Sunday, April 28, 2024

Pour Boys gather for SoWal Wine Festival weekend in Destin

Pour Boys gather for SoWal Wine Festival weekend in Destin/Sandestin 

Several members of our Pour Boys wine group gathered in Destin (FL) for a festive wine weekend centered on the SoWal (South Walton Beaches) Wine and Food Festival. Our center of activities of wine dinners, swimming, beach walks and pickleball was The Cove, our Destin vacation rental home.

The annual SoWal festival lasts three days from Friday afternoon/evening through Sunday afternoon held on Grand Boulevard in Sandestin (FL) - the schedule and extensive activities are listed on-line here -  SoWal Wine Festival Activities

I wrote in separate blogposts in these pages about our wine dinners Thursday (Shiraz with BBQ Ribs at Pour Boys wine dinner), and Friday (Sea Market Crab Cakes anchor wine dinner) at The Cove, then Saturday night when we dined at The Chef’s Table in The Wine Cellar Room at the Wine Bar Restaurant in Destin

The festival offers attendees several options, to purchase passes for each day individually, or a VIP Pass that covers the entire event. We purchased the VIP pass but found the Saturday and Sunday events to be redundant with the Sunday event being less crowded and congested than Saturday. Also, several of the ultra-premium wines, which we’re most interested in, ran out on Saturday, and were restocked and brought out again on Sunday. 

An obvious and primary benefit of the VIP pass was access to the VIP Tent on Friday evening, which featured a broad selection of wines and “A Taste of Grand Boulevard” featuring culinary small plates from the local eateries including Emeril’s Coastal, PF Changs, Flemings, Tommy Bahama and others. 

Adjacent the VIP tent was the Wine Auction but it was unclear if or when VIP members were able to attend, a pity given our collective investment in deep broad wine cellars, and in wine and dine events and travel. 

On Saturday, the VIP Tent was transformed to the Culinary Village offering food and sparkling wines but it was closed due to an electrical system overload fire hazard, so we were never able to partake of whatever it had to offer. 

Saturday and Sunday on the Town Center Main Stage, there featured live music on the Nashville Songwriter’s Showcase. Performing each day were Aaron Barker and Bridgette Tatum, the Reeves Brothers and Scott Reeves annd The Casey Kearney Band.

There was a large contingent of volunteers pouring wines, a role we know well having served at the annual UGCB event for the past fifteen years, which has earned our wine group the Pour Boys (TM) moniker. 

The UGC Bordeaux (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour is put on by the Union, the association of 130+ 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.

Here is my blogpost of this year’s UGC tasting event -  UGCB 2021 Vintage Release Tour 2024 Comes to Chicago, and earlier years …

Aside the volunteer pourers, the event attracted and offered the chance to meet several winemakers and producers and their representatives directly, which is always a highlight, almost as much as tasting the wines!  

There was another tent that featured Wine Tasting Seminars showcasing wines presented by the winemakers, producers or their ambassador representatives. These were subject to limited seating on a first come first served basis. 

The promotions for the event boast “six hundred plus wines presented by and poured by industry insiders”, and the different tastings included wines, as well as craft beers and spirits. 

Finally, there was a Retail Tent which offered for sale many of the wines being poured. We partook of this and each obtained several premium and ultra-premium wines.

For us, highlights of the event included:

Meeting winemakers, producers and their ambassadors …

And of course tasting some old favorites, and discovering some new wines! 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Chef’s Table Dinner at Wine Bar Destin

Chef’s Table Dinner at Wine Bar Destin

Our Pour Boys Wine Group gathered in Destin (FL) for the gala SoWal (South Walton Beaches) Wine Festival weekend. We anchored the weekend from The Cove Vacation Rental in Destin (FL), our vacation beach rental.

Following the Saturday SoWal Wine Festival Activities, we dined at The Chef’s Table in The Wine Cellar Room at the Wine Bar Restaurant in Destin

We ordered from the menu and the daily specials prepared by Chef Lawrence. For our wine pairings with the dinner, we brought some special bottles BYOB from our cellars, procured several outstanding bottles from the adjacent affiliated Chans Wine World, and ordered some wine from the Wine Bar wine list. 

Our server for the evening was Madeline, (Maddie), who did an outstanding job serving our group of ten, serving our starters and entrees, and catering to our flight of wines. She was unphased by our serious attention to the wines and managed superbly our wine flight of a half dozen wines, white and red.

For starters we ordered the Roasted Corn and Crab Bisque, the Beet Caprese Napoleon (heirloom tomatoes, roasted red beets, evoo, fresh mozzarella, basil chiffonade and balsamic glaze), and the Wine Bar Wedge Salad with applewood bacon, cherry tomatoes, red onion and blue cheese duo.

For our entree course we ordered the from the menu the Steak Au Povre, Filet of Beef, Filet of Grouper Florentine and the Daily Special Lamb Chops.

