Rick's Wine Journal 2004 - Half 1


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

June 30 - A special tasting with Gina Gallo at Binny's Glen Ellyn. Gallo of Sonoma Northern Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - RM 86 WS 79 $75 Not as bad as WS indicates but not quite a collectible - A bit lean and austere berry fruit with leather and sage with a tight closed tannic finish. Gallo of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Barrelli Creek Vineyard 2000 - WS 75 RM 87 $30 More berry with spicy pepper scents ala a Rhone or Syrah or Zinandel. - Gallo of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County Reserve 2000 - WS 87 RM 87 $13 - Full forward fruit dark cherry and berry with full tannin finish. Decent value for everyday drinking now.
June 27 - Alion Bodegas y Viñedos Ribera del Duero Crianza  (Spain) 1996 -  WS 91 RM91 $37- Balanced and intense, this generous red offers cassis, plum, chocolate and toast flavors, with ripe tannins and a clean finish. It has enough concentration to age and enough grace to be delicious now. Tasted a couple years ago and this wine was tight and closed. It has now opened and exhibits rich fruit with nice balance and polished finish.
June 24 - Fairview Swartland (South Africa) Jaakals Fontein Shiraz 2002- RM 91 WS 92 $31 Rich tasty full forward fruit, blackberry, cherry and sweet apple and plum flavors - smooth, polished and well balanced with an interesting hint of vanilla apple and anise flavors. Recommended and provided by Jim and the good folks at K&L in Redwood City from his recent trip over there.

June 20  - Darioush Voigner 2002, Darioush Signature Chardonnay 2002, Darioush Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Shapar Late Harvest Riesling 2001 along with Domaine de Chevalier Rouge 2000 & 1990, and Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 1986 and 1996. Fabulous private dinner hosted by Darioush & Shapar Kaledi of Darioush Winery and Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier at Everest in Chicago. See Feature. Highlights - Darioush Signature Cab 2001 - RM 94 - Wonderful complex nose with full forward currant fruit complemented by luscious juicy berry fruit. Incredibly smooth, balanced and polished with nicely integrated tannin finish. Darioush Signature Chardonnay 2002 - RM 92 Delicious, approachable, rich full bodied - soft approachable tasty layers of apple, pear, melon, and fig. A hint of cinnamon spice and hazelnut round out the elegant finish. Domaine de Chevalier Rouge 2000 & 1990 - Distinctive earthy berry aromas give way to full bodied essence of dark berry fruit, tobacco, mineral, herb and a hint of leather. 1990 - RM 92 WS 93, 2000 RM 90 but give it time. As Bernard said, its still a baby - translated still in it infancy - much life ahead.

June 18 - Château Lynch Bages Pauillac Bordeaux 1986 - WS 94 RM 92 $37 (release price) WS says it best - A first-class wine with a powerful backbone. Displays inky color and smoky cherry aromas; full-bodied and balanced with a long finish. Dark in color with rich cedar, herb and black cherry aromas, followed by very intense, concentrated fruit and layers of currant, cherry and tea, finishing with intense and powerful tannins - will need a decade before reaching its peak. Tasted from cell in magnum. Château Meyney St. Estèphe Bordeaux 1986 - WS90 RM 88 $19 (release price) WS review - Dense, concentrated and nearly chocolatey in richness, with complex aromas of ripe plum, vanilla and herbs. Tight and fully tannic, built for the cell ar, although its aromas are tempting now. Tasted from cellar in DOUBLE MAGNUM.
Beringer Late Harvest Special Select Johannisburg Riesling 1993 - WS 94 RM 94 - Essence of apricot with a touch of almond, thick unctuous sweet syrup of smokey apricot flavors.  Warre Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Port 1995 - WS 92 Cellar Selection RM 92 $33 - Aromas of grapes, flowers and minerals pave the way for a slowly building palate that finishes with a burst of ripe, exotic fruit. Full-bodied, yet very tight and held back. Clos Fontindoule Monbazillac 1990 (info)- RM 89 $39 Tea coloured, smokey honey herbal almond and sweet apple/berry taste. Reedy's hosted iTRACS exec team dinner w/ spouses held at Hinsdale CC.
June 17 - DEL DOTTO Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (RM92) $62 -  Perfume of sweet oak & plum - flavor packed currant, black berry, cherry and a sweet oak smooth vanilla finish with soft tannins. The 15% Merlot and 5% Cab Franc add roundness and a hint of spice and smoke.  27 months aging in a variety of oak barrels adds a unique delicious sweet oak complexity   Nils Venge is consulting winemaker. Tasted at home w/ Pela's in from PHX and Singapore.
June 15 - Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - WS 88 RM 88 - Pleasant aroma with flavorful currant, leather, and cedar - smooth polished and well balanced with nicely integrated tannins. Tasted with OEM Partners @ IIM Summit dinner hosted by Molex at Algauers' in Lisle Hilton.
June 12 - Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan Bordeaux 1996 - WS 86 RM 87 $39 - Big classic Bordeaux aromas of pronounced earthy ripe berry. Flavors of slightly astringent raspberry and full mineral with hints of smoke and earth that linger on the finish. Medium-bodied, with firm, sleek tannins. Tight and closed. Tasting in preparation for gala dinner with producer in Chicago next week in concert with the team from Darioush at Everest Restaurant.
June 10 - von Strasser Napa Valley Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - RM 88 WS 89 $45 Full bodied and concentrated - berry aromas give way to earthy currant, herb, sage and anise. Balanced but a bit tight and closed which should improve with some short-term cellaring to soften.
June 9 - K Vintners Milbrandt Wahluke Slope Columbia Valley Syrah 2001 - WS 89 RM 87 - $25 -
Full bodied - Berry nose with cherry, a hint of white pepper aromas and flavors of berry and a touch of black olive & mineral. Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen Eroica Columbia Valley Riesling 2001 - WS 90 Spectator Selection RM 87 $20 WS says, "Bright and tangy, with an uncanny balance that finds the right mix of peach, pear and mineral flavors, juicy but nicely concealed acidity, and enough richness to make it all sing through the long, elegant finish." I can accept all of that except its got a slightly funky unctuous grape syrup finish that has a slight mineral like taste that detracts from the rich fruit. Tasted w/ whole family and Marlene U. at Clara's in Woodridge.

