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From the quality years: 1974 Stone Creek Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon

I try not to conduct much investigation before opening an old bottle of Californian wine.  I enjoy the mystery of what the wine will taste like and with a bottle of 1974 Stone Creek Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley the resolution was perfect.  There is not much sediment in this wine so I served from the bottle at the end of dinner at Sudip’s house.  This lively wine first offers cherry flavors but with air it gains saddle leather, earth, and animale components.  Such was the satisfaction that we did nothing else until the bottle was finished.

1974 Stone Creek Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
The 1974 label indicates “Stone Creek Vineyards, Produced and Bottled by Stone Creek Cellars” of Rutherford.  This brand was first registered as a “fictitious business name” in 1977 by Sonoma Vineyards at 11455 Old Redwood Highway.  Sonoma Vineyards was the winery of Rodney Strong, who bonded his first winery in 1960 and soon built a large mail-order business during the Californian wine boom. He went public, but by 1975, overexpansion to some 5,000 acres led Sonoma Vineyard to near bankruptcy.  That year Renfield Imports acquired 47% of Sonoma Vineyards.  Production was reduced and an emphasis was placed on quality.  This bottle dates from the turn-around period.  The label was later registered as a fictitious business name by L. Foppiano Wine Co. in 1982.  The 1978 label indicates “Stone Creek Cellars, Cellared and Bottled by Stone Creek Cellars” of Geyserville.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Cherry flavors and zippy acidity quickly confirm this wine is in very fine shape with plenty of life ahead.  Notes of saddle leather and an earthy hint come out with a touch of air.  Zippy acidity carries the flavors through the fresh finish, and long aftertaste.  It even develops an animale note that adds complexity.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

Mostly 1970s Californian red wines

The Memorial Day weekend kicked off with several wines from the 1970s tasted over at Lou’s house.  After a sweeter than expected start with the fully mature 1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru Kitterle four of us ventured down to his tasting room.  The fills on 1970 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien and 1975 Chateau Branaire, Saint-Julien, both from less than ideal storage, had decreased since purchase so were quickly dispatched as bad bottles.  Our first red was a good intro, not too old, rather it was quite young.  The 1993 Glen Carlou, Grand Classique Reserve, Paarl is a modest wine which may be drunk for a few more years.  Think clean and tart flavors with just a hint of earth.

We then moved on to a quartet of old Californian wine.  Two of the bottles proved undrinkable or not worth drinking.  The 1974 Woodside Vineyards, La Questa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains had some stink and certainly plenty of power.  I actually thought it would blow off and improve but instead it fell apart.  Shame as this is an historic wine.  The 1976 The Firestone Vineyard, Red Wine, Santa Ynez Valley represents the second vintage of this winery.  The winery was still under construction at the time of harvest and it was not anticipated to be until 1980 that operations would normalize.  Sadly the 1976 vintage suffered from heavy rains and it is evident in the wine.  This bottle is drinkable but simple, soft, and monolithic.

The final two bottles provided plenty of satisfaction.  The 1974 Arroyo Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County is all about cranberry fruit, crisp acidity, and an animale note.  It is clearly of a different winemaking style and I enjoyed it for that.  The final bottle of 1974 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a very good wine from, incredibly, an inaugural vintage.  The key is that Roy Raymond Sr worked for decades at Beringer, even marrying into the family.  Both his long experience in the industry and the practice of discarding substandard bottlings are evident in this wine.  There is plenty of good, deep fruit, and ample body.  It is also more alcoholic than the other wines tried.  In any event, a very fine end to the evening.

1998 Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Gris, Alsace Grand Cru Kitterle
A rich and honied start morphs to stone flavors in the middle then lychee by the finish.  This wine has a good amount of residual sugar but also dense texture backed by acidity in the finish.  Gentle in the finish.  **(*) Now.

1993 Glen Carlou, Grand Classique Reserve, Paarl
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 16% Cabernet Franc matured in French oak barrels.  Imported by The Hess Collection. Alcohol 13.2%.  Tart and clean flavors of cranberry red fruit are followed by good tannic structure with a fresh finish.  A bit more complexity comes from an earthy undertone.  This should drink well for several more years.  **(*) Now – 2023.

