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11/7/13

CLONYC 40 The Wines of Congruence

Last night’s CLONYC brings the grand total of post millennial phenomenon called clonycmania to 40. I am thankful to have been part of this group. Last night I half-heartedly mentioned that I could not believe we are at 40 as I have never done anything beyond the daily mundane dalliances--- forty times, or more!
Forty went down in the books with a focused tasting on long time member Steve Eisenhauer and his Congruence wines. On this night nine happy souls converged to sample Steve’s wares. A big thanks to Steve for bringing these wines for us all to sample. Steve is a very driven and passionate guy who makes wines he wants to drink. Steve also have a well-focused and intelligent palate. That combo works.
We started the night off with a 2010 Aubert Chardonnay Ritchie which I did not note on. Thanks to Lance for bringing it along.

2012 Congruence Sauvignon Blanc Las Cerezas Vineyard - The nose takes some coaxing. This is a well balances SB that shows a certain steeliness running through it; A very restrainted style of wine that hid some green melons and lemon grass, I wish it had just a hint more fruit up front. All neutral oak used and it shows well on the finish. A great effort none the less and one that would work well with some light appetizers. 90

2011 Congruence Pinot Noir Sebastiano Vineyard –A soft styled Pinot with some pretty florals up front. As it sits in the glass I get some cherries, strawberries, frangipani and an awesome silkiness. Balance in spot on and finish long and true. With Steve being a Red Burgundy drinker I can see how this works well in his stable of wines. Time in the glass shows a more red-fruit and generous style. An interesting well made wine for sure. 91

2009 Congruence Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – I hope not to lose Steve’s friendship over this one. :) It comes right out of the gate somewhat grapey, one dimensional and unbalanced. It did not seem anything at all like the bottle I had 20 months ago. Not sure what to make of this one. Maybe in an awkward stage?

2011 Congruence Zinfandel Grist Vineyard- This one has some great depth and verve with the emphasis on the red/black fruits. Good balance with an nice edgy tannic structure and a wee-bit of spice deep within. Well rounded and well crafted, this shows it’s breed well. I don’t pretend to claim Zin as a favorite of mine but I do see the interest this one holds, and Zin's not just for pizza anymore. 91

2007 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon- I have always liked this one and tonight’s showing is no different. I like the red fruit style with the hint of cardamom and soft mid-core. It has never been a bruiser and always remained more elegant in approach. Tonight it shows redder fruits with cherries and red plums taking a lead. Some notes of worn leather and graphite can be coaxed out of it. Balance is nice on this as well. While not a door smasher, this is a light 'knocker'. 91

2008 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon- This wine has journeyed across the spectrum since I first tasted the barrel samples years back. It has a bright nose of black fruits with black currant and blackberries in control. It is a bit randy in it’s approach, and always have been on the playful boisterous side of the Cabisphere; tonight the nose is the big bright black fruits and the palate shows a hi-toned acidity that elevates it a notch above anything else on the table. Hints of sassafras and cola revolve within the whirlwind and fury. Food settles her a bit. Finish is clean and consistent. An interesting wine that always delivers. 92

2009 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon- My favorite of the trio. Deep dark and elegant with a pretty and fragrant nose that shows some cassis, cola and blackberries. Hints of rubbed leather and a touch of lead pencil bring great interest and appeal. Wonderful creamy texture with nice balance; tannins remain bold and finish goes long with dark fruits. The better behaved child when compared to a slight slacker and a trouble maker. 93

My WOTF was the 2009. there was one other vote for the 2009. 7 for the 2008.

6 liked the 2009 in the second position as well as two more for the 2008. The 2007 had 1 second place vote.

2010 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon- probably one of the best wines Steve has produced and I can see him cringe as I say so; it’s not because he doesn’t agree mind you, it’s just he has a reserve bottling this year that will and should put this in the back-seat in about 6-8 years. Who knows where this will be then, but where it is now is bold and densely structured with tons of things coming at you, the cornucopia (if you will) of Cab. Fat and abundant, this is spot on in its balance and heft; not too much and certainly well above ‘too little’, this pleases all the senses and even has a go at that elusive Umami thing. It’s a wine that makes me smile and when you realize its price-point of 50ish dollars, you will agree. I have always wanted Steve to produce and entry level Cab (that’s wasn’t a ZIN!) and he has over-delivered. Don’t be shy, call him and get this one for the weekend. I will be fielding the thank you emails starting Monday morning…. 94

2010 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- 100% CS. More reserved and in check that it’s younger sibling above, this seems to have it all packed away. It also seems a bit more controlled and collected in a way that will make those who yearn for those ‘Cab of Old’. This has quieted down since I last sampled it. Today it’s black currant driven with a reticent tannin base and acidity that glues it all tight. Floral hints and cola reside in here too. I would love to see where this goes in those half dozen years I mentioned above. 93

The 2010 Napa had 5 first place votes. Nicely split as Steve knew it would be.