June 6 - Quivira Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 1998 - WS 85 RM 86 $18 - Raspberry, black pepper and berry with firm backbone of tannins and toasty oak.

June 3 - Clos du Bois Marlstone Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 WS 88 RM 86 $22 @ release. Earthy tar cassis and dark cherry - starting to approach end of life - drink up.
June 1 - Ravenswood Vintners Blend South East Australian Shiraz 2002 - RM 87 $14 - See pre-release tasting notes from Mar 8 - this wine initially showed huge rich ripe berry and sweet cherry fruit. A great value at $14 which its selling at locally but its available  on the producer site for less than $11. Its a bit more earthy and less fruit than earlier tasting but worth getting for everyday 'pizza' wine. Better the second day.

May 29 - La Rocas San Alejandro Grenacia 2001 - RP 93 RM 87 Parker cites this as one of the greatest wine values based on its $15 price. A bit too much mineral for me, overshadowing the raisiny overripe fruit taste of an Amarone. As I often say, 'not for the faint of heart!'. Parker cites predominant kirsche taste accented by blackberry. Robert Pecota Monterey County Syrah 2000 - WS 87 RM 86 $18 Big full fragrant aromas give way to peppery berry, leather, herb and tar. Day two the pepper gave way to berry fruit and a more polished finish. I raise my rating to a RM 88. Both tasted @ home dinner w/ Bob & Gloria.

May 22 - Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2001 - $110 - Due to illness and diminished senses I'll defer to other's tasting notes and reviews for this wine. My rating 92 - Harvey Steinman, Wine Spectator, 96 Points, 05/2004 " A big but remarkably elegant wine, focusing it's pure blueberry, blackberry and plum flavours on a laser beam of finely balanced tannins and judicious acidity, persisting on the finish with glints of white pepper, licorice and coffee. Serious stuff that begs for cellar time. Best from 2010 through 2025." 96 points, Robert Parker Jr's The Wine Advocate, 08/2003 "racheting up the level of concentration, intensity and flamboyance as well as structure is the 2001 Shiraz Old Bastard... it is produced from 110-year old vines, and represents one of the great classics from (the) Barossa... The inky purple colour is accompanied by gorgeous aromas of smoke, camphor, melted licorice, blackberries, cherries, and flowers. Dense, rich and full-bodied with the wood well concealed beneath spectacular concentration and extract, there is not a hard edge to be found in this old vine Barossa shiraz. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2018". 
Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 - WS 91 Cellar Selection RM 89 $55
Due to illness and greatly diminished senses, I defer to WS Review - "Dense and compact, with a tightly wound, rich core of earthy currant, cedar, spice and cherry flavors, finishing with chewy tannins. Great length, but will need to age at least until 1998." - Two blockbusters to celebrate my birthday (hence the Kaesler OB!) at home with family.  


