CA5, Locations Wine

Winemaker Dave Phinney is in his #5 vintage of this California Locations wine, and this is the first of two CA5 bottles I picked up prior to the holidays.  California always offers a wide variety of grapes, tastes, and AVAs for consumers, and it feels incredibly ambitious to bring together all of these tastes into one single bottling that captures the essence of the region. Phinney has a long track record of doing this successfully, however, particularly in his Prisoner series and other related blends, so if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt it’s him.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

I’m still mulling over some of the subtleties at play in the CA5. Let me mention this wine includes fruit from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Sierra foothills. I’m not sure how Locations networked with growers for the international Locations fruit, but it stands to reason he knew who to call in California for good grapes. In the CA5, there is an obvious cherry and blackberry foundation. The wine is smooth and fruit-forward–not as direct as a Michael David wine–and easy on the palate. The Locations people tell you it’s a blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Grenache, and the grapes are nicely combined. A big red feel that is very much in keeping with the Bordeaux-style California Cabernet Sauvignons.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

This to me is less Syrah, less peppery, but stacks of red and black berries. A hint of smoky spice too. The CA5 is barrel aged for 10 months in French oak, and it has a 15.5% alcohol content that sneaks up on you. I had it tonight with a pork and broccoli dinner, and the wine was a nice contrast to the roasted flavors in my meal. I’m considering pulling the cork on the second CA5 next weekend while this taste is fresh on my palate–if you have tasted this vintage perhaps you would share your thoughts here too for Notes readers?

Thanks for your consideration and your readership, and best in 2018.

F4, Locations Wine

It was the Dave Phinney name that put this “F” Location squarely on the map for me. Notes has covered his wines on several occasions this year, or those he helped launch, and knowing my favorite Winestore had a holiday special on Locations got me up and moving early this weekend.

Orin Swift Locations F4, Napa, California, USA.

Orin Swift Locations F4, Napa, California, USA.

This is my first Location, based on the recommendation of the store clerk, and I have the Orin Swift “I”, “CA”, and “E” as options in 2018 too. I pulled the cork this evening and poured amply, with no decanting on this tasting. Grapes for the fourth release of “F” come from growers in Rhone, Roussilon, and Bordeux, and if you haven’t heard of Locations previously, it’s a twist on the kitchen sink conceit. Phinney is less concerned about the specific varietals and more about capturing the essence of wine from a given region, blending with all kinds of freedom.

The “F” I had with steaks, slathered with a chili spice / butter sauce, roasted Yukon potatoes, and steamed broccoli.  (Fun food fact—broccoli was first introduced to the US in the 1920s.)  And the wine was really fun.  It is kind and fruity, with some red raspberry and a little tang of cherry mixed in. The “F” has subtle earthy notes, but they’re so gentle that they don’t really come through in the tasting.  This fourth release of “F” is less tannic than a Cab or a Syrah, and has more body to it than does a Pinot Noir.  It is a very easy drinking wine overall that will go with just about any occasion.

A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and assorted Bordeaux varietals make up the fourth Orin Swift“F” Location, which is barrel aged for 10 months prior to release. The dinner was good; the Phinney wine was better.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marquis de Bacalan

Saturday night is usually a red night and, as you may notice, most often a California Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled steak. This weekend, however, it was time to approach things from a fresh angle–hence a fish dish and this delicious Blanc instead of a Cab. George Costanza would be proud (and hey I think it was Jason Alexander’s birthday too, so maybe there’s some kismet involved).

2015 Marquis de Balacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

The 2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc was part of an online wine order, a sampling of reds and whites from Bordeaux. The region’s reds get far more attention in the magazines and such, but whites like this nicely balanced bottle deserve some of the spotlight too. It has such a fresh, summer smell to it–quite fragrant and inviting when uncorked. This evaluator is not crazy about orange (i.e., the fruit), but the citrus notes of the Marquis were gentle and encouraging instead of off-putting. There is something that almost makes you want to chew this wine…a scent that I can’t better describe than saying it made me hungry for a sip.


