Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Meursault with Sole Meunière Almondine

Meursault with Sole Meunière Almondine 

Linda prepared once again Sole Almondine with muniere sauce, rice and grilled peppers. I pulled from the wine cooler a vintage Burundian Chardonnay for an appropriate wine pairing. 

Afterwards we had cheesecake for dessert and we both thought the wine paired better with that than with the Sole entree. 

Bachey-Legros Meursault Les Grands Charrons 2016 

This is from the renowned Meursault wine-producing region in Burgundy, France. Notably, in the ‘old world’ (ala France, Italy), wines are labeled for the region and appellation from which they are produced, versus the ‘new world’ (ie US), where wines are labeled based on the varietal grape, and then the point of origin. So, it’s up to the consumer to know what grapes are associated with a region. Of course, Burgundy means Chardonnay for white wines, and Pinot Noir for red wines. 

This is 100% Chardonnay grapes cultivated in the Les Grands Charrons vineyard in the Meursault sub-region of Burgundy.

Wine reseller notes - “With its vibrant golden hue, the wine captivates the senses from the first glance. On the nose, it reveals enticing aromas of ripe orchard fruits like apple and pear, intertwined with delicate floral notes and hints of toasted almonds. The palate is beautifully structured, offering a harmonious balance between richness and freshness. Flavors of citrus fruits, white peaches, and a subtle touch of vanilla unfold gracefully, enhanced by a gentle minerality.”

This was aged in 35% new oak barrels as well as in barrels of one or two years. After 12 –15 months the barrels are blended together just before the bottling.

Jeb Dunnuck gave this 94 points and described it “Classic spiced orchard fruits, brioche, toasted bread, and white flower notes … richer, textured, layered,  good acidity, terrific balance, and a great finish.”

Brilliant and intense yellow golden color, full bodied, well balanced, complex, round, notes of floral, mineral, stone fruit with hints of apple and peach with bracing acidity on the finish. 

RM 91 points. 

For the ultra-premium price, I much prefer a California style Chardonnay with a slight amount of oak and buttery profile to offset the bright acidity and minerality. 

Jeb Dunnuck gave this 94 Points and described it “Classic spiced orchard fruits, brioche, toasted bread, and white flower notes … richer, textured, layered,  good acidity, terrific balance, and a great finish.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Beckett’s Missouri “All Steel” Red w/ Pasta

Beckett’s Missouri “All Steel” Red w/ Pasta

Following our delightful food and wine pairing of Beckett’s Missouri Red Wine with Burgers yesterday, we pulled from the cellar the other label we hold from this producer to taste with pasta and meatballs with zesty red sauce, and baked sweet potato.

Linda prepared a tomato red sauce with our home grown herbs - basil, oregano and rosemary (shown at bottom), served over meatballs and macaroni and cheese. It was delicious. So, we pulled from the cellar a Big Red wine from Missouri that we thought would be an appropriate accompaniment. 

Unlike yesterday, (featured in this blogpost - Beckett’s Missouri Red Wine w/ Burgers), when we enjoyed an ideal food and wine pairing, tonight, the wine was not up to the same level as the previous label from this producer.

Like that other wine, we also discovered and acquired this label during that visit to the producer’s Winery and Tasting Room Wine Bar, which I featured in these pages at the time -

Last night, I wrote in these pages about a wonderful, memorable tasting experience we had at the Winery Tasting Room Wine Bar in Glasgow, Missouri. According to their wine descriptions, we were expecting, hoping this label we be equal to the last one, and perhaps bigger and bolder based on the Syrah varietal in the blend. 

While yesterday’s Becketts Red Wine exceeded our expectations, their Steel Red Blend was lackluster and uninspiring - frankly, more what one might expect from a Missouri red wine. 

Historic steel bridge crossing Missouri River 
In Glasgow, MO (background)

Beckett’s “All Steel” Missouri Red Blend NV

This interesting imaginative label commemorates the massive steel bridge (shown above) that crosses the Missouri River in view of the Beckett’s winery tasting room patio.

Beckett’s “All Steel Red” features a characticture of the structure on the label. 

They describe it as “signature Beckett's Winery favorite. Our driest red wine, it is a medium-bodied Chambourcin and Syrah blend. Includes flavors of lucious blackberry jam with a slight earthy scent and a dry, smooth finish.” 

Based on this description, we thought it might stand up to a zesty red sauce with pasta. 

While the winemaker’s description is technically accurate, the wine lacks balance and integration and is a bit ‘flabby’ and flat hence rather uninspiring. 

While I rated their Signature Red label 88 points yesterday, I give this wine 85 points.

Linda herbs ….

Monday, May 27, 2024

Beckett’s Missouri Red Wine w/ Burgers

Beckett’s Missouri Red Wine w/ Burgers 

With grilled burgers on the deck we opened from the cellar a ‘burger wine’. We discovered and acquired this wine during our Missouri Wine Experience in 2021. This is from Beckett’s Winery in Glasgow, MO that we discovered in our cross country road trip. Glasgow is a quaint picturesque small river town, population 1026, with only a few shops and businesses such that Beckett’s Winery and Beckett’s Restaurant stand out conspicuously, almost out of place in the rural town setting. 

