The Chatelaine and Her Friends Wax Poetic Over Selected Goblets of Wine. Posts are typically written amidst open bottles. Let the w(h)ining begin!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Michelle writes:

With our parents away, the kids decided to play by throwing an intimate Easter lunch with our friends. We brought two bottles and our guests brought two more. The day was spent cooking, eating, karaoking/napping, eating again, wine tasting w/food pairing.

On the food menu:
pancit - carrots, rice and egg noodles, Chinese sausage
roast lamb - with garlic and mint inserted lemon chicken
tossed salad - with dressing (soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, sesame seed oil, honey, vegetable oil)
lemon chiffon cake - with mango puree and mango pieces with whipped topping
grilled squid - marinated in mountain dew, soy sauce and lemon Girl Scout Thin Mints

On the wine list:
2000 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz - Silver Mountain Vineyard
tangy, oaky, apple, hint of white peach

The Chardonnay went really well with the lemon chiffon, minus the cream, as well as the pancit, so long as you didn't eat the Chinese sausages (which from what we had couldn't find a good pairing for). It overpowered the chicken and made it taste bland.

1998 Pinot Noir, Russian River, Nicole's Vineyard - J Vineyard
fruity, oaky, jammy, late raspberry, black pepper starts light, ends strong

An excellent pair with the lamb as it allowed you to get the full flavor of the lamb before kicking in. Also a delicious pair with the lemon chiffon with the cream topping.

2002 Merlot Vintner's Blend - Ravenswood
oaky, tangy white pepper

not really a good pair with any of the food as it tended to overwhelm the lamb. It went well with the salad, but then again the salad and dressing went with everything. So, if you're looking for a salad dressing that is quite complimentary to a wide variety of wine, I'd recommend mixing up a batch.

2002 Petite Syrah, Inheritance, Lodi - Lone Dove Vineyards
french oak, pepper, dark chocolate, a really nice surprise from Lodi more known for table grapes than table wines. ($11.99 bottle at Trader Joe's)

Most excellent with the Girls Scout Thin Mints. As one of our guests mentioned, when it's a good pairing it makes your mouth salivate more, makes you want to eat and drink more.

Monday, March 20, 2006


We visited Darioush Winery yesterday and tasted the following:

2004 Signature Chardonnay:
lemon, pear, citrus, too much toasty oak. But too tart and imbalanced with bitter tannins

2003 Signature Merlot:
nicely fragrant nose. blueberry, plum, new leather-ish, slight oak. Polished but also with bitter tannins.

2003 Signature Shiraz:
smooth, polished nose and texture. Rich red and black fruits, earthy, spicy, and not as much bitterness in finish as prior two

2002 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon:
rich nose of red and black fruits, earthy, cedar, leather, slight mocha, smooth texture, classic cab-bordeaux style. Soft finish. Wine is new world but coesn't have the extra layers of great new world wines.

Generally, Darioush has designed wines to please those looking for the media-described "Napa Valley Experience." Their wines are competent and the bitter finishes are not likely to be noticed by many.

But even at this level of competency, wines should be priced about $20 less a bottle.

I would say that their wines are like the architecture of the winery, which also received much hoopla in this Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Darioush clearly spent much moola bringing over stone slabs from Iran and trying to evoke a complex from Persepolis. So much promise, and yet the result, like the wines, result in a failure to resonate.

Generally, I'd rate the wines a C+ to B-.

But as a tourist experience, it's worth doing once. (I was going to say, "like Disneyland" but I like Disneyland).

Monday, February 13, 2006


David writes from New York:

Two Great Wines on the Eve of the Storm

A friend could not go Upstate because of the impending blizzard, so he invited he over for dinner. Wonderful Risotto followed by Veal Chops with Sauteed Vegetables.

I brought the '04 Pride Mountain Viognier. He supplied an '86 Pichon Lalande. We sipped both wines, alternately, during the course of the evening. The Pichon had been decanted for an hour before I arrived. Both wines were in perfect condition and were wonderful.

The Viognier was rich, flowery, perfumed and balanced. Their best yet. Stood up to both dishes and the chesses, as well. And just plain delicious by itself.

The Pichon was huge, starting out unexpectedly tannic. It smoothed out as the evening progressed, and became silkier and more complex. Not a "young" wine but clearly a long life ahead.

Walked ten blocks in the snow, not minding it at all. Turned out to be the biggest snowful in NY's history. The Blizzard of the Century. (So Far.)

