Sunday, May 12, 2024

Mother’s Day Surf ‘n Turf dinner paired with ultra-premium wines

Mother’s Day Surf ‘n Turf dinner paired with spectacular flight of ultra-premium wines

We were blessed to have all four of our children drop in for Mother’s Day. Some had to move on to mother-in-laws for dinner but Ryan and Alec were able to stay. 

After some spirited blistering pickleball on the driveway court we settled in to a fabulous dinner with some spectacular wines. 

For a very special Mother’s Day dinner we dined on the deck and Linda prepared surf ‘n turf lobster tails and ribeye beefsteak served with grilled asparagus and baked potatoes. Son’s Ryan and Alec brought over from their cellars some ultra-premium wines, which I supplemented with some labels from our cellar.

Our initial wine flight included these labels plus a couple others … 

Kistler Durrell Vineyard Sonoma County Chardonnay 2019 

Ryan brought from his cellar this classic, legendary producer single vineyard select Chardonnay. Kistler produce one heritage Californian selection Chardonnay based clone planted across fifteen select vineyards, from Carneros to Sonoma Valley, to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. From those sites they produce eleven vineyard designate Chardonnays, each representing the unique terroir of the site.

This label, Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay, has been bottled since 1986, sourced from a vineyard at the bottom of Sonoma Valley where it meets the Sonoma Coast and Carneros appellations. The site contains loamy soil that is heavily influenced by a vein of stone that runs through the blocks that are dedicated to this label. 

Winemaker notes for this release - “Pale yellow. Luxurious perfumes lift high, pinned by the marine-earthen tones of the lower reaches of Sonoma Valley/Carneros. Fully ripe yellow and orange citrus flesh and blooms, and a golden fruited body lead to a silken-weighted middle, sparked by natural acids and a lengthy finish that persists with hints of herbed nut oils. The weightiest of our fall release wines but so driven by its well-integrated acidity, that it belies its own density and sits perfectly balanced.”

This release was awarded 97 points by Lisa Perrotti-Brown of The Wine Independent and James Suckling, and 95 points by Vinous, Antonio Galloni.

Golden straw colored with light green hue, medium-full bodied, polished nicely integrated and balanced, expressive vibrant notes of lime, lemon and grapefruit citrus with notes of stone fruit and minerality with smooth acidity on the long finish.

RM 93 points,

Cuvée 'L' Veuve Doussot Champagne NV 

This Pinot Noir Chardonnay blend Champagne comes from the southern Aube region, the vineyards surrounding the village of Noé-les-Mallets in the Côte-des-Bar, situated near the house of general Degaulle and its memorial, opposite the village of Troyes. The area is closer to Chablis than the center of the Champagne region, with a warmer microclimate ideal for Pinot Noir. 

The Champagne house of Veuve Doussot has been home to several generations of winegrowers, involved in all aspects of growing and producing wines since 1746. Today it is run by third generation Stephane Joly.

The Joly family have been winegrowers and producers in the heart of the Champagne region for over a century. In 1970, Georges Joly and his sons created the first Veuve Doussot brand, continuing the family winemaking history set by his grandfather, father and uncles. 

Stephane Joly took over after the death of his father. He restructured the vineyard taking over parts from his cousins, and took over all aspects of  winemaking, marketing and distribution. He is a member of the commandery of “Saulte bouchon Champenois” and local member of the general winegrowers union.

The vineyards are 90% planted to Pinot Noir, best suited to area for its soil rich with clay and limestone. To add fresh and floral flavours to the Champagne they also grow Chardonnay; creating a smell and a taste unique to the distinctive terroir. Because of the proximity to Chablis, you often find similar veins of the chalky Kimmeridgian soil, interspersed with red clay and limestone.

The Veuve Doussot portfolio includes 10 different Champagne cuvees, a few still wines, and an excellent Ratafia (an aperitif made from distilled Champagne grapes).

This cuvee is primarily composed of Pinot Noir, blended with 15% chardonnay, and aged in the classical Champagne tradition, on the lees in bottles for a minimum of 18 months. The dosage level here is designated as Brut.  

This was rated 92 by Wine Enthusiast. 

Golden straw colored, medium bodied, rich and textured, intense bright pear, melon, green apple and citrus fruit flavors with toasty pain grille notes accentuated with dusty rose, white flowers and chalky minerals ending with a bright, crisp finish.

