Monday, August 17, 2009

Auctioning, 1997 Cakebread Cabernet and Lisa’s Lamb

This weekend I was looking forward to Sunday dinner. It was Lisa’s turn and she was making her outstanding rack of lamb. Syrah is the traditional pairing for lamb, but by no means is Cabernet Sauvignon atypical. I had had my eye on an old bottle of 1997 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon to open with the lamb.

The 1997 Cakebread Cabernet was my first auction wine I had ever purchased. Now, we are not talking in person at Christies. I had snagged a bottle of this at a great price on an auction website years ago, I think late 2002 or so. I had two in storage and had sold one recently as I felt I would only have time to drink one and I had been offered a great price. Online auction wine sites are a place where you can get great wines with minimal hassle. One literally looks and works just like EBay! I also would like to note that most people selling these kinds of wine online are usually pretty honest and I have yet to get a bad bottle. Now, would I buy a case of 2000 Chateau Latour from an unknown person? Probably not as Latour is investment grade wine and if I had wanted to sell it later the provenance of the wine may be unknown and factor in to a lower closing bid than I would like. Provenance is simply a wine’s history - where did it come from? Did it come from a big name wine retailer, a poorly stored closet or retail shelf, or a collector’s temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar? Provenance is a big factor, maybe the most important factor, in determining a certain wine’s ultimate value and whether or not I would buy an expensive lot of wine. If Provenance cannot be determined, one should be wary of fakes or poor storage. Provenance is also one reason to maybe pay a premium for expensive wine from a winery as opposed to saving 10% and getting it at retail. Purchasing wine directly from the source is as good as it gets!

On to the lamb!

Lisa’s lamb has evolved over the years but more or less has been in stride for a year or so. One rack that is about 1.5 pounds or so is seasoned and seared in a sauté pan. Next the lamb is removed and brushed with real honey mustard: fresh honey and Dijon mustard. Then it is coated with a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs, finely chopped dried cranberries and fresh garlic. The lamb is then placed in the oven to finish cooking for 18 or so minutes on medium heat. Remove, let the meat set for 5 minutes and serve.

Back to Cakebread and my wine roots

Cakebread Wine Cellars was the first winery after Robert Mondavi that I had started to pay more attention to back in 2000 when I first started to pay attention to more than a wine's color. I was drinking as much Cakebread as I could, and it was not much because at that time I was not buying a lot of $30 Chardonnay and $45 Cabernet being 23 years old. A few friends thought I was crazy to even think about spending more than $10 on a bottle of wine, but I felt there was more to it to me than most people. I was fascinated by wineries (and still am); how the wine was made and what it made me think about when I smelled it and tasted it. Cakebread Cellars was a cool place to go visit with a date or with family and friends visiting from the east coast when I had lived in San Francisco in the early 2000's. A tasting of their wines in their friendly barn-like tank room was only about $5. A wine and food pairing was only $30 or so for 5 wines and five tasty bites that matched the type of wine. Cakebread had a cache name at the time, and still does with more novice wine lovers. It’s been years since I have bought a bottle of their Cabernet, the last being the 2001. The winemaker’s had changed (Bruce stopped for some reason), and, well, my palate had already moved me on to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars by the 1999 vintage which turned out to be my first real romance with a winery. Paul Hobbs subsequently with the 2001 vintage had me hooked and to date is my favorite wine maker. But I still have an old soft spot for Cakebread from the days I was cutting my teeth getting to know what wine was and how to appreciate it.

1997's Still Kicking!

The 1997 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon is better than I was expecting and still probably has another year or two in this drinking window. Though, it won’t get any better so I would not wait if you do not have or want to. The aromas started to really jump from the glass after an hour of being open. Massive juicy and fragrant black currant dominated the nose, while the palate was medium bodied with a full finish that was a little more tannic than I would have wanted. Decant this wine 1 hour.

Color: Excellent, gleaming ruby to rose edges, no brick, deep red center

Nose: Screaming black currants, black cherry, some older loamy and leather secondary aromatics. Very nice indeed!

