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.