RM 91 points. 

Viña Cobos, Vineyard Designate Malbec, Marchiori Estate, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, 2019

Ryan brought the remains of this bottle from his cellar. We first tasted this wine when Ryan served it at a family gathering about a year ago, which I wrote about in detail in pages at that time, excerpted below. 

Viña Cobos is the Argentine project of legendary California winemaker/producer Paul Hobbs. 

In addition to his global consulting career, Paul Hobbs has navigated producing wines globally, engaging annually in two harvests across nine countries.  Today, Paul is the owner and winemaker for Sebastopol, California based wineries Paul Hobbs Winery and Crossbarn, as well as his international partnerships: Viña Cobos of Argentina, Crocus of Cahors, France, Yacoubian-Hobbs of Armenia and his two latest projects in development: Hillick & Hobbs, focusing on Finger Lakes riesling, and Alvaredos-Hobbs in Galicia, Spain.

Paul Hobbs visited Mendoza in Argentina in 1989 and started working with Malbec, exploring different terroirs of Mendoza, looking for the most distinguished regions in Luján de Cuyo and the Valle de Uco, to produce wines that uniquely express their origins.

He established Viña Cobos in 1998, After twenty years of experimenting, development, innovation and improvement, Viña Cobos has evolved to become internationally recognized for producing luxury-class wines and a world quality leader for Malbec based wines. Viña Cobos creates extraordinary wines of outstanding quality, highlighting Malbec as the emblematic variety of Mendoza.

With the inaugural vintage of Cobos Malbec in 1999, Viña Cobos marked a milestone in viticulture, defying existing standards and firmly positioned Malbec and Argentina on the international wine scene.

Viña Cobos, Vineyard Designate Malbec, Marchiori Estate, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, 2018  

The winery’s elegant and balanced wines are a result of meticulous vineyard farming and utmost attention to showcasing the specific terroir of the region. This Malbec is sourced from Estates and vineyards in Luján de Cuyo and Valle de Uco. The Marchiori Estate is the cornerstone of Viña Cobos. Malbec grapes grown in block C2 have been the key source since the inaugural vintage release, Cobos Malbec 1999. 

Luján de Cuyo is the premier growing region of Mendoza, fed by the snow-melt of the Andes through the Mendoza River. High altitudes range from 945 - 1,100 m (2,624 - 3,608 ft). The soils are alluvial, with a subsoil of clay, sand, silt and rock.

Valle de Uco with proximity to the Andes Mountains characterizes this cool, high altitude region. Vineyards sites range from 900 - 1,400 m (2,950 - 4,600 ft) in elevation. The soils are alluvial, sandy and rocky, and in some areas, limestone.

In addition to Malbec, Viña Cobos grows and produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.

The 2015 Cobos Marchiori Estate Malbec was awarded 98 points by JS. This release was awarded 97 points by James Suckling and 95 by Wine Spectator.

Winemaker Notes - “Cobos Marchiori seduces with its extraordinary aromatic richness, it is an intense and elegant wine, in which its great freshness stands out. It shows an intense red color with violet tones. We find red fruit, cassis, plum, spices, blond tobacco, coconut, white pepper, chocolate and subtle notes of cardamom. The richness on the nose is repeated in the mouth in an exquisite way. It is long and sweet, with soft tannins. A meaty and complex wine, with a long finish on the palate.”

“This is really dynamic and focused with blueberry, blackberry and mineral character. Hints of lavender and sandalwood. Full body, yet so tight and lifting. The palate just grows at the finish which goes on and on. Juicy, meaty and dried herb flavors at the end,” writes James Suckling..

The first release of this wine was 2018, under the 'Viña Cobos Vineyard Designate' label. The Viña Cobos Vineyard Designate line captures the richness and power of exceptional vineyards and estates within Valle de Uco and Luján de Cuyo. 

This was dark inky purple colored, full bodied, rich, concentrated extracted black and blue fruits with notes of bacon, tobacco, black tea, spice and herbs with a full lingering finish. 

RM 94 points.

Stalworth Rutherford Bench Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Ryan also brought this recently acquired limited release label to try to determine his cellaring strategy and expected drinking profile. 

