Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Valley’

The First Release: 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander’s Crown

July 25, 2019 2 comments

When Rodney Strong created Sonoma Vineyards in the 1960s, he already had years worth of experience at multiple wineries.  In fact, Sonoma Vineyards represents the rebirth of his successful Windsor Vineyards.  Based on his winemaking experiences Strong built a new, practically designed winery in which he installed the latest winemaking equipment including temperature controlled stainless steel tanks made by his own company.

The Sonoma Vineyards name was inspired by Strong’s increasing acquisition of vineyards throughout Sonoma County.  Strong believed, based on European ideas, that each vineyard should be planted with the grape variety best suited for it.  Two of his vineyards were of particular high quality, Chalk Hill for Chardonnay and Alexander’s Crown for Cabernet Sauvignon.  As a result of his terroir driven interests, Strong began his vineyard designated series with Chalk Hill in the 1960s.  This was followed by the Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon series in the 1970s.  In fact, the 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County represents the first release of this series.

By releasing the 1974 Alexander’s Crown, Strong created the first single-vineyard wine from Alexander Valley.  The AVA was to follow some 10 years later.  For this vineyard, Strong had purchased 180 acres of which 61 acres was planted in 1971.  He felt the red, iron oxide soil produced big, forward Cabernet wines.

This bottle of 1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County had fill in the neck with a beautiful, well-seated cork for its age.  One quick sniff and taste confirmed it was in fine condition.  It is a deep flavored wine with a fine mineral note.  It is generously fruity, berrylicious in fact, with all structure resolved as it is in the last stage of its fully mature plateau.  It is a lovely surprise to discover this wine.

The background information in this post comes from Carole Hicke’s 1993 interview of Rodney Strong which you may find here.


1974 Sonoma Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 60 and 120 gallon French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.7%.  Immediately deep in flavor with minerals and earth evident, followed by full flavored, cherry core.  There is good complexity from the first pour.  With air the flavors become bluer and more minerals come out.  If I find fault it is with the finish that is a touch soft but this is likely due to it being near the end of its fully mature plateau.  It remains berrylicious and satisfying to the last drop.  **** Now but will last.


A Solid Drink: 1985 Clos Du Bois, Marlstone

When a new friend was recently in town and expressed delight in trying older vintages of wine, I quickly returned with a mature bottle.  Unfortunately, this did not happen until a few minutes before we were set to leave the house so I grabbed the less precious 1985 Clos du Bois, Marlstone Vineyard, Alexander Valley. My experience with Californian wine from the 1980s is rather limited compared to the wines of the 1970s.  The first release from Clos du Bois came in 1974 with that of Marlstone in 1978.  Marlstone is intended as a classic Bordeaux blend hence the thoughtful inclusion of Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  This particular vintage is less heralded in Sonoma than Napa which might speak to the herbaceous edge to this wine both on the nose and in the mouth.  However, it is deep in aroma with ethereal ripeness in the mouth and juicy acidity.  Given the time constraint, I ended up drinking most of it on the second night.  While fully mature, it shows good staying power and freshness.


1985 Clos du Bois, Marlstone Vineyard, Alexander Valley
This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec that was aged for nearly 3 years in 60 gallon French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13.7%.  A deep nose with an herbaceous aroma rising out.  Maturing in the mouth, it fluffs out after a few hours.  With age have come some wood box notes.  The ethereal, ripe, mouth coating nature is balanced by firm, juicy acidity.  It is a good wine in an herbaceous way.  ** Now but will last.


Before, during, and after: other wines at the Madeira tasting

January 16, 2018 Leave a comment

I have come to the carefully considered position that Champagne is required at a Madeira tasting.  The aroma of Madeira always fills the room but a glass of Champagne makes everyone jolly before sitting down.  A bottle served while service is performed on the second flight refreshes the palate.  Finally, a bottle at the end resets the palate for dinner wines.  Sadly, two of our four bottles of Champagne were not as they should be.  Fortunately, there were plenty of other bottles to occupy our interests.