Palate: Medium to mostly full bodied, showing its age gracefully with a slight look back at its youth. Currants and cherry, some spice and tobacco, a touch of sage. Drinking nicely, but may not be for everyone if your not into a little age in your wine. The finish resonates the aged fruit flavors, though there are still some serious tannins hanging around.



Saturday, August 15, 2009

Great Summer Red Wine - Cotes du Rhone

Continuing to bring you value selections of interesting and wines with personality, it is overdue that I post a blog on one of my favorite every day style wines - Cotes du Rhone.

Being a versatile wine, Cotes du Rhone are perfect for a summer red as you can put a nice chill on the wine before you serve it or find it just as satisfying at room temperature. CdR are typically a blend of a few Rhone grapes, primarily Grenache, with Syrah playing a major supporting role. Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre are allowed to be used as well but are added in much smaller portions, usually single digit percentages if at all. One of my favorite CdR's is 100% Syrah which is very atypical that Syrah is the only grape. JL Chave produces this 100% Syrah from the Northern Rhone and it goes by the name "Mon Coeur". Chave is responsible for some of the best Syrah wines in the world from the legendary slope side vineyards of Hermitage in the Northern Rhone.

Many CdR are pretty easy on the wallet, making them very popular buys. There tends to be two primarily differing styles; funky and tasting of brett and garrigue. The other style is more modern with fruit playing a larger role but tamed by a linear composition and great acidity levels. Brett usually comes from a cellar not being the cleanest place to make the wine, but not in a bad way, just in an old school French way. Sometimes this is the intention of the winemaker, almost as id it’s as a "seasoning". CdR wines are usually large production in the thousands of cases. CdR do tend to be a victim of bottle variation, some less funky than others, some more fruity than others. Unfortunately that is one of the drawbacks of a CdR, they can be wildly inconsistent. One neat fact is that since the rules are so stringent in French AOC in general, their are wines made in the same fashion as a CdR that are outside the designated villages of the CdR and therefore can not legally call themselves a CdR but are basically the same thing. Below are a few recommendations of both styles of Cotes du Rhone. I also am going to recommend an Italian cousin to the Grenache grape that has been lauded for its similarities to the Grenache grape and is also a great value at $13 or so. As for the French I'll split my list in two, those that are old school and funky, and those that are a little less funky but solid modern examples.

Domaine de la Chesnay $8-10
Kermit Lynch Cypress $15
Domaine De La Garrigue Cotes Du Rhone Cuvee Romaine $9-12
Guigal $10-12 (ok for the $, but not too exciting, but more consistent)

Less funky, modern
Chapoutier Belleruche $8-10
St Cosme $12-14 (love this, has the best of both funky and modern)
Chave Mon Coeur $16-20 (love this, but have it less as its more $)

Italian, from the island of Sardegna:
Argiolas Costera $12-14

From the US check out:
Edmunds St. John "Rocks and Gravel" $15-18 (awesome, New World & funky!)

Special thanks to Mike for asking me about Cote du Rhone wines!



Saturday, August 01, 2009

2004 Hyde De Villaine Syrah HDV
(Carneros, Napa Valley)

I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately and here is another one I have had on deck for a while. We drank the 2004 HDV Syrah last evening with some Berkshire pork chops that were quite delicious! The Hyde family owns one of the largest and most famous vineyards in all of Napa Valley, the Hyde Vineyard. The de Villaine in the name of this wine comes from the Aubert de Villaine who hails from Burgundy, France. De Villaine is co-director at this little place called Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, maybe you have heard of some of their Pinot Noir wines (and one Chardonnay)? Together the two families have come together to make wines in one of the best sites in all of Napa Valley under the label Hyde de Villaine.

Color: Dark red core, red edges, solid youthful color

Nose: Pepper, beef, lots of cassis, some funkiness at first but that settled down nicely

Palate: Cassis and raspberries, licorice, mineral driven and medium bodied, silky tannins. Great acidity.

Tonight? Pinot Noir!



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