Saturday, December 23, 2023

Christmas dinner offers medley of festive wines

Christmas dinner offers medley of festive fine wines - old world, new world ... Left Bank, Right Bank ...

The tree was trimmed, the stockings were hung on the fireplace, and the house was decorated and lit up as the entire family gathered for a festive Christmas celebration and dinner. In all, there were twenty-six of us assembled for the gala festivities. 

 This is how we imagined our house decorated for Christmas ! ! ! In reality it looked like this ....

Linda prepared a Bone-in Prime Rib and Beef Tenderloin with Beef Bourgogne sauce, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and haricot verts, and cranberry fruit jello. 

The kids brought an extensive cheese and charcuterie board, shrimp cocktail and a selection of Christmas cookies. 

The gala provided an opportunity to open a broad medley of wines and Champagnes. 

For the cheeses and charcuterie and salad courses, and to celebrate the recent birth of grand-daughter Millie to Alec and Vivianna, we opened a birthyear vintage Champagne.

Delamotte Champagne Blanc de Blancs Millésimé 1990

The House of Delamotte is the fifth-oldest Champagne house in the historic wine region, founded in 1760 and is the little sister winery to the legendary House of Salon producing just 25,000 cases annually, and are both run by Didier Depond. The two wineries sit side-by-side in the heart of the Côte des Blancs in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger to the south of the village of Epernay. 

This vintage Delamotte is made from 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. Winemaker notes - Delamotte Blanc de Blancs exhibits absolute purity, with the vinification process taking place in stainless steel tanks. Blanc de Blancs is a mineral champagne, with a chalky sensation achieved by a modest addition of reserve wine (10% maximum). This particular note is the very essence of the Delamotte vineyard and its Chardonnays, which grow in a pure chalk soil. The wines tend to be a little austere when young, which they manage by allowing maturation on the lees – far longer than the statutory fifteen months – extended to four or five years before disgorgement. Ageing after disgorgement continues to perfect the finesse and elegance of the final cuvée.

This vintage release was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator, Ranked #15 Top 100 Wines of 1998 and Highly Recommended, 92 points by Wine Advocate, and 91 points by International Wine Cellar.

Its always a risk to hold vintage wine, and moreso for Champagne, for long term cellaring and aging, in this case, collecting birthyear wines to served at special occasion such as this. Upon opening, the bottle didn't 'pop' from the release of pressure as is customary with sparkling wine. We were worried it was gone, having lost its effervescence, but, in the end, it was very approachable and tasty for memorable and enjoyable drinking.  

Wine Spectator said, "Mouthfilling and wonderfully flavorful but not overpowering, blends abundant ripe fruit flavors with a subtle mousse and weaves great complexity with an elegant restraint. Like a classic Meursault that sparkles." 

Wine Advocate called it "'other-worldly' exquisite, loaded with leesy, wheat thin, buttery flavors, exceptionally complex, rich flavor, yet oh so delicate and light. It seems obvious that the quality of the 1990 Champagne vintage is going to be remarkable."

International Wine Cellar said, "Complex, smoky aromas of lemon, spring flowers, minerals, marzipan and spices; like a grand cru white Burgundy. Vibrant and ripe, with beautifully integrated acidity and superb flavor intensity. Big but fine. The palate-cleansing aftertaste features a note of caraway seed. "

One fellow Cellertracker, ThompsonandFrench held this same vintage until Christmas last year and on 12/27/2022 had a similar experience noting, "Initially tasted like it was over & wld last for 10 mins tops, but give it those 10 mins, and it become heaven! Limited sparkle, rich and delicious. Moorish - very." He 'Liked' it and gave it 95 points.

After settling this was delightful, mature but complex and tasty, we gave it 91 points.

We then moved from the 'old world to new world' and opened this American sparkler ....  

King Estate Willamette Valley Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine 2016

King Estate is a 1033 acre vineyard complex and state of the art winery situated atop the rolling slopes in the Coast Range foothills, near the southern end of Oregon's Willamette Valley producing Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. King Estate also has an innovative culinary program.

Willamette Valley’s cool climate is ideal for growing fruit that is well suited for sparkling wine. The 2016 King Estate Brut Cuvée was four years in the making and eight years since they last produced a sparkling wine.

Winemaker Notes - A luxurious nose awakens the senses with aromas that carry through to the palate: bruised apple, lemon and flowers along with toast, biscuit, fresh bread, slate and walnut. Tiny bubbles create an excellent mousse followed by bright and fresh acidity that rounds out nicely on the mid-palate. Stark and yet elegant acidity on the finish provides backbone with a complexity that lingers.