May 20 - Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2001 -  WS 90 RM 89 $25 - WS review * says - "Smooth, rich and concentrated, with a tasty core of plum, blackberry and wild berry shaded by toasty, smoky oak. It all comes together on the finish, where it turns complex and plush. *(I was sick and don't want to trust my palate or tasting senses.) Tasted w/ team Siemon at Vasi's Restaurant, Watertown, CT.
May 19 - Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, WS 85 RM 87 $25 - Berry and cedar with a hint of anise on the light finish. I have a rule that when in doubt select Beringer or Chateau St Michelle that usually works. Here the choice reflects the woeful winelist selection rather than indecision. Reasonable value for this adequate enjoyable wine. Tasted w/ RG, EMc and Frank V @ Diorios Restaurant, Waterbury, CT. The Gov was there and my sportcoat came up missing. Coincidence? Thanks Frank.
May 15, 2004 - Fairview Paarl (South Africa) Beacon Block Shiraz 2002 - WS 93 RM 87 $30 - Black fruit is overpowered by pepper and tar with a hint of cloves and anise, moderate tannin and acid.
May 11, 2004- Rombauer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2002 - RM 89 - Rombauer's notes on this wine - "aromas of mango, pineapple, apples and spice.  On the palate are crisp flavors of tropical fruit, integrated with rich vanilla from oak barrel aging.  A memorable finish of light oak nuances and a delicious buttery tone linger on the palate." Perfect accompaniment to one of my favorite dishes in the universe - Sand Dabs at Scott's in Palo Alto.
May 8, 2004 - Columbia Winery Columbia Valley Syrah 1999 - RM 87 - Dark inky color, earthy berry and currant taste with a slight leather finish. Great value wine. Tasted at Cafe Elyse in Munster for Mothers Day dinner.
Mar 7, 2004 - Rosemount Estate Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 2000 - WS 93 RM 93 $53/$29 Delicious easy drinking wine that is a great bargain at this sale price. Dark, inky, big nose, full bodied forward frontal palate of pepper giving way to fruit of dark blackcurrant, cherry, cedar, smoke and huge long smooth lingering plum finish revealing layers of smooth tight tannins. Feature.
Conn Creek Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 label May 4 - Conn Creek Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 - WS 86 (1984) RM 89 - Wow - Took a chance on this 24 year old Napa cab and what a surprise! This wine vastly exceeded my expectations - dark ink colour, aroma of anise and blackberry, mouth full of anise, tar and blackberry give way to cedar and later, blackcherry and mocha a hint of mint held together by full firm long tannins. Amazing for its age - credit to its provenance - from the cellar of Della Notte Ristorante at the inner harbor of Baltimore. Tasted w. Mark M. 
May 1 - Château de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rhone 1998 -  WS 94 Spectator Selection RM 89 $34 Like the Pesquier last weekend (Apr 25 below) WS raves about this wine, much more so than me, so I defer to their review. "A wonderful, masterful wine. Both firm and opulent, it displays a nice dig into the Rhône terroir as it brings out wet earth, mineral and an interesting, chewy tannin structure. A high-voltage drinking experience, with lots of fruit, spice and mocha."  My notes - Pronounced white pepper on the open that gives way to leathery black cherry and berry.
Apr 30 - Château Haut Bages Avérous Pauillac Bordeaux 1989 - WS 90 RM 87 $26
Dark purple coffee colour with full forward earthy tar, blackberry with a big fruity black cherry finish full of tightly wound tannins. Second wine of Lynch Bages from top vintage. Too much tar and too little fruit for top rating. Starting to show its age.
Apr 25 - Domaine du Pesquier Gigondas 1999 - RM 88 WS 94 Spectator Selection $18
WS gave this a SS and a 94 so I'll defer to their review. "Rich and ripe, a lovely and seductive Rhône red. Packed with wild herb, plum and blackberry complexity, it caresses the palate with its rich fruit and silky tannins. Full-bodied, with mineral, slight smoke, leather and game character on the finish." I found it a bit too 'gamey' and peppery, for my preference. (My review was consistent with mine from Dec 2002.) A rare divergence w/ WS. Tasted at Bob & Gloria's for Helen's bday.
Apr 23 - Penfolds Shiraz Cabernet South Australia Koonunga Hill 1996 - WS 88 RM 86 $10 Great value for everyday drinking. Tart cherry, earthy currant, mocha and smoky oak finish.
Apr 21 - Kilikanoon Clare Valley 'Oracle' Shiraz 2001 - RM 92 - RP 94 - $42 - Sweet rich plum nose. Dark, full bodied and flavourful. Sweet plum, black cherry and smoky oak fig and spicy berry finish with firm tannins.
Apr 17 - Chateau La Galiane Margeaux 1996; Bighorn Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - RM 88 WS 88 $38 Currant and black cherry with undercurrents of mocha and white pepper.; Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2001; Stefano Farina Barolo 1998; Joel Gott Zinfandel 2002. David Arthur Napa Valley Meritaggio 1997; Tasting at DG Wineshop. Notes coming.

