I'm not a huge fan of LBV port, preferring either twany or true vintage ports, but this one is pretty good. Deep ruby color. Very forward fruit, dominated by red cherry and plum. Oddly, I am reminded of my grandmother's fruitcake. Pleasant but not exceptional. Grade: B-
When last noted in 2010, I liked this wine a lot. Four years later it's not over the hill but it's definitely at the crest. Thin. Has shed most of its fruit but not replaced it with any interesting mature flavors or aromas. Still has some prunes and blueberry. Hint of VA on the finish. Grade: C
Although this bottle has been impeccably cellared since I bought it from the winery on release, at just age 13 it was undrinkable. Vinegar ... and not very good vinegar at that. Which raises the question: What to do with the last 2 bottles in the cellar?
This Santa Barbara Chardonnay is a beautiful, rich golden color. The bouquet is dominated by rich, buttery oak, with notes of lemon, honeysuckle, baked apples, and a touch of flint. The palate is well balanced, with just the right amount of oak to allow the rich fruit flavors to shine through. Meyer lemon, white peach, nuts, buttered toast, and honey. Good food wine. Grade: A-/A
This blend of 87% Grenache and 17% Mourvèdre is medium-bodied on the palate and a deep ruby to the eye. Although very drinkable now, it definitely improved with time to breathe. Double decanting would be easy (there is no real sediment yet) and highly recommended to aerate the wine. Raspberry, blackberry, and plum flavors dominate the palate but there is a strong suggestion of lavender and rosemary on the nose. Yummy. Grade: B++
When last noted in 2006, I thought it had "potential for evolution in bottle." I was right. Tonight it was fully evolved, with an almost port-like depth of flavor. Prunes, blackcurrants, blackberries, cedar, and spice. Probably at its peak now. Grade: A--
Combine all ingredients except the final ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs in a large bowl. Spritz a Le Creuset 9.5 inch Square Dish with a nonstick spray. (I like Pam Olive Oil spray.) Pour in mixture. You may have a bit left over, which can be zapped in the microwave until it hits 160°, allowed to cool, and fed to the dogs (or a treat for the cook). Top with the remaining parmesan and bread crumbs. Spritz the topping with the Pam Olive Oil spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. If the topping started to burn, cover with foil.
I served this yummy casserole with one of my favorite Cal-Ital wines: The Foxen 7200 Volpino. In 2011, it was a blend of 81% Sangiovese and 19% Merlot. Deep purple-ruby color. I poured off a couple of ounces into each of our Riedel O Syrah Wine Tumblers, which I like a lot for Italian and Cal-Ital wines, and let it breathe for about 45 minites while making dinner. Soft, silky tannins make it easy to drink now, while the bright acidity lets it stand up to this meal that combines tomatoes and cheese. Flavor associations on the nose and palate include strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry. Plus a hint of something herbal (sage?). Grade: B++
After dinner, I enjoyed a Dunhill Peravia, some Dow 20 year-old tawny Port, and some Stilton Cheese. Yum.
At age 18, this 100% Petite Sirah is fully evolved. It's thrown a huge amount of sediment, which has left the wine a medium-deep ruby instead of the intense purple/black it was when I first bought it upon release. Blackberry, blueberry, prunes, plus pepper and a touch of mocha java on the finish. Grade: B++
This has turned out to be one of those wines that justifies investing in a wine cellar (or, in my case, cooler). When I bought several bottles on release back in 2003 (if memory serves), it was tight, tough, and tannic. In 2007, it still had "firm tannins," although it was "quite drinkable and a very interesting match for the Wild Boar dinner."
Tonight, however, after more than a decade of quietly resting at 55 degrees, it was brilliant. The huge bouquet was intense, pervasive, and redolent of blackberry, black pepper, leather, earth, and anise. The palate was dominated by dark fruit, pepper,and leather. The tannins are now fully integrated. I suspect that a well-cellared example could continue improving for another 5-10 years (much longer than my 2007 estimate), but why wait?
This a lovely, mature, balanced, fully integrated Zinfandel-based wine that includes 17% petite sirah and 6% carignane. Medium-bodied. A complex bouquet that includes cherries, violets, brambles, and anise. Black cherry, sour cherry, and brambles. Sadly, this was my last bottle, as this has proven to be one of those relatively rare Zinfandels that has rewarded extended cellaring. It's got enough structure to continue evolving for at least another 5 and matbe even 10 years. On the plus side, however, it was a wonderful match tonight for grilled lamb kabobs and rice pilaf. Grade: A-/A
For dinner tonight I made grilled skewers of chicken breast chunks (which I had brined in a very spicy brine mix) and andouille sausage, which I served with mixed fruit kabobs (cantaloupe, peaches, pineapple, honeydew melon). To drink I poured this 2012 Foxen 7200 Sauvignon Blanc. After three weeks of drinking a lot of great New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs while down there last month, with their big and exuberant flavors of grass and gooseberries, this Foxen 7200 wine was a bit of a disappointment. It's more towards the melon/herb end of the Sauvignon Blanc flavor spectrum than the kiwi wines I've been drinking. The Foxen 7200 is a restrained wine with flavor associations suggesting melons, stone fruits, and flint. Past vintages have seen oak aging and admixtures of Viognier. I suspect this one has too. All in all, it's a very good, food friendly wine, but not what I look for in a Sauvignon Blanc. Grade: B/B+
In 2011, the Ridge Three Valleys is a blend of 65% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 3% Mataro, 2% Alicante Bouchet, and 1% Grenache. As always, I can't help but wonder how geniuses like Paul Draper decide that 1% of a particular variety will make that much difference, but however he does it this is a lovely wine. To be sure, it's not a vin de garde, but tonight with a grilled rib-eye steak it was primo.
It needs some air. Double decanting helps. Once it has a chance to breathe, it shows as a well balanced wine, with smooth tannins and a fully integrated acidic structure. Blackberry, elderberry, brambles, pepper, and oriental spices. At less than 14% alcohol, it is very food friendly compared to a lot of Zinfandels on the market these days. If you can afford to spend $20 on a mid-week wine, this is a great choice.
Back when Silver Oak was in its prime they had this amazing ability to produce wines that were drinkable upon release but also rewarded extended cellar time. This 1997 is an excellent late-period example of that phenomenon. It was delicious when I bought a half case on release. It was delicious 8 years ago, when it was "showing lots of dark berry fruit, but also exhibiting the earth, cedar, and leather of maturity." And it was delicious tonight. Still a considerable amount of black fruits, including plum, black cherry, black currant, but also cedar, leather, and tobacco. Sadly, I'm down to my last bottle. I'll probably drink it in 2017, which I think it will make easily. Grade: A