Tonight we re-lived that experience when we had a delightful memorable lunch at Beckett’s winery wine bar, featured in these pages at the link, opposite the restaurant, sitting on the deck overlooking the Missouri River. The tranquil setting has a view in the distance of the first all steel bridge in America spanning the mighty river. 

The restaurant winery combination offers wine friendly American fare with burgers, charcuterie, cheeses and snacks for casual enjoyable dining. We ordered the wine flight, a sampling of all five wines, then had a glass of their white with a charcuterie, cheese and fresh fruit board. 

Beckett’s offer a portfolio of wines, three red, three white and a rose. We enjoyed them so much we purchased each of their reds to take home. Commemorating the massive steel bridge, the Beckett’s wine portfolio features its flagship label “All Steel Red” with a characticture of the structure on the label. They describe it as “signature Beckett's Winery favorite. Our driest red wine, it is a medium-bodied Chambourcin and Syrah blend. Includes flavors of lucious blackberry jam with a slight earthy scent and a dry, smooth finish.” 

Their signature white is Beckett's Winery “226”, the driest wine in their signature collection. “226” is the mile marker of the state highway Missouri 240 at the point of the point of the bridge crossing the river. Made from Missouri grapes, this Chardonel offers hints of citrus fruits on the palate and nose. Fruit appears on the front palate and offers a lingering finish. Like their other labels , this is also creatively packaged, adorned with a creative label featuring a map of the central Missouri region. 

Tonight, with burgers, grilled corn, rice and beans, we had as a wine pairing, Beckett's Red, the house wine at Beckett's restaurant. From Beckett's Winery, they describe this as ‘a soft and drinkable semi-sweet red wine. It is delectably light and fruity with tangy sherry aromas.’

This wine exceeded our expectations, for a Missouri red wine at a sub-twenty dollar price point.

Ruby colored, medium bodied, ripe black berry and black current fruits with notes of tangy clove spice, tobacco leaf and black tea with soft modest tannins on a pleasant finish.

RM 88 points. 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah 2020 with BBQ ribs

Tensley Colson Canyon Syrah 2020 with BBQ ribs

One of my favorite days of the year, watching the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, and then the Indianapolis 500, and then over again, we had BBQ ribs. For pairing with BBQ, I pulled from the cellar this big full fruit Syrah - perfect for such an occasion. 

We love this full throttle Syrah. We’ve been acquiring it as part of our wine club allocation since discovering it at the producer’s tasting room, and we pick up whatever few bottles are in stock at the Total Wine big box beverage store in Indy and in Pensacola. And, then, I picked up some more at Winebid auction last winter, which just arrived this week in weather appropriate season shipment from storage. 

I wrote about our discovery of this producer and this label in detail in these pages last year, reiterated and excerpted here. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Tensley Colson Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains Syrah 2020

Tensley Colson Canyon Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara Country Syrah 2020

It was just about two years (now) ago that we discovered and acquired this and several other Tensley Santa Barbara County Wines, that I wrote about here, and replay below, during our Santa Barbara County Wine Experience. This was the standout of that tasting and best represents the style that we love.

We discovered Tensley Santa Barbara County Wines during that Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria ValleyWine Experience while driving the Foxen Canyon wine trail. One of the producer's we visited recommended we check out Tensley Wines, which was near that estate we were visiting. 

We drove by the Tensley vineyards on Alisos Canyon Road, (shown left) which was closed, so we stopped in the Tensley tasting room in downtown Los Olivos.

I was not aware of this brand prior to this trip. It was a top discovery and revelation and may certainly be one of our go-to boutique labels going forward. We joined their wine club to obtain a supply of their labels from those tasted and going forward.  

Colson Canyon Vineyard | Santa Ynez Mountains 

Since joining their wineclub, we have acquired a half dozen labels from this producer, but this single vineyard designated label remains our favorite. Sourced from Colson Canyon Vineyard, high up in the Santa Ynez Mountains north of Los Olivos, it has been providing exceptional Syrah fruit to Joey Tensley since 2000. It is this fruit that helped Tensley become the one of most sought after Syrah's on the coast with consistent high ratings, one vintage flirting with Robert Parker perfection at 99 points.

Tensley released his first vineyard-designate Syrah from Colson Canyon in 2001 and the wine press took notice. That year Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator named two of Tensley’s 2001 Syrah’s to his list of the Top Ten Wines in the World. Robert Parker, Jr. scored all the ‘01’s in the high 90’s, calling them “serious, hand-crafted efforts.”

By 2008, Food and Wine Magazine named the Colson Canyon Syrah “Top Syrah in America Over $20.” Two years later, Robert Parker gave the 2008 Anniversary Series Colson Canyon Syrah 99 points, and Wine Spectator Magazine named the 2008 Colson Canyon Syrah "#17 of its Top 100 Wines in the World". The 2007 Colson Canyon Syrah was ranked #22 the year before. Since then, the string of high scores has been consistent. 

Tensley and his wife Jennifer, purchased the Colson Canyon property about five years ago, ensuring that they would always be able to tap the most distinctive site. 

Perched high up at an elevation of 1,400 feet, the combination of warm days and cool nights produces dense, fruit-forward wines with opulent jamminess. The site covers 115 acres but has only 16 acres of grapes because the elevation and rugged terrain make so much of the site untamable. Tensley believes that only three more acres have the potential to be planted.

Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard Santa Ynez Mountains Santa Barbara County Syrah 2020

Winemaker Notes: "Everything we farm in house is something very special to us. This site is one of the most unique and special places in the world of wine. High (1400 elevation) in the hills north of the Santa Maria Valley with some of the most iron-laced soils I have seen in Santa Barbara County.'

"This wine always delivers juicy round seamless edges. This is the only wine we add some new French oak, as its weight and power integrates with the oak, adding a bit of toasty buttery complexity. Colson Canyon is such a beautiful example of fruit forward juicy California Syrah. Open it anytime and enjoy its blueberry, cassis and chocolate nuances or leave it 20 years and enjoy its leathery, almondy notes. It does not really matter when you open it, it will deliver."

1925 cases were produced.

This was awarded 94-96 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 96 points by Wine Advocate, 95-97 points by Vinous, and 95 points by Wine Spectator.

Might I consider this the Tensley 'flagship'? This reminded me of a couple other memorable highly rated Syrahs that has been standouts - Kongsgaard Carneros Hudson Vineyard and Penfolds Grange. Both are flawless, seamless, and notable for their smooth, polished, balanced profile. While not to that level of perfection perhaps, this is close and evokes the same experience. This bottle was from the Wine Club allocation we received from that visit. We're anxiously awaiting our fall release shipment that we're told was shipped this week. 

We love this full throttle jammy rich fruit forward style of the 2020 Colson Canyon Vineyard Syrah. Notably it has been recognized with four scores of 95 points or more.

We wrote about this wine in January and before that late last fall. Each time I gave it 94 Points.

Consistent with earlier notes - even better with BBQ ! Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, thick concentrated unctuous juicy black and blue fruits with layers of cassis and chocolate nuances with notes of oak, leather and tobacco on a tongue coating lingering finish.

Earlier, last fall I wrote: "Dark inky purple colored, full bodied, thick concentrated unctuous juicy black and blue fruits with layers of cassis and chocolate nuances with notes of oak, leather and tobacco on a tongue coating lingering finish." 

RM 94 Points


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

El Nido "Clio" Jumilla for birthday celebration lunch at Meson Sabika Naperville

El Nido "Clio" Jumilla for birthday celebration lunch at Meson Sabika Naperville

For my birthday, Linda and the kids took me to Meson Sabika restaurant in Naperville for a celebration lunch. Mesón Sabika opened in 1990 in the 1847 mansion that sites on a four-acre estate near downtown Naperville.

The historic mansion has several elegant dining rooms inside and a large patio for alfresco dining. They also have a tented dining room and a large tented pavilion that is used extensively for weddings and special events. 

The kids love the immensely popular Mesón Sabika with its Spanish cuisine that they serve tapas style, a wide variety of small plates from meats to seafood and several dishes of Paella, the iconic dish of Valencia and Spain. 

According to tradition in Valencia, paella is cooked by men over an open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine cones. This produces an aromatic smoke which infuses the paella. 

With our dinner we ordered from the wine list a big hearty red wine in the style we enjoy, especially with hearty foods. The fairly extensive Spanish centric list offers a couple Rose’s, a dozen whites and three dozen reds, as well as a half dozen ultra-premium ‘Rare and Old Vintage’ selections of classic Spanish top growths -  Prada Enea Gran Reserva, an older vintage of this Clio, several vintages of Muga "Selección Especial”, and a Clos Erasmus. 

Bodegas El Nido "Clio" Jumilla, Spain Red Wine 2021 

Bodegas El Nido is one of Gil Family Estates, owners of eight wineries spread throughout seven D.O.'s in Spain, based in Jumilla with winemaking roots going back over a century, known for bold flavor wines with lavish texture and alluring spice. It is a joint venture of the Gil Family and notable winemaker Chris Ringland from Australia, one of the best Australian enologists and author of Clio and El Nido and others,  known for producing big bold Shiraz and GSM -  Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre wines. 

The winery and vineyards of Bodegas El Nido are located in the Valle de La Aragona, inside the Murcia district of Jumilla wine region and surrounding area. Their vineyards include thirty acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 79 acres of very old the Monastrell grape varietal, also known as Mourvèdre in the French Rhône River Valley. 

Monastrell is a red wine grape that goes by the name Mourvedre in France and in Australia. Historically from the Rhône Valley it is commonly used as a blending grape to add body, tannin, and color. In Spain it is produced as the core of blends that are complex and powerful as this grape variety can be.

They produce a portfolio of three big red wines including their flagship ultra-premium Ed Nido, and this popular Clio label which has been consistently rated 91-97 points for the past 13 consecutive years by acclaimed wine critics.

Famous for the robust and earthy, black-fruit dominated, Monastrell, Jumilla is an arid and hot region in southeastern Spain. Its vine yields tend to be torturously low but this can create wines of exceptional intensity and flavor. Quality combined with accessible price points give the region great recognition on international markets far and wide. 

Coming from the warm climate of southeastern Spain, the grapes get the chance to fully ripen and produce hyper-concentrated dark fruit. The reds from Jumilla are heady and spicy, packed with fruit and show aromas of dried licorice and herbs. 

