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What’s Happening in Napa?

Napa is world renown for Cabernet. And there is no shortage of great ones, but there are also a lot of great Cab Franc’s, Zin’s, Syrah’s and Petit Sirah’s at really great prices. The 2008 vintage in Napa (and Sonoma) is looking stellar.

The current buzz is geared around the 2007 vintage because many 07’s are hitting our stores now. On a recent trip, many winemakers and winery staff said, if you didn’t make a good 2007, you should find another job. And even more good news: 2008 has the potential to eclipse the great 2007 vintage.

After bud break in 2008 in the Napa Valley there was a heavy frost that helped reduce yields up to 30% in some places. Lower yielding vines produce higher quality clusters and a better final product. Great producers will actually drop grape clusters weeks before the harvest ensuring a higher quality final product.  Of all the 2008s I tried from barrel, most were absolutely outstanding.

 
The best of the best 2008 samples were from Quintessa and Realm. Save up for the Quintessa.  It’s two years from hitting our shelves, but the current vintage 2006 Quintessa was a favorite as well, and now available. Realm is a small producer (with big ratings) that has a loyal mailing-list following. A long wait and some good luck may get you on it. 

Quintessa, Rutherford, CA

Another very special Napa winery is Kapcsandy. This amazing single vineyard in Yountville is producing some great Bordeaux styled blends.  The 2007 Cabernet received 100 points from Robert Parker.  The 2008s are tasting great as well.  Kapcsandy is currently determining who their Chicagoland distributor is going to be.  Hopefully we will see them again soon.

Pride and Robert Keenan on Spring Mountain are also great visits. These wineries both produce top Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Spring Mountain, as you can see, is scenic.  It is a part of the Mayacamas mountain range on the west side on the Napa Valley.  Pride is actually on the Napa and Sonoma county line.  Because of that, they have two separate winemaking facilities.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Keenan, Spring Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pride Mountain Vineyards

 

Pride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride Mountain Vineyards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outpost, Howell Mountain

 

 

Back in the valley, Shafer is always a favorite winery to visit.  The 2007 Merlot was ripe, balanced and well worth the tariff.  The 2005 Hillside Select was like liquid velvet.  It’s one of the best wines produced in Napa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanner Shafer

 

 

 

 

 

In my next blog, more Napa and some highlights from Sonoma  

Loring Wine Company: Monster Pinot

 

The Central Coast of California is a gigantic area that spans from the northern part of L.A. to the southern part of the San Francisco Bay. I spent a week visiting this area. After lunch with a high school friend in Beverly Hills and a Cubs/Dodgers game, I found myself at the winery of Brian Loring, owner and wine maker for Loring Wine Company.  Winery is not the best word, actually. Warehouse is more fitting.  Brian sources his fruit, mainly Pinot Noir, from a handful of different vineyards from around Santa Barbera County all the way up to Sonoma. It’s easier for him to have a centralized location where he has a big space to comfortably work with all of the different vineyards he sources from.  

Loring Pinot Noir

We tasted through a lot of barrels. His Chardonnay in French oak and American oak was cool to taste through. We tasted through his single vineyard Pinots as well. Different clones, different barrels and different lots, one could get bogged down, but it was fun to compare. Brian was a great host.  He’s hilarious, down to Earth and passionate about his wines. 

The Pinots that Brian makes are not wimpy. With higher alcohol, use of oak and dark, concentrated color it would be hard to pick these as Pinot Noirs in a blind tasting. The amazing thing about his wines is they are all balanced. Even though the high alcohol and beautiful ripeness, the acidity remains. With his single vineyard sourcing in the Pinot Noirs, they all seem to have their own personality/terroir. They are amazing wines and are a great value, too.  Seek them out: Call or email your favorite Binny’s for availability. 

New From Australia & The Cellar

New from Australia

 

   With Spring here, we are receiving a lot of great, hard to find wines. I tasted a few Australian wines worth mentioning. It’s been a good while since I’ve had something from Australia that’s really knocked my socks off.

 

2006 Elderton Command Shiraz

   It’s not every day I get to taste a $90 bottle while on the clock.  This is a huge wine, with blueberry liqueur, vanilla and a toasty mocha note in the nose.  In the mouth, it is full bodied and has mouth coating tannins.  It is young, but is nicely balanced.  This would be a great bottle to age 15 years.

