On Thursday, October 17, 2013 I attended a very exclusive port wine dinner at Del Frisco’s steakhouse Chicago Illinois hosted by www.Kobrandtrade.com. The port wines were paired perfectly by Del Frisco’s GM Troy Smith, who is by the way the best Chef in the game for pairing food and wine. Korband has several outstanding Port families under its umbrella, TaylorFladgate.com, Fonsecaport.com, and Croftport.com . We tasted through nine different ports with the assistance of Del Frisco’s Sommelier Michael Taylor, who explain that vintage ports are only produce when the farmers determined that they have an outstanding crop of grapes. We tasted vintage ports ranging from 2003 until 2011. Taylor Fladgate 2009 and 2011, were simply stunning in appearance, deep purple, and just a mouth full of joy. The winemaker at Taylor Fladgate for the past 40 years, believes that the 2011 Taylor Fladgate port is the best port that has ever been made and after tasting it I can not disagree with his statement. The 2009 Fonseca was in my opinion a delicious wine and possibly the best wine of the night. We also tasted the 2003 and 2009 Croft port, excellent wines and I thought the 2009 needed a little bit more time but will get better with age. And finally the food was paired absolutely perfectly with the port wines, and all complements to Del Frisco’s chefs.
2007 Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $58.98 ST95 AG97 Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, Nov/Oct 11 (blended with 15% merlot): Deep ruby-red. Explosive nose offers boysenberry, redcurrant, cherry, tobacco, graphite and sandalwood. Wonderfully silky and concentrated, with outstanding lift to its almost painfully intense berry, spice, earth and mineral flavors. The pliant middle yields to a gripping, mineral-driven, very long finish. A beauty, but the 2008 may well surpass it in the long run. 95 points
Tasting note – Possessing even greater depth of flavor and length than it did 9 months ago, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Michael & Lauri Corliss is simply jaw dropping and raises the quality bar for the top red wines being produced in the Columbia Valley. Boasting an impenetrable opaque purple-color the 2007 Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a superb perfume of black currants, and blueberries, notes of grilled bread, green olive and espresso. This wines formidable core is bursting with gorgeous, perfectly ripened flavors of crème de cassis, black plum, blueberries and mineral infused chocolate that grabs the palate with force yet remains light on its feet given the level of freshness that pulls together the flawless finish. In a word, this is a near-perfect wine from passionate folks who simply will not settle for second place. Give this powerful wine 4-6 years of additional bottle age and drink it through 2030. 97 points
> DAY 3: Starts at Diamond Creek Winery. WOW what a magnificent piece of property to grow grapes! Nestled into steep hills, this vineyard has a natural spring and their own man made lake. We were greeted by Cidy, a lovely host that I had met at the Fountainbleau during South Beach Food and Wine Festival earlier in the year. They only have three wines for most people to taste but what a threesome: Red Rock, Volcanic Hill, and Gravelly Meadow. All of these wines grow on 44 year-old vines with roots often 30 feet deep so they don’t starve for water.
The 2009 Volcanic Hill can only be described as a mouth full of joy! The 2010 Gravelly Meadow is a 300 case production– so virtually impossible to get–but if you like Bordeaux grown in Napa, this would please your soul. To show how well their wines age, Cidy very kindly opened a 2003 Volcanic Hill…..the fruit was like black cherry candy while the structure and complexity was truly amazing. This 03 tasted like a young baby. BTW, Lake Vineyard is their 4th wine but you didn’t hear it from me!
As a side note: Cidy presented us with an aesthetically beautiful and delicious cheese pairing to accompany the wine. All cheeses were locally made and finished with a fresh fig in a balsamic reduction. Heaven!
We finished the day with the lovely sisters: Far Niente and Nickel &Nickel (N&N). Both wineries make great wines but are vastly different. Far Niente makes 4 wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and the great Sauterne of California: Dolce. The first thoughts that came to mind upon tasting the Dolce were “delicious” and “liquid gold”. Interestingly, and just for the record, the ‘07 was the best wine I tasted at both wineries.
The wines at N&N are mostly one hundred percent grape varietals. The Merlot was a very good wine that shows how under-appreciated this grape is in California. 2011 Enroute Pinot was smoky-bramble with cherry fruit and a long, lush finish. It reminded me very much of a Premier Cru from Burgundy.
Although we tasted several 100% Cabernets, I thought the ‘09 CC from Rutherford was an extremely special wine. I’m beginning to really appreciate the fruit from Rutherford!
Day 4: The last day started early at Caymus Vineyards…. one of the really special wineries in Napa. It was founded my Chuck Wagner at age 19, and is now slowly moving into the capable hands of his children. In 1972, Charlie Wagner, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner and their son, Chuck, built their winery among the vines planted on the family’s ranch in Rutherford, California (the center of the Napa Valley). Just a short time later, in 1975, the Wagners produced their first Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, which remains the only wine to have twice been named Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” (1984 and 1990 vintage).
The winery now makes several different types of wine but their bread and butter are still the two Cabs: The Caymus Cabernet and The Special Select Cabernet (which is 90% Cabernet). Depending upon the year, I think the regular Cab can be better than the Special Select.
Caymus also makes world class Pinot Noir Meiomi and 4 different Belle Glos wines: Dairyman, Clark & Telephone, Las Alturas, and Taylor Lane. These are all big Pinot’s… I call them Pinot on steroids!
