Saturday, June 15, 2024

Duo of ultra premium Napa Cabs for family celebrations

Duo of ultra premium Napa Cabs for family celebrations … 

For Grandson Reid’s birthday we were invited over for a family gathering and combination birthday and Fathers’ Day celebration dinner. Ryan and Michelle ordered in pasta and pizza and Ryan pulled from his cellar a couple of birthyear ultra-premium red wines. I took from our cellar a matching label to share and compare. 

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

We served this at Christmas last year - certainly one of the best drinking bottles from our cellar - worthy of a special occasion. I featured it in this blogpost at the time, excerpted below:

We discovered, tasted and acquired this label at the magnificent Rutherford Estate Winery during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017. This is sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard that lies just above the winery adjacent to the estate residence. We hold and have had some of the earlier single vineyard designated wines from this vineyard dating back to 1998. Who knew this would evolve and progress to such heights? Not often does one get to taste a 'perfect' wine. of course perfection is in the eyes ('eyze') of the beholder. The 2013 vintage of this label that we tasted that day in their magnificent tasting room in the cave at the Rutherford Sacrashe estate (shown below) got 100 points from  Robert Parker.

Parker wrote of this wine; "This hails from the foothills of Rutherford and refers to Kathryn Hall’s ambassadorship to Austria between 1997 and 2001. A prodigious wine with beautiful floral notes intermingled with blueberry, blackberry, black raspberry and graphite, the wine hits the palate with a full-bodied force, but nothing seems pushed, cloying or out of sync. Gorgeously pure blue and black fruits cascade over the palate, a full-bodied presentation with remarkable purity and complexity. The finish is a good 45-50 seconds, and while there is significant tannin, the extravagance of the fruit and glycerin generally conceal it. This is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind, world class Cabernet Sauvignon that should prove compelling for at least another 30-40+ years."

Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate. 100 Points.

Sacrashe Vineyard at Hall Rutherford Estate

Hall Exzellenz Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

As explained on the rear label, shown below, the name Exzellenz is German for Ambassador, in commemoration of Kathyn Hall's service as US Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. 

The bricks in the magnificent tasting room in the cave at the Rutherford Sacrashe estate (shown right and above) and featured in a separate blogpost at this link)  are recovered and repurposed from a former royal castle in Austria.  

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Sacrashe Vineyard (shown above) at the Hall Rutherford Estate on the lower slopes of the Vaca Range overlooking Rutherford, Napa Valley.  

While this release didn't get 100 points, it came as close as possible, 99 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 97 points from Owen Bargreen of, and 93 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Parker wrote about this wine: "Composed of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and sporting a very deep purple-black color, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Exzellenz unfurls slowly, tantalizingly out of the glass to reveal powerful, intense scents of crème de cassis, Black Forest cake, blueberry compote and preserved plums with an undercurrent of Chinese five spice, molten chocolate, licorice and Marmite toast with wafts of garrigue and camphor. Very rich, full-bodied and concentrated on the palate, it coats the mouth with black and blue fruit preserves plus tons of spice and savory accents, held together by a rock-solid, grainy frame and finishing with epic persistence."

Consistent with our earlier tastings of this label - Spectacular! Delicious! Enchanting! Deep dark garnet colored, full bodied, rich, concentrated, round, rich, complex but elegant and seductive smooth blackberry and black currant fruits accented by savory clove/cinnamon spices, tones of crème de cassis, mocha chocolate, tobacco leaf and black tea, with a tongue coating dusty gripping but silky smooth tannin laced lingering finish. 

RM 97 points.


For the special family occasion, I brought this ultra-premium label from our cellar and it proved a perfect match comparison. The Exzellenz and the Del Dotto Family Reserve had remarkably similar tasting profiles albeit the Del Dotto being strikingly more bold and assertive but on the same tasting curve.   

Del Dotto St Helena Mountain Family Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

We tasted and acquired this bottle at the Del Dotto Winery Cave Tour Tasting in St Helena during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017. That tasting was from the barrel. This is another spectacular memorable Napa Valley tasting destination experience.

We've been collecting Del Dotto Family Wine for over twenty-five years, since their inaugural release of this Napa Cabernet in 1993. The Del Dotto brand, holdings, portfolio and presence have grown substantially over those years, yet they still maintain their focus on small production, premium wines. 

Over that time Dave Del Dotto has acquired vineyards in some of the best American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) including Rutherford, Oakville, St. Helena, Howell Mountain, and Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast. The portfolio and brand has grown proportionally as well. 

Today Del Dotto produce wines based on cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, sangiovese and sauvignon blanc from their Napa Valley vineyards, as well as pinot noir, chardonnay and limited amounts of syrah, sauvignon blanc, sparkling grenache and mourvedre from their Cinghiale (wild boar) Vineyard in the King Ridge region of the Sonoma Coast.

We still hold nearly two decades of Del Dotto wines dating back to that 1993 inaugural vintage release. 

