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Posts tagged ‘Napa Valley’

2012 Brown Estate Zinfandel – Bottle Notes

In 1980, The Brown Family acquired land in the hills east of Rutherford in the Napa Valley. In 1995 they decided to make wine under their own label. The following year the first vintage of Zinfandel was produced and subsequently they have added Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah to their lineup. First and foremost, Brown Estate is known for their exceptional array of Zinfandels.

Brown Zinfandel is near and dear to me. I’ve had all the Estate Zinfandels from the 1997 vintage forward, and my wife and I served the ’99 Zin at our rehearsal dinner at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn in 2000. With this in mind we opened this bottle on the eve of our upcoming anniversary.

Bright crimson in color. 15.2% ABV. Super nose of brambly black and red fruits, cassis and licorice. Lush and full bodied with mouth watering acidity. A fruit bomb on the palate with flavors of blackberry, raspberry compote, peach and minerals. The finish is long and smooth. Sensational Zinfandel. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

It should be noted that the front label of the wine has a #BROWNZIN hastag. The winery was an early adopter of Twitter in their marketing endeavors.

Brown Estate makes Zinfandel that truly has very few peers in California. The wine can be found at retail and at the winery. Consider signing up for the mailing list. This bottle is fairly priced at $42 and the 2013 version is readily available.

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2000 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – Bottle Notes

Dunn Vineyards is located east of St. Helena in the town of Angwin on Howell Mountain. The Winery was established in 1979, with the first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In 1981, the first release consisted of 660 cases of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain vineyards. In 1982, Dunn released a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dunn is one of the iconic producers of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. Randy Dunn, to his credit, has held steadfast in how he produces and prices his wines. The wines are exceptionally long-lived and are truly a throwback to a different era in Napa Valley. Recent favorable press from Antonio Galloni, formerly of the Wine Advocate, has put a well-deserved spotlight back on the winery.

2000 was by all accounts a difficult vintage in the Napa Valley and with that in mind I only decanted the wine for 45 minutes.

Crimson in color. 13.6% ABV. Red fruits, mint, graphite and cedar on the nose. Medium body with nice acidity. Lean on the palate with just enough fruit and resolved tannins. Flavors of cherries, currants, plums and pencil. The wine comes up a little short on the finish. A nice effort from Randy Dunn all things considered. Drink soon with a big steak.

My rating: 90 points.

Current vintages of Dunn Napa Valley should cost around $75. The wine is readily available at retail and a great value at the price point.

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1999 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Spottswoode is a family owned winegrowing estate located on the western edge of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The 46 acre estate, established in 1882, is distinguished by the historic Victorian home depicted on the label. Its entrance is graced by classic formal gardens, while the vineyard stretches behind to the Mayacamas Mountains.

The Spottswoode Estate was bought by Jack and Mary Novak in 1972. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1982. Spottswoode also makes an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, a second Cabernet named Lydenhurst and a Rhone blend known as Field Book.

Decanted for 30 minutes. Surprisingly dark in color. 13.5% ABV. Bordeaux like nose of graphite, leather and currants. Rich and powerful on the palate with super silky tannins. Flavors of plums, cassis, cherries and pencil. The finish is exceptional. The wine is in a great spot right now and I would be inclined to drink over the next year or so. Everything I look for in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Bravo!

My rating: 94 points.

The 2012 vintage will be released in the next few months. I will order a few bottles, but at $145 per, the wine is no longer the value it was 5-7 years ago. The 2011 is available at the winery via the mailing list and at retail.

I blogged about Spottswoode previously in Overlooked Wines from Great Producers.

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2004 Pahlmeyer Merlot – Bottle Notes

Pahlmeyer was founded in the mid-1980s when Jayson Pahlmeyer, a Bay Area lawyer, decided he preferred thinking about wine over reading legal briefs. Pahlmeyer produced its debut vintage in 1986. The winemaking team is comprised of Kale Anderson who is Director of Winemaking for the Napa Valley vineyard and operations, and Bibiana González Rave as Consulting Winemaker overseeing the Sonoma Coast vineyard and operations.

This bottle was opened the evening of the American Canyon earthquake. The devestation in the Napa Valley is truly heartbreaking. Show your support for Napa Valley by opening a bottle from your favorite producer.

Dark crimson in color. 15.2% ABV. Incredible nose of red and blue fruits, cocoa powder and baking spices. Great mouthfeel. Almost like liquid silk. The palate has flavors of currants, cassis, chocolate truffle and blueberries. The finish is long and silky. Hitting its stride at 10 years of age but probably best over the next 2-3 years. Fantastic showing from one of the best Merlot producers in California.

My rating: 95 points.

Pahlmeyer wines are readily available at retail and via the winery. The 2011 Pahlmeyer Merlot should set you back about $75. I’ll be looking for a few bottles.

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2007 Araujo Sauvignon Blanc – 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.

Pale gold in color. 14% ABV. Grapefruit, kiwi and fresh cut grass on the nose. Creamy in texture and a touch of acidity. Lemon, lime and more grapefruit on the palate. This bottle was lost in the cellar and aged longer than originally intended. That being said there is a lot to like here on a hot summer night. Clearly ready to drink.