 

2008 Rocky Gully Shiraz/Viognier

   To me this is what an Aussie wine should be. The ripeness is there, but everything is in balance. The nose is expressive, with blueberry, cracked pepper and noticeable smokiness. In the mouth, bright red and blue fruit and medium acidity. It’s on sale for $12.99 for the rest of the month. It is a steal!

 

 

New From the Cellar

 

2009 Loring Pinot Noirs 

   The more I taste, the more I like the wines from Loring.  His single vineyard Pinots really do showcase the fruit coming out of the respective vineyard.  The Rosella’s Vineyard was one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve had in the past year and a half.  Not syrupy sweet and not wimpy, either.  At $40 for Brian Loring’s single vineyard Pinot Noirs, they are in a sweet spot for high quality and well priced.  

 

2009 Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel

   During prohibition, “black chicken” was a code for alcohol or wine.  Sourcing from older Zin vines in Oak Knoll, the Black Chicken always delivers a beautifully ripe and rich Zin.  It matches up well with pretty much anything off of the grill. 

 

2008 Ramey Pedrigal Vineyard

   Sourced from Oakville, this monstrosity will cellar easily for 15+ years. 

 

2007 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet

   From their storied estate in Calistoga, the Montelena Cab generally needs a few years to mature before it’s really ready to go.  The price is hard to argue with coming from the great 2007 vintage. 

 

2008 Continuum

   This is sourced from one of the most beautiful spots in Napa, Pritchard Hill.  Producers like Bryant Family and Chappellet also source from there as well.  Even though the Continuum label has only existed since the 2005 vintage, this will be a long lived bottle of wine from a well respected fruit source.

 

Please contact your favorite Binny’s for availability. 

The Publican

   I had a mini-vacation this past week. Watching the Chicago episode of Anthony Bourdain’s: “No Reservations” helped make my decision of where to go a lot easier. He visited with Chef Paul Kahan, the owner of Blackbird, Avec and The Publican. The Publican’s menu was too good to pass up. Its tagline is The celebration of pork, oysters and beer. Done deal!

   The Publican’s beer list is quite extensive, and all of the servers are well versed in beer. To start, I had an Avery IPA. It played nicely with the oysters my friends and I devoured. The Avery IPA is one of the most balanced IPA I’ve had. It’s not overly hoppy or overpowering, and it’s very food friendly. I helped a couple of my friends pick out a glass of wine as well. The Hermit Crab by d’Arenberg is a ripe, crisp and food friendly white. It played nicely with our Oysters as well.

   The five of us ordered a several things to share. Starters of homemade pork rinds and house cured duck proscuitto and beef fat fried French fries with a fried egg on top made us go gaga. After a mix of Belgian microbrews and unbelievable food, (Blood Sausage!!!) I saw a whisky I really wanted to try.

   They had the Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old Bourbon. It smells like maple syrup, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and caramel. It packs a punch, but a splash of water and a few swirls calmed it down. I really enjoyed it, and I am considering buying a bottle here at Binny’s. It was a wonderful evening and I cannot wait to go back. Like all of our different versions of Pappy Van Winkle, the 20 year is highly limited. Please call your favorite Binny’s for availability.

Fried Chicken AND…

   This year, one of my wine goals is to do more food and wine pairing. One of my wine buddies said he tried KFC and Sauternes. I looked at him with a puzzled look and realized that sweet and savory is a good combo. After all, I use bacon to wipe up excess pancake syrup, so I gave it a shot!

   I was lucky enough to dine at the French Laundry when I was in Napa last year. Chef/owner Thomas Keller has three restaurants on the same street in Yountville, CA. His newest restaurant is called Ad Hoc. A cult following has emerged for the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Night. Using the Ad Hoc recipe, I had some friends over to try it out.

   This stuff was good! It is the most succulent, juicy and crispy fried chicken I’ve ever had. I opened a 2007 Argyle Brut and a 2008 Santa Julia Tardio Late Harvest Torrontes. Sparkling wine is very food friendly and the Argyle is light, crisp and toasty. It is a great combination that plays nicely with the chicken. The late harvest wine makes a nice contrast with the savory fried chicken. Its tropical fruit flavors and sweetness make for a great pairing. This is a great dessert wine and it’s cheap!

