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2004 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Bottle Notes

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Rhone Valley, was founded in 1898 by Hippolyte Brunier. Located on the highest terrace of the appellation, the domaine was named for an 18th century telegraph relay tower located nearby. Today the 173-acre domaine is run by Daniel and Frederic Brunier, the great grandsons of the founder. Vieux Télégraphe is one of the appellation’s most admired estates. The vineyards are planted to 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault and other grapes.

Light crimson in color with some bricking at the edge of the glass. 14.5% ABV. The nose is scintillating with aromas of red fruit, leather, garrigue and herbes de Provence. Medium body with perfect acidity. Rustic, old school CdP. Concentrated and powerful. Kirsch, tea, dried cherries and white pepper on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with substantial tannins. Super Chateauneuf-du-Pape from an overlooked vintage. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

I previously wrote about Vieux Télégraphe in 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape: My Recommendations. Recent vintages of this wine can generally be had found for $60-$75. Hard to wrong here.

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2008 Cayuse Syrah Cailloux Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes and decided to purchase the land.

Cailloux was Christophe’s first Walla Walla Valley vineyard. This 10-acre plot was planted in the stones of Milton Freewater in 1997.

Crimson in color. 14.1% ABV. Co-fermented with 8% Viognier. Textbook Cayuse on the nose. Cherries, meat, smoke and a hint of flowers. Medium to full bodied with ample acidity. Olive brine, cured meats, cherries and herbs on the palate. The finish is extraordinary. Stunning Syrah that exhibits both power and finesse. Best over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 96 points.

The waiting list for the Cayuse mailing list is huge and you need to be well-connected to get a bottle via retail. Either way, current vintages are worth the hunt!

Last year Christophe Baron finally made the cover of the Wine Spectator. Cayuse, Horsepower and No Girls make some of the top wines in Washington. Christophe recently launched a new project, Hors Categorie. Christophe also has a new vineyard in the works. Expect to hear more about Fiddleneck Vineyard in the next year or so. Lastly, Christophe at long last is hard at work on making a vintage Champagne. Details on this project are still a couple years out.

I blogged about Cayuse previously in The 2017 Zinfandel Chronicles Power RankingsWinery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5 and Cayuse Vineyards – Better than Ever.

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The Week in Zinfandel (1/8/18)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2015 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch

Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.

The January Zinfandel of the Month is the 2015 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch.

Ridge Vineyards was founded in 1959 when three Stanford Research Institute engineers bought an abandoned winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vineyards had been planted in the late 19th century by a San Francisco physician who produced his first vintage in the original winery, called Monte Bello, in 1892. The first Ridge vintage was in 1962. Paul Draper recently retired and John Olney is making the wines at Lytton Springs. Ridge makes Cabernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Rhone style wines.

When I first became interested in Zinfandel the buzz was always around the Three R’s of Zinfandel: Ravenswood, Rosenblum and Ridge. 25 years later Ridge is still at the top of its game, turning out single vineyard Zinfandel from some of California’s most precious vineyards.

Pagani Ranch is just off Highway 12 in the Glen Ellen area of Sonoma County. Angela and Felice Pagani came to Sonoma County from Italy, purchased the property and planted the vineyard in the early 1900’s. In addition to Ridge the fruit goes to Bedrock, Seghesio, Biale and Carlisle.

Violet in color. 15% ABV. 83% Zinfandel, 10% Alicante Bouschet and 7% Petite Sirah. Great big nose of ripe red fruits, rose petals and maraschino cherries. Immensely concentrated and lush. Cherry jam, raspberry liqueur, white pepper and baking spices on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long. Delicious but so very young. Give this Zinfadel some time in the cellar and then drink over the next 6-8 years.

My rating:  93 points.

This wine was recently released and can be found for $34-$40.

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2011 Sandlands Syrah Santa Lucia Highlands – Bottle Notes

Sandlands is the personal project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua. Tegan is the Winemaker and Vineyard Manager at Turley. The line-up encompasses some of the forgotten classic California varieties, primarily grown in decomposed granite from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations but have remained the outliers of California viticulture.