1974 Woodside Vineyards, La Questa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Founded in 1963 by Bob Mullen, the fruit for this wine was sourced from La Questa vines first planted by Emmet Rixford in 1884 These old vines are purported to come from cuttings brought from Chateau Margaux.  In the 1940s Martin Ray propagated vines at Mt. Eden which were eventually planted by Ridge at Monte Bello.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright and volatile aromas of stinky feet.  There are powerful flavors backed by citric tannins but instead of improving it quickly falls apart then becomes weird. Past.

1976 The Firestone Vineyard, Red Wine, Santa Ynez Valley
The 2850 acre property was originally a beef-cattle ranch which was acquired by the Firestone family in 1972.  The winery was run by Brooks Firestone, son of the former Ambassador to Belgium, and grandson to the founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.   Some 345 acres were aside for premium varieties and in 1973 they were planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.  The first crush was with the 1975 vintage which was the first commercial level achievement in this area.  The fermentation tanks were in place for this inaugural vintage but the winery was still under construction in 1978.  This 1976 vintage was troubled by heavy rains. Could this be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot???  Alcohol 12.5%.  A soft, monolithic wine with simple flavors of cherry cola that show more advancement as coffee and caramel note mix in.  There is watering acidity but this is simple wine.  * Past.

1974 Arroyo Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Bandiera Winery was founded in 1937 by Emilio Bandiera.  This was largely a bulk winery until new owners sold wine under the Arroyo Sonoma label amongst others.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This builds ripe, tart fruit that has plenty of crisp flavor and crisp acidity.  Cranberry notes mix with the tannins and so does an animale note.  *** Now but will last.

1974 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Roy Raymond Sr. worked for Beringer beginning in 1933, eventually marrying Jacob Berginger’s granddaughter Martha Jane Beringer.  In the early 1970s the Raymond family bought 90 acres south of St Helena and in 1974 opened their new winery.  Early bottlings were discarded if they did not meet the family’s standards.  Alcohol 13.7%.  Good fruit and deep flavors abound in this wine.  It reveals focused and bright notes of blue fruit with some coffee.  Has body and staying power.  A treat to drink.  **** Now – 2028.

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.

Before

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.

During

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.

After

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.

I mistake Oregon Pinot Noir for Spatburgunder

Lou asked me to bring just one bottle to a blind Pinot Noir themed tasting.  The weather was temperate so we started off with 2009 Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Frauengarten, Wachau while we moved our food, bottles, and glasses outside.  Made by the son-in-law and daughter of F. X. Pichler this bottle has killer aromas that alone warrant opening a bottle.  I guess Gruner can age!

All of the wines were brown bagged save the 1983 Prince Florent de Merode, Corton Clos du Roi.  The cork fell in when Lou stood it up so we tried it out of curiosity.  Proper bottles are probably good.

The first blind wine was certainly of an earlier generation.  Schug Winery was founded in 1980 by Walter Schug who was the founding winemaker at Phelps in the 1970s.  The 1981 Schug Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley is an early example of his efforts which will continue to last for many years thanks to the impressive structure.  It is a bit curious but still a respectable glass of wine.  Much younger and in complete contrast the 2002 Cameron, Clos Electrique offers impressive amounts of sweet, strawberry compote flavors.  This bottle is in peak shape and prime drinking.

In retrospect the 2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Toussaints 1er Cru is clearly French with its aromas.  There is a bit of everything but the linear personality restrains the pleasure.  The 2006 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is in taller bottle but I mistook it for Austrian Spatburgunder due to the plentiful, bright fruit.  It continued to evolve, gaining complexity even on the second night.  Also from Oregon, the 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley is the youngest of all the wines we tasted.  It reminds me of an Oregon Pinot Noir, in my limited experience, and suggest you wait a bit longer in case it relaxes.

Thanks again to Lou for such a fun evening!

