Friday, March 29, 2024

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 with Tomahawk Ribeye steak dinner

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 with Tomahawk Ribeye steak dinner

Linda prepared one of our favorite indulgent dinners, a Tomahawk Ribeye beefsteak with baked potatoes and grilled asparagus. I pulled from the cellar a memorable classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from a producer we visited two decades (twenty five years) ago. 

On further review, this is a replay of an earlier dinner featured in these pages two years ago and tonight’s experience was totally consistent with that latest review, so I will replay it here.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Tomahawk Beefsteak and Paradigm Napa Cab

Tomahawk Beefsteak and Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet 

Friday night dining in, we grilled a Tomahawk bone-in ribeye beefsteak, with baked potato and asparagus, served on the deck, one of our favorite sumertime meal experiences. 

I pulled from the cellar this vintage Oakville Napa Cabernet for the occasion, Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

We visited the Paradigm Oakville estate winery and vineyards and were hosted by owners Ren and Marilyn Harris back in 1999, as part of our Napa Valley Wine Experience 1999.  

We've collected this label ever since and continue to hold a decade of vintages in our vertical collection. I wrote about Paradigm in more detail when I last posted about Paradigm in March, 2019 when we tasted Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Merlot 1996.

Ren and Marilyn Harris, have deep roots in Napa Valley (pun intended); Marilyn's grandparents immigrated from Italy to Napa Valley in 1890, while Ren's family came to California in 1769. Marilyn and Ren moved to Napa Valley in the 1960's and settled into their home just east of where Paradigm sits today. 

The Paradigm estate consists of fifty acres of vineyard, the winery, two homes, a warehouse, a barn, and an acre of olive trees. 

Paradigm vineyards are planted to Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot along with some Zinfandel.  

Paradigm Winery produced their first vintage in 1991. Our cellar holdings still include a few bottle of 1994 case from that era, as well as early releases from the 1992, '95, '96 and 1997 vintages, several 2002-2006 era vintages, and several recent vintages.

From the earliest days, Ren and Marilyn hired talented legendary winemaker, Heidi Barrett, who has been with Paradigm ever since.

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

At eighteen years this may be at the apex of its drinking window and profile and while it has several years remaining, its not likely to improve with further aging. The fill level, foil and most importantly, the cork were in ideal condition. 
This is one of several bottles of this vintage we acquired at auction while early releases were acquired directly from the producer, in recent years we obtain it at Binny's, our Chicagoland super merchant. 

Our records show the we last tasted this label back in 2008 at Tra Vigne in St Helena, Napa Valley. Back then, it was a fine dining restaurant and had the outdoor deck and patio garden, which has been repurposed as a pizzeria, which is sad as we had many memorable wine dinners there. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright lively concentrated black berry and black currant fruits with a layer of cedar accented by tobacco, earth, hints of licorice and mint with a moderate tannins and tangy acidity on the finish. 

RM 92 points.

Paradigm Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Iconic legendary Monte Bello and birthyear vintage Diamond Creek for birthday celebration

Iconic legendary Monte Bello and birthyear vintage Diamond Creek for birthday celebration ...

We joined son Ryan and his family for a celebration of D-in-law Michelle's and g-daughter Mackenzie's birthdays. For the occasion Ryan opened a birthyear vintage ultra-premium namesake Diamond Creek label that I obtained long ago at auction and gifted to them a while back for such an occasion. He also opened an ultra-premium Ridge Monte Bello to compare.

What better way to celebrate a special occasion than to serve a 100 point wine. This 2017 Ridge Monte Bello is a classic monumental release that got perfect 100 point scores from two critics, and near perfect 99 and 98 scores from the next three. 

I've written in these pages as guidance for neophytes and collectors, there are 'every day' wines, 'once a week' wines, 'once a month' and 'once a year' wines, and then there are 'once in a lifetime', and/ore special occasion wines. Choose your frequency, based on your budget, in any event, these would be 'special occasion' wines! 

This extraordinary exemplary wine "needs a solid decade of bottle age and will have 50-60 years of overall longevity", according to perfect scorer Jeb Dunnuck who wrote, "a legendary Monte Bello, pure perfection ... despite the long drinking window, it offers plenty of pleasure even today."