Over the years we've held Del Dotto wine dinners with Dave and Yolanda such as our Napa Wine Experience back in 1999, and attended numerous Del Dotto hosted special events. More recently, our Pour Boys wine group did the Del Dotto Napa Valley Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting at the magnificent St Helena estate winery and caves. And, our Del Dotto Piazza DELICACIES Food and Wine Experience at the then new Piazza Del Dotto estate and winery (and now caves) was one of the memorable highlights of our Napa Wine Experience in 2018. 

Its hard to believe that with published tasting notes of no less than sixty-five different labels and vintage releases - and countless iterations thereof, I have not tasted, or published a tasting note or blogpost of this particular label vintage release.

Our collection of Del Dotto family wines remains one of the largest holdings in our cellar with both vertical and horizontal collections of favorite labels. Hence it was only fitting for a special occasion family dinner that I took a Del Dotto Family Reserve estate label.

This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Del Dotto St. Helena Mountain Vineyard​. This is the same fruit that is used in their super ultra-premium label The Beast. I wish we had more of this to experience over the years as it ages but it was spectacular tonight in its 9th year - clearly at the apex of its tasting window, not likely to improve with further aging, but assuredly will hold and drink well for a couple decades to come!

Winemaker’s notes for this label - “The St. Helena Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon has immense power and body with enough integration to achieve 100-point status in previous vintages. The color is an opaque purple and visually viscous. This particular selection is the finest combination of French Oaks along with the best blocks from the 12-acre estate along the base of the Mayacamas mountain range. The bouquet is dense with notes of black plum, molasses, allspice and marmalade. The mouthfeel is velvety with a hint of boysenberry, mocha, roasted walnut and dark chocolate. The tannins are firm and well balanced.”

Bright ruby colored, full bodied, huge, dense, powerful, firm structured, rich, concentrated, black berry and black currant fruits with notes of cognac, clove cinnamon spice, layers of oak, tobacco, black tea and black olive notes with hints of dark bitter chocolate and crème d’cassis with tongue coating sweet oaky tannins on the lingering finish. 

RM 95 points. 


Château Beau-Séjour Bécot St Emilion Premiere Grand Cru Classe 2015

Another top label from Reid’s birthyear vintage, Château Beau-Séjour Bécot is a fantastic example of a full, round, flavorful, powerful expression of Saint-Émilion terroir. Château Beau-Séjour Bécot is owned by the Becot family who has overseen the property for several generations. It is designated a Saint-Émilion Grand Crus Classés estate. 

The estate lies on the St Martin de Mazerat plateau, immediately to the west of the old town, Beau-Séjour Bécot lies in the very heart of the Saint-Emilion appellation area just outside the commune of St Emilion very near some of our favorite producers, Châteaux Canon and Le Gaffeliere. 

The Becot family hired the legendary oenologist and consultant Michel Rolland to establish and maintain the estate’s classification.

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot has a long storied history in the Right Bank. The vines on the grounds were first cultivated by the ancient Romans who recognized the promise of the terroir centuries ago. The grounds of this property still hold stone ruins scattered amongst from those early days. At one point, the property was owned by the Monks of the Saint Martin Abbey in Saint-Émilion, who also owned and tended the vines of Château Canon. 

The monks of Saint-Martin de Mazerat were followed by the Gères, lords of Camarsac. In 1722 one of their descendants, Jeanne de Gères, brought the Domaine de Peycoucou into the estate of the Carles de Figeac family on her marriage. In 1787 General Jacques de Carles de Figeac renamed the estate Château Beau-Séjour, which means “beautiful resting place.” 

General Jacques de Carles was without successors - Beau-Séjour eventually came into the possession in 1924 of Doctor Jean Fagouet, who enlarged the vineyard, increasing its surface area to 10.5 hectares (26 acres). Michel Bécot, born into a wine growing family who had lived in Saint-Emilion since 1760 and owner of the neighbouring Château La Carte since 1929, purchased the estate in 1969. 

In 1979, the Bécot family further enlarged the estate with the purchase of 4.5 hectares (11 acres) on the Trois Moulins plateau. The estate, which then became known as Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, is today a
substantial 16.6-hectare (41-acre) holding on a perfectly uniform terroir. Michel Bécot retired in 1985, turning over the management of the Château to his two sons Gérard and Dominique.

The vines at Château Beau-Séjour Bécot are typically 45 years old primarily planted to the appellation specific Merlot, interspersed with the customary varietal Cabernet Franc for added dimension and complexity.

The 2015 Beau-Sejour Becot is composed in a somewhat traditional or customary St Emilion blend of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was aged in 85% new and 15% one-year-old French oak for 17 months.

It was rated 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, 95 points by Wine Spectator, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and James Suckling, and 94 points by Decanter. It was #55 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2018 and a ‘Cellar Selection’.

This was not exactly a fair fight, or comparison with the rich almost obtuse forward vibrant single varietal Cabernet Sauvignons. A Right Bank Bordeaux Blend, predominantly Merlot based it was more complex yet nicely balanced and integrated. It begs for a filet of beef pairing. 

Dark garnet colored medium to full bodied, complex round, full ripe plum and blackberry and black cherry fruits with touches of spice box, tobacco, lavender and cedar with rich, firm but silky smooth polished tannins on the long floral finish.

RM 94 points.