The history of Mount Eden Vineyards reaches back to the final years of World War II when Martin Ray purchased several hundred acres of mountaintop land for a vineyard. Here he planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Martin Ray eventually took on investors creating the Mount Eden Vineyard Corporation in 1960. The next two decades were a turbulent time until operations steadied in 1983 when Jeffrey Patterson became head winemaker. According to the winery website the 1980s was a period of replanting in the vineyard and experimenting in the winery.
From this early modern period hails my bottle of 1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains. Despite the bin soiled label the fill was in the neck and cork perfectly firm. As usual when I encounter a new mature wine, I do not decant it. The nose cleans up to reveal aromas of sweet wood and berries. At first the wine is billowy, loose and marked by some bell pepper in the mouth, making me think it remained in bottle too long. With air, blue fruit develops and the whole becomes framed by structure which balances everything out. Despite this improvement the finish remains quite short. If you have any bottles lying about I suggest you drink them up.
1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Alcohol 13%. After breathing there is a pleasing nose of some sweet wood and berries. In the mouth is a billowy start accented by a touch of bell pepper. The billowy red fruited flavors remain but wine does gain better focus with underlying blue fruit flavors and more noticeable acidity and structure towards the finish. It definitely balances out but the finish ultimately remains short. ** Now.
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.
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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
As much as I like German Riesling Jenn likes Californian Chardonnay so I am always in search of a wine which may be drunk by the glass. At the cheap end you cannot go wrong with the Kendall-Jackson, Vintner’s Reserve. There is a bit of a paint-by-numbers aspect to the wine but still it is a rather drinkable $11 big Chardonnay. The best value of the bunch is the J Vineyards, Chardonnay. Lovely flavor, texture, acidity, and just a hint of wood coming out in the aftertaste. We have already drunk through several bottles. The most expensive and rather interesting was the Fort Ross made by Jeff Pisoni. While there is lovely bright yellow fruit there is an attractive, pleasurable mouthfeel which kept grabbing my attraction. This is a powerful wine with plenty of barrel notes poking through. I suspect it might be best in half a year. I recommend you check out the vineyard images on the website. The vines are less than one mile from the Pacific Ocean! These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages and Unwined.
2011 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Vintner’s Reserve – $11
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from estate vineyards in Monterey, Santa Barbera, and Sonoma Counties. It was both fermented then aged on the lees in French and American oak barrels. TA 7.0 g/L, pH 3.35, Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light golden-yellow. The light to medium strength nose revealed toasty, yellow fruit. In the mouth there were medium bodied, ripe yellow fruit from the start. There was also a vein of apple-like acidity on the tip and sides of the tongue. It was a little grippy before some toast notes in the finish and the teeth-coating sweet spices in the aftertaste. It has ticked all of the check boxes. ** Now-2014.
2008 J Vineyards, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from both estate and other vineyards. It was fermented with indigenous and Burgundian yeasts then both fermented and aged in 40% new Burgundian oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation took six months followed by 12 months of aging. TA 6.0 g/L, pH 3.50, Alcohol 14.3%. The color is a light to medium yellow. The nose bore toasty yellow fruit and ripe citrus aromas. In the mouth there was initially focused yellow citrus fruit with acidity. Then with air the flavors took on weight and expanded in the mouth. Low-lying ripe and spiced fruit left sweet spices on the tongue. There was a toasty aftertaste with good acidity. Good Value! *** Now-2013.
2008 Mount Eden Vineyards, Chardonnay, Saratoga Cuvee, Santa Cruz Mountains – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Mount Eden and Domaine Eden vineyards. Alcohol 14%. The color was medium yellow. The light to medium strength nose revealed yellow fruit, apples, and barrel notes. The mouth followed the nose but with more pineapple and acidity from the beginning. The flavors were higher pitched then a little creamy towards the finish. The aftertaste had some spicy spices, toast, and a good mouthfeel. ** Now.
2007 Tandem, Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Sonoma Coast – $30
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from the defunct Tandem which is now La Follette. Alcohol 14%. The color was a light+ golden-yellow. The light maturing nose revealed heavy yellow fruit and wood notes. In the mouth there was a luscious mouthfeel of buttery, round yellow fruit with stood up with sweet spices and ripeness. Supported by integrated acidity there was a little toughness in the finish along with some toast notes in the aftertaste. A bit flamboyant. ** Now-2013.
2009 Fort Ross, Chardonnay, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – $35
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the new Fort Ross-Sea View AVA at altitudes of 1200-1700 feet. It is 65% old Hyde and 35% old Wente selections which underwent primary, malolactic, and 10 months aging in 30% new and 70% neutral French oak barrels. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a light golden straw which was slightly cloudy. The nose was light to medium with yellow fruit and wood. In the mouth there was yellow fruit at first with a wood note then a tropical bit with a lovely mouthfeel. There were spices, white peach, bright fruit, acidity, and a great mouthfeel. With air this wine remained round and supple from the start with glycerine texture and wood toast in the aftertaste. ***(*) 2013-2015.