2000 Krug, Champagne Vintage Brut
Imported by Envoyer Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  Good, integrated bubbles with focused flavors of sappy fruit.  It finished with tart apples and acidity.  Young with good promise.  **** Now – 2033.

1990 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Some corrosion around the cork.  A nutty straw color.  The nose is mature and oxidative, a bit more advanced than it should be.  In the mouth are fine, textured bubbles, dry apple orchard flavors, and exotic spices.  The bubbles quickly dissipate.  Completely drinkable but this bottle is probably heat damaged.  Not Rated.


NV Jacques Selosse, Champagne Brut Substance
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Disgorged 20 November 2007.  Alcohol 12.5%.  An attractive, rather mature color.  There are hints of yellow fruit in the mouth with yeast notes, and oxidative, tangy apple orchard notes in the finish.  It is a little foxy and earthy with tons of acidity and a sharp finish.  Not right.  Not Rated.


NV Ulysse Collin, Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  Lot No. 10.  Disgorged March 2014.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A light straw color.  The very fine bubbles are perfectly integrated with piercing acidity and some tropical fruit.  This wine has power with lemons and other citrus which puckers the mouth in the middle.  The bubbles mix with baking spices leaving chalk in the finish and a long, textured aftertaste.  Bracing stuff best with food.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2008 Trimbach, Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile, Alsace
Imported by Espirit du Vin.  Powerful, dry, white fruit flavors of apple and citrus with a good vein of acidity.  Certainly a food wine.  Tart overall but there is some Riesling flesh.  This will be long-lived.   *** Now – 2028.

2014 Escarpment, Te Rehua Pinot Noir
Imported by Meadowbank Estates.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A black cherry, Pinot nose.  In the mouth are focused, fresh, and deep flavors of attractive black fruit which is almost bitter.  Watering acidity carries black cherry and licorice towards the dry and herbal finish where tannins are left on the gums.  The long aftertaste is clean. ***(*) Now – 2023.

2003 Chapoutier, Hermitage Le Pavillon
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  On the second night this is a seamless wine of brooding strength.  The savory and salty start builds incredible depth of flavor backed by tactile sensation of extract.  This is an inky, mouth coating wine with licorice, floral flavors, and new oak.  This is an intense, modern wine.  **** Now – 2033.

1982 Chateau La Lagune, Haut Medoc
Shipped by Andre Labarda.  Imported by Majestic Wines & Spirits.  A mature nose with leather aromas.  It is off to a savory start with this medium bodied wine.  There is a nice mix of fruit, both red and black, along with hints of floral perfume in the finish.  I would drink these gentle wines now.  *** Now.

1977 Cassayre-Forni Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
This offers a good nose of black fruit and leather.  In the mouth is a linear delivery of black fruit, integrity acidity, and some greenhouse notes.  Best within one hour.  *** Now.

1977 Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
At first this was gentle with foxy, simple flavors.  But after an hour in the decanter it became mouth filling with darker fruit and a touch of greenhouse.  Good weight.  ***(*) Now.

A mature 2002 Bourgogne Blanc and a trio of 1979 Californian Cabernet Sauvignons

October 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Lou likes to gamble on white Burgundy. This week he proved that a basic Bourgogne Blanc can develop with age.  Of course he hedged his bet.  Jean-Marc Boillot is the grandson of Etienne Sauzet and former winemaker at Olivier Leflaive. This combination of a well-respected producer and the outstanding 2002 vintage have produced what is essentially a mature table wine.  The 2002 Jean-Marc Boillot, Bourgogne Blanc drinks well now for it is fresh with attractive mouthfeel.  It is not complex but then it never was meant to be.   Sadly the bottle of 1989 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley was advanced in color and dead in the mouth.  I even forgot to take a picture of the label.


2002 Jean-Marc Boillot, Bourgogne Blanc
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from young vines which was fermented and aged in oak. Alcohol 12.5%. The clean, yellow fruit is surprisingly rounded. There is a touch of yeast and a touch of apple orchard fruit which points to maturity. The wine remains fresh in the finish, though it is a little short in length. With air the wine becomes a little racy, developing sweet fruit and a touch of grip before the dry finish. All in all this is a lively wine.  **(*) Now but will last.

