Saturday, December 31, 2016

2010 Seven Hills Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, it's time to at last bid a fine farewell to 2016, and I must admit I have no idea where the last 12 months have gone!  But at least to help celebrate what was a pretty good year (now that it's over), I've decided to open up a nice bottle of wine that I found while updating my cellar list this past week, the 2010 Seven Hills Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon!  This wine is a special, limited production (only 82 cases) wine from the old vines at the Seven Hills Vineyard and the Fire Ridge Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.  So let's see if it was worth the wait!

The wine is an intense ruby color along the edges with a center of inky indigo.  The nose offers some stunning aromas of leather and rich black fruit, blackberries, cherries and cassis with a residual of green olive that lingers at the end.  The taste is absolutely stunning, with rich black fruit intermingled with some wonderful notes of cherry cola, anise and dark chocolate, which transition elegantly to some fantastic notes of olive spice that brings back images of a local Italian grocery in New York.  The finish is divine, with robust tannins providing a velvety mouthfeel and a supple, dry finish that seems to last a minute or more.

What a great wine, that is not surprising to be given reserve status by the winemaker.  I would rate this one as an easy 9.5, as it's arguably the best Cabernet I've had in all of 2016 (good to end on a high note)!  This is an ideal big steak wine, which is a good thing since my New Year's Eve dinner consists of a prime dry aged Angus Porterhouse that I bought at Eataly yesterday in Chicago, along with a big baked potato with sour cream and chives and some steamed orange cauliflower.  Cheers and best wishes for the New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2012 V. Sattui Vittorio's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

So as I mentioned in my post on my recent Napa Valley Wine Train experience, most of the wineries I visited could not ship to Indiana (it's a peculiar rule for my state, in that they won't allow direct shipments to consumers if a winery has a distributor in Indiana), but the last winery we visited was the exception, as V. Sattui only sells their wines from the winery, so you can't buy them in stores or restaurants.  Needless to say, I had some pent up demand and order a case to be shipped home, including tonight's wine, the 2012 Vittorio's Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon!  The vineyard is named for Dario Sattui's great grandfather, who founded the winery in 1885, and this sustainably farmed, organic Cabernet was blended with a bit of Petit Verdot (4%) to add a bit of depth to the final wine.  So let's see how this one stacks up!

The wine is a deep, inky purple color, just what you'd expect from a nice quality Cabernet.  The nose presents aromas of leather, oak and ripe berries that practically dare you to resist taking a sip.  The taste is taste is a rush of black cherry and raspberry that quickly transition to some complex mineral notes of dusty limestone midpalate.  The finish is long, smooth and bone dry, capping such a pleasant sipping experience.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's a very fine Napa Cabernet that would stack up with many of the more expensive wines in the valley, but this one was just $60 or less with a club discount.  This is a great steak wine, which is a good thing that I like steak!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a rare grilled prime ribcap steak with some grilled Brussels sprouts, asparagus, leeks and baby bok choy and some truffle mac & cheese, so yummy!  Cheers!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2012 Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot

Happy day after Boxing Day!  Yes, I am still on staycation and I'm still definitely in the Holiday mood.  Tonight I've taken it easy and decided to have a bottle of wine from a winery I visited on my recent Napa Valley junket, the 2012 Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot!

The wine is a deep ruby color at the edges leading to an inky black at the center.  The nose is a pleasant combination of leather, smoke and jammy red fruit, cherries, blackberries and plums.  The taste is a rush of ripe fruit that bombards your senses, at first sweet and then a bit tart, you have ample cherry and ripe berry flavors dancing in your mouth.  As the fruit subsides, you get a nice bit of earthy goodness, oak and dusty limestone, before you reach the climax of rather young yet mellow tannins that provide the foundation for the long, smooth and voluptuous finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, as it's a remarkably pleasant drinking Merlot that was also a terrific value at right around $20 at my local wine store.  This wine would be wonderful with a nice steak or roast, but tonight I'm sipping this after my wonderful dinner of leftovers from Christmas!  Cheers!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Napa Valley Wine Train Quattro Vino Tour!

Merry Christmas!  And for a special Christmas post, I've decided to share a wonderful wine experience I had a couple weeks ago.  Now, of course I like wine, but I also like trains, so combining them together is the best of both world.  Now last year I took my first trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train (see this post) on the "Ambassador Wine Tour" and since I was headed to San Francisco on business it seemed like a good idea to revisit the train (it's a perfect day trip from San Francisco as they arrange transportation to and from the Ferry Terminal).  When I called to make my reservation, I spoke to a wonderful lady who informed me of a new service, the "Quattro Vino" tour, where you go on a private car to visit four different wineries, with a small bites menu between each stop.  So here you are, live vicariously through my photos!

To start, this is a completely separate train than the traditional Napa Valley Wine Train, which goes from downtown Napa to Saint Helena.  Although this train follows much the same route, it is a separate private car, a restored early 20th Century heavyweight car, pulled by a GP-9 diesel locomotive.

The car is beautifully restored on the inside and there is a kitchen and chef to prepare the wonderful small bite menu (more on that in a little bit!).  The train then goes to four different wineries, hence "quattro vino."