Apr 16 - Possum Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001 - RM 91, RP 90 - $25. An inky/purple color is accompanied by sweet aromas of blueberries, blackberries, and vanilla. Full-bodied, with full texture and finish. Dark black cherry, berry, vanilla, black pepper and raisiny fig taste. Tasted with ENA in Greenfield.
Apr 12 - Canoe Ridge Columbia Valley Merlot 1997 - WS 88 RM 87 $21 - Black cherry accented by a hint of that distinctive 'cognac' taste, anise and a big finish of smoky tar and tight tannins. 
Apr 10 - Cuvaison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1988 - RM 87 $40 ($19 in '88) Still life in this vintage selection tucked away in the cellar. One left. Predominant licorice and smoky leather, accent the cherry and berry fruit. Cuvaison Napa Valley Merlot 2000 - WS 87 RM 86 $29 Earthy currant with herb and coffee and slightly awkward tannins. Kathryn Hall Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 - RM 86 $40/$16 Dark inky colour, nose of earthy berry and cedar. Blackberry, tart cherry, mineral and cedar, with a firm tannic finish. Tasted this wine at the winery during our 2003 Napa Wine Experience. Tasted at Easter dinner with Bob & Gloria, Sarah & Pat, Pat R & Gary.

Apr 8 - Phillip Melka CJ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - RM 90 $35 - Subtle sweet berry scents quickly give way to a mouthful of currant and mocha, dark cherry, tar, raisin   and licorice with a soft tight tannic finish and currant aftertaste that is a bit short and light but flavorful. Young Frenchmen Philip is consulting winemaker at Quintessa, Seavey, Lail, 29 and other top producers. An up and comer in Napa with his Bordeaux style flagship Matisse and this wine named for his two children. 

Apr 6 - Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot 2000 - RM 89 Cherry-berry fruit, bouquet of cherry, tastes of cherry, raspberry, licorice, cassis and a hint of smoke. Tasted at the Peninsula Club in San Mateo at the Woodrow Wilson Awards Dinner for John Chambers and William Perry. See.
Olivier Leflaive Montrachet 1996 Apr 4 - Olivier Leflaive Frères Puligny-Montrachet Champ Gain 1999 - RM 87 $49 - Light - hints of lime give way to smokey, flinty honey lemon and floral.

Apr 3 - Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2002 - RM 87 -Crisp, lean, aromas of honey, pear and citrus, framed by toasty, caramelized oak. Tasted at Duke's on Kapali Beach in Kaua'i.
TORBRECK JUVENILES 2001 Apr 2 - Torbreck Juveniles Barossa Valley 2002 - WS 88 RM 88 $29 WS review. Earthy blackberry and subtle anise tones. Nicely balanced with a pleasant tannin finish. Interesting blend of Grenache, Mataro (Mourvèdre) and Shiraz. Tasted at JJ's Broiler on Kapali Beach in Kaua'i.

Apr 1 - Miner Napa Valley Chardonnay 2000 - RM 90 WS 90 $30 - Rich, full bodied, complex, with mouthful of pear, nut and hints of apricot and fig with a long, full finish. Morgan Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2001 - RM 86 WS 87 $22 - Earthy spicy berry, coffee and toasty oak. Tasted at Duke's Kauai - both offered by the glass(@$9.50) as well as by the bottle.
Mar 28 - Susan de Balboa "Crio" Mendoza Meritage 2001 - RM 87 $26 Tremendous value in this Argentine. Plum and berry fruit, hint of anise and tar. Tasted w/ L & Bob & Gloria @ JJ's Broiler on Kapali Beach in Kaua'i. I was introduced to this producer by Andrew Bradbury of Aureola in Las Vegas who has access to one of the most extensive winelists anywhere.

Mar 27 - Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir Carneros 2001 - WS 86 RM 88 $26 Pleasant, approachable, soft featuring accents of vanilla and brown suger givign way to plum and berry with a hint of cedar and mocha.  Niebaum Coppola Rosso 2001 - RM 85 - Complex blend of  33% Zinfandel, 26% Syrah, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Sangiovese - this wine was huge with forward fruit of blackberry, spice, pepper, cedar and mocha - a bit awkward and slightly rough around the edges. Tasted w/ Bob & Gloria at Kukui's Restaurant at the Kaua'i Marriott Resort.
Mar 25 - Raymond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2000 - WS 87 RM 89 $40 black currant and black cherry accented with a hint of mocha and toasty oak with a pleasant finish of soft tannins. Encore of the March 18 tasting - this time at Jan & Bills in Huntington Beach.
Mar 23 - Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1993 - WS 86 RM 86 $37 Earthy cherry and anise with a hint of pepper. One of the wineries visited during our Rhone Wine Experience - see Feature.

