Saturday, October 03, 2020

Review: ****+ Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon State Lane, Napa, California, 2007 (aka CS7)

By way of background:
This is Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon State Lane, Napa, California, vintage 2007, coded CS7. The start of the vinting process is described here.  Original tasting notes from 2011: Ray: color, medium deep red; aroma, fruity and deep bold, hint oxidized; flavor, clean and bold dark chocolate, 4.  Jim: color, deep red; aroma, spice, boysenberry; flavor, light cab, good fruity, smooth finish; 4+.
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Updated review, seven years from vintage date, January, 2014:  Deep mahogany with some brick highlights.  Full, deep, savory nose of pleasant shoepolish.  On the palate, shows an aromatic, sleek, plush and flavorful composure, with elements of dark chocolate, exquisitely balanced with solid, deep fruit and tannins.  Big, and remarkable balance nonetheless.  Four + stars on the Spirit of Wine scale.  Awesome - and long-lived.

One of the most expensive raw grapes I've acquired over the years.  Just goes to show...  The grape makes the wine!


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Updated review, six years later, now 13 years from vintage date, October, 2020:
Consistent color.  Nose fresh but offering a slight hint of oxidation.  Shy fruit, good tannins and solid acids on the palate.  Still solid, but feels like it is slowing down just a little. 

Review: ***+ State Lane Cabernet Sauuvignon, Napa, CA, 2008 (vinted) 2007 (grape vintage) (aka CS8V)

By way of background:  I vinted the 2007 State Lane cabernet sauvignon from Napa with a few different yeasts.  Earlier, I posted reviews with BDX (Bordeaux) yeast here.  Today, I am sampling a version with the VQ-15 (also called Rockpile Syrah) yeast.

Original review, five years from vinting date, October, 2013:  State Lane Cabernet Sauuvignon, Napa, CA, 2008 (vinted) 2007 (grape vintage), made with VQ-15 yeast.

Color:  Deep magenta red, not opaque.

Aroma:  Full fruit and light helium aromatics.  Seems like this will be sweet, full and fresh, despite its age.

Palate:  Inky, bold, bright purple and violet plum fruit.  Solid and sleek, but can't afford a lot more time in bottle.  Three stars with a plus on the Spirit of Wine scale.

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Updated review, seven years later, now 12 years from vintage date, October, 2020:
  Deep red, no bricking.  Deep and full fruit aromatics, not even a hint of age or oxidation.  On the palate, bright, bold and deep fruit, with yummy tannins creating a surround sound.  Delicious.  Four stars with a plus for age plus complexity without compromise!   Awesome find in the wine cooler!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

**** Chez Ray Napa Merlot, California, 2004 (NM4) - Homemade Wine Tasting & Review

 By way of background, opening thoughts: As best I can recall (can't find notes), Chez Ray Napa Merlot for 2004 was fermented warm with BDX (Bordeaux) yeast, and pressed with still a couple degrees of Brix (sugar) left.  That created a harsh initial taste, with much purple fruit.  Let's see what has happened in the intervening seven years. Grapes were acquired frozen from Brehm Vineyards.



Original tasting and review : November, 2011.

In the glass: Dark brilliant magenta, opaque from a half inch in from the edge of the glass.  The bottle shows considerable residue along its side from its time in cellar.  The wine - as you might have expected - is unfiltered. 

On the nose: Poured cool and swirled vigorously, shows bold, bright lifted purple ink.  Seems like this will be bright and mouth-filling.  Perhaps still harsh?

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact much more layered and fruity than expected.  The fruit is not primary, but friendly and welcoming, showing dark ripe plum with an oak mantle, followed by a powerful balanced hit of tannins and acids that almost curl your cheeks.  But the cheek-curling is done with rich purple fruit, which lingers for a good long time. 

In summary: Overall, the potent aromatics and palate rate three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for its lingering intensity.  I would say in five years this wine may still be stretching towards four stars or more.

Following long decant, three days kept cool in partially filled bottle:  Brilliant, lifted purple ink on the nose.  Unique and almost exhilarating.   Consistent palate.

