Saturday, January 27, 2024

Steak Night, Fresh Catch and Wine Specials at Wine Bar Destin

Steak Night, Fresh Catch and Wine Specials at Wine Bar Destin

The Wine Bar - Destin 

Visiting our favorite getaway, Destiny Cove vacation rental in Destin Florida, we dined at The Wine Bar restaurant in Destin. 

We first discovered the Wine Bar in the Sandestin Grand Boulevard shopping center. It's adjacent to and affiliated with the Wine World wine shop that has an amazing and impressive selection of 100 point and first growth producer wines. We then learned they have four locations including this one, the Wine Bar in Destin nearby.

The Wine Bar Destin location is located at the Shoppes of Paradise Key (on Commons Drive across from the Destin Commons Center). In addition to the restaurant, they have the adjacent wine shop that also includes a cheese shop - a trifecta, all in the one location, just up the street from our neighborhood!  

The dining room offers casual fine dining in a rustic and quaint setting, intimate and slightly dark, with an adjacent bar and a private wine room for special dinners and private groups.

The Wine Bar restaurant offers a core selection soups, salads and small plates, with chicken, steaks and fresh seafood. They tout an award winning wine list, and and extensive selection of artisan cheeses! 

The wine list offers a broad selection of WBTG - Wines By The Glass; five Sparkling Wines, three Rose's, nine "Fresh and Bright Whites", and nine "Round Rich and Ripe White Wines". For red wine selections they offer seven :Soft and Fruity Reds", twelve "Big and Bold Reds:. 

And, for 'Happy Hour', from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily, they offer a 12 oz. carafe of WBTG selections for the price of a large glass, 8 oz.  They also offer a wine flight of Luxury Whites and one of Luxury Reds.

We ordered from the wine list a carafe specials the premium Brunello Montalcino of which they were out, so, we opted for a Barolo, a Napa Valley Red Blend, and a Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay.

As starters we ordered the cesar salad and the Beet Caprese Salad - heirloom tomatoes, roasted red beets, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, balsamic glaze (shown below).

For entrees, Linda ordered the Manchego Crusted Grouper, the Daily Fresh Catch Special with carolina gold rice, field peas, wild mushrooms, lardons, jalapeno and citrus beurre blanc.

Saturday night is Steak Special night so I ordered the Saturday Night Filet of Beef special, prepared Pittsburgh style, charred on the outside, medium hot pink center on the inside.

With the steak we ordered two carafe special red wines, a Red Blend and a Barolo, our second choice since the published Brunello di Montalcino was not available.

Aril Sonoma County Kick Ranch Red Blend 2017

This is from Aril Wines, founded in 2008 by Harmon and Joanne Brown to produce a small amount of premium, hand-crafted wines based on their Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard in Napa Valley. They retained renowned winemaker and viticulturist Ehren Jordan (Failla/Turley) as winemaker and vineyard consultant in 2014. He employed a simple philosophy of procuring optimal grapes and respecting them in the winery applying a minimalist approach to showcase place, balance, and elegance.

In 2018, the Jay family purchased the brand to continue the legacy and production. 

Aril produce four labels of Bordeaux varietals including this unique blend which includes Rhone varietal Syrah, all sourced from the Kick Ranch Vineyard that sits high atop Spring Mountain which separates Napa Valley to the east and Sonoma Valley to the west. 

Sitting on the western facing slope of the mountain in what is known as the Fountaingrove District in Sonoma County, it has vistas all they way to the Petaluma Gap to the west, which provides cool nights and foggy mornings. The producer site describes the vineyard rows planted to capture maximum sun exposure.

The Fountaingrove District is a sleeper of an appellation within Sonoma County, the 17th AVA, latest and most recent to receive American Viticultural Area (AVA) status in March 2015. 

The District takes its name from an historic area of northeastern Santa Rosa, the Fountaingrove District that was inspired by the legacy of California's original "cult winery." Of the 38,000-acres in the appellation 500 acres are planted to vineyards from five wine producers.