Monastrell vines are planted in a foot deep layer of chalky stones over substrat a of sandy soil. Cabernet vines are planted in vineyards with chalky, stony soil over a layer of sandy soil with clay. The vines are trained and groomed to produce very low yields and the grapes are harvested in small baskets to prevent bruising, with only the best bunches selected. 

This 2021 release is 70% Monastrell (Mourvedre) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak for 24 months. It is a monster with a heady 16% alcohol. 50,000 bottles were produced. 

This vintage release was rated 93 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. 

Winemaker's notes: This wine exhibits a glass-coating opaque purple color. It has an expressive nose of pain grille, brier, minerality and blueberry and blackberry overtones. This plush, opulent wine has great density, savory flavors and a very lengthy finish that gets better with age. 

Winemaker Notes - “Deep ruby with a garnet rim. Aromas of succulent black fruit from fresh to preserved and suggestions of caramel and toffee, with hints of toast, cocoa, distinctive tobacco, and coffee. In the background, some earthy and mineral nuances. Fruit and freshness define the palate, complemented with exotic touches of spices, violets, some vegetal nuances, some toasted notes, and deep mineral undertones. Huge, powerful and savory, yet it shows a distinctive elegance. A linear, steely acidity, some ripe tannins and very long finish.”

Dark garnet deep opaque purple color, full bodied, dense, concentrated, vibrant and opulent yet nicely balanced briery blueberry and blackberry fruits with savory baking spices, dark bittersweet chocolate, anise, cigar box and oak with full firm refined tannins on a tongue puckering lengthy finish. 

RM 93 points. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pour Boys EM Team Hemmingway’s Dinner

Pour Boys EM Team Hemmingway’s Dinner

Our Pour Boys wine group assembled in Chicago to serve as volunteers on the Emergency Management team for the annual Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Wright Plus Housewalk.

Wright Plus is Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s internationally renowned annual housewalk, featuring rare interior tours of private homes and public buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries. 

Nearly 3000 guests and VIPS enjoy tours of spectacular residences, learn about their history and architecture, and share a festive day with visitors from around the country and the world. 

The featured homes and buildings are in Chicago, Oak Park, Illinois and nearby communities. Wright Plus proceeds support the restoration, preservation and education programs of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

With skills, experience and careers in medicine, law, security operations, command center communications and operations, this was an opportunity to apply our experience and expertise for a worthy cause - and have a fun day of art/architecture, history, culture, and fellowship. 

Afterwards we dined at Hemingway’s Bistro in Oak Park (IL) for a gala dinner. 

We brought from our collective cellars an extensive flight of Bordeaux and Bordeaux varietal wines to accompany the French inspired cuisine. 

For starters members of our group ordered selections from the menu including:

Foie Gras du Jour and Oysters Rockefeller (shown below), and Soft Shell Crab daily special.

For entree’s, folks ordered the Five-Spice Marget Duck Breast, Saturday Night regular special Beef Wellington and the Dijon Crusted Lamb Rack, shown below. 

 Five-Spice Marget Duck Breast

Saturday Night regular special Beef Wellington

Dijon Crusted Lamb Rack


Baked Halibut

Others in the group ordered the New York Steak au Poivre, Daily Special Halibut, and the Chicken Grilled Chicken Breast Paillard.

We were served by Kate, who did a wonderful, fabulous job tending to our dinner and somewhat complex, extensive wine service. 

Our wine flight included wines tasted in the following order:

From the wine list, Roederer Brut Premier Champagne,

And from our wine cellars, we brought BYOB

Château Canon St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe’ 2001
Château Branaire Ducru St Julien Bordeaux 2010
Château Pontet Canet Pauillac Bordeaux 2012
Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1989 and 2014
Fantesca Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Mayacamas Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Dow Vintage Port 1997

I’ve written often about our wine dinners and the exercise of determining the tasting order of the wines, based on weight (light to heavy), age (old to new), profile (dry to sweet), and other factors. Not amazingly, tonight, as is typically the case, our order of tasting proved to be correct, thereby optimizing the discrimination and the subsequent enjoyment of the wines. 

As a post mortem, we decided in the future, we’ll set two parallel flights, to enable the ladies a chance to dive right in to their favored, more approachable, pleasurable drinking Napa Cabernets, skipping ahead of the aged Bordeaux. 

Tonight’s tasting St Julien Bordeaux flight allowed a comparison of Branaire Ducru from Lyle’s cellar (held over from our recent Pour Boys gathering for the SoWal Wine Festival weekend in Destin, FL), and a mini vertical of two vintages of Ducru Beaucaillou - I brought a vintage 1989 and Lyle a 2014.

For those collectors that care about such details, the 1989 Ducru Beaucailou, which I acquired at and have held since release, was in perfect condition - fill level, cork, and label and foil. In fact the high neck fill level was better than the younger, 2010 Branaire Ducru! 

Dan brought from his cellar a pair of Bordeaux, the Château Canon right bank St Emilion, and the Pontet Canet Pauillac. We correctly tasted the lighter, more approachable, Right Bank based Merlot at the front of the flight, which proved the right move. 

Bill followed with two California, Napa Valley Cabernets from Fantesca and Mayacamas, serving the Spring Mountain District Fantesca, then the Mount Veeder Mayacamas. 

