Cabernet Sauvignon

Women in Wine | Cathy Corison | Corison Winery

wine bottle wine glassesTwo of my three favorite things in the world, women and wine, came together one recent fateful evening at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their “Women & Wine” dinner featured three of America’s top wines, all of which are produced by, you guessed it… women. Like my recent five part series focus on affordable California Cult Wines, I’ve opted to give each of these fabulous females their time in the spotlight.

The first winemaker needs little introduction for many. Cathy Corison is widely considered a pioneering presence for women in the Napa Valley. And boy, can she make wine. Corison has been a winemaker for more than 3 decades, putting her hand behind legendary names like Chapellet and Staglin during the early and mid 80s. She’s quick to point out that a strong support system has been essential to her success, attributing her husband’s work on equipment maintenance and bookkeeping as the backbone behind her accomplishments.
Corison Winery’s inaugural vintage was in 1987, with a focus on elegant, finesse-driven Cabernet  from benchland vineyards located between St. Helena and Rutherford. A great winemaker requires great vineyards to make great wines, and Corison is the first to acknowledge this. Her vineyards are composed largely of stony, alluvial soils. She explains that while these vineyards produce “some of the most concentrated and superbly ripened fruit anywhere”, her wine making philosophy is “traditional, using only small oak barrels”. It is her job to let the vineyards speak. They don’t just speak, they roar.
The 2000 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is a great example of Corison’s lofty reputation, currently showing at its peak with soft, elegant tannins and ripe, complex fruit. Hands down one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year, James Laube of Wine Spectator rated it a conservative 90 pts back in 2003. Like he suggested, the 2000 vintage was a tough one that would require 10 years to show its merits. If this wine is any indication, Laube is spot on. Luck for us, this and many other older vintages are still available from Corison’s Library Collection.
Cathy Corison has raised the bar high for fellow females in the California wine scene. Stay tuned to see if the other two ladies featured that evening could live up to Corison’s legendary status.

A modest 3,200 cases were made of this wine. Also still available in magnum format for $240, this is the perfect bottle to buy for anyone looking for a long term cellaring, “cultish” California Cabernet.

Edited by Jon Troutman

How one Napa Valley producer has found success by focusing on Quality not Quantity

wine bottleRobert Craig, one of Napa Valley’s most dynamic and hard working winemakers, recently took a small break from his busy schedule to visit the Phoenix area. I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest at a wine maker dinner he was hosting at the outstanding, newly designed restaurant, Bistro Laurent Tourondel (BLT).

BLT has built a reputation for their fabulous cellar, stocked full of top tier Napa Valley and Bordeaux, valued at a cool $100,000.  As quickly as I was let in to their cellar, I was let out… I think the manager was concerned with my wandering, awestruck eyes.  You have to be careful of those blogger types, eh?
dining room

Dining room and wine cellar

Returning to the dining room, Robert Craig entered to a warm round of applause.  Craig took us on a journey of his winery’s history and experiences before delving into an important piece of his wine making philosophy.  He critically referred to the American culture of always looking out for what’s next, always trying to get bigger and bigger and bigger, especially in business.  At this point in his life, which he jokingly refers to as “getting on in years”,  he is not concerned with producing more wine as many of his neighbors are. Instead, his focus is on quality.  It became obvious that his philosophy is taken from many smaller, boutique European producers, as he continually referenced the ideals of these overseas cohorts.

scottsdale BLT

Guests enjoying champagne before dinner

The first course was a country style duck pate with brandied cherries, pistachio and arugula paired with the 2008 Robert Craig “Durrell Vineyard” Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley.  This Chardonnay is the only wine he makes outside of Napa, and the only white wine in his entire portfolio.  Aged in a mix of 10% new French oak, 65% neutral French oak and 25% Stainless steel, it is a wine that is light on oak, focused on fruit purity and a distinct sense of the Durrell Vineyard terroir. Less than 500 total cases were produced.

This was followed by roasted pork belly, ricotta gnudi, root vegetable fricassee and crispy pork skins paired with the 2007 Robert Craig “Affinity”, a Bordeaux styled blend created specifically with “the restaurant experience in mind”, as Craig explained.  The wine should not require additional aging or decanting to be enjoyed.  Each year just under 6,000 cases of Affinity are produce and every year it sells out.  With a 96 point score from Robert Parker, it’s no wonder they have no trouble selling it.  I found the wine to be smooth and supple in the way it just seemed to glide across the palate.  It screams quintessential Napa Valley, with cassis, perfume, violet and a hint of tar.  At $48 retail, this might be the steal of the century.