The Fountaingrove District sits in the middle of the Mayacamas Mountain range that separates Napa Valley to the east from Sonoma Valley to the west. It is bounded to the north by Sonoma County's Knights Valley AVA, Sonoma Valley to the south, Chalk Hill to the northwest, and Russian River Valley to the west.

This label is a unique blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Petit Verdot. It was aged in 33% new French Oak barrels for eighteen months. This was the six vintage release of this label. Only 275 cases were produced.

This was dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, concentrated full round red and black fruits with notes of dusty rose, leather and spice with hints of anise.

Azienda Agricola Icollirossi Barolo Monforte d'Alba Nebbiolo 2018

Icollirossi Barolo is a DOCG designated wine from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy.

One of the world's great red wines, Barolo is also one of the most distinctive, primarily due to the DOCG rules regulating the grape, how it is produced and the unique terroir of the region in which it grows. Wines from the Barolo DOCG must be 100% Nebbiolo. Barolo wines are noted for their ability to age and need to be aged for at least 38 months after the harvest before release, of which at least 18 months must be in wood.

Located in North West Italy, the Piedmont Wine Region has the largest area in terms of DOC and DOCG wines. Meaning “foot of the mountain,” due to its proximity to the Alps, Piedmont wines including Barolo, Barberesco, Gattinara, Ghemme and Gavi all benefit from the slopes and terrain characteristic of the region. 

Barolo production codes stipulate that vineyards must be located on hillsides, however a recent revision of the production code released in 2010 goes further to specifically exclude valley floors, humid and flat areas, areas without sufficient sunlight, and areas with full-on northern exposures.

Nebbiolo is the dominant grape variety for reds and produces wines with tannic and acidic qualities that can also have fairly high alcohol content. This distinctive combination profile makes distinguished and cellar-worthy wines of Barolo and Barberesco some of the most sought-after. 

This Barolo is from the commune of Monforte d'Alba, one of several  DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) communes in the northern Italian region of Piedmont.

Winemaker notes - "Bold and complex, I Colli Rossi Cru Monforte Barolo 2018 delivers rich flavors of dark fruits, spices, and earthiness. Powerful tannins and a long finish. Pair with lamb, beef, and game."

Bright Ruby colored, medium full bodied, layered flavors of blackberry and cherry with notes of earth, anise, tobacco and hints of cedar and clove spice with polished tannins on an expressive lingering finish.

RM 89

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2022

This is an entry level label from the legendary Wagner Family wine portfolio, most known for their flagship Caymus brand. Mer Soleil is led by second generation Owner and Winemaker Charlie Wagner. It is sourced from vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA near the coast in Monterey County.

This wine is named for the sea and sun in recognition of the distinctive place where it is sourced. The Santa Lucia Highlands, 40 minutes south from Monterey in North Central coastal California are known for morning fog, bright sunshine and gusting winds and an extended growing season. Grapes stay on the vine longer, leading to the development of intense aromas and flavors. 

Producer's notes - "A lively flaxen gold, this wine features a harmonious nose that previews the playful balance to come on the palate. Scents of brown spice, toasted almonds, custard and light oak mingle with Meyer lemon zest, honeysuckle and a hint of apricot. Entry is round, as this wine's fruit and natural acidity build on each other, with echoes of brown spice, citrus and apricot enveloped in a creamy texture. A vibrant finish of lemon/lime showcases the distinctly bright acidity produced from the Monterey coast, leaving an enticing freshness that prepares the palate for another sip."

Aromas of baked croissant, apricot, lemon/lime and honeysuckle. Round and creamy on the palate with notes of lemon squares and fresh natural acidity. Creamy yet fresh, the wine is balanced by lively acidity and bright citrus.

A widely distributed, moderately priced, easy drinking Chardonnay.