I wrote in depth about the Ridge Monte Bello vineyards and estate in a tasting journal blogpost back in 2015

Monte Bello has been called an American 'first growth' and is known for bold, complex, long lived Bordeaux style wines. Monte Bello is the unique flagship label of this prolific producer known for a broad line of vineyard select Zinfandels from throughout Northern California  including Sonoma and Napa Counties. Monte Bello is unique not only that it is a Ridge produced Bordeaux blend, but also because it is sourced from fruit from the Monte Bello vineyard, high atop the Santa Cruz mountains that separate Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay to the east and north, from the Pacific Ocean and the Monterey Bay/Peninsula to the west and south. The Santa Cruz Mountains have their own AVA, little known but highly regarded for some legendary wines such as this.

This is especially notable to us since it is closest to, yet high above the location of our home from when we lived in Saratoga, California, nestled up against the Santa Cruz mountain range down at the bottom of Silicon Valley, near the crease where the road leads up into the mountains and over 'the hill' down to Santa Cruz on the Pacific coast.

Ridge Monte Bello 2017

The 2017 Monte Bello is a Bordeaux Blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, aged mostly in new American oak. It is sourced 100% from the Santa Cruz Mountains' Monte Bello vineyard.

Deep saturated garnet/purple colored, full-bodied, "incredibly powerful, and one of the most concentrated versions of this cuvée ever made", says Dunnuck.

Synopsis - Complex, yet elegant, bouquet of crème de cassis, lead pencil shavings, graphite, chocolate, and chalky minerality, roasted plums, tar, aniseed and exotic spices, incredible intensity and depth of blackberries, pine needles, blackcurrants and black olives, many layers of fruit and very fine, creamy, velvety tannins.

 RM 96 points.

As noted above, this was rated 100 points by Jeb Dunnuck and Wilfred Wong of, 99 points by James Suckling, incredible concensus of 98 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, The Somm Journal and Wine & Spirits, 96 by Wine Spectator, #77 of Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2020, and 94 by Connoisseurs' Guide. 

100 Points – Jeb Dunnuck,
100 Points –  Wilford Wong of
99 Points – James Suckling,
98-100 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
98 Points – Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
98 Points – Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits
97+ Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
96 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

The accolades were substantial and momentous - "Ridge's Monte Bello occupies a rarefied space and time. This iconic wine, produced out of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has a life of its own that can never be replicated." - Jeb Dunnuck

"The 2017 vintage is cosmic." - James Suckling

What sets the palate apart is its purity: though incredibly layered, it offers a kaleidoscopic journey from blackcurrant to tobacco and dried flowers, offering continual sparks of flavor long after the wine has been swallowed.

Refined, spicy nose; velvety texture. Fresh and tangy, elegant and complex, with layers of juicy plum and berry; wonderful now, it will be spectacular in a few years - 98 Wine & Spirits

One of California’s most iconic Cabernets since its inaugural release some fifty years back, the Ridge Monte Bello bottling justly remains so to this day.

Winemaker Notes- Opaque purple-ruby color. Ripe blackberry fruit, barrel spice, anise, violets, and crushed limestone. Opulent mountain fruits on entry, fennel, sweet oak, well-structured tannins, and firm acid. Powerful complexity and tremendous length to the finish.

A tough act to follow but this is another legendary wine,vintage aged from a birthyear vintage, hence special in its own right, beyond comparison.

Diamond Creek "Gravelly Meadow" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1983

We have fun with this label commemorating daughter-in-law Michelle, whose maiden name was Diamond. We hold a collection of Diamond Creek Vineyards single vineyard bottlings from their four estate vineyards dating back to the early 80's with highlights such as this birthyear vintage 1983. 

Special wines for special occasions -

We served a horizontal selection of each Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from magnums at the wedding of our son Ryan to Michelle Diamond! Several magnums were birth year vintages. 

We have visited the Diamond Creek estate several times over the years including a private tasting during our Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011, and again during their release tour open house for their release tasting of the 2015 vintage Diamond Creek releases at an Open House held at the Estate as part of our 2017 Napa Valley Wine Experience.

Diamond Creek Vineyards was founded in 1968 by Al Brounstein, an entrepreneur and was the first California estate to focus solely on and produce only Cabernet Sauvignon.

Located in the Diamond Creek district, on the lower reaches of Diamond Mountain, at the northern end of the Mayacamas range, just south of Calistoga, Diamond Creek, Brounstein was also an early American adopter of the European practice of bottling wines according to which vineyard had produced the grapes, , focusing on, taking advantage, and highlighting the area’s numerous micro-climates and soil types by selecting and bottling distinctive single vineyard designated wines. . 