Our wine flight was:

Domaine Henri Boillet Puligny Montrachet Mersault 1er Cru 2014
Peter Michael Les Pavots Knights Valley Sonoma County Red Wine 2018
Chateau Clinet Pomerol Bordeaux 2014
Chateau Pape Clement Passac Leognan Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux 2018
Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Constant Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

More to follow … 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Sea Market Crab Cakes anchor wine dinner

Sea Market Crab Cakes anchor wine dinner with broad flight of white wines

On Friday evening of our gala SoWal (South Walton Beaches) Wine Festival weekend with our Pour Boys Wine Group at The Cove Vacation Rental in Destin (FL), we prepared John’s Famous Crab Cakes from John’s Sea Market on Emerald Coast Parkway in Destin.

What fun that this week, Taylor Swift released her latest double album to massive fanfare, which we listened to on Satellite Radar on our drive down, and she mentions DESTIN in one of her songs, FLORIDA.

Bob and Gloria brought a selection of artisan cheeses that we served with mixed salad and white wines prior to dinner. 

Destin is called “the world’s luckiest fishing village” due to its historic reputation as a destination for gulf coastal and deep sea fishing. 

Destin’s immediate history is attributed to a fisherman, Leonard Destin, who moved down from New London, Conn., and settled in Northwest Florida about 1845. For decades, he and his descendants fished and navigated the only channel passage to the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City and Pensacola, known as Destin’s East Pass.

Destin is a place where highest quality freshest seafood is readily accessible - direct off the many charter and commercial fishing boats in Destin Harbor, through numerous fresh seafood markets, and of course, at a myriad of daily fresh catch seafood restaurants. 

One of many seafood markets is Sea Market. own and operated by John, a commercial fisherman in his own right. At the Sea Market he sources fresh catch seafood through exclusive arrangements with a dozen local fishing boats - wherein he guarantees to take 100% of their daily catch, and hence has assurance of supply to service his retail and wholesale customers. 

In addition to the fresh local daily catch that regularly includes Grouper, Mahi Mahi, Pompano, Snapper, Cobia and Sea Bass, he also offers shellfish such as Stone Crab and Wild Caught Scottish Salmon which is flown in fresh from Scotland, and prime and exotic meats.

John prepares John and Araya’s Seafood Gumbo, and Chowder, and they are especially known for his “John’s Famous Crab Cakes”. His wife Anaya produces a collection of sauces including Araya’s Seafood Sauce, Tuna Dip, Araya’s Thai Steak Sauce, and John’s Roumalade, for pairing with the seafood. 

On this day, they had already sold out of the Gumbo and Chowder and Crab Cakes but John prepared a new batch of crab cakes for us. 

Pairing with the Crab Cakes we opened a flight of white wines that also featured a medley of premium Chardonnays. When our Pour Boys wine group meets, we have many shared wine experiences so its fun to not only taste fine wines with food, but invariably, it’s a chance to re-live many memorable shared experiences of winery estate visits and previous tastings.   

Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2016

This is the Sonoma County project of Joseph Phelps Vineyards. We visited the magnificent Joseph Phelps winery and tasting facility overlooking Phelp's vineyards nestled in its own Spring Valley above St Helena on the western facing foothills of the Vaca range that form the eastern face of Napa Valley. It was a highlight of our Pour Boys 2017 Sonoma/Napa Wine Experience.

This is a more recent vintage of this label that we have shared together and which I wrote about and featured in these pages in an earlier blogpost, excerpted below.

While Phelps produced Napa Valley and Carneros Chardonnays from 1974, they sought a site more suited to Chardonnay. They explored sites across Sonoma County finally settling in the town of Freestone on the Sonoma Coast, where, in the late 1990’s, few vineyards existed.

In 1999 they purchased land in Freestone when the area was primarily comprised of cattle, pasture and forest land. The area - just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean - was socked in by fog that lingered into the early afternoon on most summer days. The climate and Goldridge soils were thought to provide a terrior suitable for Burgundy varietals Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

In 2000, the Pastorale Vineyard, a former dairy farm, was planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 2007, the Freestone Winery was built by the Hensel Phelps Construction Company, the company originally founded by Joseph Phelp's father and managed by Joe for decades until he sold the business in the mid-eighties to focus solely on winemaking. Joe Phelps stepped down as Chairman of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 2005.

Winemakers notes for this release: “The 2016 Chardonnay has a fragrant bouquet mix of honeysuckle, green apple and lemon peel with richly layered baked apple, stone fruit and a light toasty oak influence. A bright and focused wine with a pleasing mouthfeel and a delicate tropical touch to the finish.”

This release was rated 95 points by Antonio Galloni of Vinous, and 94 points by Wine Enthusiast, James Suckling and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Light straw colored, medium to full bodied, with crisp tangy acidity, flavorful green apple with creamy tones of minerality and hints of Meyer lemon and lime with a lingering savory finish. 

RM 91 points.

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Chardonnay 2021

This is another producer with which we have a long history going back decades. Bill and I both hold deep vertical collections of this producer and enjoy sharing and comparing them when we get together. Bill and Beth and we toured the winery and obtained wines from their library for a special celebration dinner at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) during our Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2008.

