Howell Mountain Spring Wine Tasting

We recently attended a Howell Mountain trade tasting in San Francisco called Above the Fog. It was an enjoyable tasting hosted by the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association at the Golden Gate Club. 2012 and 2013 wines were featured, some producers pouring 2010, 2011 and older. In general, 2012 Napa Valley Cabernets tend to be big full bodied wines that will show well young. In contrast, 2012 Howell Mountain are lighter bodied and more restrained. 2013 is looking to be an exceptional vintage for nearly all of the Napa Valley.

The standout producer of this tasting was KrisTodd. Their wines were fantastic and we highly recommend them. It is our first time tasting their wine, no track record, but the quality of what they poured was exceptional. The following are all wines tasted that best represent the three things we look for (Balance, Complexity, and Ageworthy).

Highly Recommended:

2012 Howell at the Moon Cabernet
2011 KrisTodd Vineyards Cabernet
2009 KrisTodd Vineyards Cabernet
2012 La Jota Vineyard W.S. Keyes Merlot
2012 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet
2011 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah
2012 W.H. Smith SOLO Blend

Recommended:

2012 Arkenstone Obsidian Cabernet Blend
2010 Bravante Vineyards Reserve
2013 Cakebread Cellars Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet
2012 Cimarossa Rive di Cimarossa Cabernet
1992 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet
2010 Howell at the Moon Knoll Vineyard Cabernet
2012 La Jota Cabernet
2012 Prim Family Cabernet

We enjoyed Howell Mountain Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style blends the most, Merlot showed less complexity. Cheers to the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association for a very enjoyable tasting.

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
https://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Taste of Oakville 2014

Several months ago, we attended Taste of Oakville 2014. As one of our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon regions in the world, it was a pleasure to attend this event. This year, the wines featured were primarily from the 2011 vintage allowing the taster to get a good perspective on Oakville wines from top producers. As always Robert Mondavi Winery did a world class job hosting the event!

As with a few previous years, we were fortunate to attend the Master Class. It was a highly educational seminar where the panel explored climate differences through the years, their impact on the wines, and steps the vineyards took to adjust throughout the season. Complimenting the session, wines were poured from 2005 to 2012 with slides and discussion showing rain and heat levels per month through the year.

While it was not possible to try every wine during the tasting, the most notable ones follow. They are not sorted in order of preference. If a wine is not listed, we either did not taste the wine, or found it did not show as well as others.

Exceptional Wines

2012 Entre Nous Sauvignon Blanc
2010 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Opus One
2011 Screaming Eagle
2011 Screaming Eagle Second Flight

Very good Wines

2004 Bond St Eden
2004 Bond Vecina
2011 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Detert Family Cabernet Franc
2011 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Flora Springs Holy Smoke Cabernet Sauvignon
2000 Harlan Estate
2011 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 O’Shaughnessy Chardonnay
2009 Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Rudd Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Saddleback Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

Like other trade tastings we have attended, sample sizes are small and quick judgements are made under not the most ideal circumstances. Having tasted these wines many times over through the years, can reasonable access each wine for obvious qualities. In tasting wine for potential purchase or further evaluation, we value balance, complexity, and age worthiness, in general, a wine that makes a statement on the nose, mid-palate and finish will catch our attention.

Overall, the 2011 vintage was a challenging one for California Cabernet relative to those of the past 5 years. Like most difficult vintages, there will always be exceptions, however in 2011, greater care than normal should be exercised in selecting wines for long term cellaring.

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
https://www.santarosafinewine.com/

1989 Bordeaux Lunch

As many local San Francisco area wine drinkers are well aware, we are fortunate to have a world class butcher in close proximity. Flannery Beef arguably sells some of the best steak in the country. And to add to this well deserved distinction, some of the best Burgers too! For a tasting of 1989 Bordeaux we hosted, that is exactly what was served, world class hamburgers. The owner of Flannery Beef, Bryan is always helpful in coming up with the perfect blend, in this case 25% Prime Filet Tail, 25% Wagyu Short Ribs, 25% Prime Hanger Steak, and 25% Dry Aged Ends. It lent a near perfect compliment to the wines of the afternoon.

