Rick's Wine Journal 2005 - Half 1


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

1995 Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Rhinefarm Vineyard
June 29, 2005 - Gundlach Bundschu Sonoma County Meritage 2001 - RM 90 - Dark color - full forward berry fruit with a hint of mocha and sage on a moderate tannin finish. Del Dotto Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve 1998 - RM 88 This 98 Napa cab is starting to show its age...appearing to have lost some of its fruit and losing luster from its previous RM 93 rating ... The berry is still intense but now turned a slight bit astringent cherry seeming super ripe with licorice and a hint of tar on the moderate tannin finish.  Beringer Johannisburg Riesling Late Harvest 1993 - RM 89 Another selection from the cellar from many years - Previously this wine possessed essence of apricot with a touch of almond, thick unctuous sweet syrup of smoky apricot flavors. This from an earlier review - as this wine ages, the apricot is giving way to a ripe smoky fig taste. The color has evolved from butter to dark maple syrup or tea color. Tasted w/ Gary LaG and Michael R from LTi.

June 26, 2005 - Marquis Phillips S2 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 - RM 91 WS 90 $25 - I defer to the producers description which I find very apt except for the 'peppers' - "Characters of berry fruits, black & white pepper, cedar and cigar box, with a layer of dark chocolate adding to the complexity. As this wine ages the fresh raspberry characters will mature into darker boysenberry and blackberry characters with layers of brandy laced chocolate fondue flavours." Venge Family Reserve Napa Valley Merlot 1998 - RM 89 $39 - Dark, inky color. Big, full body - full forward fruit of slightly tart cherry on the front palate gives way to full currant and wild berry flavors with a full lingering oaky finish. Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 1998 and 1995 - RM 89 WS 87 and RM 87 - $35 ea. Hazelnut, pear, a hint of caramel and citrus. The 1994 vintage of this wine was WS Wine of the year with a 95 rating. I have a mini vertical of this wine and these vintages are aging to the point they need to be consumed. Even here, the 98 has more fruit and balance and stability than the 95. The few remaining 94 bottles need to be consumed. Some special wines for a mini family reunion with J&B and girls back from CA with mom and Keith, and our crew - beef tenderloin and scallops.  Great day despite the HOT sun.
June 25, 2005 - Château Calon-Ségur St-Estèphe, 3ème Cru Classé Bordeaux 1997 - RM 89 RP 82 WS 83 - $45 I found this wine much better than the commercial ratings. Dark purple, moderate tannins, medium body and classic full forward Bordeaux floral bouquet with black currant, berry, and moderate spice. Chateau Meyney St Estephe Bordeaux 1988 - RM 88 RP 88 From Magnum - earthy berry, black cherry, smoke and anise on a firm tannin finish. Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1980 - RM 85 - Initially closed and funky - after 75 minutes this 25 year old started to awake and the berry and black cherry fruit emerged accented by earthy cassis and sage. Tasted these wines at gala banquet in honor of Evelyn and Keith's 25th and Evelyn's 80th with twenty-nine family members in attendance at the White Rose Inn. Hence the Bordeaux wine for lovers Calon with its heart label (right) and the 1980 vintage bottle.
June 19, 2005 - Clark-Claudon Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - RM 93 RP 92 - $100-125 I defer to the master Robert Parker who describes this monumental effort better than I can. "Neither up-front nor accessible, readers will need a degree of patience, although it would not be infanticide to drink it now. A serious, concentrated, opaque purple-colored effort, it boasts a moderately intense nose of pure cassis, gravel, vanillin, and blackberries. Full-bodied and impressively built, this deep, powerful, concentrated Cabernet begs for cellaring. It is the second impressive effort from this newcomer to the high end Cabernet Sauvignon sweepstakes. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2020. Bravo!" My patience is being rewarded! Earlier attempts at this wine were closed and tight. This one is beginning to open up and shine - this bodes well for some great tastings ahead! This was from Tom & Laurie Clark, guest producers at our 98 Napa Wine Experience
June 18, 2005 - Chateau La Nerthe, Chateauneuf du Pape 1996 - RM 87 $45 - Earthy, pepper and  spice predominate over the blackberry and mineral. This wine was first tasted at the chateau during my Rhone Wine Experience.
Peter Lehman Barossa Shiraz 1997
- RM 88 $18 - This was my first discovery of this wine and it remains one of his more memorable. Deep rich, dark, chewy ripe, almost raisiny black berry and black cherry  fruit almost stain the glass in this big full bodied wine. Both of these were perfect compliments to our bar-b-que rib dinner with Dr Pat, Martha, Nick S., L, Erin & Johnnie.
June 17, 2005 - Chateau Mazeris Canon Fronsac Bordeaux 1990 - RM 84 $15 in 92 - Huge forward earthy cassis, ash and tar overpowers the dark cherry fruit. Past its prime? Cleaning out the cellar - Alec's birth-year wine celebrating some big achievements this week. Also pulled out an old over-the-hill Chateau Mouton Cadet 1978 from an earlier time when my wine cellar and palate were obviously substantially less discriminating. Not worth mentioning.
June 15, 2005 - Woop Woop Australian Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - RM 86 WE 87  - Dark full bodied and full nose of mineral - mouthfull of mineral overpowers the berry fruit on the palate through the long long full finish. Great value at $12
June 11, 2005 - Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - WE 95 RM 93 $69-49 - Delicious mouthfull of currant and black cherry with tones of sweet creme brulee and cotton candy and a pleasant balanced finish. Bill at Binny's GE was right to recommend this as one of his favorites. Yah boy! Only a slight bit of roughness on the finish detracts from an otherwise superb effort which will likely soften and settle with some age.

