Tag Archives: Joseph Phelps

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

Fine Wine Dinner at Cafe Castagna

This week, got together with a few friends at Cafe Castagna in SF to open up some wine with the goal of pulling something rare or exceptional from our respective cellars. What was particularly interesting about this dinner was that we opened quite possibly the best California wine I have ever tasted, a 1974 Joseph Phelps Insignia. I have had this bottle in my cellar for a few years now waiting for a special occasion to open, and this was the night.Four of us attended the dinner allowing for very generous pours, and the opportunity to fully explore how the wine developed in the glass over time. All wines were served pop and pour. Wine tasting notes follow from this highly memorable dinner, sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Grand Cru Chablis

2001 Raveneau Valmur – An awesome wine, immediately showed very tight and youthful. Acidity was prevalent, however well in check with the fruit. Some notable lemon citrus and subtle oyster shell, found the wine deep and complex. Over time, it very slowly opened up, and revisited the wine frequently over the approximately 4 to 5 hours tasted. One of the most reduced Raveneau I have tasted, could easily continue to age this wine for a significant period of time.

2001 Raveneau Blanchot – Floral, pretty, feminine nose, yet restrained on the palate initially. Had a highly interesting nutty quality to the wine, but not from oxidiation. After a little time in the glass, thought it mature, but hours into the tasting, kept giving up more power and complexity. When the wine hit its peak, noted a pleasant saline quality and custard like mouthfeel. Overall, the Blanchot was rounder, and perhaps flashier, but appreciated more the restrained power of the Valmur.

Rare California Cabernet

1974 Phelps Insignia – The best California Cabernet we have ever tasted! The color was deep, dark and youthful without any signs of bricking. On the nose and palate, a Bordeaux like quality of intense, silky, big dark fruits, mint and lightly floral. Clean and layered on the palate, had power without being overdone, and a stagging finish that was both seductive and structured. From first pour, through the end of the bottle, maintained a consistent style, yet gave layer after layer of complexity. A youthful wine that could be easily aged for decades. Wine of the night, and the most memorable California Cabernet experience I have ever had. A stellar absolutely perfect wine!

1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic – Similar to the Insignia, a very rare wine. Also like the Insignia, showed very Bordeaux like, though dryer and slightly more mature in contrast. It was served a touch warm which took away from the wine, but could still appreciate the underlying material. Also a dark fruit wine, more tart, and showed some bandaid brett, which was distracting to me, not as pronounced to others. Balance, structure and overall density of the wine was excellent. A very good wine!

Bordeaux from the 80’s

1986 Rausan Segla – Another gorgeous wine, showed far more gamey, barnyard and full bodied, with red raspberry fruit and a tomato paste like texture, without being vegital. Distinctly Bordeaux, had a consistent style throughout the bottle. No rush to open this wine, however if done, shows well immediately on opening. Enjoyed this wine slightly more than the Diamond Creek, but not as much as the Insignia.

1982 Lynch Bages – Expected a great deal more from the Lynch Bages. Relatively light bodied, with dry saddle leather, mineral, earth, and very firm acidity. The acidity seem to outweight the fruit, and did not come together in the time we drank through the bottle. The wine may have suffered being next to the Rausan Segla, as it was the most toned down wine of the evening. Based on this tasting, suspect the wine should not be opened for many more years to give it time to come together.

Mystery French Red

1986 Gruaud Larose – Served blind, clear it was a great Bordeaux. The Gruaud Larose had more in common styllistically with the Rausan Segla than the Lynch Bages. After the 1974 Insignia, the second most enjoyable bottle of the night. It was stunning, pencil lead, clean, yet big bold fruit, and forest floor, the wine was balanced, had plenty of depth and the complexity was exceptional. This was a youthful wine that opened up slowly in the glass, could easily age or enjoy in the near term.