RM 88 points.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Naperville

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Naperville 

Son Ryan and D-in-law Michelle treated us to dinner at Gordon Ramsey's RK Kitchen in downtown Naperville (IL). This was our first visit to the trendy restaurant that opened in our hometown last summer to much fanfare. 

Readers of these pages know I write often about dinesites and our food and wine restaurant experience. But, up until now I've not had a metricized qualitative or quantitative rating or review system against which to evaluate and compare such restaurants. Based on tonight's, and recent experiences, I felt such a evaluation method with criteria was required and after much thought devised a system to try. 

Using my new system, I evaluated tonight's dining experience. I then went back and retrospectively scored a half dozen recent restaurant experiences as a basis of comparison, evaluating the evaluation system, so to speak. 

Here are my criteria for evaluating a restaurant dining experience, and the associated weight applied to each:

Food - 35 - Selection, quality, creativity or ingenuity, presentation, course pairing, wine pairing

Wine - 35 - Breadth and depth of selection, range of options at various price points, suitability and applicable pairing with the dinner courses

Ambiance - 10| - atmosphere, vibe, comfort, stylishness, general aura

Service - 10 - delivery, attentiveness, professionalism, attitude, overall experience

Value - 10 - value for quality, service, atmosphere, experience

Wow Factor - Lastly, what I simply call the WOW Factor - additional scoring, weighting based on special consideration or  extra credit factors that contribute to the overall experience such that they warrant attention - food and wine pairing - site architecture, location, historical significance, specials ... other ... potential for +10 points

So, here we go, for tonight's experience - 

Food  - 31 - Food was superb in creativity, ingenuity, preparation, quality - downgraded the rating for the only thing lacking, bread or depth of selection choices - only the limited menu choice detracting from score.

Wine - 31 - Same as food, the minimalist winelist offered various options for each course, at multiple price points, but lacking depth and breadth of multiple choices for minimal options for effective wine pairing with each course.

Ambiance - 8 of 10 - chic, stylish, artful, warm, lively and vibrant but a bit noisy and boisterous for optimal comfort. 


Service - 9 of 10 - Starting with the host station, going the extra meal to seat us promptly, attending to checking our coats, superb food service, adequate wine service. 

Value - 5 - Expensive, especially taking into account the ala carte sides, and the somewhat limited number of options or alternatives. 

WOW Factor - 8 points extra credit for the up-beat, stylish, quality fixtures, furnishings, layout, design, artfully designed and implemented for a positive experience. 

Total - 92 points.

Our dinner - 

We started with a Wedge Salad which they conveniently served almost family style like a chopped salad making it easy and convenient to share around the table.

Wedge Salad- iceberg, blue cheese, glazed bacon, roasted tomatoes, pickled red onion, chives.

With the salad course we had from the WBTG offerings two sparkling wines - 

Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose'

Lanson Brut NV Champagne 

For our main source entree selections, we had to try the house specialty, Ramsey's signature dish, the Beef Wellington.

Beef Wellingto, potato purée, glazed baby root vegetables, red wine demi, served medium rare.

RK offers a Daily Special so in the spirit of trying out the gourmet chef's selections, Linda ordered the daily special - Lobster Pot Pie -butter-poached lobster, lobster bisque filling served aside for preparation at the table by the diner, pouring into the puff pastry.

We ordered two side dishes, Potato Puree with sour cream and chives, and the Roasted Heirloom Carrots with harissa yogurt, za’atar, brown butter, marcona almonds and mint.

For dessert we ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding -warm date cake, sweet cream ice cream and english toffee sauce.

Our wine accompaniment pairing with the dinner was a robust full bodied Red Blend. 

Ridge Lytton Springs Red Blend 2021

Once again, as happens often, we drank this same wine, from our cellar, about this same time, two years ago, almost to the day for another dinner tastings - Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek ValleyZinfandel 2014. At that time, I wrote about the producer and wine in these pages, Ridge Vineyards  and Lytton Springs.  

