Lunch at The Clocktower in NYC with a horizontal of 2011 Bond—do you need to ask twice? As if the shear thrill of tasting through these wines in one seated environment wasn’t exciting, the location (recently rated highly in The New York Times) was enough to make me do a double take. I suppose it’s a bold statement to pair such amazing food with a lineup of incredible wine—and huge compliments to both Bond and The Clocktower, as while the wines provided a fantastic performance, so did the cuisine hold its own in their company.
As for BOND and the selection of 2011s presented this day, I must say that this tasting has made me a believer. Having been a fan of a number of Napa Valley Cabernet in the past, I must admit that my comfort zone has always hovered around the $100-per-bottle mark. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been known to splurge. However, when it comes to what I always believed to be the difference between a wine that was priced on quality—versus marketing and hype–California has always been a hard region for me to bend my brain around.
So what’s the difference between all of these other wineries and BOND? Location… Terroir… Letting Cabernet Sauvignon speak in Napa Valley. You see, at BOND they are working on a principle of defining Napa Valley’s Grand Crus, which is something that speaks volumes to me—and my single-vineyard-loving roots.
I recall tasting at a very prestigious Valley winery some years ago, where they allowed me to sample pure Cabernet from each of their vineyard sights. I was amazed by the quality and enjoyment I found in each glass, yet completely disappointed as I knew they would ultimately be blended to create the estate’s flagship wine.
What BOND has done is to seek out and define five distinct locations, each with noticeably different terroir, and create a series of single-vineyard expressions. With their vineyard manager, Mary Maher, overseeing each sight and winemaker, and Cory Empting vinifying each of the wines in the same fashion, BOND has succeeded in bringing us an exciting collection of Napa Valley Cabernet.
As enjoyable as the wines were, I couldn’t help but want to study each of them and the intricacy within each glass. Never have I felt more compelled to buy a collection of wines versus deciding to settle on my favorite.
On to the Tasting Notes and Terroir:
2011 Bond Melbury – Finessed and feminine at first, the 2011 Melbury quickly gained momentum and berth in the glass, as it displayed ripe red fruits with layers of cinnamon spice, cedar box, and candied violet. On the palate, I found silky textures infused with red currant with hints of sweet herbs and minerals. The finish was long, showing ripe cherry offset beautifully by a pulse of vibrant acidity. (93 points) @Morrell
Like many St. Helena Cabernet, Quella impressed me with its mysterious bouquet and (dare I say) pretty and playful nature on the palate. This comes from a nine-acre site in the eastern foothills, planted in a soil of alluvial pebble and small rocks, which is believed to be an old riverbed.
2011 Bond Quella – This showed the darker mystique of Napa Valley Cabernet, with a bouquet of blueberry, black currant, sweet herbs and mineral-laden soil. It was remarkably pretty on the palate, as ripe berry and tart currant fruits seemed to coat the senses, only to be whisked away by mouthwatering acidity. Fine tannin saturated the senses throughout the finish, along with palate-staining dark fruits and exotic spice. (92 points) @Morrell
St. Eden spoke to me of Napa Cabernet to the core, whichcomes from an 11-acre vineyard on a rocky knoll north of the Oakville Crossroads. The soil composition is the result of past rockslides from the Vaca Mountains, an iron rich, fractured, volcanic rock.
2011 Bond St. Eden – More restrained on the nose but with a classic and airy persona, the 2011 St. Eden displayed wild berry, rosemary and sweet floral tones. On the palate, it was angular in texture with a balancing mix of acid and tannin, giving way to concentrated flavors of red currant, tart berries, and minerals. The finish turned to spiced blueberry with a coating of fine tannin throughout the palate. (93 points) @Morrell
Located in Oakville’s western foothills, the Vecina came off to me as the most balanced and attractive from this serious. Its savory tones and dark fruit were perfectly offset by its stunning vibrancy. The soils here are bedrock overlain with fine-grained alluvial wash.
2011 Bond Vecina – The intensity married to undeniably elegance is what sets the Vecina apart from its peers. The nose started with cedar box, spice, dark earth and dried flowers. However, it seemed to evolve in the glass, adding savory herbs, spiced orange peel and a hint of vanilla. It was dark and alluring on the palate, yet structured with acid-driven verve, displaying notes of blackberry, currant, cedar, and inner floral tones. The finish was defined by contrasts of concentrated fruit and structure, with lingering notes of spiced berries and minerality. This is a serious bottle of wine that should provide a wide drinking window. (96 points) @Morrell
If I wanted a wine for the cellar, the Pluribus would be my first choice. This hails from BOND’s northern-most vineyard, planted on Spring Mountain at an elevation of 1,000 feet in a soil of white, volcanic bedrock.