2011 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon- Nose of quiet black fruits with a touch of bell pepper and dried herb. I may lose a friend here: I find this one slightly less appealing style wise than it’s 2010 stable-mate, the 2010 Napa Cab. Palate shows some good black fruits and structure is well defined and nicely balanced and it certainly seems a well made wine, but the greenness thing makes me sit up and take note. It would be interesting to see if this fleshes out as it’s released and I certainly will look forward to the invite to the release party, if Steve does not remove me from his list……

2011 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- Now we are talking, this is dark and densely packed with wonderful black and red fruits of currant, cherry and ripe black raspberry. Hefty and fleshy, this has none of the green qualities of its sibling. As it sits it unwinds and moves into something reminiscent of the 2009 with some of the vibrancy of the 2008. Nice purity and verve make this grab your attention and some quiet elegance keeps it. Finish is long and consistent. One to watch out for. 92
Methinks these two wines, and especially the Napa may have been suffering a bit of travel shock as they were just over-nighted from the left coast this morning.

The Reserve had 8 first place votes for WOTF. 1 guest liked the Napa. The ‘unscientific’ vote for WOTN (where-as I do not look back on the previous votes) stood at 4 for the 2010 Napa Cab, 4 for the 2008 Napa Cab and 1 for the 2010 Reserve Cab.

It was a fun night and the wines showed very well. The food as usual was spot on and the company well above average.

Thanks to all who were part. It’s not really an easy job when one scores wines made by friends.
Please note: I try to stay true to myself and yet always fair to the wine and all involved. Sometimes I corner myself a bit and quickly realize that if I don’t keep it real, I seize to be. A tough job but someone’s ‘gotta’ do it. :)

10/10/13

CLONYC 39 - Cabernet Sauvignon Reserves & Selects

CLONYC 39 was set into motion by a request from Merrill Lindquist who was to be part of the evening. She was bringing her Select wines from 3 vintages. Sadly, she was called back to her home on some urgent family business. She was missed and we all wish her well. At the time the theme Merrill and I agreed on seemed appropriate, and as it turned out was actually decent, even with a late flurry of cancellations. Mind you, we were 12 just last Sunday, but when the dust settled, we were 8. This group has never wanted for a reason to get together, so in the dark shadow of what I mentioned above, we went forward with a Reserve/Select Cabernet Sauvignon dinner. As much as I wish it had a wider selection of the options available, it all went quite well. Thanks to all that participated.
As a gathering wine, Steve poured his 2008 Congruence Cabernet. I did not take notes but enjoyed how it seems to have settled into a nice groove. I had remembered it to be a maverick of a cab. Thanks, Steve.

Here we go….

2002 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- this started with a slight note of reduction both on the nose and palate. It certainly had the Foley signature sweet profile. It started with some blackberry and black currant but turned to a redder fruit profile within 15 minutes. I also noticed it then became a bit more concise and elegant. These are always a joy to sample, a veritable cornucopia of fruits and styles all dictated by the clock. 90

2004 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- When Howard mentioned he had a Leonetti Reserve, I said why not? This one came on with a pretty eucalyptus and black fruit profile that surely showed its northern profile well. Deep & dark, this was well balanced and nicely delineated with maybe just a miss on dimension,. A nice wine nonetheless. 91

2004 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon- Always love to sample Shafer Hillside; this one had the usual awesome mouthfeel and darkness I associate with Hillside Select, a wine that would sure be my house wine if I had Bloomberg money, but I don’t and it ain’t. This was opened earlier in the day and double decanted and it still showed some reticence; tannins well rounded and balance deft. As it sat I noticed a ripe tomato note that is nothing like tomato leaf associated with Sangiovese, and actually added interest for me. Finish was long and pure. Boy, do I enjoy Shafer Hillside. Just awesome. 94

5 first place votes for the Shafer, 3 for the Pride. The place was 5 votes for the Pride, 2 for the Leonetti and 1 for the Shafer. The fact that the Shafer had 3 votes in last place really makes math difficult when you do the 5,3,1 score as the Pride wins the flight. Crazy but true. I hate math. I had the Shafer for my WOTF.

2005 Karl Lawrence Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli Vineyard Reserve- This opened with a slight medicinal nose that quickly made it stand out, and not in a good way. Palate was slightly cloying, but I can’t really say flaw. It had maybe 65% of what I remember my last 2005 Morisoli having, so maybe it was in a dumb stage. Some red and black fruits with hints of soy and cola, this had a bit of the creamy mid-palate I always enjoy. I am going to sit out with the pointage.