Mar 21 - Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Valley Tapestry Reserve 1994 - RM 90 WS 91 WS Spectator Selection, $40/$20 - Napa grown Bordeaux-style blend, Tightly integrated - earth and hint of tar on the front give way to currant, plum and spicy cherry flavors with a big long earthy spice finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Feature.
Mar 19 - David Arthur Napa Valley Merritagio - RM 87 $70 Interesting blend of 44% cab, 24% cab franc, 16% merlot, and 8% Sangiovese and 8% Petit Verdot. A complex wine is conflicted between spicy fruit and smokey raisin, figs, earthy leather and cherry.

Mar 18 - Raymond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2000 - WS 87 RM 89 $40 black currant and black cherry accented with a hint of mocha and toasty oak with a pleasant finish of soft tannins. Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - WS 85 RM 86 $26 Light austere berry flavor that falls off with minimal backbone and finish. 
Mar 17 - White Wine Flight at Restaurant, Mystic, CT - King Estate Oregon Pinot Gris 2001- RM WS 86 Melon and peach - light and relatively non-descript. Hogue Columbia Valley Fume Blanc 2002 - RM 88 -  Floral nose leads to big apricot flavor that gives way to subtle pleasant soft citrus. Bonny Doon California Washington Pacific Rim Riesling 2001- RM 87 Easy drinking sweet pear and subtle apple.  Stonington Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2002 - RM 83 - Tart sour apple with a spicy and nutty finish.  Cline Cellars Sonoma Valley Viognier 2000 - RM 86 Full firm rich fruit overpowered by smoky oak.  
Mar 16 - Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1994 - RM 82 $37. Lean, austere, smoky tar overcomes the cherry fruit and anise and raisin finish.
Mar 15 - Raimondi Valpolicella 2001- RM 83 A bit funky with a musty wet earth nose and dirty mushroom taste that overshadows the over-ripe raisin blackberry taste. 
Mar 12, 2004 - Rosemount Estate Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 2000 - WS 93 RM 93 $53/$29 Delicious easy drinking wine that is a great bargain at this sale price. Dark, inky, big nose, full bodied forward fruit of dark blackcurrant, cherry, cedar, smoke and huge long smooth lingering plum finish revealing layers of smooth tight tannins. Feature.

Mar 9 - An evening with Angelo Gaja at the Peninsula Hotel, Chicago - See Feature
Wines tasted: Alteni Brassica 2000, Gaia & Rey 2001, Sito Moresco 1999, Darmagi - 1999, Sperss 1998, Sori Tildin 1998, Gaja Barbaresco - 1978, 1989, 1999, 2000

Mar 8 - Mount Veeder Winery mini-tasting - Mount Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - RM 92 Full forward fruit - rich with currant and chewy tannins. Mount Veeder Reserve 1999 - RM 91 - Opens with black cherry that tends to be slightly tart when compared to he rich sweet currant of the '01 estate, which gives way to smokey currant and chewy tannins. The Mount Veeder Reserve 2000 - RM 89 resembles the 2000 but lacks its depth and body. 
Blends - 2001 - Cabernet Sauvignon 75% Merlot 24% Petit Verdot 1%. 2000 -  Cabernet Sauvignon 52% Merlot 35% Cabernet Franc 7% Petit Verdot 2%Malbec 4%. 1999 - Cabernet Sauvignon 57% Merlot 40%, Cabernet Franc 1%, Petit Verdot 1%, Malbec 1%.
Mar 8 - Quintessa - Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, 2000, 1999 - 01; RM 93-94,  Mini-vertical tasting of Quintessa, the '01 stands out as more approachable and pleasant due to a stronger currant flavor accented by blackberry vs. a more predominant black cherry flavor which is a bit tart on the front in the others. The 1999 is next with a hint of cedar, (WS91, RM 91) followed by the 2000 which has a tinge of earthiness that detracts from the fruit. (WS 88, RM88). All are polished, well balanced and smooth - especially the 2001. Feature