I just had to take this picture!

The third course was a Grouper stew featuring lobster mushrooms, chirozo and northern beans, a great but non-traditional pairing for the 2006 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Cabernet.  A big and chewy wine with rich tannins, this is a bigger style than the Affinity, requiring a slight decant for maximum enjoyment.

The main course, a pepper-crusted NY strip with huckleberry braised beef cheek, roasted carrots and fava beans was paired with the 2006 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  With a miniscule production of  1,240 cases, this wine is simply stunning.  It is riper than the Mt. Veeder with an even longer finish. This is a serious Napa Cab with a long future ahead of it, meaning that decanting is recommended in the near future.
The fifth and final course was caramelized French butter pears with cambozola ice cream inside of a walnut crisp pastry paired with the 2007 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Zinfandel. This is where the pairings really pushed the envelope.  Cambozola ice cream tastes like ice cream made with brie and blue cheese.  However, it really worked with the sweet pears and the earthy zinfandel.  The fruit comes from the famous Black Sears vineyard on Howell Mountain, the highest vineyard on Howell Mountain. The wine is peppery with a pronounced minerality that I found to be quite interesting. Again, at only 800 cases produced, Craig’s mantra for quality and not quantity becomes evident.
Sitting next to Robert Craig throughout dinner and having deep conversation with him, you get a real feel for the winemaker.  Humble, soft spoken and gentle, but also exceptional.  More producers should take a cue from Craig and focus on their wine, not the numbers.
Edited by Jon Troutman

Wine Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 182, 2005 Meritage, Atlas Peak

Cameron Hughes Lot 182, 2005 Meritage, Atlas Peak

2005 Atlas Peak Cameron Hughes Meritage

90% Cabernet

There is a kind of funny, unofficial story behind the labeling on this wine.  The blend is 90% Cabernet, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  Technically this wine could have been called a Cabernet.  But as the story goes, there was a mix up and the labels had already been made.

Total production for Lot 182 is only 1,700 cases, and rather unusual to this acquisition is the fact that the wine was purchased in shiners (unlabeled bottles) that had been cellar aged for 4 years.  And speaking of the bottles, these bottles are taller and heavier in weight than most.  The extra aging has an amazing effect on this mountain fruit.  It is ripe and rich with loads of Blueberry, Cassis and Blackberry.  The tannins are firm and fine, and the finish is rich and chocolaty.  According to Cameron this wine was aged in 40% new French Oak.  Alcohol comes in at 14.5%  At $15 this is a ridiculously low price for a wine that is really starting to reach is prime right now.

Rating: 93 points.

Wine Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 200

Cameron Hughes Wine, Lot 200, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Napa Valley Cabernet

It is important to drink the whole bottle when reviewing wine

Production: 4,000 Cases

Price: $28 Retail

Before you rush out and buy this wine you need to ask yourself a few questions:  Am I a wine connoisseur or a casual drinker?  Am I familiar with the Cameron Hughes story and business model.  Why ask these questions?  Because it’s important to understand that this wine, Lot 200 is quite unlike the rest of the wines you might find in the grocery store.  This is a serious, SERIOUS wine.  What does that even mean?  It means it would be a complete waste of this wine to buy it, take it home pop the cork and without decanting pour yourself a glass and pair it with some steak you bought for $4 a pound at your local grocer.  This is the kind of wine that you would buy several cases of, put them in a PROPER wine fridge and hold on to them for the next 10 years.  And when you decide to enjoy it, you would treat it like a FINE wine.  This means serve it at the correct temperature, allow adequate decanting, drinking it out of the proper stemware, preferably your Riedel.  Otherwise what you are doing is the equivalent of buying a Lamborghini and then driving up to the Circle K to buy some scratch and wins.

Moreover, this wine is still in its infancy and will age gracefully for many years to come, so buying just one bottle next week will not give you the pleasure of experiencing it throughout its life cycle. This is something that is just not possible with $10 wine. In fact right now it is barely ready to drink, but if you are a connoisseur you will be able to tell what it is capable of.  If you are a casual drinker it is unlikely you will appreciate this wine.  Does this sound like elitism or wine snobbery? Maybe, but I’m hoping its helpful for you as the reader of this post in determining whether or not you are going to spend the money and buy several dozen bottles of Lot 200.