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Updated tasting and review, eight and a half years later, now 16 years from vintage date : August, 2020.

Inspired by this wine:  "A full-throttle parade, and the band has started to play just as it approaches us!"

In the glass: Deep purple red, no bricking at the edge and opaque now from about a half inch in. 

On the nose: Poured cool room temperature and swirled vigorously, shows sharply toned bright purple, with a faint hint of vegetable.

On the palate: Bright red and black raspberries are the first notes, primary fruit with mouth-curdling acidity.   The acids cleanse and wash, leaving a long, faint hint of fruit behind.  This is nothing aged about this wine - the youthfulness and exuberance are still overwhelming.  Ready to be cut with some dense food. 

In summary: Overall, this aromatic and acidic bombshell of an ageless wine still rates three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale.  

Following long decant, two days:  Aroma still captures a perky purple spirit, but has lost the vegetative edge.  Cleaner now.   On the palate, a rounder more balanced mix of fruit, substantive tannins and a nice acidic flush that brings you back for another sip.  Just touches four stars now!  (Sadly, though, I believe this is my last-ever bottle - and I'm closing in to the end of it!)

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Review: ****+ Chez Ray 2008 Stage Gulch Syrah, Petaluma Sonoma CA (SG8V 731-08SGS)

By way of background:  This is Stage Gulch Syrah made with VQ-15 Rockpile yeast.  High hopes for it based on past experiences both with the grape and newer experiences with the yeast.

Date: March 2013:

Color: Deep magenta, opaque from about a quarter inch in.

On the nose:  Deep, funky, smoky.

On the palate:  Full, lush, deep, bold, gritty.  Shows smoky essence along with deep bold blackberry.  Fresh, lingering, full finish.  Four stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale.

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Updated review, seven years later, now 11 years from vintage date, February, 2020:

Color and nose: very consistent, black and bold!

On the palate: full, deep, black and flush.  No sign of excessive age.  Adds a plus to the four stars due to the round, deep palate. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2010 Vintage Cautions and Explanations

Original posting, October, 2011: WARNING, my 2010 Chez Ray reds were, for the most part, unmitigated disasters.  Virtually every one had elements of vinegar in the outcome - some mere hints, some dramatic vinegar flares.  There were two things I did in 2011 that were different from prior vintages:

1) For aging in plastic pails, I intentionally replaced the plastic wrap (Saran Wrap) barriers which I had successfully used in the past, with wax paper, thinking that this was a more organic way to go, likely to generate less unintentional toxins in the resultant wine.

2) I neglected (ok, ok, FORGOT!) to sulfite the wines after malolactic fermentation and before longer-term aging.

I blended the least-vinegary of the red wine batches together in a blend I am calling Chez Ray Salvage 2010 (code SV10).

The rest of the buckets remain in cool storage as near-vinegar.  They are near-vinegar because they sport 13-14% alcohol levels, which is well-above vinegar levels as best I can tell.  If someone has a good suggestion about how to transport these wines back to wine-dom, or push them ahead to full-blown vinegar-dom, I am all ears!  They will certainly be some of the costliest vinegars I will ever enjoy!

Although I cannot with certainty blame either the use of wax paper as an air barrier or the lack of sulfites prior to aging, I will CERTAINLY avoid both for the future.
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Update, June, 2012:  The SV10's show good fruit and layers, but a distinct vinegar overtone.  I have found I can fix that by adding between 3/8 and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda per 750ml bottle.  The amount of baking soda needed to "fix" the more vinegary wines becomes intolerable for consumption.  But for SV10, the trade-off is workable.

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Updated review, over seven years later, now nine years from vintage date, December, 2019:   In the glass, this shows a bold, black/red/mahogany tone, just moving to opaque at the center.  Nose shows no vinegar, but sturdy deep blackberry with a slight hint of pine tar.

On the palate, an acidic tang moves in first, but is followed closely with a deep berry wash, signalling a wine that would really enjoy either: 1) food, immediately! 2) more time in the bottle.  Drinkable, but hard to distinguish varietals. 