This is a Blend of 83% Pinot Noir and 17% Chardonnay, mostly estate sourced by also from neighboring growers within the Willamette Valley AVA, the fruit was predesignated for the sparkling program based on how it ripened.

Winemaker Tasting Notes - "A luxurious nose awakens the senses with aromas that carry through to the palate: bruised apple, lemon and flowers along with toast, biscuit, fresh bread, slate and walnut. Tiny bubbles create an excellent mousse followed by bright and fresh acidity that rounds out nicely on the mid-palate. Stark and yet elegant acidity on the finish provides backbone with a complexity that lingers."

Light, crisp and refreshing. RM 89 points.

We then moved to red wines, and in light of the beef entrees, we opted for pairing with blends with their increased complexity. We pulled from the cellar a couple of classic Bordeaux Grand Cru Classes', a Right Bank with its Merlot predominance, and a Left Bank with Cabernet Sauvignon focus. We also selected a selection from the new world, one in a right bank style and one left bank to compare with the aged mature old world offerings. 

Prior to the blends, for casual sipping we opened a favorite Napa Cabernet. 

Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Vérité "La Muse" Sonoma County Bordeaux Blend 1999

I written often in these pages about Jess Jackson (1930–2011) who founded what became one of the most successful family-owned wine companies in the world. Jackson’s lengthy career spanned more than 30 years in pursuit of his vision and passion to produce extraordinary wine from California’s best vineyards. Over the years Jackson Family Wines developed and acquired nearly forty iconic brands as the empire expanded beyond California Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties to Oregon, and beyond our borders to Australia, France, Italy, Chile and South Africa. 

The meteoric rise of Jess Jackson was chronicled in the book A Man and His Mountain, the story of self-made billionaire Jess Jackson and his pursuit of his dream to build a brand of premium varietal based wine for the mass market. His accomplishments over the ensuring two and a half decades exceeded all expectations achieving the art of the possible building a multi-billion dollar wine empire. I wrote about the book in these pages in this blogpost - Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2018.

From the earliest days, Jackson had longed to create wines that would be just as good as the world’s best wines and was confident that the terroir in Sonoma County had that potential.

Jackson first met French Vigneron Pierre Seillan during a visit to France in the 1990s. A friendship developed between the Jackson family in California and the Seillan family in Bordeaux.  When Pierre Seillan visited California in 1997, he bought in to Jackson's vision to develop the potential of Sonoma County terroir and Vérité was born.

Pierre Seillan has spent the previous five decades perfecting his micro-cru philosophy to create world-class wines from diverse terroirs. He teamed with Jack to use the same approach to capture the unique expressions of Sonoma County that he applied in Bordeaux, and Tuscany in each vintage.

Seillan’s wine career began at Bellevue, his family's estate in Gascony, France, where he learned to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and several white varieties. Later he focused on Cabernet Franc at Château de Targé in the Loire Valley. Seillan then spent two decades in Bordeaux making wine at several châteaux across eight different appellations, where he discovered the distinctive nuances between various vineyard sites. He perfected his micro-cru approach to build elegant and complex architecture in  his wines that reflected their source sites.

Beginning in 1998, Pierre Seillan has crafted the wines of Vérité, joined by his daughter Hélène Seillan who stepped into the role of assistant winemaker at the estate.

Born in 1987, Hélène Seillan spent her childhood in both France and California, surrounded by family and friends for whom winemaking was as much a passion as it was a profession. Following in her father’s footsteps, Hélène pursued a career in winemaking and began splitting her time between Sonoma County and Saint-Émilion. Starting in 2006, she served as assistant winemaker for her father at the family’s Bordeaux estate, where she worked on all aspects of winery management showing the same talent, passion and ability as her father. Hélène studied Viticulture and Oenology at the Institut Rural de Vayres in Bordeaux.

Vigneron Pierre Seillan carefully crafts each blend of Vérité from the mosaic of more than 50 “micro-crus” across four Sonoma County appellations, each contributing its unique palette of aromatics, flavors, textures and structural elements he needs to craft the wines of Vérité. Each micro-cru is harvested and fermented separately, then aged in French Oak barrels of various custom toasts.

Seillan carefully tailors his winemaking techniques and oak regimens to the personality of each lot, providing him with hundreds of unique components he can use to create the architecture of the final blends of three distinctive labels of the Vérité portfolio, La Muse, La Joie and Le Désir.

La Muse is the label developed in the style of the Right Bank of Bordeaux, delivering the incredible depth and texture with a Merlot-based blend from the top micro-crus of eastern Sonoma County.