This is the Rutherford Bench label from co-owner and general manager of the Stalworth project Tim Persson who, with his wife, Sabrina, took over his father-in-law's wine business, Hess Family Wine Estates, which today is called Hess Persson Estates

Tim took over running the wine estates after spending time with his father-in-law, Donald Hess, during the post-financial crisis in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Tim and his wife moved to Napa Valley to oversee the estate and family wine business.

Tim has a unique background being raised in one of the smallest African countries, Eswatini – Africa's last absolute monarchy, previously known as Swaziland. After attending university in Europe, he became a corporate lawyer and practiced in New York and London before meeting his wife Sabrina.

Tim oversees and leads the wine business as Sabrina tends to her psychotherapy practice. Together they managed to navigate a series of setbacks and natural disasters including the 2014 earthquake that destroyed one of their main wine cellars, the landslides in 2016 that cut off power and access to the winery, wildfires in 2017 causing the winery only being able to make a small fraction of its high-end wines due to the wildfires and the smoke, and wildfires agin in 2020 forcing them to make no Napa wine at all.

Yet, Tim's initial mission to "reestablish" the credentials of Hess with regards to making high-end Cabernet Sauvignon wines was never deterred. As he thought about the 30th anniversary of Hess Family Wine Estates, celebrated in 2011, it was now his responsibility to make sure that the winery stayed relevant for the next 30 years and that is where Stalworth comes in. 

For the Stalworth project, Tim searched for a great Napa winemaker who would oversee creating an iconic wine from the Rutherford Bench, raising the bar when it came to Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines. 

He as able to sign Celia Welch, an expert in making iconic Rutherford wines including the hard to obtain Scarecrow. They found the ideal vineyard in the Rutherford Bench in 2015 but the back-to-back unfortunate events of extreme accumulation of drought from 2012 to 2015 as well as all the disasters suffered from 2014 to 2017, put off the first vintage of Stalworth until 2018 - considered a "spectacular year" that is "terroir-driven" according to Wine Spectator. 

Celia said that they used that delay time to learn the vineyard and to experiment in the winery with the wines in building up to and preparing for the inaugural vintage. During that time, they also had to rebuild the original historic antique stone winery, built in 1903, that had been destroyed by an earthquake, allowing them to build a state-of-the-art facility setting the stage to reach greater heights.

This 2019 Stalworth, Rutherford Bench, NapaValley is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a minuscule amount of Malbec and Petit Verdot. 

Winemaker notes - “Delicious cassis flavor to this wine that has lots of juiciness with blackberry preserves and baking spice with sweet tobacco leaf and crushed rocks all wrapped up in lush tannins and a superb length of flavor.”

Adding a slight amount of Malbec and Petit Verdot, according to Celia, was more about "balancing the texture" as there might be either a dip in the mid-palate that needs to be filled in or maybe some rounding out as she always wants the last sip to be tasty as she wants to avoid any astringency. 

This was dark ruby colored, full bodied with elegant polished blackberry and black cherry fruits with notes of black tea, floral and anise with smooth polished tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 92 points. 

Only 167 cases were made of their inaugural release in 2018.

Del Dotto ‘Vineyard 887’ Connoisseur Series Colbert French Oak St Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

I pulled from the cellar this special limited release label from Del Dotto Vineyards, a family-owned winery which focuses on small production, premium wines. Since our introduction to Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto back in the 90’s they have gone on to acquire several more vineyards across the top Napa Valley American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) including Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, as well as out on the Sonoma Coast. 

Through our wine club allocations and purchases at the various Del Dotto wineries over the years, including the St Helena Winery and Caves, and the Piazza Del Dotto Winery in Oakville, this producer represents one of the largest holdings in our cellar collection, dating back to their inaugural releases in 1993-94. 

We’ve visited three of the Del Dotto winery estates including one of the most memorable wine tasting events we have had in Napa - the delicacies culinary wine pairing at Piazza Del Dotto during our Napa Wine Experience 2018

We’ve featured Del Dotto tasting and site visits many times in these pages including  our Del Dotto Winery and Caves tasting tour the year earlier, when we acquired this bottle. 
With small production counts and a dedicated team, they produce luxurious, high-quality wines. This is from their Rutherford estate, which consists of 12 acres of Bordeaux varietals. Robert Parker has praised the producer: "Don’t dare miss a tasting at Del Dotto’s cellars... Dave Del Dotto has put together an impressive team of winemakers and spent a fortune securing some of the best vineyard sites money can buy. All things considered, his wines, which he calls “silk juice,” are exceptional in quality, along with his charcuterie, which really could be sold for a small fortune, given the amazing quality it exhibits.”
  • In the unique, almost excessive Connoisseur Series, Del Dotto uses over 50 barrel types from cooperages around the world including France, USA, Russia, Hungary and Italy. Bottles are labelled with the oak type. For this single vineyard release the Del Dotto website lists no less than 37 different wines featuring different specific oak barrel and vintage combinations.