Finally, for the dessert course, Lyle brought from his cellar a vintage port to close out the evening. This was a nice accompaniment to the Crème Brûlée and the Soufflé du jour.

Château Canon St Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2001

Dating back, ever since I acquired and consumed a case of the 1983 vintage release of this label, I love this wine. 

This vintage release was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast, 93 by James Suckling and Jim Dunnuck, and 91 by Wine Spectator.

Parker’s Wine Advocate said in 2017, of “this Saint Emilion, that it would not surprise me if it turns out to be one of the very best in 2012”.

This release is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. 

Garnet colored, medium bodied, polished, elegant, balanced and silky smooth ripe blueberry, blackberry and a hint of plum with bitter dark chocolate, dusty rose with hints of licorice and vanilla, with fine tannins on long soft finish. 

RM 92 points.

Turning to the St Julien flight … 

Château Branaire Ducru St Julien Bordeaux 2010

Linda and I toured the Branaire Ducru estate, vineyards and 
Château during our St Julien Wine Experience in 2018. 

It estate, vineyards and Château sit on the highway as you enter the St Julien appellation from the south, immediately across the famous Medoc Route du Vin from Château Beychevelle, across from the Château Ducru Beaucaillou estate and vineyards. I featured that visit in these pages in this blogpost -  A visit to Château Branaire-Ducru.

The Branaire is somewhat of a baby Ducru, typically priced at a fraction of the price, more akin to the Ducru second label.

This vintage release seems to underachieve below the lofty expectations set by its stellar ratings, leaving me to winder if perhaps this was an aberrant bottle, as witnessed by my earlier comment of it having a lesser fill level than the much older 1989. In light of the impressive ratings below, and the CellarTracker average rating of 92+, I sense this might have been so.

This vintage release was rated 95 points, a ‘Cellar Selection’ by Wine Enthusiast, and 94 points by Wine Spectator, James Suckling and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and 90-93 by International Wine Cellar. Wine Enthusiast said, “Cellar Selection, This rich, full wine shows the chateau to be at the top of its form.”

Jancis Robinson gave it 17.5/20 points.

Parker’s Wine Advocate said, “This wine is more backward than I would have normally expected, but nevertheless, it is very impressive”

In the Left Bank Medoc style, this is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23.5% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

Inky garnet colored with bluish purple hues, medium to full bodied, moderate raspberry and currant fruits with notes of floral, graphite, black olive and black tea and cedar with chewy tannins on the finish. 

RM 90 points. 

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1989 and 2014

Our visit and tour of Château Ducru Beaucaillou was a highlight of our St Julien Bordeaux Wine Experience in 2019. I wrote about that visit in these pages in this blogpost -  A visit to Château Ducru Beaucaillou.

This label is one of the key holdings in our cellar collection consisting of more than a score of vintages spanning three decades dating back to 1980’s including the birth year vintages of each of our kids, 1981, 1982, 1985 and 1990. 

We hold many vintages in large format bottles including 3 liter double magnums from which we served son Ryan's 1982 birth year vintage at his and daughter-in-law Michelle's wedding.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1989

As noted above, this 1989 at 35 years of age was in near perfect condition - most importantly the fill level and cork, and the label and foil. We acquired an OWC - Original Wood Case, of this wine upon release and have held it in our cellar since, an indication of the ideal conditions in our cellar for holding wine for the long term.

This release was awarded  92 points by Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. 

Garnet colored with hues of medium brick, medium to full-bodied, black berry fruits with notes of what Wine Advocate described as “pretty notes of dried flowers, fallen leaves and dusty soil over a core of warm figs, dried cherries, prunes and spice cake plus wafts of unsmoked cigars and powdered cinnamon, … still seductively rich with a lively line of soft, silt-like tannins, finishing long and wonderfully savory.”

Neal Martin in Vinous writes: "The 1989 Ducru-Beaucaillou is showing some bricking on the rim, although the core remains quite dark. This has an attractive bouquet with lovely tobacco-infused black fruit and touches of black truffle and morels.”

Winemaker Notes - “Intense garnet red color. An elegant bouquet very Ducru-Beaucaillou! Cedar at the start then notes of black pepper with a hint of vanilla. With airing, it evolves towards subtle hints of fine spices and notes of black cherry. Gorgeous palate with a beautiful tannin grain and perfect harmony. A neat and polished wine with excellent definition. Great freshness. Amazing purity. A succulent wine, vibrant, brilliant, wonderfully balanced.”
Racking barrels - sampling 2018 vintage Ducru

It’s almost not a fair fight comparing the old-world 1980’s style against the new-world modern style of the 2014. In that regard, consistent with earlier tastings, I gave this 90 points, never-the-less.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 2014

Comparing the ‘89 to the 2014 was a contrast in styles, old world vs new world, which has become the standard to provide bigger, more robust, higher octane forward fruit filled wines that also provide early drinking for instant gratification - the Robert Parker effect driving the quest for ratings. 

This release is a blend of Bordeaux varietals: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Proprietor Bruno Borie gave it 18 months in 100 % new French oak.

This release was rated a near perfect 99 points by James Suckling, 98 points by Int'l Wine Review, 97 points by Decanter, 96 points by Decanter, Jeb Dunnuck and Wine Enthusiast, who also designated it a Cellar Selection, and 95 points by Vinous, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. 