We always keep a selection of big robust fruit forward wines for pizza and barbecue - Zinfandels, Syrahs and Petite Syrah varietals to name a few. We typically hold a half dozen different labels from the various offerings of Ridge Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards are a legendary producer of a broad portfolio of wines with an extensive line-up of Zinfandels, all from single vineyard designated label sites. 

Ridge has a rich history dating back to 1885 when Osea Perrone, a doctor and prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There, he planted vineyards and constructed a winery of redwood and native limestone in time to produce the first vintage of Monte Bello in 1892. The historic building remains to this day serving as the Ridge production facility.

Ridge have been producing Lytton Spring vineyard wines since 1972 with 100 plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Genache. The site has produced the quintessential example of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. 

The Lytton Springs site lies just north of the town of Healdsburg, just west of Highway 101 in the Dry Creek Valley. The topography consists of a benchland and gently rolling hills. The climate provides foggy mornings turning to warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. Soils are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay, which aids in moisture retention, ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. The Lytton Springs terrior with weathered, agronomically poor soils in the benchland have proven to be an ideal site for Zinfandel vines to produce classic Zinfandel varietal wines.

The Lytton Springs vineyards were part of land once owned by Captain William Litton, who during the last half of the nineteenth century developed the springs and built a hotel just east of the vineyard for San Franciscans who arrived by train to “take the waters.” 

According to the producer's website, Long after the death of Captain Litton, controversy continued in regards to the change from “i” to “y”, as the accepted spelling of the Litton property. According to the text of Once Upon a Time by Julius Myron Alexander, the spelling was changed “because it was proper”. Then, in a 1969 Press Democrat article, Healdsburg City Clerk and local historian, Edwin Langhart, offered a different opinion, “It appears the name was changed in error by a draftsman or some other official, and it has stayed ‘Lytton’ ever since:’ Whatever the reason, records show that by 1896, most official documents had adopted the ‘Lytton’ spelling.

Ridge Vineyards dates back to 1959 when three scientists from Stanford University's Research Institute (SRI) and their families formed a partnership and bought a property owned by Dr. Short up on Monte Bello Ridge high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of them, David Bennion, made a half barrel of cabernet from the ten year old vines. The partners re-bonded the winery and named it Ridge Vineyards in 1962. That year they produced their first Monte Bello vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ridge produced its first Zinfandel in 1964 from 19th century vines on the Pichetti Ranch near the base of the Monte Bello Ridge. Ridge produced it's first Sonoma County Geyserville Zinfandel in 1966, from vines planted in 1882. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year.

Paul Draper joined the partnership as winemaker in 1969. He was a Stanford graduate in philosophy, and a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. He had recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile’s coast range. He oversaw the restoration of the old Perrone winery and vineyards acquired the previous year. 

He first saw the Lytton Springs vineyard in 1972 and, based on its age with 80 years old vines, purchased grapes and produced Ridge’s first Lytton Springs bottling that year. In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of their first vintage, Ridge purchased the Lytton Springs winery and the old vines surrounding it, making it a true estate vineyard.

Paul Draper went on to become a legend with Ridge Vineyards. The Ridge brand grew to a broad portfolio of more than four dozen single vineyard designated label wines from more than two dozen different vineyards. They operate two wineries and hospitality sites, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg up in north Sonoma County and Monte Bello high in the Santz Cruz Mountains above Silicon Valley. 

Paul Draper retired in 2016 at age 80, after 47 years as winemaker. Ridge continued on expanding with additional vineyard site purchases include the purchase that year of Whitton Ranch, a 36-acre parcel in the heart of Geyserville.

Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Red Blend 2021

This is a single vineyard designated label, sourced from the Lytton Springs vineyard in Northern Soboma County. The vineyard lies just north of Healdsburg on the benchland where the gently rolling hills separate Dry Creek from Alexander Valley. 

