Saturday, October 29, 2011

2007 O'Shaugnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet

I believe this is the first I've tasted of this outstanding cabernet since wine tasting in Napa at the vineyard in 2010. Oh boy. Profoundly deep in color and aroma--a celestial array of cabernet flavors featuring creme de cassis, blueberry, blackberry, mint, eucalyptus, graphite, pine woods, vanilla and a hint of cocoa. Very soft tannins with plenty of acid in balance with the intense fruit. The latter marks this wine as New World, but that doesn't mean it lacks elegance and nuance at all. Alcohol is substantial and helps to carry the long finish without excessive heat. This is a medium to full bodied wine with perfect silky mouthfeel that makes this liquid go down mighty easily. 95-96.

During the visit with BFFs Clay and Wib in 2010, we thoroughly enjoyed the tour of their real caves dug into the mountainside and the beautiful surroundings of Howell Mountain. Pretty much as good as it gets. The picture below may look doctored but it's not. The light and the vineyard slopes are that beautiful.

48 hours later the wine was drinking almost as well--more depth and complexity on the nose, just a slight touch more acid. And 72 hours later (with no added gas after the first opening) it was still heavenly, with the cherry and smoke & violet/lavender component (from the malbec and merlot?) coming more to the fore. I'd love to have a few cases of this one.

Here is Parker (95 points)

The stunning 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and the rest Malbec and Petit Verdot) is the finest Cabernet this estate has yet produced from their Howell Mountain holdings. A dense purple color to the rim as well as an exquisite bouquet of black raspberries, blueberries, camphor, creme de cassis, smoke, and crushed rocks are followed by sweet fruit, gorgeous density, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and a layered, multidimensional mid-palate and length. With no hard edges, this flawless wine should drink well for 20-25 years.

Friday, October 21, 2011

2008 Morlet Pinot Noir En Famille

This is as good as Pinot Noir gets in the US. From Sonoma Coast vineyard, made by Luc Morlet who's from an old winemaking family in the Champagne region. We had dinner with him last year at a wonderful tasting/dinner featuring his wines. Wib, Clay and I also visited the Morlet winery (a facility they shared with a couple of others till this year when they renovated an old building in the area and moved their winery in--haven't visited that yet). On that visit I purchased this bottle and a bunch of chardonnays which are also at the pinnacle of US chardonnay. Not surprisingly these wines resemble in their taste and aroma profile real burgundies.

This one is silky, perfumed with strawberry, a bit of the sweet sugary fruit drink smell I associate with good pinot, some obscure spice along with burnt wood taste accented by toasted vanilla oakiness. A touch of red licorice-- that cherry twist chewy candy they used to sell at movie theaters. The finish is long, complex, and tannins are sweet and soft enough to be virtually unnoticeable. I get some heat on the finish though this has been a general feature of my palate since I was ill in the spring--very sensitive to spicy or alcohol flavor.

Parker gives this only 91 points! I'd give it 94. Here are some of his descriptions:

The 2008 Pinot Noir En Famille reveals sweeter forest floor notes intermixed with plum sauce, pomegranate, black currants and spring flowers. A more complex, richer effort than the Coteaux Nobles, it should drink well for 6-10+ years....

The Pinot Noirs, which tend to come from suitcase clones taken from several of the most famous vineyards in Vosne-Romanee, are all destemmed. The vines are planted between 1,000 and 1,250 feet on high ridges in the Sonoma Coast. The 2008 Pinots are a good beginning, but the 2009s show where Luc Morlet wants to go.

Tanzer gives it a 92 which is equivalent to a Parker 94:

Good deep red-ruby. Sexy aromas of raspberry, kirsch, strawberry and smoke. Silky-sweet and seamless on the palate, showing a thicker texture and more concentration than the Coteaux Nobles, with strawberry and smoke flavors complicated by a saline nuance. Showing less of the high-pitched fruitiness of the Coteaux Nobles today but this is broader and equally fresh, spreading out impressively on the very long aftertaste.

Vineyard's website description:

On the Sonoma Coast, near Cazadero, on the Western hillside of the second ridge from the Pacific Ocean, Coteaux Nobles vineyard enjoys both maritime influence and mountain climate.

Paul and Claire each have their own 600 liter puncheon of Pinot Noir from Coteaux Nobles to stomp. This fruit eventually becomes ‘En Famille’, exclusively crafted and aged in French oak.

Propietary Name En Famille
Name Meaning With the family (with kids’ help) 5 generations with Pinot Noir
Varietal composition Pinot Noir (100%)
Type of wine Vineyard designated
Appellation Sonoma Coast, by Cazadero
Vineyard singularity On the 2nd ridge off
Pacific Ocean
1,100 feet of elevation
Goldridge sedimentary soil
Typical harvest date October
Picking Manual, small lugs, refer truck
Sorting Cluster by cluster, berry by berry
Fermentation Through native yeast.
Punch downs
Puncheons only.
Upbringing 14 months
French oak from artisan coopers
Bottling Unfiltered, 100 cases
Cellaring time 10+ years
Serving Slightly below room temperature
No decanting

Winemaker notes:

For generations our family has been growing the Pinot Noir grape in France. Each harvest, we love to celebrate this time-honored commitment while our children stomp a small vat of Pinot Noir from California’s Sonoma Coast. As for any family celebration or casual gathering, this handcrafted wine is to be appreciated ‘En Famille.’

Intense raspberry, wild strawberry, forest floor and earthy notes (graphite), very rich and complex with a leathery lingering finish. Will age gracefully for over a decade.