June 10, 2005 - Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2000 - RM90, WS91, #64 Wine Spectator Top 100 2003 -  "Tasty fruit filled blackberry, chocolate, mineral and a long medium-bodied tannin finish. Good value at $18.
June 9, 2005 - Querceto Chianti Classico 2002 - RM 86 - Lighter, less fruitfilled, polished and balanced than the Reserva listed above but similar taste profile of blackberry and smoky mineral..
June 8, 2005 - Chateau Leoville Barton St Julien Bordeaux 1991 - RM 86 $20 upon release in 1993 - Reasonable life left in this vintage destined to be relatively short-lived - limited light body - not much nose, minimal essence of blackberry and earthy smoky blackcherry with a short finish.
June 5, 2005 - Clos du Marquis St Julien Bordeaux 1986, 1988 -  RM 86 and 87. Second wine of Leoville Las Cases. Celebrating cousin Wesley's graduation with birth year wine. The 86 was firm tight and still a bit closed - blackberry fruit subdued and overshadowed by tar and bark turning to cassis anise on the finish. The 88 was more open and fruit filled with earthy black cherry and berry with underlying tone of mushrooms.  
May 30, 2005 - Les Tourelles de Longueville, Pauillac, Bordeaux 2001 - RM 85 - $28 - Second wine of classic Pichon Baron. Medium bodied, full forward blackberry fruit gives way to earthy tar and a hint of grassy mint on a long dry tannin finish. Purchased at Berry Bros & Rudd in London. Their redesigned LHR T3 shop is a shallow replacement for the original but they're now in each terminal.
May 26, 2005 - Laibach Stellenbosch Pinotage 2003 - RM 88 - $35us Initial red berry, black currant and red raspberry give way to mineral and metal on the finish. Tasted at Hippodroom Restaurant in Antwerp w/ EMEA mktg team.

May 25, 2005 - Château Le Pavillon de Boyrein, Graves, Bordeaux 2001 - RM 87 - 24,5€ Medium bodied blackberry, charcoal, tannin and a hint of eucalyptus on the soft nicely balanced finish. Tasted with the EMEA TMM's in the delightful garden at Brasserie St. Jean in picturesque Oud-Heverlee near the Lti Euro HQ.
May 24, 2005 - Frankovka Moravian Czech vyber z hroznu 2003 -  RM 87 KR 700 $23us eq - Authentic Czech wine -Full firm forward smoky earthy mineral and blackberry. Tasted at U Zlate Studne Restaurant in Prague Czech Republic. See Dinesite review. W/ Lti Euro sales team.
May 23, 2005 - Frankovka Chateau pod Martinkau 2003 - RM 88 - KR 330 - $12 us eq - Great value in this 'house' wine at Andels Hotel in Prague - full of black cherry turning to a tannin mocha oak finish.
d'Arenberg Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz

May 20, 2005 - Chappellet Pritchard Hill Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - RM 94 - $120 - Connoisseurs' Guide - 97 points & 3 Puffs, WE 94 - WS 92 Delicious symphony of currant, black cherry, plum, mocha, cola sweet raspberry with a hint of caramel on a long smooth polished finish. Cabernet Sauvignon 80%, Petit Verdot 12%. Cabernet Franc 4%, Merlot 4%.
d'Arenberg Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz 1995 - RM 92, WS 92, $65 - Full firm cedar and smoky berry with a long finish of berry and a hint of blueberry. Special treat for my surf & turf birthday dinner w /L, Erin & Johnnie.
May 19, 2005 - La Crema Sonoma Pinot Noir 2003 - RM 88 - Great value at $18. Winery Notes - Fresh aromas of raspberry, red cherry, nutmeg and cola. The bright cherry/raspberry flavors and lively acidity carry the mouthfeel with accents of plum and subtle mineral nuances. Toasty oak with sandalwood spice lingers through the finish.
May 17, 2005 - Chateau Canon, Canon Fronsac Bordeaux 1989 - RM 89 - Classic Bordeaux floral fragrance and taste with earthy leathery blackberry, eucalyptus, cedar, and a hint of tar and mocha on the late palate with a long moderate tannin cassis laden finish. Still life in this vintage Bordeaux - testament to the vintage given this was tasted from the cellar in 375 half bottle!
May 15, 2005 - La Croix Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1995 - RM 88 - Nose of plum and berry - taste of blackberry, cassis, tobacco and smoke - light in body boosted by moderate tannins. Second wine of the renowned Ducru Beaucaillou which was wine of the year in this vintage.
May 14, 2005 - Chateau Figeac St. Emilion Bordeaux 1982 (RMP 93) RM 90 $180-$295 One of our signature wines commemorating Ryan's graduation from U of I! (Read my WS interview for background) That classic Bordeaux perfume, earthy dark cherry, leather and cassis with a lasting finish. The 750's are due to drink - the large formats surely have life yet. (Label) (Bottle). From the cellar - consumed w/ L & Ryan. 
May 13, 2005 - Domaine Giraud Chateauneuf-du-pape 2001 - $20 - WS 92 RM 88 A bit rough, leathery, earthy cherry, blackberry, and a hint of pepper, and mineral.
May 8, 2005 - Robert Craig Russian River Valley Sonoma Chardonnay 1997 - WS 93 RM 92 $25 - WS Review - Smooth and creamy, with a pretty toasty oak and vanilla-scented edge. The rich core of pear, fig, apple and melon is bright, rich and concentrated, turning enormously complex. Only 215 cases made. (JL); Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz 2002 - RM 93 WE 94 $39  Dark inky, almost looks like coffee color, when you open it you can smell it from across the room! Huge forward fruit of blackcherry and a touch of blackberry with dark chocolate/cedar and smoky cassis/currant. Its so big you taste it minutes later. This wine is delicious now and will most likely lose its slight edge and be even better over time.; Marquis Phillips Barossa Valley Shiraz '9' 2001 - WS92 RM93 $39 - A bit less polished than the 2000, but that distinctive 'burnt sugar creme brulee' taste abounds. HS of WS calls it 'exotic spice' taste, "very ripe and dense,  with rich blackberry jam flavors, which echo on the long silky smoky finish". Tasted at home for Mother's Day dinner w/ Evelyn and L, Keith, Erin & Johnie.

May 6, 2005 - Domaine de la Solitude Pessac Leognan Bordeaux 2000 - RM 89 - $23 - Big nose of classic mineral and floral. Huge mouth full of fruity mineral, smoky cassis , and ripe berry plum on the long full smoky ash tannic finish. Give this a couple years to mellow and soften and wow. It shows how good the 2000 vintage is as this second label of Domaine de Chevalier rivals first label from many vintages. Pick this up for intermediate term cellaring - a great value Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage. We were fortunate to meet and join Producer Olivier Bernard when he visited Chicago last summer and hosted us for the Domaine Chevalier - Darioush dinner at Everest Room. 
May 3, 2005 - Calera Mt. Harlan Selleck Vineyard Pinot Noir 1993 - RM 86 - From the cellar - slight discoloration setting in - light bodied, intense earthy black cherry, licorice, and peppery leathery plum with a moderate full finish.