2005 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Majories Vineyard Premiere Napa Valley- this is always just a special wine. On this night you got its specialness from nose alone and at a foot away. Pure black and red fruits of currant, black cherries and black raspberries, this had a phenomenal mouthfeel that just oozed its pedigree. In many ways it reminded me of Mondavi’s Reserves in a great year, but this one went up 2 more notches from there. Class, breed, elegance, structure and dark and red fruits, this is the complete package guys like me seek, sort of the holy grail of Cabernet sauvignon and one I can say I have been lucky to try more than once in my lifetime. Creamy midpalate and a well resolved tannin structure, this goes long on the finish remaining true to itself. Some at the table said it fell a few rungs with airtime in the glass; I did not notice any perceptible change. Don’t spend too much time seeking it out though, it’s quite rare; maybe 5 cases rare. 95

2006 Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- After 39 CLONYC dinners, the only empirical knowledge I have gained is how good wines pale when tasted along great wines. This is a very good wine by any standard; red and black fruits with cherries, cardamom and some edgy tannins, but it becomes outclassed quickly when one realizes that you just had the Shafer Hillside and the Mondavi PNV. It certainly shown itself to be a correct Cabernet with some dimension but lacking was the pizzazz. On the table, alone and with some time to spend, this would be a minor rockstar, tonight it’s a roadie. 90

8 first place votes for the Mondavi. 7 second place votes for the Snowden. Howard chose the Karl for his number 2.

2007 BV Georges de Latour Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon- When I had this a few years back, I thought it quite possibly one of the best 2007s I have sampled (and I sampled many). It reminded me of the greatness once associated with this label. Tonight it shown more like a Bordeaux blend showing some extra horizontal bigness quite possibly from any merlot content. (I have not checked the blend). If you remember all I said about the Snowden, I can reiterate it all here once again. 90

2010 Congruence Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- Steve has hit a homerun and a triple in the 2010 vintage. His homerun being this wine. It shows some pureness and flowers within a finely structured red/black fruit profile that has some wonderful crème de cassis, pomegranate and black currants; in that mix is a wonderful spring flower mix, a hint of honeysuckle and new leather. A deftly made wine that continues to astound me, especially when I remember it’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Well done. 93 Unanimous first place for the Congruence. Me too :)

6/12/13

CLONYC 38 - Fun with Mike & Leah (Smith) II

Think back to what it was about wine that made you fall in love with wine itself. Remember all the goose-bumps and tingles that shifted something in you that would never be undone. If you are like me your journey has gone around the world a bit, but I have always kept my feet firmly in Napa Valley and more specifically, with Cabernet Sauvignon. Sure, I have taken barbs from many in the Anti-Flavor group and the usual bunch that eschew anything Napa as well as those who play ‘remember when’ every chance they get and I don’t get hung-up on alcohol levels. I am not in any of those clubs; my club remains open minded and constantly adapting to taste and style trends that my beloved grape takes me. I say all of this because last evening, and a beautiful evening it was, 12 Cabernet aficionados converged on the town that the Dutch colonized in 1624 to eat, drink and just have a good old unpretentious time with our beloved Napa Cabernet. If you are like me, it does not get better than CLONYC 38. I say all of this simply because I can not think of a more exciting time to be a Napa Cabernet lover, (and my memory on such pre-dates many of those here’s birth) and if you really are anything like me, you'll be as giddy.

To say Mike Smith makes ‘wine’ is an understatement; Mike Smith lives wine. He is the type of guy that sleeps on the floor alongside his wine barrels just to make sure they have a good nights sleep; he wants to make sure his wines stun their followers. Last night the CLONYC gang met Mike and Leah for round number two of a night that would make even Backhaus jealous. 

Mike and Leah came full fisted and brought nearly their full 2011 vintage of Napa Cabs, some peek-ins of their 2012s, two fantastic whites and a Pinot that will get your attention. Mike’s mentioned to me early evening his ‘slight’ apprehension to showing these 2011s in public and it proved all to be for naught; they all showed spectacularly well. His 2012s will astound. Any or all would be best bets for your Cabernet dollars. We started with his 2011 whites from Myriad and Quivet. Both delicious, but I was saving my note-taking for my first love, so lets talk Cab. (But not before an amazing Pinot).

All wines were opened at 5:30 and single decanted back into its bottle.

2011 Patine Pinot Noir (Gaps Crown Vineyard) Wow! Great aromatics with juicy black and blue fruits. This has tons of verve. I am slowly becoming an aficionado of well made Cali Pinots and this is certainly in the group of some of the best I have had. It’s glossy and pure and just perfect. One to serve for your special guests.

