Rick's Wine Journal 2003


Wine - Notes and Comments - ( See Key- See Rating Wines)

Dec 31

Mitolo G.A.M McLaren Vale Shiraz 2002 RP 95-97 RM 91 $49  Intense forward powerfully ripe blackberry and spicy smoky pepper that lingers on and on.  My take on it reflects RP's review of the '01 moreso than the '02 except I agree with his comment on the camphor and graphite (?). Remarkably, very late on the finish, there is a hint of that McLaren Vale Blueberry (see Dead Arm) but earlier it is overshadowed by the pepper. Feature.  Heinz Merkel Pfalz Maikammerer Heiligenberg Riesling Auslese 1990 RM 88 $12 Who says these wines aren't ageworthy? Fun wine to try. This one exceeded expectations which matched the occasion - NY's eve tenderloin and lobster dinner at home. Pulled out this 1990 to try - Alec's vintage year - partly to celebrate his outstanding achievements this past year. Rich unctuous wine - almost syrupy - subtle apricot, sweet apple and lemony citrus with a touch of smoke. See the story behind this bottle in Feature. Campbells Tokay Rutherglen NV WS 91 RM 87 $17 WS says "Sweet, syrupy and spicy, with a strong current of brown sugar, coffee, tobacco and nutmeg running through the raisin and earth flavors." Campbell says, "Toffee and tealeaf characters predominate on the front of the palate with a cleansing hint of spirit and old oak on the finish." Notable absence of fruit with too much tea and earth, hence my rating... See Feature. Holiday dinner with L, Alec, Erin, Chris & sister Jamie, and dear friend Marlene.

Dec 29

Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1997 WS 90 SS RM 90 $23 This property is just east of the Del Dotto estate on Zinfandel Lane, I visited there during the 2002 Napa Wine Experience. This is a great wine value receiving a Spectator Selection award for the effort - quite an achievement with 40k cases produced. Full robust and firm, deep color, rich black cherry and tar with a hint of toasty oak and cassis on the full round finish. Feature.

Dec 25

Del Dotto Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 RM 93 WS 93 Continuing a Christmas tradition - beef tenderloin and DDO Cabernet! The 99 may be the best ever Cab from our friends Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto - and winemaker Nils Venge. Its delicious! Intense dark cherry, currant and blackberry with a lingering finish - tight structured tannins and nice balance. This was the perfect complement to our holiday beef tenderloin dinner. DDO was featured in our Napa Wine Experience 2003. Labels/Summary.

Dec 23

d'Arenberg McLaren Vale Shiraz The Dead Arm 1999 WS 91 RM 91 $65 Lacking that distinctive blueberry from some of the earlier vintages, this Dead Arm is dark and full with forward fruit of big cherry and berry with a big long finish of spice and a bit of that creme brulee although not as pronounced as the Marquis Phillips Shiraz '9' of this vintage. The 2000 and 2001 got 98+ and 94 ratings from Parker.  Finishing the bottle two days later brought out a strong pepper taster and a slight hint of that elusive berry fruit. Label/Summary.

Dec 22

White Cottage Howell Mountain Napa Valley Merlot 1998 - RM 87 WS 86 $39 - Cherry fruit is overtaken by a earthy herbal olive taste. Label/Summary.

Dec 20

Holiday Dinner Party Wine Selections - Featuring three Spectator Selections and associated Wine Spectator Reviews: Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 91 SS RM 88;    Young tight and firmly tannic, this well-crafted California Cabernet slowly unwinds its core of ripe and delicious plum, black cherry, currant and spice flavors. Finishes with sufficient tannic strength to merit short term cellaring so try in 1998 to 2000.  Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 RM 89 WS 92 SS Core of ripe currant and black cherry flavors unfolds into a supple polished texture, and the flavors are pure, focused and linger long on the finish�a most encouraging sign. Best after 2000. Peter Lehman- Clancy�s Barossa 1998 - WS 92 HR RM 90; Shiraz 54% ~ Cabernet Sauvignon 22% ~ Merlot 12% ~ Cabernet Franc 12% Wine Spectator Review - Pure focused fruit character, this reputable red centers on blueberry, blackberry and currant that echo beautifully on the long gorgeous finish. Harmonious and inviting already, it should only gain with cellaring. Drink now through 2010. Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Calistoga Cuvee 1992; WS 90 SS RM 87; Bold, ripe and supple, with a rich focused core of currant, black cherry, plum and exotic spice flavors. Builds richness, intensity and depth on a long, complex finish. Chateau Leoville Las Cases St. Julien Bordeaux 1993 RM 84 Devoid of fruit reflecting the austere vintage, at 10 (years) tastes like a 30 year old in a moderate vintage - distinctive big Bordeaux earthy nose that reflects the taste of wet garden soil and compost with a long finish of smoky tart cherry and a hint tannic cedar. Quady Vintage Port
Paso Robles 1977
RM 85 Surprisingly, this rare find from the dark corners of the cellar revealed life yet at this old age with raisins and earthy figs giving way to smoky cognac. Presented to Linda's former MIT group - annual family dinner - complementing delicious beef tenderloin, ham and all the holiday feast accompaniments and fitting starters and deserts. The only regret might have been leaving these a few years past their prime (s). Enjoyed with L, Chip & Kathy B., George and Kay M., Dave and Marie P., and Kay and Al Z. Merry Christmas!  The Las Cases is one of the classiest and one of my favorites of the 'classic' wine Labels.