By the early 1990s he was bottling by even smaller “microclimates” within the various vineyards. Diamond Creek wines are known for their concentration, austerity and deep color and they consistently earn high marks from reviewers. They are known to be long lived, age-worthy wines lasting decades with proper cellaring.

This is another unique tasting experience - one of the four Diamond Creek labels - all single vineyard designated bottlings from one of their distinctive four vineyards at the estate.

 Diamond Creek is a case study in terroir - each of its four vineyards with its own micro-climate, soil type and geography that are revealed in their single vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon wines - named for their four distinctly different origination vineyards. 

The vineyards of Diamond Creek, as pictured here are Gravelly Meadow (5 acres - center left), Red Rock Terrace (7 acres front), Volcanic Hill (8 ac,res opposite), and Lake (¾ acre), plus Petit Verdot (1 acre) to the left outside of frame. 

The vineyards are amazingly co-located close to each other yet have distinctive individual characteristics that are revealed in their wines. 

Though Brounstein died in 2006 the wines remain highly collectible. Today the vineyards are planted to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. About 3,500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon are produced annually.

With co-founder, matriarch
Boots Brounstein

With fellow 'Pour Boys' Dan and Bill at the
Diamond Creek estate open house

Winemaker notes about Gravelly Meadow - "Our second coolest microclimate is our five-acre Gravelly Meadow vineyard. Originally a prehistoric river bed, this stony, gravelly soil drains rapidly and the vines struggle for moisture.'

"Gravelly Meadow is our lowest yielding vineyard. The wines are described as "earthy, cedary, jammy and ripe blackberry with a spicy expansive finish."

Read More:

At forty years, this aged Napa Valley Cabernet was still approachable, showing and drinking remarkably well. While past its prime, it was still within its drinking window, showing very little diminution from age.

James Laube of Wine Spectator cited, "A successful 1983, with remarkable length, finesse and texture, remarkable flavor for such a difficult and tannic vintage..."

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, complex and still vibrant plum and berry fruits with notes of cedar, tobacco, earthy leather and hints of anise, dark bitter mocha and smoke with moderate tannins on a moderate lingering finish.

RM 88 points.  

Ryan then opened one of our favorite producer's labels.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

How touching for Ryan to open one of our favorite producer's labels for continuing the Cabernet flight. Robert Craig is one of the broadest and deepest producer holdings in our cellar collection. Our Cellartracker records show we hold four cases of this label across a dozen vintages. Notably, this was the last vintage release of this storied label.

Robert Craig produced five different labels - what he called four mountains and a valley - a mountain fruit Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, and this one from Mt Veeder. I recall Robert telling us on numerous occasions that his favorite label was the Mount Veeder (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon. This was likely in light of his early years managing vineyards up on Mt Veeder on behalf of Hess Collection, and then Robin William's winery (Toad Hollow, named for his brother Todd, whose name he couldn't pronounce as a child calling him Toad instead of Todd), and then his long history sourcing fruit from vineyards there to supply one of his key labels, the Mt Veeder Cabernet of the Robert Craig portfolio. 

This long association ended just a couple of years ago with the purchase of the vineyards by the Tesseron French conglomerate from the estate of the departed Robin Williams. This was the last vintage release of this label as noted by the producer - "After 22 years sourcing our Veeder Cabernet from the Pym Rae Vineyard, the 2015 will be our final bottling from the late Robin Williams’ 19-acre property. Pym Rae is on the north end of the appellation, free from coastal influence, where the fruit develops incredible structure and purity. For now, we say a fond farewell to an outstanding property and old friend, while looking ahead to 2019, when we will introduce our first Cabernet from our new estate vineyard—newly christened “Amentet Vineyard”—which abuts the Pym Rae property.

Notably, Robert Craig also passed away around this time. I wrote about Robert and this label in a tribute in these pages in 2019 - Robert Craig Tribute - Robert Craig Tribute and Remembrance - Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Sadly, this is the end of an era for this label with which we have a long history and many memories dating back to the inaugural release in 1993-94.