2012 Carter To-Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon, barrel sample- I fully understand Mike’s trepidation on bring these but I am oh so glad the brains of the operation talks him into it. This is amazing. I jokingly told him he needs a new shirt for when Wine Spectator puts him on the cover of their big 2012 Napa Cabernet issue in November 2014. It has beautiful structure with black dense fruits and an interesting hint of cardamom. It does not suffer the fate of many young wines and actually has some semblance of being well knit already. Wow

2012 Myriad Dr Crane Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, barrel sample - yes, you have read it correctly, Dr Crane Reserve. (Please forgive my wows, but there will be many). WOW Dense and packed with cassis, blackberries with the signature creaminess I expect from site. The nose alone is worth the price. I always thought that Dr Crane stood on its own and never needed elevation in title, but this one deserves it. This will be a star of the vintage. You heard it here.

2011 Myriad Cabernet Sauvignon Napa- This wines has quickly become one of my house wines. In 2011 Mike has hit it out of the park and unless this one takes some turn to somewhere else, there will be many smiling faces once people get this one in their glasses. Red and black fruits with some nice aromatics and a liveliness that belies its price point of $50. Grab all you are offered.


2011 Quivet Cabernet Sauvignon Pellet vineyard- A new one for Mike and one he certainly wants to hone in on in the coming years. This has a pretty sweet nose of black raspberries and currants but crosses the palate slightly disjointed and angular. Strangely once food arrived this became much more focused. I would love to see where he goes with this.

2011 Quivet Cabernet Sauvignon Kenefick – if you ever would buy a wine on nose alone, this would be it. Densely packed with dark fruits of black plum, currants and black cherries, this has a wonderful sense of balance and place. Full bodied and pure with some weighty tannins and a finish that haunts. Wow! One of my favorites for two years running now and we haven’t even got to 2012 yet. Daddy’s gonna need a new credit card.

2011 Myriad Three Twins- A bit redder in fruit profile, this comes across with a classiness and elegance that could boggle the mind. All Mike’s wines (Quivet/Myriad) have a liviliness that makes you sense the family bond. This one had great depth and focus with a super long fruit filled finish. Very nice indeedy.

2011 Myriad Cabernet sauvignon GIII- other than loving this, my notes were a bit sparse. I must learn to STFU and focus focus focus. It garnered a WOTN vote from Mr. Eisenhauer. 

2011 Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon- A new cool label (Client of Mikes) and a very great wine in 2011. Mike must be (and is) very happy with this outcome. A roundness of red and black fruits with purity and elegance. I remember his 2010 last year and this one outshines it leaps and bounds; it has picked up some complexity and focus and stopped being just a Cab. Keep in mind I am liking a 2011 over the 2010 counterpart--- no, replace that with loving. At a price point of about $60, I would recommend this one all day long. 

2011 Myriad Cabernet Sauvignon Dr Crane- The Dr. crane bottling is just a half beat behind the Reserve above. It has the cream and lift with a feeling of completeness. Just a great wine all around. 

2011 Carter Cabernet Sauvignon Three Kings- I loved this one but again my notes go sparse. I was probably getting signatures for the November ballot…… 

2010 Pruett Cabernet Sauvignon- A new one for Mike. This is reminiscent of the Scarlett above with a bit more tannic grip. Focused and round with many layers of red and black fruits. When you have 14 amazing wines in a row and go with the swallow method over spit, something’s gotta give and had this been in the 1-8 position it would have grabbed lots more attention, but make no mistake, this is fantastic and it garnered a WOTN from Mr. Ormand. I would purchase this on in a heartbeat and I believe the price is within that $60ish range. I could be wrong.

All in all I can happily report that this whole line-up ROCKS. Mike has made his passion and attention to detail really work for him (and us!) and for a second year in a row I can easily and unequivocally tell you that he is one of the most exciting winemakers in the valley and unless you live under a rock and have not tasted his wines, I can only ask you why not? I will now clear my inbox for all the thank you emails I will be receiving---but don’t thank me, thank Mike Smith, and whatever you do, don’t ever forget Leah. 

Thank you for sharing with the group!! I had seen McCartney in concert on Monday and you guys on Tuesday; my week is so full of Rockstars!
P.S. It's always fun seeing Mikes brother Doug and his partner Chris too.

Update:

I just had a small sampling of some left-overs from last night. 
RE: The 2011 Myriad Napa- If you bought, you did very well indeed. WOW, this explodes from the glass 24 hours later. I believe these are sold out. Look for them next year.

RE: The 2011 Quivet Kenefick - This has so much complexity and character. I am buying all offered.

