Saturday, January 7, 2023

Family Celebration Dinner - Smoked Ribs, Big Reds, Champagne

Family Celebration Dinner - Smoked Ribs, Big Reds, Champagne

Son Ryan and d-in-law Michelle hosted a family celebration dinner for Erin's birthday and my recent transformational business transaction that is a page turner in closing out my career in Enterprise Software to focus on family and my various interests. 

Ryan smoked and grilled ribs and chicken for dinner accompanied by potato wedges, salad and haricot verts.  

Ryan pulled from his cellar an ultra-premium special edition blended Champagne to kick-off the celebration. We then had an extraordinary flight of big reds to accompany the bar-b-que dinner. 

Prior to dinner we brought and had some fabulous 14 year aged cheddar and some blue cheese, and Linda zuchini bites with parmesan, red pepper and red onion. 

Ryan opened with a limited release Cliff Lede Rock Block Napa Cab. I supplemented our wine flight with a Tensley single vineyard designated Shiraz big red.

Krug "Grande Cuvée" 168 ème Édition Brut Champagne 

 Each 'Édition' of Krug "Grande Cuvée" is uniquely crafted each year since 1843 to produce their finest flagship blend regardless of annual variations in the climate. It is typically blended from considerably more than 100 different wines, the result of six months of intensive tasting by the Krug team. The aim, as Cellar Master Eric Lebel describes it, is not to produce the same wine each year, but to produce the best possible wine each year, so every rendition of Grande Cuvée is different—differences that are now highlighted by Krug's laudable decision to enumerate each successive release. 

Crafted by Krug team lead by the old cellarmaster Eric Lebel, who is still in the background, and is grooming his successor Julie Cavil, who has been learning from him since 2006.

In line with the producer’s practice, each bottle and bottling of its flagship Grande Cuvée are individually numbered, this is the 2020 release.

Krug’s NV Grande Cuvée 168éme Édition
was based on the 2012 vintage harvest, complemented by fully 42% reserve wines, Pinot Noir from Verzenay and Chardonnay from Avize, a blend of 52% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 13% Meunier, across a staggering 198 different wines from eleven vintages going back to a precious, powerfully aromatic lot of Verzenay Pinot Noir 1996, making up the remainder 58% of the wine. It was bottled in 2013 and aged for seven years in Krug’s cellars in Reims.

It should be noted that 2012 yields were down more than 20% at Krug – there was no vintage 2012 bottling. 

Winemaker notes: "2012 was a beautiful year for wine with a low yield due to the full spectrum of climatic events that hit 2,100 parcels in the vineyards of Champagne. Growers had to be particularly attentive to the vines to ensure a great harvest. In the end, the wines were round and elegant with pastry notes, which is why for the 168ème Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée I looked for reserve Chardonnay with freshness and vivacity from plots in Avize and Marmery and Pinot Noir from plots on the Montagne de Reims Nord and Verzenay to bring the right amount of tension. I love this Édition because it illustrates the importance of listening to the land. A light golden colour and fine, vivacious bubbles, holding a promise of pleasure. Aromas of flowers in bloom, ripe, dried and citrus fruits, as well as marzipan and gingerbread. Flavors of hazelnut, nougat, barley sugar, jellied and citrus fruits, almonds, brioche and honey." - Eric Lebel, Krug Cellar Master.

This release was rated 97 points by James Suckling #56 Top 100 Wines of France 2020, 19 of 20 by Jancis Robinson,  96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Decanter, and 95 points by Wine Spectator and 93 points by Vinous.. Amazingly one attributes the Drinking Window 2020 - 2037.  

Golden colored, medium-full bodied quite rich, nicely integrated and balanced with layers of fruit apple, pear, toasted nuts and hints of pineapple with what one pundit called 'pie crust and biscuit' another 'crème pâtissière' dominant, and another referred to 'freshly baked bread', with lively backbone of acidity on the finish.

RM 94 points.