2009 Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Frauengarten, Wachau
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This is 100% Gruner Veltliner from 15-35 year old vines, fermented and aged on the lees in stainless steel.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The light golden color does not suggest the excellent nose full of textured aromas.  In the mouth there is a focused, almost crisp start with white fruit, chalk, and stones by the middle.  There is a nice amount of acidity in this mature wine.  With air it develops nutty flavors and sports a moderate amount of weight from nuts and fat.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

1983 Prince Florent de Merode, Corton Clos du Roi
Imported by Robert Haas.  The cork fell in when the bottle was stood up leaving a stinky nose but surprisingly round, sweet fruit in the mouth.  Not Rated.

A) 1981 Schug Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
This smells mature with a hint of menthol.  In the mouth is up-front dense fruit flavors followed by a wintergreen freshness and perfumed aftertaste.  What is striking is the whopping structure of drying tannins which seems like a combination of stem inclusion and oak.  On the second night it remains firm with tangy red fruit and of course the structure.  ** Now-2027.

B) 2002 Cameron, Clos Electrique
Alcohol 13.3%.  The nose is quite mature.  In the mouth are quickly building flavors of sweet strawberry compote.  The quantity and quality of fruit is excellent and in great shape.  This is matched by juicy acidity and a little spicy hint in the softer finish.  Good bottle.  ***(*) Now – 2019.

2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Toussaints 1er Cru
Imported by Robert Kacher.  Alcohol 12%.  Some sweet aromas, oak, mushrooms, and a touch of earth.  With air there is a wood incense note.  The mouth reveals dark red fruit, watery acidity, and a tight core of black fruit leaving a linear impression.  It eventually sports some grip and a little cola and spice note.  It remains firm.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2) 2006 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  The darker and younger looking in color.  The interesting, ample nose is very fresh and clean.  In the mouth are gobs of fruit flavors that slowly open to reveal ripe, complex flavors.  Substantial in a way but not heavy at all thanks to the brightness.  The acidity is perfectly balanced.  The flavors persist in the aftertaste.  **** Now – 2027.

3) 2005 St. Innocent, Pinot Noir, Shea Vineyard, Willamette Valley
Alcohol 14%.  This is a light grapey red color.  In the mouth are controlled flavors of ripe and perfumed black fruit.  Fine tannins develop by the finish as does a bitter, citrus note.  This tastes the youngest of all the wines and with extended air remains structured compared to the Antica Terra. *** Now – 2025.

Grenache Blanc from California

This past week we tried three bottles of California Grenache Blanc from three different regions.  The 2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley  is a good value.  You first notice salinity and stone dust which is soon followed by fruit and  a mouth-coating aftertaste.  This wine responds well to air and some warmth which will make you pleased with the wine and $20 price.

Two of the wines have an interesting connection in that the vineyard which sources the Three Clicks fruit is planted with cuttings that came from Tablas Creek.  The 2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles is locked down.  I kept an open bottle in my refrigerator for a week and the wine barely changed.  Right now it is evocative of lemons but it needs to shake off its firmness before it should be drunk.  On the other hand the 2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County is expressive.  I have enjoyed tasting the last several vintages of this wine at the annual MacArthur Beverages California Barrel Tasting and the current released vintages is just as good.  You taste the white fruit and the stones but it is crispness that captures my attention.  If you can only afford one bottle then grab the Three Clicks.  Add in the Priest Ranch if you want to compare wines.

 

2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley – $20
Alcohol 14.8%.  This saline and stone dust infused wine has a dense start followed by ripe, white fruit flavors in the middle, and a pervasive, mouth-coating aftertaste.  It is well structured and balanced for further life.  *** Now – 2020.

2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles – $30
Alcohol 14.4%. Tasted over several nights this wine remained largely unevolved.  The flavors of white fruit, lemon, and baking spices are supported by lemon-like acidity, fine texture, and some density.  It adds a lifted, floral note in the finish.  This will last! **(*) Now – 2032.

2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County – $28
Alcohol 14.3%.  There is a slightly weighty yet crisp start with good white fruit that overlays chalk.  The liveliness makes you return for another glass. *** Now – 2020.

