Thursday, May 4, 2023

Pour Boys Coq-Au-Vin and wine dinner

Pour Boys Coq-Au-Vin and wine dinner features medley of premium Chardonnays

Passing through Northern Indiana, we stopped to dine with fellow Pour Boy, Dr Dan. His Linda prepared a new recipe for Coq-Au-Vin so he pulled from his cellar, and we brought from our's, several wines to accompany dinner. 

As is our custom, prior to dinner they served a selection of artisan cheeses, fresh fruits, assorted nuts, and fresh shrimp.  

Dan pulled from his cellar a duo of Gary Farrell premium single vineyard designated Chardonnay's from the Sonoma County Russian River Valley. Dan acquired these labels as part of his wine club allocation shipments. 

He joined the Farrell club during our visit to the Gary Farrell estate and winery in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County during or Napa / Sonoma Wine Experience in 2017.

To complement, pair and compare the dinner and wines I brought from our cellar this premium label bold Napa Valley Chardonnay from Moone Tsai.

 We opened and tasted the Chardonnays in order by vintage year, oldest to the youngest, of the three sequential vintages.  

An interesting pairing comparison of three different Chardonnays, only by tasting them side by side like this can one truly appreciate and assess comparing their nuances, character and profile. 

There was unanimous agreement on rating and ranking the three wines. Everyone selected the Rochioli Vineyard as their favorite, followed by the Moone Tsai, and then the Farrell Sonoma County.

Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Sonoma County Chardonnay 2015

Gary Farrell was a pioneer of winemaking in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley appellation. He produced his first vintage in 1982, before the Russian River AVA even existed. He crafted that first Pinot Noir from fruit grown in the now-legendary Rochioli Vineyard. 

Over the years, Gary Farrell become somewhat of a legend producing a portfolio of varietal, single vineyard designated wines produced from only the best vineyards that showcase the unique terroir from the Russian River Valley and across Sonoma County.

Gary Farrell never owned a vineyard but produced consistently exceptional wines from that first vintage in 1982 by partnering based on handshake deals with the region's pioneer growers like the Rochioli, Dutton, Ramey, Allen and Hallberg families, whose Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards represented the best of the time and place. Since then, the winery has produced critically acclaimed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in collaboration with the most esteemed growers in the Russian River Valley and throughout California’s greatest wine regions.

The nearly 40 different vineyards extend beyond the Russian River Valley and include grapes from as far north as the Fort Ross-Seaview Vineyard along the Sonoma coast to the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

Theresa Heredia is the winemaker for Garry Farrell. Theresa found her passion for wine through biochemistry, earning a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She became a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry/enology at UC Davis before leaving the program to pursue winemaking. At Freestone Winery in Sebastopol, she gained acclaim for her small-lot, single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir before arriving at Gary Farrell Winery in 2012. Aside from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Theresa has also crafted Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Farrell sold his winery in 2004, but his name and reputation for producing outstanding wines continues under the leadership of Theresa.

We visited the winery’s beautiful estate and hospitality center that lies just west of Healdsburg, (CA), perched on a hilltop overlooking the Russian River Valley during our Napa / Sonoma Wine Experience in 2017. The inviting indoor space offers stunning views of the valley with floor to ceiling windows, and there’s an expansive terrace so guests can enjoy the wines alfresco. The walls are adorned with a collection of colorful artwork.

Tonight, our favorite of the three Chardonnay labels tasted was the Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay. Rochioli Vineyard was originally purchased in 1938 by Joe Rochioli, Sr. The quest of growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the fertile, gravelly soils was continued by Joe Jr. after his father’s passing in 1966. This label is the result of the collaboration between Gary Farrell Winery and the Rochioli Vineyard that has been in effect for more than 30 years. It is a foundation of the Farrel portfolio of  Russian River Valley wines.
Most of the Chardonnay blocks are located at the far eastern edge of the estate, sitting along and above the meandering Russian River. The majority of this blend comes from the River Block clone 5, planted in 1989. The balance comes from the Mid-40s Block, a field selection planted in 1993, and Allen Block 1, clone 15, planted in 1995. 
Winemaker Notes:
This beautiful offering from the famed Rochioli Vineyard emanates aromas of lemon oil, honeysuckle, and dried herbs, with underlying layers of flintiness and fresh cut cedar. The sandy, gravelly riverside soils, warm sunny days and morning fog yield an intensity and concentration that is unique to the Rochioli fruit. The palate offers richness that is classic Russian River Valley, yet possesses energy and vibrancy typical of our house style - ripe golden fruit, lime zest, nectarine and lemongrass, balanced by zesty spice, tangy acidity and just the right amount of phenolic structure. Altogether, these features meld together to form a wine that is enjoyable today, but also suggest increasing complexity and elegance with age.