Dec 19

Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend Napa Valley Syrah 2001 RM 91 $45 Named for Dennis Lewis's son. The 2001is 60% Syrah and 40% Merlot. Its big rich and complex loaded with blackberry fruit, mocha, sweet oak and vanillin spice. Label Web.

Dec 17

Marquis Philips McLaren Vale Shiraz '9' 2002 RM91 $39 Like the '01, a bit less polished from the 2000, but there is a hint of that distinctive 'burnt sugar creme brulee' taste, but it hides behind a big forward rich ripe currant and black cherry fruit that gives way to a smokey tannin on the long sweet vanilla finish.  Tasted at the the wonderfully delightful W.A. Frost in St Paul. See earlier '9' Review - Label

Dec 15

Leeuwin Estate Margaret River Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 WS RM 87 $45 Dark smokey black cherry and anise with a touch of spicy white pepper. Web. Label.

Dec 6

Brothers In Arms Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2000 WS 92 $34 Rich almost overly ripe mouthful of forward currant, with undercurrent of blackberry and spice, coffee and chocolate. Label. Web. This wine actually overpowered the Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz 2002 - See review.
Venge Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve 1993
$90/48 WS 88 RM 87. Slight tartness in this cherry fruit that gives way to berry, herb and anise, blackberry. This wine and producer were featured in our Napa Wine Experience 2002Label. Web. d'Arenberg Grenache McLaren Vale The Custodian 1996 WS RM 86 $23 Dark current and berry with smoky cedar on a full finish. Web. Label. Yalumba Victoria Museum Release Muscat NV WS 94 RM 89 $15 Thick unctuous Aussie 'sticky'; rich and spicey nut and smoky sweet tar 'cognac' taste with a long full finish.  Web. Label. Tasted at home with L, Bill & Beth C, joined by Bob & Gloria L. 

Dec 2

Markham Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 RM 90 WS 92 SS $18 Rich cherry, currant - slightly awkward initially but has a long big smooth pleasant finish of subtle currant and pronounced blackcherry. Much better than a couple years ago when this wine was closed and 'lost'. This wine was a tremendous value for this quality and price - a huge achievement for this producer. When this wine review appeared in WS, this wine disappeared from wine stores. I found and bought this at Safeway in Lahaina, Maui! May be at its prime now. Label. Web.

Nov 30

Hall Alexander Valley T Bar T Cabernet Franc 2001 RM 91 $35 Intense complex fruitful strawberry and hint of plum and milk chocolate on the long finish. Tasted at and purchased from the producer during our 2003 Napa Wine Experience. Craig and Kathryn Hall invested $34 mm recently in Napa properties as featured in the Nov issue of WS. Watch for more from this producer in the future. Label. Web.

Nov 29

De Rose Cienega Valley Miller Family Vineyard Negrette 1997 RM 88  Interesting wine made from unique grape varietal 110 year old vines; boasts forward blackberry fruit; dark, ripe and smokey with a touch of spice. Tasted at Bistro 110 w/ L, Erin & Sean. Web. Label.

Nov 27

Thanksgiving Dinner - J. Fritz Winery Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Reserve Chardonnay 1995  Rich full creamy oakey and buttery.  WebDomaine du Vieux T�l�graphe Ch�teauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 1995 $30 WS 88 RM 88 Smokey leather, cedar and spicy berry and anise. Visited this producer during the Rhone Wine Experience. Label. Robert Craig Amador Country Zinfandel 2000 RM 88 $22 Limited release from this producer, participant in our Napa Wine Experience 98 and 99. Full ripe berry with a hint of cassis. Label. Web.

Nov 23

Jacobs Creek Barossa Valley Shiraz Reserve 1997  WS 89 RM 90 $15 What a nice surprise to find this delightful and tasty Shiraz tucked away in the cellar. Incredibly it reveals a hint of that same creme' brulee burnt sugar I raived about in the Marquis Phillips, along with a slight nose of whisky before giving way to berry and plum fruit. This wine is an overachiever and great value. See Label and Web.

Nov 20-21

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Reserva 1999, 2000 - $55, $43 WS 86/85 RM 87/85 Interesting blend of Sangiovese and 5% each Cabernet and Merlot.  First tasted at Campiello in Minnetonka, then the next day at the Pump Room in Chicago with Erin. Dark blackberry, smokey cedar impedes the full fruit from coming through. Label. Web. Bonny Doon Vineyard Muscat Vin de Glaciere 2000  RM 90 Sweet fig apricot and tangerine citrus. Great company  to our cheese starter. Label. Web.

Nov 19

Plumpjack Napa Valley Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 RM 91WS 91 $55 Tasty full bodied firm currant and blackberry with oakey cedar long finish with slighly rough tannins. Label Web; Nickel & Nickel Rock Cairn Oakville Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon WS 90 RM 90 $85 Firm currant and berry  laced with smokey tannins. Label Web ; 2000 Fisher Vineyards Coach Insignia Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 WS94 RM 93 $75 See review. Consensus best of class again in this mini tasting with Jamie R., Mark Y. Ken and Todd Mc at Gianni's in Wayzata. 

Nov 15

Peter Lehman Clancey's Barossa Shiraz 1997 WS 92 RP 90 RM 89 $24 This is a blend of cabernet, shiraz, and merlot. Dark blackberry and spicy white pepper and cedar. Needed an hour to open up and reveal the fruit - watch for another review after its been open a while....