Ten of us were in attendance and all bottles pop and pour. Did not take notes at the time, but have some fond recollections the following day. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. Brief Tasting observations follow:

White Starter Wines – The Roulot was top wine of a flight where all were quite enjoyable but stylistically different. Found it balanced, round, easy drinking and slightly fuller bodied than the others. In contrast, the Bouchard was tight, mineral, saline, and youthful. It will continue to age well. The crowd favorite was the Boillot, also young and very nice drinking. Finally, the Latour Corton Charlemagne, more toned down, little more yeasty and lighter bodied.

2004 Roulot Meix Chavaux
2008 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne
2005 Henri Boillot Clos de la Mouchere
2004 Latour Corton Charlemagne

House Wine – Opened from an imperial, a glass was dedicated to the wine and essentially bottomless as we got the opportunity to taste through the entire lunch. A gorgeous Mouton, showed textbook earth, dark fruit up front, red on the finish with the most delightful menthol quality intermixed in a seamless great drinking wine. Has all the great attributes of an exceptional wine, truly exceptional balance and complexity. It opened up quickly, and maintained a consistent style through the end of the bottle. A close tie with the Latour as wine of the afternoon.

1989 Mouton Rothschild

Starter Red – A great start before moving onto flights. Might add, it was a surprise. Was not expecting much prior to opening, but turned out to be big, lots of high end fruit, and showed on the youthful side. That said, would not hesitate to open a bottle and enjoy in the near term. A wine you want to open and enjoy over a long evening. The most full bodied of all wines opened.

1989 Leoville Barton

Flight 1 – 1989 Lynch Bages has always been a personal favorite wine of ours having tasted it many times over the years. Consider the 89, 90, and 00 Lynch Bages their best efforts in the past few decades. This bottle was particularly youthful and showed layer after layer of complexity. Subtle leather, tobacco and dark fruits. The Cos d’Estournel was lovely, but overshadowed by the Lynch Bages. More restrained, underbrush and closed. Suspect with more time in the glass, would put on weight.

1989 Lynch Bages
1989 Cos d’Estournel

Flight 2 – My least favorite flight of the afternoon, both did not show very complex. The mid palate was there, but did not have a standout nose or memorable finish. The wines probably suffered to some degree based on the quality of the previous wines. A fun curiosity none the less from two producers we have never tasted before. Both were open knit and could be opened and enjoyed in the near term.

1989 Chateau La Rose-Pourette
1989 Chateau de Fieusal

Flight 3 – Always excited to see a Chateau Latour on the table, this wine did not disappoint. The Latour and Mouton were our two favorite wines of the evening, Lynch Bages and Leoville Las Cases close seconds. The Latour was youthful and clearly needs more cellar age. Found it superior to the 1990 Latour tasted on other occasions. Perfect balance, complexity and structure, zero signs of decline. Another stunning wine, the Leoville Las Cases showed true to the producer style. Medium bodied, gritty, earth and nuanced. While you should continue to cellar age the Latour, the Leoville Las Cases was more approachable.

1989 Latour
1989 Leoville Las Cases

Finish Wines – The TBA was gorgeous, perfectly resolved, could not have asked for a better end of meal wine. Round, full bodied, honey, and a delightful freshness that made it appear far younger than 1971. Prior to the TBA, tasted a equally gorgeous Wittmann Riesling. The depth and complexity of this wine was outstanding. Sadly, Wittmann has limited availability in the US, and the country is missing one of the truly great producers of German Riesling.

1971 Ungsteiner Honigsackel Trockenbeerenauslese,
2009 Wittmann Morstein Riesling GG

Bordeaux from 1989 are in a good place generally speaking. Classically styled, was impressed with the wines overall. And cheers to no flawed bottles!

Nick Wittmann
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
https://www.santarosafinewine.com/

 

California Syrah

We recently got together with wine drinking friends in Sonoma to enjoy an evening of California Syrah. Our reference point for exceptional California Syrah has always been the wines of Sine Qua Non. Over the last few years however, we have become increasing interested in those coming out of the Las Madres Vineyard in Carneros. Vie, Eric Kent, Myriad and Apsara have year after year made fantastic wines that are not only enjoyable, but highly affordable. The night was a treat for us as we got a chance to try several wines never tasted before.

