My Peter’s Picks for this week are the extraordinary wines of Chateau Carbonnieux from the great 2015 vintage. The origins of this estate date back to 1234, and the Chateau was included in the Grand Cru Classification of Graves in 1959. The wines of this estate, both white and red, are among only six crus of the nine thousand estates of Bordeaux to bear this Classification. The estate farms sustainably and organically.
2015 Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classé de Graves Blanc
The Garonne gravel found in the Pessac-Léognan Appellation certainly produces the best dry white wines in the Bordeaux region. This wine is a classic example of the genre. Made from 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, this is a winner from the get-go, with lemon curd and vanilla aromas leading into a round, supple yet vibrant mouthfeel. Flavors dance across the palate, and the wine has both weight and brightness. Layers of melon, fig, and vanilla mingle with grapefruit and lime citrus. This terrific white can be drunk with incredible pleasure today or cellared for a decade or more.
2015 Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classé de Graves
Thomas Jefferson visited the Chateau in 1786, and was so impressed by the red wine that he mentioned it in his diary. It is hard not to overdo my appreciation of this wine. It is a saturated ruby/purple, with a complex nose of blackcurrant, plum, mocha, fresh sawdust (love that smell!), sweet tobacco, and vanilla. The palate focuses on soft, chewy ripe fruit backed by smooth, ripe tannins. This is elegant and supple, smooth and refined. Outstanding wine in every respect. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.
2015: The magic of “5”
Bordeaux remembers the mythical 1945, 55, 75 or more recently 85, 95 and 2005.
A perfect weather along the vegetative cycle allows 2015 to follow the ten-year legend for the marvelous vintages produced in years ending in “5"
-Peter Neptune, Master Sommelier
This week’s Peter’s Pick focuses on Darms Lane, a boutique producer located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The vineyard was first planted in 1983, and the grapes were sold as Crighton Hall Vineyard grapes. The entire estate was acquired in 2002 by one of the partners, Larry Bump. The first Estate Grown wines were released in 2005. Today Darms Lane produces a total of 3,000 cases of wine. I tasted a few of their wines last week and thought that the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were outstanding examples of Napa Valley wines at very attractive price points.
2016 Oak Knoll District Chardonnay: Attractive aromas of white peach, pear, brioche, and lemon zest. The palate is full-bodied and round, with vibrant citrus and tree fruit and a nice touch of vanilla from the judicious use of one quarter new oak. This lovely Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged. Only 70 barrels were produced.
2014 Bon Passe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: this has classic notes of black cherry and blackberry surrounded by cedar and cocoa, leading into a round, lush mouthfeel with those dusty Oak Knoll tannins framing the cassis and berry flavors. The wine saw 50% new oak and it shows as graham cracker crust and notes of chocolate. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a real sense of place and is a must for fans of this noble grape. Only 24 barrels were produced.
I spoke at a tasting event and dinner at the beautiful Meadow Club in Fairfax, CA last Monday, April 1st. We featured wines from New Zealand and Australia.
We started off with a casual reception, pouring wines for the arriving guests. We featured a wonderful selection of wines, including a Tasmanian Sparkling Rosé from Jansz, which was a huge hit; Neudorf Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, classic grapefruit and passion fruit flavors; Pikes Clare Valley Riesling, a dry Riesling in every wat that won over many new fans; Vasse Felix Premier Chardonnay from the Margaret River region of Western Australia, which demonstrated a cool Old World vive; The Ceres Central Otago Pinot Noir, vibrant and delicious; Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, spot on for the style; Wirra Wirra McLaren Vale Shiraz, big, juicy, and friendly; and perhaps the hit of the tasting the Yalumba Bush Vine Barossa Valley Grenache, which surprised a lot of the tasters with its precision and focus, as well as undeniable drinkability.
We then sat down for an amazing dinner prepared by the chef of the club, Emmanuel Jamotte, who has been there for more than 25 years.
We started with an Australian Barramundi filet, over a vanilla sauce with veggies. What a preparation! One if the best fish dishes I have had in recent memory. I paired it with Ceres Central Otago Pinot Gris and Clearview Estate Reserve Chardonnay. Both wines were terrific – the Reserve Chardonnay lived up to its name in every way – but the Ceres Pinot Gris was just perfect with the fish. I have always felt that Pinot Gris is actually the best white wine style produced in NZ, and this wine had it all – body, palate weight, creaminess, yellow apple and pear fruit – what a wine! I was very gratified to see that this wine, and the Big Sky Pinot Noir, received the most orders at the end of the evening.
The next course was a perfectly prepared Cassoulet. I paired it with the Big Sky Martinborough Pinot Noir. Perfect pairing, with the Big Sky matching brilliantly with the duck confit, every bite begging for a sip. This is a really nice bottle of Pinot Noir, with vivid red fruit and perfect balance.
The main course featured a double cut of rack of lamb, exact medium rare, with a side of crazy good truffled potatoes gratin. We brought out the big guns – two of the top examples of Cabernet/Shiraz blends from the Barossa Valley of South Australia. This was a tough one to call – and sales proved it as we sold an equal amount of both wines. The Henschke Keyneton Estate “Euphonium” is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. It is both elegant and concentrated, with tremendous presence on the palate. The Yalumba “Signature” is roughly 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and it is a powerful wine with a lot of weight and grip. They both paired perfectly with the lamb and for me it would be a toss-up as to which was the top wine.
To finish a perfect evening we had a lemon cheesecake, and, just because we could, we paired it with a “stickie”, the Yalumba Museum Muscat. Aussie stickies are a national treasure and one of that country’s vinous gifts to the world. Really a dessert on its own, this sweet wine (243 grams per liter of residual sugar!!!) bombards the senses with a complex melange of caramel, toffee and chocolate.
Thank you to Jack Grehan, the GM of the Meadow Club and his staff for putting together such a wonderful dinner. Cheers!