This label was awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast, and  92 points by Wine & Spirits. It was #1 of the Wine Enthusiast Top 100 of 2017

The favorite of the three, golden colored, full bodied, rich, round, concentrated, elegant and balanced, bright vibrant apple and hints of peach fruits with notes of floral, citrus and stone fruits, spice and tangy acidity on a tongue coating lingering finish. 

RM 93 points.

Gary Farrell Vineyard  Olivet Lane Vineyard Sonoma County Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2016

This is another single vineyard designated Chardonnay sourced from the Olivet Lane Vineyard, located on the Olivet Road in Santa Rosa, seven miles from Gary Farrell Winery. 

The vineyard sits on 65 acres of sloping bench land in the heart of the Russian River Valley, in a sub-region called the Santa Rosa Plain, in between the warmer Westside Road region and the cooler Green Valley where warm summer days are moderated by cool breezes and chilly evening temperatures, this unique site is heavily influenced by fog that rolls in through the Petaluma Gap to the south. 

The rolling bench land location with the combination of well drained clay loam soils and east/west vine exposure with long, cool nights, create an excellent environment with optimum growing conditions great for ripening, producing world-class Chardonnay that develop cool-climate characteristics and impeccable acid at fairly low sugars. The wines from this vineyard simultaneously express power and finesse, and they do so with tremendous balance.  

This historic property is one of the oldest existing Pinot Noir vineyards in the Russian River Valley, a former apple, prune and olive orchard. At the recommendation of Dr. Armand Kasimatis at University of California at Davis, the Pellegrini family planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, developing one of the first vineyards in the region devoted exclusively to these two varieties.

Planted in 1973 it covers 60 acres, twenty planted in Pinot Noir and forty in Chardonnay, that two-thirds of the vineyard is planted to Wente selection Chardonnay on AXR rootstock, a heritage selection that produces some of the best Chardonnays in all of California. The old vines create natural vine balance, excellent concentration and ample quantities of natural acidity. The vines are cane pruned, vertical shoot positioning (VSP) and faithfully tended by Robert Pellegrini for the past 40 years. The wines from this vineyard simultaneously express power and finesse, and they do so with tremendous balance.

Besides Gary Farrell, the Olivet Lane Vineyard provides fruit to several wineries sourcing from this vineyard including Merry Edwards Wines, Pellegrini Wine Company, WesMar Winery, Pali Wine Co., and the notable premium producer Williams Selyem.

Winemaker Notes - The Olivet Lane Vineyard is consistently a benchmark for Chardonnay in Russian River Valley, and the 2016 delivers without fail. Its’ always welcome nose of Meyer lemon, crisp apple and Satsuma mandarin fill the glass alongside the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked butter cookies. The palate is equally as generous, offering layers of lemon cream, coriander, brioche and flaky puff pastry, and the supple, lengthy finish leaves nothing to be desired.

The juice was left in tank to cold-settle then transferred to 35% new and 65% one to three-year old neutral French oak barrels and puncheons for fermentation and aging, where it remained for 9 months on its primary lees until it was bottled. The wine was racked off the primary lees only once, just before bottling.

This label was awarded 92 points by James Suckling and 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Jeb Dunnuck.

Straw colored, medium bodied, crisp notes of citrus pink grapefruit and clove spiced apples, stone fruits, white peach, crushed rocks with bright acidity on a long zesty finish. 

RM 91 points.

Moone Tsai Napa Valley Chardonnay 2017

Moone-Tsai is the fulfillment of the vision and dream of Larry Tsai and MaryAnn Tsai, Co-Founders and Proprietors. Larry and MaryAnn started Moone-Tsai wines in 2003, with the dream of making rare and remarkable wines bearing the finest fruit from Napa Valley's most heralded vineyards. Pursuing this vision, focused on Howell Mountain, Moone-Tsai launched its distinctive, limited production Cabernets, Chardonnays, and Bordeaux blends, including Moone-Tsai's signature landmark Howell Mountain Hillside Blend

As founders and owners, the are entrenched in every aspect of winery operations. They are devoted residents of their beloved Howell Mountain and take pride in sharing wines that bear the "best of the best" fruit from the celebrated AVA, as well as from other most prized vineyard blocks across Napa Valley.

Fresh out of Harvard Business School, MaryAnn set her sights on a career in the Napa Valley wine industry. She helped create some of Howell Mountain's most acclaimed wines, most notably the establishment of Beringer's legendary Bancroft Ranch Merlots. In subsequent years, MaryAnn was instrumental in other acclaimed wine releases and AVAs (including three wines that each received ratings of #1-rated Wine in the World), she never forgot the allure of Howell Mountain.