This 1999 release was the second vintage of this ultra premium producer label, it was composed of a blend of 89% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon (84% of the fruit from Sonoma and 16% from Napa).

It was rated 97 points by Wine Advocate and 93 points by Vinous.  

At twenty-four years, the label, foil and most importantly the cork were all in pristine condition. The wine was likely at its peak, but not likely to improve further with more age. 

Garnet colored, medium bodied, complex yet balanced, integrated, elegant and polished, soft and smooth black and red currant and plum fruits highlighted with notes of cedar, tobacco, expresso and hints of leather and forest floor turning to smooth fine and mildly sweet tannin. 

Robert Parker noted - "plush and vinous, seamless and energetic, in the mold of an old-style Pomerol. (Right Bank Bordeaux appellation)"

RM 92 points. 

Winemaker Notes - "This wine is noticeably denser and richer in texture than the 1998 Vérité. The wine retains a similar lineage with red and black fruit characters and a velvety texture. What one notices last is the broad finish that lingers on the palate."

Melka "Métisse" Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend 2003 

If you're selecting a Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend, one can't get a more authentic representation than a label produced by French Bordeaux turned Napa winemaker Phillip Melka

I've written often in these pages about Phillip Melka and his Bordeaux heritage and experience, his Napa estate wines and his influences and collaborations across Napa Valley and beyond, including as a contributing winemaker in the Long Shadows Vintners Collection program. 
Melka's influence even reaches here to Illinois where Phillip was the mentor for Eric White of Galena Cellars Vineyards and Winery in Galena, IL, whom we met during our stay in the estate guest house during a getaway holiday week.

Philippe grew up in Bordeaux, earned his degree in Geology at the University of Bordeaux and later his Master’s degree in Agronomy and Enology. His first wine job was at Château Haut Brion in Bordeaux. His first introduction to the Napa Valley came in 1991 as an intern with Christian Moueix, proprietor of Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux and Dominus in Napa Valley. Philippe came to Dominus to study soils – then spent a few years as a traveling winemaker and ultimately settled in the Napa Valley in 1994.

Melka Estates started with Philippe and Cherie Melka sourcing fruit for their first two labels, two wines  named in honor of their two children Chloe and Jeremy and Metisse. They have since grown to four collections, CJ (a red blend very approachable in its youth sourced from premium vineyards throughout the Napa Valley), Metisse (a word that means ‘blend of cultures’ with wines from the Napa Valley), Mekerra (from the property they own in Sonoma County) and Majestique (single vineyard wines from outside of the Napa Valley). As a footnote, one quickly realizes the affinity the Melka’s have for the letter ‘M’.

This 2003 Metisse, is a blend in the Left Bank Bordeaux style with 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, sourced from the famed Madrona Ranch Vineyard. The 2003 is a Bordeaux blend based on 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, from Jim and Stephanie Gamble's Madrona Ranch vineyard located near Spottswood at the foot of Spring Mountain on the edge of the town of St Helena.  

This vineyard is located on the eastern side of Saint Helena, at the base of the Mayacamas where it is protected from the northern and western winds. This old river bench settles mostly large gravelly sediments and a small portion of thinner clay particles which explains why varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit verdot and Merlot were planted. This 3.5 acre estate is reminiscent of the Graves area of Bordeaux.

Winemaker's Notes - "The wine from this vineyard displays classic profile of gravelly soils characteristics; dark and red cherry layered with spices, the wine is perfume, seductive and refined."

"Bright medium ruby. Black plum, black cherry, caramel and violet on the nose. Sweet and round but high-pitched, with nicely integrated acidity lending freshness to the dark berry and licorice flavors. Finishes with fine tannins and excellent length. The 2004 Metisse is full ruby. Black plum, minerals and a hint of game on the slightly wild nose. Dense, silky and lush but with perfectly integrated acidity and a violet florality giving this rather claret-like wine a distinctly juicy character. Offers terrific subtle sweetness and finishes with outstanding persistence."

This label was awarded 93 points by Wine Advocate and 92 points by Int'l Wine Cellar.

Bottled in June 2005 after aging 19 months in 59 gallon French barrels, 75% new oak, 520 cases were released in the Spring of 2006. 

Winemaker's Notes - "This wine is a densely structured full bodied Cabernet with a deep red color. The aromatics are a mix of blackberry, tar and chocolate with floral overtones. The wine is rich with dark fruit flavors, possessing layers of complexity which give it such dimension and character. The finish is silky."

This may have been the WOTN - Wine of the Night, it was certainly my favorite of the evening being in the style that I prefer.