RE: The 2011 Scarlett- This is plushy and round with vibrancy. I love the streak of cardamom, soy and sassafras in the middle. Red fruits control the ride, and what a ride it be. This is a sleeper. A very special bottle of wine indeed.
Just one more..... WOW [cheers.gif]

3/7/13

CLONYC 37- the wines of Mike Hirby with Mike Hirby


Some weeks are what I call ‘lottery’ weeks. This is one such week. Coming off the Pahlmeyer dinner Monday and Mike Hirby last evening, I can’t help but think how much of a lottery winner my group and myself really are.

Mikes wines have a sensibility and focus that I have not found in too many other labels. Since his days at Rockledge and Realm I have been a fan and while he has mad skills with my favorite grape, I believe is his real strengths are in his Rhône’s, whites and Pinot. I know he is a passionate about everything he does, but with an early background as a sommelier, his love for the full spectrum 'must be' and 'is' obvious. I like that his Chardonnay has booted the superfluous varieties and become purer and closer to its Burgundian roots. His Petite Sirah is deftly made and is not ponderous and his Pinots are focused and pure. His respect for ‘site’ is second to none. It is for these reasons that coming behind Pahlmeyer only emphasized and broadened the contrast of how lucky ‘us’ lovers of California wine truly are. There are so many great wines and fantastic vintages in our front yard at this moment in time that we don’t know where to turn first. These wines tonight are a good start.

As usual the staff at North Square did a great job although I sent my steak back; this is the first time in about 35 dinners something went back. It was too well when medium was requested. Problem rectified quickly.

We started with an interesting broad ranged flight of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Red Rhone Blend.

2011 Relic The Sage Chardonnay- this was pretty and focused with wonderful notes of fresh cut lemon grass, pain grille with a deft use of oak. Wonderful texture and liltiness that is refreshing. Count me as a fan.

2011 Relic Wines Pinot Noir Kashaya- Initially this was tight and slightly unyielding. Within 10 minutes it seemed to come alive and just explode from the glass. The nose showing pretty spring flowers and pure red raspberry notes. Its presence was lofty and lilty all at one as balance was spot on. I got tiny notes of earth and spices. A conveyor belt of all things great in Sonoma Coast Pinot. Love it to death.

2011 Relic Ritual Red (Rhone Blend) - An interesting wine with some dark red fruits of raspberry and black cherry. Some nice notes of olive tapenade, rosemary and river stones really added to the dimension of this rich and focused wine. Initially showed a slight dry note in the mid-palate but that went away fast and cohesiveness took control. This had a great finish. One to watch.

2nd flight

2010 Palm Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon- The second wine of Husic, this showed some sweet and sour fruits up front. There were hints of vanilla and cedar. A red/black fruited wine that seems slightly unfocused at the moment. When I tasted the Husic, I got ‘it’.

2010 Husic Cabernet Sauvignon- Black fruited profile with a stroke of elegance and finesse. Deep and layered, this was a more complete and enjoyable Cabernet. I love richness and this was rich. Somewhat masculine with complicated tannins. The finish went on and the black cassis, currant and black plum remained in play. Fantastic.

2010 Sarocka Red Wine- A new acquisition (client) for Mike. This was started by Helen Keplinger. Black fruits of currant with cola, graphite and fresh rubbed leather. I got a sense that Mike might choose a different oak going forward as this has a wee bit sweet vanillin twang that seemed out of place with Mike Hirby Cabs. This had some elegance and a bit of show with a long finish.

A tale of two D.R. Stephens Cabernets
2010 D.R. Stephens Moose Valley Cabernet- Initially a bit subdued and quiet. Its sibling was in control. This had some black currants, hints of cola and a bit of sassafras. The thing is once food arrived it came alive and the tables were turned. It was a totally different wine. Interesting.

2010 D.R. Stephens Walther River Block Cabernet- Mikey (me) likes it; it’s fragrant and pure with a slight middle gobbiness that is endearing. (In a good way that is!). More the wine you want when food is not around. (See above). A well made Cabernet that has some intensity and focus. Very nice.

Relic
2010 Relic Wines Prior- Cab Franc (blend? Forgot to note it) - Having had exposure to Russell Bevan’s Cab Franc has given me confidence in spotting a well made one. He does it right. This Mike Hirby bottling is right up there, truly. It’s silky and soft textured with many layers of blue/black fruits. Balance is spot on, tannins intricate and finish impressive. In its class it is a QPR and one to seek out. Wow

2010 Relic Wines The Artefact Cabernet Sauvignon- What a fascinating wine. This is intense black cassis, blackberry and plum with crème de cassis interlaced throughout. Wonderful structure houses so much good stuff, I’m in love and found my WOTN. Interesting notes of cardamom and framboise with a small berry mouth feel that grabs your attention and does not let go. Finish is amazing. Wow. This is one I will seek out when it is released.