Regarding granting it a Cellar Selection, Wine Enthusiast stated, “The wine is certainly going to age for decades. Drink from 2027.” Hence, it won’t even reach its apex or prime drinking window for nearly another five years! Wine Spectator said it will be best through 2040. 

While this is one of my favorite producers, this release from a top vintage was my WOTN - Wine of the Night. 

Deep garnet inky purple color, full bodied, complex full, round and powerful yet elegant and perfectly balanced, blackberry and blackcurrant and black raspberry fruits, with notes of crème de cassis, spice box and black tea, with hints of graphite, licorice and cedar with what they call that St Julien signature menthol and cigar box with ripe fine grained tannins on a long lingering finish. 

RM 95 points. 

Château Pontet Canet Pauillac Bordeaux 2012

This is the legendary Bordeaux label from the Tesseron family who have invested in Napa Valley in recent years with the purchase of the late Robin William’s estate on Mt Veeder, which has reverberated in the loss of supply after three decades, to one of our long favored producers Robert Craig, as Tesseron have released the iconic Pym Rae vineyard sourced wine under their own proprietary label.  

This is a classic Left Bank Bordeaux varietal blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. It was aged 35% in cement eggs for 12 months. 

This release was awarded 93 points by James Suckling and Wine Advocate, 92 points by Vinous, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. 

Dark ruby/purple colored, full bodied, complex and dense ripe blackberry, blackcurrant and plum fruits with notes of tobacco, earth, bacon fat, licorice, herbs, mushrooms and a hint of truffle, with polished silky tannins on a long finish. 

RM 92 points. 

Fantesca Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

We have been fans of Fantesca since the estate was taken over and the brand was established by Duane and Susan Hoff back with the 2004 vintage release. Soon thereafter, they hired iconic winemaker Heidi Barrett in 2008, and more recently Somm star Master Sommelier DLynn Proctor as Wine Director/Ambassador.

We visited the magnificent historic Fantesca estate on the lower reaches of Spring Mountain district, that were highlights of our Napa wine excursions in 2007 and 2009. We hosted Duane at our home on one of his first release tours when he was traveling the country building the Fantesca brand.

We have acquired nearly a dozen vintages of the label in our cellar collection. Bill brought this vintage release from his cellar that he acquired as part of his wine club allocation. Their classic packaging with their etched glass oversize bottles with the painted label (s) provide a festive bottle for such a gala dinner.

This new world opulent style was Linda’s favorite WOTN - Wine of the Night. 

Dark inky ruby/purple, full bodied, rich concentrated dense black berry and black raspberry fruits accented with notes of black tea, dark bittersweet mocha chocolate, spice, hints of anise and tobacco on a bright vibrant moderate tannin finish. 

RM 93 points. 

 Mayacamas Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Bill also brought from his South Carolina cellar this Mayacamas Vineyards Mt Veeder Cabernet. This full throttle Napa Cab was an ideal culmination to the Cabernet center wine flight of the evening. 

We visited the winery high atop Mt Veeder in the southwest corner of Napa Valley during our Napa Valley Wine Experience in 2011. We wrote about that visit and the historic estate winery and vineyards in this blogpost in these pages - Mayacamas Mt Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mayacamas is known for producing long-lived ageworthy classic style Cabernet Sauvignons in classic old world style with Napa Valley full, round, mountain fruit character. 

This 2009 release was rated 94 points by James Suckling, 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points by Jeb Dunnuck. 

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied with complex tight structured and firm but balanced black cherry and black berry fruits accented by notes of herbs, earthy leather, cigar box, licorice and hints of creosote with firm chewy tannins on a long finish. 

RM 93 points.


Finally, with their dessert course, Lyle brought one of his signature Vintage Ports. 

Dow Vintage Port 1977

This was a perfect complement to the Souffle’ and Crème’s Brûlée and begged for some dark chocolate to wind up the evening. 

At twenty-seven years, there was still life left in this aged port, tasting like a ‘teenager’, however the cork was soft and a bit mushy.

This classic vintage port from one of the historic iconic Port house, this release was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator, 94 by Wine Enthusiast, 92 points by Inatl’ Wine Cellar, and 90 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 

Winemaker Notes - Very dark opaque purple colour, with a typically spicy nose and intense underlying aromas of blackberries and blackcurrants. On the palate enormous weight and structure with a marvellous balance of dense black fruit flavours and firm tannins.

Blackish garnet.purple colored, medium full bodied, rich round concentrated dense ripe sweet black currant fruits with licorice, dark bittersweet mocha chocolate, notes of leather anise and hints of espresso with a bright vibrant finish. 

RM 92 points. 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Trio of Napa/Sonoma Bordeaux Varietals for casual sipping

Trio of Napa/Sonoma Bordeaux Varietals for casual sipping 

Our Pour Boys wine group assembled in town for several events (Pour Boys EM Team Hemmingway’s Dinner) and in the evening, we opened several Napa Sonoma Bordeaux varietal labels for after dinner and casual sipping with a selection of artisan cheeses and biscuits.  

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Atlas Peak Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot 2014

Last month, when we met in Florida, we tasted several wines from the Stagecoach Vineyard, so it was great to explore another varietal and label from the site. Those vineyard specific labels were featured in these pages in this blogpost - April 25, 2024 - Shiraz with BBQ Ribs at Pour Boys dinner.