At twenty years, the label, foil and most importantly, the fill level and cork were in ideal condition. This was likely at its apex although not likely to improve with further cellar aging.

Bright ruby colored, medium-full bodied, full round bright vibrant flavors of sweet plum, blackberry and black currants with notes of mocha, caramel and violets with hints of creosote on a smooth polished fine tannin laced lingering finish.

RM 92 points.

Cos d'Estournel Grand Cru Classe St Estephe Bordeaux 1989

One of the classic historic Left Bank Bordeaux producers, we hold a dozen plus vintages of this label dating back to the 1979 which we featured in a blogpost below, including this 1989, and large format birth-year vintage bottles that we have served at family special events and celebrations as featured in these blogposts:

Family Celebration Dinner Features Birthyear Vintage Wine,

Birthyear vintage magnum Cos d'Estournel

Other posts featuring vintages of this label dating back to the 1979 vintage..

Pour Boys Impromptu Wine Dinner on the deck

OTBN 2019 - Open That Bottle Night

We visited the magnificent historic iconic Chateau Cos d' Estournel during our visit to the Medoc in the summer 0f 2018. Leaving the Pauillac town and appellation, driving past Chateau Lafite Rothschild, one crosses a miniscule creek leaving Pauillac and entering the St Estephe appellation. Rounding the bend and climbing the gentle hill, the iconic gate looms over the highway framing the historic Chateau, overlooking the estate vineyards across the road with the Lafite estate in the distance. 

Chateau Cos d’Estournel is a Second Growth Bordeaux from the Bordeaux classification of 1855. The estate is located on the border as one leaves Pauillac and enters St.-Estephe, adjacent to and looking across the vineyards at Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The historic iconic Chateau sits atop the hill and emerges in full view as one rounds the bend on the D4 route. According to the producer,  'Cos' means "the hill of pebbles".

Its oriental facade is adorned with three pagoda turrets, all cast in a soft golden sandstone. Chateau Cos d'Estournel today covers 170 acres separated from Chateau Lafite, along the southern edge, by the stream between St. Estephe and Pauillac. The chateau is surrounded by 160 acres of vineyards planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot.

The gravelly soil, over a flint, limestone and silicate subsoil low in nitrogen, has eroded over centuries to form steep ridges which perfectly drain the vineyards. The vineyards are planted 60 percent in Cabernet Sauvignon vines, 2 percent of Cabernet Franc, and 38 percent in Merlot. Naturally, the percentage of Cabernet or Merlot in the composition of each vintage depends on the climate for that vintage which favors one grape variety or the other.

Founded in the 18th century by Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, the chateau’s wines were in demand all over the world from the 19th century. The chateau was bought and sold many times during the late 19th and 20th centuries, and in 2000 it was acquired by Michel Reybier, who has managed it and maintained it's excellence.

Robert M. Parker Jr. has noted that Cos d’Estournel “has been particularly successful in difficult vintages” and “remains impeccably managed.” Some 200,000 bottles of the signature Cos d’Estournel are produced each year. 

Our Cellartracker records indicate we still hold a half dozen vintages of this label from the eighties and nineties including a half case of this vintage release.

We acquired and have held this bottle in our cellar since release - the foil and label are like new, the cork was intact despite starting to saturate. Again, evidence our cellar conditions are suitable for decades aging fine wines. 

This release was awarded 95 points by Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate, 94 points by  James Suckling, 93 points by Wine Spectator, and 18.5/20 points by Jancis Robinson. Parker was prescient when he projected to "Drink now-2025" back in 2010.

Garnet colored with a slight tinge of brown rust bricking, medium full bodied, complex, concentrated, rich black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of leather, tobacco, coffee, herbs, spice and hints of cedar with lush tannins and crisp acidity on a long aromatic finish.  

RM 93 points. 

Fellow Cellartracker'er Reviewed and "Likes this wine" just last month and gave it 93 points. Reading his review, it was 100% consistent with out experience tonight, even down to the saturated yet intact condition of the cork. I respectfully repost his review here below which sums up perfectly our tasting this evening.

"Medium-dark garnet in color with slight clearing at the edges. Full, forward & fragrant nose of ripe fruit aromas of dark cherries, blackberries & cassis with overtones of classic cigar box notes of cedar & tobacco, leather, graphite, floral notes of violets, herbs, forest floor/loam, mushrooms, minerals, cocoa, tar & some sous-bois notes. Medium-full bodied with a very good concentration of well balanced & smooth textured, ripe fruit flavors of dark cherries, blackcurrants & cassis with herbs, mushrooms, minerals, coffee & a slight hint of oak/vanilla. Long lingering silky-smooth finish. Drinks quite well at present with decanting & airing. At 34 years of age, I doubt any further development would occur from additional aging, but it should hold here for another 4 to 5 years. Fill was in lower neck; cork was saturated 1/2 up but intact."