Now that we’ve asked ourselves a few questions, lets take a look at Lot 200.

This wine is sourced from 3 of Napa Valley’s most well known sub regions: Stag’s Leap, Rutherford and Oakville.  In a recent video post on his website Cameron Hughes states that the winery he acquired this wine from does not sell a bottle of wine for under $200 a bottle and has multiple 100 point scores.  So once again, we’re not dealing with the level of wine most casual consumers are used to dealing with.

On the nose hints of plum and Cassis, the palate is currently displaying significant amounts of star anise and dark chocolate as well as plummy tannins.  Right now this wine is just too young, it is not ready to enjoy to its fullest, although I really did enjoy drinking the bottle, this wine is going to get significantly better over the next year, so some patience and proper storage conditions are a must.

Note:  I purchased this wine with my own hard earned cash

Purchase Lot 200 HERE (Cameron Hughes Website)

Wine Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 188

Cameron Hughes Lot 188, 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill Sonoma County

Alcohol: 14.5%Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Production: 7,500 cases

Price: $16 retail

This wine is sourced from the same vineyard/winery as Lot 73 and Lot 140 in the Chalk Hill area of Sonoma County.  Cameron Hughes Wine secured all of the Cabernet coming off  this 500+ acre vineyard which is the source for over 20 ultra premium brands.  The winery who held this Cabernet contract previously was selling their wine for $60 a bottle.

On the nose,  gentle aromas of raspberries and blackberries.  The palate has a rich mouthfeel with fine chalk like tannins.  NOTE: the wine does not taste like chalk!  Great balance of acidity tannins and fruit, and a decent finish make this wine a heck of a deal for $16 online, or $13.99 at select Costco’s.  If you enjoyed Lot 140 you will really enjoy Lot 188.  It’s just a little bigger and bolder, but equally ready to drink, a “pop and pour” wine as they say.  Although, with just a little decanting this wine will taste even better.  Cameron Hughes says this is a great “go to” wine…I agree.  It’s a great weekly drinker, a great wine if you’re suddenly in the mood for wine and don’t have hours to wait for the wine to decant.

Wine Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 172

Cameron Hughes Lot 172 | 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley

I bought this wine for about $19 on a recent trip to Costco.

Lot 172 wine bottle

Cameron Hughes Wine Lot 172

It is a little pricier than most of Cameron’s Wines, but in my experience that means its going to be an amazing wine.  Maybe it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, and probably not a good way to start an “objective” wine review but that’s how I roll!

First lets look at the technicals for Lot 172:  The blend is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec, with 95% of the fruit being sourced from Atlas Peak and 5% from Napa Valley.  The alcohol content is 14.9% and production was 4,000 cases.

Lot 172 wine image picture

Lot 172 in the glass

On the nose:  Black fruits and a little vanilla oak.  On the palate: Rich and young, typical of mountain fruit. The tannins are mouth puckering yet not out of balance with the other aspects of the wine, though if you are not a fan of big tannins you should decant for several hours and/or cellar this wine for a while.  The fruit on the palate is predominantly blackberry/blueberry with black tea tannins and more vanilla notes.  If you are a fan of big bold California Cabernet’s that are slightly less ripe than the typical valley floor wines, this is the wine for you.  This is a wine made for a big juicy grilled steak.

Recent accolades for Lot 172 include a Double Gold medal at the Long Beach Grand Cru and a 92 point rating from Wine Enthusiast.  Not surprisingly this wine is now sold out online and can only be found at select Costco’s.

Wine Review | Blackstone Winery | 2007 Sonoma Reserve | Merlot Rubric Cabernet

Blackstone Winery Sonoma Reserve Merlot 2007, Sonoma Countywine label

The blend: 85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Ruby Cabernet and 2% Petite Verdot

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 27,000 cases

Suggested Retail Price: $20

The grapes for this wine were sourced from vineyards in 6 out of the 13 A.V.A’s in Sonoma County, predominantly Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley.  This wine is a powerful representation of what Merlot can be.  It’s a big Merlot, not for the faint of heart.  The fruit is decent but it takes significant decanting to really be enjoyed.   After only an hour of decanting I found the alcohol to be quite dominant.  The next day after some of the alcohol had evaporated off I was able to enjoy the fruity side of this wine.  The fruit is predominantly Cherry enveloped in a layer of toasty oak.

