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Posts tagged ‘California’

1987 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

The 1987 Chateau Montelena was the winning bottle in the January installment of Pick My Next Bottle. I purchased this bottle at the winery in the early nineties at the winery and the wine has been cellared at 55 degrees ever since. I decanted the wine for 30 minutes and served it with grilled flank steak.

Chateau Montelena dates back to 1882 when Albert Tubbs bought 254 acres of property just north of Calistoga. Tubbs planted vines and by 1896 Montelena was the 7th largest winery in California. Winemaking came to an end with the onset of Prohibition.

The current iteration of Montelena can be traced to 1968, when Jim Barrett was brought on as a partner in the winery. Wine production began again in 1972, with Mike Grgich employed as winemaker. Four years later, the Chateau Montelena 1973 Alexander Valley Chardonnay won first place among the Chardonnays and White Burgundies entered in the “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. This was later chronicled in the popular wine movie Bottle Shock.

Purple in color with some lightness on the edge of the glass. 14% ABV. Intoxicating aromas of cedar, graphite, leather and cherries. Elegant, rich and still somewhat tannic. Cherry, cranberry, tobacco and pencil on the palate. The finish is endless. It is truly hard to believe this wine is 27 years old. California Cabernet is simply not made like this anymore. Exceptional now but I think this wine will continue to drink well for another decade. In the conversation for best Montelena Cabernet ever with the ’91, ’94 and ’97.

My rating: 97 points.

Chateau Montelena is truly a throwback to a bygone era. These are wines meant to be cellared, providing less pleasure on release than they will after 10 or more years of aging.

Current vintages are readily available at retail and can also be purchased at the winery. Expect to pay $100-$125 per bottle.

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2001 Araujo Syrah Eisele Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Araujo Estate is a 38-acre vineyard in northeast Napa Valley, east of Calistoga. It was established in 1990 when Bart and Daphne Araujo bought the historic vineyard from Milt and Barbara Eisele, who planted the vines in the 1960s. For nearly 40 years the Eisele Vineyard has been known as one of the valley’s great vineyards, consistently producing outstanding wines. The Araujos have completed many renovation projects since they acquired the estate, and have planted many varietals including Petit Verdot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Nevertheless the estate’s signature wine is its highly regarded Cabernet Sauvignon.

Purple in color. 14.8% ABV. Blue fruits, coffee and barbecued meats on the nose. Full bodied with healthy acidity. Rich and supple. The palate is alive with flavors of blueberry, cracked black pepper, iodine and game. The finish is long and exquisite. Hard to believe this wine is 13 years old. Bravo! Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 95 points.

Araujo is one of the most prestigious wineries in all of Napa Valley. It does not get much more iconic than Eisele Vineyard. It can be included on a short list with the likes of Martha’s Vineyard and To Kalon Vineyard.

The Araujo wines can be obtained via the mailing list, at retail and frequently at auction.

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2005 Switchback Ridge Merlot – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Opaque purple in color. 14.8% ABV. Aromas of cherry, lavender, leather, kirsch and evergreen soar from the glass. Full bodied and plush on the palate. Unmistakably a Bob Foley wine. Currants, cassis, blueberry liqueur, chocolate ganache and raspberry on the palate. Consider blending the chocolates from a Whitman Sampler and you are on the right track. Over the top but that is what I both wanted and expected. The finish is long and supple. Great now but will surely continue to develop for 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The Merlot is a buy for me every year at a mailing list price right around $65.

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2006 Outpost Zinfandel

Zinfandel of the Month is a new feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. For a little background please see the first installment published two months ago. 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 December Zinfandel of the Month is the 2006 Outpost.

Outpost was established in 1998 and sits on a pristine piece of land atop Howell Mountain 2200 feet above Napa Valley. Thomas Rivers-Brown has been the winemaker from the start and has gained further acclaim making highly sought after wines for Schrader, Rivers-Marie and many others. Besides Zinfandel, Outpost also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.

The fruit for the Howell Mountain Zinfandel is a combination old vine and young vine planted in ’78 and ’00 respectively. Crimson in color. 16.2% ABV. Concentrated aromas of dark fruits, white pepper and molasses. Big and structured. Textbook Howell Mountain profile. Medium body. Raspberry, plum, licorice and boysenberry on the palate. Dusty tannins on the incredibly long, sweet finish. Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 92 points.

Outpost wines are only available via the mailing list and sell out quickly. Highly recommended.

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2010 Grgich Hills Estate Zinfandel – Bottle Notes

Grgich Hills Estate, in Rutherford, in the Napa Valley, was founded in 1977 by Mike Grgich. Grgich earned fame in 1976 when the Chardonnay he produced as winemaker at Chateau Montelena won first prize among white wines at the now famous Paris Wine Tasting. The estate has 366 acres of vineyards in American Canyon, Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga and is still best known for its Chardonnays, which consistently earn accolades from wine critics. Grgich also makes Fume Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and dessert wines.

Bright red in color. 15.5% ABV. 97% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Sirah from the 34 acre estate vineyard in Calistoga. Red fruits, tar, iron and pepper on the nose. Full bodied and supple with nice acidity. Strawberry, raspberry, peppercorn, vanilla and plum flavors on the palate. The finish is long and creamy. The wine will continue to improve with time in the cellar. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 91 points.

$35 at the winery and retail.