The surprise wine for me was the Zinfandel. This was a lovely Zin with Raspberry, Clove, White Pepper and a spicy, long finish. Easily one of the top 3 Zin’s that I have ever tasted.
As a side note: Rosanne Acquistapace, our tasting guide was not only very familiar the wines but put together a cheese selection that was paired perfectly with the wines….and all readily available (Dean&Deluca,Whole Foods and Wms. Sonoma). Thank you!
Just when you think you have seen the best piece of property and the best view in Sonoma and Napa , you arrive at Hanzell Vineyard and quickly realize you haven’t seen anything yet! .
Founded in 1948 by James David Zellerbach, who was not only involved in the design of the Marshall Plan but asked to implement it in Europe by President Truman . While leading this forward-thinking and compassionate effort, Zellerbach was also at the helm of his highly successful business; Crown Zellerbach. It was during this time that J.D. Zellerbach discovered and purchased his first fourteen acres of private, oak woodland on the steep hillside of the Mayacamas Range, overlooking the town of Sonoma.
As Mr. Zellerbach made his money in the Chemical business, he was in a perfect position to hire an accomplished chemist – Mr. Webb – as his winemaker. It turned out to be a great decision! For fifty years Hanzell has been the home of great innovation and invention: from the first-in-the-world stainless steel fermenters and the first controlled malolactic fermentation, to our current day one-ton tankitos and clone and rootstock trials.
Our 90 minute tour and tasting of this great property was directed by Ryan Hortum, an extremely knowledgeable and engaging person who provided us with all of the historical details of Hanzell and more. With total respect for the winery I must add that after a two hour tour they only had 2 wines for us to taste! You can just imagine how thirsty we were after two hours of not drinking wine in wine country! There are reasons for this: first they only produce 5,500 cases of wines a year and second they only make 6 wines in total (3 Pinots and 3 Chardonnays). Although 2011 was a very challenging year for every winery in California, Hanzell lost 40% of their fruit hence the absence of Pinot Noir for us to taste.
The 2 Chardonnay’s were fabulous and more than made up for it! 2011 Sebella Chardonnay was youthful with floral notes, green apple and good acidity, with a lemon/lime finish. 2010 Hanzell Chardonnay had green apple on the nose, very creamy honeysuckle on the mid palate and finally notes of pear with a rich lone finish. If I closed my eyes and didn’t know any better I would think that I was drinking Chassagne Montrachet from Burgundy.
Overall Sonoma and Napa Valley will continue to produce world class wines for the foreseeable future. The scenery, the food and the people make the wine that much better! It was another GREAT time…..!
Sonoma and Napa Valley are two of the greatest places on earth to grow great juice. These valleys have enjoyed exceptional weather for grapes to flourish for the last 10 years, with the exception of 2011 when rain came early and during harvest. I’m reminded by a great quote from a great wine maker in Burgundy, Anne Parent ” there are no bad vintages only bad wine makers”….
> DAY 1: My visit began at Adobe Road tasting room in Sonoma Plaza. I had previously met Kevin Buckler (the owner of this fabulous boutique winery) ten plus years ago and his wines just keep getting better and better. We tasted through several wonderful wines, however some always stand out! The 2009 Cab Franc was truly outstanding. They don’t make a lot so it is definitely a must-buy if you can find it. The 2009 Cab from Beckstoffer Vinyards in Rutherford is a big, complex, and well balanced wine that shows the elegance of Rutherford. Adobe Road Winery is one of the hidden gems of the wine
> As a side note, there is a little restaurant on the north side of the Plaza called the Swiss Cafe -deceptively named since we had one of the best pizzas ever! Wonderful food, great service and friendly clientele….. added bonus: you can smoke cigars out front!
>DAY 2 : This day started early at the ever pristine Pride Mountain where we were hosted by the fabulous Katrina. She guided us through several wines starting with their Viognier which is standing out as a star. The 2012 Cab Franc from barrel won’t be released until March 2014, but if the barrel tasting was an indicator you should get in line now to buy some. It won’t last long!
> Our second stop was a short (and winding!) trip down the mountain to Spring Mountain Vineyards. We were met by Valli Farelli who already had thirst quenching Sauvignon Blanc poured while she reminded us of the vastly interesting history of the vineyard. In 1873 they planted Cabernet with most of the cuttings coming from Bordeaux. We tasted the both the 2001 and 2008 Spring Mountain Cab and
although both were very French in style, there is something very special about the 2001 Cab. I had tasted this on several other occasions and was not surprised to find it as magical as I remembered. Tasting like a very good first growth from Margaux, it is still one of my top five Cabernets ever in California.
> The last stop of the day was Heitz cellars. Their 2007 Trailside Cabernet from Rutherford was a program of perfection: blackberry, spice box, and minerality all adding up to a very expressive finish. Another stand-out was the 2012 Rose of Grignolino, an Italian Grape that finishes dry and was very refreshing on a hot summer day.
As a side note, I can’t drive through that area without the required stop to Buster’s BBQ! It doesn’t get much better than hanging with Buster and Barbara and the dogs….. and do I need to talk about the BBQ??? P.S. They have more up their sleeves….coming soon! > Day three and four to follow.