Blackstone Winery  Sonoma Reserve, Rubric 2007Rubric label

The Blend: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Tannat, 5% Merlot and 3% Petite Sirah.

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 7,000 cases

Suggested Retail Price: $22

The fruit for this wine was sourced from 4 vineyards located in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley.  The wine was aged in seasoned French Oak for 20 months.

On the nose I detected a light tobacco aroma, the palate was quite interesting with a mix of caramel and coffee.  Although the blend is reminiscent of Bordeaux blends, the wine is definitely more of the California Meritage style.  Higher alcohol and riper fruit dominate this wine once again and I would recommend decanting.

Blackstone Winery Sonoma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Sonoma County2007 Sonoma reserve Cabernet

The Blend: 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 17,000 cases

Suggested Retail Price: $20

This wine was by far my favorite of the three.  The nose is subdued but you will find hints of spicy oak and chocolate.  The palate is where this wine really shines.  Classic Sonoma Cabernet fruit.  This wine reminds me a lot of Cameron Hughes Lot 140 from Chalk Hill Sonoma.  Plummy and juicy with lighter tannins than many Napa valley Cabernet’s.  I decanted this wine for an hour before tasting which was sufficient, unlike the other two wines this one does not need significant decanting.  Of the three wines tasted here I would put this one as the best value and worthy of spending the $20 on.

*disclaimer* These wines were received as samples

Review: Fleming’s Women and Wine Dinner

Steakhouse dining room

Fleming's on North Scottsdale Road

Last week Fleming’s Steakhouses across the country hosted their “Women & Wine” dinners.  At the events guests were treated to some amazing wines made by some legendary women in the wine world including Cathy Corison, Kristin Belair and Janet Myers.

Cathy Corison wine

Corison 2000 Cabernet

We started out the evening with swiss cheese puffs and house cured salmon, citrus creme fraiche and crispy wonton.  These were paired with Cathy Corison’s 2000 vintage  Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa valley.  Cathy Corison is a legendary wine maker having made wines for over 30 years for brands like Chappellet, Staglin Family, York Creek and Long Meadow Ranch.  It was very nice to taste a wine that has had significant time to age in the bottle.  This  wine was very refined with beautiful and mature tannins.  It paired very well with the food as it was soft and gentle enough as to not overpower  the food.

Next we enjoyed Butternut squash bisque with Danish blue cheese fondue and bacon herb bruschetta.  This was paired with Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa.  Kristin Belair is the wine maker at Honig and has been since 1998.  This wine is much bigger and bolder, younger than the Corison.  It displays notes of sage and currant as well as a pronounced creamy vanilla which only really came out after the Lamb chops served next.  The wine manager for this Fleming’s location, Tony Novak suggested we save a little of the Honig to try later after the main course, to see how it changes with the main course.  And it did.  I thought it was delicious to begin with, but actually found it tasted better with the rosemary Lamb chops which is what we enjoyed next.

05 Magnificat

Rosemary-scented lamb chops on parmesan risotto with maple roasted parsnips and a red wine demi glace.  This was paired with Franciscan, Magnificat 2005 from Napa.  This wine is made by Janet Myers who joined Franciscan Estate in 2003 and began winemaker in 2005.  Janet is also the winemaker at Mount Veeder winery. The ’05 Magnificat is a blend of 73% Cabernet, 23% Merlot, 2% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.  This wine is loaded with dark fruit, powerful and a made for red meat!

During the dinner we watched on a big flat screen some short videos made by Wine Spectator which gave us a little insight into the wine makers and the wines, including interviews and scenery.  I thought that was a nice touch.

My favorite part of the dinner came next: dessert!   Thick and rich caramel pudding with crumbled Heath bar on top with shortbread cookies on the side. The dessert was pretty big and I was unable to finish it all, but I kept going back and nibbling on it, I couldn’t stop myself.

At the end of dinner each table was presented with a special gift.  A set of nice big red wine glasses with the Fleming’s “F” engraved on it and a bottle of the 2005 Magnificat.  That was really an amazing touch because the wine alone retails for about $55 a bottle.  Guests enjoyed an amazing meal, amazing wines, and then were given a whole bottle and two glasses for later…all for $95 a plate.  It’s these  extras that can really make a merely good evening into a great evening.