Mar 8 - Fransiscan Estates US 2004 Tour Roadshow Wine Tasting - These wines were standouts of the fifty plus wines tasted. Ravenswood Vintners Blend Australian Shiraz 2002 - RM 90 $15 - Not yet rated or released - this wine showed huge rich ripe berry and sweet cherry fruit. A great value at this release price - due to arrive in April.  Estancia Monterey County Pinot Noir 2002 and Estancia Monterey County Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Reserve 2002 - RM 88 - I am not a huge Pinot fan but these were outright delicious - huge forward currant fruit with firm but soft smooth tannic finish. I didn't distinguish a noticeable difference between the two. Fransiscan Napa Valley Oakville Estate Merlot 2001 - RM 89 - There is a consistent thread emerging that the 2001 Napa Merlots are fabulous. This one has a big rich currant opening with a long sweet mocha tannin finish. 95% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mar 7 - Kathryn Hall Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 - RM 86 $40/$16 Dark inky colour already starting to give way to hint of rust on the miniscus looking like a thirty year old Bordeaux. Nose of earthy berry and cedar. Blackberry, tart cherry, mineral and cedar, with a firm tannic finish. Tasted this wine at the winery during our 2003 Napa Wine Experience. Begged off buying this wine at $40 there but imagine my surprise finding it at Sams for $16! A reasonable value at this price given its lackluster fruit giving way to a slightly funky earthy mineral taste. Kathryn Hall Rutherford Sacrashe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - WS 86 RM 88 $50 - WS Review - Appealing for its supple texture and delicate structure. Notes of blackberry, pencil lead and cedar, with a finish that is muted by firm tannins.

Clerc Milon Label

Feb 29 - Chateau Clerc Milon Pauillac Bordeaux 1999 - WS 86 RM 86 $45 Suppressed fruit flavor of currant and a slight earthiness yielding to a slightly tart cherry finish. Second wine of Mouton Rothschild. Label.

Feb 28

Selection of wines tasted at DG Wineshop Big Cab night - Altamura '99, Caymus  '99, Chalk Hill '99, Pepper Bridge '00, Shafer '00, Showket '99, Silver Oak '99, Staglin '99, Stuhlmuller Cabernet '00, Trefethen Halo '98, Tenuta dell 'Ornellaia '98 -
My tasting notes.

Venge Family Reserve Cabernet 1998

Feb 27 - Venge Napa Valley Oakville Penny Lane Family Reserve Sangiovese 1997 $30 RM 89 WS 86 Predominant cedar aroma and taste gives way to plum and spicy cherry with a touch of anise. Featured Producer.

Feb 25 Robert Pecota Monterey County Syrah 2000 - RM 90 $18 Pleasant full nose opens to full mouth of plum, blueberry and a hint of mocha. I have trouble describing this wine. We tasted it at Bistro Banlieue at Yorktown with L, Erin & Chris. It calls for another tasting. It is very good and a great value. Try it.  Bottle.

Feb 24

Matanzas Creek Sonoma Valley Merlot 2001 - RM 88 Dark full rich black cherry and currant flavor with a hint of mocha and cassis. Label.

Feb 22

Saddleback Napa Valley Old Vines Zinfandel 1997 - RM 91 $33 Forward fruit - tar, raspberry prunes currant and a hint of licorice and spice with a incredibly long mouthful puckering plum finish. Great complement to rib dinner. Featured wine - producer.

Feb 18

Paloma Napa Valley Merlot 2000 - WS 91 RM 95 - It's clear to see why WS picked this wine from the 2001 vintage as the #1 Wine of the Year! Wonderful nose of loganberry and currant reveals the mouthful of flavors accented with a hint of mineral. A delicious wine that is smooth and polished, wound together in graceful tannins that add depth and complexity. Label. Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros Chardonnay 2001 - WS 90 RM 91 My palate for whites isn't sufficient to describe this wine. Here's what WS says n their Ju;y 31, 2003 review, "Exotic smoky orange and vibrant citrus flavors lead to a spicy core of tangerine-infused pear and nectarine flavors. Picks up and finishes with a delicate touch of smoky, toasty oak, while keeping the citrus flavors at the forefront. Drink now through 2006. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 6,500 cases made. (JL)" I certainly echo the pear and smoky toasty oak. The infusion of tangerine is a softnote.  Label. Dow Vintage Port 1985 - RM 91. Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port 1990 - RM 88. Bonny Doon Vin de Glacier 2001 - RM 92. Tasted at magnificent Tru in Chicago, with Dr Dan and L celebrating friendship and L's birthday.

Feb 17 - Pride Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - RM 89 WS 94 $36 Dark, firm and full bodied with forward currant, black cherry, and a hint of cedar. Big wine that needs more time to settle.  First tasted and purchased at the winery during Napa Wine Experience 1999.
Chateau Moncontour Vouvray 1997. RM 85. $15. Tasted at home with Erin and Chris' special seafood dinner.