Lou and I decided to drink a flight of Californian wine from the 1979 vintage.  Michael Broadbent once described it as a cool vintage with useful wines.  Kelli White recently assessed the vintage as capable of still yielding excellent wines.  The 1979 vintage in California came a decade after the American wine boom began.  This boom in wine consumption meant there was a year after year increase in vineyard planting and continual increase in the number of Californian wineries.

I should add that all three red wines had fills into the bottom of the neck.

The 1979 St. Clement, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley comes from a winery whose history spans this period.  It was in 1964 that Michael Robbins bought an old Victorian mansion with a tiny vineyard.  He planted vines then sold wine under the Spring Mountain Vineyards name only to sell the winery to William Casey in 1976.  It is under William Casey that the St. Clement name was developed along with a good reputation for its Cabernet Sauvignon.  Our bottle was in fine shape reflecting this reputation.  The color is the deepest of the trio, matching the deep aromas and flavors of dark fruit.  This is a wine to savor on a cool fall night.

Stonegate was established in 1973 on land that the Spaulding family bought in 1969.  By the early 1980s production had reached nearly double that of St. Clement.  The 1979 Stonegate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vail Vista Vineyard, Alexander Valley is marked by a prominent eucalyptus note on the nose and in the mouth.  This alone sets it apart but there is also this beguiling combination of inky flavor, minerals, a savory aspect, and general intensity.  If the St. Clement is deep and dark the Stonegate is brighter with more acidity and intensity.  What a lovely, contrasting pair worth drinking again.

Sonoma Vineyards came about after a decades worth of winemaking by Rodney Strong.  By 1970 Rodney Strong was selling some 150,000 cases of wine so he built a new winery and named his operation Sonoma Vineyards.  It was not until 1980 that he began to sell wines under the Rodney Strong label.  He had a customized label service for customers which appears to be the origin of our 1979 Sonoma Vineyards, University Club, Special Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County.  The University Club is located in San Francisco where it was founded in 1890.  Clearly a club must provide nourishment and drinks for its members.  In this instance with its own wine label.  The wine itself had a vegetal nose and overall softness.  I suspect it was never great to begin with but of enough quality to survive for decades.


1979 St. Clement, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  This is quite dark and significantly deeper in color that the other wines.  The nose remains deep and attractive with a combination of fruit and some game.  In the mouth is a bright start with good body and weight to the flavors which are still supported by structural components.  The wine still has ripe tannins which coat the mouth as the lively flavors build on the gums.  The dark fruit and character of the wine never faded over four hours.  ***(*) Now – 2021+.


1979 Stonegate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vail Vista Vineyard, Alexander Valley
Alcohol 13%.  There are some meaty, fruit aromas but it is eucalyptus which comes through on the nose.  The mouth follows with eucalyptus infused fruit.  The wine builds intensity and ripeness, becoming almost inky.  There is a curious quality, almost mineral in this decidedly savory wine.  The juicy acidity is more prominent than in the others.  An old wood note comes out.  The finish does not match the intensity of before but moderate flavor persists in the aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2026.


1979 Sonoma Vineyards, University Club, Special Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  This wine is a bit more grippy and vegetal.  With integrated acidity the brighter fruit ultimately softens by the animale finish.  It is a gentle, mature wine that should be drunk up.  ** Now.


As thick as a phone book: my first trip to Bern’s Steak House

April 20, 2016 2 comments

The TSA officer at the airport asked if I was escaping the Washington, DC rain for the warmth of Florida.  No, I replied, I am going down to drink wine with my friend.  With the officer perplexed I explained that Bern’s Steak House was my destination.  A woman in the security line chimed up, Bern’s is my favorite place in the world.