Tasting notes: **** Chey Ray Stage Gulch Syrah, Petaluma, Sonoma, CA, 2008 (SG8A)

By way of background:  This is Chey Ray Stage Gulch Syrah, Petaluma, Sonoma, CA, 2008 (SG8A, made from Brehm grapes 731-08SGS).  Grape arrival is referenced here.  The wine was fermented with Assmanshausen yeast, typically reserved for pinot noir and other aromatic varietals.

Tasting notes, now six years from vintage date, May, 2014:  Medium deep dusty red in the glass.  On the nose, shows a soft yet bright red cherry element with a deeper plum note. The palate shows a layered purple, dusty plum quality at first.  Bright red cherry rides up into your cheeks and holds the sip taut there for quite awhile.  The bright grip releases with adult cherry candy fruit slowly dripping from your cheeks.

Nice layers and serious fruit.  Four stars on the Spirit of Wine scale.

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Updated review, over five years later, now 11 years from vintage date,  December, 2019: Still deep dusty red.  Nose shows soft muddled fruit.  Palate brings a, frankly somewhat tired, dry red cherry along on a light flannel undertone, wrapped up with a perky acid blast.  Hasn't improved with the wait, but may still mellow out with time.  It may be that the Assmanshausen yeast simply didn't bring enough depth to the party for this long an aging period.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Updated Posting: 2009 Mendocino Zinfandel Arrives; and Reviews ( **** ZM9A, ZM9B, ZM9C)

Original posting, October, 2009:  This weekend, four crates of zinfandel grapes arrived from Lucchesi Vineyard from Potter Valley in Mendocino County, CA. They come from older vines on St. George root stock. They look to be in great shape, and are delicious fresh. They will comprise the Chez Ray Mendocino Zinfandel, 2009, vintage.


Similar to the Lanza merlot, I will ferment in separate batches with different yeast in each, accordingly:


Lalvin ICV-D254
Mendocino Zinfandel (ZM9A)

Lalvin ICV-D80
Mendocino Zinfandel (ZM9B)

Lalvin BM45
Mendocino Zinfandel (ZM9C)

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Updated posting, March, 2013, almost 3 1/2 years later, tasting of ZM9C (made with BM45 yeast):  Deep red in the glass, with some brick notes at the edge.  Deep, bold red and violet aromas, both husky and bright.  Full and fresh on the palate, with a distinct overtone of laundry that has been airing in the sun.  Three stars on the Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for potency.  Tasting of ZM9A (made with ICV-D254 yeast):  Consistent color and aroma to ZM9C.  Sweeter on the palate, with cleaner aromatics.  Tasting of ZM9B (made with ICV-D80 yeast):  Consistent color, perhaps a bit more brick.  Lighter aromatics, bright red fruit.  Dry and sleek on the palate.  Overall, BM45 yeast seems to impart the "biggest zin" elements; ICV-D80 a more sleek, classic envelope; and ICV-D254 splits the difference.  Subtle differences, but still there after almost four years since vinting.
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Updated posting, now four years from vintage date, November, 2013, blend of ZM9A, ZM9B and ZM9C, so, in effect, a Mendocino Zinfandel purebred...  Deep red with brick notes.  Aromas are sweet with deep violet and slightly aged cough syrup.  Palate shows fleshy deep red fruits plus little hints of perky acid tweets that lodge in your cheeks. Touches of chewing tobacco.  Just nudging past its prime.

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Updated posting, six years later, now a full decade from vintage date, December, 2019, I believe this was the version made with BM45 yeast, but the label was too peeled for me to be certain. 

Deep red, with no opaqueness in the center.  Same sweet, deep violet notes as before, with definite overtones of either cough syrup or motor oil (or cough syrup made of motor oil!).  Very interesting and differentiating.  Big round gobs of fleshy, ripe red berries on the palate.  The motor oil / or cough syrup / or tobacco juice coats your tongue (much more pleasant than it sounds) and brings the sip along for a slow, languorous finish.

Unlike the tasting from six years ago, which would have suggested that this wine would be WAY beyond its drinking age, this seems to have held up just fine.  Maybe even picked up a little verve in the intervening time!  Remarkably, touches four stars now. 