2011 Bond Pluribus – The perfumed and spicy nose on the 2011 Pluribus was enough to fool me into thinking this would be a more feminine wine, yet time in the glass provided a kaleidoscope of aromas, as ripe red and blue fruits, woodland pine, forest floor, black pepper and hints of cola made themselves known. As it traveled across the palate in a structured wave of dense fruit and young tannin, a wave of brisk acidity kept thing lively and fresh, almost light on its feet. Tart berry tones coated the senses, as hints of forest floor and inner floral tones provided an earthy backdrop to this refined, elegant, giant of a wine. It’s in need of time in the cellar but well worth the wait. (95 points) @Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
Don’t get me wrong, some of this depends on your idea of relative value, but I assure you that buying a bottle of 20- year-old Rioja for $75 – $100 is one of the best values in the world of wine. And it doesn’t end there. Great bottles of aged Rioja can be had for a pittance around the country.
Rioja is a Spanish wine typically made from the Tempranillo grape and aged in American oak, giving it a healthy dose of wood tannin and dark vanilla character in its youth. It can take decades for this character to integrate and result into a perfectly-aged bottle of wine. However, when it does emerge from that overly oaked and tannic state, the results are marvelous.
One of the best-known names in the region is La Rioja Alta, and there’s a very good reason for that. For 125 years, La Rioja Alta has managed to turn out some of the highest-quality, best-priced Rioja that our market has ever seen, all while maintaining a large enough production to supply demand. This is the result of over one hundred years of winemaking experience and the foresight to purchase some of the best vineyards throughout Rioja as they became available.
A major leap forward took place in 1904 when La Rioja Alta acquired Bodegas Ardanza and their highly esteemed vineyards. Since that time, the winery has worked to only refine the process, but never to change what makes La Rioja Alta special, which in reality was a modern approach to Spanish winemaking over the course of 125-years that has now become the “Traditional” style today.
Tasting through vintages of La Rioja Alta is an eye-opening experience and one that I’d love to share with you. These wines may be immortal.
The Vina Ardanza Reserva differs from La Rioja Alta’s other offerings in that it is a blend of Trempranillo and old-vine Garnacha (20%), as opposed to the small dosages of Mazuelo and Graciano which usually make up the blend. Only the best fruit is picked for the Ardanza Reserva, with aging done in two-four-year-old American oak casks for 30 – 36 months, just as a classic Rioja should be. The results are an intense and lively wine with dark fruits, spice and balsamic tones offset by a hint of vanilla. It’s enjoyable now, yet balanced to age for decades, just as I witnessed at our recent tasting of the 1985.
1985 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva – The nose was simply gorgeous with depths of plum and crushed cherry fruit, dark spice tones, dried flowers and hints of undergrowth. It was enveloping on the palate with silky textures giving way to black cherry, orange peel and herbal tea. The finish was long, lingering on blackberry, dried strawberry, and hints of citrus with a bitter twang. This is perfectly aged and a testament to Vina Ardanza’s ability to age. (93 points)
2005 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza – The nose was earthy with an herbal quality, showing strawberry, spiced apple, dried orange peel and floral tones. On the palate, it displayed acid-driven, medium-weight textures giving way to dried cherry, spice and minerals, with herbal tones lingering on the finish. The ’05 Ardanza is a great QPR, especially for the lover of old world wines. (92 points) @Morrell
2007 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza – The nose was rich and intense with dark fruits, spice, brown sugar and sweet floral tones. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with dark balsamic tones and ripe strawberry coating the senses. A vein of vibrant acidity kept things refreshing and lively as the finish displayed bitter fruits, sweet herbs and dark wood tones. This is a massive wine, enjoyable today, yet so youthful. (93 points)
Gran Reserva 904
In celebration of acquiring Bodegas Ardanza in 1904, along with it’s highly-regarded vineyards, La Rioja Alta began producing the Gran Reserva 904, which has grown to become one of the most popular of all Gran Reserva on the market today. The price-to-quality ration that this wine represents is almost impossible to beat. Made from a blend of Tempranillo (90%) and Graciano (10%) and then aged in four-year-old American oak barrels, the Gran Reserva 904 comes across as truly classic. It’s enjoyable in its youth yet able to age for many decades. Placing a case of this wine in your cellar each vintage would guarantee a lifetime of drinking great, mature Rioja.