*Disclaimer*  I attended this event as a guest of Fleming’s and Tin Can Marketing.

An Evening with Robert Craig, part 2

This is part 2, to first read part 1 click here
After the initial interview Mr Craig went back to his hotel room to get ready for

BLT reception area

The Champagne reception area

the dinner.  During this time I was introduced to Trudy Thomas, director of beverage for the Camelback Inn.  Trudy introduced me to the other guests and we chatted and mingled while sipping champagne  in the reception area before being seated in the private dining area.  Trudy gave me a quick tour inside the wine cellar.  While not large in terms of quantity, this cellar is impressive for its big Napa and Bordeaux representation.  There is at least $100,000 worth of wine in a long narrow walk in cellar that resembles a library in a mahogany hallway.   Trudy is one of those people is truly passionate about what she does.  What she does is manage all the beverages for the resort, and among other things she  helps create the winemaker dinner experience.   She has a perfect job, but it’s definitely not just luck.  Trudy has 18 years in the wine business and is the only person to have taken both Society of Wine Educators CSW and CWE exams on the same day and passed.  I met the man who administered the test and he said that Trudy actually knows even more about spirits! She is meticulous with the details of every aspect of each wine maker dinner.  She can spot a spot on a glass a mile away.  In fact while we were talking she casually turned a glass upside down and set it back on the dinner table, it was my glass, I wondered what she was doing and seamlessly from out of nowhere a waiter silently appeared and replaced the glass with another. Trudy said that these dinners are not about making money for the resort, in fact at $85 a plate it barely covers the costs.

BLT at the Camelback Inn wants to be known for being the valley’s go to place for fine dining, an experience without equal.  The wine maker dinners are all about showcasing their talent, their creativity and their  attention to detail.

At 6:30 all the guests were escorted into the

BLT private dining entrance

The private dining room

private dining area adjoining the wine cellar.  Awaiting us, were glasses of Robert Craig’s only white wine.  The 2008 Robert Craig “Durell Vineyard” Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley. We took our seats and awaited for Mr Craig’s arrival.  He arrived to warm applause and he humbly smiled and lowered his head and sort of shuffled over to his seat.  He spoke for a few minutes before sitting down.  He spoke a little bit of his history, the history of the vineyards and his wine making philosophy, which is once you reach a certain point it’s not about making more wine it’s about making better wine.

The first course arrived and the guests began enjoying the Chardonnay.  The first course consisted of Country Style Duck Pate, brandied Cherries, a little bit of pistachio and some spicy rocket, also known as arugula.  I found the Chardonnay to be a good representation of the terroir of Sonoma in terms of Chardonnay.  Not oaky, not buttery, just well-balanced almost understated.

As guests were finishing up, the waiters and waitresses began bringing in glasses of red wine for everyone.

wine glasses on a table

Pre pouring the wine saves time

One of the details that Trudy employs to help keep the evening moving forward is to have the wines poured outside of the room and brought in.  It is much quicker than moving about the room pouring the wines while the guests wait.  The second course was roasted pork belly with Ricotta Gnudi, root vegetable fricassee, and crispy pork skins.  This was paired with Robert Craig’s 2007 “Affinity”.  Affinity is Robert Craig Winery’s flagship wine.  each year about 5,000 to 6,000 cases of this Bordeaux blend are made.  This wine is made with the restaurant setting in mind.  Which means it is to be consumed sooner rather than later, and without the need of too much decanting.  Mr Craig said that he wanted to make a wine that restaurants didn’t have to hold on to for 10 or 20 years before they are ready to drink.  And just in case you think drink now means lesser quality, the 2007 Affinity received 96 points from Robert Parker.

Robert Craig Winery 2007 Affinity

I found this wine to be incredibly smooth and supple.  Perfectly balanced.  One thing that really stands out is the beautiful aromatics.  The wine is a blend of 79% Cabernet, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec.  5,700 cases of the wine were but I was informed by wine broker Mattias Stolpe that this wine was virtually already sold out.  It retails for only about $50 so you can see why it’s almost gone.

