Archive for February, 2010

A Taste Of Time - Duckhorn Merlot Across Three Decades

Sunday, February 7th, 2010 | Wine Tasting Notes, wine, wine events | 1 Comment

Starting with 1985 (on the far left), there was still a strong influence from Europe in the way California growers kept their grapes. At that time, the old-world style of letting the grapes show their fruit and allowing an extended lay-down on the bottle was apparent when I took my first waft of the red and orange-tinged liquid in my glass. I wasn’t detecting a big fruity merlot most of us are used to; I was sensing something close to an old-world style Bordeaux!


1985 Napa Valley Merlot ‘Three Palms Vineyard’– 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon (~12.5% alc.)

Good dark leather, cherry fruit on the nose with a hint of tobacco, cedar and a little vanilla spice. Flavors of sweet soy sauce with solid tannic structure, but not big at all in the mouth. The fruit is still fresh, despite the age.

1985 Napa Valley Merlot (my favorite of the two) – 78% Merlot, 15% Cabernet, 7% Cab Franc

Some chocolate-covered cherry on the nose, cedar and oak, dark spice of lavender and violet. Soft tannins, a good balance of fruit, some leather in the flavor. About an hour later in the glass: very smoky and rounded spiciness. This opened up beautifully!

Jumping to the 1995 vintages, everything changes. The wine is bigger, fruitier and toastier. The increase of alcohol levels during the 1990s was very common and only continued to grow into the 21st century. Both of the merlots are drinking beautifully now and could be cellared for a few more years, but definitely at a peak.


1995 Napa Valley Merlot ‘Three Palms Vineyard’ – 76% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc, 6% Cab Sauv. (13.4% alc.)

Aging nicely with bright blackberry and blueberry fruit on the nose. Lots of cherry and strawberry on the palate, milk chocolaty and toasty vanilla tones. There is an underlying current of minerality and slate through the Three Palms merlots.

1995 Napa Valley Merlot – 82% Merlot, 13% Cab Sauv, 5% Cab Franc

Rich ruby red color with more earth and mushroom, black cherry and coffee on the nose. It was smooth, with dark, intense juiciness. Needed to blow off the alcohol for a little bit, though. Black cherry and cassis flavors came out beautifully balanced with the oak towards the end of the tasting.

The 2005 vintages lead us into what is predominately in the market now and ready to drink. The difference leading up to this point is that the tasting went from letting the grapes display their elegance, to big, juicy fruit bombs that are manipulated with oak, some sugar to raise the alcohol levels and much richer drinking. Upon first sips, I forgot I was drinking merlot and feeling more like a cabernet sauvignon had been placed in front of me. In fact, had this been a blind tasting, I would have failed miserably. The only tell-all was the lack of black pepper on the nose that is common in Napa cabs.


Three Palms Merlot – 77% Merlot, 14% Cab, 6% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot (~14+% alc.)

Very pretty nose of flowers, like sweet rose petals and violets (indicative of the petit verdot). Some orange peel, sweet fruits of cherry and boysenberry came out on the palate. This wine had a nice dark color, good cedar aromas, some mustiness and lots of cherry-vanilla hues. This was my absolute favorite! Tremendously LUSH.

Napa Valley Merlot – 86% Merlot, 13% Cab, 5% Cab Franc

Lots of raspberry, red licorice, clove spice, leather and strong, rich tannins made this a wonderful wine as well. It was chewy, presented a big mouth feel wine that would be fantastic with some herbed lamb chops. It was showcasing full acidity and lots of black pepper! A little bitter at the end would be rounded out nicely with some aged cheeses for sure.

Finally, we reached the most current vintages that are not quite out on the market, or soon will be by the time this article reaches some of you. The 2006 Three Palms merlot and the 2007 Napa Valley merlot are not the merlots of old. These are what most of us have come to expect out of Napa, CA. However, please don’t take these comments as negative. It’s become clear to many winegrowers of California that they have a certain terroir to introduce, and have spent the last 30 years honing in on those characteristics. What I tasted out of these two vintages was just that…


2006 Three Palms Merlot – 75% Merlot, 13% Cab, 7% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot (Not on the market just yet)

This was an expected aroma of new wood oak barrels, like freshly cut timber. This wine shows strong acidity at the front, some strawberry and red berry fruit flavors on the tongue with strong minerality and a long jammy finish. It was nice to drink now, but absolutely needs some time in the bottle; say, 3-5 years.

2007 Napa Valley Merlot (another favorite) – 89% Merlot, 10% Cab, 1% Petit Verdot

A lot more pepper this time than the Three Palms was showing and also darker in color. I picked up a lot of tobacco flavors, cherry pie with a tinge of anise or sweet licorice. Some plum and vanilla lingered in the background. Fig fruit, almond and cedar came out on the finish and a bit of doughiness from the oak aging. Very sold wine in terms of structure. This is great to drink now, but I think in about 5 years, this is going to be phenomenal wine!

It’s clear that the folks at Duckhorn know their grape and will continue to create beauty in a bottle. It was so surreal to taste wines that have been around about as long as I have and to grasp what each one revealed over a course of its life. Well done!


Kronick Wino

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The Cork Dorks Embark On Their First Mission: France

Thursday, February 4th, 2010 | Food Pairings, Wine Stories, Wine Tasting Notes | No Comments

On a cold, dark, wintry night in January we gathered. Just a few of us, hand-picked by the finest at Bin 100 in Milford, CT to partake in the first, ever, high-end BYOB wine tasting.