Later, this weekend at the Wine Festival, we met representatives from Freemark Abbey, (now part of the extensive Jackson Wines portfolio), and tasted some of their premium recent releases. Bill mentioned his long relationship with the brand, and many meetings with wine manager Barry Dodds, so the rep texted Barry a picture of all of us together to which Barry immediately responded citing fondness for Bill and remembrance of many times together. 

According to the producer, “Our 2021 Napa Valley Chardonnay is intended to be the best of both worlds stylistically. The nose opens with rich and layered aromas of pear, mandarine, tuberose, vanilla and oak spice. The palate is met with flavors of brioche, apple pie, lemon curd and fresh pineapple. It has a creamy texture reminiscent of creme brulee with a finish that is bright and complex with incredible length.”

This is sourced from the Ahmann Vineyard in Carneros (38%), the Rancho Sarco Vineuyard on the north east border of the town of Napa, and The Huichica Vineyard located off of Duhig Road in the Napa Carneros subregion, AVA.

The Ahmann Vineyard is located near the Huichica Creek and has that Carneros attributes of a cool growing season complemented which provides long slow ripening that tend to create flavors of apple and citrus.

The Rancho Sarco Vineyard has gravelly clay loam soil that supports Chardonnay ripening to produce flavors of pineapple, apple and peach.

Golden straw colored, medium body, full round flavors of apple and hints of pineapple, peach and lemon citrus with creamy buttery spice and oak on the long finish. 

RM 91 points. 

Gary Farrell Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2021

This is another producer that we have visited together and have a history and relationship with since we toured there together as part of our visit to the Gary Farrell estate and winery in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County during or Napa / Sonoma Wine Experience in 2017.

I wrote about the Gary Farrell portfolio of Chardonnays in this blogpost about a year ago based on another wine dinner with Pour Boy Dr. Dan, excerpts below.

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

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

Gary Farrell never owned a vineyard but produced consistently exceptional wines from that first vintage in 1982 by partnering based on handshake deals with the region's pioneer growers like the Rochioli, Dutton, Ramey, Allen and Hallberg families, whose Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards represented the best of the time and place. Since then, the winery has produced critically acclaimed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in collaboration with the most esteemed growers in the Russian River Valley and throughout California’s greatest wine regions.The nearly 40 different vineyards extend beyond the Russian River Valley and include grapes from as far north as the Fort Ross-Seaview Vineyard along the Sonoma coast to the Sanford and Benedict Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. 

Label from 2017

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

Aside from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Theresa has also crafted Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.Farrell sold his winery in 2004, but his name and reputation for producing outstanding wines continues under the leadership of Theresa.

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

Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014

Visitors to Napa Valley can’t miss the iconic winery estate and Chateau on the highway just north of St Helena. No winery or vineyard embodies more the timeless appeal and seductive flavor of Napa Valley than Beringer Vineyards, Napa's benchmark producer since the establishment of the vineyard in 1876.

Now in its third century of crafting classic wines from Napa's finest appellations and vineyards, Beringer today is guided by the partnership of legendary Winemaster Emeritus Ed Sbragia and Winemaker Laurie Hook. Together, they craft Napa Valley wines that showcase the rich heritage of the Beringer Vineyard, while offering cutting-edge quality and contemporary elegance. Beringer Vineyards’ wines display the dedication and excellence instilled by its founder, Jacob Beringer.

This is the flagship Chardonnay from one of the most storied producers in Napa Valley. Beringer dates back 1868, when Jacob Beringer, emigrated from Germany, and settled in Napa Valley 1869 where the rocky hillside soil and fertile valley floor resembled that of vineyards back home in Germany. He became cellar foreman for Charles Krug, one of the first commercial winemakers in Napa Valley. In 1875, he and his brother Jacob purchased 215 acres adjacent to Charles Krug in St. Helena for $14,500. The Beringer Brothers' first harvest and crush followed in 1876 producing nearly 40,000 gallons of wine, or 18,000 cases, that first year.

The Beringer Cabernet was named #1 Wine of the Year for the 1986 Cabernet by Wine Spectator (1990 edition). Six years later, Wine Spectator named the 1994 Chardonnay #1 Wine of the Year(1996 edition) - this is special because not only is it the first time a white wine has ever garnered that top spot, but Beringer was the first and only winery to ever have both a red and a white wine in that top slot.

Former Chief Winemakers Myron Nightingale and Ed Sbragia created the Private Reserve program in 1977 as the flagship labels of the portfolio. The Private Reserve Chardonnay was introduced with the 1978 vintage, and together these wines have earned three decades of extraordinary accolades, including two "Wine of the Year" awards.

Always one of the best white wines for the money out of California, Beringer Private Reserve Chard is a big, lush wine that showcases the best of Napa Valley terroir and the vintage. Often a single-vineyard Chardonnay this 2014 was primarily sourced from the Gamble Ranch, located near the town of Yountville, in the Oakville AVA, this wine highlights the richness and complexity of this varietal and has been a benchmark Chardonnay since its first vintage in 1978. 