Given the number of wines, and the pace tasted, observations are a quick snapshot impression. In this type of tasting, generally gives us a sense of whether it is a producer we should keep an eye on to establish a track record for future purchases. Brief observations follow. All wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

White Wine of the Night – 2008 Domaine William Fevre Preuses
Red Wine of the Night – 2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah

Starter Wines – Of the two white wines, the Preuses was the standout. Some initial funk on the nose that blew off quickly, a crisp, balanced, and youthful good drinking Chablis. Nothing out of place, drank very well. The Wayfarer Chardonnay was a completely different taste profile, youthful and floral, a good everyday drinking Chardonnay. The Wayfarer Pinot was ripe, creamy and one dimensional, not a very good showing.

2008 Domaine William Fevre Preuses
2012 Wayfarer Chardonnay
2012 Wayfarer Pinot Noir

Syrah Flight 1 – The 2011 Apsara was spectacular, easily our wine of the night. Tasted at the beginning and end of the evening, was the most balanced, complex and interesting wine. Showed consistent to previous tastings, clean blue and black fruits, oily texture, and fantastic structure. A wine that should age and improve for a considerable length of time. A close second of the evening was the Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah. It held true to the cold climate, Las Madres profile. A perfectly balanced and nuanced wine. Sadly, the Lois Rae was badly corked.

2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah
2011 Eric Kent Las Madres Syrah
2011 Lois Rae Las Madres Syrah

Syrah Flight 2 – Our first time tasting Sonklin Cellars wines, It was fun to compare three vintages in a row. 2010 was our favorite. Round, balanced and approachable. Found it a nice easy drinking Syrah. Styllistically different, enjoyed the 2011 next with its very expressive nose. Finally, the 2009. It was tight at first and appeared to be lean and disjointed. After tasting later in the evening, think it was simply shutdown and needed a good bit of air to open up.

2010 Sonkin Cellars Persona
2011 Sonkin Cellars Persona
2009 Sonkin Cellars Persona

Syrah Flight 3 – A more challenging flight, found the wines “interesting”. The Kale was ok, earthy and medium bodied. The Alban, barrel sample like and showed potential up front, shortly thereafter, heat took center stage. Did not spend as much time with the Campesino as we would have liked given food served. The wine maker is very likeable, a wine we need to revisit over a long evening to fully and fairly evaluate.

2011 Kale Syrah
2006 Alban Pandora
2011 Campesino Syrah

Syrah Flight 4 – Another challenging flight, probably my least favorite of the evening. The Kale and Rhys came across overripe with plum/prune qualities we did not find particularly appealing. In contrast to the Kale and Rhys, the Thirty Seven was brighter, but nothing of note captured our attention. With a personal bais toward the cooler climate Syrahs, was not gravitating toward the later wines / flights as I had hoped.

2010 Kale Syrah
2007 Thirty Seven Syrah
2008 Rhys Syrah

Syrah Flight 5 – Both wines showed somewhat similar to the previous flight from a taste profile standpoint. The Peidrasassi was the more dense of the two wines. This and the previous two flights suffered a bit due to food at the table, and to a certain extent, personal stylistic preference. Have never found value in wines that lean in a plum, prune, and raisin direction.

2011 Herman Story Syrah
2007 Peidrasassi Mr Smith Syrah

Syrah Flight 6 – The Favia left an immediate positive impression. Bright clean blue fruits, was a nice very well made wine. In time, picked up a sweetness that was a touch off putting but did not perceive it as much, the longer it sat in the glass. Would be a good producer to revisit. Have had some excellent Favia in the past. In contrast to it, the Copain was dusty and lean. Did not particularly enjoy this wine.

2007 Favia Syrah
2006 Copain Syrah

A fun evening sampling a lot of wines we do not regularly drink, but perhaps should!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Premiere Napa Valley 2014

This past weekend we attended Premiere Napa Valley. It is an all trade wine event where wineries offer special auction lots showcasing some of the best the area has to offer. This year, the 2012 vintage was the focus from barrel. The vast majority of producers showed either their 2010 or 2011 in bottle. Our future purchases are highly influenced by PNV and similar trade tastings. Given small sample sizes and the number of wines tasted, observations have to be put into the right context, a quick impression based on an experienced wine palate. What follows are some of the events we attended and brief observations.