Winemaker's Notes - "Our 2015 Mount Veeder offering is a towering wine of tremendous tannin structure coupled with dense color. Classic Mount Veeder markers are present in force; dried cocoa, pencil shaving, cassis, and mountain violet are woven into this tightly wound wine. This Mount Veeder release is without doubt one of the most profound Cabernets that we have produced at Robert Craig Winery in terms of its size and power. If enjoying this wine young, a two-hour decant is recommended. The 2015 Mount Veeder will cellar comfortably for decades yet should start to show well as soon as 2020."

This was a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Merlot. It was aged 18 months in Chateau-style French oak; 80% new & 20% 2nd year.

This was described as Amentet Estate Vineyard, Mount Veeder and was rated 95 points by Antonio Galloni of Vinous. He wrote: "One of the highlights in this range, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mt. Veeder) is seriously beautiful. A healthy dollop (24%) of Merlot gives the wine terrific mid-palate pliancy and fruit depth to play off of the more intensely mineral and soil-drive signatures, of which there are many. Raspberry jam, crushed rocks, blood orange, white pepper and red cherry jam infuse this deep, powerful Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Craig." Antonio Galloni, Vinous, March 2018

Going forward, this label will continue with the 2019 vintage, explained by the producer below:

"Perched at 1,700’ of elevation along Wall Road on the north end of the Mount Veeder AVA, this 6.5-acre vineyard is destined for greatness. After 22 vintages of purchasing fruit on a handshake contract with the late actor Robin Williams from the neighboring Pym Rae vineyard, it was a joy to receive a first harvest from our own immaculate young vineyard in 2016. We christened the property Amentet Vineyard, after the Egyptian Goddess of the West. With the “rebirth” of our Veeder Cab, Amentet (pronounced “AH-men-TETT”) seems the perfect patroness—the goddess of fertility and rebirth, who was often depicted with a hawk perched upon her head. Given the number of red tails spotted from our new vineyard, this seems particularly providential. The site was planted and managed by the same man who farmed the neighboring Pym Rae vineyard for Robin for more than two decades, and it is no surprise that the resulting wines are so similar. The sandy, gravel-based soils of shale with a sandstone topsoil produce wines that are black in color with very low PH values and naturally high acids. A perfect combination for longevity. The beauty of this warmer, fog-free northern section of Mount Veeder is that the wines are free of any unwanted vegetal or rustic characteristics that can affect cooler climate sites to the south." 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Château Sérilhan Saint-Estèphe Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux w/ artisan cheese, roasted nuts and fruit

Château Sérilhan Saint-Estèphe Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux with artisan cheese, roasted gourmet nuts and fruit plate

On a quiet evening binging on latest streaming phenom, we enjoyed sipping this easy drinking Medoc Bordeaux Grand Vin Cru Bourgeois with plate of artisan blue cheeses, fresh pear fruit and delicious gourmet roasted Marcona Almonds with Sea Salt.

Château Sérilhan Saint-Estèphe 2010

The Saint-Estèphe appellation at the top of the Left Bank of Bordeaux is known for deeply colored, concentrated wines, often distinctive as ‘go-to’ for great, age-worthy and reliable Bordeaux reds. 

Separated from Pauillac merely by a stream (shown below), St. Estephe is the farthest northwest of the highest classed villages of the Haut Medoc, and is therefore subject to the most intense maritime influence of the Atlantic. We drove through the area during our Bordeaux region visit in 2019.

Vineyards on Pauillac St Estephe boundary

Saint-Estèphe soils are rich in gravel like all of the best sites of the Haut Medoc where the formation of gravel over clay creates a cooler atmosphere for the vines compared to those in the villages farther downstream (south and west). This results in delayed ripening and wines with higher acidity compared to the other villages.

While they can seem a bit austere when young, St. Estephe reds prove to be long lived for aging in the cellar. Traditionally dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, many producers add a significant proportion of Merlot to the blend, which will soften any sharp edges of the more tannic, Cabernet.

Château Sérilhan was transformed in January 2003, when technology businessman Didier Marcelis took over the 20 acre family estate started back in 1982 by his grandfather Merlet, and managed by his parents, Jean and Maryvonne. After his arrival, he began heavily investing to improve the quality of the wines, increasing the vineyard size, replanting, and new material buying including new barrels.

Didier Marcelis expanded the domaine to 35 acres. He hired emblematic wine consultant Hubert de Boüard (owner of Château Angélus) who went on to receive numerous awards for the high quality of recent vintages.