We recently gathered at Lou’s house for a celebratory dinner. Though the house is in the last weeks of renovation Lou and Adriene were willing to host a small dinner attended by Jeannie, Nick, Jenn, and myself. While Lou set out cheeses, prepared both fresh and steamed oysters from Prince Edward Island, and seared Yellow Fin tuna, we all drank some wine and explored the renovation. No dinner with Lou would be complete without a Champagne starter, let alone a bottle from Weygant-Metzler, so I was thrilled to see a selection from Nathalie Falmet. At the Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines I tried and very much enjoyed the Cuvee Brut Nature and Cuvee Le Val Cornet.
NV Nathalie Falmet, Brut, Champagne
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. Disgorged 12 October 2010. There is a light color in the glass. In the mouth there is a good balance between the yeast and subtle ripe fruit with the perfect texture from the bubbles. Quite nice, drink this very good wine over the next several years. Jenn was thoroughly pleased by this Champagne.
2008 Varner, Chardonnay, Bee Block, Spring Ridge Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the 3.5 acre Bee Block featuring 24-year-old vines. It was barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation, and aged for 8 months in 30% new French oak barrel. There was a light golden color in the glass. The subtle nose made way to the fresh, yellow fruit with an unctuous mouthfeel that was not creamy. The refreshing acidity led to cool flavors in the aftertaste where flavors of minerals and toast persisted in the mouth. There were notes of “honey”. Very well-balanced. Unassuming and quiet, this very good wine will become even better with several years of age.
We moved on to the red wines with a Moroccan lamb shank entrée to accompany theme. Lou felt the entrée would work with the Chateauneuf du Papes wines. Indeed the two wines and entrée were aromatically sympathetic. He cooked in his temporary kitchen which was relocated into his living room with his new range sitting less than 20 feet away. Starved for counter space and burner space his almost illegally powerful new gas range surely would have let Lou sit down to taste the wines in a more timely fashion. Perhaps the heat of the kitchen primed Lou so we started with the Godolphin and Entre Deux Meres.
2005 Ben Glaetzer, Godolphin, Barossa Valley
Imported by Epicurean Wines. This wine is a blend of 80% Shiraz from 85-year-old vines and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from 60-year-old vines. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation in oak followed by 14 months of aging in 100% new oak of which 20% was American and 80% French. Appropriately enough 70% of the barrels were hogshead and 30% barrique. For a while the aromatic nose reminded both Jenn and I of soy sauce. In the mouth it was rich with fruit, roasted, and quite mouthfilling. The tarter red fruit had a lot of up front flavors with the tannins resolved. While this was a good, primary wine that could stand more aging, it was not my favorite profile.
2005 Drinkward Peschon, Entre Deux Meres, Napa Valley
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. A very opaque color with more garnet than the Godolphin. There was jammy fruit with a cedar note. The assertive flavors had sweet spice, a well-integrated feeling, and more cedar spice in the aftertaste. On the second night the wine was still tight but show steely, mineral flavored fruit with dark fruit notes and sweet spices in the finish and aftertaste. Tight but not dense. This good wine will undoubtedly improve with a more age. Jenn really liked it.
1998 Bosquet des Papes, Chateauneuf du Papes
Imported by Ginday. Typically a blend of 70% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, and 10% Cinsault sourced from 45-year-old vines. It was fermented in cement vats then aged for 12-18 months in old oak casks before resting in cement tanks before bottling. Though it bore a similar garnet color as the Marcoux it was a little cloudier. There was a cedar spiced nose. In the mouth it had a more mature profile, though still in good shape, with thinner flavors in the mouth. It has the personality of a classic Chateauneuf du Pape. This wine does not try to be amazing, thus it is complete in what it is. This good wine is fully mature but may be drunk over the next several years without decline.
1998 Domaine de Marcoux, Chateauneuf du Pape
No imported listed, recently acquired by MacArthurs. Typically a blend of 80% Grenache, 5% Cinsault, 5% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% other varietals sourced from 40-50 year old vines. The wine is fermented in stainless steel with 30% aged in stainless steel and 70% aged for 3 months in old oak casks and barrels. The vibrant color leads to a nose of riper fruit which is sweeter with gritty aromas of plum. In the mouth there is younger blue fruit with red fruit developing and ripe tannins in the aftertaste. On the second night it was drinking beautifully with young, fruity flavors, minerals, and an expansive, almost creamy finish. With spices in the aftertaste the ripe tannins are fine and coat the mouth. I would cellar this very good wine another five years.
2007 Chateau des Charmes, Late Harvest Riesling, Niagara on the Lake
This is 100% Riesling harvested in October. Our taxi cab had arrived so I quickly sampled this wine, hence the short note. A young nose followed by sweeter flavors showing more residual sugar than acidity. A bit simple and tilting towards unbalanced.