Thanks to Tom and Eileen for introducing me to Pride and their Voignier at Mustard's a few years ago.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Festival Celebrating
@ Flora Springs Winery

St. Helena, Ca
Feb. 4, 2006

2003 Soliloquy
--too earthy, grassy. Lacked richness of flavor. But crisp. Nice balance. Well-made but nothing special

2004 Barrel Fermented chardonnay
-- our favorite of the whites; it's what we bought. Nice character. Not over-oaked. Had a slight off-smell at first but it wasn't troublesome given the rest of its character.

2003 Select Cuvee Chardonnay
--good but just okay. The nose was closed, though, so it may have been closed today. It should be re-tasted in about a year from now where it may be more rich.

2002 Poggio Del Papa
--lovely. Fragrant. Delicate. What a sangiovese absolutely should be.

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
--little rouch and not as rich as it could be. Just an okay cabernet

2003 Trilogy
--Very good. Rich, dark, deep, ripe cherry fruits. But pushing the envelope with that $45/bottle price.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Just returned from the ZAP festival -- about 275 wineries poured their zins to the very cheerful thousands going through the two buildings at Fort Mason. Here are the wines we -- Moi, Tom, Rhett & Michelle -- enjoyed in chronological order as we each whittled down a baguette through the hours of tasting:

2003 Tofanelli
2004 Tofanelli barrel sampling (03 is lovely but Tom thinks 04 will be better)
2004 Hayne Vineyard Turley
2004 Ridge Paso Robles Lytton Springs (a tad astringent)
2003 Ridge Geyserville (could have used more character)
2004 Rosenblum Henry Reserve (fabulous!)
2004 Ravenswood Tedeschi
2004 Ravenswood Old Hill
2004 Ravenswood Belloni (when we had this and it was the best, thus far, of the line-up we'd tasted)
2004 Ravenswood Dickerson (nicely smooth, with chocolate tones!)
2004 Schrader Train Wreck Vineyards (we liked this wine but as Tom said, "It's a raw bruiser -- no finesse", to which Moi replied, "Sometimes, you just want it that way." More sexually-charged puns were bandied about, and then we went on to ...)
2004 Schrader Ira Carter Old Vines

[Rather, the three of us tasted the second Schrader. Rhett, on his own and still charged by recent double entendres or however you spell that phrase, notices a couple of pretty pourers at a forlorn table and goes over to ask for a sample. I look at the winery and know it to be a pretender. But I wait for Rhett to taste and, yep, Rhett tastes and says, "It doesn't quite finish; it's incomplete..."

I observe, "So that's your Pity Sip...?"

Tom, who'd been shepherding us around to which wineries to sample, tsks tsks Rhett: "You cannot be merciful with your samplings today."

Anyhoot, moving on...]

2004 Neyers Pato Vineyard
2004 St. Francis Reserve Pagani (loved its characteristic that I called "smoke"!)

Except for Rhett, at this point, everything we'd tasted was enjoyable in one fashion or another. But we also had identified ahead of time the better zinfandel producers to sample since we certainly didn't want to sip our way through all 275 wineries. But we decide to take a risk on a winery unknown to us and sampled _____. I won't identify it since it was really bad -- basically red sugar water. As I told Michelle, "It's a bad poem in an otherwise great anthology."

2003 Ch. Montelena (elements of cough syrup)
2003 Chase Family
2003 Chase Family Reserve
2003 Cline Live Oak (Cline was pouring from several bottles so I asked the pourer, "Gimme your oldest, meanest, grumpiest wine." To which the pourer replied, "Grumpier and older and meaner than me?!" I nodded. And, yep, this Cline was enjoyable but also definitely "grumpy."
2003 Ed Meade

That's all folks! But I leave you with this image that greeted us at the festival: the backside of a blonde's back t-shirt that proclaimed a Goth moment:


Sunday, January 08, 2006


Wine Tasting – January 8, 2006
@ Galatea

N.B.: Wine Tasting notes & rankings are by Robert Parker

2003 Peter Michael Winery Chardonnay “La Carriere” 97 pts
“This spectacular Chardonnay La Carriere is becoming one of my favorite California Chardonnays as it tastes like a Corton-Charlemagne on steroids. The 2003 boasts aromas of crushed rock, quince, lemon butter, and orange marmalade, followed by a full-bodied, powerful yet extraordinarily elegant wine with an amazing finish. It should drink well for 4-5 years”

2001 Jones Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 95 pts
“The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the finest offerings I have tasted from Jones Family. An inky/purple color is accompanied by sumptuous aromas of sweet blueberry, blackberry, and cassis fruit, licorice, and toasty background oak. This full-bodied, unctuously-textured 2001 possesses tremendous purity, palate presence, and balance. The finish lasts 40+ seconds. It should drink well young yet age nicely for 10-12+ years.”