Bern’s  Steak House in Tampa, Florida is legendary amongst wine lovers due to the half-million bottle wine cellar that contains table wines dating back to the 19th century and a few fortified wines which are even older.  Founded in the 1950s by Bern Laxer and his wife Gert, wine has always played a major role at the Steak House.  Decades worth of purchasing ensured that there are still ample supplies of wines from the 1960s and later which were bought on release.  Coupled with nearly obsessive backfilling of ancient vintages, particularly for Bordeaux, there is also unparalleled depth.  Many of these bottles were imported specifically for Bern’s.   Fortunately, the prices for most of these wines appear frozen in time.


Most tables at Bern’s do not test the depth of the wine list.  This fact combined with the sheer size of the wine cellar means there is still an impressive supply of old wine at all price points.  Many wine-loving groups make regular trips to plunder the cellar.  During the rise of the wine bulletin boards, Bern’s largely remained a place you did not post about or if you did, you certainly did not mention the Bern’s name.  I suspect some posters did not mention all of the wines they drank for fear of the cherry pickers finishing off such satisfying gems as bottles of 1970s Crozes-Hermitage at $30 per bottle.  Hence the unwritten rule of those who plunder Bern’s wine cellar, don’t mention it.

This silence was not always the case.  The Bern’s wine cellar was mentioned in major newspapers over the decades and the wine list, available for $35 in the late 1980s, was even recommended as a Christmas gift.  In 1978, Frank Prial began to include mention of Bern’s Steak House in his New York Times articles.  Described as “[o]ne of the most unusual lists anywhere to be found” he describes the book of a wine list as being “chained to the table to keep from disappearing.”  For $15 one could pay for a copy instead.  Also in the New York Times, Florence Fabricant mentioned the inclusion of Bern’s in The Wine Spectator very first Grand Awards in 1981.  Three years later Fred Ferretti focused in on Bern’s in the article “Wine List Thick as Tampa Phone Book.”  Later that year Frank Prial wrote the list was “bigger than most telephone books.”

The wine list was still chained to the tables when James Conaway wrote about Bern’s for The Washington Post in 1987.  It was actually a marble fixture to which the list was attached.  Apparently this did not stop people from stealing the wine list for a woman was once employed to ferret out lists hidden under furs and shirts.  Despite the wine list shrinking to the size of the Washington, DC, phone book, a cool $1 million Dollars of wine were sold each year.  Frank Prial still wrote about the Bern’s wine list some two decades after he first mentioned it.  He noted that even Bern Laxer called the immense book “absurd.”


My friend Lou first visited Bern’s nearly a decade ago and he has been sharing stories about his adventures ever since.  It was to join Lou at Bern’s that caused me to flew down to Tampa.  Lou was there the evening before my arrival so it was with delight that I looked at texted pictures of 1964 Domaine Edmond Valby, Morey-Saint-Denise, “Dried cherries, herbs and a little tar” and 1961 Pierre Ponnelle, Chateauneuf du Pape, “[V]ery different. More earth and animale.”  For our dinner together, we were joined by two of Lou’s colleagues. Though they know little about wine, they are curious to try any old wine.

Lou and I found ourselves at Bern’s ahead of the other couple.  We sat ourselves in the bar to flip through the wine list.  After confirming the relative quality of the 1973 vintage in Germany, Lou somewhat randomly picked a bottle of 1973 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Hattenheimer Nussbrunen Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau.  Drunk over one hour, the nose remained rather shy but the fruit flavors picked up definition and weight.  While it was not the most complex wine, it offered a pleasing combination of freshness and maturity.


1973 Freiherr Langwerth von Simmern, Hattenheimer Nussbrunen Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau
Imported by Frank Schoonmaker Selections.  The color is a youthful light, vibrant amber gold.  The light nose bears some petrol aromas and is generally subtle yet very fresh.  The tart, yellow fruit mixes with good acidity and some textured tannin before picking up mid body weight.  With air the flavors become sweeter with better definition of fruit and some ripeness in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

Once seated at the dinning table we began our succession of red wines with the help of Senior Sommelier Brad Dixon.  Brad was excited about a mature Beaujolais, something that Lou has long mentioned, so he soon returned with a decanted bottle of 1983 Heritiers Finaz Devillaine, Moulin-a-Vent. Alexis Lichine described Moulin-a-Vent as the “king of Beaujolais”, capable of slow development in great vintages such as 1983.  Likely produced by a de Villaine relative, think Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, this bottle is a lively, compelling wine of tart red fruit, minerals, and wood notes.  I would not compare this particular example to Burgundy, as some old Beaujolais is compared to, rather it is its own unique wine.  Clearly great vintage and great storage.