Based on this unique bottle number ID -


Cliff Lede ‘Roundabout Midnight’ Rock Blocks Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Cliff Lede grew up in his family’s construction business in Canada, and became enamored with Napa Valley while on a business trip in the 1990s. A collector of top Bordeaux, he saw great potential in the Stags Leap District and founded Cliff Lede Vineyards 2002 with the acquisition of 60 acres in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. 

Cliff engaged industry experts to redesign and replant the majority of the estate. The estate was split into two distinct vineyards in the northern corner of the Stags Leap District appellation. The steep, southwest-facing hillside vineyard that surrounds Poetry Inn is the Poetry Vineyard reaching  from the valley floor up to the highest elevations of the appellation. It is the sole source of Lede flagship Poetry label. 

Next to the hillside, shown above the Twin Peaks Estate vineyard sits on the valley floor surrounding the tasting room and winery. Twin Peaks Estate is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon.

The resulting plantings were so specific and precise to each soil type and exposure that, to keep track without having to refer to a clipboard, Cliff decided to name each block after some of his favorite rock songs and albums. From “My Generation” to “Dark Side of the Moon,” he created what is known today as the Cliff Lede Vineyards “Rock Blocks.” The winemaking team gets creative with this innovation, annually crafting a small-lot Rock Block Series “mash up” of two or more blocks, featured in the tasting room and wine club.

Our visits and private tours and tastings have been the highlights of several of our Napa Valley visits dating back to 2009 - before I started this blog. 

Overseen by Director of Winemaking Christopher Tynan and Winemaker Travis Bullard, CLiff Lede produces a portfolio that includes Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley - one of our favorite labels of this varietal; Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District; Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard; the Rock Block Series, Stags Leap District; Songbook, Napa Valley; and the flagship wine, Poetry, Stags Leap District, among others that are offered only to wine club members.

Each year Cliff Lede produces the Rock Block series, crafted from their estate vineyard blocks and named after Cliff’s favorite rock songs and albums. The name of this blend is derived from Yes’ “Roundabout” in their Twin Peaks vineyard and from Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” from the legendary top flight Poetry vineyard. 

Ryan obtains these special release labels as part of his wine-club allocation. This label was highlighted and showcased at the Cliff Lede 20th Anniversary celebration and 2019 release party tasting.

Winemaker Notes: "The Cabernet Sauvignon in “After Midnight” is planted in shallow volcanic soil and farmed to low yields, contributing structure, concentration, and classic Stags Leap character to the backbone of the blend. “Roundabout” is a block of Cabernet Sauvignon that contributes a luxurious perfume, flavors of ripe, dark fruit, and plush texture.'

Winemaker's Notes: "This hedonistic elixir unleashes an exceptional fragrance of violets, blackberry preserves, slate, and unctuous warm plums. Dark and brooding, the satiny entry continues seamlessly across the palate whilst flavors of cedar, lilac, and black licorice candy dance and sing effortlessly to a long and energetic finish." – Christopher Tynan, Director of Winemaking

This release is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, underwent twenty-one months of élevage in French oak barrels, 74% of which were new.

This release was rated 98 points by Wine Enthusiast Virginia Boone, 95 points by Owen Bargren and International Wine Report. 

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, dense and concentrated, round, rich core of black currants and dark cherry fruits accented by creme de cassis, notes of tobacco, spice, cocoa, graphite and crushed gravel. 

RM 94 points. 


Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Barbara County Syrah 2020

I pulled from the cellar, perhaps the current best drinking bottle in our collection meeting the profile to enjoy with smoked BBQ, this Colson Canyon Syrah from Tensley Wines.  

Tensley Vineyard off Foxen Canyon Wine Trail 

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 earlier this year. This was the standout of that tasting and best represents the style that we love.

Tensley Vineyards tasting room
downtown Los Olivos

Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard 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 Produced

This was awarded 94-96 points by Jeb Dunnuck and 96 points by Wine Advocate.

Might I consider this the Tensley 'flagship'? This reminded me of a couple other memorable highly rated Syrahs, 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.

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. With the perfect BBQ rib pairing ...

RM 95 points.