2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

That did bode well for the meal, a Blue Apron salmon recipe that sat ignored and uncooked for several weeks until tonight. Displayed here you see a crispy-skinned salmon with a French sauce gribiche, grilled vegetables (cherry tomatoes and purple summer beans), and mashed potatoes. With plenty of garlic, shallot, and tarragon in the mix, the meal came together really nicely and was the perfect setup for the 2015 Marquis de Bacalan. The dijonnaise mustard flavor worked effectively with both the seafood as well as the wine. My only critique of the food? Wish this chef had diced the cornichons a little finer instead of simply thinly slicing them.

Here’s hoping the leftover portion will stand up well for its encore performance later this week. Certainly the 2015 Marquis de Bacala will, and its good showing on this occasion (along with other recent offerings from Bordeaux) deepens my interest in future whites from one of the world’s best-known wine-producing regions.


*Quick confession: I did open a Cab while making dinner, so it’s not like reds went unrepresented in this house for the night.

The Fleming’s 50/50 Tasting Event

Enlisted my brother and I for this wine adventure the moment I saw the promotion from Fleming’s Steakhouse–the August showing of the “100 Wines One Summer” series. We did the Uber thing to and from this tasting so that we could relax and enjoy new wines without having to figure out who had to be the designated driver. That being said, here’s how the evening unfolded for this guy:

  1. JCB by Jean-Francois Boisset
    Some whites (this one is a 100% Chardonnay) have more of that oak smell or flowers to them, while others–like this JCB–carry more fruit notes. This sparkling, produced in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or region, was served to us after signing in at the registration desk. Nice apply start to the tasting.Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 5.54.14 PM
  2. Pinot Grigio, Maso Canali
    My last white tasting this night, a blend of 95% Pinot Grigio and 5% Chardonnay, jumped out when described by the hostess. She was tending to an array of whites, and her notes zeroed me in on this Italian wine…I know someone (you know who you are!) who would have really liked this white. The Grigio lead the way in terms of taste, and I am not sure I could have determined the Chardonnay in the mix if I had not been told of its inclusion.
  3. Pinot Noir, Wine by Joe
    Jumped softly into the pool of reds with this raspberry-scented Pinot, produced by Joe Dobbs in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. I eschewed Mark West and Meiomi offerings in order to try something new in the Joe. Little bit of cherry in this gentle Pinot, which was quite delicious and a welcome shift from the whites.
  4. Pinot Noir, Rodney Strong
    I’ve sampled the Strong previously, and both the vineyard and any Russian River Valley Pinot Noir make a compelling argument to repeat a tasting (despite what I literally JUST said about the West and Meiomi). I was not disappointed at all. It’s beautiful cherry, soft, and aromatic in the glass…even the vanilla notes I enjoyed in the Rodney tasting. One of the evening’s highlights to be sure.
  5. Malbec, Pascual Toso
    We soon thereafter moved to table 3, some international reds, and my first and only selection from this grouping was this Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Sadly my notes are sparse on this offering, other than to say “lush fruits.”
  6. 2012 Liberated Cabernet Sauvignon
    Table four consisted of California reds, and those who read Notes with any frequency can imagine we drifted quickly to this area and stayed here the longest. This Sonoma County Cab was superb; expresso and dark cherry and mocha all wrapped into one dark, delicious beauty. Even had a little smokey hint to it…in many ways this red had all the nuances that I like about California Cabernet.
  7. 2014 Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon 
    The McDonnell family in Napa Valley (the Rutherford AVA as I read later) is responsible for this peppery and blackberry-tasting Cab. Some of this wine reminded me of good Syrah–perhaps its spice notes and the generous mouthfeel? In another year or two this one is going to be spectacular, and I was sort of picturing myself with a whole glass of this bad boy instead of just the sampler.
  8. Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon
    Definitely familiar with this winery, but usually for their whites instead of reds. This one is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Syrah, 5% Merlot, and 4% Other (whatever that means). This one was pretty complex too, and I detected earthy tones, spices, and tobacco in this jammy red. Of all the reds we tasted tonight, this one was closest to the Michael David or Caymus wines of which I’ve written from time to time. Did you know this winery is the oldest in Washington State? I just learned that myself…
  9. Hall
    This is another Bordeaux-style blend, this one 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Other. It was okay but suffered a disadvantage by following the fruit-forward Michelle and Round Pond gems. This Napa Valley offering had a peppery finish but my vocabulary (or perhaps my inexact notes) doesn’t stretch far enough with the Hall. Really enjoyed the wine, but I’d prefer another glass of many others if pressed.
  10. Paraduxx
    Who names these thing? Such an unenviable task…and my notes from this one read (no joke) “Smells like feet. Very cherry.” I was only so so on the Paradox, but I’ll offer you the following from Flemings in case ‘feet’ as a tasting note left you in the lurch: “Offering a heady mix of blueberry and cherry aromas its lingering berry and cherry flavors, this velvety lush blend is [Dan Duckhorn’s] gift to all of us.” I’m not buying…
  11. Yardstick Cabernet Sauvignon
    Much better change of pace here. This too is a Napa Valley Cab, made of grapes sourced from Atlas Peak (from where I’ve had some enjoyable wine to be sure). It had a fantastic scent in the glass, red and black fruits that I’d say were black cherry and blackberry. You get a sense of the pepper here too, one of those soft layers that sneaks into a good wine, subtly reminding you of a presence of something greater. Nice flavor in the Yardstick–which is a GREAT bit of branding btw.
  12. Greg Norman Cabernet-Merlot
    Um, yes, not a California red but I understand its inclusion in this table. It’s got that Bordeaux vibe to it for sure, with raspberry notes and dark fruits mixing together. I was kind of interested in this one (not sure I’ve had a Norman ever before) but it was only okay.
  13. Gundlach-Bundschu Mountain Cuvee
    I know. You’re saying three more still? Steve and I said much the same this Saturday night as we sampled our way from Europe to North America, South America, and Australia all in one sitting. From the name I bet you’re thinking this one is international in origin, but it’s actually a Sonoma County blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Zinfandel. If you think that sounds like inelegant science you’re mistaken. This red blend was luscious in dark fruits and had an easy finish. A surprising pleasure and I’d like another glass on a night when my palate was not being so bombarded by so many flavors just so I could share more details with you on the Gundlach-Bundschu.
  14. Double T Trefethen Red Blend
    This one too is a combination (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) red, Bordeaux in style. We got talking to some friendly patrons while sampling this round, and I’m afraid I have nothing of consequence to relay about the Trefethen. Wine & Spirits describes its “…plummy, jammy nose, its cherry-berry flavor profile, and its smooth, chocolate-covered finish” but I cannot recall from firsthand experience.
  15. Hills Hope
    Not sure if I should include this one or not. I am unsure of the winemaker or region for this one, or candidly the label or grape. Is very likely a red blend in the Bordeaux style, simply by its grouping at this particular table. A Google search yields too many “hills” to narrow the field, so this is definitely a clunky last entry. I wrote, “Easy finish. Dark cherry and raspberry with small tannins” but cannot be any more helpful than that. Disappointing and may even edit this one out in the future…sort of weighing the journalistic integrity either way.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 5.55.23 PMI’m a little regretful that I didn’t take better stock of the vintage in the above. Most were assuredly ’13s and ’14s but I am pretty sure there were a few ’12s in the mix too. Sorry about that, fans.