Swithing from the Left Bank back to the Right Bank, another 1989 vintage Bordeaux .. 

Château Pavie Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé 1989

Château Pavie, situated on Saint-Emilion's limestone plateau and Pavie-Decesse is one of the "happy few” Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés. It is the Premier Grand Cru Classé flagship of the Perse family portfolio of estates that includes Saint-Emilion Châteaux Pavie, Pavie-Decesse, Monbousquet and Bellevue-Mondotte and Clos Lunelles in the Côtes de Castillon appellation.

All are managed by  owner Gérard Perse who move to Saint-Emilion in the early 1990s and purchased Château Pavie in 1998, followed a year later with the purchase of Grand Cru Classe Pavie Decesses.

The first Pavie vines were planted in Saint-Emilion on the "Pavie Hillside” south east of the town of Saint-Emilion, which previously grew red-fleshed peaches on the hills, a variety called "Pavie peaches” gave their name to the vineyard. Over time, peaches give way to vines.

The estate dates back to early owner Ferdinand Bouffard, a Bordeaux négociant, who inherited the Domaine de la Sable. Gradually, and over twenty years purchased the smaller neighboring vineyards of Pigasse, Chapus, Fayard and Dussaut to create a property of almost 125 acres which would become Château Pavie. Bouffard continued to vinify and sell each property's wine separately: Larcis-Bergey, Pavie-Pigasse, Pimpinelle, Clos Simard and La Sable.

Bouffard passed and the individual domaines continued through the First World War while awaiting a new owner when in 1919 they were acquired by Albert Porte. He sold Pavie-Pigasse which would become Pavie-Decesse, and united the other domaines to create the current Château Pavie.  

In 1943, Château Pavie was purchased by Alexandre Valette, a négociant from Saint-Ouen who already owned the neighboring vineyard of Troplong-Mondot. 

In the first Classification of Saint-Emilion wines in 1955, Pavie achieves the rank of Premier Grand Cru Classé "B”.

Jean-Paul Valette sold Château Pavie to current owners Gérard and Chantal Perse in 1998.

Château Pavie was promoted to the rank of Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé "A” in 2012.
In 2001, Perse purchased the Château Bellevue-Mondotte property which is just several vines distant from Pavie and Pavie-Decesse, a 'little jewel' of but 5 acres in size, situated on excellent terroir at the summit of Saint-Emilion's famous limestone plateau. The second part of the Château 's name, reminiscent of its famous neighbours La Mondotte and Château Troplong-Mondot, became Château Bellevue-Mondotte's with exceptional terroir.

In 2001, Gérard Perse, already owner of the famous Château Pavie, Pavie-Decesse, Monbousquet and Bellevue-Mondotte, creates « Esprit de Pavie » A Bordeaux red wine.

The estate is planted to 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon with an average age of the vines being 43 years. Annual production is 70 000 bottles.

Château Pavie has diverse terroirs: typical of the Saint-Emilion limestone plateau composed of clay-limestone soil on an asteriated limestone subsoil, located at an altitude of approximately 85 meters above the Dordogne River. The terroir is called "milieu de côte" (middle of the slope), located approximately 55 meters above the Dordogne and composed of very fine brown limestone. 

Today, Perse's daughter Angélique, along with son-in-law Henrique, and their two children, born in Saint-Emilion, live at the property.

Château Pavie Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé 1989

This release predates Gérard Perse's acquisition of the estate by almost a decade and does not quite match the highly acclaimed 1990 Pavie, but it continues to drink well. It was awarded 90 points by Wine Spectator and 17.5/20 points by Jancis Robinson.

Like the Cos above, at thirty-four years, the fill level, label, foil and importantly the cork, were all in pristine condition - the cork showing slight saturation but still integrally intact. This was past its apex but pleasant and still within its acceptable drinking window, but at a point where it will no doubt diminish from age here forward.

Garnet colored, medium to full-bodied, balanced, smooth but relatively simple blackberry fruits with notes of mushroom, tobacco, dusty rose and hints of milk chocolate with soft fine tannins and elegant texture on the moderate finish. 

RM 90 points.


Following dinner we opened several other festive bottles for sipping with deserts ... 

Madame de Beaucaillou 2018

Fluffy Billows Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Josh Phelps GW Steady State 2015

Merry Christmas!