Some of the fruit for this vintage release is also sourced from the Home Vineyard on the Beringer estate just on the outskirts of St. Helena. This vineyard was part of the original 215 acres Jacob Beringer purchased in 1875. The Cabernet Sauvignon planted on the sloped sedimentary soil of this 48-acre vineyard has been a key component of our Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon since 1982.Winemaker Notes - “Aromas of grilled pineapple, ripe pear, lemon oil, hazelnut and toasted brioche. A bright fruit core is accentuated by a silky texture and flavors of yellow apple, Asian pear, meyer lemon and a lush, continuous finish.”

This release was awarded 95points by Decanter and James Suckling, 92 points by Wine Spectator and 91 points by Vinous. 

This Private Reserve is almost all Gamble fruit and saw about 75-80% new French oak. In 2014, the Private Reserve is a touch restrained, but it is quite attractive just the same. 

Winemaker's tasting notes: "A richly layered wine with aromas of crème brulee and rich citrus and fruit flavors."

Deep golden colored, showing its decade of age, this is nearing the end of its prime drinking window and ready to drink, full bodied, dense, complex, full round flavors of apple with notes of apricot and peach, toasted oak, smoke and toffee and hints of lime on a long finish.

RM 91 points. 

Benziger Family Vineyards Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2021 

This is another producer we know well, that we have visited with fellow Pour Boys. We became acquainted with Benziger Family Sonoma Valley wines when we met Erinn Benziger of Benziger Family Winerywhen she visited Chicago and presented at Binny's Beverage Depot Midwest Wine Expo. We all then visited Benziger Family Estate Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma Valley in the Autumn of 2009 during our Sonoma Wine Experience. Today over a dozen different family members are active in the extended family wine business that prides itself on the extent of its 'green' initiatives - certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic© wines. A visit to their Sonoma Family Estate is a study in the practice with their numerous exhibits and self guided and formal tours of the property.

Bill and Beth find their premium Sauvignon Blanc as one of their favorite Benziger releases. I found their limited production release cabernet blends to be their most memorable such as their 'Tribute' and 'Signaterra' blends which were the highlight of their Binny's Expo tasting, along with the Sauvignon Blanc. 

Winemaker Notes “Fresh and elegant, this Sauvignon Blanc invites you in with aromas of bright lemon, fresh grass, grapefruit and melon. Enticing citrus flavors are followed by complex minerality. The wine’s acid is both balanced and integrated, giving it a textured mid-palate and an elegant softness.”

Pleasant casual easy sipping nice starter wine to kick off the evening with salad and artisan cheese course. 

Greywacke New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2021 

Lyle brought from his home cellar this spectacular Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, one of our favorites, and at the end of the night/weekend, we hadn’t gotten to it and it was still in the wine cooler. We’ll hold this for a future tasting when we meet again!

Several other great places to buy seafood in Destin are Sexton’s, Blalock, Where Y’At, Joe Patti’s, Harbor Docks, Destin Ice, and Willing

Sexton’s Seafood Market is among the oldest and best seafood markets in Destin, Florida. It’s been around since 1978 on Harbor Boulevard. Their best seller is fresh shrimp, but they also offer other seafood and shellfish such as crab, oyster, tuna, snapper, cobia, and grouper.

Blalock Seafood Market is family-owned and located on the street across Big Kahuna’s Water Park. 

Bestsellers are fresh-caught snow and king crab, oysters, lobsters, scallops, and shrimp. However, they also sell seasonings and sauces, freshly-baked bread, cheeses, local frozen pies, wines, Angus steaks, and Cajun products.

Where Y’At Seafood Market near the Harborwalk is among the unique seafood markets in Destin with its highlight food trailer.

Joe Patti’s, considered one of the best seafood markets in Destin for live seafood market, which can be ordered online. They ship only the freshest catch and guarantee the highest-quality seafood - on-demand fish from them such as lobsters, shrimps, crabs, clams, fillets, and calamari.

Harbor Docks is a restaurant and a seafood market with seafood that’s always fresh and never frozen -
hours may vary since they’re dependent on the fishermen selling their newly-caught fish.Destin Ice offers hghest quality seafood that’s either live, cooked, or ready-to-cook from its site on Harbor Boulevard alongside the other great seafood markets - offering Grouper, tuna, bass, cod, snapper, shrimp, crab, scallop, and salmon, and a meat section with quail, rabbit, duck, venison, steak, lamb, and pork.

Willingham Seafood was started by a fishing enthusiast who used to sell shrimp to Destin’s locals and is the only waterfront seafood market in Okaloosa (County), to both retail and wholesale.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Shiraz with BBQ Ribs at Pour Boys dinner

Flight of Shiraz with BBQ Ribs as Pour Boys gather for SoWal Wine Festival weekend in Destin 

Our Pour Boys wine group gathered at The Cove, our vacation rental in Destin, FL for a festive wine weekend centered on the SoWal (South Walton Beaches) Wine and Food Festival

On our guests’ arrival night, Linda prepared baby-back ribs with baked potatoes, baked beans, cole slaw and fresh vegetables. Afterwards, for dessert we had Tira Miso and Tuxedo chocolate cake. 