High-alcohol Verdelho, old Freisa, and older Napa Valley reds

The latest round of wines that Lou and I tasted presented a challenging start.  Perhaps only the Scholium Project would offer a high-alcohol Verdelho white wine and the 2010 Scholium Project, The Wisdom of Theuth, Lost Slough Vineyards certainly exists outside of my conventional experience.  I found an attractive blend of yeast, nuts, and lemon such that I am reminded a bit of a mature, flat Champagne.  Lovers of mature white wine will find it engaging on the first night.  Tasted blind, I would have guess the 1999 Pio Cesare, Freisa to be a late 1970s Italian Nebbiolo from a lesser region.  It threw a tremendous amount of sediment.  On the face of things, it is a decrepit wine for being from 1999.  However, if you like very old Italian wine then you’ll enjoy it after it breaths for several hours.  It becomes round and sweet with some delicate berries.

We soon moved on to a trio of Napa Valley red wines.  The 1983 Villa Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is from a very wet year which shows in a lack of quality fruit flavor and staying power.  In comparison, the 1977 vintage is still rocking.  The 1983 improves with air to be a modest wine which set us up for our next pair of wines from Burgess Cellars.

Burgess Cellars was founded in 1972 when Tom Burgess bought a 19th century winery that had been resurrected by Lee Stewart and known at the time as Souverain.  Burgess Cellars was one of only two dozen wineries in Napa and Sonoma at the time of founding.  The 1970s was a period when the house wine style was under development with the winemaker Bill Sorenson.  At the same time the vineyards were expanded and replanted.  In 1978 and 1979 the winery itself was significantly expanded.  Long-term contracts were secured to provide an increased volume of fruit.

Perhaps this transitory period explains why the 1979 Burgess Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley is way past prime.  It looks and smells old but there is still an attractive mouthfeel.  Souverain and Burgess Cellars did have a legacy when it came to Cabernet Sauvignon which could explain the quality of the 1979 Burgess Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  The bottle stink quickly blew off to reveal deep fruit on the nose which is confirmed on the palate.  This is a clean fruited wine with a bit of herbal greenhouse flavor wrapped in a seductive, textured mouth feel.  My one grip is that it could stand a bit more acidity.  Even Jenn enjoyed it and I enjoyed my last glass as I read my mystery book before bed.

 

2010 Scholium Project, The Wisdom of Theuth, Lost Slough Vineyards
This wine is 100% Verdelho that was fermented in both tank and barrel.  Alcohol 15.88%.  There is a bit of an apple orchard aroma but then it becomes primarily of yeast and white fruit.  In the mouth this is a weighty, nutty white fruited wine with a cutting vein of acidity in the finish.  There is an attractive yeast note, lemon peel, and tropical floral flavors delivered with a very fine, ripe grip.  **(*) Now.

1999 Pio Cesare, Freisa
Imported by T. Elenteny. 12%.  Between the brick color, nose, and initial flavors I would have guessed this wine to be decades older.  After several hours of air it improved markedly.  A bacon aroma moves on to very mature flavors in a wine that rounds out and becomes sweeter with air.  While the nose remains past prime the mouth shows delicate berries, a little spice, good acidity, and an almost chewy nature.  ** Now.

1983 Villa Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is a drier wine which improved with air.  It is fully mature with not the best fruit at this stage though there are attractive notes of wood box and a hint of tobacco. It sports powdery density and a fresh finish.  ** Drink Up.

1979 Burgess Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.1%.  The bottle stink quickly blows off to reveal deep blue aromas.  In the mouth is clean fruit which is ripe and weighty before transitioning to dry flavors underpinned by black fruit.  There is a seductive mouthful but truth be told this could use a bit more zip from acidity.  It is very enjoyable though with fine wood notes, some fresh greenhouse, and a textured finish.  *** Now but will last.

1979 Burgess Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.4%.  A light to medium-brown color spells doom which is confirmed on the nose.  Surprisingly round and weighty in the mouth with a sweet core.  Not Rated Past.

A Blind Tasting of 2000 and 1996 Bordeaux with bottles of Dunn and Chave too

A few weeks back I was lucky to be a guest when Sotiris hosted his tasting group. We tasted seven wines blind of which one was a ringer.  Now I could not peg that we were tasting 2000 and 1996 Bordeaux but the 2001 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley did stick out for it is certainly different.  Though the flavor is good, the structure is rather intense at this point so I suggest cellaring it for years to come.

