Alto Moncayo Veraton

Another trip down Memory Lane, courtesy of my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source.  It really is interesting to see how, if any, vintages can affect a wine.  I was in retail, my entire career, so I can understand how there is certain merchandise that one has to carry for the clientele, especially if you originally created the market for your shop.  It is even better, if the product you have to carry is excellent.  I applaud the shop for not stocking their shelves with the popular brands that are in all the gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores and big box stores.  Their customers shop at the store for wines worth a drive for, and they know that they aren’t being price gouged either.

Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2018 and the last bottle that I tried was the 2015. Bodegas Alto Moncayo was founded in 2002 in Campo de Borja DO in the Aragon region of Northern Spain; and Campo de Borja DO was granted in 1980.  While it was recognized fairly recently the area was recognized for wines back in the times of the Roman Empire.  The winery is a partnership of the Andalucía winemaker Jorge Ordenez, the Australian winemaker Chris Ringland and Bodegas Borsao one of the largest and most influential producers in Campo de Borja.  The winery makes three wines and I had a chance to try two of the wines (on that past visit), and all three are made from the Garnacha varietal, which is a grape that I enjoyed back in my youth, but I had no idea that I liked the Grenache grape, but I certainly loved Rhone wines, especially when I could get some Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  While Tempranillo is the King in Spain, that honor in Campo de Borja goes to Garnacha.  The vines just produce a big wine in this mineral-laden area that is basically rain-free.

Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2018 is a fine example of wine from Campo de Borja DO.  The town of Borja has a long history going back to 5 BC and thought to be from tribes of mixed Iberian and Celtic stock.  The Borgia family, that is famous in Italy, during the Renaissance, and produced two Popes, were of Borjan origin.  The winemaking goes back to the time of the Romans and the Cistercian monks.  Rain is scarce in the region, the low regions are of brown limestone, while the middle elevation offers soil of deposited stones and iron-rich clay, while the highest elevation in the Moncayo foothills offer stones, iron and lime.  I had to show two different views of the label, because the pretty part, doesn’t identify the wine, unless you already know the artwork.  This wine is made from vines that are thirty to fifty years of age.  The wine is barrel aged for sixteen months.  Even the second vintage of this wine that I had was delicious with a nose of dark fruits, and those fruits follow through on the palate along with a touch of chocolate, nice tannins, balanced with a medium count finish with terroir.  Whenever I think, and especially when I taste Grenache (Garnacha) I always think of Thanksgiving and a roasted turkey, and some mental images are always there.    

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An Encore of Tré Son Zinfandel

Imagine if you will, being in a wine shop and having a glass of wine being poured for you.  Yes, I was at my local wine shop and club, The Fine Wine Source in Livonia.  These two men walk in, and all of a sudden, I heard a request that a certain bottle of wine should be poured for me.  By now, you realize that I do not shy away from such behavior.  Even a quick look at the label, and I knew that I had had the wine before, more déjà vu, and I no longer have my animosity towards Zinfandel.

They poured me a glass of Tré Son 4 Hearts Vineyard Zinfandel 2018 from Paso Robles, California and I was told that this was a Fine Wine Source Exclusive.  Who am I to pass up an offer like this?  I am slowly getting an appreciation for the Zinfandel grape, as for years I had shunned it, from the jam-bombs I remember having as a kid from the homemade “Dago Red” wines that were abundant in my neighborhood and we often received jugs of it as gifts.  All those years back as a child when I was allowed a glass of wine, my sensory functions would go tilt, because I could taste the jammy fruit and egg-whites, which the old men used to use to fine the wines.  As a kid, I could never eat the whites of the eggs by themselves, and that taste had turned me off.  Some fifty years later I guess that I have matured a bit, even though I still don’t eat fried eggs, I have learned to enjoy a good glass of Zinfandel.  This wine that I was tasting was not super jammy, even with the deep color and a truly delightful nose, but there was a charming earthy terroir that really won me over.