Review: **** State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California. 2008 (CS8B)

Original Review, September, 2012:  This wine was vinted from 705-08SLCS - 2008 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa CA (CS8B) grapes obtained from Brehm Vineyards and fermented with BDX yeast.

Now, four years from vintage date, let's see what we've got:  Deep ruddy red in the glass.  Fragrant, aromatic and actually still bright on the nose.  The palate is yielding, bold, soft and aromatic with plums, red roses and blackberries.  Four stars on the Spirit of Wine scale. 
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Updated review, a year later, now five years from vintage date, October, 2013:  Medium clean red, no ruddiness now.  Helium balloon notes on the nose.  Very consistent palate: drink now, but it brings big, bold, aromatic rose/blackberry/plum.   Definitely still yummy!

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Updated review, another year and a half later, now seven years from vintage date, May, 2015:  Deep red, opaque in the center.  Bold and clean lifted red aromatics.  Very bright, clean, fresh, sweet and full of red, perky fruit.  Still delicious.  Definitely still in the four star category!

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Updated review, four and a half years later, now 11 years from vintage date, December, 2019:  Colors have held fast.  Red berry aromatics, almost approaching strawberry.  Deep red, opaque in the center.  Bold and clean lifted red aromatics.  Bright fruit on the palate, with solid acids and tannins clearing your sip.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Rating: ***+ 2004 Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon (CS4, C4, C'4), Lodi, CA

Original review, September, 2007:
In this glass, this is ruby red, the color of a medium feminine pinot noir, not a burly cabernet sauvignon. Aroma is powerful, though, of bright aged ripe fruit and oak. On the palate, bright sweet cherry cola flavors encircle the taste buds with a hint of acid, following with a mild, lasting sweet cherry finish. Not classic cabernet, but a friendly, just off-dry wine giving great pleasure.
Three plus stars out of five.


Updated review, June, 2009: Similar color, now beginning to brick. Aroma is a bit more spongy and sweet now. Sip brings more muted flavors now, round, still with elements of cola, evenly touching palate with only hints of acid. Clean, cherry finish, lightly sweet.

Updated again, November, 2013:  Light brick orange color.  Funky, orangy-sweet aromatics.  Clean and light cherry cola, may want to be sipped a little cooler than the room temperature at which I am sampling it.

Updated yet again, almost six years later, now 15 years from vintage date, August, 2019:  Very similar notes to the 2013 posting.  Sipped cool, gentle and lightly sweet.  Solid three stars now. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

*** Chez Ray Cabernet Franc, 2004, Lodi, CA

Original Review, January, 2009: The Chez Ray Cabernet Franc, 2004, was made from Lodi grapes, fermented warm, with a combination of French and American oak.

In the glass, the cab franc is a light ruby, slightly brick red/pink. Think pinot noir with a couple of years.

Aromas have a strong cork/woody element, which I recognize from a particular brand of agglomerated cork I used for some bottles in these vintages. Once you sniff past that, you get to a bright, light fruit.

On the palate, a bright, even middle of red cherry trickles down the sides of your mouth carried in light acids. The woody/cork taint hangs its tattered cloth over the otherwise light, sweet, acidic blend. Two stars out of five on the Spirit of Wine scale. Might be a plus in there with a different cork. Can't see it hitting three stars though - the stuffing just doesn't seem to be there in the underlying fruit.
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Updated review, almost a year and a half later, June, 2010: muddy mid red in the glass.  Still that agglomerated cork aroma, with fruit.  Bright red cherry, light wood, light cork.  I'll hold at two stars.
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Updated review, over nine years later, now 15 years from vintage date, August, 2019: (I believe I labeled these "F4" on bottles) now still mid red in the glass, but no muddiness.  The cork aroma - thankfully! - is gone.  Sweet, bright, light red fruit aromatics.  Seems young.  On the palate, it brings a lightly wooded, bright red berry fruit, with decent layers and surround sound.  Quick but clean finish.  Now touches three stars!  Surprisingly long ager.