Nov 13

Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz 2002 RM 93 WE 94 $39 Wow. What a find! Jim Leeuw the Wine Broker turned me on to this - he has a lead on this and I picked up a case. This is like Rosemount Balmoral Shiraz (one of my favorites) on steroids!! The signature wine of Daryl Groom, former winemaker for Penfolds of the classic Grange, he's now in California making wine for Geyser Peak. This is his personal wine from the Kalimna area of Barossa from vineyards adjacent to Grange. Dark inky, almost looks like coffee color, when you open it you can smell it from across the room! Huge forward fruit  of blackcherry and a touch of blackberry with darkchocolate/cedar and smokey cassis/currant. Its so big you taste it minutes later. This wine is delicious now and will most likely lose its slight edge and be even better over time. Call Jim and pick some up now while supplies last (He has 85 left as of tonight). I bought this to share but too bad.. I'm keeping this for myself! Label

Nov 5

Chateau Beychevelle Saint Julien Bordeaux 1981 WS 81 RP 83 RM 87 WS said it was past its prime in 1994, not surprising for this light somewhat austere vintage; but this was a pleasant surprise. After decanting and breathing for an hour its lost its 'funkiness' and opened up nicely with that classic Bordeaux floral bouquet. The berry fruit was beginning to be slightly overtaken by a leathery herbal soft almost cassis-cedar-like long finish, not unlike many aging left bank Bordeaux, but this still had life in it. Light reflecting the vintage, it was soft, almost delicate. The 81 vintage is Erin's birth vintage as featured in my Wine Spectator interview. This evening was a double celebration of Ryan's 21st b-day and Erin getting her first real full-time employment contract. We'll drink an '82 when we can be with Ryan, away at U of IA, who will then be able to taste with us. This producer has a classic label with a great story behind it, see Label.

Nov 1

Provenance Vineyards Carneros Merlot 2000 RM 91 WS 80 $30 Huge forward blackberry, black cherry aroma and taste gives way to mouthfull of currant then a huge long cedar and milk chocolate finish. Tasted and purchased at the winery last weekat the Napa 2003 Wine Experience. Label. Web.

Oct 29

Hess Estate 1994 Zinfandel RM 84 $15 Purchased at Winery during 1998 Napa Wine Experience. Leathery, earthy peppery spicy cherry. Label Web.

Oct 26

Katheryn Hall Sacrashe Vineyard Rutherford, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 WA93 RM92 $48 88% Cabernet Sauvignon - 12% Merlot Deep, inky ruby color. Berry fruit and black cherry aromas with floral overtones, dried spice and hints of mint and leather. A powerful, concentrated wine reflecting its mountain-grown origins, with full tannins approachable structure. Rich vibrant berry flavors, currants, minerals and hints of smoke and roasted hickory. Tasted at the Winery. Watch for the Hall name to grow as their substantial investments in Napa Valley come on-line. Only three cases and one bottle limit at the Winery.  Julie has some stock at DG Wineshop. Label. Web. White Cottage Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - RM 89 WS 89 $50 Full bodied and structured with forward currant fruit with a touch of spice and leather. Risa Napa Valley 2000 $35 - RM 88 WS 88 Ripe earthy berry fruit with a hint raisin on the moderate tannic finish. Both tasted and purchased at the Coop during our Napa 2003 Wine Experience. Label/Summary.
Oct 25 Clarendon Hills Clarendon Piggott Range Vineyard Shiraz 1999 $96 WS90 RM 89 Powerful dark wine - huge spicy peppery taste overtakes the full blackberry and firm tannins. Tasted w/ AJ & L Murc at  Napa 2003 Wine Experience Bistro Jeanty dinner & tasting. Label.

Oct 24

Chateau Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux Pauillac 1996 & 1985; Quintessa Napa Valley Rutherford 1994; Col Solare 1999 and Paradigm Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995. Notes coming. Tasted w/ AJ & L Murc and David Del Dotto at Napa 2003 Wine Experience Bouchon dinner & tasting. See Mouton Labels.

Oct 24

Chappellet Napa Valley Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 $110 WS 92 RM 90 Blackberry plum currant and toasty spicy oak. Label  Web.; Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Robert's Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 $45 RM 90 Black cherry, berry, and currant, tannins and a traces of mineral and tobacco. Hollywood & Vine 2480 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 WS 89 RM 90 $75 Smooth berry, plum and currant with soft oaky finish. Only 260 cases made. Tasted w/ AJ & L Murc at  Napa 2003 Wine Experience Tra Vigne dinner & tasting. Sourced from the Tra Vigne Cantina.

Oct 18

Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1991 WS 93 RM 86 $65 Waited too long? Still holding  the Special Select that got a huge rating (99) for this vintage. A hint remains of black cherry giving way to smokey  earthiness setting in perhaps taking over the fruit due to age. Lends credence to arguments that this label tends to be over-rated and over-priced.  Feature

Oct 12

Stonestreet  Sonoma County Merlot 2000 WS 84 RM 87 WA 87-88 $30 Cherry mocha, leather and mineral cedar. Tasted at Braxton's Oak Brook with TRR, RV, and Steven E. & Rick C. Web Label

Oct 11

Pride 1998 Sonoma County Viognier WS89 RM88 $32 Bright and full bodied, spicy pear and vanilla buttery oak finish. Approaching end of its prime so drink up. Perfect complement to our lobster dinner. Purchased at the winery  - small production, so my be hard to find. Web Label

Oct 10

Marquis Philips McLaren Vale Shiraz '9' 2001 WS92 RM92 $39 A bit less polished from the 2000, but that distinctive 'burnt sugar creme brulee' taste abounds. HS of WS calls it 'exotic spice' taste, "very ripe and dense,  with rich blackberry jam flavors, which echo on the smoky finish". This is a rare treat if you can find it. See earlier '9' Review - Label

Oct 7

Ch�teau Valrose St.-Est�phe Bordeaux Cuv�e Alienor 2000 WS92 RM91 $25 Full forward fruit of raspberry and blackberry with polished tannins. A great bargain for a top notch 2000 Bordeaux - available at Binny's.