Premiere Napa Valley Barrel Tasting – A great opportunity to talk with winemakers and taste special lots of the 2012 vintage. It is an early preview of the upcoming vintage. For us, the top lot tasted was the exceptional 2012 Inglenook Cabernet. It is a modern wine made in an old school style. Balance, structure and complexity, this will be a great wine when it hits maturity. If this turns out to be the new house style of Inglenook, suspect the producer will rival the best you will find anywhere in the Napa Valley. While so many producers are have long since moved to a riper drink young style of wine, find it highly refreshing that Inglenook may be going back to its roots of age worth, highly complex and exciting wines. Will follow them with great interest. Our second favorite wine was the Volker Eisele. Also an age worthy complex wine, bigger fruit than I am use to with the producer, however, no question, an exceptional wine. While we tasted a lot more wines than those listed, the following is a list of the most memorable sorted in order of personal preference.

2012 Inglenook Cabernet
2012 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet
2012 Favia Red Wine
2012 Freemark Abbey York Creek Cabernet
2012 Shafer Vineyards Sunspot Cabernet
2012 Scarecrow Toto’s Opium Dream
2012 Joseph Phelps Backus Cabernet
2012 Keever Cabernet
2012 Barbour Wines Cabernet
2012 Jones Family Cabernet
2012 Ovid Cabernet
2012 Nickel and Nickel John C. Sullenger Cabernet
2013 Grgich Hills Old Vine Carneros Chardonnay
2012 Robert Mondavi To Kalon Cabernet
2012 Madrigal Family Winery Cabernet
2012 Chappellet Vineyard Red Wine
2012 Duckhorn Three Palms Cabernet
2012 Beringer VIneyards Howell Cabernet
2012 Louis M Martini Cabernet
2012 Foley Johnson Cabernet
2012 Paraduxx Red Wine
2012 Clos du Val Stags Leap Cabernet

Multi-Vintage Perspective and Retrospective Tasting – A fantastic event where numerous 1984, 1994 and 2004 wines were tasted double blind. At the same location was another double blind tasting of the same producer from 2009, 2010, 2011. Before reveal, the 1984 Shafer Hillside Select showed better than any wine in the entire tasting. Thought it was a 1984 Caymus Estate Cabernet, very similar. In a perfect place right now. Second was a 1984 Schramsberg Vineyards Reserve Sparking Wine and third, a 1994 Beringer Private Reserve. Interesting enough, the best 2009, 2010, 2011 flight was the Shafer Hillside Select.

1984 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet
1984 Schramsberg Vineyards Reserve Sparking Wine
1994 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet
1994 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet
1984 Sterling Reserve Merlot

Atelier Melka Portfolio Tasting – A well put together tasting at Meadowood, found the wines collectively some of the most enjoyable ones of all the tastings. As in previous years, thought the 2011 Entre Nous came out as the top Cabernet. 2011 Melka Metisse was also a great drinking wine, followed by the 2010 Brand. Blended wines generally showed superior to 100% Cabernet, a theme that repeated itself through out other tastings. No disappointments among any of the wines tasted.

2011 Entre Nous Cabernet
2011 Melka Metisse
2010 Brand Cabernet

Stags Leap District House of Cab – Have attended the Stags Leap District tasting the past few years. Unfortunately, it was a shorter than normal stay due to a tight tasting schedule. Did not get a chance to try the majority of wines we had wanted. Notable wines by Stags Leap, Regusci and Cliff Lede.

2010 Stags Leap Fay Cabernet
2005 Stags Leap Cabernet
2011 Cliff Lede Poetry

 Cliff Lede Open that Bottle Night – Always a fun event, guests bring special bottles from their cellar to share with attendees. We brought a 1973 Joseph Swan Pinot, 1985 Groth Cabernet and 1985 Duckhorn Merlot, all of which showed very well. Food provided by Rosso, enjoyed along side some enjoyable Pizza! The 1988 Mouton was gorgeous and 1998 Mouton the bigger wine. The 1990 and 1987 both also showed very well.

1988 Mouton
1998 Mouton
1990 Mouton
1987 Mouton
1989 Mouton
1977 Joseph Swan Pinot
1990 Rostaing Cote Rotie
1985 Groth Cabernet
1985 Duckhorn Merlot

First Taste Yountville – A smaller trade and attendee turnout than normal, found a few nice wines. Our top tasting wine was the 2009 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet. Also memorable was the 2011 Dominus, Napanook and Casa Piena Cabernets.