April 30 - Ceago Camp Lema Mendocino County Merlot 2000 - RM 89 $30 -  From Jim & Katrina Fetzer of the legendary Fetzer Family. Intense firm tannins - slightly earthy cherry, boysenberry, a hint of mocha and spicy cinnamon on the finish. Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - RM 90 $32. Perennial favorite Intense dark firm and full - currant and blackberry fruit - pepper and tar on a long finish.
Purchased at Kahn's in Indianapolis. Tasted w/ L and sis Dr Pat.
April 23 - Rosenblum "Heritage Clones," San Francisco Bay Petit Syrah 2003 . RM 91 Great value at $19. Intense black inky color exhibiting lots of distinct flavors. This wine abounds with ripe blackberry, plum, pepper and spice.
April 20 - Hazy Blur Adelaine Plains South Australia Shiraz 2003 - $34 - RM 94 - Deep dark purple color - smooth elegant currant, plum, strawberry, cherry and that classic creme' brulee burnt sugar with a long soft  vanilla nut finish.
April 17 - Massena 'Eleventh Hour' Barossa Valley Shiraz - RM 93 RP 96 - $40 - Complex, classic big rich dense Barossa Shiraz. Ultra ripe raisin, prune, and peppery black berry and black cherry on a full rich nose and long lingering finish that hints of soft eucalyptus. 
April 14 - Hanna Sonoma Bismarck Ranch Merlot 1999 - RM 88 - $50 - Huge forward fruit of berry, currant, smoky tar and full firm tannins.
April 12 - Chateau Malescot St Exupery Bordeaux Margaux 1978 - RM 88 - Magnum; Chateau Pontet Canet Bordeaux Pauillac 2000 - RM 92 WS RP 92-94; Tapestry McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001 - RM 92 WS 90; JJ Hahn "1928" Barossa Valley Shiraz 2001 - 89; Ravenswood Southeast Australia Shiraz 2002 - RM 88; Chateau Coutet Bordeaux Sauterne - RM 90; Tasted with iTRACS sales, support, and marketing team at Hinsdale Golf Club - TRR, JR, Jim A, Tom S, Brian E, Rob F, Frank D, John N, James S, Joel D, and Michelle.
Rosemount Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah April 8 - Rosemount Estates Balmoral Syrah 1995 - WS/RM 92 $35 Dark full flavor, berry, blueberry, plum fruit, with spice and anise. Showing age on opening but opened and softened with a long full magnificent finish.
April 5, 2005 -  Paul Coulon Boisrenard Chateauneuf Du Pape 1990 - RM 88 Full bodied earthy black cherry, smoky tar, currant and spicy cedar on the long finish. First tasted this wine in Chateauneuf du Pape during Rhone wine experience. From the cellar this 90 vintage bottle commemorates Alec's birthyear at his special surf and turf family birthday dinner.
April 2 - Behrens & Hitchcock Napa Valley Zinfandel 1996 - RM 85 WS 86 in 1999 - Moderate berry fruit has given way to intense cassis flavor as this wine is beyond prime and approaching end of life.
Groth Napa Valley Chardonnay March 28 - Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2001 - WS 87 RM 87 - Green apple and citrus with melon and a slight smoky earthy finish. Toad Hollow Napa Valley Chardonnay 2001 - RM 87 Buttery toasty oaky fruit. Great compliments to steamer seafood platter at Steamers in Fairhope, AL.
March 26 - Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - RM 87 WS 87 Blackberry and a bit of tar, leather and a hint of mineral on the slightly hard finish. Tasted at Gambino's Restaurant in Point Clear, AL.
Plumpjack Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Mar 25, 2005 - Plumpjack Napa Valley Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 - RM 90 WS 90 $45 Currant and berry with a hint of cedar and tar on the smooth tannin finish.
Mar 24, 2005 - Branson Coach House Greenock Barossa Valley Single Vineyard Greenock Block Estate Grown Shiraz 2003 - RM 92 WS 92 $75 Big full nose and mouthful of flavors of plum, currant and spicy blackberry with a long big smoky tannin finish. 
Mar 20,  - DEL DOTTO Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (RM90) $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.
Mar 17-18 - Concha yToro Don Melchor Private Reserve Maipo Valley Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 90 RM 87 $25 then. - Floral perfume of an aged left bank Bordeaux - hard firm black berry with a earthy leathery essence that finishes with a smoky oak that has a slight hint of mineral and a touch of a funky green vegetable that may reveal its aging and indicating kept a bit too long.