2002 Hundred Acre Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 98 pts
“As for the 2002 Hundred Acre (1,200 cases), this is a terrific example of great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. A seamless wine with extraordinary concentration, a dense purple color, a beautifully sweet nose of black cherry liqueur intermixed with cassis, graphite, smoke, and underbrush, it is layered, multi-dimensional, and opulent, with a long finish. Although more accessible and flashy than the 2001, it is capable of lasting 15 more years.”

1999 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon “Herb Lamb Vineyard” 95 pts
“This 200 case cuvee spent 26 months in oak. Its opaque purple color is followed by a gorgeous perfume of graphite, crème de cassis, and licorice, and full-bodied, layered, concentrated flavors with superb balance and density. Surprisingly sweet tannin as well as an explosive finish have developed over the past year. Colgin, which is already a so-called “cult” wine, seems to have pushed the envelope of quality even higher….as hard as that is to believe. As always, the truth is in the bottle…in vino veritas.” Robert Parker

1994 Dominus 99 pts
“Christian Moueix (owner of Chateau Petrus) and his talented winemaking team continue to rewrite the definition of a Napa Valley reference point wine. I have had a difficult time keeping the corks in my bottles of 1994 Dominus. Eight-thousand cases were produced from this blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. In this vintage, 174 days passed between budbreak and the harvest, a remarkable period of time for any wine region in the world. The 1994 is strikingly thick, compelling rich wine with the texture of a great Pomerol, despite being primarily made from Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine exhibits a dense purple color, and an incredibly fragrant nose of jammy black fruits, spice, smoke, and loamy, truffle-like scents. In the mouth, it is full-bodied, with thrilling levels of extract and richness, but no sense of heaviness or harshness. The seamless Dominus possesses no hard edges, as its acidity, tannin and alcohol are beautifully meshed with copious quantities of ripe fruit. This wine offers early drinking, yet has the potential to last for 30+ years.”

1997 Abreu Cabernet Sauvignon Madrona Ranch 100 pts
“As I reported last year, the 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Madrona Ranch is a perfect Cabernet Sauvignon. It has been in bottle for over a year, and this wine, like all others, has easily soaked up its aging in 100% Taransaud barrels. It is a sumptuous, unctuously-textured, fabulously concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon that hits all the sweet spots on the palate, and puts the olfactory senses on overdrive. The wines smells and tastes perfect. It is a compelling effort that one day will be considered part of a small part of elite California Cabernets that may be rewriting the definition of greatness in Cabernet Sauvignon.”

1997 Harlan Estate 100 pts
“The 1997 Harlan Estate is one of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines I have ever tasted. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this enormously endowed, profoundly rich wine must be tasted to be believed. Opaque purple-colored, it boasts spectacular, soaring aromatics of vanilla, minerals, coffee, blackberries, licorice, and cassis. In the mouth, layer after layer unfold powerfully yet gently. Acidity, tannin, and alcohol are well-balanced by the wine’s unreal richness and singular personality. The finish exceeds one minute.”

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Last night, we tasted the historic

1853 Whitwhams King Pedro V port

a wine with an amazing story. Some family in Portugal bought a house and ended up discovering in the basement these casks of port that go back 152 years. So they sold it to the company who then bottled it. Its age means that it's pre-phylloxera wine! Phylloxera, of course, was that bug that decimated the world's grape vines and nearly killed wine production. Part of the solution was the grafting of American rootstock, which is generally rougher/wilder as well as more intense. So immediately noticed was how smooth this port was...and the intensity, no doubt, is what made it last to offer today some absolutely fantastic sipping.

It's actually hard to describe the nose and flavors of the wine. The color was a pale brown, befitting its age, but it still had an incredible richness and offered the great essence of wine and port. The nose was also complex with fruits. A once-in-a-lifetime experience....but fortunately the hubby tucked away more than one bottle when we had the chance to acquire it.