    Our Pour Boys wine group tour the Del Dotto
    St Helena Winery and Caves 
    I pulled from our cellar this ultra-premium single-vineyard designated select Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This was especially fun to taste this label as it represents some pleasant memories of our Napa Valley wine tours. We tasted and then procured this wine during our Napa Valley, Del Dotto Winery and Caves Tasting and Tour in 2018.

    This single vineyard designated select label is crafted from fruit from the Del Dotto 887 St Helena Vineyard. 

  • The vineyard is named for the address, 887 St Helena Highway, on the south approaches into the town, the picturesque vineyard sits just north of Zinfandel Lane nestled against the foothill along St Helena highway. It consists of nine acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, planted in 2000. 

    Rick & Linda with David Del Dotto, 2003

    Located on the south end of the St. Helena Appellation, Vineyard 887 is one of the highest rated vineyards in Napa Valley. It is purported to be the favorite vineyard of the producer.

    This vineyard shows the typical St. Helena characteristics of lush, fruity berries, with easily accessible tannins on the palate. 

    The inaugural vintage of an 887 Vineyard single vineyard designated wine/label was in 2004. By 2012 it was receiving 96-98 point ratings from Robert Parker. 

    The property also is the site of a guest cottage, amidst the vineyard surrounded by the vines. Linda and I had the pleasure of staying in the cottage during a memorable weekend at the Napa Valley Del Dotto winery, estate, vineyards and cave tour back in 2003 (left).

    The single vineyard designated label didn't exist back then, it came along the next year, but we didn't discover the label until our 2018 estate and winery visit and tour. We purchased this label at that time, much in remembrance of that earlier visit, and had great anticipation of tasting this wine again, which we finally did tonight. 

    Del Dotto Napa Valley Vineyard 887 St. Helena Connoiseur's Series Colbert French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

    This is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Savignon, crafted in the unique Del Dotto method, it is part of the Del Dotto Connoisseur's Series where the same wine will be aged in different oak barrels of different oaks for the ultimate comparison tasting experience. We once did a horizontal tasting of the same wine aged in several different French and American Oak barrels. I recall this oak, was my favorite from that tasting, although many of the differences are very slight and nuanced. 

    This version was aged in Colbert French Oak. Robert Parker gives this wine 95 points and an aging window of 2018 out to 2040. 

    We have hosted wine dinners where we served a selection the Connoisseur Series of the same wine aged in different oaks. Only the discriminating experienced enophiles appreciated and discerned the differences. 

Winemaker notes - “This is a very unique and dense Vineyard 887 Cabernet Sauvignon bouquet.  Powerful aromatics of leather, cedar, tobacco and blueberry and boysenberry fruits.  As the nose opens up, nuances of purple rose pedals and sweet Tahitian vanilla bean develop. The mouthfeel is very balanced and soft, yet rich from the mid to back palate. This lovely Reserve Cab showcases cassis, black currants and raspberry with an undertone of dark chocolate covered strawberries. The 2015 887 is drinking beautifully right now and will continue to unfold layers of flavors for the next 10+ years.”

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex, concentrated, forward, structured black berry and tangy black currant fruits with notes of pipe tobacco, black tea, graphite and hints of milk chocolate, anise and spicy cinnamon turning to firm but silky smooth approachable tannins on the long tangy acidic lingering finish. This is getting better every year. In 2020 I wrote, this needs a few more years to settle, soften and integrate further. It’s working as this was delicious and likely will continue to improve with some more aging over the next several years. I wish I had more. 

RM 94

Beau Vigne “Cult” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Alec brought this ultra-premium Napa Valley Cabernet. 