The Saint-Estèphe cuvée is classified “AOC (Appellation Original Controlee) Crus Bourgeois du Médoc. The classification Cru Bourgeois dates back to the Middle Ages, when the citizens (bourgeois), residents of the “burgh” (bourg) of Bordeaux, acquire the region’s best lands and were subsequently granted this designation. 

In 1932, the Crus Bourgeois producers were grouped in a list established by the Bordeaux wine merchants, under the aegis of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce of and the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture. The criteria for inclusion was based on the quality and value of red wines produced in one of the eight Médoc appellations: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, and Saint-Estèphe.

This is an evolving classification as from 2010, the official selection has been published annually in September.

Of course, the greatest Medoc Bordeaux are considered to be the Grand Cru Classés, which are themselves divided into 5 growths. For example, the most famous Medocs (Latour, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, and Margaux) are all “First Growths.” Chateau Palmer, stellar and expensive but not generally considered on their level, is a “Second Growth.”

While there are hundreds of Chateaux in Bordeaux, about 130 are classified as Grand Cru Classés. See my posts of the UGC Bordeaux (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), and their annual release of the UGCB in these pages. The “Cru Bourgeois” are the best producers that are not Grand Crus Classés.

In a tasting of the Crus Bourgeois 2010, this vintage release was rated 92 by the Wine Enthusiast; Stephen Spurrier of Decanter and Ronan Sayburn both gave it 86 points, while Stephen Brook gave it 81 points.

The Saint-Estèphe cuvée generally presents a bouquet of ripe red fruit with spicy notes. This vintage release was rated 92 by the Wine Enthusiast who wrote “Good depth of ripe red fruits, fine and lively expression on the palate, still green on the finish, but this is a youthful greenness and will blend in, good wine for the mid term.”

Stephen Spurrier of Decanter gave this 86 points and said, “This firmly tannic wine, characteristic of Saint-Estèphe, is very dry. Underneath the dryness, there is a delicious, opulent juiciness that brings out black currant and plum flavors.”

Good value. Nice every day sipping… best with food … drank with blue cheese, pears and marcona roasted almonds .. medium bodied, dark black cherry fruits with notes of graphite, black tea, tobacco leaf and hint of cedar with moderate tannins on the smooth finish.

RM 88 points.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Long Shadows Chester Kidder with Filet of Beef

Long Shadows Chester Kidder with Filet of Beef

Intimate Saturday night dinner at home, we grilled filets of beef and served with wedge salad, fresh toasted bread, baked potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Seeking a Goldilocks wine - not too old, not too young, and a perfect accompaniment to grilled beefsteak, I pulled from the cellar a Bordeaux varietal blend from Long Shadows Vintners Collection.

As is so often the case, this is a replay of an earlier similarly situated tasting, hence I’ll replay it here. 

Long Shadows Chester Kidder with Beef Tenderloin

Long Shadows Chester Kidder with Beef Tenderloin

For a beef tenderloin dinner, I pulled from the cellar this premium Washington State Cabernet as an accompaniment. 

This is from Long Shadows collection which I I have featured often in these pages, Long Shadows Cellars feature world class winemakers and Columbia Valley fruit. Long Shadows was the creation of Allan Shoup, leader of Chateau St Michelle from 1983 to 2000. There he introduced Washington State grapes to winemakers from around the world in collaboration to produce quality wines. 

After retirement from Chateau St Michelle he founded Long Shadows to produce world class ultra-premium wines in Washington with fruit sourced from there. He built a state of the art winery in Walla Walla and recruited a team of legendary producers to craft signature wines from the best vineyards' fruit from the Washington Columbia Valley. Three years into the new venture Long Shadows was awarded the Winery of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine. 

Shoup recruited a top winemaker with expertise and a track record producing best in class wine in each category or type of wine based on varietal grape. Marketed under the Vintners Collection, each of the Long Shadows labels in a testament to the legend of the winemaker for each label based on each varietal.

Since the beginning, Long Shadows' Director of Winemaking and Viticulture Gilles Nicault, has overseen the operations of the winery and worked closely with the vintners to bring each winemaker’s vision to completion. Internationally renowned winemakers Randy Dunn (Feather Cabernet Sauvignon); John Duval (Sequel Syrah); Philippe Melka (Pirouette Red Wine); and Michel Rolland (Pedestal Merlot) are active partners in their respective wines. Gilles now crafts Poet’s Leap Riesling and Saggi, a Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, in styles that remain true to their original winemakers, Armin Diel and Giovanni Folonari respectively. Gilles crafts Chester-Kidder, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend, independently.