2009 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet
2011 Dominus
2011 Napanook
2010 Casa Piena Cabernet

Chateau Boswell Annual Premiere Party – First time attending this tasting, a very nice collection of good drinking wines. Across the board, Bevan Cellars had the more terrific wines, especially the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. Since tasting their 2007 Bevan Cellars Cabernet, have considered this a producer / winemaker to keep an eye on. True to form, they have consistently produced high quality wine since, and likely will long into the future. The second most memorable wine was the 2011 Hudson Chardonnay, nothing short of stunning.

2012 Bevan Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
2011 Hudson Chardonnay
2011 Barbour Cabernet
2011 Corra Cabernet

Shafer Tasting – Attended this tasting several times over the last few years, and it is a great opportunity to taste past and current release Shafer Hillside Select. One of our favorite California Cabernet Producers, in order of personal preference, enjoyed the 07, 04, 05, 10 and 06. Have tasted these wines many times (with the exception of 2010). All showed consistent. The only wine that continues to show itself in an awkward state is the 2006. Despite 2010 being a challenging year, the  2010 Shafer Hillside Select was exceptional.

2007 Shafer Hillside Select
2004 Shafer Hillside Select
2005 Shafer Hillside Select
2010 Shafer Hillside Select
2006 Shafer Hillside Select

Overall Impressions:

* The 2012 vintage is a big improvement over the more challenging 2011 and 2010 vintage. For Napa Valley California Cabernet, loosely rank vintage preference from best to least favorite: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2008, 2011, and 2006.

* 2012 appears to show a lot in common with the 2008 vintage. Generally the fruit was on the ripe and fresh side. Think they will generally be drink young wines, flashy in their youth, and have shorter than normal drinking windows.

* Among bottled wines, found blends consistently showing superior to straight 100% Cabernets. Of course, many 100% Cabernets were fine, but given tough growing conditions, the addition of Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot helped round out and balance wines.

* For those who appreciate old school age worthy Cabernet, our conversation and tasting of the Inglenook barrel sampling was an eye opener. One of the most unique and standout wines of the tastings. A producer that appears to be taking serious steps in a new direction to the delight of those that value what California once was. We are thrilled and excited to see how their wines develop over time.

Cheers to the Napa Valley Vintners Association and all the contributing Napa Valley Wineries for putting on a great event!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Burgundy Lunch

At the end of the year, we like to get together with close friends in San Francisco to share high end Burgundy! We often treat this meal as an opportunity to big deep into our cellars and share special bottles. As a relatively small group, pours were generous offering the opportunity to revisit frequently during the afternoon. Did not take detailed notes at the time, but some observations follow. Wines are sorted in order of vintage and none were decanted.

Champagne Flight

1989 Krug Collection – Mature, ripe fruit with toasted butterscotch. As the wine sat in the glass, the butterscotch component got more pronounced. Typically, would associate butterscotch with an overly oxidized wine, but it worked for this wine. Could not help but think it would have made a perfect end of meal wine!

1990 Krug – Very youthful, crisp, well balanced, a gorgeous drinking wine that remained relatively consistent from start to finish. Thought the wine showed very well, better than the last time tasted. Fresh, some citrus, this bottle suggested no rush to open. Only after hours in the glass did it begin to show its age.

White Burg Flight

1998 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues Batard Montrachet – Sadly, a corked bottle. At first, seemed like it was tight and shutdown, corkiness on the nose, but not the palate, but quickly got worse. Fruit was sapped, cardboard nose, and hint of sulfur remained.

2000 Domaine d’ Auvenay Auxey-Duresses – One of the best white burgundies we have tasted in years! Had it been served blind, would have guessed a Coche Dury. Flinty nose, rich yeasty, highly complex palate, and a lengthy citrus finish. It kept giving back more and more the longer it sat in the glass. The wine was youthful, highly balanced, good level of acidity, and will continue to improve with additional cellaring. Days after the tasting, still thinking about the wine it was that good!

2004 Bouchard Montrachet – A more open round Montrachet, thought it pretty, floral and feminine. Acid lurked in the background but fruit was forward. Had this wine young. Back then, it was completely shut down, nearly impossible to access. A lovely wine. No rush to open, but suggest it will not improve considerably with additional cellar aging.