The 2000 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien is a particularly fine wine which you may drink now and over the coming years.  From the nose to the flavor and mouth feel I could not help but to enjoy it. I thought the 1996 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe showed well too.  The nose demonstrates how it is entering a mature phase but the power and acidity will see this through for some time.  As for the other bottles, the 2000 Chateau Quinault, L’Enclos, St-Emilion is a wine to drink now whereas the 1996 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien needs time to come into its own. Our bottle of 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves was sadly musty but the  2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage was spot on.  This group loves Rhone wines so what a treat to finish up with Chave.  This is a fine, impeccably balanced wine that is still very young in flavor but the saline and fat notes hint at future complexity.

1) 2000 Chateau Quinault, L’Enclos, St-Emilion
Imported by Wine Markets Intl.  Alcohol 13%.  A garnet hint in the glass.  There are hints of maturity on the nose, ripe fruit, minerals, and Kirsch.  The mature ripe start soon brings minerals but is not as expansive as I expected.  There is a prominent vein of acidity, some herbaceous flavors, floral middle then less apparent acidity and spices in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2022.

2) 2000 Chateau Magdelaine, St-Emilion
Imported by Maison Marques et Domaines. Alcohol 13%.  The nose is more subtle.  This is a redder wine with fuzzy cranberry and red berry flavors.  It has a core of sweet fruit in the middle then takes on more body, grip, and an herbaceous bit. *** Now – 2022.

3) 2000 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. Alcohol 13%.  This is a dark violet garnet color with an elegant nose.  There is power in the mouth which builds until the very finely textured flavors fill the mouth.  It also coats the mouth with structure.  Despite the strength this is an elegant wine with red fruit, minerals, and quite the aftertaste. **** Now – 2027.

4) 2001 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  There is a eucalyptus start followed by a red fruit burst with acidity.  The flavor is interesting and different than the others.  This is a powerful wine with very, finely coating flavor.  With air flavors of blue fruit develop, warmth, and fresh grip.  The very fine structure is intense and there is a bit of a rough patch with heat right before the finish. ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

5) 1996 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Ginday Imports. Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is fine and mature with a eucalyptus component.  The wine is bright with focused flavors of red fruit that takes on a citric hint in the middle.  With good power, the vein of acidity will see this wine develop for some time.  A lovely wine. **** Now – 2027.

6) 1996 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Imported by Calvert-Woodley. Alcohol 13%.  There is a tough of cream to the nose.  The tangy and ripe, powdery blue fruit builds grip as it leaves flavor on the gums.  Powerful structure.  With air the wine develops attractiveness as the components balance out. ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

7) 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13%.  The musty nose makes with to a mature, mouth filling wine.  The flavor is lighter, the structure is there, as is mineral and cedar box but no denying this is flawed.  Too bad.  Not Rated.

2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage
Imported by Langdon Shiverick.  This is a tense wine with a saline note that adds complexity to the red fruit.  The structure is perfectly integrated, the balanced impeccable.  With air a very fine perfumed finish makes way to an aftertaste of gently coating fat. **** 2022-2032.

Tasted blind: 1991 Ridge Monte Bello, 1986 Phelps Backus, and 1984 Duckhorn

February 9, 2017 1 comment

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Last night Lou and I gathered to blindly taste through several bottles of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.  For fun, we each unknowingly threw in an Australian blend of Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perhaps this is unfair given the stature of our main selections but it was for fun.  As we settled down to cheese, charcuterie, and cork removal we checked out a bottle of 2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray.  I do not have enough experience with Huet so I found the lifted, aromatically textured nose a delight.  It starts off in the fruit spectrum eventually to take on a honey character.  In the mouth this is a fresh, grippy wine with a nice balance of fruit supported by hints of yeast and oxidation.  Fine stuff!  I look forward to finishing my leftover glass tonight.

It was then on to the bagged red wines.  Guessing is fun when you are not pressured.  Wine #1 is firm at first though you can detect some maturity and herbaceousness.  It is the most structured wine out of all tasted and I, admittedly clueless, narrowed in to the 1979-1981 vintages.  For those who enjoy structured, rather than opulent wines the 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley will develop for years to come.  It eventually reveals a bit more of its bottle aged maturity.