That said, fifteen samples made for a great night and a great experience to share. If you like any of the above be sure to share some yourself and spread the love. -RMG

2014 Le Parlement Bordeaux Blanc

Buddy Guy and the Stones playing “Champagne & Reefer” in the background as I reflect on a great new dish and vino–the latter being the 2014 Le Parlement Bordeaux Blanc. If you’re into such things, I’ll share that the wine took home a Gold Medal (Director’s Award) and Best of Class honors at the 2016 International Winemaker Challenge. It took Silver in the 2016 Monterey International Wine Competition too. While Notes doesn’t offer cover whites, be assured this one will go into the “best of” list at year’s end.

2014 Le Parlement Bordeaux Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

2014 Le Parlement Bordeaux Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

The Le Parlement accompanied a new dish, one that (excusing self accolades) turned out exceptionally. Pictured here is not only the Bordeaux Blanc but brown butter cod with corn, shishito peppers, and purple potatoes. It’s my understanding that the peppers are Japanese in origin, and they wrapped a whole salvo of flavors together–you have a little stir fry, a little sweet and a little heat in those babies. The cod has had the brown butter spooned over it, sherry vinegar too. The whole kitchen smelled fantastic as this cooked up–in part from those aromatics but even more so from fresh oregano, shallot, and pressed garlic that work their way into the plated dish.