2010 Relic Wines Petite Sirah Old Vines- Forget everything you ever knew about Petite Sirah. No need for labels aptly named ‘Muscle Man’ etc. This is a new direction petite; deep dark and packed with blue and black fruits but magically it has ZERO heaviness and not a sign of ponderous in sight. It floats across the palate and leaves a coating of fruits in its wake. A true party in your mouth. It’s perfectly balanced; tannins complicated and acidity in check. A deft mid-palate with some nice freshness never numbs the tongue. Impressive. I am a believer. No matter what, I will put these into my cellar as soon as I could. All my friends will be jealous.

A big thanks to Mike for sharing these with the lottery winning group named CLONYC.
If you have never met Mike, you must make it a point to when you visit the Valley. I don’t think I have met a more humble and passionate wine guy in my life. If you have met him, you know what I mean, so just nod.

3/5/13

CLONYC 36- The Wines of Pahlmeyer

Last night my little group had the good fortune of hosting a Pahlmeyer Winery dinner with fellow board member Jamie Watson and Ralph Pahlmeyer. A fantastic array of wines were in attendance. We had a mini vertical of 10-12 year old Merlots, a 7 vintage run of the proprietary red, a new wine called Right Bank Blend and the PDR. (Piece de resistance). That last wine is very limited and sells out in 48 hours.

I think what I like most about the gatherings is the fun and laughing we all engage in while drinking through these wines and eating some dead animal meat. (My steak was stupendous last night). Jamie and Ralph are two great guys that seemed right at home with this sometimes boisterous crowd, all while adding some great info about each wine we were tasting. The staff at North Square did a wonderful job (as usual). Let me get to the wines, which by the way showed fantastically. I love the consistency these attain year in and out.


2006 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay- I loved this. It had some great aromatics of fresh citrus and flowers. The palate had a creamy texture, hints of toast, frangipani and cut grass. Love this style of Chardonnay and while I can’t say I have had loads of experience, through these dinners I have had an admirable exposure and lets face it, good wine is just that--- good wine.

Flight 1: A trio of Merlot

2001 Pahlmeyer Merlot- the first thing you (me) spots with this is its texture and structure. A Cab drinkers merlot for sure. Some pretty floral notes on the nose and a black fruit profile. It’s elegant and refined. Interesting notes of graphite, black cherry and cassis. Wonderful.

2002 Pahlmeyer Merlot- The nose had some sulphur at first, but that seemed to dissipate within 5-6 minutes. The palate had wonderful cherry with notes of rubbed leather and cardamom. Lovely, save for the nose.

2003 Pahlmeyer Merlot – The redder of the bunch and the most cab like in its approach. Larger boned with notes of sassafras and raspberries. I loved it.

Initially I was going to pick the 2003 as my number one, but when I reviewed them all again, I had to choose the single most complete wine of the group and that was the 2001.

Voting for first position went with 6 for the 2001, 4 for the 2002 and 1 for the 2003.

1994 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red- thanks to Steve for bringing. This had the ‘complexity’ those old world guys love. To me it was too old. The nose had some nice intensity of red/black fruits. I got notes of cardamom, lead pencil, old cedar, earth and red cassis. Acidity was a bit hi-toned and tannins fully resolved. The fruits in the nose did not really carry over to the palate and it seemed like the secondaries and tertiaries were in control. Old wine is just that, old wine and as subjective as the days are long. I get lots of grief from the crowd on this point. Five of them will not be invited back.

Proprietary Red flight 1

2004 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, as they all are) Holy-moly this is good stuff. This expressive wine is off the hook. (Do people still say that?). It’s dark, big boned fragrant and deep with a black fruit profile leading with currants and plum pumice. Interesting hints of cedar-box and coffee bean. Tannins are complicated and still lively and overall balance is near perfect. Wow, this is what I have come to expect with Pahlmeyer.

2005 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - Nose as the 2004, this is slightly more brutish and attacking in its approach. The black fruits control this once again. Tannins seemed larger and ‘bulkier’ and the overall package screams for attention. Long finish with all the fruit remaining. Nice job.

2006 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - Once again, the similarities are all there, this one just showed the extra year of ‘youth’ in a slight hint if popcorn, but that did not stay to play too long and it became as its older brethren, just an amazing display of consistent black fruits, elegance and strength. I love what these don’t have as well: any rough edges or hints of anything even remotely green. A true winemakers ‘tour de force’ this flight has been.

8 votes for WOTF go to the 2004 with 3 votes for it as no 2. The 2006 garnered 3 votes for WOTF and the 2005 got 1. I went with the 2004.