New Years Goals and a Great Napa Cab

What are your wine goals for this new year?  Try a First Growth?  Spend less on wine?  Mine include experimenting more with food and wine pairing and keep fining those underpriced, hidden gems.  

One gem I’ve recently found was while I was visiting Carter Cellars in Napa.  I was fortunate enough to meet the winemaker and was able to taste through a few of his other projects.  We tasted the Carter line-up which is fairly high end, running from $60 to $125.  Most of the wines are single vineyard designated as well.  Next we tasted the 2007 Tamber Bey Cabernet, a single vineyard Cabernet from Yountville.  I figured this costs around $100.  Not even close.  It is very underpriced at $32.99, and it is very high in quality.  This shows a lot of 2007 Napa fruit, but it is well structured and balanced.  It is everything I look for in a Napa Cab and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  I can’t think of any single vineyard Napa Cabs even close to $33.  Give your favorite Binny’s a call for availability.

Napa/Sonoma Crush ’10: 2008 Vintage Report

   Napa is home to about 450 different labels with bottle prices ranging from $10 to $800. The climate in Napa is fairly consistent. It varies much less than wine growing regions in Europe. Although, for the 2010 vintage, most producers are one month behind in their harvest due to record cold weather. Looking “ahead” to the the releases of the 2008 vintage, it is stellar for big Napa reds.

   In April of 2008 in Napa, there was a cool spell that caused frost after bud break. This damaged 20 to 30 percent of the newly formed clusters around Napa. Many great producers actually drop clusters in order to ensure the best quality grapes are produced by the vine. With nature taking care of dropping fruit for winemakers, low yields equals better wine.

   In tasting the same wines from 07 and 08 from a particular producer, the 2008 vintage has always outperformed the 2007. We all know how good 2007 was as a vintage in Napa by looking at the ratings and tasting notes. 2008 as a whole (Bordeaux varietals especially) are richer, bigger and more complex. It’s hard to believe, but every 2008 I’ve had from Napa has been great.

   Kapcsandy is a great little producer making Bordeaux-styled wines from their single vineyard in Yountville. Lou Kapcsandy’s mission statement is to make wine that outperforms the first growths from Bordeaux. He sure has them licked as far as pricing goes, but how about the wines? We have a couple of the 07’s, and the 2008’s I tasted are beyond belief.  The 2009 Rose, 2007 Endre and 2007 Estate Cuvee are available at select Binny’s locations.

2009 Rose – 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and the rest Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. This is stainless steel fermented and is made by using the Saignée or bleeding method. It is also aged on its lees for 9 months, giving it a richer flavor. Producers in Bordeaux do make rosé; unfortunately, it is hard to find. This blend has a ripe, mineral driven nose, showing tart strawberry, citrus and toasty flavors. Big for a rosé in the mouth, it has bright acidity, but it is rounded out due to the lees aging. This will be poured for Thanksgiving in my home. It is wonderful and unique wine from Napa.

2007 Endre – 48% Merlot 40% Cab Sauv and the rest Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. For a second label, this is extremely solid. Vintners making Bordeaux-styled blends would be happy with this as their first label. Nose of warm Earth, cassis, dark chocolate, black cherry and fresh flowers. In the mouth, firm tannins, very ripe, but balanced acidity and Earthy tones. Beautiful effort.

2008 Endre – This wine is an indication how good 2008 is going to be in Napa. The nose shows deeper, richer and riper flavors than the ’07 Endre. In the mouth, bigger and more fruit, with beautiful, underlying Earthiness. Cannot wait until this is released!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Vin – This is my second time having this wine; the first after the 100 point Parker rating was released. This wine is extremely special, and more than anything, it needs time. It shows deep coffee and mocha flavors in the nose, which also shows cedar, cassis, blackberry and warm Earth. In the mouth, perfectly balanced, with toasted wood flavors and a caressing finish. What a bottle. It’s pretty darn hard to come by, too.