1983 Heritiers Finaz Devillaine, Moulin-a-Vent
Imported by B Strauss Selections.  Alcohol 12.5%. The wine is a relatively dark, young color.  The nose is of cranberries back by a wood note.  In the mouth is a bitter red fruit start before black, mineral hints come out.  This lively wine is compelling to drink.  The drying tannins and wood note before the tart finish lend to the impression of perfect storage.  *** Now but will last.

A balance was struck between less expensive and more expensive wines.  The pair of of Northern Rhone reds represented low priced wines from negociants. John Livingstone-Learmonth and Melvyn C. H. Master wrote that Leon Revol sold wines “which are consistent without being spectacular.”  The Revol house was founded in the early 20th century. They own no vineyards, instead fruit was purchased from all over the Cotes du Rhone.  The negociant Maison Brotte sold wine under the Pere Anselme label and become associated with their Chateauneuf du Pape.  No amount of proper storage could change the fact that the 1979 Leon Revol, Cornas, from a superior vintage, was more engaging than the 1980 Pere Anselme, Cote Rotie.  The Revol offered more interesting and complete flavors.  The Anselme did have a bit of attractive meat flavor but was simpler and perhaps, a touch old.


1979 Leon Revol, Cornas
Imported by Bay Distributors.  Alcohol 12%.  There are fresh, red fruit and greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth, the tart red fruit takes on some lipstick, a wood note, and a tart, citric pithe finish.  *** Now.


1980 Pere Anselme, Cote Rotie
Imported by Bay Distributors.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This nose reveals buttery, tart red fruit.  In the mouth the slightly meaty red fruit plays it tight with good structure of old wood and a hint of roast.  ** Now.

The Californian flight proved to be the best of the night both in terms of the wines and history.  Mike Grgich came to California in 1958. He first worked for Lee Stewart at the original Souverain Cellars then went on to Beaulieu Vineyard, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Chateau Montelena.  Grgich Hills Cellar lead off with the 1977 vintage so our bottle of 1979 Grgich Hills Cellar, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley stems from the very early days.  It is an outstanding wine.  With a youthful color it was fruity on the nose followed by deep, chewy flavors backed by lively acidity and the right amount of cedar notes.  It was the favorite wine of the evening.  Clearly at full maturity.  The half bottle of 1970 Souverain Cellars, Mountain Zinfandel, Napa Valley came from the year Lee Stewart sold the winery to a group of investors.  There was then, for a time, a Souverain of Rutherford in Napa Valley  and a Souverain of Alexander Valley in Sonoma.  The later eventually became Chateau Souverain.  Our half bottle bears the original Lee Stewart label.  There are other bottles of 1970 “Souverain of Rutherford” Cabernet Sauvignon bearing post-sale labels.  This wine is classically structured with fresh flavors of tart black fruit.  I would almost venture it is not yet ready to drink.  At least from the Bern’s cellar!


1979 Grgich Hills Cellar, Zinfandel, Alexander Valley
Alcohol 13.7%.  The deep, youthful color is easily matched by the deep berry fruit on the nose.  In the mouth are beautiful fruit flavors that range from blue to tart red by the middle.  The lively acidity, cedar note, and slightly chewy aspect continue to delight through the aftertaste.  Drinking so very well.  **** Now.