For a wine accompaniment with dinner I brought from our home cellar a flight of Shiraz/Syrahs, one of our favorite pairings - BBQ and Syrah, including a comparison tasting of  three rare single-vineyard designated labels - two from from the legendary Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard and one from the Napa Valley Caldwell Vineyard

Stagecoach Vineyard sources fruit in several varieties to top labels from some of Napa Valley’s most storied producers.

Venge Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard Block 1-3 Syrah 2015

This is from one of our favorite producers, Venge Vineyards. We’ve been collecting Venge wines for three decades and hold a deep and broad collection of their wines. 

We’ve visited Venge several times over the years and are delighted they’re thriving under next generation Kirk Venge who has expanded the portfolio significantly.  

Today, two of our favorite wines in the Chardonnay and Syrah varietal are Venge labels. 

This is a big tongue puckering rich forward style we love and consider it a perfect pairing with BBQ such as tonight. 

This is a distinctive, unique single vineyard designated label from the Stagecoach Vineyard, which the producer proclaims “continues to produce Syrah of unparalleled quality. The Syrahs from that mountain vineyard really shine from the steep, rocky terroir of the location”. 

Stagecoach is one of the Napa Valley’s largest and leading mountain vineyards located near the Atlas Peak AVA at an elevation of around 1,700 feet above sea level. The soil is very rocky and topography very steep. Temperatures are warm in the midday and cold at night. This diurnal effect makes for a balance of vibrant acidity and fruit structure that is concentrated and focuessed. “Block I-4” is referenced in this bottling because of its very high elevation relative to the rest of the Stagecoach Vineyard.

Venge Vineyards Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah Block I-4 2013 was awarded 96 points by The Wine Advocate, 94 points by Wine Enthusiast and 92 points by Wine Spectator. 

Dark inky black garnet/purple colored, full bodied, complex, powerful deep concentrated savory blackberry and black plum fruits accented by notes of anise, black pepper, hints of bacon fat, clove spice creosote, camphor, vanilla and graphite with a long tongue coating finish. 

RM 94 points.

Winemaker notes - The body is full with soft, dark, tarry, slightly sticky tannins. Delicious wire to wire. Fresh, juicy and ripe. Blackberries, black plum, an array of purple fruits, black licorice to the core of anise, deep sweet tarriness, light pepper, dark spice, limestone minerals, big vanilla, cinnamon, clove, some nutmeg, cigar, tobacco, leather, crushed rocks, sandstone style minerals, underbrush with lavender & violets. Lovely round acidy. The long, rich, lush, ripe, well balanced finish is persistent and absolutely delicious.

Another Syrah from Stagecoach Vineyard. 

Miner “La Diligence” Napa Valley Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah 2009

This is from Miner, another producer we have enjoyed for more than two decades. Miner was originally founded by Dave Minor, descendent of software pioneer who was part of the founding braintrust and major contributor to Oracle Software. We have fun with this label since we’ve partnered with Oracle for years and our son still works there as an industry executive.   

Following a number of years spent working in the software industry, Dave Miner got his start in wine in 1993 as President of Oakville Ranch Vineyards, owned by his late uncle, Robert Miner. Having spent years as an enthusiastic wine consumer and collector, Dave had a natural affinity for the business.

Dave met his future bride Emily Miner, a Minnesota transplant and graduate of Santa Clara University, when they she joined Oakville Ranch as the Tasting Room Manager back in 1993. There she met Dave where they subsequently fell in love.

The Miner Family Winery brand was born in 1996 when Dave, working as President of Oakville Ranch, decided to become a custom crush client and start his own wine label.

In 1997, Gary Brookman joined as winemaker for Oakville Ranch and to establish Dave’s own label, Miner Family. A former Joseph Phelps alum, Gary was the perfect candidate to develop the wine portfolio and expand their custom crush client business. In 1999, Dave and Emily Miner married, purchased the winery building and released the first Miner Family wines.

In 2001, The Oracle label was released, Miner’s inaugural vintage of our flagship, Bordeaux-style blend.
Miner Family Winery named “Top Five” All-American wines of 2004, Bon Appetite Magazine

In 2012, after years of offering varietally correct Riedel glassware in our tasting room, Miner and Riedel announce their partnership. Since 2012, Riedel Wine Glass Company exclusively uses Miner Family wines at its proprietary comparative glassware tasting events and at select events officially endorsed by the Riedel name in the United States.

Miner Family's "La Diligence" series is a small-production collaboration between Miner Family winemaker Gary Brookman and Northern Rhone producer Francois Villard, with the objective to produce wine from Rhone varietals grown in the Napa Valley using traditional French techniques. 

Only 336 cases the 08 "La Diligence" Syrah were produced. It is 100% Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah, aged for fifteen months in a 40% new French oak. 

Winemaker notes - “Cracked pepper, smokey spice, and meaty aromas and flavors accent the dark-fruited, chocolately layers of this rich and full-bodied Syrah.”