Proprietary Red flight 2

2007 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - This had the Pahlmeyer nose with some added flash and bang. I know 2007s are popular and I am not, but my scientific study always tells me that theory remains. (When I view my glasses in a flight of 3, which one empties first. Science gotta love it). I may have dumped this. (Ducking for cover!). All these 2007s seem to lack structure. This showed some sweetness not evident elsewhere on the table. A well made wine that I might have enjoyed more had it been the lone bottle on that table. (Did I recover ok with that? Hope so).


2008 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - I LOVE this vintage. Fragrant and full bodied without being ponderous, this has pure red/black fruits of cassis, blackberries and pomegranate. Lovely texture through the mid-palate and a finish that could sink a ship (if finishes sank ships). This one had the signature ‘richness’, poise and elegance while being quietly powerful and Omni-present. Wow.


2010 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - youthful (ya think?), this seemed to show its stuffing and if a crystal ball sat atop would show similarities to the 2008 and 2005. A bit redder in profile with some oak showing through. You gotta love its potential and breed. This is rich and vibrant and will reward the patient, and when I say patient I mean 5-7 years.

7 votes for the 2008 as WOTF and 5 for the 2007. I went 2008 with the 2010 in my number 2 which had a total of 6 in the number 2 spot.

What a great run of reds these last two flights were.

A flight of 2009s

2009 Pahlmeyer Right Bank- I forgot to write the percentages on this but I seem to recall 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot (the other way around maybe?). Again, a very distinctive wine that has the Pahlmeyer hallmarks I’ve come to expect: richness and super fragrant, this conveys a sense of what the Pahlmeyers have set out to do with it, go Right Bank like say a Cheval Blanc. After having Bevan’s CFs earlier this year, I can say this one stands up to those. Pretty spring flowers, worn leather with some pain grille, espresso and cola. I also sensed a hint of Bing Cherries and marzipan. A beautiful wine and we were glad to have it on our dinner table, albeit a ‘late in the evening’ dinner table.

2009 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red - Somewhere between the 2008 and the 2010 you will find the 2009 and I am not speaking just vintage; it had the Pahlmeyer richness with the added youthful slight un-cohesiveness. Slight. Give this 3-4 years (or more) and let it sing its song. It will be a great song. I got some vanilla, black raspberry and framboise. Deep and layered, these really show house style. Fantastic.

2009 Pahlmeyer PDR – (Piece de Resistance) - this is the best 3 or 4 barrels held back in reserve and only in the best of years. Its always 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

This certainly had its own direction; pure and brawny with super-structure and density. Deep and layered, this had some slight grip to its tannins while being nicely balanced. Black currants, blackberries and black plum with notes of new leather, spice and framboise. A fantastic wine that showed its singularity on this night. Just great stuff, if you can a) find it and b) afford it.

9 WOTF votes for the PDR, 2 for the Prop Red and 1 for the Right Bank. The last vote is telling because it comes from my Franco-sensible buddy, Nano. I always say he has one of the broadest palates in my circle. I am actually quite jealous of such.

A fantastic night filled with amazing wines, lively conversation, some friendly banter (of which I always seem the target of) and good food. (On this night my steak was spot on. I had to Facebook a picture of it).

Thanks to Jamie, Ralph and the whole Pahlmeyer family for supplying such a memorable evening.

Cheers!

1/30/13

CLONYC 35- Napa Cabs with Antonio Galloni



CLONYC 35 commenced with a special guests, long time Wine Advocate critic who now covers Napa Valley wines, Antonio Galloni.
It was great meeting Antonio. He’s an interesting guy and a great conversationalist who is friendly and knowledgeable in his field and a true aficionado of Napa Cabs. There were times where you could hear a pin drop as the groups attention was all on him. A big thank you for those Schraders and Tognis as well. Today, all I want to drink is watered down orange juice.


Another great night for Cab-dome.

1995 flight

1995 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon – Pretty with some hints of cedar. I also got some steamed meats? Mouthfeel graceful and refined. The group had this as its number 1 with 11 votes. I wish it was slightly more fragrant. 91

1995 Dunn Howell Cabernet Sauvignon - Crumbly cork and corked.

1995 Lewis Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon-Still very youthful with some headt black fruits and a slightly elevated acidity level. Tannins still showing youth as well. Maybe on its own, this would have been more pleasing. 89

Togni flight
Ok, so I have not had the greatest love for Togni Cabs. Maybe it’s me and my non-ability to be patient. Hiding wines under large piles has not been my strength. The way these two showed this evening proves how much I can still learn. (re-learn?)

1994 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon –A wonderful red/black fruit profile with nice balance and freshness. A study in well stored wine for sure, this is just a bit rustic around the edges and sitting next to its younger sibling paled slightly, but make no mistake, a brilliant showing nonetheless. 92

1997 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon- What a beautiful wine. Black fruit , pure and well resolved, this shows amazing youth and freshness as well. I like the midpalate on this as it was perfectly balanced and precise. Finish was long and true. What a treat. 95

My Wine Of The Flight.
11 people chose the 1997 over the 1994.