1970 Souverain Cellars, Mountain Zinfandel, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  This fresh wine is infused with cedar that supports the fresh, focused, and tart black fruit.  This classic wine sports a lively personality and great structure.  It leaves a menthol freshness in the aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

After dinner we moved up to the Harry Waugh dessert room with its mini barrel shaped rooms.  We all opted to drink various dessert wines by the glass.  Two of the glass of Port were particularly good.  The 1965 Taylor Fladgate, Crusted Port leans towards the sweet, marshmallow spectrum but the addition of baking spices and expansive flavors make it a hands-down solid drink.  However, it was 1978 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port from a modest vintage, that was the Port of the night.  It was complex, inky, and poised for further development.  To add to the surprise, it is one of the cheapest Ports by the glass.  In the end, that is what Bern’s is all about.  You walk in with a general plan about what you want to drink but in the end you taste other wines you never expected to be so interesting.


1977 Barbosa, Vintage Port
The round berries and youthful flavors become super expansive and drier by the finish.  Unfortunately there is some heat at the end.  ** Now.

1965 Taylor Fladgate, Crusted Port
This fruity wine offers up a touch of marshmallow, subtle ripe baking spices, and other sweet notes.  The finish is quite expansive.  *** Now – 2025.

1970 Delaforce, Vintage Port
Musty, tastes of old red fruit. Not Rated.

1978 Quinta do Noval, Vintage Port
The deep ruby color speaks of promise.  There is a lot going on in the mouth.  The fruit is wound around a core of complementary wood.  The fruit mixes with bakings spices, ink, and other complexities.  Simply a really nice vintage Port.  ***(*) Now.


First signs of maturity in the 2008 Ferrari-Carano, Prevail

I remember drinking early vintages of Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon purchased from the Village Corner wine shop in Ann Arbor.  This was during my university days when my friend and I would purchase a bottle or two of wine for the weekend.  I have not drunk much from Ferrari-Carano since then.  Most recently, Andy recommended the 2008 Ferrari-Carano, Prevail, West Face, Alexander Valley.  I double-decanted the wine, which after a few hours of air became a rather good wine with more complexity than I expected.  This Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend works well with the new French oak.  It is a savory wine to enjoy over the next several years. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2008 Ferrari-Carano, Prevail, West Face, Alexander Valley – $35
This wine is a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Syrah that was aged for 22 months in a mixture of new and used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.8%.  The rounded savory flavors already show good complexity.  The wine mixes licorice, leather, and baking spices with tangy fruit. It needs a few hours of air but will greatly benefit from another year or two in the cellar.   ***(*) Now – 2022.



The 2012 Stonestreet, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Alexander Valley is a great buy for the cellar

December 3, 2015 Leave a comment

The 2012 Stonestreet, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Alexander Valley offers both richness and strong focus which will allow this wine to develop for many years.  This Estate bottling was previously known as Monument Ridge in honor of the vineyards from which the fruit was sourced.  These blocks are located at 1,200 – 1,500 feet of elevation on the Mayacamas Mountain range.  Apparently this location yields savory, rich fruit, attractive minerality and graphite, all in one wine that begs to be cellared.  I recommend you stick a few bottle in your cellar to be tasted in 2020.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Stonestreet, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Alexander Valley – $35
This wine is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot and Malbec that was aged for 17 months in 30% new French oak.  Aromas of scented berries make way to savory and rich flavors of dry black fruit and Big Red. This wine slowly develops over many hours to reveal a mix of cinnamon spices, minerals, and graphite.  ***(*) 2018-2028.

West Coast Wines

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Of some recently tasted wines from the West coast my favorite was the 2010 Stolpman, Syrah Estate.  Being aromatic and flavorful it was a wine I just wanted to drink.   Next I would have to include the 2010 Windsor Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Clearly a wine from California, its approachable style will make it hard to leave in the cellar.  The Stolpman was purchased at Wishing Well Liquors, the Balboa in Seattle, the Montebruno and Matthew Rorick at Chambers Street Wines, and the rest at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Windsor Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley – $26
Alcohol 14.1%.  The light to medium strength nose was of blue and black berries and leather with a sense of California richness.  The fruit followed the nose but had more tart, red fruit.  The flavors were expansive with leather and salivating acidity on the front of the tongue.  It showed some underlying structure with a big personality but not heady.  It retained tart flavors on the tongue tip.  **(*) Now-2020.