Wine #2 showed signs of old seepage under the capsule but the fill was where the neck met the shoulder.  You could get a sense of this on the nose which leaned towards meat rather than fruit but in the mouth the flavor and delivery of the fruit flavor is gorgeous!  What luxury it is to drink glass after glass of 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is a sophisticated wine of ideal balance with youthful, complex fruit flavors that seek out every part of your mouth with wave after wave of flavor.  Also excellent is wine #4.  After some bottle stink blew off, this is highly aromatic of eucalyptus.  In the mouth an impressive amount of energy unfurls dark fruit, ripe structure, and wood box.  The 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley is perhaps more mature in flavor than the Ridge but the Phelps needs more time to open up.  It is fascinating pair to drink together.  No one spat these two wines!

Just a few final thoughts with regards to wines #3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, avoid, and #5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia.  Wakefield River Estates was founded in 1972 by Dr. Douglas Hewitson who planted just over 2,100 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the wheatbelt area of Balaklava.  The wines were made by the highly regarded James Irvine who still produces wine today.  James Irvine got his start at a young age having developed the Siegersdorf brand in 1959 as winemaker at Hardy’s.  As the Wakefield winery had no buildings the wine was made at Saltram, an historic Barossa Valley winery founded in 1859.  Wakefield River Estates was short-lived and curious enough, the label on the bottle tells the history including the demise indicating this bottle was imported in the mid 1980s.  It was in 1982 that all of the fruit was eaten by starlings and in 1983, due to severe drought conditions, there was a sparse crop.  The fruit was sold off and the winery ceased.  As for the vintage Decanter states the wines are of “richness and longevity” with the wines around Adelaide being “robust”.  So perhaps it was a bit unfair to include this wine with the Ridge and Phelps but the potential is there.

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2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray
Imported by Robert Chadderdon.  Alcohol 12%. It is the color of a light apple cider.  On the nose are finely textured, lifted aromas of dried apricots and apple cider.  With air the nose reveals honey aromas.  In the mouth this is a mildly weight wine with a vein of acidity and hint of yeast towards the finish.  It wraps up with a fresh and grippy finish.  Additional complexity is gained from a hint of oxidation. ***(*) Now – 2027.

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#1 – 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is less dark than #2 but of similar color.  The nose offers hints of maturity with the slightest hint of herbaceousness.  A lively start brings a little tang and firmness of flavor.  There is still structure in the end which contributes to the lasting sensation.  With air the wine begins to open up maturity becoming more evident.  It also develops a mineral note and a dusty, wood box flavor. ***(*) Now – 2022.

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#2 – 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.3%.  This garnet wine is still fairly opaque in the middle.  The nose is a bit meaty.  In the mouth this wine packs in the flavor with a plum hint at first, mineral middle, then a younger, fresh eucalyptus finish.  There is sophistication to the purple and black fruits There is still a very fine tannic structure and acidity throughout. Impeccably balanced and impressive. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia
Imported by FWE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is followed by candied and pruned flavors in the mouth.  The acidity stands separate from the core of simple fruit flavors.  Tastes like a cheap domestic port.  Poor.

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#4 – 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.3%.  Some bottle stink at first but that blows off to reveal a highly aromatic, eucalyptus nose.  In the mouth is dark flavor, more structure, and a touch of ruggedness in the finish.  But over the course of several hours this wine unfurls itself.  It adds both wood box and blood.  The energy is impressive as framed, ripe, inky fruit coats the mouth. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia
Imported by San Francisco Traders LTD.  This wine is a blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak puncheons.  Alcohol 12%.  A mature garnet color.  There is a ripe fruit start but the wine quickly turns soft only to end at the short finish.  Simply too old at this point.  Fair.

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A Californian quartet

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Between work, family, wine research, and the new turntable I am short on free time.  Thus over the past month I have generally drunk inexpensive French and Italian wine for I need not take down any notes.  I have peppered these same weeks with a handful of younger bottles from California.  One recent release is the 2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley.  This bottle showed very well after a few hours of air as well as on the second night.  It is a style of wine that has not swung too far in either direction, providing balanced white fruit flavors with both lovely mouthfeel and tautness.