My rating: 90 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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2001 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

The 2001 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon was the winning bottle in the June installment of Pick My Next Bottle. I decanted the wine for an hour and paired it with pan fried sirloin steaks.

Spottswoode is a family owned winegrowing estate located on the western edge of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The 46 acre estate, established in 1882, is distinguished by the historic Victorian home depicted on the label. Its entrance is graced by classic formal gardens, while the vineyard stretches behind to the Mayacamas Mountains.

The Spottswoode Estate was bought by Jack and Mary Novak in 1972. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1982. Spottswoode also makes an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, a second Cabernet named Lydenhurst and a Rhone blend known as Field Book.

Dark crimson in color and starting to show some bricking at the edge of the glass. 14.1% ABV. Cedar, graphite and black fruits on the nose. Power and elegance at the same time. The classic iron fist in a velvet glove. Black currants, cassis, tobacco, leather and cherries on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with prominent tannins. As close to Left Bank Bordeaux as Napa Cabernet Sauvignon gets. Great showing! Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 95 points.

The 2012 vintage will be released early next year. I will order a few bottles, but at $145 per, the wine is no longer the value it was 5-7 years ago. The 2010 received 100 points from the Wine Advocate. Available at the winery via the mailing list and quite often at retail.

I blogged about Spottswoode previously in Overlooked Wines from Great Producers.

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Pick My Next Bottle – 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The June Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. Voting will close this Saturday and the winning bottle will be opened this Sunday. A Bottle Note will be published shortly thereafter.

2001 was simply a great vintage for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The Summer of 2001 was somewhat cool with temperatures rarely exceeding 85 degrees. This led to wines with somewhat higher acidity that have aged absolutely gloriously. The vintage has been compared to other Napa classics like 1974 and 1991.

The Contenders:

    • 2001 Pahlmeyer – More primary and backward, the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon needs 4-6 more years of cellaring, but is capable of lasting three decades or more. Composed of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a dollop of Malbec, it exhibits a dense, thick, black/purple color as well as emerging aromas of cedar, black currants, ink, graphite, charcoal and forest floor. This full-bodied, packed and stacked Cabernet offers a sexy, open-knit opulence on the attack followed by noticeable tannins. However, the latter component is clearly balanced by the wine’s stunning concentration, texture and overall depth. As stated above, forget this beauty for another 4-6 years and drink it over the following 25-30. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
    • 2001 Spottswoode – This is a beautiful wine, although more recent vintages may ultimately prove to be even better, particularly the 2007. This blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, from one of Napa’s prestigious sites on the valley floor tucked behind the town of St. Helena, has a dense blue/purple color and a beautifully sweet nose of spring flowers intermixed with raspberry jam, blueberries and black currants. Some licorice and subtle oak are followed by a quintessentially elegant yet substantial wine with sweet tannins, medium to full body and a seamless texture. Drinkable already, the wine will continue to offer the more elegant, complex, evolved style of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon produced in 2001 for at least another 15-20 years. 95 points from the Wine Advocate.
    • 2001 Plumpjack – A more long distance runner, although approachable now, the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate exhibits a similar dense plum/purple color in addition to notes of white flowers, black raspberries, black currants, lead pencil shavings and burning embers. Full-bodied and rich with low acidity, sweet tannin and a corpulent, nicely textured, long mouthfeel, it should hit its prime in 2-3 years, and last for 2+ decades. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon should I open?

  • 2001 Spottswoode (43%, 25 Votes)
  • 2001 Plumpjack (29%, 17 Votes)
  • 2001 Pahlmeyer (28%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 58

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the July installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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2011 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 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.

Dark maroon in color. 14.2% ABV. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.5% Petit Verdot and 7.5% Merlot. Dark fruits, anise, cedar and coffee on the nose. Medium in body. Clearly a product of the cool ’11 vintage as the wine lacks the lush mouthfeel I found in many wines from ’10. Currants, cassis, plums, leather and green peppers on the palate. This wine needs several years in the cellar and should drink well through 2020. Tasty Napa Cabernet at a very fair price.

My rating: 91 points.

$60 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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2000 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – Bottle Notes

Dunn Vineyards is located east of St. Helena in the town of Angwin on Howell Mountain. The Winery was established in 1979, with the first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In 1981, the first release consisted of 660 cases of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain vineyards. In 1982, Dunn released a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dunn is one of the iconic producers of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. Randy Dunn, to his credit, has held steadfast in how he produces and prices his wines. The wines are exceptionally long-lived and are truly a throwback to a different era in Napa Valley. Recent favorable press from Antonio Galloni, formerly of the Wine Advocate, has put a well-deserved spotlight back on the winery.

2000 was by most accounts a difficult vintage in Napa Valley. From my experience Dunn shows well year in and year out so I still had high expectations for this bottle. The wine was decanted for an hour and served with steaks on Memorial Day.

Dark crimson in color. 13.6% ABV. Super nose of cherries, leather, graphite and eucalyptus. On the palate there are flavors of tobacco, cherries, plums, cassis, pencil and currants. Coarse and ever present tannins on an exceptionally long finish. More approachable than most Dunn’s from the 90’s and certainly a triumph for the vintage. Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 92 points.

Current vintages of Dunn Napa Valley should cost around $75. The wine is readily available at retail and a great value at the price point.

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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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