Mar 15 - Ravenswood Southeast Australia Shiraz 2002 - RM 87 - Full forward rich fruit of very ripe berry and peppery cherry with a cedar finish. First tasted lat year at distributor release tour where this was a standout from this California house known for its single vineyard Zinfandels. Its now available and a terrific value at $12 for everyday drinking.
Mar 5 - St Francis Sonoma Valley Merlot 1994 - WS 90 RM 82 $20 - Its hard to imagine its been five years since I last tasted this wine... And those five years have been decisive in this wine reaching and surpassing drink-ability. In 2000 I rated this wine 91 - meanwhile it's lost its fruit and vitality as earthy leather predominates as it is definitely end of life.
Mar 2-4 - Raymond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997 - WS 90 Spectator Selection, RM 88, $25 - Medium body and colour, earthy black cherry, full soft tannins accenting a hint of cedar and tar on the long full finish.

March 1 - Liebich CW's Block Barossa Valley Shiraz 2002 - RM 89 - $32 Aromas and tastes of currant, red raspberry and super ripe raisiny plum and berry with smoky cedar and firm tannins on the long finish.
Feb 27 - Sterling Napa Valley Reserve Merlot 1999 - RM 91 WS 86 $70 - Smooth, tasty currant berry with a hint of cedar, mocha and vanilla.
Feb 22 - Galante Carmel Valley Red Rose Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 - WS 88 RM 87 $30 in '97. Earthy leather and tea with subtle tar and cassis turn to currant, dark cherry and plum before being overtaken by cedar on the long tannic finish.
Feb 20 - Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch 1994 - WS 90 RM 87 $30 in 96 - Initial tart cherry eventually softens and reveals layers of earthy cherry, currant and a leathery tannin finish. Tasted in Munster w/ steak dinner w/ Keith and Mom.
Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1991
Calera Mills Pinot Noir
Feb 18 - Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - WS 92 Cellar Selection - RM 89 DMB 87 - $120 (mkt); This wine was the opposite of what we expected. Rather than a foot wide and a mile deep with hard tannins and deep firm backbone, it was soft, light and broad, delicate, sophisticated and elegant. Big scent and essence of floral throughout with cherry, currant and herbal with a long long huge floral berry finish. Ironically it turned out to be a perfect complement to our entree as opposed to the accompaniments - see below.. Calera Mount Harlan Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir 1993. - RM 87 DMB 91 WS 86 $38 in 94 - Earthy leathery tart cherry, cola and a herbal spice flavor with a soft silky tannin throughout - another perfect complement to the entree's. Tasted with Dr Dan at his home where he cooked an elegant meal - Ahi Tuna with Chipotle bar-be-que and garlic sauce,  Atlantic Salmon with tequila, lime, fresh basil and mint, crab legs and prawns with crab cakes, green beans in a to-die-for dark sauce of cane and brown suger, butter, sesame and pine nuts; mushroom medley of crisini, shitake, lobster, brown truffle and oyster mushrooms in a shiraz red wine, fresh garlic, soy, and teriyaki sauce; three rice medley, green salad. Dr Dan and I were on opposite sides of our wine ratings till the dessert... - a fabulous evening - just like downtown! With french vanilla 'Valpo Velvet' ice cream with black and blue berries, strawberry, and raspberry with hot fudge - Kracher #7 Chardonnay Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese Burgenland, Austria, 1998 - WA 94 RM 92 $69 Full unctuous pear apple and a bit of apricot and a hint of smoke on the long full finish. Finished the night with a Midleton Irish Whiskey - Incredibly smooth and approachable - initial peat and smoke turns to full rich hazelnut finishing with a huge long distinctive peach finish that is hard to believe. Thanks and well done Dr Dan!
Feb 17 - Girard Winery Sam's Cuvee Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 - RM 91 - $31 - Another selection from Sam's Wine and Spirits in Chicago and this one is as good as if not even better than the blockbuster Sam's Cuvee merlot, created by Girard's Marco Degiulio and Sam's Jim Hightower. Aromas of berry and currant and cedar - huge fruit forward mouthful of currant, plum and cedar and a long full smoky blueberry and tannin finish.
Feb 14 - Benessere Napa Valley Merlot Sam's Cuvee 2002 - RM 91 $28 - Who would expect this quality from a 'house' co-labeled wine. This special bottling for Sam's Wine and Spirits in Chicago over-achieves with a mouth-full of currant, sweet toffee, strawberry, and plum, with a hint of mocha with a smooth fruit filled polished finish. Creme brulee in a bottle! 
Feb 11 - Snowden Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 - WS 93 RM 91 - $50 - Firm, tight, full & muscular , black currant and black cherry turning a bit astringent on the big long finish that is predominant with what WS aptly calls 'gritty tannins'  and 'extra nuance and depth, finishing with herb and tea notes.' Lots of life left here - give it five more years! 

Hardy's Eileen Hardy McLaren Vale Clare Valley Padthaway Shiraz 1995 - WS 92 RM 92 $65 - Dark, complex, blackberry and black cherry with a strong undercurrent of plum that lingers on a long firm finish.
Chateau St Jean Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997 - WS 91 RM 93 - WS describes this perfectly - "Smooth and polished, with a rich, focused, complex core of mocha-laced currant, blackberry, black cherry and chocolate. Turns elegant and supple on the smooth finish." Tasted with LJ, ENA , and wine friends at Cab's in Glen Ellyn. LJ and I preferred the St Jean while ENA, the Hardy's

Feb 10 - Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 90 Spectator Selection - RM 88 Interesting essence and taste of tea, gives way to subdued currant, plum turning to dark cherry returning to essence of tea on the finish.

Feb 9 - Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay 1994 - WS 95 Spectator Selection, RM  87 - From the cellar clearing out ten year old 94's, this one was past its prime. I defer to the WS original review. "Ripe, rich, intense and deeply concentrated, packing in tiers of ripe pear, honey, hazelnut and butterscotch. An altogether complex and wonderfully crafted Chardonnay that's long and flavorful on the finish." The colour has turned to that of honey and remnants of the halzelnut and honey pear remain. 
Feb 8 - Gundlach Bundschu Rhinefarm Vineyard Sonoma Merlot 2002 - RM 87 Structured with a firm cherry and berry, leathery sage and a subtle vanilla turning to a full long tannin finish. Rhinefarm Vineyard Sonoma Chardonnay 2002 - RM 88.  Rhinefarm Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002 RM 88 - Smooth, slightly earthy and leathery front turning to dark cherry with a subtle smoky mocha finish. Tasted with producer Jeff Bundschu at One North Wacker restaurant in Chicago at Silicon Valley Bank hosted wine producer wine tasting and networking event.

Feb 6 - Chateau Cruzeau Pessac Leognan Graves Bordeaux 2000 - WS 90 RP 89 RM 87 - $22 Needs time - earthy berry aromas - black cherry, black currant overtaken by hint of cedar and pepper turning to tar finish.
Feb 5 - Benessere Napa Valley Merlot Sam's Cuvee 2002 - RM 91 $28 - Who would expect this quality from a 'house' co-labeled wine. This special bottling for Sam's Wine and Spirits in Chicago over-achieves with a mouth-full of currant, strawberry, and plum, with a hint of mocha with a smooth fruit filled polished finish..
Feb 2 - Yalumba Hand Picked Barossa Eden Valley Shiraz 2001 - WS 87 RM 88 - $30 - Pleasant full forward currant berry nose, super ripe almost raisin berry and plum flavors with a hint of vanilla that turns to a spicy and slightly tart cherry on the finish. 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier.
Jan 29 - DEL DOTTO Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - RM 91 WS 85 - $65 - Big floral berry scent - big mouthful of currant, plum and berry and a hint of cassis with a long full lingering finish accented by full but soft tannins. 
Jan28 - Michel Colin-Deleger Les Chenevottes Premier Cru Burgundy Chassagne Montrachet - RM 89 WS 90 - $54 - Complex and sophisticated, full bodied; fruit is overpowered by a slight flinty taste that turns to what I can only call a smoky 'whiskey' taste with nut, a hint of citrus-pear on the long full firm finish. WS describes it as "Beautiful, serious white Burgundy. Powerful Chardonnay, full-bodied, deep and complex, cascading with roasted game, toasted hazelnut, smoke, pear and freshly baked brioche notes. Needs time."
Jan 25 - Craneford John Zilm Barossa Valley Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 - $28 - RM 91 WA 91 Earthy aromas give way to smoke and cedar, full forward ripe red cherry, plum, and anise on the full mouthfeel finish.

