dark chocolate with smooth polished nicely integrated tannins on the finish.

RM 95 points.

Dominus Estate Napa Valley Red Wine 1986  

Knowing Dan is a huge fan and long-time collector of Dominus, I pulled from our cellar this aged vintage release of the label from 1986. This is from the early years when, from 1983 to 1991, each label release featured a pencil sketch, chalk or water color like painting character portrait of the legendary winemaker producers. I show the Dominus library of these early artist series labels that became collectors' labels for many, on my wine label library pages.

I purchased a OWC - original wood case, of this wine back on release around 1988. Every couple of years I opened a bottle to taste and monitor how it was aging. For at least a decade, over the course of half of the case, I found it a bit tight and closed. Then, after about fifteen years, on about the eight bottle it started to open to reveal its character and potential. Alas, that was what Dominus tasted like, but, unfortunately, at this stage, we drank half of the case too early or too soon. Now, at thirty-five years, perhaps we held on to the last few remaining bottles too long. 

Back in 1996, at ten years, in a 1986 horizontal comparison tasting, Robert Parker wrote about this label, "One of the richest, densest, most concentrated offerings in the entire tasting, it also proved to be one of the best-balanced, with better integration of acidity and tannin than many 1986s exhibited, this large-scaled, concentrated wine appears to have aged at a glacial pace since I first tasted it."

At that time, Wine Spectator wrote, "Starts out earthy and leathery, in a rugged style, but works its way into more complex mineral, currant and cedar flavors and finishes with a cedary, earthy note and a good dose of currant flavor."

It's always a tell-tale sign of a wines' challenging approach-ability when it's predominant flavor profile is non-fruit flavors, overshadowing the berry fruits. 

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate awarded this release 93 points, Jancis Robinson gave it 17.5 on her 20 point scale. 

At thirty-five years, this was definitely past its prime, approaching the end of its drinking window, garnet colored with a slight rust hue setting in, the dark currant and berry fruits overshadowed by that 'rugged style' with earthy leather, mineral and cedar flavors on the slightly tart finish. 

RM 87 points.

Interesting and notable is that this label bears Cellartracker number 1424, one of the earliest bottles to be registered in that vast database that now numbers in the millions. 

See earlier post -

Dan also presented two ultra-premium labels big reds, Joseph Phelps Insignia 2007 and a Château Léoville Las Case 2016. In retrospect, I should've opted for the older vintage, and the Napa wine, which would've been more approachable, most likely in its prime. 

I selected the Las Cases, which no doubt has decades of life in front of it, having obtained this at auction and shared part of the case with Dan, thus eager to try this holding. I admit I was influenced by our visit and private tour and tasting at the Chateau, a highlight of our visit St Julien in 2018. Of course, Joseph Phelps was a highlight of our Napa Wine Experience and private tour tasting, with Dan, back in 2017.

See earlier post -

Château Léoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 2016

As I mentioned, our visit and private tour and tasting at the Château Léoville Las Cases  was a highlight of our visit St Julien in 2018. We served this wine from daughter Erin's birthyear vintage from large format Jeroboam bottles at her wedding back in 2006, and son Sean's birthyear vintage from large format magnums at his wedding in 2018. 

Our Cellartracker records show we still hold a decade of vintages of this long last label dating back three and a half decades, still holding bottles from the kid's birthyears '81, '82, '85 and 1990, several in large format. 

CT'er reviews of Las Cases 2016 - 

Our experience this night was perfectly reflected in a September review by fellow Cellertracker who wrote - "Knowing it would be too young, I couldn't resist opening a bottle. With about two hours decanting it was not a disappointment. Yes way too young given what it promises, but most definitely approachable and if you have a few, worth opening one now. Quite acidic, but I'm sure this will soften. Elegant and concentrated. Closed but enough flavour there to enjoy. Despite its very dark colour, it has a core of tangy/ripe red fruit that has a lovely freshness and purity. First growth quality at a fraction of the price. I think this will be stunning when it is ready. 97 points"

Another CT'er, wrote: "Out of this world; a truly great Bordeaux. Vertical, chalky, powerful as a tight fist with a concentrated, yet so relaxed fruit. Too young? Of course it is, still you can drink this, if you like, it's world class." 98 points.

What drew me to open this label was written up by fellow CT'er who tasted it on the same date as our tasting and wrote, "Probably the best Leoville Las Cases ever. Decanted 3 hours. I was surprised by its readiness, despite it will improve for sure over time. Very complex wine with blue/black fruits prevailing over red." 100 points.

Dark blackish garnet colored, medium full bodied, impeccably polished and elegant, flawless (there's that word again, as above), concentrated but nicely integrated dark berry fruits with subtle notes of cassis, graphite, black tea and dark chocolate with smooth polished tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 96 points.