2007 Estate Cuvee – 46% each Cab Sauv and Merlot, the rest Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Even though it’s around $140 per bottle, this wine has value. It’s better than the big name Bordeaux-styled Napa blends. Nose of ripe cassis, cocoa, dusty, woody aromas and dried herbs. In the mouth, beautiful texture, ripe and berry flavors with a super long finish. It’s a great bottle.

2008 Estate Cuvee – How could they get it better than the ’07? Lower yields played a big part. The 08’s richness, power and finesse make this THE best blend I’ve ever had. This, to me, was the wine of the day. Can’t wait to get my hands on some!

   Below are some other high-end Napa wines I got the chance to taste:

2007 Joseph Phelps Insignia – Shut down at the moment. The nose isn’t showing much. However, the texture is silky and despite not showing much fruit, this will be a good bottle in several years. Binny’s just received this, get it while you can.

2007 Lail “Blueprint” Cabernet Sauvignon – Another “value” Cabernet of 07. This has 25% Merlot as well. Big nose of tart blueberry, cassis, licorice and vanilla. In the mouth, big, fruit forward, nice tannins with a super long finish. IMO, this and the 2007 Lewelling are at the top for ’07 Napa Cabs under $50.

2007 Lail Cabernet J. Daniel Cuvee – Big, mineral driven and herbaceous nose with cassis, vanilla, licorice, blackberry and black cherry. In the mouth, rich, mouthcoating tannins, stony minerality and nice ripe ’07 fruit. Solid wine, here.

2007 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon – Herbaceous and powerful nose of cassis, sour blackberries and wet stone. Firm and tannic in the mouth. Fairly disjointed at the moment. This needs a long decanting if drunk within the next few years.

2007 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon - All estate grown fruit near Calistoga. Super-ripe nose showing cassis, sweet cherries, blackberry liqueur and vanilla. In the mouth, ripe and velvety. Tannins are present, but not astringent. Another great ’07 Napa Cab!

2007 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill – This has a nose of scorched Earth, coffee, mocha, sweet blueberries, cassis and dark cherries. Full bodied, with very ripe and dark fruits, along with toasty wood and vanilla flavors on the palate. This is a standout Cabernet.

 

Please contact your favorite Binny’s location for availability of the underlined wines above.

Napa/Sonoma Crush ’10: Value Wines

  I found a lot of value priced wines in Napa and Sonoma. This time of year is busy and stressful in wine country with grapes coming in for crush. It was great to see grapes coming in. They are sweeter than I thought they would be when I tasted them. Tasty little treats, though.

   Cuvaison was my first stop in Napa. Most of their grapes come from Carneros in southern Napa, though they do source some Cabernet and Zinfandel from Mount Veeder. The Cuvaison Carneros Chardonnay is well priced and very well made. It is classic Napa Chard, remaining clean and not overly oaked. Cuvaison was featuring the 2007 and 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir side by side. The ’07 is very ripe, with cherry and sweet berry flavors. The ’08 has a little bit more guts and structure. Both are good value Pinot Noirs.

 

Cuvaison’s Carneros Estate


   Elyse was a great visit. The 2006 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel does not drink like your standard Napa Zin. Tasting this, you can tell it is a single vineyard. It has this briery, Earthy flavor along with a nice amount of ripe fruit that is hard to explain. You’ll just have to try it! The ’07 Barrel Select Petit Sirah shows bright, rich and dark berry flavors. It is very complex for a $30 bottle and will play nicely with a hearty Autumn meal.

   Besides finding value wines in Napa and Sonoma, which I did find, I wanted to seek out well made Rhone varietals. Copain in Sonoma met both of my needs. They led off with their 2009 Viognier from the Anderson Valley. A lot of California Viognier can get overly big to the point where the wine bites back. Not the case from Copain. This has ripe stone fruit flavors in the nose and in the mouth. It is very clean and would be great on your Thanksgiving Day table. Next was a Roussanne from the James Berry Vineyard. Unfortunately, they only made a couple hundred cases. This was the only white wine I purchased during my trip.