Oct 4

Paringa Shiraz South Australia Individual Vineyard 2001 WS 90 RM 88 $15 Black cherry, raspberry strawberry and spice. Label The 2001 awesome vintage from Australia has fabulous bargains worth checking out.

Oct 1

Marquis Philips Cabernet McLaren Vale S2  2001 RM 91 WS 90 $25 A hint of that creamy creme' brulee nuance of last years big brother '9' -  sweet raspberry, cherry and oaky flavors predominate. See'9' Review - Label.

Sept 27

Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 RM 91 RP 90-92 Intense smokey cherry with balanced tannins and a hint of currant, plum and berry. Long time favorite from Del Dotto friends.  Web Label 

Sept 25

Pine Ridge Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 $33 RM 89 WS 87 A shadow of its full fruit forward 1999 but holds a hint of the same berry currant and mineral flavors but tasty nonetheless. Web Label

Sept 23

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 RM 89 WS 91 SS $24 From the cellar, this wine surprisingly held onto its fruit, body and balance well for a nine year old. Speaks well for the brand considering this is a lesser label - albeit one that consistently overachieves. Cherry plum currant and spice. Web Label

Sept 16-21

Sebastiani Sonoma Valley "Old Vines" Zinfandel 1999 WS 86 WA 92 RM 87-89* $20 Initially closed and tight, this wine opened up over three days to reveal full dark berry and raspberry with a tannic balanced slight earthy tea and vanilla finish. Flavor peaked about day three but held on dutifully and was pleasant thru day five. Label - Web.

Sept 5

Jacques Girardin Santenay Beauregard Burgundy 1999 RM 88 Nicely crafted with big fruit opening with cranberry and nose and taste accented with black cherry and currant. Coudoulet de Beaucastel C�tes du Rh�ne 2000 RM 83 A bit awkward with a forward berry giving way to a earthy tar taste. This doesn't measure up to its big brother CDP. Visited Beaucastel during 99 Rhone Wine Experience. Tasted at La Sardine in west loop.

Sept 1

Cuvaison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1988 WS 82 RM 84 $18 A bit astringent, showing its age, better when left a day revealing cherry and plum. Web. Label. Good with spicy pasta.

Aug 30

Swanson Napa Valley Sangiovese 1995 WS 87 RM 88 $24 Cherry, berry and touch of cedar.

Aug 28

Rosemount Estates Balmoral Syrah 1995 - WS/RM 90 $35 Dark full flavor, berry, blueberry, plum fruit, with spice and anise. Showing age on opening but opened and softened.

Aug 27

1998 DEL DOTTO Napa Valley Sangiovese - (RM90) $40 (Label) (Website) See previous Review.

Aug 25

Antinori Toscana Tignanello 1999 WS/RM 90 $70 Blackberry, cherry with a hint of toasted oak - lighter than recent huge vintages but approachable now. Even though its a blend of 80% sangiovese, 15% cabernet sauvignon and 5% franc, this is a single vineyard estate wine.  You can actually try this by the glass this week at Antico Posto Italian Cafe & Wine Bar in Oak Brook, IL. Label Web.  Frescobaldi/Mondavi Toscana Lucente 1999 WS 88 RM 89 Full bodied and forward blend of 65% Sangiovese and 35% Merlot from Tuscany - Dark cherry a hint of plum and vanilla. Label  Web.  Both tasted with sister Jan, in from California.

Aug 22

Liparita Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 1999 - RM 88 WS 88 Full forward tight typical Liparita with firm tannins although not as much so as the 97 - blackberry herb and cocoa.

Aug 19

Rosemount Estates McLaren Vale Balmoral Shiraz 1999, RM 92, WS 93 SS $53, Huge forward long mouth full of currant, plum, blackberry and anise. Bigger and more robust than other years. Try it and see why this is one of my perennial favorites - even better this year! WebsiteLabel. Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Reserve Tapestry 1999,  RM 90, $38 (Label) Lighter more delicate and polished wine that was slightly overpowered by the forward and full Balmoral and Parraduxx - an unfair test so I'll save this review for another tasting! Duckhorn Vineyards Parraduxx 2000 RM 89 $45 Unique wine (a paradox) blend of cabernet, merlot and zinfandel from this estate known for Merlot. Full robust, berry, tar, smoke and cedar. Tasted at Flemmings in Nashville with MSA and Summit friends.

Aug 13

Chateau Grand vin du Marquis de Leoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 1985 WS98/94/91/90 (4 reviews) RP 93 RM 93 $85 Tapped this perennial favorite from the cellar, signature wine for son Sean (see my interview), celebrating his last night at home before heading off to ISU. Dark colour, intense aroma, full flavor of plum, cherry, tar, cassis, and anise with a long finish. Classic Las Cases - and one of my favorite elegant labels.