2006 Ravenswood, Merlot, Sangiacomo, Sonoma Valley – $22
Alcohol 14.9%.  The nose bore maturing aromas with a very fine scent of woodbox.  The maturing red fruit had some weight, mixing nicely with woodbox flavors, salivating acidity, and some spice.  There was some black fruit with weight at first then the wine became drier with salivating acidity.  There were spicy tannins and black fruit in the finish which was a little rough.  It left wood box and a savory aspect in the aftertaste.  Will last but good now.  ** Now-2017.


2001 Liparita, Merlot, Napa Valley – $15
Alcohol 14.5%.  There was an evergreen nose with underlying mulberry aromas and some tea.  The mouth followed the nose with ripe, expansive, red hard cherry flavors.  Though mature it still developed with a ending with a slightly rough finish with drying tannins.  A second bottle was more advanced with black olive notes.  ** Now


2010 Stolpman, Syrah Estate, Santa Ynez Valley –
This wine is a blend of 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier.  Alcohol 14.1%.  The nose was perfumed with berries and a little vanilla.  The mouth had a lively start with slightly tangy fresh and red red and black fruit.  The acidity came out in the finish.  There were soft, billowy flavors which made the wine approachable.  It left a tangy and tingly aftertaste on the lips and tongue tip.  Nice wine.  ***  Now-2016.


2010 Balboa, Syrah, Walla Walla Valley – $34
This wine is 100% Syrah which was hand harvested, fermented in open top stainless steel tanks then underwent malolactic fermentation and 16 months of aging in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 15%.  There was some fragrance to the modern nose.  In the mouth the flavors were firm and modern with a little tart and tang to the black fruit.  It had a powdery nature with acidity on the sides and back of the tongue.  It took on some weight with a subtle toast and smoke in the aftertaste.  With air it developed a good middle with more tangy black and red fruit.  Not my preferred style.  ** 2015-2023.


2010 Montebruno, Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills – $26
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from vines planted in 1998.  The fruit was fermented in open top vats with indigenous yeasts then aged for almost 12 months in oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was lighter as was the nose of light green peppercorns.  In the mouth the flavors were acidity driven with lighter weight red fruit on the tongue tip. The cooler fruit was thinner in flavor but still mouth filling.  There was a pepper bit and a hint of cardboard.  * Now.


2012 Matthew Rorick Wines, Valdiguie – $19
This wine is 100% Napa Gamay Noir sourced from 20 year old vines and aged for four months in very old barrels.  Alcohol 12.2%.  Lighter red flavors mixed with graphite and acidity. * Now-2014.


A Trio of 1990s Californian Wines

I usually avoid reading about a wine before I taste it but I could not resist looking up the three bottles of 1991 Mayacamas, Cabernet Sauvignon I picked up from the dump bin.  I had recently perused the article Mayacamas Vineyards – tasting notes and more, from John Gilman so I figured it was acceptable to read it again.  Mayacamas wines are traditionally made and purposefully capable of aging for decades.  The tasting note from John Gilman reads more interesting than the bottle I opened but what I particularly found similar was his age recommendation.  He recommends 2017-2050.  I double-decanted this bottle after which it took four to five hours to open up.  It was not particularly interesting at first but those hours of air revealed a wine which could develop like those old 1960s Louis Martini, Special Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fortunately there are two bottles left so hopefully Lou and I can get a few other vintages together to drink in five years.  The 1991 Jordan, Cabernet Sauvignon was surprisingly robust while we drunk it.  It revealed more roast along with still obvious structure but it is the plentiful acidity that kept it going on.  The 1993 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon was interesting while it lasted and probably best in large format.  Drink up and drink fast!  These wines all came from the same cellar with not-the-best storage.  I do not know the history of this cellar but the bottles from the 1990s have great labels and appear to be in good shape.  The earlier bottles have more stained and tattered labels along with more variability in quality.  I wonder if something happened in the late 1980s.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1991 Mayacamas Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley –
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from the Mt. Veeder/Mayacamas mountains.  It was aged for two and a half years in American oak casks and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was of tart red fruit, cedar, and fresh greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth the tart red fruit continued with lots of acidity and very fine notes of wood box.  There was a gentle structure along with tart red flavors in the earthy aftertaste.  It does not possess huge depth at this point but comes across as young.  It tastes like it will last forever.   *** 2018-2033.