Okay, now the wine:  The 2014 Le Parlement Bordeaux Blanc is crisp and citrusy. It is not overly dry, nor is it sticky sweet like the Riesling currently cooling in the fridge. The Le Parlement reminded me of this recent find too. It’s got a bit more weight to it than does a Pinot Grigio (at least the ones covered with some recurring frequency here). This white wine is not a buttery Chardonnay, either, with oak in its profile, but more like “spring”. I know, I know, don’t roll your eyes and say “WTF does spring taste like?” What I’m trying to describe is a light, nuanced white wine that I don’t quite have the palate to fully articulate. As I read here, I find it interesting that I’m better able to describe what the 2014 Le Parlement Bordeaux Blanc is NOT even more than what I can say it IS.Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 2.59.41 PM

This is really a nice wine, truly enjoyable with the upscale cod, and you would do well to try a Bordeaux Blanc (this in particular) next time you’re thinking about fish. I know I will.

2001 Bordeaux, Chateau Mongravey

Out for family dinner at J & K Steakhouse and we’re celebrating the occasion with a special bottle–a 2001 Bordeaux from Chateau Mongravey. I met my brother-from-another-mother, his wife, and their amazingly well-behaved son (who’s about nine months old but looks twice that). His father brought out this Bordeaux as a treat for us all, and his great call was our collective benefit.

2001 Bordeaux, Chateau Mongravey, Margaux, France

2001 Bordeaux, Chateau Mongravey, Margaux, France

I’m not sure how long the bottle was stored but was glad to enjoy it with dear friends tonight. The waiter almost struggled with the cork and I wondered how many 15-year-old bottles he wrestles in a given week. He didn’t react to the vintage or region but I promise you my eyebrow was raised and I was excited to sample it for sure. The baby looked on as we partook of the grapes, and from this evening I’ll always remember Patrick rotating in his highchair like some toddler’s version of Linda Blair.

And the eats? I started with blue iceberg salad and snickered at the balls of the restaurant to charge $9 for lettuce. Granted, it was cut in some interesting way and covered with red onion, bacon, and blue cheese–all favorites–but it’s still just kicked-up lettuce. I also forked up some of the delicious Brussel sprouts and my entrée, a 14-ounce New York strip steak that was cooked just as ordered. It was good, but honestly the highlight was the company and the 2001 Chateau Mongravey.

I haven’t had a Bordeaux since April, and that bottle was a far cry from this Haut-Medoc gem. The Mongravey was fragrant, and had far less of a Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon bite to it, even without any time to breathe. The 2001 Chateau Mongravey had far more blueberry notes than strawberry or cherry, and it had just a whiff of leather to it. Not quite an earth tone but slightly fragrant in that way? It was gone too soon, but left us all with great memories.

Thanks pal for sharing your evening and your great bottle.


2013 Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux White

This dish was so great the first time we tried it (thanks Blue Apron!) that we had to run it back–it’s cod kedgeree, over a bed of basmati rice, cabbage, and frizzled onion. The onion is a salty accent, as is freshly squeezed lime juice, and it all went with the 2013 Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux White. This bottle has been with us for about a year, even moving between homes, and this evening was its great unveiling. Its purchase was actually a happy accident that yielded dividends we’re enjoying tonight with the light dinner fare.

2013 Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux White

2013 Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux White, Bordeaux, France.

The 2013 Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux White is really fun. Citrusy, light, and not at all sweet. The vineyard, producing grapes for over eight generations, now embraces chemical free methods so you even feel “organic” and clean when you’re drinking this wine. Its a mix of 60% Sauvignon and 40% Semillon (my first taste of the latter?) that comes together in an even, gentle white. It is sweeter than a Blanc and less buttery than a Chardonnay–a good place to be, in the opinion of this taster.

The winemaker’s notes read, “Yellow pale with iridescent hints. Aromatic, citrus fruits with aromas of white flowers. Lively, rich, with the fine presence of acidity.

Now, I have no palate or idea what an ‘iridescent hint’ means, but I can confirm it’s an enjoyable citrus pick-me-up. The 2013 Les Hauts De Lagarde Bordeaux White won Gold “Best In Class” recognition at the 2014 Los Angeles International Wine Competition, which means you might put more stock into this wine than just the opinion of this guy. I’m looking forward to finding another bottle of this in the future.