Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Worth the Wait @corisonwinery @cathycorison

Corison 04 CabOn our last Napa trip, we had the pleasure of visiting Corison Winery during crush and also meet Cathy, the owner and winemaker.  In their working “cellar”, we tasted a vertical of their Cabs and couldn’t believe how wonderful the 2004 held up.  We’re not necessarily patient in letting our collection age, so we end up drinking many of our wines when they are young.  So, in an effort to try something with a little age, we picked up this library selection from the stellar 2004 year and are very happy that we did.

This Cab was clearly a very fruit forward wine in its early days, but now has that matured and subdued raisin/prune(ness) to it with a little plum too and a very lasting finish.  We still have a 2006 Kronos Cab from Corison too and will try to keep it until 2014, but no promises.

Some pics below of our visit (and maybe a little inspiration to plan a return trip).  Cheers.

Corison Vineyards Corison Cab GrapesCorison VerticalCorison Cellar

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Lava Vine Cabernet Franc 2008 – A Summer Cab Franc? @lavavine

I love visiting Napa – and Lava Vine is now one of the reasons for that enjoyment.  You can tell that they love their brand, and their brand is great wine in a fun atmosphere.  That translates into their wine and they deliver a whimsical experience in many of their offerings. From a Charbono (no, that’s not a typo or a relation to Sonny & Cher or their offspring) which was an inky, deep juice to this Cab Franc…which again wasn’t what I expected.

When I think of drinking a Cab Franc, it’s usually 30 degrees outside and I’m hunkering down with the heat on.  I’m not sure what inspired me, but we opened this 2008 Cab Franc on Friday night (in the middle of June) and it was delightful.  I noticed the color on the pour to be a lot lighter than I expected and the wine itself was too.  No big bananas foster here – more of a ripe raspberry mixed with stone fruit.  We are lucky enough to be in the Lava Vine case club, so I now have an excuse to work our way through our March shipment…have to make room for the upcoming October one – – and there are probably some other unexpected gems there too.  Cheers.

Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – Gave me the juice to blog again (thanks) @chappellet_wine

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I’ve been a little busy and while I can assure you that I’ve had a fair amount of wine,  I apologize to the 18 people that might read this post as I’ve been a very bad blogger – – but I miss it and I’m going to start writing more, really!

So, this 2007 Chappellet Cab really triggers some great memories and not just because it’s Napa (although that’s a good reason too).  The 2007 vintage was one of the great vintages of my wine-lifetime and I was privileged to have tasted my way through the Napa Valley as the 2007 bottles were released.  This was also our first visit to Chappellet and I won’t go back to Napa without stopping there, sitting at their gorgeous table and enjoying whatever they are pouring that day.

The funny thing about these “great vintages” is that we’re almost programmed to sit on a ‘special’ bottle until it’s a special occasion that warrants a splurge.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not terribly patient and usually don’t let the really good wines ‘lay down’ for too long as I’m never sure how they’ll taste after all that time.

The moment of truth for this 2007 Chappellet Cab was last night and it was indeed glorious.  This not only stood up to the test of time, but may have…improved?  Sure, it was a giant Cab with all the fruit you’d expect from Pritchard Hill, but it had a structure to it as well that provided a unique balance which is often missed in the many fruit forward wines from a variety of California (and other) AVAs.  After some time in the decanter, I found some violet in the nose, followed by an uber-smooth plum vanilla through the palate.  Cheers to the crew at Chappellet!

Rutherford Grove Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2007 @Rutherford Grove: Cherry Coke (and a 2013 resolution)


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So this is my first post in a long time and my first of 2013 and I’m resolving to do this a little differently and have some more fun with the blog too.  There are many flavors we find in wine – from the obvious oak, chocolate and vanilla to the more abstract starfruit.  My goal this year (or for how long I can sustain it) is to select a different, unique flavor component every time that I find in the wine I drink.  Also, I’m making this even more challenging – no basic, high level “hints of berry” stuff either.

This will challenge my palate…and let me know if you find anything similar in the wine you drink.  Cheers.

For this Rutherford Grove Petite Sirah: Cherry Coke

The French Laundry: Was it the Best Ever?

It’s a hard pedestal to be on: “Best Restaurant in the USA”, “3 Michelin Stars”, “One of the Hardest Reservations in the USA”…and with the veritable Thomas Keller at the helm, the reputation speaks for itself.  Further, when I actually secured this highly sought after reservation, I felt like I entered an exclusive group and my expectations rose even further.  But, was it what I expected…did it live up to my expectations?

Rather than detail the 3+ hour experience which weaved through a variety of fish, meats, vegetables and beautiful, yes absolutely beautiful looking food, I’ll share some highlights…and even some not-so highlights.