1991 Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley –
This wine is a blend of 81.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 2.8% Cabernet Franc which was aged 12 months in 65% French oak and 35% American oak.  Alcohol 12.8%.  The strong nose was of roast and dark red fruit.  In the mouth the red fruit continued along with a little licorice.  There was a lot of acidity on the tongue tip and sides.  The flavors were still compact becoming tart red with a wood note in the finish followed by ripe tannins which coated the mouth.  Still strong for its age.  ** Now-2018.


1993 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley –
Alcohol 13.8%.  The nose was older with mature aromas, roasted earth, and wet tobacco.  In the mouth the roasted notes followed the nose with some red fruit, wood box, good acidity, and resolved tannins.  Reasonably enjoyable while it lasted but it begun to fall apart before the bottle was complete.  ** while it lasted but overall: * Now.


Three Chardonnay From Chateau St Jean

January 23, 2013 Leave a comment

As part of our ongoing quest to find affordable California Chardonnay we tried the 2009 Chateau St Jean, Belle Terre Vineyard and Robert Young Vineyard.  Both of these are single-vineyard wines with the former undergoing malolactic fermentation while the later does not.  In reviewing my tasting notes they do read rather decent.  They are lighter in a sense with interesting flavors but the barrel notes seemed obvious and offset.  It kept distracting me.


As if by intuition Julia gave me a bottle of the 2004 Reserve, Robert Young Vineyard.  I do not drink much aged Chardonnay so I had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be quite good!  There are similarities between the 2004 Reserve and the 2009 regular Chardonnay.  But the quality of the fruit is better and so is the overall integration with the 2004 Reserve.  What struck me most is how fresh and lively it was.  Now this bottle was pulled from Julia’s EuroCave so storage was ideal.   I should think this will drink well for another five years or so.  Thank you Julia!  The two 2009 Chateau St Jean bottles were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2009 Chateau St Jean,  Chardonnay, Belle Terre Vineyard, Alexander Valley – $22
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which barrel fermented, underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged for eight months in 55% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.4%.  The color was a light golden straw.  The light to medium strength nose revealed yellow fruit, texture, and a little toast.  In the mouth there were somewhat weighty flavors riding on a wave of acidity.  There was a little bramble at first then acidity came through.  The flavors smooth out as ripe yellow and white fruit integrated with barrel toast.  The flavors are a bit tart in the middle with a citrus note.  It eventually shows more minerals as the flavors dry out leaving a lipstick finish.  ** Now.


2009 Chateau St Jean, Chardonnay, Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley – $22
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which did not undergo malolactic fermentation and was aged in oak.  Alcohol 14.4%.  The nose was light with yellow fruit, butter, and spiced fruit.  In the mouth the flavors are weighty and begin with interesting, spiced fruit.  There are lemon flavors in the middle as it becomes more exotic.  There is a little low-lying barrel note in the aftertaste.  ** Now-2014.


2004 Chateau St Jean, Chardonnay, Reserve, Robert Young Vineyard, Alexander Valley –
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was barrel fermented then aged sur lie.  Alcohol 14.6%.  The color was a light to medium golden-yellow.  There was a very light nose.  In the mouth the wine starts with honied weight to the fat, yellow fruit, and spiced pears.  There is acidity from the beginning with barrel notes poking through.  The back of the throat salivates as the barrel note returns.  There is a nice mouthfeel with some freshness, good integration, and lemon notes.  Surprisingly it is rather youthful.  *** Now-2018.