This was both a fun and memorable wine dinner. Had everything we enjoy, a small group allowing ample pours, special wines you don’t drink or see everyday, excellent food, and of course, great company!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

San Francisco Trade Tasting

Attended a trade tasting in San Francisco recently where several nice wines were poured. Having tasted many of them in the past, was a good opportunity to revisit how the wines were aging. In a few cases, was surprised by a high quality wine we have never had before. In particular, referring to an awesome 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico and 1989 Penfolds Grange!

Pours at this particular tasting were relatively small, and only revisited a few of the wines later in the tasting. As a result, no attempt is made at detailed notes, nor ranking the wines in order of personal preference. Nearly all wines showed well, with special mention to the 1995 Krug, 1990 Latour, 1989 Penfolds Grange, and 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico! Brief observations follow.
Champagne

1995 Krug– Crisp, nutty, butterscotch and hazelnut, this was a gorgeous complex and youthful Krug that should be exceptional with a decade or more age.

White Wines

1991 Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree – Some diesel notes, a flat mouthfeel, and relatively fat on the palate. A fully mature good drinking wine.
2002 Leroy Meursault – Light bodied, some pleasant sweetness, little bit of flint, thought the wine was just ok, expected a little more from this solid producer.
2004 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay – Silky, intense citrus, moving toward a more creamy texture in time. A powerful and well put together Chardonnay.
Red Wines
1990 Chateau Latour – Initially orange rind, sweet, well rounded fruits, revisited later, and shutdown, showed far more tannin. A wine that will continue to improve with age.
1996 Chateau Margaux – More open knit and approachable than the Latour, black cherry fruit, floral, put on weight later in the tasting.
2005 Clos de Papes Chateauneuf de Pape – A very nice wine, big concentrated raspberry fruit, was drinking very well. Far more enjoyable than the Pagau.
2003 Pegau Chateauneuf de Pape Reserve – Have had this wine at least three or four times, have never found it enjoyable. Ripe concentrated plum and prune.
1997 Lisini Brunello di Montelcino Ugolaia – A disappointing wine, grassy, not a lot going on. Did not leave a positive impression.
1989 Vega Sicilia Unico – A young perfectly balanced wine, did not revisit later but suspect it could have easily rivaled any other wine in the tasting in time.
1990 Dominus – Soft, resolved, slightly green, but focused with pleasant mineral and dark fruits. A highly enjoyable well made wine.
1990 Opus One – Have had this wine 5 or 6 times, and this was one of the best showings, thick, ripe, cherry and raspberry fruits, showed far more open than on previous ocassions.
1998 Shafer Hillside Select – Huge wine, mint, black cherry, excellent balance, nice structure and continuing to age beautifully.
2000 Joseph Phelps Insignia – Big wine, similar to the Shafer Hillside, though not as complex. A nice wine with a strong mid palate presence.
1989 Penfolds Grange – Interesting transition on this wine, initially grassy, wheat, cherry and mint, not a thrilling wine, in time, big blue fruits and became exceptional.
2004 Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers – Candied bright red fruits, concentrated, thick full bodied Pinot, showed better on this occasion than other times tasted.
Sauternes
1990 Chateau d’Yquem – Peach, orange, and honey, this sweet, but nuanced wine showed very well, better than the 1986 in the same tasting, but not quite up to the 1988.
1986 Chateau d’Yquem – Orange rind, concentrated and age worthy, the 1986 tasted far younger than the 1990. Continue to age this wine.
Cheers to a very nice wine lineup!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Jemrose and Agharta Wine Dinner

This past Friday, had dinner with a few local friends at Estate Restaurant in Sonoma. Estate’s executive chef, Chris Jones did an exceptional job creating a special six course meal to pair with our wines. Estate is located just off the Sonoma Square and is a highly recommended restaurant in the Northern California Wine Country.