Gilles works closely with the state’s top growers to execute a diverse winemaking protocol at Long Shadows’ state-of-the-art facility in Walla Walla to produce wines of exceptional quality, true to the Columbia Valley’s terroir. 

Nilles Nicault has served as director of winemaking and viticulture since Long Shadows inception in 2003. As resident winemaker overseeing daily operations at Long Shadows' state-of-the-art winery in Walla Walla, Gilles works with a group of celebrated vintners from around the globe. It is his job to ensure that each winemaker's vision is realized in the vineyard and the cellar.

While many winemakers would find this proposition a daunting task, French-born Nicault describes the position as his "dream job." Those who know Gilles best say it is his insatiable curiosity and desire to learn something new every day as well as his winemaking skills that make him uniquely qualified for the position. In addition to executing daily operations at the winery, Gilles is the winemaker for Long Shadows' acclaimed Chester-Kidder, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend that carries his signature.

Gilles grew up in southern France and graduated from the University of Avignon with a degree in Viticulture and Enology. He honed his craft in the fabled hillside vineyards and wineries of Cotes Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne. On 1994, already a vintner of rising fame in his homeland, Gilles traveled to Washington State to expand his winemaking skills.

Impressed by Washtington State's vineyards and the opportunity to be part of a growing wine community, he stayed in the Columbia Valley, working for Staton Hills and Hogue Cellars before joining Woodward Canyon in 1996, where he stayed until moving to Long Shadows in June 2003. Sharing Woodward Canyon's passion for world-class wine, Gilles soon found Woodward Canyon's founder Rick Small was his ideal mentor and biggest champion. In 1999, Woodward Canyon named Gilles head of enology and production.

Gilles is married to winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla of Forgeron Cellars, also an acclaimed winemaker. The couple wilves in Walla Walla with their two children.

Allen Shoup named this wine in honor of his mother, Elizabeth Chester, and his grandmother, Maggie Kidder. He selected Long Shadows' Director of Winemaking and Viticulture, Gilles Nicault, to craft this New World blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other classic Bordeaux varieties.

Chester-Kidder is one of six distinct red wines from Long Shadows Vintners - a collection of ultra-premium wines, each built on the unique expertise of some of the world’s most knowledgeable winemakers to showcase the quality and caliber of Washington State’s Columbia Valley. 

Long Shadows "Chester-Kidder" Columbia Valley Red Blend 2015

The 2015 Vintage of Chester-Kidder is a red varietal blend composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah and 15% Petit Verdot, sourced from the Columbia Valley Appellation. It is styled to capture the complexity of the growing region, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes from Candy Mountain give the wine its firm structure and wonderful intensity. Walla Walla Valley vineyards contribute Cabernet that adds depth and rich textures.  Petit Verdot sourced from Sagemoor Vineyards provides layers of ripe, fresh flavors and refined tannins. This release is aged for an average of 30 months in tight-grained French oak which allows the fruit to fully integrate prior to bottling.

We wrote about this wine earlier this year in this blogpost - Long Shadows Chester Kidder

The 2015 CHESTER-KIDDER was awarded 94 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 93 points by Wine Advocate and 92 points by Vinous.

This was bright garnet/ruby colored, medium to full bodied with a complex rich round core blackberry, black raspberry and red currant fruits with notes of licorice, savory spices, dark mocha chocolate and hints of graphite and earth, ending with a long and complex finish with gripping tannins.

RM 92 points. 


Saturday, March 9, 2024

Old world vs new world wines BYOB at Piccolo Sogno Chicago

Old world vs new world wines BYOB at Picolo Sogno Chicago 

We met in the city with fellow Pour Boys Dan and Linda, and Lyle and Terry, for an impromptu Saturday night dinner. We dined at Piccolo Sogno in the trendy north west loop restaurant district in Chicago. 
The name Piccolo Sogno means “little dream,” in Italian, chosen by partners Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo to commemorate the culmination of their dream to open a restaurant of their own. 
The restaurant has very convenient on-site valet parking. There is a small bar, and three additional different dining rooms, a warm cozy room off the kitchen, another adjacent dining room that opens to a vast outdoor tent covered patio.
Piccolo Sogno features a menu of fresh, seasonal rustic Italian cuisine.