Crimson in color. 12.9% ABV. Savory nose of black fruits, gamey meats and lavender. Medium body with medium to strong acidity. Light, elegant and fresh. Cherries, olive brine, barbecued meats and minerals on the palate. Medium length on the finish. Reminds me more of a Saint-Joseph than your prototypical California Syrah. Delicious for what it is. Drink over the the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 91 points.

Seriously consider signing up for the Sandlands mailing list. Tegan has a model of exceptional wines at extremely fair prices from impeccable vineyards. What more can you ask for?

Sandlands fared well on The 2017 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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2001 PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Gavin Newsom and Gordon Getty established PlumpJack Winery in 1995, inspired by one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters, Sir John “PlumpJack” Falstaff. PlumpJack Winery sits squarely in the heart of Napa Valley’s renowned Oakville region, surrounded by a 42-acre estate vineyard highly regarded for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon. Aaron Miller is the winemaker at PlumpJack.

PlumpJack holds a special place in my heart: My wife and I were married at their Squaw Valley Inn and served PlumpJack Merlot and Chardonnay at our wedding.

Purple in color. 14.8% ABV. Savory nose of black fruits, cedar and eucalyptus. Rich, plush and concentrated in such a way that belies the 17 years of bottle age. Black cherries, currants, cassis liqueur and mint on the palate. The finish is extremely long with fine grained tannins. Stunning Cabernet Sauvignon from a glorious vintage that is aging beautifully. Best over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

The 2014 PlumpJack Cabernet Sauvignon was recently released and can be obtained at retail and the winery for right around $125. The winery is also a great place to visit on your next trip to Napa Valley.

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The Week in Zinfandel (1/1/18)

Welcome to the first installment of The Week in Zinfandel for 2018.  If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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1991 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – Bottle Notes

Silver Oak Winery was founded in 1972 by Raymond Twomey Duncan, a Colorado entrepreneur who began investing in California vineyards in the late 1960s, and Justin Meyer, a winemaker and former Christian Brother. They produced 1,100 cases of their inaugural vintage. Over the next two decades, Silver Oak grew in popularity. The Napa Valley and Alexander Valley Cabernets sold quickly upon their release from the winery and became a sought-after staple on restaurant wine lists around the country. After selecting Daniel Baron to succeed him as winemaker in 1994, Justin retired, selling his share of Silver Oak to the Duncan family in 2001.

Violet in color. 13.5% ABV. Pristine nose of red fruits, licorice and graphite. Incredibly elegant. Holding up well with ample fruits and mostly resolved tannins. Currants, black cherry and anise on the palate. Medium length on the finish with chalky tannins. This was out of magnum so I would say that the wine in this format has aged beautifully. I suspect regular bottles might be on the decline. Regardless, just a great example of what a master the late Justin Meyer was in the wine cellar. Drink soon.

My rating: 91 points.

For me Silver Oak has never been quite the same since Justin Meyer retired. This was one of my favorite wines when I first started this hobby long ago. That being said there is no doubt Silver Oak is still immensely popular. The wines are fairly priced at about $75 for the Alexander Valley Cabernet and $85 for the Napa Valley Cabernet.

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2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

The 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was the winning bottle in the December Installment of Pick My Next Bottle. The wine was decanted for one hour and served with steaks on New Years Eve.

Quilceda Creek Vintners was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. Alex Golitzin is a nephew of André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker who put Beaulieu Vineyard at the forefront of Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1960s and 70s. He credits summer trips to visit his uncle in St. Helena, California with developing his early interest in wine. Alex’s son, Paul Golitzin is now chief winemaker at the winery.

Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon has earned some of the highest scores of any wine produced in the United States. The 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’07 vintages all scored 100-point ratings from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. Quilceda Creek also produces several single vineyard Cabernets and a Columbia Valley Red Wine.

Purple in color. 14.9% ABV. Stunningly pure nose of red and blue fruits, molten licorice, violets and crushed rocks. Plush, polished and incredibly silky. Tremendous structure and concentration. Blueberries, currants and cassis liqueur on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with no shortage of tannins. This wine is the complete package and has lived up to all the hype. The epitome of an iron fist in a velvet glove. Drink over the next decade.

My rating: 99 points.

Quilceda Creek is best obtained via the mailing list and you may be able to find some at retail in late March or early April.

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The Week in Zinfandel (12/25/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. It was a quiet week for Zinfandel. Hopefully more content will surface in 2018! If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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