A 1999 and a pair of 2001s Flight
1999 Vérité La Joie- Sonoma in the house. Cooler climate style with a more in your face approach. I thought this had some Cab Franc in the mix, and it could as I have not checked but thought more proprietary red than a pure Cab. Bright red fruits with a raised midpalate and acidity to match. Cassis and cola sums it up. Tannins seemed nicely resolved and a bit angular. Interesting wine. 90

2001 Bond Vecina- What a pretty wine. Elegant with dark blackberry, black cherry and cardamom. Finessful with a nice quiet purity. This would have been enough had not the 2001 Abreu Madrona been poured next…..93

2001 Abreu Madrona Cabernet Sauvignon- Wonderful aromatics with a pure red/black fruit profile, this has a wonderful lilty mouth feel and impeccable balance that screams breed and class. This is just beautiful. Long, precise and pleasing, especially when I get rid of my dirty glass. Before so I was a bit dismayed until I found I was the lone wolf. Wow, what a treat. 95

7 votes for the Abreu WOTF, 4 votes for the Verite (me), and one for the Bond. (another lone wolf). Everyone had the Abreu in either 1 or 2 spot.

A mixed bag Flight
2007 Vice Versa Cabernet Sauvignon "VICE" To-Kalon Vineyard- having never heard of this wine, I was very interested to get a look-see. This was weird. Not sure what to make of it. It was slightly off target varietally and a bit cloying in the middle. Someone said Zinfandel. Maybe it’s the ‘crappy vintage’ (), but I would not mind trying another from a less ‘heralded’ vintage given the chance. 86

2007 Corra Cabernet Sauvignon- being true to form in my little mind and keeping somewhat consistent with myself, I have never been a fan of Celia’s wines. Sorry.

This was extraction and heat with a hollowness that made many scratch their heads.
I will say no more. 87

2010 Maybach Materium Cabernet Sauvignon- Thanks to Chris for sending me this out for this dinner as I knew there was a slight ‘bump in the road’ in Antonio’s WA scores/notes last month. (Me thinks that review was based on off bottles). This showed some popcorn initially but really evolved into a pure powerhouse with tons of potential. Having spent mere minutes in its bottle, some years would help. I may go on the limb and say its one of the best Materiums I have had at this young stage of its life. I may put it in the company of the 2006 and 2009. Just having a phenomenal 2004 a few months back tells me to be patient and rewards will come. That one bottle insured me trying on patience again in my ‘advanced’ years.
Blue-black fruits with creamy midpalate and long finish. An easy WOTF for me 93+

8 votes for the Materium, 2 for the Vice and one for the Corra. Oh yeah, one abstention and it’s from the guy who brought the Toscana blind wine, what the hell does Nano know anyway?

Blind flight
2004 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Saffredi Maremma Toscana IGT -Way over the top, this went dumpity dump.

2000 Quilceda Creek – hmmm. Un-memorable, dump. In keeping with my night's mantra of 'dumping everything below 96 points', this was an easy decision
And that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Schrader/TRB flight
2006 Schrader T6- Holy-moly, this is spot on tonight. Pretty red-black fruits of red cherry and cassis with cardamom, camphor and worn leather. Slightly boisterous, this gets your attention and does not let go. Pure, intense and fragrant with a medium weight mouth feel. Tannins still large, this super structure wine is just awesome. Long pure and fruit filled finish. I have run out of words. Here are some numbers: 95

2007 Schrader T6- I maintain my dislike for the style of this vintage. This showed tremendous promise in the nose but once on the palate any sense of bones is just non existent. Lacking is acidity, I understand the pleasing aspect of these, but like some New Age music I am always left wanting more. 90

2009 Rivers-Marie Corona Vineyard cabernet Sauvignon- Most of tonight wines were popped and poured. I know the Maybach had a 6 hour slow-ox. This wine could use a day--- Really. It’s got so much going on that it’s akin to a large symphony playing Mozart with each section slightly out of key. You can sense the music’s greatness, just not witnessing it. Black fruits with large bones and deep core of iron, this must rest. I may be in the minority here, but that’s how I see it. In 5 years I will happily take your emails stating me a genius. No need to write otherwise …….92

10 votes for the 2006 T6, 2 for the Rivers Marie. NONE for the 2007 T6

On the night, the 'unscientific' late tally goes EXACTLY like this for WOTN:
4 Abreu
3 1997 Togni (me)
3 2006 Schrader T6
1 Verite
1 Staglin