Pride Mountain Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Jan 23 - Pride Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 - RM 88 WS 91 $35 - Earthy leather overpowers the currant and berry fruit which turns to a mocha on the mid-palate with a hint of cedar on the finish. Visited Pride during our 1999 Napa Valley Wine Experience.
Jan 20 - Stephen l'Aventure Optimus Paso Robles 2001 - RP 94 WS 90 RM 91 $45 - Dark, ripe forward black currant, black raspberry, smoke with a hint of caramel and touch of cedar on the full firm tannin finish. Interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel.

Penfolds Bin 389
Jan 19 - Penfolds South Australia Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz 2001 - WS 88 RM 89 - Medium bodied, ripe berry, plum and spicy pepper on the full finish. Overpowered the next selection - Cain Cuvée NV1 Napa Valley NV - RM 86 WS 85 - Light body and slightly austere flavor with soft berry with a hint of mocha, herb, leather, and smoke on the slightly tannin oaky finish. Like first label parent Cain 5, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Stuhlmuller Alexander Valley Chardonnay 2003 - RM 88, WS 87 - Subtle, medium bodied, soft flinty chard with a slight hint of citrus. apple and spice. Tasted with iTRACS Board,  Exec team, and Charlie F. at House of Tricks in downtown Tempe in a delightful outdoor setting.

Fife Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Jan 16 - Oliverhill Jimmy Section McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 -  -$29 - RM 92 WA 94 WS 91 - Big full  mouthful of competing flavors - pepper, raisin, ripe currant, plum, blackberry, smoky leather with a long big currant essence tannic finish. Lacks harmony and finesse, not for the feint of heart, but lots of flavor none-the-less. Here is what WA and WS say - "A prodigious, decadently rich effort, Oliverhill's 2003 Shiraz Jimmy Section (15% alcohol) is a 100% Shiraz aged in French oak, of which one-third is new. It offers up a luxurious aromatic display of loamy earth, new saddle leather, blackberry liqueur, charcoal, and barbecue spices. Layered, chewy, full-bodied, and opulent with extravagant richness, sweet, supple tannin, and low acidity, this is a knock-out Shiraz to drink over the next 5-12 years." RP Wine Advocate; WS Review - Firm in texture, distinctive in flavor, with something reminiscent of apricot skins weaving through the solid blackberry and licorice flavors. It all lingers nicely. Best from 2005 through 2012. 600 cases made. (HS)
Jan 15 - Covey Run Merlot, Cabernet, and Chardonnay 2001- They succeed in their goal to deliver quality wines at affordable prices. Good every day drinking wines from Yakima and Columbia Valley in Washington and they are produced in sufficient quantity they should be easy to find. These 'house' wines are served at Amelia Island Plantation in Florida. I liked the Chardonnay the best (RM 88), then the Merlot (RM 87 - WS 88 - Best Buy $9) over the cab (RM 85).
Jan 13 - DEL DOTTO Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - RM 87 $65 - Dark, spicy black cherry, blackberry and currant. Tasted at family dinner at D'Angelas in Naperville, sending Ryan off to school and early birthday dinner for Erin. One of our favorites, DEL DOTTO were a featured producer at our Napa Wine Experience 1999 and 2003.
Jan 8 - Fife Vineyards Spring Mountain District Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 - WS 85 RM 86 - $45 - Earthy smoky charcoal and mineral competes with subdued blueberry, and black currant fruit flavors with a moderate tannin finish.
Jan 6 - Liparita Napa Valley Merlot 1998 - RM 87 WS 87 - $33 - Berry, cocoa, and herb with oaky dry tannins on the finish. Gove Celia, Liparita winemaker hosted a tour and barrel tasting at Oakville Winery during our 1998 Napa Wine Experience.
Jan 1, 2005 - Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay 1994 - WS 95 Spectator Selection, RM  87 - From the cellar clearing out ten year old 94's, this one was past its prime. I defer to the WS original review. "Ripe, rich, intense and deeply concentrated, packing in tiers of ripe pear, honey, hazelnut and butterscotch. An altogether complex and wonderfully crafted Chardonnay that's long and flavorful on the finish." The colour has turned to that of honey and remnants of the halzelnut and honey pear remain.  Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Zinfandel 1994 - WS 91 RM 87 - Another '94 close out - still balanced with well integrated fruit of berry, plum, cherry, and spicy and cedar - a perfect complement to b-b-que ribs for a post holiday dinner.