Wine Intermission

1969 Louis Latour Santenay – A little blind surprise intermission wine before transitioning to the red flight. The Latour was toned down, with plenty of earth and mineral. No signs of oxidation. Have tasted very few Santenay, the last being an exceptional 1983 Pierre Bouree Santenay Les Gravieres. The Latour showed very well.

Red Burg Flight

1985 Vogue Musigny – Similar to the Latour, tight and compact dark fruits, good firm acidity in balance with the fruit. Loved the wine, styllistically very different than the two Leroy. A lightbulb went off tasting this wine how really good mature Musigny tastes. Delicate, clean and more beautiful the longer it sat in the glass.

1990 Domaine Leroy Boudot – A good, rich, full bodied wine with copious amounts of blue and black fruit. Found the wine to be mature, structure buried under the fruit. Kept expecting it to give more in the way of complexity, remained consistent from start to finish. No rush to open, will age gracefully for years.

2001 Domaine Leroy Fremieres – Found the wine strikingly similar to the Boudot, rich blue and black fruit, however far more acidity and tannic structure. The better of the two Leroy, this wine will benefit with additional cellar aging. Thought it showed very well, a delightful wine.

Sauternes

1990 d’Yquem – Was not particularly blown away by the 90 d’Yquem. The wine has not come together, not a seamless wine like the 95. Perhaps it is too young and unresolved, did not find the wine particularly appealing on this or other ocassions.

1995 d’Yquem – Enjoyed the 95 d’Yquem a great deal this time, and when other bottles were tasted. Since the 88, one of the best modern vintages of d’Yquem.

Cheers to a spectacular afternoon and fine wine, food and world class company!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

2013 BV Annual Older Vintage Tasting

Recently we attended Beaulieu Vineyards Older Vintage Tasting. As someone who has sampled nearly every vintage of Georges de Latour since the mid-1960s, it is always a treat to revisit several older wines from this iconic producer to see how they are holding up over time.

For this tasting, pour sizes were limited, no notes were taken during the actual tasting. Having had the wines so many times, was a relatively straight forward assessment given previous data points. Brief impressions follow the day after the tasting:

1973 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – The best showing of the 1973 we have tasted to date. Some bricking, carmel, butterscotch and light bodied fruit well in balance. The finish is mature and subtle, a good showing for the wine.

1975 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – The same taste profile as the 1973 however a little more density to the fruit. Fully mature, it has held together beautifully and drinking well now. Do not expect it to improve with cellar age, enjoyable now and many years forward.

1981 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – The most mature drinking of all the wines tasted, and from a challenging vintage, the wine showed more oxidative qualities than the 1973 and 1975. Rounder in style, it should be opened in the near future.

1986 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – A fun wine, have always loved the 1986. This bottle did not disappoint. I kept the sample in my glass a little longer than other samples. Had some funkiness up front that blew off quickly and turned into a beautiful well balanced wine. This wine will continue to age gracefully for years.

1990 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – My favorate Georges de Latour of the tasting, found this one textbook 1990 California Cabernet. Bigger fruit, more leather and game, perfect balance, a wine that will keep giving back new dimensions the longer you drink it over time.

2006 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – 2006 and 2008 have been two of our least favorite vintages of the last few decades, BV however is one of those rare exceptions to the rule. A fantastic wine, delicate, restrained and consisent. Think the wine will turn into something special with additional cellar aging.

Along with the Georges de Latour, tasted several of the Clone wines we do not have a long of track record of tasting, but certainly found them noteworthy.

1997 Beaulieu Vineyards Clone 4 Reserve Cabernet – An excellent vintage, 1997 is always challenging to access because most of the top California wines are just starting to come around now. This wine was no different, tight and restrained. A good wine to revisit in a few years and see how it is coming around.

1999 Beaulieu Vineyards Clone 6 Reserve Cabernet – Round fruit, easy drinking, a pleasant wine. No signs of oxidation, but mature and ready to drink.

2004 Beaulieu Vineyards Clone 4 Reserve Cabernet – Next to the 1990 Georges de Latour, the top wine of the tasting. Impeccable balance, subtle nuanced characteristics, excellent medium bodied fruit, would love to sit down over a long evening.

When we reflect back on all the BV wines tasted over the years, cannot help but consider them one of the original California Cults, in the likes of Heitz Martha, Montelena, Caymus and a few other long time producers.