The train departed right around 10:00 am.  On the way to our first stop, we were treated to a glass of sparkling wine and then the "breakfast" menu which consisted of a Greek yogurt and berry parfait with granola, brulee steel cut oatmeal and ciabatta topped with shaved pork, arugula pesto, carmelized onions, egg and manchego cheese.  Everything was delicious!

Soon we arrived at our first stop, the Robert Mondavi winery:

Within the tour, we saw some of the vineyard as well as Beniamino Bufano's "The Muse" which is arguably one of the most photographed sculptures in the valley.

Then we were treated to a tasting of a white and red wine in the grand cellar, so many barrels!  We had the chance to taste some of the 2012 Vintage of the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon that I reviewed a few weeks earlier.

Soon it was time to leave and head for our "lunch" course of small bites on the way to our next winery stop.  The lunch menu consisted of asparagus veloute with white truffle oil and a bibb lettuce salad with bleu cheese, fennel and apple crisp.  Again everything was delicious!

Then we found ourselves at Robert's brother Peter's winery, Charles Krug, the oldest operating winery in Napa Valley, founded in 1861.

We started with a taste of their Sauvignon Blanc, which I really liked, despite it not being a red wine!

We had some additional tastes of some very fine red wines in the upstairs tasting room this time.

Then we were back on the train for more bites and the next winery on the tour.

We enjoyed our main course, a choice of duck sausage with potato puree, grilled onions and sauternes apples, or what I chose, the seared halibut with fava, lentil and white bean ragout with saffron.

The next stop was Maryvale Winery, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas (this was the added bonus I didn't have last year as I went in October).

The wines were very nice, particularly their cabernet, but alas they, like every other winery so far, would not ship to Indiana, so I was out of luck getting any of these wines home!

Back on the train, for a quick ride over to our fourth and final winery stop, V. Sattui, which was also nicely decked out for Christmas.

We had a wonderful tasting with a young man who had a lot of knowledge.  They had some specialties in GSM blends, and they had one that I really liked (more on that in a future post as they would ship to Indiana!).

The tasting room was also very nice as they put us in a private room that really was nice.  Then it was back on the train to Napa, but not before we had dessert!

The dessert bites were wonderful, a cinnamon crusted tarte au citron, a flourless chocolate cake and apple almond cannoli!  And that was it, a wonderful afternoon spent in Napa with some great wine and food!  Here's wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

2010 Casalforno Chianti Classico Riserva

Happy Friday!  I've been enjoying my staycation and went and did a little shopping today, but when I came home it started raining, so I altered my dinner plans from something grilled to something pasta and what's better with pasta than a little Italian red?  Tonight I've decided to open a bottle of 2010 Casalforno Chianti Classico Riserva, the office wine club selection that I bought from Wines Till Sold Out, a 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany, so let's see what she has to offer!

The wine is a deep ruby in the glass, and I've let it breathe for about an hour or so.  The nose presents aromas of tart cherry, cedar and a bit of earthy musk.  The taste is quite nice with a blast of ripe black fruit up front that transitions to some dusty limestone and a bit of "twang" midpalate.  The finish is dry and very smooth, not as abrupt as some dry red wines.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, as it is a very pleasant Chianti and a terrific value at just $13! This wine would pair well with a variety of roasts and game, but tonight I am going Southern Italian and enjoying this wine with a classic spaghetti and meatballs!  The earth and fruit notes are a perfect foil to the spicy Italian sausage in the meatballs while the dry finish is perfect against the red sauce and parmesan, Tutti a tavola a mangare!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2013 Seven Hills Artz Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

All right, my do-nothing staycation is rapidly passing, I can't believe it's already Thursday!  So tonight I've decided to open up a special bottle of wine from one of my favorite Walla Walla producers, Seven Hills Winery, the 2013 Seven Hills Artz Vineyard Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is one of the first I've seen from Seven Hills that is produced from the Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain, and from what I've heard from my friends at Seven Hills, this is a wine with some broad shoulders, so let's see what cooks!

The wine is an inky black at the center with bright ruby along the edges, just what you'd like to see from a big Cabernet.  The nose is a symphony of green grass, rich black fruit and a bit of coarse minerality.  The taste is not nearly as fruit forward as the nose suggest, but rather the taste is quite dry at the outset and only after several seconds to the wonderful rich black fruit flavors develop, with blackberry, plum and cherry that appear like animal spirits that are whisked away at the long, smooth and exceptionally dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, as it's one of the best Cabernets I've had from Seven Hills.  This wine is drinking well now, but will likely shine over the next 5-10 years.  This is also a perfect big steak sort of wines, like those more expensive wines a couple states south of Washington, so tonight I am enjoying this wine with a rare grilled prime ribcap, along with a baked potato and grilled Brussels sprouts.  The big flavors and dry finish of this wine is perfect for a well marbled steak.  Cheers!

