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.