Lytton Springs is named after Captain William H. Litton and two naturally occurring springs that were located on the original property. Litton worked as a ship’s pilot in the San Francisco Bay in the mid nineteenth century before acquiring the large tract of land in 1860. The property straddled the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys that extended from the southernmost boundaries of Geyserville to the northern limits of the fledgling town of Healdsburg, with the Russian River serving as its eastern boundary. The property was originally part of the Rancho Sotoyome land grant of the 1840’s. By 1867, Captain Litton was considered the fourth largest property owner in Sonoma County. 

In 1872, the San Francisco and Northern Pacific Railroad linked Healdsburg and points north with the Bay area. In an attempt to attract tourists, Captain Litton and three partners built a resort hotel on the site in 1875, known as “Litton Springs” for the popular soda springs that were located half a mile uphill from the original hotel site. The naturally carbonated seltzer, or sweetwater, springs were considered to have medicinal value for their mineral properties. The springs still exist today and their presence was one of the primary reasons that underground caves were never built underneath the winery.

Captain Litton sold the 2700 acre property, including the hotel in 1878. Over the next couple of decades, the resort property was bought and sold and subdivided into smaller parcels by various owners. 

 According to the producer's website, “It appears the name was changed in error by a draftsman or some other official, and it has stayed ‘Lytton’ ever since:’ Whatever the reason, records show that by 1896, most official documents had adopted the ‘Lytton’ spelling.

 The vineyards were first established on the property in 1901 with the hillside vineyard blocks on the eastern portion of Lytton Springs, followed by vineyard blocks on the flats in 1910. To this day, Lytton Springs is home to those 100-plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Grenache.

 The site is ideal for Zinfandel with foggy mornings, warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. The agronomically poor soils are gravelly clay which holds moisture ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. 

This label was first produced in 1972.

I write regularly in these pages about the pairing of wine with food. This wine was too bold and rich for the Beef Wellington, which would've been better suited with a more balanced and finely integrated Red Blend. 

This vintage release is a red blend of 72% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Cinsaut and 1% Counoise.

This label release was awarded 95+ Points by Antonio Galloni of Vinous, 94 Points by Zinfandel Chronicles and 94 Wilfred Wong of, and 93 Points by Owen Bargreen,

Winemaker Notes

"Rich blackberry and plum on the nose with notes of aniseed. Full-bodied with dark bramble fruit and well-coated tannins on the palate. The long finish reveals layers of black licorice and dried sage.'

"Lytton Springs has become synonymous with classic Dry Creek zinfandel. It shows potent, ripe boysenberry and blackberry, but also a pronounced rusticity and earthiness often attributed to its blending varietals; petite sirah and carignane. Acid and tannin are firm, yet not overwhelming; in youth, at least, fruit predominates. This balanced, powerful wine becomes more nuanced with age, and it often holds for more than a decade."

Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, a cacophony of bright, vibrant expressive, full round ripe red and black brambly fruit flavors accented by sweet spices, clove and cinnamon, full tannins on the finish. May be better with some age to further integrate.

RM  92 points.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

UGCB 2021 Vintage Release Tour 2024 Comes to Chicago

UGCB 2021 Vintage Release Tour 2024 Comes to Chicago

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) North American 2021 Vintage Release Tour Chicago Preview Tasting 2024 

Once again, the UGC Bordeaux (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour visited Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2021 vintage release wines. 

The Union is the association of 131 members of the top premier wine producer estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations. In cooperation with distributors, brokers and merchants they host over 80 events in fifteen countries visiting 65 cities to present their wines to some 50,000 or so professionals and wine lovers each year around the world.

Their events go beyond France, taking them throughout Europe (Germany, UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Russia), to this tour of North America (US and Canada) , and to Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore). 

This year's North American tour to Canada and the US visited Miami, then Toronto, Montréal, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and culminating in San Francisco.