The fruit for this Syrah comes exclusively from the Stagecoach Vineyard, which inspired the name “La Diligence” meaning “The Stagecoach” in French. This Syrah displays classic northern Rhône structure and flavors with ripe, dark fruit characteristics and just the right amount of smoky spice.

Fellow CellarTracker Sheldon wrote in 2018 - “This wine was tryluly exceptional and one of the best Syrahs I have ever had. It was drinking solid and probably will continue to drink well for at least a couple more years, perhaps longer. Big and full-boddied (sic)but balanced and round with a long beautiful finish. It may lack the French elegance but this hit the bullseye ….” He gave it 95 points. 

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, concentrated complex blackberry fruits with black pepper accents, notes of earthy, black tea, tobacco and savory spices with a long finish. 

RM 91 points.

Neiman Napa Valley Caldwell Vineyard Block 18 Syrah 2003

Neiman Cellars is the artwork of Drew Neiman who was introduced to wine through his cousins Eli and Mildred Neiman who operated Regency Wine Sellers back in Ohio. Through that relationship, exposed to wines in their store, he began to consider a career centered around wine. 

Some of the wines that initially captivated him were made by winemaker John Kongsgaard while Kongsgaard was the winemaker at Newton Vineyards. John is one of Napa Valley’s great wine minds; not only is he a winemaker, but perhaps he could be referred to as a ‘wine poet’, someone who has acutely combined the art and science of winemaking. In addition, he has been a notable mentor to numerous now accomplished winemakers in Napa Valley.

Wanting to work with Kongsgaard, Drew reached out to Kongsgaard asking him if he could spend some time mentoring from him. Drew’s persistence paid off and John offered him a cellar position at Newton Vineyards during the fall of 1994. Drew spent 11 years working with Kongsgaard rising through the ranks from harvest help to assistant winemaker by way of UC Davis.

My interest stems from my love for Kongsgaard Syrah, perhaps the best I have ever tasted! 

In 1997 Kongsgaard approached Drew about starting his own brand. Kongsgaard had extra grapes from a contract with Caldwell Vineyards and wondered if Drew would be interested in taking over the contract. Drew did so and in subsequent years was able to source additional varieties from some of the best parts of Caldwell Vineyard. 

Drew produced Neiman Caldwell Vineyard Syrah and other varietal labels from the iconic vineyard which contained forward to this day when he also produces extremely limited quantities of Cabernet and Chardonnay.  

Caldwell is one of the most diverse and influential vineyards in America with 28 grape varieties, and a portfolio of 23 estate wines.

The 123 acre estate sits six hundred feet above the Napa Valley floor in Napa’s southern-most appellation, with steep hillsides, rolling oak meadows, and rows of grapevines framed by mountain ranges on either side. 

It is an exceptional place to grow grapes with proximity to San Pablo Bay, and geographic situation in the bowl of an ancient volcanic caldera, the cool temperatures and longest growing season in Napa Valley. The volcanic soils, where our roots grow deep, impart distinctive minerality and undeniable character in our wines. 

The Caldwell Vineyard estate is planted with 62 acres planted to 27 different grapevine clone and varietal combinations, a significant portion are original certified clones from France. The vineyard has been the source for some of Napa’s most revered Cabernet for other wineries and winemakers, including many of our cellar collection labels Moone Tsai (Philippe Melka), Merus and Brion (Mark Herold), Pahlmeyer (Helen Turley), Patz and Hall, Joseph Phelps’s Insignia, Stéphane Derenoncourt and others

Neiman Cellars’ core wines are Chardonnay, Syrah, a Red Wine blend and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Drew has also served as winemaker at Chateau Boswell from 2003 - 2007. He has also served as 
winemaker at Bridesmaid Wines.

Neiman wines are produced at a winery in Coombsville.  Drew handles everything from grower contracts, and winemaking to sales, personally hosting tastings with clients. 

Total production for Neiman Cellars is under 1,000 cases per year with nearly all of the wines sold direct to consumer and have included on the wine list at the French Laundry in Yountville.

Wine critic Robert Parker has called Drew Naiman “brilliant”. He’s been mentioned in FOOD & WINE, Wine Spectator, InStyle, and has poured his wine at the James Beard House in New York City. 

Neiman Cellars has been featured on the wine lists of fancy restaurants including the French Laundry, Per Se, Gary Danko, and The Beverly Hills Hotel.

Back as early as 2011 I tasted this wine and wrote, “Dark inky color - full bodied - full forward fruits - blackberry, black currants, raspberry fruits with a long well balanced tannin finish. RM 91 points.

Tonight at two decades this wine is nearing the end of its drinking window and it’s time to drink. The foil, label, fill level and importantly the cork were still in ideal condition. 

Dark garnet colored, full bodied, tightly wound, structured, complex blackberry and plum fruits with notes of black tea, tobacco, anise and hints of dark spices and bitter dark chocolate persist on the lingering finish. 

RM 90 points.

Torbreck “Woodcutter’s” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2021

Torbreck is the name of a forest near Inverness, Scotland, ancestral home to the producer. This label  is a nod to the Celts in our wine naming conventions including this tribute to the foresters of this rugged high country.