The label was consistent to the Tré Son 4 Hearts Vineyard Zinfandel Paso Robles 2015.  As is my nature, when I am doing additional research, because I want my facts to be right, I Googled the wine and my original article was the second entry cited, you know, that I just felt wonderful.  It turns out that one of the two men that walked in was the owner of 4 Hearts Vineyard.  My wine shop helped designed the label and helped secure the proper paperwork in the Byzantine labyrinth that is how Michigan is able to sell wines.  The vineyard was bought in 2004, which at the time was a walnut ranch, and the first fifteen acres of thirty-seven were planted in 2007, of which ten acres were Zinfandel.  The vineyard is owned by a gentleman that hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan who now divides his time between Michigan with his current business and residing in Paso Robles which will eventually be his retirement home and business.  The 4 Hearts refer to his wife and his three daughters, so that negated the three sons thought.  When one considers the tender young age of this vineyard, it is well respected by some other wineries that use their fruit.  Some of the wineries listed by the vineyard include some of their earliest purchasers like Dunning Vineyard, Saxum Vineyards and Venteux Vineyards and many others.  So, all I can say is, if you find this bottle of wine, give it a go, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Celani Cabernet Sauvignon

People ask me constantly, if I ever get tired of tasting wines or if it gets boring.  When I am doing my often times, impromptu tastings at The Fine Wine Source, it never gets boring.  The comradery that is encountered, makes the moment special, no matter what they are offering to pour, as they know that eventually I will write about the wines that I encounter.  Sometimes, the wines will be repeated, which is fine, as I get to rethink about the wine, and sometimes I can observe changes as it ages.  Most of the time, if it is a repeat, it is another vintage of a wine that I had at an earlier time, and that is also very interesting as one can see, if a vintage can alter the wine.  Though the old adage that a quality winemaker can work around even a bad vintage.  Of course, at my local wine shop, I never worry, because they taste every wine, before they stock the shelves with an order.

 I lead in with this introduction, because for years I had heard Tom Celani and all the philanthropic work he has done in the Detroit area, long before he had a winery.  Tom Celani is lauded in the Detroit area for his largesse for charitable organizations that he helps in a grand manner.  He and his father ended up creating one of the largest Miller distribution companies in the United States along with other beers and wines.  Tom Celani fell in love with wines, first as a drinker and a collector and finally acquiring a Tuscan-style estate with seventeen acres of grapes and one-hundred-twenty olive trees in the foot hills of the Vaca Mountain range in Napa Valley.  As the proprietor of the Celani Family Vineyards he has chosen to bottle wine without costs becoming a consideration, to him wine is about quality and not quantity.  In fact, he was joking that he is not sure if the winery, will ever truly show a profit, because of his concern about getting the best wine each and every time.  I have had the good fortune to have gone to a couple of Celani Family Vineyards tasting events, including once where I actually got to meet him.  Needless to say, we have an excellent representation of his wines over several different vintages resting in our cellar. 

The Celani Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2018 had just arrived.  I have had the good fortune to have enjoyed the 2013 and the 2017 vintages of this wine.  This estate is a small family-owned winery that has seventeen acres of vineyards planted on a twenty-acre lot.  The winery was originally planted with Merlot and Chardonnay.  This wine is pure Cabernet Sauvignon and had been aged for twenty months with ninety percent new French Oak barrels and it was bottled without fining or filtration. The nose on this fresh vintage was full of black cherries and blackberries and violets.  It offered the fruit on the palate along with notes of cardamom and dark chocolate.  The tannins were rich and seductive and there was a nice long finish of terroir, that complemented the already formed complexity, that will just get bigger in the next ten years.   

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“Best Wine in the World”

“Best Wine in the World” was the banner stretched across the home page for Marques de Murrieta.  Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja DOCa 2010 won the top position in the Wine Spectator “The Top 100 – The Most Exciting Wines of 2010” from their issue dated Dec. 31, 2020 – Jan. 15, 2021.  Now let me set the stage, as I was in my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan and I was asked if I wanted to taste some wines.  So far, a normal occurrence and then they poured me this wine and the day was no longer ordinary, but extraordinary. 

Castillo Ygay is an icon in Spain, a living legend for three centuries in Rioja and an historic label even among the Rioja Grandes Reservas.  There are three sub-regions of Rioja and Rioja Alta tends to be the region that is often named, and it refers to the elevation of this region compared to the other two sub-regions.  The winery was founded in 1852 by Luciano de Murrieta and since 1983 it has been owned by the Cebrian-Sagarriga family.  When the winery was being built it was found to be part of Rioja Baja (lower elevation), but it makes the region sound inferior and Rioja Baja is now Rioja Oriental; they had enough clout to have the boundary moved, so that the winery was in Rioja Alta and today it is in its own enclave of La Rioja Alta.