Feb 13

Noteable wines from the Wines of the World Tasting at DG WineShop.
De Traffords Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Stellenbosch, South Africa - RM 88 WS 91$30 - Deep, dark, red colour, Intense fruit flavours, cassis, plum and cedar nose, shows, complexity and subtlety. Label. Apaltagua Envero Carmenere/Cabernet
Colchagua Valley - Chile $15 RM 89 WS 89, W&S 91 WE 91RM - Spicy eucalpytus nose, black cherry tar and pepper with a  pronounced but short finish. Great value in a quality wine at a reasonable price. Label.
Francois Chidaine Chenin Blanc 2002 - Loire Valley, France
$18 RM 87 Pleasing and easy drinking, pronounced apple and quince with light citrus acidity. Label. Robert Pecota Moscato d' Andrea 2001 - Napa Valley - RM 89 $17 (375) Rich unctuous apricot and peach nectarine. Label. Andrew Murray Vineyards Central Coast Syrah 2002 - RM 85 $19 - Forward nose and flavor of mint and eucalyptus almost overpower the berry and currant fruit. Label

Feb 12

Cape Barren Old Vines Shiraz 2001 - WS 82 RM 91 Tasty berry plum and strawberry with a touch of tar and a lingering long oak finish. Label.

Feb 10 - Possum Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2002 - RM 91, RP 92-94 - RP Says' "The spectacular 2002 Shiraz is a fully blended barrel sample scheduled to be bottled in October. It was produced from one-third of the 2001's yields, which is reflected in its extraordinary concentration and intensity. An inky/purple color is accompanied by gorgeously sweet aromas of blueberries, blackberries, and vanilla. Full-bodied, with thrilling texture, tremendous levels of glycerin, and a viscous, seamless, lush finish, it will provide sumptuous drinking during its first 7-10 years of life. The 15% alcohol is cunningly concealed beneath a wealth of extract and glycerin."

Feb 7

Leoville Las Cases Label

Chateau Leoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 1981 - Chateau Montrose St Estephe Bordeaux 1985 - WS 90 RM 87 - Shallow color that initially had a slight tinge of a rust edge that went away a few hours after decanting; big floral and earthy aromas, the cherry and plum fruit are overshadowed by earthy tar and cigar flavors. WS says, "It's tightly wound but everything's in place for greatness". This wine exceeded my expectations with more fruit, longer floral finish and more life than I expected. Rosemount Estates Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah 2000 - WS 93 RM 93 Dark, inky, big nose, full bodied forward fruit of dark blackcurrant, cherry, cedar, smoke and huge long smooth lingering plum finish revealing layers of smooth tight tannins. FeatureGroom Sauvignon Blanc Adelaine Hills 2002 - WS 90 RM 89 - Feature. Great compliment to lobster side entree with the Montrose holding up the tenderloin and the Balmoral fruit opening with salad and closing with the chocolate birthday cake for Sean, Christa and Josh. Celebrated at home with Erin & Chris, Pat & Sara, and WIll & Jessie.

Feb 3

Robert Craig Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 WS 89 RM 90 $40 Tasty supple but slightly austere cherry fruit with hints of currant and subtle plum and mocha on the finish. Central Coast Syrah 2000 RM 88 - Dark colour, berry and spice with a light easy drinking well balanced long finish.  Tasted at special Robert Craig tribute tasting at One North Kitchen and Bar on the  edge of the financial district in Chicago, sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank. It was delightful as always, to see the Craigs, this time on our home turf braving our single digit weather. Welcome to Chicago!  Well done SVB for a tasteful (no pun intended) and successful evening of wine and networking of tech clients and Chicago industry execs. It was great to meet some key contacts and renew previous acquaintances.  Thanks and kudos! See Feature.

Jan 31 - Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz 2001- RM 91 $29. These Aussie Shiraz' have it! This is the signature wine of Daryl Groom, former winemaker for Penfolds of the classic Grange, who'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, and big nose. Big forward fruit of raisin, fig and blackberry, smokey cassis/currant with a long finish. Not as big or as much fruit as the awesome 2002 but a mouthfull none-the-less. Found this at Sam's in Chicago. See 2002 Review, Label.

Jan 29

A DineSite WIne Experience - Maisonette, the five star restaurant in Cincinnati offers a price fixe seven course dinner complete with wine with each course. What a great treat for the weary traveler or adventurous diner to sit back and luxuriate in the fabulous setting with thoughtful attentive service, delicious food, and creative pairings with fine wine! See Featured DineSite. Wines - Chappellet Chenin Blanc 2001 RM 87 Crisp and fruity citrus, hazel and honey with lingering mineral and caramelized apple with just a hint of oak. Featured Producer. Debouf Pouilly Fusse; Santa Barbara Winery ZCS 2001RM 86 Interesting blend of Zinfandel, Carignan and Sangiovese (55/28/17%). The rich berry fruit of the Zin shows through but gives way to a slightly tart cherry. Label Web Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz RM 88 Berry, cherry and anise. Known as the poor man's Grange as this vineyard sits next to that from where the classic Penfold's standard bearer originates.  Label Web. Warre's Reserve Tawny 1987 Web, Label; Far Niente Dolce.