This producer says that this is sourced from the ‘up and coming Shiraz vineyards of the Barossa, rather than the battle hardened old vines that make up the core of our other cuvee’s.’  This is 100% Shiraz sourced from vineyards in  Marananga, Greenock, Seppeltsfield, Gomersal, Moppa, Lyndoch and Ebenezer sub-districts in the South Central Australia Barossa Valley.

“2021’s signature is wines of high aromatic lift with densely coloured tints and exceptional balance. Lifted red, black and blue fruits of red cherry, raspberry coulis, blueberry conserve and wild blackberry and blackcurrant. There is a spicy edge showing cardamom, star anise and Chinese five spice. Soft caressing tannins and voluptuous mouthfeel from plump Shiraz berries gives this wine a posture that belies its pedigree. The poise and piquancy of the fruit sitting on top of the structured mouthfeel provides confidence to cellar for 5-10 years.”

It was age 12 months in well-seasoned French oak hogsheads and Foudre.

2021 Torbreck "Woodcutter's" Shiraz Barossa Valley South Australia

This label is known for delivering great QPR - Quality Price Ratio. The producer says, “Although this wine is constantly praised for its succulence and richness, there is also a complexity and texture which is rarely found at this price.”

This release was awarded 96 points by James Suckling.

Winemaker Notes: Full of freshness and bright youthful fruits, the 2020 vintage possesses no small amount of exuberance and personality. Aromatic plum and black cherry with dark chocolate and intensity, yet refined. The balanced palated has a round central core of black and blue fruit that gives way to a complex mid-palate. While offering immense pleasure in its youth, the 2020 Woodcutter's Shiraz will certainly develop into an impressive wine with a few more years in the cellar. A fantastic introduction to the Torbreck range.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate - "Ever the reliable wine in the Torbreck lineup (challenged only by the beauty of the Steading, but nevertheless), the Woodcutters has tightened up over time. My first introduction to it almost 10 years ago recalls a plush, full-bodied wine that delivered all the Barossa feels and flavors that one could possibly hope for. These days, and today specifically, the 2021 Woodcutter's Shiraz is tight and tense, with black brooding fruit set to a rigging of firm, savory tannins. The oak is subliminal in this wine, leaving only the tannins to shape the fruit. Really handled well. Impressive."

Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, tightly wound, dark plum and blackberry fruits with cassis, dark cherry, spice and anise with moderate smooth tannins and textured finish. 

RM 89 points. 

Following the big bold Shiraz and BBQ pairings, after dinner we opened some other special wines for sipping and tasting. 

Lyle brought from his cellar in Chicago this Brunello, and Bill brought from his cellar in Charleston this Freemark Abbey Cabernet.

Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino 2012

Lyle has been diving into Brunello’s recently and brought from his home cellar this highly rated Brunello from Camigliano. 

Winemaker Notes - :A great wine with an intense bouquet and balanced tannins that express all the characteristics of the "terroir" in terms of its quality and type, both in the selection of clones and in the selection of the best-situated and sunniest terrain. A high-class wine that evolves in interesting ways over time. It is recommended for important events – to honor a loved one or a special guest.”

This release was rated  93 points by Wine Spectator, 92 points by James Suckling and 91by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 90 points by Wine Enthusiast.

This was ideal for more delightful casual after dinner sipping as it was a bit lighter than the full throttle Syrahs we tasted with the BBQ. 

Ruby colored and medium to full bodied, this was complex but elegant and nicely balanced and polished with ripe red berry and currant and black cherry fruits with notes of  currant, licorice, leather and spice with silky polished tannins on a long finish. 

RM 91 points. 

Bill brought from his home cellar one of his and our perennial favorites from his deep collection from this producer.  This was spectacular closing out the evening with its full round concentrated flavor profile. 

Ironically, later this week, the producer was serving this label at the SoWal Wine Festival VIP Tasting and offering this vintage release from their library collection in OWC (Original Wood Cases) and Magnums, which Bill snapped up for his collection.

Freemark Abbey Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Bill and I discussed doing Mount Veeder appellation wines this week and he brought this from his cellar. I have to admit this is the first experience I have had from this limited release appellation select label, available only through the wine club. This was amazing, one of the best Freemark Abbey Cabernets I have had! 

Winemaker notes - “This wine is dark, very dark, in fact it is opaque garnet with ruby edges. With massive depth, the aroma opens to ripe blackcurrant, blackberry, black olive, black pepper, tobacco, and mushroom with very well integrated oak spices. The spicy oak has subtle nuances of cinnamon, clove, aromatic cedar, and the overall impression is of a dark chocolate truffle dusted with cocoa powder. The entry is full and promising with dark fruit flavors like blackberry and currant, while the tannins are soft on entry they build to be more firm on the mid to back palate. With lots of depth, great acid balance, this wine is juicy and rich; a great example of a refined mountain cabernet that begs to be paired with a perfectly marbled, grilled ribeye steak! “

This was a spectacular vintage and what a great experience as the producer was pouring this same vintage of one of their single vineyard select labels - Sycamore Vineyard, at the Wine Festival tasting. 