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja DOCa 2010 and this wine is not made every vintage and the fruit comes the single vineyard La Plana, planted in 1950 (forty hectares) and is on a plateau which is the highest point of the Finca Ygay vineyard on the estate.  This wine is a blend of eighty-five percent Tempranillo and fifteen percent Mazuelo.  After manual harvesting, destemming and gentle crushing the wine spends eleven days fermenting in Stainless Steel with constant attention during this period.  The wine is then aged for twenty-four months in a mix of American and French Oak, then followed up with thirty-six months of aging in the bottle before release.  Seventy-five-hundred cases were produced and six-hundred-eighty cases were imported.  The nose tantalized me with strawberry and raspberry, cloves and nutmeg, and some traces of tea, leather and graphite.  This doesn’t sound like me, but we were discussing this wine in the shop.  The wine perhaps is the best example I may ever have of a classic Rioja as it had layers of dried cherry, orange peel and vanilla, but especially the velvety tannins, a totally balance wine and one of the longest finishes I have enjoyed.  A year ago, I had the chance to enjoy the 2009 vintage and it was wonderful, but this wine took everyone’s breath away.  I imagine that another ten years in the cellar would be awe inspiring and could compete with the dingus in The Maltese Falcon, “the, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

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August 2021 Club Selections

One of my favorite outings is going to The Fine Wine Source, my local wine shop and getting the two wine bottles that are the monthly wine club choices.  That is a great perk for the club members and for the shop.  For the club members, besides getting two wines that one may not just grab off the shelf, one also gets case discount on any purchase, even if just picking up a bottle for the moment. This was also a blessing for the shop, because they were able to survive during the “fifteen-day lockdown” and stay in business, because they were not deemed a “necessary” business.  For eighteen months they did business by phone and by delivery.  Proving that customer service is the proper way to do business.

The first selection for the month represents “The Old World.” Chateau La Gabarre Rosé Bordeaux 2020 and is in the commune of Galgon on the Right Bank, north west of Lalande-de-Pomerol. The estate has been in the Gabard family since the 1800’s and the present stewards are Stephane and Paola Gabard.  They use sustainable farming practices and the soil is gravel, clay and sand and the average age of the vines are between fifteen and thirty-five years.  Besides this wine they also produce a Bordeaux Blanc, and a Bordeaux Supereiur; and all three wine types are done both as Chateau La Gabarre and their label “La Gabarre.”   The wine is a blend of forty-five percent Merlot, thirty percent Cabernet Franc and twenty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  They use a direct press method and then age the wine for nine months in Stainless Steel to keep the fruit and crispness and they produced eight-hundred-fifty cases of this wine.  The notes for this wine offer a nose of raspberry and strawberry, with a rich mid palate intensity and a long finish.  It sounds perfect for first courses or barbecues.

As always, the second wine selection represents The New World.  Luke Wines “The Companion” Red Blend Wahluke Slope AVA 2018 and Wahluke Slope AVA is a subset of the much larger Columbia Valley in Washington State.  “Luke” takes its name from the word “Wahluke” and is the native American term for “watering place” and the Wanapum are the native settlers of the land.  Most of the wines from the Wahluke Slope AVA are not single vineyard wines, and this wine is no exception as the fruit was harvested from the following vineyards; Weinbau, Wahluke Slope, King Fuji, Newhouse, Ravenscliff, Rosebud, Northridge, Clifton, Stone Tree and Clifton Hill.  The wine is a blend of sixty percent Cabernet Sauvignon, twenty percent Merlot and twenty percent Syrah.  It was aged using a mix of French and American Oak and twenty-eight-hundred cases were produced.  The tasting notes suggest the opulence of a Bordeaux blend with the special synergy that a dose of Syrah brings with it.  Dark fruits with notes of spices, coffee and chocolate, silky tannins with good acidity and a long lingering finish are from the technical notes.  I am sure that it will find the right meal.   

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Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino

I was tasting a wonderful wine recently at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source and they asked me if I had ever had it, I said that I have had wine from the region, but I didn’t think that I had tasted the wine.  Of course, the winery kept gnawing at me, a sense of déjà vu.  After writing for almost ten years, and imbibing for fifty, I don’t always remember every wine immediately, I should of, at least checked my blog. 

I was tasting Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 and it is pure Sangiovese or locally known as Brunello.  A lawyer, Gabriele Mastrojanni created the winery in 1975 when he bought the San Pio and Loreto estates and planted vines where it was meadows and woods. There are ninety-six hectares of land, with thirty-three hectares planted in vines, but only seventeen hectares qualify to be Brunello di Montalcino.  Their cellar is built partially into a hillside and it has cement tanks and barrels for long term storage.  Since 2008, they are part of Gruppo Illy, the coffee people, and Francesco Illy has been an owner-winemaker at a neighboring estate since 1997; he has kept the same original winemaking team at Mastrojanni since the purchase. This wine spent thirty-six months in oak and an additional six months in the bottle, before distribution.  The wine is a pretty ruby-garnet red with a nose of dark fruit and spices, a beautiful chewy wine with tannins that need to be mellowed out with some additional aging and a nice long finish. 

