A brilliant example of what Silver Oak used to be able to do, which was to make a wine that was drinkable on release but also capable of long aging. At age 18, it was slightly faded in color, with a hint of brick at the rim, but the center mass was still a fairly deep ruby. Strong bouquet with classic Silver Oak notes, including cassis, tobacco, leather, and dill. Ripe red fruit, cedar, tobacco, and spice on the palate. Perfectly balanced. At peak or possibly just past peak. Drink up. An excellent match for a pesto-crusted grilled rack of lamb. Grade: A-
A decent non-cru Gevrey-Chambertin. Light ruby color. Modest nose. A bit thin and short on the finish. Cherries and plums. About what you'd expect from a $35 (on release) Burgundy; i.e., drinkable but not profound. No aging potential. Drink up. Grade: B-
BTW, I served it with Grilled Pesto Chicken Breasts and Corn on the Cob from Cooking for Two 2013, which is published by the good folks that put out Cook's Illustrated, my most trusted cooking magazine. Yummy.
Sarget de Gruaud Larose, of course, is the second wine of Bainbridge Family favorite Chateau Gruaud Larose. In great years, such as 2000, Sarget de Gruaud Larose can be very, very good.
The 2000 is well balanced, with soft tannins. The bouquet suggests black fruits, earth, and olives. On the palate, the flavor associations include cassis, blackberry, black cherry, and something vaguely earthy. If I have a criticism, it is that on the palate the wine reminds one of a doughnut, by which I mean it has a good attack and a decent finish, but is somewhat hollow on the mid-palate.
This blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot was B&H's last offering made from Andy Beckstoffer vineyard fruit. Much of it was sourced from the famous To Kalon vineyard in Oakville. In any case, what a way to go out. This was the only bottle of this wine in my cellar. I think I just committed infanticide
Deep ruby color. Strong bouquet. All fruit. No maturity markers. Rich and ripe. Steely tannic structure. Black cherries, red currants, plum, anise. Improved greatly with time in the decanter. Wish I had another case. Grade: A- (probably would climb into A/A+ range with time)
I probably made a mistake serving this wine with an intensely peppery steak au poivre. The heat of the pepper and the richness of the sauce probably swamped what the wine had to offer. With all that said, however, I wasn't crazy about it. To be clear, it was a decent wine, but I expect better from B&H.
It may also need more time. The color was an intense purple and the wine had thrown only a modest amount of light sediment.
Lots of dark fruit, especially blackberry, but also lots of tannins, high acidity, and pretty high alcohol.
I've got two bottles left in the cellar. Maybe they'll come around. But maybe not. I'll let you know about the next one in about 5 years.
Sometimes you feel like standing over a hot stove slaving over a pot of risotto in the traditional way. And sometimes you don't. Tonight was one of the latter nights. So I started out by soaking an ounce of organic lobster mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes. Next I poured a package of Alessi Risotto Milanese into my trusty Cuisinart rice cooker. I added the requisite 2 and a half cups of water and tablespoon of EVOO. I drained a 14.5 can of organic, low sodium diced tomatoes and added them to the cooker. Chopped the mushrooms roughly and added them to the cooker. Meanwhile, I took some frozen peeled and deveined shrimp out of the icebox and soaked them in milk for about 15 minutes (gets rid of any off odors for some reason). When the "risotto" had about 5 minutes left to go, I added the shrimp. When the cooker dinged, I added some parmesan cheese and a dash of half-and-half. Served it up. Yum.
Despite today's sweltering heat (>100 in the shade on my porch according to my trusty weather station) and the shrimp in the dish, I wanted a red wine. Of course, as those who know me know well, I pretty much always want a red wine.
So I pulled this Zinfandel-based red out of my wine cellar (maintained at a constant 55 degrees) about half an hour before dinner. It was still cool when we ate.
Deep purple and strong legs. Good bouquet. Black pepper, dark fruits, spice. Rich and ripe, but still balanced. Yum. Grade: B+
Despite being almost old enough to drive,this 15+ year old wine proved upon decanting to have thrown surprisingly little sediment. The youthful impression continued as the color was still a very deep ruby. A very pleasant bouquet of blackcurrants, black cherries, herbs, mint, and anise. On the palate, the flavor associations continued the youthful impression, as they were dominated by red and black fruits rather than markers of maturity like cedar or tobacco. But the tannins had receded, leaving the wine eminently drinkable. I've got one bottle left in my cellar and am struggling a bit with the question of when to drink it. If it were not for the lack of remaining tannic/acid structure, the youthful presentation of the wine would suggest 10+ years. All things considered, however, I'm thinking 2015 or so. Grade: A-
A deep ruby. It's thrown enough sediment to require decanting, but the sediment is light enough to make decanting a bit tricky. Be very careful or run the last couple of inches through an unbleached coffee filter.