The standard bottle for this vintage release was spectacular. Winemaker Notes  for the standard label release. “Opaque, dark ruby color introduces this wine that expresses dark fruit aroma and flavors. With spicy sweet oak complexity, the wine exudes dark fruit such as blackberry, black currant, blueberry and dark cherry. There are nuances of dark chocolate, chocolate berry truffle dusted with cocoa powder, cola, aromatic cedar, cinnamon, clove, graham crackers and a hint of tobacco. The body is very full with a soft entry, coupled with dark cherry/berry flavors that develop from start to finish. With great texture and mouth feel, this cabernet is full bodied, rich and opulent. In one word….delicious.”

This release was rated  92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and James Suckling. 

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Freemark Abbey’s standard bottling from Napa, is one of their best representations of this label and a great value with is large production and availability with nearly 24k cases produced. Parker calls it “one of their larger cuvées”. 

This release was a blend of 75.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10.9% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It was aged nearly 26 months in oak. 

I have to admit I was amazed by the Mount Veeder label and found it to be one of the best vintages of this label I can recall, and we’ve had more than a dozen over the years. 

Following this weekend I ran home to see if we had the standard label of this vintage release in the cellar and thankfully we do, and will look forward to opening this again in the future. Although, this wine has a long time to go still at the peak of its drinking window and should last another decade or more.  

Amazingly, they poured this vintage of their premium single vineyard designated release and Bill was right to pick up more at the retail tent at the wine festival and in retrospect I wish I had grabbed some more as well. 

For this label, Dark inky purple and garnet in color, full bodied, full round complex, structured and concentrated blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with notes of black tea, mocha chocolate, allspice, leather and tobacco leaf with full but approachable tannins on the long finish. 

RM 92 points. 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2017

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2017 

Following our false start at ordering this wine at our dining out restaurant experience over the weekend, featured in a blogpost in these pages, I had a taste for this wine, and happened to have a bottle on hand at our limited cellar collection at our Cove vacation rental home in Florida. 

We’re staying at the Cove, our favorite vacation rental in Destin Florida for the week to attend the SoWal (South Walton Beaches) Wine Festival in Sandestin this coming weekend. Linda and I arrived a week early, and look forward to being joined by our Pour Boys wine group as the week progresses. 

Linda prepared delicious Beef Bourgogne, which was ideally paired with this wine for an optimal wine food combination. As readers of these pages know, I regularly write about the importance of proper food and wine pairing, which serves to multiply and enhance the enjoyment of both. 

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2017 

We know this producer and wine well having visited the Chateau and Estate in Châteauneuf du Pape in the Southern Rhône River valley outside Avignon on a couple occasions dating back to 1998 and most recently in 2019.  Our visit to the Vieux Télégraphe estate and meeting owner/winemaker Daniel Brunier (left) was a highlight of our Rhone Valley Wine Experience in 2019.

The estates lies in the Châteauneuf -du-Pape AOC (Appellation Original Controlee) in the Rhone River Valley that stretches from Orange to Avignon.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe has been run by the Brunier family for five generations dating back to 1891. The estate’s vineyards average 60 years of age on the Plateau of La Crau, a site known for growing Châteauneuf-du-Pape grape varietals.

The estate is named for the telegraph towers that sat on the site dating back to the early visual signal towers that were invented and deployed as far back as 1792. Lines of relay towers were built within line-of-sight of each other at distances of 5–20 miles. Tower operators would watch adjacent towers through a spyglass for signals produced by mechanical shutter arms and would pass the message on to the next tower. These early systems were faster and less expensive than horse drawn riders. These lines were a precursor of the electrical telegraph which would replace them half a century later.

The estate wines are known for their distinctive terroir signature of predominant minerality from filtering through the thick layer of large pebbles left behind when the Alpine glaciers melted, long before the Rhône Valley formed.

We hold Vieux Télégraphe wines dating back three decades to the early 1980's.  

Winemaker (s): Frédéric & Daniel Brunier 

The blend for this release is 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre with a slight bit of Syrah.

Winemaker's Tasting Notes: Châteauneuf-du-Pape seriously dominated by Grenache, which confers very singular suppleness and roundness. Best savored young.

This is the second wine of Vieux Telegraphe. Typically composed of Grenache with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault from mostly young vines it often includes grapes from 45 year old vines at Château La Roquette.

This release was awarded 93 points by James Suckling, 92 points by Jeb Dunnuck and by Wine Spectator and 90 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Dark Ruby colored, medium-full bodied, complex classic brambly red and black raspberry and plum fruits with notes of gariggue, herbs, floral and spice from the Grenache, and cracked pepper with hints of cassis on the moderate long, rich, ripe tannin finish. 

RM 91 points.

Two nights later, we enjoyed finishing up the leftovers of the Beef Bourgogne, and opened from our cellar collection here this aged vintage Bordeaux, which also served as an optimal pairing.