I found my article about my déjà vu moment, that I wrote about back in 2013.  Just before our guests arrived, I went to choose a wine for the dinner.  I found a Brunello di Montalcino ‘Loreto’ 1991 by Mastrojanni and I also looked at a second wine, just in case, that I had kept this wine too long.   I removed the foil capsule and everything looked good, and then I used my best corkscrew, which always seems to get a good bite on the cork.  The cork once removed was sound and had no bad odors, so far so good.   I poured just a tasting amount in my wine glass, on a side table and I was amazed at how rich the color still was, as there was no lightening or brownish tinge to be seen.  Since this wine is made from the Brunello (Little Brown One) grape it has since been proven to actually be the Sangiovese varietal that is famous for the Tuscan region where this wine hails from.  When I took the first taste, I was amazed at how smooth this wine had matured; the tannins had mellowed out so gracefully that I even had to share that first taste with my Bride.  I was going to decant the wine, but our company arrived, so I just let it breathe on the side table, away from all the other activities.  When it came to pour the wine along with our entrée, it was just awesome and I am sorry that I did not have another bottle of this wine left in my cellar.  I am not sure that our guests were as amazed by the wine as my Bride and I were, but I am still admiring its quality mentally.

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Realm Cellars “The Bard”

There are times when I stop at my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source and I find myself elevated above my food grade.  I am not usually in the pay grade to encounter cult wines, and yes, I have stumbled upon a few in my day, and for which I am greatly thankful for.  Over the years, it seems that there has become more and more of these unicorn wines appearing.  When I was a wee lad in my teens, learning about wines there were some wines that were awe-inspiring, but they had earned that status over decades of fine craftsmanship.  Today, the craftmanship is still honored, but the time frame for some wineries have quickened immensely.

Ream Cellars is a Napa Valley wine that is located in the Stags Leap District and known for their Cabernet Sauvignon based wines.  The majority of their wines are sold to their members that are on their mailing list and to a collection of fine restaurants. It started off as a “virtual winery” in 2002 by Juan Mercado and Wendell Laidley with five tons of fruit from both Beckstoffer To Kaon and Dominus Estate’s Napanook vineyards.  Later on, they were able to acquire fruit from Beckstoffer Dr Crane and Farella.  The wines were originally made at Sherwin Family Vineyards and later at Chateau Boswell.  The current majority owner is Scott Becker and took over in 2011, saving the winery from bankruptcy.  Realm now owns its own vineyard after acquiring Hartwell Estate Vineyards in Stags Leap District in 2015.  Realm Cellars uses a Gothic font of a capital R and every bottle has this quote from Shakespeare’s Richard II “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm…”

Realm Cellars “The Bard” Napa Valley 2018 is their highest production wine with fruit harvested from vineyards across the valley.  The production of their wines is evenly split between proprietary blends and single vineyard wines.  “The Bard” is their flagship of their proprietary blends.  The fruit has been harvested from diverse and famed vineyards like Beckstoffer To Kalon, Beckstoffer Bourn, Blair, Houyi, Larkmead, Realm SLD Estate, Farella, Orchard and Bettinelli Upper Range.  The blending of the wine changes each year, but the constant seems to be that it is over seventy percent Cabernet Sauvignon and then Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  The first appearance of “The Bard” was 2003, and because it is a proprietary blend, there is basically no technical notes about production, beyond the fact that they produce fifty-thousand bottles of this wine.  My only blessing is that over fifty years, I have had the honor of enjoying some spectacular wines and there is a place in a back cubby-hole in my brain that appears periodically to let me compare “apples to apples.” It was during the tasting of this wine, that I wished that I was more akin to some of the other writers and reviewers who have a lexicon of descriptors to bandy about, but it was delicious with notes of red and black fruit and spices, a complex wine with richness, even in its youth and in ten years and beyond, it will be a wine to tell your great-grandchildren about.    