'Pour Boys' Tom C, me, Ernie and Lyle with
UGCB Ambassadors Chloe Morvan and
Marie Damouseau, from 2020.
As in previous years, members of our 'Pour Boys' wine group (left) helped conduct the event in Chicago, one of the highlight of my wine exploits throughout the year.

As in years past, except the Covid disrupted alternate site last year at Chicago Union Station Grand Hall, which actually was delayed to June, the gala event was held in the Drake Hotel in the magnificent grand Gold Coast Ballroom (shown below). 

The Pour Boys serve as volunteers, working with the host organizers Mike Wangbickler, Kat Stark and the Balzac Communications team, and the UGCB Bordeaux events team member Marie Damouseau.

According to the routine, we help prepare the room and the wines, checking in trade registrants, and standing in for producers who faced travel or other disruptions, presenting and pouring their wines. 

We start early in the day unpacking and distributing the wines, carefully setting up each wine station for the arrival of the producers' and their representatives for presenting and pouring the wine during the afternoon session.

 Often over the years, several producers or their representatives were delayed in travel or had other disruptions and we were called in to service to pour their wines, hence we earned our moniker, the 'Pour Boys'.  This was our fifteenth year working this gala annual event.

As usual, close to a hundred producers were represented at the event that was attended by over five hundred members of the trade, merchants, hospitality and media.

As is their custom in the third week of January, this annual roadshow is a marathon trek across North America by the producers and their representatives offering wine professionals and oenophiles the chance to meet the Bordeaux principles, winemakers and commercial directors. 

As always, we appreciate the investment in time and effort expended by the producers and their brand ambassadors to visit Chicago. It provides a wonderful opportunity to meet them firsthand and discuss their perspectives on their brand, approach to crafting their style, their history, businesses, and their vintages including, of course, the current release.

As collectors and holders of a not-insignificant collections of Bordeaux wines dating back four decades, we Pour Boys hold as many as several dozen or more vintages of some of these labels. Meeting the owners, family members, producer / winemaker / representatives of these great Chateaux is a great privilege and offers a collector the chance to learn more about their investment and wines. 

As such, I tend to focus on and taste those wines that I know well and hold verticals (multiple vintages of the same label), of which my wine buddies and I have holdings.  

This year, due to the challenging vintage with its reduced yields and less than stellar wines in some cases, thereby potentially suppressing prices following three outstanding vintages, some of the producer's took a pass opting out of this year's tour. Conspicuously absent were two of our perennial favorites and cellar collection wines, Chateaux Pichon Longueville Baron and Pichon Comtesse de Lalande. 

Also, several of the Sauterne Appellation producers chose to showcase wines from recent past vintages rather than present the current 2021 release. 

Despite the inclement weather, this years event was well attended to a full house (shown below).

After working to set up the event, register attendees and fill in for late arriving producers' due to travel delays, we were able to partake of the release tasting. 

As usual, we focused on the producers that we own and collect, with particular interest in those that we visited during our last trip to Bordeaux, as well as those we are targeting for our next or futures visits to the region.

As mentioned above, the 2021 vintage was a challenging year for Bordeaux producers and the resulting wines need scrutiny in selecting winners and standouts.

The Bordeaux region experienced an atypical year, marked by a lack of sunshine throughout the spring, impacting the wine-growing season despite a favorable start in June and the return of sunshine at the end of the harvest. The 2021 season faced frost in April then mildew in late July and early August. Over the course of the year, the inclement weather cut Bordeaux’s crop by a third.

A technical year for the winemakers, it enabled them to produce a wine with lower degrees, perhaps more digestible, reminiscent of a more classic style marked by the Bordeaux continental climate such as the modern era 2008 or 2014 vintages.

Compared to the three previous top rated years of 2018, 2019 and 2020, it is lighter and fresher than those three vintages and will probably mature more quickly.

 An official card from the UGCB described the 2012 vintage this way - 

"A challenging vintage
where time appeared
to slow down.
Mild, cloudy,
then sunny conditions
resulted in
incredibly resilient vines.
A late harvest
with low yields
and subtle aromas
set the tone for
wonderful surprises. 