First stop: France.

The idea is simple; bring a bottle between $50-$90 from any region of the country selected and drink it!

But on a more ideal note, to be able to find some gems, dust off some bottles in the cellar you forgot about and share a story or two….oh, and to listen to Mr. C sing a tune while he sips away on bubbles.

Bottle #1: 1998 Louis Jadot Chapelle-Chambertin

Verdict: Epic Fail…. the bottle was corked upon opening. (Que sounds of Alek kicking a champagne bucket in the background.) Moving on….

Bottle #2: Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de blancs – NV

Verdict: DELICIOUS. So pristine and smooth, I actually had to take a picture of the single stream of tiny little bubbles making their way to the top to reach me. See image below.

This little number delighted us with aromas of sweet, yeasty bread dough, similar to that of sweet Portugese bread. The flavor exhibited creamy toffee with a rounded mouth-feel and light, delicate bubbles on the tongue. A tone of tasty apple crisp with balanced acidity made this a winner. It was a little multi-dimensional, but the layers didn’t quite meld together. It was still a great champagne for the price.

Bottle #3: 2002 Cuvee Frederic Emile Trimbach Riesling from Alsace

Verdict: A first, there was a thought the bottle might be corked, but later it turned out that the minerality was just very intense. As it opened up, the opinions changed.

The first smell was intense petrol. It then opened up to some pretty sweet apple fruit and minerality of limestone and slate. ‘Great finesse and pleasantly dry’, were the words of one of us. After about an hour, you could get a better grasp of lovely orange blossom, honeysuckle, quince fruit and honey. The consensus was there were many layers being exhibited on this classic-style Riesling, but they never quite married. It was, however, pretty nice to be able to taste them all on their own.

Bottle #4: 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Cote D’Or

Verdict: Sensational and traditionally characteristic of this producer of great Burgundies.

Nothing struck me more than the overwhelming aromas of a smoky-sweet, soy-laden, BBQ sauce on this wine. Soy and smoked meats were all over the nose with a touch of brown sugar. (Getting hungry as I write this…. ribs, please!) A bit of char and smoky notes filled my nostrals as I embarked on the first sip. A strong taste of dark cherry fruit and dried plums hit my tongue. It was fantastically gamey and leathery with smooth and supremely food-friendly tannins. I noshed on some pork pate and gruyere as I sipped this bad-boy. This would be the ultimate bbq chicken with sauteed shitake mushrooms to play into the earthy tones. Some pheasant or seared duck breast with fresh blackberry fruit might do, and even Ostrich or Buffalo loin would be ideal.

We all seemed to give this one 90+ points based on sheer brilliance and flavors. It’s definitely ready to drink, but could age another 5-7 years in the bottle.

Bottle #5: (and yes, we still had active taste-buds) 1998 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru

Verdict: THE WINNER!

This wine apparently originates from grapes out of a 50-hectares (~123 acres) vineyard, so, relatively small. I think we were all floored when we started smelling and sipping on this beauty. It had such a fruity/floral perfumish aroma, it took me a while to even take the first sip. The wine showed good, deep concentration and color. The aging lines are thin and can only get better, I think. It was drinking perfectly, but the fruit and acidity was still very strong and could continue to age. Ok, but seriously, the nose was showing some nice damp earth and rich soil, like digging in a fresh garden. I picked up on a lot of great mushroom and fungi notes, like oyster and shitake and just a very light truffle note. The wine was still REALLY fresh in terms of acidity, but all earth. Fragrant dirt, floral nose of violets and sweet rose petals with a hint of lavender. I could go on, but it doesn’t do this wine justice.

93+ points – Wonderfully gorgeous and in 5 years will be even MORE amazing!

Bottle #6: 1999 Nuits-St.-George Aux Chaignots, 1er Cru, Faiveley (Cote D’Or)

Verdict: Loved it, but after the Clos Vougeot, nothing quite compared. This wine was still beautiful and drinking great as well. My camera died at this point, so I’ll have to entice with words…

Nice dried cherry nose, bright garnet-ruby red color in the glass. I picked up a bit of a fromage nose, like that of a nice hard cheese rind; something earthy in that regard. Definitely showcasing truffles, damp earth (a theme here…) but not nearly as complex as the previous wine. It was nice and bold with strong tannins. Kind of a sexy wine by my taste…. didn’t let down in flavor or finish and coated the month wonderfully with a chalk dry finish to wrap it up. A bit tight at the end, so some aging will do this one some good. What a catch, though.

And finally….

Bottle #7: 2006 M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage ‘Les Meysonniers’, Cotes du Rhone

Verdict: After all that Burgundy drinking, a little change of pace was needed. Nothing quite completes a French tasting like some good ol’ Rhone wines. The old-world Syrah/Grenache blends are just tres beau! This one was 100% Syrah.

This wine exhibits some earth funk: barn-yardy, leather, manure (I think we agreed it was cow) on the nose. I personally found a lot of good earthy mushroom flavor going on overall. The flavor was vibrant and rich. Strong acidity with some smoke, blueberry and sweet blackberry fruit. A touch of floral notes, like sweet rose petal and even chocolate made this wine smooth, elegant and dark. Great on it’s own to drink, or with some balsamic glazed hanger-steak. I wouldn’t have minded a few dark-chocolate covered blueberries either.

And that concludes the first night of riff-raff…er, tasting. ;)

Next time: ESPANA!!!


Kronick Wino

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