I have never tasted the 2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County since release.  I was surprised by the amount of flavor packed in and the lack of evolution.  It is quite tasty but should be cellared further to open up.  I suppose, in retrospect, I can understand why Lou and I enjoy decades old bottles of Ridge.  The 2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a solid wine full of black fruit and graphite.  It is supple and tasty, just not as exciting as I hoped at this stage.  Finally, there is the gigantic 1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley which caught me off guard.  Ripe, dark, and alcoholic it is simply not my type of wine.

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2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley – $30
This was fermented in 25% oak barrels with the remaining in stainless steel after which is was aged 7 months sue lie.  Alcohol 14%. With a bit of warmth and air this is an attractive wine of white fruit with a pleasing body of glycerin and nut flavors.  The tautness of the wine builds as the acidity becomes more noticeable, simultaneously evolving a finely textured, ripe grip.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, and 6% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is both surprisingly unevolved and packing a tremendous level of flavor.  It is a richly textured, dense wine of dark fruit that may not have any hard edges but does have structure for significant aging.  Given the level of stuffing I would wait another five years to try again.  **** Now – 2027.

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2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.2%.  The nose remained subtle and the flavors of graphite-infused black fruit remained gentle.  This is a low-lying, almost laid back wine.  It remains very black in terms of flavor with inky hints and eventually develops some additional complexity from a wood box flavor.  There is some texture but it is generally supple with low-acidity.  Solid.  *** Now.

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1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  This is a thick, dark flavored, very ripe wine of body and scope which seems to defy the varietal.  It was heady with noticeable heat in the finish that I found too distracting. Not my style.  Not Rated.

Three good wines from California

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment

This past week saw Jenn and I drink three different wines from California.  Lou gave us the bottle of 2014 World’s End, Rebel Rebel, Chardonnay Reserve, Napa Valley.  This wine is produced by Jonathan Maltus of Chateau Teyssier and Le Dome background using fruit sourced from a Beckstoffer vineyard.  It is flavorful and generous in mouthfeel yet does not push the richness too far.  I found it drank great over two nights.  Andy, over at MacArthur Beverages, pointed out a pair of Californian wines with a wee bit of age.  I have already drunk two bottles of the NV Sean H. Thackery, Pleiades XVIII Old Vines.  This is a hard to describe wine that blends red fruit, orange, tea, and floral components.  The first bottle had a marked earthy component which I adored whereas the second bottle was more fruity and suggestive of its individual components.  I suspect it is a good time to drink these up.  Finally, the 1997 Judd’s Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley opens after a short double-decanting.  This is a tasty, dry and still somewhat structured wine with a flavorful balance of black fruit, wood box, and leather.  You may drink it now or over the next several years.  Fun stuff all around!

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2014 World’s End, Rebel Rebel, Chardonnay Reserve, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.5%. The nose sets you up for a Californian experience with rich white fruit and white nut aromas.  In the mouth is an almost focused start of founded, somewhat dense, ripe white fruit followed by a subtle toast note.  The generous mouthfeel is enlivened by some salivating acidity which goes all the way to the back of the throat.  Drinking generously right now.  ***(*) Now.

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NV Sean H. Thackery, Pleiades XVIII Old Vines
Bottled December 2010.  This is a blend of Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and more! Alcohol 14.8%.  The has an earthy hint at first.  The flavors are mouth filling and supported by acidity from the very start.  There is a sweet concentration of fruit with flavors of orange, wet tea, floral notes, and an underlying menthol freshness. ***(*) Now – 2020.

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1997 Judd’s Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is deep fruited with a slight menthol note.  In the mouth are bright flavors of black fruit with watering acidity then a building volume of black fruit, stone, leather, and wood box.  There is a long aftertaste.  With air the black fruit continues to fill the mouth but the flavors become dry with a drying vein of structure developing throughout.  Happily the wood box note becomes amplified.  Tasty.  ***(*) Now – 2023.