MaryAnn and Larry call the enchanting Las Posadas district of Howell Mountain their home and have their winery and tasting room operations down the hill in St. Helena.

MaryAnn Tsai grew up in a spirited Italian family in Boston, Massachusetts. She spent summers helping her grandmother tend a garden featuring rows of vegetables, herbs, and an especially precious vineyard from which the family celebrated the rite of winemaking.

During college, MaryAnn did a study-abroad program at the University of Angers, France, in the Loire Valley, known for well-crafted wines and inspired cuisine. There, MaryAnn developed her interest in wines, which inspired her move to Napa Valley, following graduation from Harvard Business School, to pursue a career in the wine industry.

She was hired by Mike Moone to join Beringer Wine Estates in 1989. Over the next twenty plus years, she was involved with producing notable wines and brands, three of which earned the distinction of being named as "Wine Spectator's #1-rated Wine in the World". With the creation of Moone-Tsai wines in 2006, MaryAnn and Larry set their sights on earning a fourth #1 rating, one under the Moone-Tsai banner. 

Larry Tsai, a first generation Chinese-American grew up in the North Shore neighborhoods of New York's Long Island. After earning degrees at Princeton and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Larry pursued a career that enabled him to indulge his intertwining interests in wine, food, and the arts.

He gained experiences across Fortune 500 companies, and emerging gourmet/food/lifestyle enterprises and Napa Valley non-profits; Larry applies his management skills to create and deliver extraordinary wines and experiences promoting Moone-Tsai.

Since taking on Moone Tsai in 2010, Larry has expanded from its single-cabernet-infancy to the brand's current annual production of 3000 cases of seven acclaimed wines. He enjoys connecting with people who enjoy well-crafted wines, teaching and tasting from "Baton Rouge to Bali, Seoul to Sun Valley, Jackson Hole to Jakarta, and Manhattan to Mumbai" as their website states, he promotes Napa Valley and Moone-Tsai wines with people over good times and fine conversation.

The legendary Philippe Melka is Winemaker for Moone-Tsai. We're huge fans of Philippe's handicraft as these pages attest throughout. Bordeaux-bred and mentored by the world's most revered winemakers, Philippe is quick to credit the masterful influences of Delmas and Masclef from Haut-Brion; Moueix and Berrouet from Petrus; Paul Draper from Ridge; and Michel Rolland from Chateau Le Bon Pasteur. 

Phillippe helped put the likes of Dominus, Hundred Acre, Bryant Family Vineyards, and Dana Estates on the map for the most discerning Cabernet labels and brands; Robert Parker named Philippe as one of the world's top nine consulting winemakers.

Moone Tsai Napa Valley Chardonnay is sourced from Bald Mountain, a neighbor of Mount Veeder in the Mayacamas Mountains on the western border of the Napa Valley. The south-facing vineyard sits at nearly 1600 feet above sea level overlooking the convergence of both Sonoma and Napa Valleys, as well as of Marin's Mt. Tamalpais to the south. Cool sunshine is abundant throughout the growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly while varietal character evolves completely.

Producers' notes - The 2017 growing season was marked by ample winter rains, a mild spring, hail in June, and intermittent waves of summer heat. A third and final temperature spike prompted picking in early September.The result is a delightfully delicious chardonnay displaying both richness and resolve. On the nose, the wine expresses notes of star jasmine and citrus, giving way to flavors that tempt the palate with a pleasing panoply of lemon candy, grapefruit zest, tropical fruit, and (wait for it…), a suggestion of bananas foster and crème brulée. Aged 17-months in 30% new French oak, the wine demonstrates a pleasingly light acidity to provide a refreshing counterpoint that balances the wine from start-to-finish. Teasingly inviting but refined in a way that memorable white burgundies can often be, the wine conjures up the dulcet tones of Fleetwood Mac’s sultry singer-songwriter, Christine McVie, who in her memorable hit, "You Make Loving Fun" compelled many of us who “never did believe in the ways of magic” to "…begin to wonder why."

This is 100% Chardonnay from Bald Mountain was aged in 30% new French oak (Burgundian) Marcel Cadet, Rousseau, Francois Frères Dargaud et Jaegle (light to medium toast). 570 cases were produced. 

The 2017 Moone-Tsai Napa Valley Chardonnay was rated 95 points by Jeb Dunnuck.

This was our second favorite of the three wines - an intersection middling of the two in all respects.

Golden straw colored, medium to full bodied, elegant and balanced stone fruits and spiced apple and pear fruits with notes of pain grille and sweet floral with s smooth polished lingering finish.
RM 92 points.