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A House Party

Some times a party is announced, just because.  Especially after the lockdown, it doesn’t take much to get people together.  Even impromptu parties can be easy, especially during the summer months.  Most men like to barbecue, and years ago I did, but somehow, I lost that desire and ability, maybe I can coax it back, but thankfully there are others that truly enjoy it.  Of course, most impromptu parties are kind of a “pot-luck” occasion and hopefully that works out.  There have been many times when I thought we were a catering concern, with all of the multiple chaffing dishes, pots and pans, bowls, not to mention napkins and utensils.  This time we only had to bring some libations.

There really was no shortage of food, and it seems that markets have made it much easier, when I wasn’t looking.  In the old days, everything was created in the kitchen, and now so much is created at the markets and specialty food centers, without even going to a restaurant.  I was surprised the last time we went to the cheese shop, to discover that they also were purveyors of pate.  I guess I should get out in the world a bit more.  I have also learned that perhaps I am the last to know, that smoking of meats is almost as popular as barbecues.  Smokers are the antithesis of microwave ovens, in fact talking with people, smokers make “slow-cookers” look like fast food.  I am also trying to come to grips with the concept of using an “air fryer” to “bake” a potato, as my brain keeps asking me why? Though I am delighted to say that our one son has become a dedicated smoker, just of meats, and the brisket that he made for the party was exceptional.

We started of with a bottle of Elizabeth Spencer Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino 2019.  Elizabeth Spencer Winery is the realization of a dream by the husband-and-wife team of Spencer Graham and Elizabeth Pressler.  The have created a winery based on relationships with vineyards.  Their first wine was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 and they have continued producing this wine yearly.  They have since developed relationships not only in Napa Valley, but also in Sonoma and Mendocino.  In 2006 they became the stewards of the 1872 Post Office building in Rutherford for their tasting room. The fruit for this wine comes from three vineyards in Mendocino.  Primary fermentation takes place over twenty days in cool temperatures and each lot is done individually and then blended and further aging in Stainless Steel.  This wine was harvested in the first week of September and bottled in March.  The wine offered a nose of citrus and lemon rind, while the palate offered tropical fruits, bright acidity and a shorter finish with just a touch of terroir.  It is becoming the decade of Sauvignon Blanc for my Bride.

Another wine for this summer party was Daou Vineyards Chardonnay Paso Robles 2019.  George and Daniel Daou, two brothers who were originally in the IT industry purchased part of the Hoffman Mountain Ranch in 2007 and in 2012 purchased the other part of the ranch and they now had two-hundred-twelve acres.  Stanley Hoffman with help from Andre Tchelistcheff created the first modern commercial winery in Paso Robles after Prohibition.  This wine is pure Chardonnay and aged for five months in French Oak, of which thirty percent was new.  The nose offered ripe pear and apples with a touch of lemon and vanilla.  The palate offered tropical fruits and spices and perfect acidity, and a decent finish of fruit.

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Brunch at The Daxton

We try to make a day of it, if we can, a date day.  Somehow, I ended up with the lion’s share of the shopping and that is not how it usually works out. Of course, my Bride goes shopping with her girlfriends, her sisters and sometimes just by accident.  It is also a way for us to get our daily walk in a new locale.  As we like to do a total of five miles a day, it has helped my Bride, has not done anything for me, as I will never get back to my old “fighting weight.”  While we were out shopping in Birmingham, I had made a reservation for brunch at The Daxton, which is a brand-new hotel and by luck, we were there for their “soft” opening, which I guess was for friends and family, but we ended up crashing the party at the bar and discovered that we had no tab.  I guess it was only fair and honorable for us to go back and have lunch there, especially since we never really saw the dining room, except in glimpses from the bar. 

I ended up at our table first, which is good, because it gave me a better chance to study the menu.  My Bride got side tracked before entering the bar and filled out a card for a chance to win a stay at The Daxton and she was joking that it would be a nice way to celebrate our next anniversary.  Well, the fellow that was handling the cards, must have mentioned it to the restaurant manager, who mentioned it to our waiter and the next we knew we were given a complimentary pastry basket for our anniversary and when we tried to rectify it, we were told to just accept it, as it would be too much of a hassle to change it.  The pastry basket had a strawberry-basil éclair, a sunflower biscuit and an orange cinnamon roll.  My Bride was low-maintenance and had two poached eggs, marble potatoes, heritage bacon and sourdough toast.  I had something a bit more interesting, a breakfast sandwich of heritage bacon, farm egg souffle, aged cheddar on a milk-bread bun. 