We also happened to meet folks from Freemark Abbey and tasted and acquired some of their vintage releases during the SoWal - South Walton Beaches Wine Festival that weekend in Destin, FL.

Stagecoach Vineyard is located at 1800 feet of elevation on the eastern side of the Napa Valley in the Atlas Peak AVA (American Viticulture Area). The rugged topography and warm climate produces wines that are dark ruby in color and complex in its features.

Freemark Abbey describes the source site for this label - “Stagecoach Vineyard—Atlas Peak: These grapes were sorted from the Atlas Peak area of the Stagecoach Vineyard, located north east of Napa at approximately 1,500 ft. elevation. Composed of ancient volcanic soils, the vineyard is carved out of rocky terrain, sage brush and chaparral. The grape vines struggle in this environment, creating grapes that are small and very concentrated. The Merlot grapes ripen very evenly, yielding great dark cherry depth with an incredible distinctiveness that can only be derived from the terroir of Stagecoach.”

Bill brought this limited release single vineyard designated ultra-premium label from his cellar. He acquired this as part of his wine club allocation. He’s been a Freemark Abbey member for decades and has an extensive collection of Freemark Abbey labels including several limited release labels such as this. 

We’ve tasted and written often in these pages about Freemark Abbey single-vineyard designated wines - most notably the Bosché and Sycamore Vineyard labels, which we have both collected over the decades, of which we hold several vintages in our cellars.

Iconic veteran Freemark Abbey winemaker Ted Edward’s expressed what the Stagecoach vines were capable of, much in the way he effortlessly describes the characteristics of Freemark’s single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from Bosché and Sycamore.

“Freemark Abbey is very much dedicated to vineyard-designated wines,” Ted said. He noted that he’s as thrilled to work with Stagecoach Merlot as consumers are to drink and collect it because “the wine really does speak to the soil. It speaks to the terroir, as they call it, of Atlas Peak. And that hillside and mountain side soil is very impressive. I mean, it's much more dramatic than a lot of the stuff on the valley floor.’

“The soils there are, I believe, volcanic origin with a lot of bedrock. But there's a lot of sage and manzanita and kind of scrubby vegetation up there. So when you smell the wine, to me that comes out in the wine… I always get the spices like sage and black pepper.” 

Freemark featured this Atlas Peak Stagecoach Vineyard label in their wine blog when they wrote, “We’ve featured several wines from this iconic vineyard recently but this is the first Merlot varietal I’ve ever had from the site. Merlot has been an important part of the cellar at Freemark Abbey dating back to the first vintage 1989, and every year since,” Winemaker Emeritus Ted Edwards recently pointed out with pride. “And we made it in 1975 and 1985.” 

“Ted and his team have crafted single-vineyard and AVA-specific Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots that fill the Freemark Abbey wine library. They demonstrated that Napa Valley Merlot stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Cabernet. As Winery Historian Barry Dodds likes to say, “There wouldn’t be great Cabernet without Merlot. Period.”’

Freemark Direct to Consumer Manager Chris Jahns said, “Our customers have been very excited by the Stagecoach,” referring to this 2014 Stagecoach Vineyard Merlot from the Atlas Peak AVA.” 

Ted and his assistant winemakers turned a small amount of extremely high-quality Stagecoach Merlot grapes (with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon) into a few hundred cases of single-vineyard wine from one of Napa Valley’s most coveted properties. 

As good as his Napa Valley Merlot bottling has been over the years, Ted’s version of Stagecoach Merlot, accessed entirely from the M4 block in the heart of the vineyard, is a stunning addition to the Freemark Abbey portfolio.

Stagecoach has vineyard blocks: 610 acres of them, divided up across a 1400 total acres of rugged, chaparral-dotted terrain.

Stagecoach is like a valley within a valley, completely separated on an elevated plateau from the northeastern edge of the city of Napa just 20 minutes down Soda Canyon Road. The rugged topography and warm climate create a wine that is dark ruby in color and complex in its features. 

This was aged 16 months in French (34% new); World Cooperage barrels.

Winemaker Notes - The dominant flavor of this rich and smooth Merlot is black cherry, with nuances of milk chocolate, integrated spicy oak and arugula. Great balance of fruit, body, tannin and acidity. The depth and richness of flavor provide a smooth profile that delivers from the initial sip and continues on the palate for a long beautiful finish.

It opens with aromas of black and blue fruits, sage, mountain scrub and cocoa powder. Flavors include vanilla oak spices, milk chocolate, medium roast coffee and black cherry. The textures are rich and creamy up front, complemented by bold, mountain tannins giving it plenty of structure to stand up to your richest meals and the test of time in the cellar.

Dark ruby colored, full bodied, full round smooth and polished, ripe black raspberry and black currant fruits with notes of chocolate, cinnamon and clove spices with hints of cedar turning to a pleasant velvety tannin laced finish. 

RM 92 points.


From there, we turned to another iconic producer and label of which we also have a long history. 

Dunn Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

This Napa Cab is from legendary producer Randy Dunn. We visited the Dunn Family Vineyards estate and vineyards during our Napa Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience back in 2008. We were hosted by Kristina Dunn that day but we had the privilege to meet winemaker, producer, patriarch and Napa Valley pioneer Randy Dunn. 