Hartford ZInfandel Label

Jan 27 - Hartford Russian River Zinfandel 2002 - RM 92; Ridge Dry Creek Lytton Springs Zinfandel RM 88 - Only those of you that have traveled with me would appreciate this as a typical 'McNees experience'..... A delightful ending to an arduous and torturous day that began at 230 am when my burglar alarm sounded, a 430 am limo pickup which ended up crashing into a guardrail in the snow-storm enroute to the airport, and three airplanes and two rental cars and 270 miles driving through ice and snowstorms later... Retiring to my first meal of the long day at 9:00 pm in Zebo's Bistro at the Marriott Riverfront center, gracious, patient and attentive service by Emily, great food, and delicious wines and great sympathetic and attentive company with Clay M, Asst Food and Bev Mgr, and Michelle B. of the local wine distributor, still working late in the day pitching these two blockbuster Zin's and 1/2 bottles to Clay and staff... Great fun tasting and sharing wine stories and trivia. The huge jammy Hartford over-powered and blew away the Ridge with its elegant and pleasant nose revealing the full forward tempting berry, plum, sweet raspberry and caramel with a long lasting balanced finish. Web, Label. The Ridge with its more delicate and balanced berry and cherry didn't stand a chance. Try the Hartford with Bar-B-Que ,steak au poivre or spicy pasta dishes, or just enjoy with chocolate and/or cheese. Great fun, delicious wine - let's do it again!! Web. Label.

Jan 24 - Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 WS 90 RM 87 Perhaps past its prime as an earthy leathery nose and taste has come on which might be indicative of age, or a ever so slightly corked bottle. Having only one its impossible to tell. There are remnants of dark cherry and currant that give way to the earthy tones not unlike an older Bordeaux. Label. Web.

Jan 22 - Robert Craig Affinity Napa Valley 1996 WS 92 RM 92 $40 Cellar Selection Beautiful deep purple color, delicious smooth polished taste of sweet currant, strawberry pear and sweet apple berry with a nice balance. A Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Robert Craig is one of our favorite producers with three fabulous offerings in his flagship Affinity blend and his Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder cabernets. Robert, his wife Lynn, and associate winemaker Rudy Z were featured quests at our Napa Wine Experience 1998 and 1999. Feature.

Jan 21 - Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella 1993 WS 82 RM 83 $32/58 The Amarone exploration continues - this one austere and lacking much fruit. Slight hint of raisin overtaken by a lean tart cherry. Tasted w. TRR, PP, & TSR @ Johnny D's in LaGrange. 

Jan 17 - Bolla Valpolicella della Amarone 1998 RM 87 $59 Dark over-ripe raisin and earthy leather - reasonable complement to the spicy italian food at Angelin's for Erin's birthday dinner.   Label.

Jan 14 - Chappellet Signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 WS 88 RM 89 $42/82 (winelist)  Blackberry accented by a earthy currant and smokey raisin, dill and cedar. Tasted at Signature Room Grille with L, Erin & Ryan & Michelle, and Alec celebrating Ryan departure tomorrow for U of I. Featured Wine, DineSite Review.

Jan 10 - Chateau Cos d' Estournel St Estephe Bordeaux 1993, Beaulieau Vineyards Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley 2000, Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley 2000. Wine Reviews coming - See DineSite Review of the Hickory Smokehouse Restaurant at Gaylord Palms Resort.

Jan 8 - Seavey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 WS 92 RP 91RM 91 $42 Dark full bodied ripe black cherry, currant, anise and chocolate plum finish. Feature.

Jan 3 - Fisher Napa Valley RCF Vineyard Merlot 2000 WS 90 RM 90 $45 Medium firm chewy blackberry and a touch of plum and smokey cedar on the finish.  Single vineyard bottling from property along Silverado Trail of named for Fisher's son from this family oriented producer. A nice discovery from the producers of favorite Coach Insignia Cabernet blend. Feature.

Jan 2, 2004 - Raimondi Villa Monteleone Campo San Paolo Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 1995 RM 92 $59 (Sam's) $82.50 (Winelist) Huge nose and flavor of rich super ripe raisiny currant and mineral with a long full finish that is full of mineral with hints of eucalyptus. Full rich fruit reflects vinification process of aging and drying the fruit for full ripeness. Tasted at the Vivere dining room in Chicago's Italian Village. We then found this wine at Sam's Wine Warehouse. Enjoyed with Linda, Erin & Chris after visiting Manet and the Sea exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago. Summary.

Dec 31, 2003

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.
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