d'Arenberg Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz
Dec 29 - Merryvale Profile Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 - WS 97 RM 94 Wine Spectator says it best in its Highly Recommended Review  - Massive, with wonderful richness, depth and concentration, this Cabernet blend has layers of complex currant, black cherry, plum, vanilla and blackberry and a long, detailed, firmly tannic finish. Best from 2002 through 2012. 5,200 cases made. (JL);  D'Arenberg The Dead Arm McLaren Vale Shiraz 1997 - RM 91 WS 91 WS Review - Firm in texture and generous with its bright berry, spice and slightly gamy flavors, nicely focused to display the fruit. Flavors persist impressively on the round finish. Best from 2001 through 2010. 600 cases imported. (HS) From the cellar of TRR. Tasted w/ TRR, BE and son Ryan. Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron Pauillac Bordeaux 1986 - RM 90 WS 97 -
Perhaps an unfair tasting following the two fruit forward monsters above as this was much lighter and more delicate - fronted by subtle floral perfume slight earthy cedar turning to elegant polished fruit. For perhaps a more fair tasting see the WS Review -  Amazingly elegant and complex featuring rich cedar, currant, black cherry and cassis notes, with grace, harmony and the kind of structure that should ensure it will age beautifully until the turn of the century. The aftertaste echoes cherry flavors. Tasted at Washington Street Grill in Hinsdale.
Dec 26 - Behrens & Hitchcock Napa Valley Staglin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 92 RM 93 $35 - Big fruity bouquet - Mouthful of full forward smooth, rich currant, black raspberry, pronounced cedar and a hint of earthy anise leading to a long lingering full supple finish. B&H originally produced these wines for their restaurant and then increased production to afford availability to the public. Only 100 cases were made of this wine in this inaugural vintage release.
Rosemount Balmoral McLaren Vale Syrah Dec 25 - Rosemount Syrah McLaren Vale Balmoral 1995 - WS 91 RM 87 $40 My lower rating may reflect the age of this wine approaching end of life or an 'off' bottle... Huge nose of berry but the fruit seems to have given way to an earthy leathery overtone and acidic tart finish. Typically this is a smooth polished chorus of berry, plum, anise and velvety spice. One of perennial favorites. 

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve

Dec 24 - Beaulieu Vineyards Tapestry Reserve Napa Valley 1995 - WS 91 Spectator Selection, RM 91 - Smooth polished  currant, blackberry, a hint of plum and sage with subtle tar notes and fine integrated tannins on the long full finish. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot.

Elan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Dec 21 - Gundlach Bundschu Rhinefarm Vineyard Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - RM 90 Dark colour - full nicely balanced currant and blackberry fruit give way to a smoky cassis and a slight hint of cherry initially that later reveals a subtle soft mocha with a pleasant moderate tannin finish. 95% cab 5% cab franc. Gundlach Bundschu Rhinefarm Vineyard Sonoma Chardonnay 2002 - RM 88. Tasted w/ iTRACS Westchester team at Holiday dinner at D's Little Italy, Westchester, IL.
Dec 20 - Peter Lehman Clancy's Barossa 1998
- RM 88 WS 92 - Tight and a bit hard - the fruit is a bit closed - subtle blueberry, blackberry and a hint of currant and mineral with a long full finish.
1995 Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Rhinefarm Vineyard
Dec 19 - Vine Cliff Oakville Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 90 RM 91 Well balanced and polished currant cherry and berry with a nice lingering tannin finish. My best of selection from another holiday horizontal tasting of 94 Napa Cabs+. If I recall correctly, this was made by Steve McDevitt, winemaker for Darioush. (See 2003 Napa Wine Experience.) Elan Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 88 RM 89 - We enjoyed Elan as participants of our 98 Napa Wine Experience - Smooth, polished supple plum, berry and chewy smoky, toasty oak on a moderate tannin finish. Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 91 Spectator Selection RM 88 - Firm, tannic, fruit of plum, black cherry, spicy currant with a moderate tannin finish. Markham Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 92 Spectator Selection - RM 88 - Slightly earthy, forward ripe currant, black cherry and berry on a smooth lingering finish.

