Up from the Cellar #3

So this is a big one, even if I do say so myself! I turned 28 on 3rd April this year… getting ever closer to 30. It’s terrifying really, however, in order to ‘get over myself’ so to speak I decided to have a very low-key dinner with my parents and my partner Jen.

We had the last Raclette evening of the year with many pieces of charcuterie, steak and salads with lots of potatoes… including 1.2 kilos of Raclette! However, you are here for the wines and I must admit we were spoiled rotten. As it was my birthday my amazing father managed to find 5 incredible wines all from my birth year. All of them were extraordinary…

So we start with the well-known estate of Artadi who make Pagos Viejos Rioja Reserva. Founded in 1985 in Rioja Alavesa it is considered one of the best wineries in the region. In 1992 the Lacalle and Laorden family take over the running of the winery. Completely organic and biodynamic Artadi has consistently kept sustainability at the heart of their vision. They have 83 hectares of vineyards which they use to create unique expressions of the Tempranillo grape.

Next up we have Fisher Vineyards in Santa Rosa, California. Founded in 1973 by Fred and Juelle 20 acres of vineyards were planted in the Mayacamas Mountain Estate in Sonoma County. In 1975 they married in what would become known as the Wedding Vineyard on the Mountain Estate. Three generations of the Fisher family have worked on this estate and the most recent generation came in during 2007. Fred and Juelle’s son and two daughters run the estate together.

Moving on to Robert Mondavi Winery. Founded in 1966 by Robert Mondavi (shock!) he chose To Kalon Vineyard which is in the heart of Napa as the home of his winery. It is known as producing some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world. Robert Mondavi has co-created many wines with many estates and is a leading figure in not just the California wine industry but the wine industry all over the world. Genevieve Janssens is currently the chief winemaker for Robert Mondavi and she strives in continually creating magnificent, quality wines.

After that we have Spottswoode Winery from Napa Valley as well. Established in 1882 the Estate is distinguished by the pre-Prohibition Victorian home which is depicted on the wine label. Spottswoode was christened by Mrs. Albert Spotts in 1910 and was purchased by Mary and Jack Novak in 1972. The first release of Cabernet Sauvignon was in 1982, exactly 100 years after the Estate’s founding. They were one of the first to gain organic accreditation having farmed organically since 1985.

Finally we finish with Penfolds… One of the most well-known wineries in Australia and even the world. Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold planted the first vines in 1844 in Magill Estate. Thus establishing the Penfolds wine company. By 1884 Penfolds was producing 1/3 of all South Australia’s wine. By 1907 it had become South Australia’s largest winery.

Today Penfolds has an extensive amount of vineyards across South Australia. Magill Estate, Barossa Valley, Mclaren Vale and Coonawarra just to name a few. They are revered in the wine industry for quality and control.

Artadi Pagos Viejos Rioja Reserva 1995

Pagos Viejos comes from old vines planted in clay-calcareous with sandy and alluvial soils also playing a part. The yield is obviously limited, the grapes are cold macerated for 1-2 days. The fermentation lasts roughly 10 days and the wine is aged in oak barrels for 18 months.

Tasting Note – Rating 97

Dark stewed fruits with plums and cherries, definitely not showing any signs of significant age. A smooth and luscious wine. Leather and herb notes very prominent on the nose and palate. Good, strong acidity with very fine tannins. A beautifully structured body that feels timeless. Drinking extremely well and showing no sign of slowing down. Should continue to drink well for another 5-8 years.

Fisher Vineyards Wedding Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 1995

100% Cab Sav which is whole berry fermented after a 5-day cold soak in barriques with native yeast fermented. A 20 day extended maceration where the wine is then aged in French oak barrels, of which 65% are new, for 22 months.

Tasting Note – Rating 99

Extremely herbaceous straight off the nose. Plums, dark cherries, damsons and cloves. Extremely gripping wine straight from the beginning. Cedar notes with blackcurrants, dark cherries with good acidity really running through those profiles. Strong tannins still but thinning out nicely as the wine envelops your mouth. This has good momentum to continue its ageing process. Absolutely spectacular structure and balance. Extremely young for its age and will evolve for another decade.

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Coming from the finest blocks in the To Kalon vineyard this is a perfect expression of Napa Cabernet.

Tasting Note – Rating 100!!!!

Our first ever 100 pointer… Herbaceous notes with dried fruits and perfume. Elegant and silky smooth. Powerful and weighty on the palate with peppery notes and spice running through. A medium bodied silky smooth mouthfeel, dried fruits and cedar very much apparent on the palate. Beautifully linear, a clear direction in this wine. Absolutely perfect and will continue to drink well for another decade. Absolutely sublime.

Spottswoode Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1995

Aged for 21 months in oak barrels (55% new), purely organic farmed Cabernet Sauvignon makes this up.

Tasting Note – Rating 97

Extremely smoky and lots of farmyard, a totally different wine. Dried fruits again coming through with cedar and leather. Powerful stewed fruits and plums on the palate. Extremely smooth, however, with pepper nicely placed towards the end. Medium bodied with good acidity and extremely fine, almost unnoticeable tannins. Elegant and linear, a fantastic wine. Possibly a few more years before decline starts, however I would drink up now. 

Penfolds Grange 1995

Arguably one of the most well-known wines in the world. 96% Shiraz with the rest Cab Sav. The Grange style is taken from the best grapes from a multi-vineyard, multi-district, blending philosophy. 17 months spent in new American oak hogsheads.

Tasting Note – Rating 99

Deep, dark aromas of strong dried fruits. Stewed fruits certainly taking preference. Farmyard also starting to come through with dark plums and berries taking centre stage currently. An extremely complex wine. Smooth with integrated tannins and a full body creating a very luscious and thick wine. On the flip side however, the silkiness of the wine makes it incredibly easy to drink. Acidity is still high and this has many a moon to get even better… if that’s possible?! A good 8-10 years left on the drinking window I think. Absolutely unstoppably and another top draw wine from this Estate.

I feel extremely blessed that I was able to not just taste these wines but actually drink them throughout an evening for my birthday. Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly becoming a favourite of mine, hence the bottles from Sonoma & Napa! They clearly did not disappoint.

I must apologise for the tardiness of late, it’s been a very busy few weeks so I am glad I could finally get this out. Next up I will be writing about Domaine Thibert-Miranda as we tasted his new vintages of Macon and Pouilly Fuisse last week. So stay tuned!

As ever thank you for reading and we’ll see you next week 😊

Harry Vernau

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