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com

 

 

Macaroni California Wine Lunch

Being part of a good wine tasting group is one of the great pleasures of being a wine connoisseur. You share good wine, food, company and conversation with like minded folks regularly over a long afternoon or evening. As someone in the wine business, there is the additional benefit of developing wine data points over time. Sometimes these data points show a trend having revisited in the past, at other times, a first experience. In this particular case, it was a lot of first experiences. The theme was all California, a somewhat uncommon theme given this group, many of which frequent the Sonoma and Napa Valley but have decidely European palates. As with other tasting notes, wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. None of the wines were decanted, and none showed any flaws. Given a smaller group, there was plenty of opportunity to revisit wines over the span of the afternoon

Chardonnay Flight

2004 Walter Hanzel Cahill Lane Chardonnay – Not your typically California Chardonnay, have become increasingly more interested in Walter Hanzel wines the more we taste. Reminiscent of a Domaine Lefliave, noted a highly appealing flinty nose, rich but not over the top fruit, and a subtle citrus finish. Will benefit with additional age, but could easily be enjoyed now.

2009 Aubert Lauren Chardonnay – A wine that could not be more different than the Hanzel, big forward fruit, exotic tropical fruits, yeasty, but also one dimentional. Start of the bottle to end, maintained a consistent taste profile that was good and decidedly Californian. Think the Aubert suffered a bit next to the exceptional Hanzel, nonetheless, a well made easy drinking Chardonnay.

Pinot Intermission

2001 Rochioli West Block Pinot – At first, thought the wine was lean and charmless. With time in the glass, far more interesting and expressive. Think it was just shutdown and needed more time to come around. Tight and compact, would definitely benefit with more cellar aging. It was challenging to access after the Aubert.

California Cab Flight 1

1984 Stags Leap SLV Cabernet – The wine of the afternoon, the Stags Leap was nothing short of stunning. Perfectly mature with no signs of decline, full bodied without being a fruit bomb, structure that lightly presents itself in the background adding character without distracting. A refined, balanced and complex wine made in an old school Calfiornia style. Astute customers reading this blog might realize we have ten bottles left in stock, and from the same case as this bottle sampled.

1985 Joseph Phelps Eisele Cabernet – Another outstanding Cabernet, the Joseph Phelps showed far more youthful than the Stags Leap. This wine easily took an hour plus to even begin to show the slight beginning of its full character. Dark fruit, menthol, and highly balanced. It is a shame that Joseph Phelps let this vineyard get away, they did an exceptional job with Eisele. If opened in the near term, best to enjoy over a long evening as it will likely change considerably over time.

California Cab Flight 2

1996 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet – A clean, textbook mid 90’s California Cabernet. There was nothing out of place with this wine. Have sampled quite a few 96 California Cabernet, and this was typical of the vintage, has been ready to drink for years and will remain so for many years to come. Very enjoyable.

NV Stags Leap Golden Rectangle – First time having tasted this wine, big fruit made in a modern California style, however, lacking the heat that sadly has become all to common. The wine did show a good bit of oak, a little more than I would typically appreciate, there was ample tannin to carry this wine on for many years. An age worthy wine that would benefit with additional cellaring.

A fun afternoon focused around the enjoyable wines of California!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Old School Wine Lunch

This weekend we hosted a wine lunch for a good friend visiting from Germany. The theme was loosely defined as old school California, but as luck would have it, evolved into old school wine from several regions. Five of us were in attendance with ample time to revisit the wines over the afternoon and early evening. Impressions of the wines follow, captured the day after the tasting and sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Starter Flight

2009 Wittmann Westhoven Morstein Trocken Riesling GG – Highly nuanced, yet rich tropical fruit with a dry age worthy backbone. This stunning Reisling was exceptional. Focused and a worthy addition to any cellar.

2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut – A lovely dry starter wine as guests arrived. It was crip and clean. The low / no dosage sparkling wine was chalky in texture and precise. A good palate cleanser to start the lunch.

Pinot Noir Flight

1982 Chalone Pinot – Have had the pleasure of drinking this wine several times in the past, and this bottle did not disappoint. Showed far more youthful than the 90 Burgundy with good minerality and delightful blue and red fruits. Balanced and complex, preferred it strongly over the Burgundy.