Aug 5

Nichols Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Vi�as del Sol Vineyards of Harmony Farms, Edna Valley 1997 WS 80 RM 84 $43 Earthy smokey nose opens with sweet currant but gives way to tart plum and cherry with dirty mushroom and smoke finish. The middle could be pleasant but its overshadowed by awkward finish. Better things are in store for this producer. 

Aug 2

Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 1997 WS/RM 88$55 WS sums it up. Firm and structured. Complex, elegant, spicy herb, earth and currant flavors have a chalky edge, with pretty oak. Turns dry and tannic. I would not say elegant however, its a slight bit harsh. Label Web.
Aug 2 Snoqualmie Vineyards Columbia Valley Syrah 2000 WS/RM 88 $11 Fruity currant, plum, berry and sweet spice in a polished and easy drinking wine that overachieves at this price. Great value. Pick this one up. Label Web. Tasted w/ L at Bon Appetit outdoor garden cafe at the Art Institute of Chicago. If there could be a perfect lunch - this was it! Try it.
July 26 Chateau Souverain Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 WS89 RM 88 $20 Full fruit flavor of ripe black cherry and a touch of currant is offset by an undercurrent of dill, cedar and spice and a bit of mocha. Needs a little time perhaps to sort itself out.  Decent value and readily available for everyday drinking. Web.
July 25 Chateau Woltner Private Reserve Red Napa Howell Mountain 1995 WS 85 RM 87 $50 Cherry and tobacco with hints of cedar, plum and currant - austere but full tannins.  Label  Web

July 17

Marquis Phillips McClaren Vale Shiraz 9 2000 - RM 94 RP 95 RC 94 $39. Awesome wine. Parker says - "run, don't walk to your wineshop and pick this up". I say buy as much as you can. Incredible taste - burnt sugar, buttery vanilla - creme brulee in a bottle! Huge flavor - a foot wide and a mile deep. Huge forward explosion of taste w/ a smooth polished finish. Massive currant, vanilla & butter licorice. Unique extraordinary - what fun!! An unfair tasting with the more delicate and sophisticated Bordeaux. Label. Ch�teau Lynch-Bages Bordeaux Pauillac 1988. RM 92 RC93 RP92 WS95 $69-42 Fragrant earthy cassis blackberry, smoke, herb, leather, tea tastes with a hint of plum & currant. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 15% Merlot: Starting to show its age, may be at its peak but probably has another 5-7 years of life.  Can be found in Rick C's cellar. Both tasted with our friends Kip and Gordon and other patrons at Capital Grill in Tyson's Corner.  Label - Web

July 12

Rosemount McLaren Vale Balmoral Syrah 1997 ($37) RM 93-94! One of my favorites.  Deep lead pencil purple/red colour, and an intense aroma of perfume and fruit - deeply concentrated plum and blackberry fruit with a touch of vanilla and sweet cherry - initially tightly wound then opens to be smooth, with an incredible long fruit-filled finish. Tinge of tight tannins and acid that opens into velvet finish shows long life.  See history and winemaker's comments on their Website.   Label.

July 7

Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Reserve Tapestry 1997 - ($36) (WS 94 RM93) A bordeaux style from lower Napa. Huge mouthful of fruit full-bodied, complex - flavors of berry, plum, a touch of spice with long smooth finish - one of my favorites.  Label
June 27 Beringer Alluvium Red Knights Valley 1993 WS 90 RM 90  $25 Wine Spectator says of this delightful flavorful wine - "ripe, smooth and spicy, with a pretty core of plum, currant and wild berry flavors that turn elegant and complex on the finish where anise and cedar notes fold in. Finishes with firm tannins." A Bordeaux style blend from Napa producer Beringer - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  Label  Web.

June 25

Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 RM 89 Tasty Currant, berry and plum with a nice smooth refined but short finish. More polished than many of the other 98's. Tasted at Flemings in Chandler (PHX). Web - Label  Susana Balboa Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 RM 87 WS 86 Leading female producer in Argentina is appearing more and more in North America. Dark currant and berry, a toasty mushroom with spicy slight awkward edge on the finish. Web

June 7

Chateau Palmer Bordeaux Margaux 1981 WS 89 RP 81 RM 86 - Birth year wine of daughter Erin to celebrate her IU graduation. Cherry, herbal earthy, cedar and oak - light and austere for a Palmer reflecting the vintage. Still alive - tasted from magnum. Label  Web Chateau Gruaud Larose Bordeaux St. Julien RP 90 WS 93 RM 87 My lower rating may reflect the age or that this was tasted in a small bottle (still saving the large format of this) special wine/vintage - birth year of Son Sean celebrating his NN graduation. Berry, spicy cherry, smoky leather. Label

May 25

Ch�teau Haut-Bailly Bordeaux Pessac-L�ognan 2000 WS 92 RM 93 $45 JS' WS review sums it up. Wonderful finesse and length to this wine. Loads of plum and berry, with hints of raspberry. Full-bodied, with a solid, velvety core of ripe fruit and tannins. Long finish. Note he makes the point that it is American-owned. This raises already huge expectations of what is to come as we see release of more 2000 Bordeaux. Web  Label
May 22 Domaine Santa Duc Prestige des Haute Garrigues Gigondas 1998 RM 90 WS 94 $40 A wine to drink with BBQ ribs and chocolate birthday cake at a family birthday celebration! Smokey, spicy, peppery, forward blackberry and plum fruit with full body and firm tannins. Just the match.