My Top 5

  • Amuse Bouche: A mini ice-cream cone delivery of salmon tartare (on top) and crème fraiche (in the cone) – – the single best bite of food the entire night.
  • First Course: The signature Oysters & Pearls which is a rich sabayon that sits below a cannele of caviar and 2 absolutely perfectly poached oysters.  A tough act to follow…which may have been my challenge in that dish seemed so innovative and different to me and others, well, not so much.
  • The chocolates at the end: PB&J and Mint Chocolate truffles were just enough and encapsulated the flavors succinctly.
  • The look of the food – easily the prettiest looking food I’ve ever seen in a single restaurant.  Especially the tomato tartlet my wife ordered.  For some examples, look at the Google Image Search for some serious food artistry.
  • Preparations – Perfect.  Everything was cooked to the exactly right temperature and done-ness with flawless execution.

Not Quite Top (and not 3 Michelin stars either)

  • So, for the cost of this event – and for $250pp before wine, I think it classifies as an event and in this regard, it fell short to me.  I expected the best dining experience of my life and this wasn’t it – in fact it’s not in the top 3.  I witnessed snafus that shouldn’t happen in this type of restaurant: from the table next to us taking their pen from the check and getting called out by the waiter asking for the pen back to the table next to us having water spilled on them – causing a production to move their table.
  • 60% of the food was rather basic.  I’m all for the farm to table, let the ingredients stand on their own philosophy, but I had expected some really cutting edge preparations and received some that were borderline basic and even under seasoned.
  • The Service – I’m not sure if my wife and I were ‘sized up’ when we arrived for our 9:15pm reservation, but the servers all seemed quite relaxed and only helpful when prompted.  I learned more about what I was eating as I listened to the presentations at other tables which were inconsistent with what I was told about something I was eating at the time – – not that I received the wrong description, but it felt like I didn’t get the full story.
  • The Approach – it just wasn’t very cutting edge or innovative.  Maybe it’s not supposed to be, but I’ve had some more traditional French cuisine which I found to be far more interesting.

My verdict – it was an experience to a food destination and that’s something I truly enjoy.  However, I’m not planning a return visit anytime in the foreseeable future.

 

Lava Vine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – Blueberry Cobbler? @NapaVintners @VisitNapaValle

We visited Lava Vine on a recommendation from another winery on our last trip to Napa.  They are in Calistoga and we were on our way to Healdsburg, so this was a great find!  It was a happy hour atmosphere when we stopped in while Joe, the winemaker and owner poured the wine for all.  He has an engaging way about him (as he holds court from behind the wine bar) and you can tell that he takes a lot of pride in his wine.  Well, he should – – it’s fantastic!

This Napa Cabernet is big, but not overwhelming.  It reminds me of a blueberry cobbler, with the ripe berry and balance of cinnamon and finish of graham and vanilla.

If you’re in Napa and you don’t visit Lava Vine, you’re missing out on the unique experience of meeting the winemaker and understanding the connection to what’s in the bottle.  If you don’t do that at Lava Vine, make sure you do it somewhere.  Cheers.

Emmolo Sauvingon Blanc 2010 Napa – Great Summer White @Winelibrary @NapaVintners

This was another great pick from the Wine Library shipment we received last month.  This Emmolo Sau Blanc is a rare find in that it’s a sub $15 white from the Napa Valley.  It’s a great summer wine with flavors of lime, grass and a little peach too.  Cheers.

Chappellet Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: “It’s Just Great” @Chappellet_wine

We bought this great Cab when we visited Chappellet’s gorgeous winery and vineyard a few years ago.  We went with a close friend who was making her initial pilgrimage to the Napa Valley…I think she’s ready to join the “wine country” cult.

This wine was just phenomenal, and not because Wine Spectator told us that it was.  It’s a very full bodied wine – – what that means exactly, I can’t articulate beyond the description that my taste buds were overwhelmed by berry and smooth vanilla without the overpowering fruit bomb of many Napa Cabs.  This lives up to the reviews and I look forward to visiting Chappellet this year during crush to pick up some of their new offering.

Alpha Omega 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – Fruit, Tea, and Mint? @AOwinery

Yes, this sounds like the name for a fraternity or sorority, but, in fact Alpha Omega is a serious winery in the heart of the Napa Valley.  This is a Cab with some complexity and it’s delicious to boot.  I think that once it opened up, this wine had some black tea up front followed by the typical dark berry fruit and a refreshing mint finish.  Cheers.

Sawyer Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – “These People Know What They Are Doing” @NapaVintners

My wife made the above statement  “These People Know What They Are Doing” and she’s not kidding.  I’ve had great experiences visiting Sawyer Cellars and, moreover, buying their wine.  It’s always as good as when we bought it and tonight, we enjoyed the 2005 Cab Sauv.  Sawyer tends to barrel age their wines longer than their neighbors, so we’re generally drinking their vintages a bit older than others, but this ’05 stood the test of time and is really a wonderfully balanced wine.  This has the smoothness of vanilla and the simple fruit of ripe berries.  It’s really a phenomenal wine that showcases the care that went into its production.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the great folks at Sawyer in the near future.