   On to the 2008 Copain Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Anderson Valley suffered a big wildfire in 2008, just before harvest. We tried the 2008 Duckhorn Decoy Pinot Noir, which has a little smoky note to it. It isn’t terrible, however. The Copain is a little bit heavier than most similarly priced Pinots. It has dark cherry, raspberry and cola flavors. This is a tough Pinot to beat around $20. I tried two different Syrahs from them as well. The entry level 2008 Syrah is very well made, with Earthy, peppery flavors. The 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah from Mendocino is underpriced at $33, in my opinion. It has bright fruit flavors of Bing cherry, chambord and fresh black pepper, and is well balanced. This wine can pair with anything off of the grill, but I’m going to try it with roasted leg of lamb. Copain is a surprisingly value driven producer, very impressive.

   Another value driven brand you can find at Binny’s is Burgess Cellars from Napa. The view from their estate on Howell Mountain is scenic to say the least. The entry level wines we carry include the Merlot ($18.99), Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.99) and Syrah ($18.99). The Merlot drinks better than most in the same price range: well structured, balanced and not wimpy. The Cab is very nice as well, with good fruit flavors, considering the cooler 2006 vintage. Again, well balanced and well made for a bottle under $25.  The Syrah is put together nicely as well, with dark fruit and Earthy flavors. I cannot say enough about how well priced these wines are.

   The treat from Burgess is their 1996 Library Release Cabernet. Burgess holds back 500 cases of their Cabernet for re-release. Not many producers (if any) hold their wine for later sales. I did not expect to taste a 14 year old wine during my trip. Upon looking at the wine and tasting it, it didn’t look like a 14 year old Cabernet, nor did it taste like one. The Howell Mountain fruit source, plus good storage conditions, gives the wine a little bit more longevity. Burgess was bringing in some Cabernet Franc grapes as I walked around the vineyard. The owner (Mr. Burgess, I called him) was on a forklift, lifting up a container of grapes being poured into a de-stemmer. I guess this is how Burgess keeps its prices so low.  

 

Burgess Cellars Howell Mountain Estate


   Next time, the opposite end of the spectrum. There were a lot of mid-range and higher-end wines I tasted and enjoyed. (It is Napa after all)  I will also report on the 2008 vintage of Napa. All I have to say is start saving up!

   The above wines are not available at every store.  Please contact your local Binny’s for availablility.

Food and Wine: Art or Science?

Food and wine pairing is a challenging process. However, there are several steps that will help match up food and wine. You know what meal you are going to have with the maturing Bordeaux in the cellar: steak (or just the wine itself). But what about those special, more complex meals? Heck, what about everyday meals?

 

  1. Define your dish. What is the first thing to come to mind when you eat a certain dish? Savory, salty, smokey, spicy, or sweet? There are limitless descriptors, but the most prominent flavor (or even texture) in your dish will ultimately help you with the pairing.

  2. Know your wine. Lobster and Chardonnay is a classic pairing, but there are so many different styles of Chardonnay; not all of them will work. Knowing your wine is equally important as defining your dish. The more wines you try with a dish the easier it is to find a match.

  3. Look at Alcohol. Rule of thumb: less alcohol, easier pairing. Wine with 15% or more alcohol is tough to find a match with anything that isn’t still bleeding off of the grill.

  4. Old World vs. New World. In general, old world wines will pair with food better than wines from the new world. Old world wines will have less acohol, less use of oak and more acidity. Wines high in acidity like Chianti or Cotes du Rhone are food friendly reds. Rieslings from Germany and Austria are low in alcohol and high in acidity as well. They pair well with spicy food or any standard, lighter fare.

  5. Keep an open mind. The single best food and wine pairing I’ve experienced was lamb loin and a buttery Chardonnay. The loin was seared in clarified butter and served with a taragon and Cointreau cream sauce. Look at the components of the dish aside from the lamb. Butter, taragon, Cointreau and cream. It worked amazingly. An oaky, buttery chardonnay is complemented by the butter and fresh taragon extremely well.

  6. Cooking Method. A chicken can be cooked using nearly every cooking method. How it is cooked can make it easier to pair with a wine. A braised dish like Coq au Vin goes really well with red wine. The same goes for a heavily seasoned grilled chicken. Consider the main cooking method for your wine pairing.

  7. Contrast or Complement? Complementary and contrasting flavors with food and wine need to be defined. Foods that are buttery (butter, shellfish, even popcorn) will usually do well with a buttery Chardonnay. Savory dishes, like grilled red meat play nicely with red wines. Salty or spicy foods are contrasted by light, bone dry white wines and also sweeter white wines as well. Strong and stinky cheeses do extremely well with sweeter wines.