Their website notes - “The restaurant fits our personal goal to get to the heart of Italian wine and food,” says executive chef Priolo. “You go to Italy for simple food, prepared by hand with local ingredients and served with local wines. That’s why people love eating in Italy, and we wanted to bring that experience to Chicago.”

They offer an extensive all-Italian wine list featured of 400 labels, presented by Region - Northern, Central and Southern Italian - a dozen sparkling wines, forty whites, and a half dozen Rose'. The red list offers nearly a hundred labels across all the regions representing the major varietal types in all price ranges, mostly in the moderate price range.

Their website cotinues - ?Ciro Longobardo, an expert in Italian wines, has carefully chosen each of the 400+ wine selections and trained his staff to offer well-informed recommendations to customers. “We wanted to provide diners with an appreciation of the enormous variety of Italian wines without overwhelming them. That’s why we pay special attention to making sure our staff can help them select a wine that pairs perfectly with their meal.”'
Lyle and I each brought BYOB from our home cellars some Italian (varietal wines), an authentic old world, and a new world selection.The diverse Italian (varietal) wines were ideal pairings with our varied entree selections and provided a interesting comparison of styles of the grape.
For a starter I chose the Barbabietole mixed beet salad with citrus, greens, fennel, hazelnuts, and DOP certified gorgonzola. DOP refers to the Italian certification Denominazione d'Origine Protetta, a Protected Designation of Origin. The DOP label guarantees that the specified cheese, (or prosciutto or olive oil) is produced, processed, and packaged in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition. Each step, from production to packaging, is regulated. DOP. It was delicious.

For our entree selections, I chose the Rosticciana braised beef short ribs with local white corn polenta, sautéed greens, aromatic vegetables in a red wine reduction which was also delicisious. 

Dan ordered the Anatra Half Roasted Duck with fennel flavored sausage, soft polenta and Tuscan kale, rosemary reduction, which I tried and thought it was the best interpretation of that dish I have ever had!  

The rest of the group chose the Merluzzo wood-roasted,Branzino with stewed white beans and escarole, and manila clams with white wine and lemon. The whole fish was filet'd and split tableside for sharing.

Lyle has accumulated a respectable deep collection of Italian premium labels over recent years, partly based on wine and dine dinners at Italian Village. He brought from his cellar a highly rated super premium Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino.
I brought from our home cellar two bottles, a young new world Italian varietal Sangiovese, and a traditional old world, aged vintage Brunello. 

In the end, the group opted for the new world for a comparison tasting new young, versus old. 
Valdicava Brunello Di Montalcino 2010 
We tasted this same vintage release of this label during our 'Pour Boys' pre-OTBN weekend tasting at Kiawah Island two years ago - OTBN 22 Kick-off dinner at 48 Wine Bar - OTBN 2022 Gala Weekend Kick-offs of with tasting and dinner at Forty-Eight Wine Bar.  
It was that tasting that inspired Lyle to find and procure that label release for his cellar collection, which he brought and shared this evening. 
I wrote about that evening tasting, and this wine in particular in a blogpost at the time, excerpted here. 

Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino 2010

What a treat to taste two 97+ point wines side by side. This label vintage release was also rated 99 and 96 points and was considered favorite and WOTN by Lyle, and some of the others.

This is from the Italian appellation of Brunello di Montalcino, regarded as one of Italy’s best appellations. Located in south central Tuscany below Chianti, the wines of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG are made of a Sangiovese clone called “brunello,” which means “little dark one,” a reference to the brown tones in the skin of the grape. Unlike some Tuscan appellations that allow other grapes to be blended with Sangiovese, Brunello di Montalcino appellation rules require 100% Sangiovese.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG has to be made 100% with Sangiovese grapes alone, and made only within the Montalcino municipality area. It can only be sold in the market from January 1 of its fifth year after harvest. Prior to that, the wine cannot legally be called Brunello di Montalcino (not even in the cellar): it is simply "red wine to become Brunello di Montalcino DOCG".

Montalcino is a picturesque, hill-top town that was not especially well known for wine production until the mid-19th century, when a local vineyard owner isolated the brunello clone and planted it. Other growers followed suit. Nevertheless it wasn’t until the 1970s that wine enthusiasts started paying attention to Brunello di Montalcino, which by then was becoming an outstanding wine.

