Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tasting notes and review: *** Lanza Merlot 2009

This is Lanza Merlot from Suisun Valley, California.  The grape arrival was described here.

Two years after harvest, November, 2011, this shows as deep purple magenta, opaque from about a half inch from the edge of the glass.

On the nose, it shows bright purple ink with lifted alcohol.

Still quite primary and fruity on the palate, with rich deep fruits, but an overtone of acetic acid (ie, vinegar).  Finish is lively and clean.  Three stars on a five star scale, with a plus for deep potency.

Updated review, two and a half years later, now five years from vintage date, May, 2014:  Still deep magenta.  Aromatically, less purple but still somewhat inky.  Fresh, bright on the palate, showing crisp, acid-toned redish blackberry fruit.  Holding well.  Wants food to cut the brightness.

Updated review for ML9C, now seven years from vintage date, June, 2016:  Deep magenta still.  No bricking at the edges of which to speak.  Colleagues still pick up the ink on the nose.  Full-featured blackberry on the palate, Deep, happy and bright.  Easy three stars. Almost touches a plus for potency, longevity and poignancy.  Inspired by Chez Ray Lanza Merlot ML9C:  "Yes, school is school, but every now and then an experience still stands out."

Review: **+ Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot, Suisin Valley, California, 2007 (CM7)

Updated review, now six years from vintage date, November, 2013:  This is Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot, Suisin Valley, California, 2007 (CM7), with initial reviews reported here.

Here were original notes: CM7 (2007 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Suisin Valley): Ray: color light red with pink highlights; aroma clean and fresh with blackberries; flavor supple and round.  2+ for friendly. Karin: too tannic.  Eric: Color deep red; aroma very subtle but rich and alcoholic; longer finish, light but frui9ty, not too sweet, 3+.  Rob: color light red; aroma faint alcohol, strawberry; flavor smoother, berry finish, 3.

Still shows as light to medium red, with no opacity.  Bold fully ripe blackberry on the nose.  Bright, easy red and black berry fruit on the palate, brings closing acids up into your cheeks.  Still two stars with a plus.

Another updated review, three more years later, now nine years from vintage date, June, 2016:  Consistent notes and rating.  Still bright.  Hasn't mellowed.  Hasn't tired.

***+ Chez Ray Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley CA, 2007

Original review, December, 2010:  This is a first bottle sampling of the Chez Ray Rutherford Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley CA, 2007 vintage (code CR7), whose preparation was described here.

In the glass Chez Ray Rutherford Cab 2007 shows as deep, dusty magenta red, with brick hues at the edges of the glass.  That brick coloring seems a bit surprising for so young a cabernet (I'd be expecting more purple this at this young age).

Served cool and with a brief decant, this high-end vineyard cabernet shows rich, concentrated prune juice on the nose.

On the palate, this remains dry and tight, with just a hint of remaining funk (that will probably still blow off).  Good tannins and grit in the structure, but it is still hiding the fruit.  Will need to mellow in the bottle a year or two longer.   Right now, two stars on the Spirit of Wine scale, with a big plus for potential.

Updated review, a year later, December, 2011:  Medium deep red in the glass, still brick at edge.  Lighter prunes, some old red currants on the nose.  Light, delicate red fruit is emerging in a base of sleek tannins.  This is coming into its own, touching three stars.  Creating an almost pinot noir-like experience, with potential pairing with foods that would similarly complement: I'd consider turkey and salmon.

Updated review, five years later,  now nine years from vintage date, June, 2016:  Color is consistent medium deep red.   Colleagues report the nose remains clean and balanced.  Sleek, almost saline red berry experience on the palate.  Bright finish.  Adds a star to three stars with a plus for longevity and balance.  Inspired by the Chez Ray CR7:  "Extended family is reconnecting for dinner; so many new stories to tell."

Review: ***+ Chez Ray Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma CA, 2008 (CC8)

Original Review, November, 2013: This is a review of Chez Ray Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, from frozen Sonoma, CA, grapes from the 2008 vintage.  Arrival of the grapes and process were described here.  Today, we're sampling the wine at five years from vintage date - probably just about the right age for this wine.  But let's see!

In the glass, deep magenta, opaque from about a half inch from the edge.  Aromas are all about plums and medicine, a hint of sharp fresh laundry thrown in.  The palate offers a rich, thick, sweet black/black/blackberry liqueur with a hint of bright acids that lift the sip.  Full, fresh, enjoyable finish; with the full experience rating three plus stars on the five star Spirit of Wine scale.

Updated Notes, June, 2016:  Consistent deep magenta color.  According to colleagues, aromas still seem plummy.  The black fruit liquer plus a shot of finishing light acid still identifies the sip.  Held nicely to three more years of age!  Inspired by Chez Ray CC8 wine: "Got half a sausage on a stick, the fire's smoking it good - looking forward to that warming bite!"

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Updated Review: **** Chez Ray Syrah, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA, 2007 (S7)

This is Chez Ray Syrah from frozen Alexander Valley must from Brehm Vineyards, Sonoma, CA - 2007 vintage.