Grgich Hills is one of Napa’s iconic wineries. Consider stopping by when you next visit Napa Valley.

This review was based on a sample provided by the winery.

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2011 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel – Bottle Notes

Located in the Anderson Valley, Navarro has been producing exceptional, fairly-priced wines since 1974. The winery is best known for its range of Pinot Noirs, including the showstopper Deep End Blend (available through futures). They also produce an age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon and a delicious Zinfandel, and their whites are noteworthy with a one-of-a-kind Riesling, Gewurztaminer and Muscat Blanc.

The 2011 Mendocino Zinfandel is a blend from several different vineyards. Ruby red in color. 14.4% ABV. Brambly fruit, raspberry compote and a hint of pepper on the nose. Bright and elegant. Just a touch of jammy fruit. Tart cherry, currants and strawberry on the palate. Claret style Zinfandel. Delicious wine. Drink over the next several years.

My rating: 89 points.

This wine is available at the winery and is a steal at $18.50.

I previously wrote about Navarro in If I had to Pick Just One Wine Club, It’d be Navarro. You absolutely must visit the winery if you are ever in the Anderson Valley.

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2006 Kanzler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – Bottle Notes

Kanzler Vineyards, located in California near Sebasopol, was founded in 1996 by Stephen and Lynda Kanzler. Planted in 1996 in a former apple orchard, the vineyard quickly developed a reputation for producing world class Pinot Noir grapes featured in award winning wines from some of the finest wineries in Northern California, including Kosta Browne, A.P. VIN and Landmark. In 2004, the Kanzlers launched their own label featuring grapes grown exclusively from their vineyard. Alex Kanzler, the son of Stephen and Lynda, is the current winemaker.

Light crimson in color. 14.6% ABV. Red fruits, forest floor and cinnamon on the nose. This wine is elegant with perfect acidity. Cherry, strawberry, baking spice, tea, cola and licorice in spades on the palate. Silky tannins and great mouthfeel. Drink over the next 1-3 years. I really enjoy this wine every time I have it. Well done!

My rating: 94 points.

Current vintages of Kanzler are available exclusively via the mailing list. The 2012 will be released next spring and likely cost right around $55. Highly recommended.

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2005 Williams Selyem Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Bottle Notes

Williams Selyem Winery began when Ed Selyem and Burt Williams started making wine as a hobby in 1979 in Forestville, California. Their first commercial release was in 1981, and in less than two decades they created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Setting a new standard for Pinot Noir winemaking, they put Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley at the forefront of the best Pinot Noir regions in the world.

Today, John and Kathe Dyson, who purchased the winery from Burt and Ed in 1998, work with winemaker Bob Cabral to carry on the passion for Pinot Noir without compromise.

The fruit for the ’05 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is primarily from the Drake Estate Vineyard in Guerneville.

Light red. Almost translucent in color. 13.9% ABV. Forest floor, black cherry and flower on the nose. Medium body and perfect acidity. Cherries, baking spice, cinnamon, clove and just a hint of cola on the palate. Slight tannins on the long, exquisite finish. This wine has aged beautifully and truly bodes well for the ’05 Russian River Valley single vineyard wines from Williams Selyem.

My rating: 92 points.

Williams Selyem can periodically be found at retail, but the mailing list is highly recommended. Current vintages of the Russian River Valley bottling are approximately $50 off the mailing list and at retail.

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2008 Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Elyse Winery was founded in 1987 by Ray Coursen and his wife Nancy. They crushed 4.5 tons of Zinfandel from the Morisoli Vineyard in Rutherford to craft 286 cases of their first wine. The vineyard is located between Niebaum and Manley Lanes in the heart of the Rutherford Bench. Some of the Zinfandel in the vineyard dates back over 100 years. While their portfolio has grown over the last 25 years, the focus of Elyse remains on creating vineyard-driven wines that pair well with food. The total production of 10,000 cases is predominantly made up of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Opaque purple in color. 14.8% ABV. Cassis, raspberry liqueur, allspice and licorice on the nose. Medium bodied yet rich and lush. Blueberries, currants, cedar and cocoa on the palate. Fine grained tannins on the long finish. Really delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. I’d be inclined to drink this wine over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 92 points.

This wine is available at the winery and retail. A relative steal at right around $70. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon does not get much better at this price point.

This review was based on a sample provided by the winery.

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2005 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, California, Dan and Michael decided to pool their tips and venture into winemaking. Fifteen years later, Kosta Browne is one of the most sought after Pinot Noirs in all of California. At present time they produce three appellation Pinot Noirs, eight single vineyard Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay.

Rosella’s Vineyard was planted in 1996 by Gary Franscioni. The vineyard is in the Santa Lucia Highlands appelation of Monterey County.

Light red in color. 15.3% ABV. Red fruits, flowers, grapefruit, cola and minerals on the nose. Delicate and ethereal compared to other ’05 KB’s. Just the right amount of acidity. The palate is alive with flavors of strawberry, cranberry, brown sugar and rhubarb. There is not the slightest bit of heat on the wine. At 8 years of age this wine has aged absolutely beautifully. What a treat!

My rating: 94 points.

The current vintage is priced at $78 and only available via the mailing list. As I mentioned in the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists, Kosta Browne is one of hardest lists to crack. Maybe so, but you’ve got nothing to lose by putting your name on the waiting list. Good luck!

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