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 90 RM 87 - Earthy, leathery turning to currant and black cherry on a long lingering tannic finish.  Chateau du Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 1993 - WS 86 RM 87 Tasted from magnum. Visited this Chateau during our Rhone Wine Experience. Softer and lighter than most CDP's reflecting a more austere vintage, earthy black cherry and anise are predominant with only a hint of the typical spicy pepper.  Yalumba Victoria Museum Release Muscat NV - WS 94 RM 89 Thick unctuous Aussie 'sticky'; rich and spicey nut and smoky sweet tar 'cognac' taste with a long full finish.  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. This from an earlier review - as this wine ages, the apricot is giving way to a more ripe fig taste.
Del Dotto Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Franc
Dec 17 - La Sirena Napa Valley Juliana Vineyard Sangiovese 1997 - WS 81 RM 86 $40 From Heidi Peterson Barret. Light, somewhat shallow with earthy leathery oak, herbal and a hint of berry and cherry. Del Dotto Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 1997 - RM 89 WS 91 - $45 - Complex, full forward white pepper, spice, cedar, black cherry, blackberry give way to easy balanced tar finish. Perfect complement to b-b-q ribs. Tasted w/ L and Dennis & Susan H. Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille 1996 WS 86 RM 88 $110 Attractive Brunello, but slightly too much new barrel use for my palate. Blackberries, fresh mushrooms and wood. Medium- to full-bodied, with a solid core of silky tannins and a slightly austere finish. Freemark Abbey Sycamore Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - WS 88 RM 88 $55 Chewy earthy currant and plum with a smoky oak finish. Tasted w/ TRR, DRH & Susan,  and Doug J at Binny's Orland. 

Dec 14 - Castello di Verrazzano Toscana Sassello 1997 - WS 92 RM 89 - $50 A bit funky on the opening with a earthy 'barnyard' scent that eventually gave way to a intense berry with an under currant of smoky tar with black cherry on a long tannic finish. Raphael North Fork of Long Island Merlot 2000 - WS 87 RM 88 $45 Dark red cherry with a subtle mocha under currant overshadowed by earthy mineral and smoky oak. From the cellar of Brian E. Tasted w/ Brian & Joel D at Stephanie's Restaurant in Caldwell, NJ.

Elan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
Dec 5 - A Holiday Horizontal tasting of 1994 Napa Cabernets - Chateau St Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County Cinq Cépages 1994- WS 91 Spectator Selection RM 90 - Earthy full polished blend of plum, currant, cherry, and berry with a smooth oaky finish. Blend of 76% Cab, 14% Cab Franc, 5% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. Elan Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 88 RM 89 - We enjoyed Elan as participants of our 98 Napa Wine Experience - Smooth, polished supple plum, berry and chewy smoky, toasty oak on a moderate tannin finish. Markham Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 92 Spectator Selection - RM 88 - Slightly earthy, forward ripe currant, black cherry and berry on a smooth lingering finish. Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 90 RM 87 - Earthy, leathery turning to currant and black cherry on a long lingering tannic finish. Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 - WS 91 Spectator Selection RM 88 - Firm, tannic, fruit of plum, black cherry, spicy currant with a moderate tannin finish.

Dec 4 - Tatiarra Heathcote Shiraz Pressings 2003 - $69 RP 94-96 RM 94 - Very much in the same style and flavors as the Elderton Command below but softer and more round and therefore more approachable. Delicious. Full forward currant blackberry plum and a hint of burnt sugar cognac on the long balanced sweet French oak finish. Haan Shiraz Prestige Barossa 2002 - $59 - RP 95 RM 94 - Continuing down the same spectrum - same rich currant backberry and plum taste - less rich, full or forward as the Elderton and Tatiarra but delicious none-the-less. La Spinetta Barolo
“Le Campe” 2000
- 98 WS $125; Robert Mondavi Cabernet Reserve 2001 - RP 95 $90 -

 Tasted w/ AJ & Liat at clubby comfortable Vintage Wine Merchants in Santana Row in San Jose.
Dec 3 - Elderton Command Shiraz Barossa 2000 - WS 97 $66 - I am fighting the flu so I defer to WS reviews for on these wines.  WS Review - Big and powerful, brimming with tarry, spicy black cherry, dark plum, blackberry and chocolate flavors. Rich and gooey like a warm flourless chocolate cake, yet it finds a plush balance that keeps it from veering off into heaviness. This has grace, harmony and refinement, without losing an ounce of power. Drink now through 2025. RM 92 - UNCLE. I actually found this too much forward-in-your-face fruit - bam - powerful. Wow. Intense currant, blackberry, plum with a full richness almost tasting of cognac (!) giving way to a smoky tar lingering finish. I wonder what this will be like in 15-20 years!  I hope to find out. Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Shiraz 2002 WS 92 - $37 Ripe and generous, with heady ripe plum and spice flavors, but nicely refined to keep them from overdoing it, picking up a hint of raspberry and a floral note as the flavors linger beautifully. Drink now through 2010. 600 cases imported. (HS) Les Forts de Latour Pauillac Bordeaux 2000 - WS 93 $75 - WS Review - Super enticing aromas of crushed raspberries, Indian spices and hints of vanilla. Full-bodied, with a refined and tight tannin structure and a long, refreshing finish. A beauty. Second wine of Latour. Best Les Forts in years. Best after 2009. 11,665 cases made. (JS) Tasted with AJ, Liat, and Phil M at Scotts Valley Hilton. 
Nov 29 - Ramey Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2003 - RM 88 Buttery and oaky - floral, pear and fig with a hint of citrus. Tasted w/ L at Parkers Ocean Grill in Downers Grove.  
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