My Bride has been on a Sauvignon Blanc adventure, so I let it continue with Delaille Domaine du Salvard “Unique” Sauvignon Blanc Val de Loire IGP 2020.  Maurice Delaille bought “Le Salvard” around 1900 and what started as ten hectares is now forty-five hectares and has the fifth generation working at the winery.  Val de Loire is a region level IGP that roughly covers the entire Loire Valley and is one of the largest districts in France, based on area.  The majority of the wines with this IGP are single variety.  In 2009 the designation was changed from Vin du Pays to IGP.  The older designation was “Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France.” The vineyard for this wine is fifteen hectares on clay and silica sands.  Whole grape maceration for forty-eight hours and fifteen days on fine lees in Stainless Steel.  The wine has a nose of citrus, basically grapefruit and mango, with similar notes and a nice balance acidity and a medium length finish with some terroir.

I went with a little bigger wine, perhaps even over-kill for my meal, but I had the Vietti “Perbacco” Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2018.  Vietti is a wine producer in the Piedmont, known for their single-vineyard Barolo wines, Barbera wines and the Arneis variety.  The estate produced their first wines in 1919 and they were one of the pioneers of exporting Barolo to the United States of America.  Langhe Nebbiolo is a subset of the Langhe DOC and it is generally thought of as a junior version of Barolo and Barbaresco.  The winery is also free to make the wine as they see fit, as they do not have to abide by the stricter rules of production, aging, barrel types, etc.  The vineyards used for this wine is basically from the Barolo area and some from Barbaresco on soils that is a mix of clay and limestone.  The fermentation for this wine lasts almost a month in Stainless Steel.  Each parcel is processed and aged separately, until they decide which will become Barolo and which will be used for Perbacco.  Total ageing is approximately two years, in large casks and barriques, then the wines are blended in Stainless Steel prior to bottling.  The wine was a medium ruby color with a nose of red fruit, florals and spices.  This was a medium bodied wine that offered some note of cherry, and because it was youthful the tannins were heavy with a decent length finish of terroir.  I think that if this wine had some cellaring the tannins would blend and eventually develop into a well balanced and harmonious wine.     

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A Franciscan Cab at the St. Croix Shop

Almost my entire working career I was a clothier, not a haberdasher, but a clothier.  Over the years I have met some individuals that will always be a clerk.  There was a certain status of being a clothier and it was a respected line of work, especially to the clientele that required a gentlemen’s eye for detail and quality.  I can remember when the store that I was at, for the majority of my career, first started carrying St. Croix knits and it was a momentous occasion.  Knitcraft Corporation, the parent company began in 1960 making the finest “Old World” quality knits in Winona, Minnesota.  The founder of the company had a great statement “you cannot, at any price, from a source in the world, buy a better sweater.  You can only pay more.”

My Bride and I were having an all-day date of shopping, dining and of course some wining as well.  We were in Birmingham, Michigan a city that we often go for a myriad of reasons and we ran into the Sales Representative of St. Croix at the St. Croix Shop and he recognized me, so even with the extra weight that I acquired during retirement, I guess I still looked like me.  We had fun, for sure I did, I probably went over board with the shopping, but I don’t do it that often.  Plus, my Bride was there to make sure that I bought enough.  Well, when it was all over, I had some beautiful sweaters and cardigans, some classic Italian sport shirts, belts, hosiery, trousers and a leather jacket.  My Bride also got excited to get a Chenille scarf for herself while we were there.  I really think the real fun, was reminiscing with the Sales Rep, as he was the Sales Rep that I had basically worked with for years.  Of course, my Bride didn’t think that I would ever leave, especially when I start talking about the old days.

We stayed a little longer, because my old friend the Sales Rep brought out a bottle of wine and he started to apologize, thinking that I must only drink First Growths, I corrected that misconception.  Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Monterey County 2018 was the wine that we were drinking.  Franciscan Estate was established in 1973 in Oakville and their first vintage was in 1975 by Justin Meyer, who was the winemaker at Silver Oak Winery.  The winery is now owned by E&J Gallo and the wines produced are now beyond Napa Valley, as this wine is from Monterey County.  Even with the wine being poured into plastic glasses the nose offered dark fruit and spice, so even with no winemaking notes, I have to presume that the wine did some time in oak.  The wine itself offered notes of cherry and plum, with hints of vanilla and pepper and some integrated tannins noted on the finish.  A very easy drinking wine and perfect for offering to customers in the shop.  My Bride and I had such a great time shopping, that after lunch, we loaded up the car with our purchases, and since we were going to a party later in the day, we had a cooler in the trunk filled with ice and wines, we took two different Vinho Verde bottles of wine to the store before we left Birmingham. 

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