May 20

Elan Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996. RM 93-94 RC 92 WS ($35 (in 98)) From the Atlas Peak viticulture district  up in the south east corner above Napa Valley. From Patrick and Linda Elliott-Smith - participants in our 1998 Napa Wine Experience. I upped my rating from an earlier review. This bottle revealed massive sweet berry fruit from the get-go. Strawberry, cherry, and currant propped up by full firm tannins, with hints of eucalyptus and vanilla on the finish. Web. Elan was also one of the "The Undiscovered Dozen" featured in Wine Spectator along with our friends at Del Dotto. Tasted at Capital Grille in Tysons w/ Rick C. Also tasted Antinori Tignanello Toscana 1999.  This wine was totally overshadowed and blown away by the breadth and depth of the Elan - so much so I'll hold off notes until the next tasting.  Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac Bordeaux 1994 RM 91 WS 91 ($93) A fun comparison with fellow patrons between the MR and the Elan. I choose the Elan! The Mouton was elegant, refined, firm and tannic with berry, tar, mineral and spice.

May 18

Chateau Gruaud Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1985 WS90 ('88) 92 ('91) RM 90 RP 90 $57
Mineral, earthy cassis, peppery blackberry and plum. Distinctive GL taste! Softening - ready to drink - still full of life. Label

May 15

Snowden Lost Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 RM 90 WS87 $30 Lots of forward fruit - berry cherry and currant with a long mild tannic spicy finish. Second label from Snowden aimed at value and 'instant gratification' (early drinking). Label.

May 8

Chateau Les Ormes de Pez St. Estephe Bordeaux 2000 ($25) WS/RM 89 Here come the 2000 Bordeaux. This is a great value at $25 (I remember paying close to that for their 1990!). Mineral and a touch of mint almost overshadow the blackberry plum fruit. Big bouquet and long finish. A great start to this very promising vintage. I was disappointed they weren't serving any 2000's other than this on at the Grand Tour. Never-the-less this one can be found at Famous Liquors in Lombard. Tasted w/ Rick C. Web Label

May 3

Stevenot Winery Calaveras County Cabernet Franc 2000 $18 RM 87 Spicy currant and plum - soft tannins. Great value in an every day pizza/pasta wine. Web Label

Apr 20

Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 1997 ($37) RM 92 One of my favorites. Notes from previous tastings. Deep lead pencil purple/red colour, and an intense aroma of perfume and fruit - deeply concentrated plum and blackberry fruit with a touch of vanilla and sweet cherry - initially tightly wound then opens to be smooth, with an incredible long fruit-filled finish. Tinge of tight tannins and acid that opens into velvet finish shows long life ahead.  Website   Label

Apr 17

Fisher Coach Insignia Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 RM 88 WS 89 $60 Ripe plum, black cherry, and earthy cedar, finishing with firm but soft tannins. Lacks the fruit and polish of the 99. Well priced on the winelist at at Bistro Bis in WDC. Chateau Tirecul La Graviere 1998 Thick unctuous and dark, sweet carmelized orange and vanilla. RM 88 Vouvray Chenin Blanc Moelluex 1990 RM 87 peach, citrus with a honey essence finish. Light colour and body. Both desserts by the glass to complement the Bistro Bis excellent selection cheese course.  Well considered - thoughtful wine list with many delectable premier Reserve Wines - nice coverage across all pricepoints -  carefully selected and presented by Sommelier Ted Wynot, formerly of WS Wine School. Label - Website

Apr 16


Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley 1999 WS88 RM/RC90 $48 Complex currant, black cherry,  cedar and spice flavors, mocha finish turning smooth and polished. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 1996 RM/RC91 WS91 $48 Smooth, focused currant, black cherry, tar and anise lingering on the finish. Tasted w/ RC and Gordon Leigh, Manager, Sommelier @ Capital Grill in Tyson's Corner. Label - Web Robert was a featured  producer at our Napa Wine Experience.

Apr 15

Ferrari-Carano Merlot Sonoma County 1999  RM 87 WS 85 $23 Cherry, currant, mocha and a slight tannic plum finish. Touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot. 17 months in oak. Label. Web.

Apr 12

Armando Parusso Barolo Mariondino 1998 WS 93 RM 90 Reduced at Binny's Glen Ellen from $58 to $39. Full-bodied, with big, polished tannins and a long finish. Berry plum and spice. Label

April 7

Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 1993 $75 RM/WS (CS) 90 That classic SO oak flavor predominants with berry, plum and currant - dark with medium body.   Label/bottle. WebBeaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve 1997; RM 91 $36 One of my perennial favorites - blackberry, cherry and clove. Balanced full fruit.  Web. Label. Served these to our friends Emma and Chris visiting from the UK. Gave them a taste of classic American wines. Also introduced Chris to the Ahso and sent him back with one. He'll be the hit of County Durham! Cheers.

April 4

Northstar 1999 Merlot WA 91WS 91 RM 90 $40 Dark, medium bodied with blackberry, dark cherry, with long, pleasant finish. Lacks that distinctive Columbia Valley sweetness that is so often prevalent. Tastes more of a Sonoma Merlot - fruity and lighter than a firmer Napa.   Another fortunate BYOB in Paradise - tasted at L'Entrecot in Oranjestad. .  Web. Label/bottle.