Intense blackberry and black cherry bouquet, with rich oak scents. On the palate, imagine a mix of cassis and kirsch. Vanilla from the oak. Herbs. Menthol. Yummy. Will last. Grade: A-
In my years of visiting wineries here in the Golden State, most of the winemakers I've met are the sort of left-of-center Democrats that dominate places like the Bay Area. But why? Note this tweet from winemaker Randall Graham:
Trying to find path through the forest that is the Santa Cruz County Planning Dept. #helpmrwizard
It captures something I've heard from many winemakers, as they also almost uniformly bitch and moan about land use regulations, which seem to be the bane of their existence. So if a conservative is a liberal who just got mugged, why aren't winemakers all libertarians?
The 2010 Claret (a blend of 66% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot) presents a very deep ruby color. At first, the nose was muted and the palate was closed and tannic. Double decanting followed by 45 minutes breathing time opened it up. Cassis, mocha java, and oak dominate the bouquet. After two hours of breathing (and drinking), what was left in the bottle was still pretty tannic. But I'm not convinced it has the fruit to support extended aging. My recommendation is to drink it young, but to double decant at least an hour (better still two to three) before drinking. Grade: B
A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. Ridge commonly gets three distinct wines out of its Santa Cruz estate vineyards. As they explain:
[From] the structured, long-lived wines set aside for the Monte Bello to the full, rich wines that make up the Home Ranch, and the well-defined, more approachable ones that go into the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Ridge further explains that the 2002 estate wine was vinified as follows:
In the last phase of assemblage, a year after vintage, additional merlot was added for structural elegance. To soften tannins, barrel aging was extended to two full years in air-dried american oak, forty percent of which was new, forty-five percent one and two years old, and fifteen percent three and four years old.
As it approaches its 11th birthday, the 2002 Santa Cruz Mountains estate wine is a mature and elegant wine. A complex mixture of leather, tobacco, cedar, mocha java, plums, prunes, and black currants dominate both the bouquet and palate. The tannins have largely disappeared. I have one bottle left in my cellar and expect to drink it within the next year. I just don't see this wine getting any better and it may start going downhill sooner rather than later.
This red wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. At age 4 it is an incredibly deep purple--almost black--and has thrown almost no sediment. After double decanting 45 minutes before serving it, the bouquet was enormous. Blackberries, black cherries, anise, herbs, and something floral that I can't pin down. The palate was dominated by cassis and mocha java. The firm tannins suggest it will age well (maybe 10 years?), but the forward fruit is hard to resist now. Fortunately this was just the first of a half case I had laid down, so I'll be able to follow it (and report on it) for quite a while. Grade: A-
It is said that it is better that a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man be punished (feel free to substitute whatever number you think the adage specifies). On the other hand, as Justice Benjamin Cardozo famously asked, "should the criminal go free because the constable has blundered?"
I was reminded of this famous dichotomy when I was catching up on some back issues of the Wine Spectator that had somehow slipped through the cracks. In the November 30, 2012 issue, I read that:
Accused wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan [was contesting] the legality of FBI agents' search of his home, which occurred after his arrest in a Los Angeles suburb last March. ...
In that search, according to a grand jury indictment, agents found an elaborate setup for wine counterfeiting, including thousands of fake labels for wines with vintages as far back as 1899, and labels for all the first-growths of Bordeaux and several highly sought-after Burgundies.The operation also housed a cork inserter, hundreds of used corks, bags of new corks and foil capsules.
According to a source close to the defense, FBI agents had an arrest warrant but no search warrant when they entered the house Kurniawan shared with his mother. The agents arrested Kurniawan and also "looked around," according to the source. Only later did the agents return to Kurniawan's house with a search warrant to execute a "protective sweep" of the home.
On criminal procedure issues, I tend to come down hard on the civil libertarian side. But wine fraud on this scale put that tendency to the test ... big time.
Indeed, I must confess to being pleased to learn that Kurniawan's Fourth Amendment arguments were rejected:
When news that Federal Judge Richard Berman ruled the FBI had probable cause to search the home of Rudy Kurniawan broke, wine lovers all of the world rejoiced! Now that Judge Berman ruled that the search warrant had a sound basis for probable cause, the trial of Rudy Kurniawan could take to place shortly!
Had the case come out the other way, I admit I would be sorely tempted to advocate a wine fraud exception to the Fourth Amendment!
Tignanello has been one of our house wines since, well, forever. A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc aged in small barrels it is what Chianti wants to be when it grows up and goes to heaven. It has always been a wine over which Helen and I tussle for the last drop.
At age 12+, the 2001 Tignanello is in prime drinking condition. The tannins are smooth and silky. The palate is a complex mixture of ripe dark fruit (black cherry, blackberry, add cassis), leather, smoke, earth, mushrooms, and herbs. Long finish. Still has plenty of food-friendly acidity. Rich bouquet. Has thrown a ton of light sediment, so it requires careful decanting.
I have three bottles left in my cellar and plan to space them out over the next 6-9 years.
I served it with 21 day dry-aged New York strip sirloin steaks and a delicious Arugula, Blood Orange, and Blue Cheese Salad. (So much for the Lenten fast.) Still trying to use up our mammoth crop of blood oranges, but it seems like I've barely made a dent.