1982 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 – The bouquet was remarkably pretty and alluring with dried red fruits, savory mushroom, crushed stone, and minerals. On the palate, it was taut but with a vibrant pulse of acidity with flavors of herbal red berries and chalky minerality. Inner floral tones and spice lingered on the finish, as remnants of acidity buzzed on the finish. (95 points)
2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 – The nose showed ripe strawberry and cherry with exotic spice, orange peel, undergrowth and dusty soil tones. On the palate, it was remarkably smooth yet light as a feather with vibrant acidity, which made the mouth water. Red fruit, dried spice and inner floral notes radiated throughout and lasted into the long, fresh finish. It’s a beautifully-balanced wine, which is drinking great now, yet should continue to age for many years to come. (93 points)
2005 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 – The nose was focused and pure with intense cherry fruit, dark wood tones, herbal mint and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was youthfully tight, showing focused red fruits, cedar, spice and saline minerality. The finish was long with concentrated red berry and tannin pulling at the senses. This wine is built for the long haul. (94 points)
Gran Reserva 890
The Gran Reserva 890 was created to honor the year of 1890, when La Rioja Alta was created by five growers with their sights on bringing Rioja to the world’s stage. Today, the 890 sits at the top of the La Rioja Alta pyramid. It’s produced only in the best years, from the best grapes, and aged for six years in hand-picked barrels. The 890 is released over a decade after its vintage date and is built for the cellar. Tasting a mature 890 is a riveting experience, as you can see from my note below.
1981 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 – The 1981 Gran Reserva 890 was drop-dead gorgeous. With each tilt of the glass, this wine seemed to reveal more and pull me closer. Deep, dark and intense red fruits, spiced-orange, game, savory herbs and minerality dominated the bouquet. On the palate, it was vibrant, showing silky textures that caressed the senses with an old-world mix of dried cherry, savory meat, minerals and undergrowth. Red berry and citrus tones clung to the senses throughout the finish, which seemed to go on and on. Stunning! (96 points)
Click HERE, to explore Morrell’s selection of vintage Rioja
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
This is a question that I’m asked often. The reality is that, for us mere mortals, tasting the top wines from around the world is something that we can usually only dream of. Typically I’d answer this question with the response of “Join a tasting group.”
In fact that’s what I did almost eight years ago, but even having done that, it took me four or five years before I was able to connect with the right people and get invited to the right tastings. I still remember the first time a Giacomo Conterno Monfortino was put in front of me at a tasting (with its $1200 price tag) and how I felt when I had finally achieved my goal. However, let’s not forget that I still needed to make my own contribution to that tasting, which was a very costly expense.
Still, outside of unlimited resources, the tasting group method has been the only tried and true method to really taste the most expensive, rare, and highest-scoring wines from around the world. A group of ten serious wine lovers can create quite a lineup when properly motivated.
Then I got wind of a new idea from my boss at Morrell: “What if we pulled some of our top wines to pour by the glass, at a ridiculous price, just to create some excitement and get people talking?” At face value, I thought this to be a great idea, but when he then followed that statement with the name of the first wine, my jaw dropped.
The 1993 Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg would be the premier pour at only $100 a glass—did I mention that was for a four-ounce pour? Granted, this was only one pour permitted per customer, and there were only three bottles to go around, but still, it was an opportunity that I would jump for in a second. The proposed list continued with 2005 Lynch Bages ($30 a glass), 2007 Pegau CdP Cuvee da Capo ($50 a glass) and 2012 Sassicaia ($25 a glass)….with more to be announced for October. Talk about a perfect way to taste the greatest wines of the world.
However, what I didn’t account for was just how popular the event would be. Tuesday, September 8th, our Sommelier Anna Cabrales checked and prepared the three bottles, ready to start pouring at 6pm. To our amazement, they were all gone within 45 minutes. Granted, this is DRC, and the chance to taste such a wine doesn’t come around often.
So maybe I missed my chance on this one, but the program is only just starting. Frankly, if an opportunity like this had presented itself when I first set out on my mission to taste the greatest wines of the world, I’d be there in a heartbeat.
So here it is, the Icon Wines for September at the Morrell Wine Bar. The 1993 DRC may be done, but there is a lot more to come. Starting every Tuesday, first come first serve, and pouring until the bottles are done. Plus, this will continue into October. I kid you not; this is the best way to taste the greatest wines in the world today.
- Sept. 15th/16th Chateau Lynch Bages 2005 at $30
- Sept. 22nd/23rd Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee da Capo 2007 at $50
- Sept. 29th/30th Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2012 at $25
Article by: Eric Guido
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