April 2

Del Dotto Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 RM 93 WS 93 This may be the best ever Cab from our good friends Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto - and winemaker Nils Venge. Its delicious! Intense dark cherry, currant and blackberry with a lingering finish - tight structured tannins and nice balance. Took this along on holiday - a good thing since the available selections were extremely limited in the Caribbean.  I first tasted this in the barrel in the DDO caves and then at this summer's Barrels and Beef Extravaganza at Del Dotto. Pick this up if you can. Web Label Disclaimer - I do their website! They'll be serving this at the Wine Spectator Grand Tasting next month. Check it out.

Mar 31

Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1999 RM/WS 91 $48 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5 % Merlot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc. Enjoyable, tasty complex wine, smooth, polished currant, black cherry and plum. Tasted at L'Escala in Renaissance Hotel in Oranjested, Aruba. No doubt the best and perhaps only wine 'bargain' on the island at $59 winelist price. This is worth picking up for drinking now or near term cellaring. Web. Label.

Mar 27

Pirramimma 1998 McLaren Vale Shiraz  Stocks Hill Vineyard $25 RM 92 Dark full smoky black cherry, tar and cedar, big, long finish. Label. Website.

Mar 19

Sterling Vineyards 1999 Winery Lake Pinot Noir Carneros $25 RM 87 WS 87 Black currant and black cherry with light tannins. Web.

Mar 14

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino La Casa 1995 Tuscany $85* RM 90 WS 91 Cellar Selection. Full firm but smooth, polished, long Tuscan Brunello. Aromatic, berry and plum and medium body refined tannic finish. * Despite the release price, Binny's has a large quantity at $40 due to a special purchase.

Mar 12

Fisher Coach Insignia Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 RM 93-94 WS 94 Cellar Selection - An encore of the highlight of the recent DG Wineshop tasting. Shared w/ Rick C at Cab's. Forward mouthful of delicious currant, blackberry and plum flavors with a smooth polished finish. Blend: Bordeaux Style - Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc, Merlot from Cameron Vineyard on Silverado Trail; Cabernet Sauvignon from Stagecoach Vineyards above Oakville, and Merlot from Feingold Vineyard in Sonoma. WS says its Fishers finest - awarded it a Cellar Selection. Label. Website.

Mar 9

Galante Vineyards Red Rose Hill Carmel Valley 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon WS 88 RM 87 $22 Black currant, cedar, cassis and herbs held together with firm tannins and a smooth finish. Web. Label.

Mar 7

Elan Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1996. RM 91 $35 From the Atlas Peak viticulture district  up in the south east corner above Napa Valley. From Richard and Linda Elliott-Smith - participants in our 1998 Napa Wine Experience. Supple, with a range of peppery, earthy, mineral and tar flavors leading to a core of ripe plum, black cherry and herb. This was much more approachable and tasty the second evening. It needed that long to open and shed its earthy veil to reveal richer and more balanced fruit.  There's a remarkable and intriguing story about their stylish label as recalled by some of our group. Elan was also one of the "The Undiscovered Dozen" featured in Wine Spectator along with our friends at Del Dotto.

Mar 5

Kathryn Kennedy Santa Cruz Mountain Lateral 1997 RM WS 88 $35 Merlot 55%, Cabernet Franc 25%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 20%. Complex, earthy leather, mushroom, currant, plum and sage flavors. Firm with a long finish. We used to live about a mile from this winery in Saratoga, down in the bottom corner of  Silicon Valley up against the mountain. The grape come from up in the hills between there and Santa Cruz. She is known for her premium highly rated Cabernets. Website.

Feb 22

Summary highlights of California Cabernet tasting event at DG Wineshop - Flight included: Caymus Special Select 1998, Dominus 1999, Fisher Coach Insignia 1999,  Heitz Trailside 1997, Justin Isosecles 1999, Mayacamas 1997, Showket 1998, Stonehedge 1997,  Ristow 1998/99, and Rodney Strong Symmetry 1998.  Several of the group of 40+ tasters favored the Isosceles and the Mayacamas. My ranking was topped by the Caymus, clearly the most sophisticated wine with a broad symphony of polished and well balanced flavors of currant, blackberry, leather and plum with a huge long smooth finish - RM 93-94. Competing with it for best in class was the Fisher Insignia with forward mouthful of currant, blackberry and plum flavors with a smooth polished finish. Next in my ranking was the Showket with currant mocha chocolate finish. RM 93. Next in class was the Symmetry with its spicy berry. Perhaps the best value at $45. Next I ranked the Ristow 98 at 91 with berry, cherry, smoky and earthy leather finish. Dominus typically resembled a young Bordeaux needing much more time to reveal its fruit. See pictures of the evening and more comments on my FORUM.

Feb 16

Renteria Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 RM 92 $67 Well balanced medium-full bodied full fruit of blackberry, currant, earth and plum flavors. Big finish reveals polished tannins. and toasty oak. Web. Label.
David Arthur Napa Valley Merritagio RM 91 $70 Interesting blend of 44% cab, 24% cab franc, 16% merlot, and 8% Sangiovese and 8% Petit Verdot. A profoundly complex wine is conflicted between spicy fruit and smokey raisin, figs, earthy leather and cherry. Full bodied and long finish. Label. Web.

Feb 15

Carmenet Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 RM 90 $47 Black cherry, plum and currant. Web.

Feb 9

Cuvaison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1988 - RM 87 $40 ($19 in '88) Time to drink this vintage selection tucked away in the cellar. Three left. Smokey leather, accent the cherry and berry fruit . Web. Label.