Today there are 120 estates in the DOCG, up from about 25 estates in 1975. Brunellos in general are bigger, darker, more tannic and more powerful wines than Chiantis or most other Sangioveses. By law they must be aged for four years, and two of those years must be in wooden barrels.  

The Valdicava estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, dates to 1953 when Bramante Abbruzzese returned to the property in Montalcino where his ancestors were sharecroppers centuries before. In 1967 he founded the Consorzio di Brunello. today, the estate is owned and operated by his grandson, Vincenzo Abbruzzese who also serves as winemaker who has transformed Valdicava into one of Montalcino’s most collectible producers. The 300-acre estate has nearly 70 acres planted to vineyards, 100% planted to Sangiovese.

The estate’s flagship wine is the Brunello Riserva Madonna del Piano, and it also produces this Brunello Valdicava and a lesser Rosso di Montalcino. Total production is about 6,000 cases annually.

This 2010 vintage release is considered by connoisseurs as one of the best vintages so far for Brunello di Montalcino. Vincenzo Abruzzese, owner and winemaker of Valdicava, makes no exception, saying 2010 “the perfect vintage” for Montalcino - the vintage of the century and certainly the best one he has ever made.

Vincenzo believes that 2010 has become a reference point in the history of Brunello di Montalcino. The lack of any climatic excesses combined with an extended growing season resulted in a wine that, while packing power and opulence, is elegant with each of its elements – alcohol, sugar concentration and acidity – in perfect harmony. For Vincenzo, the combination of these different qualities makes it one of greatest Brunellos ever made.

This vintage release was awarded 99 points by James Suckling, 96 points and a "Collectable" by Wine Spectator, 94 points by Vinous, and 93 points bRobert Parker's Wine Advocate.
Winemaker Notes - Valdicava philosophy is to produce a Brunello that represents the best traditions in structure and aromatics with elegance, harmony and fruit. This wine offers intense aromatics, a silky mid-weight palate, and a complex layering of ripe fruit, fresh cut herbs and earthy notes.

Bright ruby colored, medium-full bodied, tangy vibrant blackberry, sweet black cherry and plum fruits are accented by notes of flowers, licorice, mushroom, tobacco and leather with layers of ultra-fine tannins and hints of tangy acidity with long big yet silky tannins. Robert Parker discribed the wine as 'gamy' and said, "Valdicava's Brunello will appeal to those who love earthy and leathery notes in their Brunello."

RM 93 points.

Piazza Del Dotto Napa Valley Sangiovese 2015 
Linda and I discovered and acquired this wine during our culinary food and wine tasting at the Piazza Del Dotto estate chateau in Napa during our Napa Valley Wine Experience (2018) We enjoyed it as one of our go-to wines with Italian dishes and BYOB dining at our favorite Italian eateries. We quickly consumed the case and watched for it on the Del Dotto on-line site thereafter. Finally, recently, Del Dotto offered and extsensive collection of aged vintages and we quickly picked up several more bottles of each of the vintages offered to replenish our cellar. 
Tonight, this was an ideal pairing with our food, and an fascinating comparision between the old world style Brunello, and the new world style Sangiovese from Napa Valley. 
We featured this label in several blogposts and tasting notes dating back to acquirsition in 2018. In November 2018: "
Consistent with previous tasting notes - My notes from previous tasting three months ago. "This was dark garnet colored; medium full bodied, this was delicious with sweet ripe raspberry fruits accented by notes of vanilla and almond with supple smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish."

Earlier, that fall - "We tasted and acquired this wine during our Del Dotto Estate Winery Cave Tour and Tasting last year. This was dark garnet colored with a slight grayish hue that signaled caution but the wine was fine, we'll monitor the next bottle (s) with interest to see if this is an early warning of trouble ahead; medium full bodied, this was delicious with sweet ripe raspberry fruits accented by notes of vanilla and almond with supple smooth silky tannins on the lingering finish.

Fellow Pour Boy, wine buddy Bill C. posted: 91 Points - Medium garnet color. Medium tending toward full bodied. Bigger and more robust than I expected. Full of red raspberry, pepper and a hint of clay, strangely enough. Medium finish with a hint of oak. Better than I remembered and a great accompaniment to fresh, sausage ravioli.