For this dinner, we were joined by two special guests. First was Jim and Glora Mack of Jemrose. Have had the pleasure of tasting their lineup the last few years, and always impressed with the high quality of their wines. Second was Dan and Gloria Schaefer of Audelssa / Agharta. This was the first opportunity I have had to taste their wines, and after the dinner, was equally impressed with their wine.

In terms of the wine, the last one listed in each flight was served blind. It was a more informal dinner, so detailed notes were not taken at the time, however some brief observations follow:

White Wine of the Night:
2003 Rochioli Rachael’s Chardonnay

Red Wine of the Night:
1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle

Starter Wine – The first wine of the evening was a wonderful 2007 Viognier from Jemrose Wines. One of the best Viogniers I have tasted in California, it was medium bodied, floral, and creamy with good acidity and exceptional balance.

2007 Jemrose Egret Pond Viognier

Chardonnay – An awesome flight, each Chardonnay was quite distinct from the others. The white wine of the flight, and night was an awesome 2003 Rochioli Rachael’s Chardonnay. Had more balance, complexity and nuanced components than the other wines. One of the few wines revisited, it remained consistent over the span of the evening. In contrast, the 2003 Aubert Quarry was more creme brulee, paraffin in style, with very firm acidity. Suggest aging this wine a few years before opening. The 2004 Walter Hansel had a petrol, flinty nose, and could have easily been mistaken for a White Burgundy, a very interesting wine.

2003 Rochioli Rachael’s Chardonnay
2003 Aubert Quarry Chardonnay
2004 Walter Hansel Chardonnay

Aged Cabernet – The 1981 Joseph Phelps Insignia and 1986 Groth Reserve were surprisingly similar. Both lean and light, menthol and a green, but appealing nonetheless with a little spice and earthiness. In contrast, the 1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour, was a big full bodied ripe Cabernet. Youthful in appearance, noted stewed raspberry fruit in a gorgeous drinking leathery and smoky wine. Considered the 1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour the wine of the flight.

1981 Joseph Phelps Insignia
1986 Groth Reserve
1974 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour

Cabernet/Blends – The 2006 Agharta Exhibit B was an amazing wine of the flight! A full bodied wine, that was highly complex and balanced. Noted dark fruits, chocolate, coffee and cigar. The 2006 Audelssa Reserve Cabernet was a nice drinking wine, clean and pure, but in difficult company next to the Exhibit B. In contrast, the 2005 Chateau d’Angludet Margaux was impossibly shut down. Initially the lightest wine in the group, slowly put on weight over time. While at first, the french wine was the least favorite wine in the flight, after some air, thought it second best.

2006 Audelssa Reserve Cabernet
2006 Agharta Exhibit B
2005 Chateau d’Angludet Margaux

Syrah/Grenache – The 1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle was wine of the flight. It was more nuanced and subtle than the powerful 2004 Agharta Syrah and 2006 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah. The 1989 Hermitage showed more minerality and earthiness, while the 2004 Agharta and 2006 Jemrose had huge, ripe, soaring fruit! All three wines showed very well, no question, the only difference being stylistic preference.

2004 Agharta Syrah
2006 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah
1989 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle

Dessert Wine – Similar to the Syrah and Cabernet flight, there was a distinct difference between the California and French wines. The Jemrose was a gorgeous wine, huge peach and citrus fruits, likewise, pure and clean. In contrast, the Doisy Vedrines was more mineral, subtle fruit, good acidity and balance that will carry the wine for many more years of aging. While enjoying both wines for very different reasons, slightly preferred the 2001 Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes.

2008 Jemrose Egret Pond Late Harvest Viognier
2001 Chateau Doisy Vedrines Sauternes

Websites:

Jemrose – http://www.jemrosewines.com/
Audelssa – http://www.audelssa.com/
Agharta – http://www.aghartawines.com/
Estate – http://www.estate-sonoma.com/

Cheers to our good friends at Jemrose, Audelssa, and Agharta! Cannot say enough good things about the quality of their wine, and highly recommend them to our customers!

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