Feb 8

Volnay Clos Des Chenes Premier Cru Domaine Latour-Giraud 1998 - RM 88 $80 Medium bodied Forward cherry fruit gives way to leather olive and cassis. Tasted w/ L, Erin and Chris at Marche Chicago.

Feb 7

Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - RM 90 $24 Discover Trinchero. Buy it, try it, enjoy it; hope they continue to offer such quality at such a price. This is the winelist price at Suparossa in Woodridge - expect to pay less in the store. Great bargain and value in a tasty enjoyable easy drinking wine - a bit forward but approachable currant, almond nut, vanilla and pear. Trinchero Family own Sutter Home - mass producers of low priced entry level wines; have released a line named after their father and patriarch. Can they hold  prices as word gets out that they're moving up-market with a respectable offering? Take advantage now. Web. Label.  Tasted w/ LJ, Erin & Chris.

Feb 6

Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1998 - WS 91 RM 91 $70 Label; Review; Third review of this wine this year. Dark, rich, ripe, mouthful of black cherry, currant, plum, blackberry, anise, with a firm finish  - perfect compliment to a delightful dinner at Cab's in Glen Ellyn. Kudo's to Cab's for holding many of the prices on their winelist. LJ and R.

Feb 1

Cadence Ciel Du Cheval Vineyard 1999 RM 92 WS 92 $38 From the Red Mountain appellation, this has a tinge of that Napa Howell Mtn terrior taste with spicy currant and revealing a hint of that Red Mountain distinctive 'cognac' taste. Deep purple colour, complex forward but pleasant well rounded spicy cherry, currant,  and berry taste with a lingering red raspberry finish. Needs some time to soften and lose a slightly forward edge. Unique wine of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Cabernet Franc, and 13% Merlot. Find this wine at the nearby Downers Grove Wineshop in DG, website coming soon (See pics). Website. Logo.

Jan 27

Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1989 RM 90 RC 91WS 90 $50 Dark ink colour. Predominant Howell Mountain terrior currant giving way to plum fruit and smooth finish. Label; Joseph Phelps Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1984- RM 88 RC 91WS 88 $80 Grassy, earthy green apples opening that eventually gave way to pleasant plum and currant fruit with chewy tannins and long finish. Tasted with our friend Kip Olsen, GM at Capital Grill in Tysons Corner

Jan 26

Michele Castellani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Cristi 1997 Veneto WS 90 RM 91 $39 Full bodied, chewy rich mouthful of plum and hints of cedar, pepper and cloves.

Jan 24

Behrens & Hitchcock Napa Valley Zinfandel 1996 RM 86 WS 86 $18 Raisins and prunes predominate over berries - JL of WS says "gamey and nutty".Label.  Volker Eisele Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 RM 87 Grown in the Chiles Valley region of Napa a 900 to 1000 foot elevation. I admit I know nothing of this area. Judging simply by taste my guess it is in the Northeast of Napa. I taste none of the Howell or Mt Veeder or other appellations characteristics. This was initially closed but after an hour revealed earthy leathery raisin fruit. Tasted w/ Bill & Beth C.

Jan 23

Le Clos du Caillou Cote du Rhone Tres Vieilles Vignes Reserve 1999 RM 89 $15 Great value. Approachable berry and plum with nice balance and polish. Easy drinking.

Jan 19

Saddleback Napa Valley Old Vines Zinfandel 1997 RM 91 $33 Wow! Not for the faint of heart. This is a huge hedonistic wine - powerful massive forward fruit - tar, raspberry prunes currant and a hint of licorice and spice with a incredibly long mouthful puckering plum finish. A signature wine from Nils Venge winemaker for Del Dotto as well as his own Venge label. See review, web. Rated lower due to emerging slight tartness on the open. See Feature.

Jan 18

Calera Selleck Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 1993 RM 86 WS 85 $38 From the fabled Josh Jenson who created the Pinot Noir phenom in California as featured in the wonderful book The Heartbreak Grape about his exploits. This wine is intense forward pepper and smokey plum and cassis finish. Labels. Web. Library.

Jan 15

Dalle Valle Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 1989 WS 85 RM 89 RC 91 $49 Blackberry, cedar, leather with smokey tannins revealing life still left in this wine. Label. Shafer Reserve Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon 1982 RM 92 RC 93 $49 Full forward fruit of black cherry, plum, leather and cedar thru to the end. Amazing fruit and life in this 20 year old Napa from a modest vintage. Tasted at Capital Grill in Tysons, VA w/ RC.

Jan 12

Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux 1995 RP 90 RM 89 $44 Label.

Jan 9

Pine Ridge Napa Valley Carneros Estate 1999 RM WS88 $42 Dark, light, smooth, almost delicate, berry, leathery currant flavors with a slight smokey edge. Pine Ridge made some fabulous wines this vintage. This is surprisingly light compared to their fabulous stable of cabs. (Web) Duckhorn Napa Valley Parraduxx 1999 RM 91 $48 Full, forward fruit of black cherry, berry and red raspberry with a smokey finish. This interesting wine is always fun and tasty with its unique bordeaux blend of cabernet and merlot accented with Zinfandel. Its also a unique and distinctive label - each year featuring a different duck species that frequents the west coast flyway. Duckhorn's new winery was featured in this years Napa Wine Experience. (Web) Both tasted at Morton's Steakhouse with TRR, MDB and Charlie F.
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