We have been collecting their wines since the early ‘80’s  and hold two dozen vintages of this label spanning three decades. While not one of the larger holdings in our cellar in terms of number of bottles, it may be one of our broadest holdings in terms of number of vintages in our vertical collection of this label, and the flagship premium label Dunn Howell Mtn Cab. We also collect Randy Dunn's "Feather" label that he produces for the Long Shadows Vintners Collection Series in Washington State.

This is the Dunn's standard Napa Valley bottling which is supposedly more 'accessible' earlier on than their legendary Howell Mountain bottling. This is 85% estate Howell Mountain fruit, but blended with 15% Napa fruit for earlier drinking. 

Randy Dunn wines are notable for their long lives and this is certainly testament to that. At 13.8% alcohol, this is an old school style Cabernet. This was showing no signs of diminution from aging whatsoever. At twenty-two years, the most important fill level and cork were perfect, as was the label and foil. 

This is from the well regarded, warm 2002 vintage, and as such, this should have a long, long life ahead of it. 

I think this was the best drinking Dunn Napa bottle I have ever had. This exceeded my expectations showing fresh and vibrant fruits, still very much at the apex of its drinking profile, surely able to hold for several more years, perhaps another decade or more. 

This vintage release was rated  93 points by Vinous, 92 points by Connoisseurs Guide and 91 points by Wine Spectator.

Bright, dark ruby colored, full bodied, vibrant rich concentrated but elegant and refined sweet ripe black raspberry fruits with notes of sweet bitter chocolate, tobacco, hints of anise, toffee, sweet oak and herbs with a long lingering finish with full smooth palate-saturating tannins. 

Randy Dunn increased his percentage of new oak from 50% to 67% with this vintage, and that may partly explain the wine's sweetness. 

Winemaker Notes - “The Napa Valley wines are a blend of the Howell Mountain fruit from the estate and a small quantity of valley floor fruit that the winery purchased. This valley floor fruit contributes to the wine’s earlier approach-ability and softer tannic structure. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 32 months in 100% new French oak.” - @dunnvineyards

Chateau St. Jean ''Special Edition 45th Anniversary'' Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Later into the evening we were joined by fellow Pour Boy Dr Dan, so we pulled from the cellar a bottle from a producer we have all visited together during our Napa Sonoma Wine Experience back in 2018.

I wrote about this wine in detail in a blogpost back in 2020 - Chateau St. Jean 45th Edition Cabernet which is excerpted before.

We've written often in these pages about Chateau St. Jean being one of the crown jewels of Sonoma. It is one of our regular chateau estate tastings in our visits to the Sonoma region. 

We've visited the estate and done tastings there numerous times over the years. Sonoma Harvest '09 - Chateau St Jean and again Sonoma Valley Wine Experience 2009 - Chateau St Jean.

2015 Chateau St. Jean ''Special Edition 45th'' Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 

As noted, this was a one-of special edition wine and label to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Chateau St. Jean.

 This release got 94 points from James Suckling and Antonio Galloni's Vinous, and 91 points from Natalie.

James Suckling said this 'needs two or three years to soften. Try after 2022. Best from 2020 through 2030.' I agree, in our tasting back in 2020, it was a bit tight, closed and flabby on initial opening, and will hopefully come together with a few more years aging. Antonio Galloni wrote, the "floral and savory aromas open up over time", and we found it needed time to open and in fact, was better the next day, after sitting open for the evening. 

The fruit was sourced from several vineyard sites throughout the Alexander Valley where Cabernet Sauvignon grows best including some of St. Jean’s traditional sources: Asti Vineyard, Stuhlmuller Vineyard as well as Belle Terre vineyard.  

Chateau St Jean winemaker Margo Van Staaveren writes: "The 2015 growing season was one of outstanding quality marked with ideal weather for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. The continuation of California’s drought brought a dry winter followed by a dry and early spring with an early bud break. Weather was warm and consistent throughout late spring and summer which allowed for full development in the grapes. We began picking the grapes in September, and while overall yields were low, the quality and depth of flavor of the fruit was excellent."  

The wine was barreled aged in 60% French and 40% American Oak barrels for 20 months of oak aging. This wine was bottled in August of 2017 and received another 6 months of bottle age prior to its release on January 1, 2018, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the famed winery.  

Natalie writes,"Dramatic differences in day and night time temperatures gives this Cabernet Sauvignon is ripe, juicy fruit flavours of cassis, smoke, anise and dried sweet tobacco. Decant for one hour prior to pouring."

The Winemaker's Tasting Notes; "Deep ruby in color, this Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a huge amount of blueberry, plum, and violets on the nose, with oak spices shining through. On the palate, blue fruit flavors combine with cassis and plum to create a very deep berry and fruit profile. The wine finishes with strong oak spice supported by the tannic structure. Very drinkable with a strong acidity complementing the tannins and fruit flavors. Drink now, or cellar for up to 15 years."

Consistent with that earlier tasting, this was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, black berry and black currant fruits with notes of dark mocha chocolate, cassis, smoke, anise, black tea and tobacco.

RM 91 points.

Chateau St. Jean Website -