Archive for the ‘Wine Notes’ Category

Pine Ridge Winery Cabernet: 2005 Fortis vs 2006 Stags Leap District

Posted 09 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Wine Notes


On a sunny afternoon recently I joined two other chefs for a casual drive in Napa California. The three of us wandered our way through the Stags Leap district on a lark after stopping by the Whole Foods in Napa for some beef and other provisions. In preparation for a night of cooking beef, we had Cabernet Sauvignon on our minds. One of the stops on our sojourn was Pine Ridge vineyards. Pulling into the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was that the tasting house at Pine Ridge is small compared to the other major vineyards in the area. The main building is surrounded on three sides by steep terraced hills overflowing with vines. Walking the well organized and maintained vineyard, it appears that Pine Ridge, like most of Stags Leap, has chalky volcanic soil. This is cabernet country! We tasted 10 wines during our visit but, for the sake of time, I will share my notes on just two of them. 

The 2006 Stags leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is a reasonable value at $80.00 per bottle. Our host described how Pine Ridge allows the grapes used to produce this wine extended hang-time allowing a richer, deeper flavor. This extended hang-time paired with the obsessive approach to production used by the vineyard including a hand cleaning and inspecting process for every berry prior to being pressed is probably why this wine has scored so well with Wine Spectator (WS91) and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (91). Like many good cabernets, this one has an intense initial flavor of ripe dark cherry, blueberry and chocolate followed by a mellow punch of dried blueberry, tobacco and hints of cedar and smoke. The tannins are complimentary and mild in my opinion and it is suggested that the wine be decanted 30-60 minutes prior to serving. This is an outstanding cabernet for the price.

Of all the wines we tasted the most expensive was the 2005 Fortis at $140 per bottle. Fortis is a Bordeaux Blend style cuvee consisting of grapes from different regions (52% Stags Leap District, 28% Oakville, 11% Rutherford and 9% Carneros.) Fragrant notes of dried cherry, currants, toffee and oak combine with a creamy texture and the silky tannins that Stags Leap is known for. This wine has rich and regal start with a smooth and sweet finish that ends with chewy notes of dark chocolate and oolong tea. It is strongly suggested that this wine be double decanted to aerate the flavors.

If you ask me to decide which of the two I like better my answer is “it depends.”  The Fortis is regal and refined and would marry well with a good roasted venison, swiss chard, rosemary roasted potatoes and any dessert that is primarily chocolate. The Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, after decanting and opening for a bit, is less refined and becomes lighter than the Fortis. It would pair well with beef tenderloin with bacon, a lighter cut of lamb or even a richly braised pork dish.  Dont think too much about it, you need both in your wine cellar!

Parings In Napa, California

Posted 18 Mar 2010 — by S.E.
Category Wine Notes

Clos Du Val

If ever there was a place for recharging ones batteries and reconnecting with earth, wine, and food, Napa is the place. Over the past weekend I had the chance to eat my way through the valley from Yountville up to St. Helena with a side trip down to Stag’s Leap. There’s something wonderful about being in Napa even when it’s off-season. The pristine old vines in symmetrical rows running mile after mile never cease to amaze and inspire me. It’s a model aesthetic and way of life that runs with the seasons, in calendar cycles; an existence marked in vintages that connect  the earth, weather, and wine-makers skill. While there I had the chance to learn more about American Express’ parings project. Last fall they teamed Chef John Besh with Mondavi winemaker Genevieve Janssens and musician Dave Matthews for a wonderful evening of food, wine, and music. It’s nice to see a company investing in an aesthetic at a

Dave & Tim with Chef Coats

time when economic conditions have forced many to cut these sorts of programs to the bone. After all, what would life be without food, wine and music? I commend American Express for choosing such luminaries as Besh, Janssens and Matthews (they also paired up John Legend and Tom Colicchio in New York, but that’s another story).

More than a decade ago I had the pleasure of cooking for and eating with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. Dave and Tim were in my city during one of their early acoustic tours and we prepared a large family style dinner for the whole crew. Prior to going on stage, we had a wonderful meal and spoke at length about the virtues of good food and wine. Dave and I had nearly half an hour alone discussing his background and most precious food memories. In between, Dave completed his vocal warm-ups in preparation for the show. Even back then

 Dave was committed to eating well and to responsible agriculture. This was long before Dave launched Blenheim winery or became a national spokesperson for sustainable agriculture. His commitment to good food, wine and sustainability is decades old and truly authentic! It makes complete sense that he would join American Express, John Besh and an icon like Genevieve Janssens for the Pairings event in Napa. Makes me wish I was there.