1990 Domaine Lecheneaut Les Damodes – Found this wine ok, not particularly great. Was in tough company next to the Chalone. Picked up primarily wet saddle leather and stale plum qualities that did not show balanced or complex. A simple straight forward Burgundy.

 Older Wine Flight

1925 Marques de Murrieta Casilillo Ygay Logrono Reserva Especial – A surprise wine served blind by our generous guest. Caramel, some butterscotch, deep rich dark chocolate and no distracting oxidative notes. On reveal, turns out it was a Rioja! Was highly surprised how well this extremely old wine held up. It drank beautifully, a flashy wine with a lot of character.

1966 Louis Martini Mountain Cabernet – Second time tasting the 66 Martini in the past few years, found this wine as good as the first. Youthful, balanced and highly age worthy. It kept giving layer after layer of complexity the longer it sat in the glass. No rush to open, will improve with additional bottle aging.

1974 Mayacamas Cabernet – Did not spent a lot of time with the Mayacamas, it was opened the previous day so just a small sample. Given it showed so well on day two with no signs of oxidation and balanced fruit, suspect it was exceptional on day one.

1987 California Flight

1987 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet – Have tasted this wine easily a dozen plus times over the years, and this was one of the best examples tasted to date! It remains a youthful, mind blowing wine. Pure fruit, highly structured, subtle menthol finish, textbook old school California Cabernet. Have long considered this one of the top California Cabernet made in the exceptional 1987 vintage.

1987 Philip Togni Cabernet – First time tasting the 1987 Togni, found it interesting. A very good wine that showed slightly on the leaner side, with a slight green streak. The wine did not show the depth of other 1987 vintage California Cabernet, went away thinking it was best to drink this particular wine sooner rather than later. Knowing the Togni style of wine, it is entirely possible the wine was simply shut down.

Finishing Wine

1958 Pontet Canet – An amazing old Bordeaux to end the evening. Not oxidized, fuller bodied than the two Cabernet, with an intoxicating mix of exotic spices, earth, game, and dark fruits. Noted light bricking, this well stored bottle was nothing short of delightful.

What was particularly notworthy about the evening was that none of the bottles were flawed! Given their age, might expect one or two off bottles. All showed at, or exceeded expectations for a well stored bottle. A delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, good food, wine and company!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Apsara Cellars

We recently got together with Robin Akhurst of Apsara Cellars. Apsara is a relatively new producer that makes very limited quantities of quality California Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. We met Robin at a Las Madres Vineyard Lunch a few years back and have kept in touch since. He was generous to share with us several current release wines. No question, they are very well made, and might add, very reasonably priced!

2012 Apsara Sauvignon Blanc – Light green tint to the color with a green apple nose and palate. It is crisp and clean, a textbook California Sauvignon Blanc, crafted with a hint of sulfur on the nose we found appealing. One of the better Sauvignon Blanc we have tasted in some time.

2010 Apsara Las Madres Syrah – Initially, the wine showed very tight and wasn’t revealing much. As it sat in the glass however, began to pickup a pleasant floral nose and cranberry red fruit palate. Revisiting the wine hours later, an interesting transformation took place and started to note blue fruits. A few additional hours after that, it took on an oily black olive quality. Rarely do we hold a wine over until the next day, but did so in this case, and it still drank very well. Plenty of structure remained, fruit still in a great place, think the wine could hold its own open a few more days! Overall, cannot say enough positive things about this wine. Incredible value, excellent balance, good complexity and notable age worthiness.

2011 Apsara Las Madres Syrah – At first, thought it a strong contrast to the 2010, showed more ripe fruit initially, and lower acidity. With some time in the glass, it showed more structure. Hours later, noted similar blue fruits as the 2010, and again, hours after that, the black olive component became more predominate. The fruit was dark and round, not as dense as the 2010 but still well integrated. On day two, structure still existed, the fruit softened, yet remained approachable. 2011 was a pretty challenging year for growers and winemakers, this is clearly one of those producers that overcame the odds and put out a great drinking wine.

Apsara’s case production is very limited. The current release Sauvignon Blanc is 85 cases, and Syrah, 65 cases. Both cool climate Syrahs are well made, balanced, complex and age worthy. Really great drinking wines consistent if not superior to other Syrah tasted from the Las Madres Vineyard. Highly recommended and worth getting on their mailing list.

Apsara Website – www.apsaracellars.com

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com