Last night I stopped by at Weygandt Wines for the monthly Food and Wine Bloggers night. Hosted by Tim O’Rourke with invitations sent out by Joon Song of Vinicultured, the event was attended by several bloggers, people in the business, and many wine lovers. The theme was a blind tasting and in the end there were 14 bottles of wine sourced from both the store and other places. I suspect two dozen people rotated through. To some degree everyone attempted to guess what they were drinking but that did not distract from social, talkative, enjoyment.
I enjoyed the range of wines with the Jean Francois Ganevat, Poulsard being the most unusual experience. Of the whites I enjoyed the 2010 Gerard & Pierre Morin, Sancerre along with the 2008 Heitz, Sauvignon Blanc. In terms of the red wines the 2010 Domaine Collotte is of good value, the 2002 Olga Raffault interesting, the 2007 Domaine Dugat-Py, Gevrey Chambertin was very drinkable, the 2009 Domaine les Aphillanthes needs to be revisited, and the 1995 Thunder Mountain was surprisingly good.
I have included my casual tasting notes. They are presented in the order in which the bottles were numbered but not necessarily tasted.
#1 – 2010 Gerard & Pierre Morin, Vieilles Vignes, Sancerre
This is imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This had a very light color. There was a light nose, grassy, and textured. In the mouth there were expansive flavors midpalate, note of stone, and acidity in the back of the mouth. Attractive. Not Rated.
#2 – 2010 Domaine Collotte, Cuvee de Noble Souche, Burgundy
This is imported by Weygandt-Metzler. A young color of ruby with purple tinge. I thought this was Gamay! The nose had notes of pepper and with time developed a good perfume. There were some gravelly flavors and fine tannins. Not Rated.
#3 – Jean Francois Ganevat, Poulsard, Cuvee de l’enfant terrible, Cotes du Jura
This is a Jeffrey Alpert Selection. This was a garnet-orange color. Fizzy when poured it sported a foxy nose. Quite unique with piercingly high acidity and citrus notes. Interesting but not my preference, probably better with food. Not Rated.
#4 – 2002 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon
This is imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. It is made from Cabernet Franc grown on soils of limestone and clay. A garnet color showing some age. A perfumed nose, good red fruit, some stemmy forest wood flavors. Not Rated.
#5 – 2010 Chateau de la Bonneliere, Rive Gauche, Chinon
This is imported by Weygandt-Metzler. A grapey color. Young Cabernet Franc flavors with plenty of supporting acidity. Not Rated.
#6 – 2007 Domaine Dugat-Py, Vieilles Vignes, Gevrey-Chambertin
This is imported by Weygandt-Metzler. A garnet color. The slightly earthy nose is richer. But the body was slight with precise, elegant flavors, tannins, and lots of acidity. Not Rated.
#7 – 2009 Domaine les Aphillanthes, 1921, Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau
This is imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is mostly Grenache sourced from a parcel planted in 1921. A nose of black fruit and some pencil lead. Very ripe, powdery fruit, a little spice, grapey tannins in finish. Quite different from the other reds, powerful, I found this overbearing at first but when I revisited it later the wine had shaken off the baby fat and showed structure. Not Rated.
#8 – 2003 Edmunds St. John, Rocks and Gravel
This blend is roughly 35% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 30% Mourvedre. The nose was quite sweet like a rich vanilla-cake with a dash of spice. The nose was quite different from the body which was quite restrained. Not Rated.
#9 – 2008 Heitz Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
This was enjoyable and drinkable with citrus flavors, decent body, and some concentration. Not Rated.
#10 – 1995 Thunder Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bates Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains
This was an aged garnet color. A very pretty nose, lifted and complex with mature aromas but it ended with a vegetal note. In the mouth it was crisp, precise, and had an enjoyable texture. I thought it was Austrian! Not Rated.
#11 – 2004 Chateau de Valcombe, Prestige, Costieres de Nimes
This is imported by Robert Kacher. The wine is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache. I found a nose of old ladies perfume with flavors of wet cardboard and very fine tannins. I did not like this. Not Rated.
#12 – 2010 Domaine Croix des Marchands, Fraicheur Perlee, Gaillac
This is imported by First Vine. The wine is a blend of 34% Mauzac, 33% Muscadelle, and 33% Loin de l’Oeil sourced from 30-year-old vines. Unfortunately, I did not taste this bottle. Not Rated.
#13 – 2004 James Judd & Sons Vineyards, Malbec Verdot, Paso Robles
This is a blend of 75% Malbec and 25% Petite Verdot. The 2005 was aged for 22 months in American, French, and Hungarian oak barrels. I found this overblown and hot, not my style. Not Rated.
#14 – 2008 Blenheim Vineyards, Blenheim Farm Petit Verdot, Monticello
This smelled like bleach in my glass. After I dumped it the glass took on aromas of tobacco and dried herbs. Not Rated.