Monday, December 19, 2016

2013 Helix Cima Piccola

Well, I am back to the wine blog, I hope you missed me!  The first two weeks of December were a crazy travel time for work, I was in Louisville, Boston, New York, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, but now I'm home for a while, with the rest of the month off and nothing to do but cook and enjoy wine!  Tonight, I've opened a bottle of 2013 Helix Cima Piccola, a super Tuscan style blend that's modeled to be a junior version of the Reininger Cima.  This wine is a blend of Sangiovese (50%) from from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard, as well as Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) from the Columbia valley.

The wine is a lovely deep ruby color in the glass with a nose full of cherry, leather, cedar and spice, with just a hint of lavender over the top.  The taste is a lovely blast of ripe berries that fill your mouth with joy, very reminiscent of the wonderful red wines I've enjoyed in Tuscany.  The ripe fruit is layered with dried Italian herbs and a bit of mineral graphite on the finish.  The tannins on this youthful wine are supple, but still create a nice, long and very smooth dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, as it's really one of my favorite Helix wines!  This wine would be perfect with a wide variety of Italian dishes, but tonight I am doing my poor man's version of bistecca Fiorentina, a nice rare grilled New York strip cooked on my cast iron steak pan, as it's only 4 degrees (!) and I can't bring myself to go out and grill!  Along with the steak I'm enjoying a baked potato loaded with butter, sour cream and chives, and some fresh green beans with sliced almonds.  Cheers!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

2012 Forgeron Anvil Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy Sunday!  I was planning on doing a bunch of work in the yard, and I got a few things done, but then it started snowing, so I moved indoors and shifted to decorating my stocking for my office contest (our Christmas lunch is a week from Thursday).  So tonight, in spite of the snow, I am grilling a steak, so what else could I open but a nice Cab, and tonight's is the 2012 Forgeron Anvil Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon, a 100% Cabernet from the Pepper Bridge Vineyard (60%) and Minnick Hills Vineyard (40%).  I can't wait to taste this, so here goes nothing!

The wine is an inky black at the center with garnet hues along the edges, such that when I poured this one it looked like an event!  The nose is a symphony of ripe black and red fruit overlaid with some mineral notes that play against some undertones of earthy peat.  The taste is everything that a great Cabernet should be, starting with some subtle fruit at the outset, blackberry, currant and cassis, that transitions almost imperceptibly to some wonderfully complex graphite and mineral notes midpalate.  The finish is like a dream that you just don't want to wake from, the mineral and fruit notes meet with some wonderfully structured tannins that provide the backbone for a finish that just seems to reach a crescendo, just as you're about to reach for another sip.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9.5, as I've tasted a lot of wine from Forgeron, and I honestly think this is their best effort by a mile.  This is not an inexpensive wine at $65 (of course it's less with the wine club discount), but this one easily stacks up with many Cabs that are selling way beyond $100 a bottle!  And as I mentioned, it's steak night, so I am enjoying this wine with a rare grilled Angus porterhouse with some grilled asparagus and yellow peppers and of course a wonderful baked potato.  Sante!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2005 Font de Michelle Cuvée Etienne Gonnet Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Well, it's the first Saturday in December, which of course means it's Cellar Saturday, that one day a month that I try to dig deep in the cellar for something with a bit of maturity.  Tonight I've decided to open a bottle that's only been in my cellar for a few months, but is certainly ready to try, the 2005 Font de Michelle Cuvée Etienne Gonnet Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  This wine is a blend of Grenache (70%), Syrah (15%) and Mourvedre (15%), that should just about be ready to drink (I personally believe these wines should wait at least a decade before they are mature enough to drink).  So let's see what this one has to offer!

The wine is a deep ruby in the glass, a bit darker than usual but in my view an ideal color.  The nose presents aromas of ripe fruit, plum, cherry and dates, overlaid with some wonderful dried floral and spice notes.  The taste is a nice rush of sweet fruit up front, a combination of berries and dried fruit that transition to some lovely spice notes midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, with a reprise of sweet fruit in the tannins, that play a perfect counter to the lingering dryness on the finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 9, as it's a truly lovely example of a French classic.  This wine would be perfect for the holidays, pairing well with turkey, ham or lamb, but tonight I am enjoying this wine with a lovely sesame crusted seared ahi tuna filet with some steamed asparagus and jasmine rice.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2013 Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Happy December!  I can't believe how fast this year has gone, but here we are rapidly approaching the holidays, so why not pause for a nice glass of wine?  Tonight I've decided to open a bottle that I picked up at my local wine store a month or two ago, the 2013 Robert Mondavi Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (81%), Cabernet Franc (13%), Malbec (2%), Petit Verdot (2%) and Merlot (2%) to balance things out.  So let's see what she has to offer!

The wine has that classic Cabernet look, deep inky black at the center and bright ruby along the edges.  The nose presents aromas of leather, oak, tobacco and dusty gravel, with just a hint of black fruit.  The taste is just a classic, high-quality Napa Cabernet, with a bit of black fruit up front, blackberry and a bit of cherry, that transition nicely to some earthy notes midpalate.  The tannins are robust, giving rise to the long, smooth and extremely dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's really quite exceptional and was a terrific value (if I recall correctly, this one was under $30!).  This would be a perfect wine for a big steak dinner (which happens a lot around here), but tonight I'm actually enjoying this with a pizza topped with sausage and fire roasted veggies.  Cheers!