A well focused vintage.
A wine growers vintage."

Hence, it is not a vintage to avoid despite the typical panning by some of the press. It will require adjusting expectations accordingly. If the vintage results are reflected in prices, it will provide the opportunity to pick up more affordable wines, perhaps obtaining the Grand Vin as opposed to the second label, in some cases.

Wine Enthusiast wrote, "While it may be a smaller vintage, there are still extremely enjoyable red and white wines at the top end. At its red heart, it is a Cabernet vintage. That means look for wines with Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left Bank in the Médoc and in Pessac-Léognan and of wines with a good percentage of Cabernet Franc in Saint-Emilion." 

"The 2021 is lower in alcohol than recent vintages (13-13.5% compared with 14.5% or even 15% in 2018), higher in the fresh fruits and lighter on the tannins. Whites and sweet wines in Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes are magnificent despite seriously lower volumes."

“We have produced wines that are classic, with fruit to the fore,” says Nicolas Labenne, technical director at Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac. 

As is the custom, the afternoon session is for the benefit of the press and trade and wine professionals, and in Chicago, the evening session in Chicago was hosted by merchant partner Binny's Beverage Depot, the Chicago-land wine superstore, offering tickets to the evening session to their valued customers and the public.

My perspective was that many of the wines showed a slight bit of astringency with slightly diminished thin fruits with some green notes and hints of menthol and some green pepper. 

There were some pleasant surprises, some in places one might not expect. Shown below, Château Coufran from St Estephe who go against the conventions of the Médoc region and prodominate Merlot over Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, more akin to a Pomerol. 

With Frédéric Vicaire of
Château Coufran

Some of the standouts were the Margaux appellation seemed to show well with a highlight being Château Lascombes.

With Karine Barbier of Château Lascombes

The wines of Chateaux Leoville and Langoa Barton from St Julien showed well and revealed some new branding as well. 

From a branding perspective, Château Langoa Barton celebrates the 200th anniversary ownership of the property acquired in 1821 with a special label highlights milestone of the property and pays homage to the patriarch Anthony Barton who passed away during the vintage in January 2022. 

This is the first vintage vinified in the Barton family's new winery.

As is customary, the Barton wines were represented by Managing Director Lilian Barton Sartorius who represents the 9th generation of the Barton family. These days the property is managed by Lilian assisted by her husband, Michel Sartorius, and their grown children, Damien and Melanie, of the 10th generation, who are taking on increasing responsibility in the business.

The ever dapper Stephan von Neipperg,
(Château Canon-La-Gaffelière)

with Lillian Barton Sartorius (Chateaux Leoville &
Langoa Barton) and Claire Ridley representing
Leoville Poyferre.

Continuing the branding approach introduced in the post Covid era, Château Siran released an artist label series featuring artwork that was updated with new vintage release. Of course, this promotional branding was made epic by ultra-premium first growth producer Chateau Mouton Rothschild with their artist series. I chronicle that series in my compendium label library page on my winesite. (Notably, Mouton Rothschild with their grand vin are not members of the UGCB.)

Producers Sevrine and Edouard Miailhe wanted to memorialize the pandemic that paralysed the world in 2020. They chose a theme of an anti-Covid allegory recognizing the olfactory qualities together with the beneficial properties of red wines with the new label's bright colors, celebrating "the joy of living and the happiness of sharing".  

The 2020 vintage marked the return of the family tradition of Château Siran’s illustrated labels with a collaboration with Federica Matta, a Franco-Chilean artist 'sensitive to the natural elements and the culture of wine'. 

Earlier UGCB and related events are featured in earlier unwindwine blogposts

Most recently .. 

UGCB 2020 Vintage Release Tour Chicago 2023

Grand Cru Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Release Tour Chicago

 UGCB 2017 Release Tour Chicago