This producer first caught our attention when buddy Bob brought one of their wines to our Pour Boys OTBN - "Open-That-Bottle-Night" 2022 in Charleston and I pegged it as WOTN - Wine of the Night, my personal favorite. Bob picked up the bottle at his local Total Wine beverage superstore in Boca Raton Town Center. I saw the label when there and also at the new Total Wine in Indy. 

Soon thereafter, son Ryan got their wine club promotional mailing and shared it and Alec and I picked up a mixed case of their Signature Series Bordeaux varietals including this aged vintage release from their library close-out. Since then we’ve continued to collect various labels and releases from their collection. 

I’ve written about Beau Vigne in several blogposts in these pages, (pronounced bo-veenya), Beau Vigne was founded by Ed and Trish Snider with their first vintage release in 2002. Translated from French it means beautiful vineyard in French.

Ed’s family has a long history in Napa Valley dating back to his Swiss Italian grandfather Martin Garzoli who arrived in Napa in 1913. He grew up on a ranch in Carneros and worked on farms in Napa and Sonoma. Martin made his own wines at home in the evenings. His son John Garzoli played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1955 and went on to coach football at St. Helena High School in the center of Napa Valley where children of many vintners attended school. A number of Ed’s former students are now in the wine industry.

In 2018, they sold Beau Vigne to Don Dady and Jason Kyle from Arizona. Jason was a former NFL football player, a long snapper for five different teams including the San Francisco 49ers. In addition to his wine interests, Jason is co-owner of Press Coffee Roasters with locations in Arizona.  Partner Dady is co-founder of Annexus, a financial company in Scottsdale and also owns Seven Apart Winery in Napa Valley just north of the city of Napa. 

Beau Vigne sourced fruit for their estate wines from their 10 acre Stags Ridge Vineyard at the top of Soda Canyon Road on the slopes of Atlas Peak at about 1650 feet elevation. The site was planted to 8 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and an acre each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Ed sold the vineyard and it is now a part of Seven Apart Winery’s estate. Beau Vigne continues to source grapes from there and other premium vineyards in Napa Valley. 

Since 2019, Beau Vigne has partnered with Appellation Trading Company to distribute Beau Vigne as part of their portfolio of brands. 

Over the years, Beau Vigne has been crafted by several highly regarded Napa Valley winemakers. Their founding winemaker was Dave Phinney who went on to develop several successful brands, most notably, Orin Swift Cellars and the Prisoner portfolio of wines. One of our favorite winemakers, Kirk Venge of Venge Vineyards has also crafted Beau Vigne wines. Today the winemaker is Julien Fayard.

Originally from France, Julien began his career as a winemaker producing quality rosé at his family’s winery in Provence. He worked at legendary Chateaux Lafite Rothschild and Smith Haut Laffite in Bordeaux before relocating to Napa Valley where he was Philippe Melka’s director of winemaking for a few years before setting out on his own.

Julien earned his Master in Agri-Business from ESA France and his Master in Winemaking from Toulouse France. In 2011, he received his MBA from UC Davis. 

Recently, Beau Vigne became part of a select collection of vintners represented at Vintner’s Collective, the city of Napa’s oldest collective tasting room. They showcase wines from an elite group of premier Napa Valley producers who do not have their own tasting rooms. Select bottlings and vintages of Beau Vigne are available for tasting and purchased there. 

Beau Vigne bottles wines under three different brands; the Legacy Series, the Signature Series and the Discovery Series.

Beau Vigne “CULT” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

First released in 2008 and is culled solely from barrels selected with complex aromatics, voluptuous texture and purity as well as depth. CULT is produced to “convey a pure expression of climate and soil with winemaker Julien Fayard nurturing its creation,” according to the producer. ‘

This label is a bit of an enigma, Release priced at $150, some sellers play on the ‘Cult’ label and market dynamics and sell it for $200. Yet, it can be found discounted at $99, and often for less. 

The 2020 Cult is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and a dash of Petit Verdot magic.

Winemaker notes - Crushed black currant and bing cherry aromas. Among these scents are black licorice, clove, and melted dark chocolate. Flavors of shortbread, blackberry, and plum hit the palate. Loamy black truffle elements add layers of savoriness to the long finish.

Garnet colored, medium full bodied, tightly structured, ripe black currant and blackberry fruits with notes of anise, clove spice and bitter dark chocolate and cedar with moderate tannnins on a lingering finish.

RM 91 points.