The third course consisted of hunter style Grouper stew, Lobster mushrooms, Chorizo and Northern beans.  This was paired with the 2006 Mount Veeder Cabernet.  It’s not common to pair fish with red wines, let alone a massively powerful mountain wine like this.  But it worked, fantastically, amazingly.

wine bottle

2006 Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

The Mt. Veeder Cabernet is actually 81% Cab and 19% Merlot and alcohol clocks in at 14.9% which is amazing to me because the was absolutely no heat present.  This wine is still young, still just a baby.  It has big bold chewy velvety tannins, it makes your mouth pucker up at this point but has a long, long finish.  One of the things that Mr Craig told me about is that he feels that enjoying wine is not so much about enjoying wine at its prime as it is about enjoying wine throughout its life cycle.  Enjoying and experiencing it young and enjoying it right on through to its prime and even past.

Next up was the highlight of the night.  Course number four was a thick, pepper crusted New York Strip, hidden under the steak were huckleberry Braised beef cheeks.  I never would have thought to buy beef cheeks at the grocery store and wouldn’t have known how to prepare them, until now.  I asked the chef how they made them and he said they boiled them and then seared and marinated them in wine and huckleberry.  The result was stunning, delicious.  The two styles of beef were paired with the 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet.

wine bottle

2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet

This wine was quite different from the Mt Veeder.  It is much Riper and the tannins are more in check but with a seemingly never-ending finish.  This wine is a blend of 84% Cabernet, 12% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  Only 1,240 cases were produced. The wine saw 20 months in French oak, 75% new and 25% 2nd year.

In between wines and courses Mr Craig would visit the guests at their tables, and while sitting at the table he would ask questions of me, as I was trying to ask questions of him!  In his very quiet and humble way he shows an interest in people equal to the interest people have in him.  We talked about his safari to Africa which is a topic close to me, as I was born in Africa and lived there until I was almost 9.  I also asked him about what sorts of things, besides wine, is he interested in and he said Native American heritage and culture. In particular preserving the languages.  He also enjoys sailing and given his Coast Guard background I can see why.

Trudy Thomas and Robert Craig

The fifth and final course consisted of Caramelized French butter pears with Cambozola ice cream inside of a walnut crisp pastry.  This was paired with the 2007 Howell Mountain Zinfandel.  This pairing really pushed the envelope.  The pears were delicious.  The Cambozola ice cream was like ice cream made from Brie and Blue cheese.  Your mind is ready for some vanilla and suddenly you are struck by the aftertaste of blue cheese.  The pears really are the sweet part of the desert, and are a perfect match with the ice cream.  The Zinfandel was really amazing.  If you like jammy zins this is not a wine for you.  This is a seriously big peppery zin but with powerful mountain tannins and a good concentration of black raspberries.  Only 800 cases were produced and it retails for about $50 a bottle.

While the final course was being served Chef Marc Hennessy came out and spoke briefly with the guests.  He explained a little bit of the theory behind the pairings.  He wanted this and the other wine maker dinners to really be a showcase for what can be done, not just for its own sake, but to make something that amazes people.  He jokingly referenced the pastry chef’s insistence that the ice cream be made entirely of blue cheese by saying “There is no way there is going to be blue cheese ice cream”  Instead he struck a compromise, and I would say luckily!

This night turned out to be one of the highlights of the year for me.  It was great to meet one of the people who has been instrumental in getting Napa Valley on the map and especially Mt Veeder, Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain.  I am looking forward to future vintages as the focus on producing higher and higher quality wine continues.

Trudy Thomas on Twitter  @INNtoxic8ting

Robert Craig Winery Website

Camelback Inn Website

Bistro Laurent Trouondel (BLT) website

World Wide #Cabernet Day

If you are on Twitter and enjoy wine you won’t want to miss #Cabernet on Thursday September 2nd, 2010.  With over 50 wineries and over 100 restaurants participating from all over the world this is sure to be the biggest online tasting ever.  You can participate by following the hashtag #Cabernet.  This online gathering is the brainchild of Rick Bakkas and St Supery.  Rick is a  social media expert and works for St Supery winery in California.  Rick has hosted online events like this before, but this one is definitely getting the most “buzz” pardon the pun.

Check out the Event Brite listing to see a list of participating wineries and restaurants.  If you are in the Phoenix Metro area give Morton’s Steakhouse a call  (they are one of the sponsors)  They are offering BV Coastal Cabernet for $6 a glass.

Morton’s Phoenix: 602 955 9577

Morton’s Scottsdale: 480 951 4440

If you are hosting a party or event and want to promote it, please leave your info in the comment section below!  Cheers!