  8. Adjust your dish to find balance. This is where your battle is won. The only things you can do to change your wine are to age it, decant it or chill it. Slightly adjusting your dish by adding salt, acidity or fresh herbs can make a huge difference in your final product. Salt and acidity enhance flavors in a dish, but they also tone down a wine. Bite into a lemon wedge and have a sip of Sauvignon Blanc. It tastes like water, right? This shows that acidity in a wine (and wine in general) is toned down when you add acidity to your dish. It is also extremely important to season your dish as you cook. If you are making a sauce, taste the wine with it as you go. Certain herbs play really well with certain wines. Rosemary and Cabernet are great together. Taragon and Chardonnay is another.

  9. When in doubt, bubbly! Sometimes there are dishes that are too complex for a still red or white wine. Sparkling wine is the food friendliest wine there is. Its bright acidity and lighter style keeps your palate awake and lively. From salads to desserts, sparkling wine is the perfect wine with food, and it’s not just for celebrations.

  10. Try the Classics. There are many classic food and wine pairings. Sauternes and foie gras or Roquefort are matches made in Heaven. Lobster or crab with a buttery Chardonnay is a great pairing as well. Shrimp and Fino Sherry is another classic. Not much beats a steak and a bigger red wine, either. There are plenty of others as well.

  11. Play with your food! Get a group of friends together and open a few wines with a meal. Use different cooking methods on your protein of choice. Keep it simple. Use different herbs, make different sauces and test them with different wines. Take notes too, drinking wine affects ones memory.

  12. Don’t forget dessert. Your dessert wine needs to be sweeter than your dessert. A Snickers bar followed by a drink of soda is an example of why this needs to happen. When you are making a dessert, tone down the sugar in your recipe a bit, and see how it goes.

 

 

Is Cabernet Still the King?

It’s been a weird year for me with wine.  I will always consider myself a Cab/Bordeaux guy, but my most recent trip to Napa and Sonoma opened the door for some varietals that sometimes get lost in the shuffle. I bought a total of two mixed cases from about ten different producers in Napa and Sonoma.  I bought ONE Cabernet.  How does that happen in Napa?   I found so many good Zins, Syrahs, Petit Sirahs and Grenaches that were well priced.  I’m debating whether my palate is changing or I’m just looking for value.  My standout value Cabernet come from Washington. 
 
The 2007 Seven Hills Cabernet has a nose of ripe bing cherry, cassis and warm Earth.  It was well balanced with ripe berry flavors, good acidity and smooth tannins.  This wine is a steal under $20.  
 
For the other varietals I mentioned, the last wine meeting I attended, my collegues and I tasted some beauties. 
 
This had a nose of ripe, cooked berries, black pepper and fried bacon.  In the mouth, it was very refreshing, with ripe and bright berry flavors.  It also had a nice, underlying Earthy quality to it as well.  The ripeness in this wine could pass for a 100+ year old vine Spanish Garnacha.  Great value, here.  
 
Very powerful and fragrant nose that yields ripe, dark cherry, black pepper, potpurri, peppered bacon, smoked meat and leather.  This literally hurt my nose when I smelled this wine-but I couldn’t stop smelling it.  In the mouth this was bold, with racy acidity.  The tannins were gripping and herbacious.  Even though this wine is a decade or more from being ready to drink, it’s probably the best wine I’ve had this year.  Even though this runs $79.99, and it’s not ready to drink, I still find value in it.  Cote Rotie is a region in Northern Rhone that is allowed to add up to 20% Viognier to its Syrah.  I don’t know exactly how much Viognier is in this monster, but with the fragrance in the nose, I’m guessing there is 20%.  
 
This comes from the Montelena Estate in Calistoga.  Calistoga is one of the newest appelations in the northern part of Napa.  Even though it is the northermost spot in Napa, it is actually the warmest part of the valley.  Zin, Petit Sirah and Cabernet do really well in Calistoga.  The Montelena Zin is fairly low production compared to the similarly priced Montelena wines.  The wine is very ripe, peppery and velvety.  With the factors of the “rarity,” pricepoint and high quality, this Zin is a great buy.

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