Immediately below are notes from our 2011 blending party:

S7 (2007 Lodi Syrah, CA): Ray: color, mid brick; aroma, bold, some black cherry, alcoholic; flavor, chocolate and sweet, bright; 3+ for depth.  Jim: color, deep red/pink; aroma, spice; flavor, good fruit, slight tannic finish, 4+.   Eric:  aroma, not much aroma; flavor, thin, a bit spicy and acidic; 2.  Rob: color, very deep red;  aroma, grassy, fresh; flavvor, smooth, tannic; 3.

Updated review:  This tasting is a few months after the blending party, now June, 2011:   Medium deep burgundy in the glass, some bricking at the edge.  Aroma is deep and bold, with black cherry and distinct oak.  There is a brightness on the palate accompanied by a charcoal darkness, all surrounding a sweet fruit core.  Fresh sweet blackberries.  Depth with a hint of chocolate.  Retain the three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for continued promise with additional age or decanting.

With some confusion in records for this grape, I originally through S7 was a Lodi syrah from fresh grapes.  But upon tasting over time, and checking my original purchase records, I believe S7 is actually AVS7, the labeling 525 AVS7 from Brehm Alexander Valley syrah for 2007.

Updated review, over a year later,  August, 2012:  Deep burgundy ruby brick at the edge.  Charcoal and fruit-forward black cherry on the nose.  Friendly, fruity red berry sip, but evolving balance between the fruit and a soft underlying structure. Gentle touch and light aromatics bring it just to the four star level, now at five years of age.

Updated review, another three years later, now eight years from vintage date,  July, 2015:  Muddy deep brick, not quite opaque in the center.  Soft, old fruit on the nose.  Balanced, soft, red berry fruit on the palate, showing rich red raspberries and ripe blackberries.  Sweet finish, fades gently.  Great drinking, yet ready to be finished up within the next year or two.

Comparing pressed-dry with extended maceration wines (M8P, M8E, *** Z8P, Z8E)

Original notes, November, 2009:  For the 2008 Chez Ray vintage, I tried an experiment, separating the vintage into two batches: one batch pressed dry (ie, immediately as fermentation completed); and the second batch pressed after extended maceration.

Today, I have some recently bottled sample batches of 2008 merlot and zinfandel to compare between these two pressing techniques.

Let's start with the Chez Ray Merlot, 2008:

Pressed dry: The pressed dry merlot shows medium dusty red in the glass. Aromas are bright, bold, plumy and yeasty. A strong inky, alcoholic component. On the palate, a bright but bold mid palate impact, showing very ripe plums and some blackberry. Finishes clean.

Extended maceration: The merlot which underwent extended maceration shows similar in the glass, a touch less purple. Aromas seem to show a somewhat riper, spongy plum element. On the palate, the impact is round, full and soft and ripe in the back of the tongue. Seems more aged already, with less definitive fruit. The finish curls with a bit of acid. Slightly inferior to the pressed dry version.

Now let's try the Chez Ray Zinfandel, 2008:

Pressed dry: The pressed dry zinfandel shows medium cherry red in the glass. Upon swirling, aromas are tangy, metallic and almost citrus. On the palate, a spicy fruit touches the front of the mouth first, slowly unfolding back, sweeter and sweeter as it moves back along your tongue. The finish is moderate and clean.

Extended maceration: The zinfandel which underwent extended maceration shows a similar color - possibly just a touch more faded. Aromas show a similar note, a touch less tangy and bright. The palate is even, full and flush from the start, beginning at the middle of your tongue and spreading out. Perhaps even some chocolate elements as it spreads. Slick, clean finish. Improved over the pressed dry version.

Overall observations: My expectations were that the extended maceration might cause each of the wines to lose some "edge" and distinctiveness. It is probably true that the "edge" has been slightly muted in both. However, with the zinfandel, the extended maceration did not mute the final result. In the merlot, it caused a bit more aged "genericism" in the final product. In the zinfandel, though, it nicely knitted together some otherwise discordant elements. Perhaps that would happen with age in the pressed-dry zinfandel, perhaps not.

So my findings on extended maceration are, in the final analysis, mixed. I believe it muddied the merlot, but enhanced the zinfandel. If I was forced to operate one way or another on all my wines based on this one tasting, I would probably choose to press dry. That is because I believe the merlot was challenged more than the zinfandel was improved.

Too bad life is so complicated!


Updated tasting notes, over five years later, now seven years from vintage date, July, 2015:  Z8P: Medium brick red in the glass.  Same bright, tangy, citrusy aromas.  Seems cinnamon-like.  Sweet, rich red fruit touches your tongue and sweeps back easily, with the rich deep red robes overtaking the citrus and spices.  Seems to resemble the younger extended maceration version - suggesting that the extended maceration may compress the timeframe associated with need for storing wine.  Gains three stars on the Spirit of Wine scale, and would touch a plus for its rich redness, BUT... the tangy aromas are, admittedly, a bit offputting, and bring things back to three stars.

Updated Tasting Notes: ***+ Chez Ray Rodger's Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino CA, 2008 (SR8V)

By way of background:  This is Chez Ray Rodger's Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino CA, 2008 (SR8V).  Grapes, yeast and process are described here.

Original notes, December, 2011:

In the glass: Dark magenta, opaque from about a half inch from the edge. 

On the nose: Poured cool without a decant and swirled vigorously, shows a soft and furry, lightly oaked fruit nose. 

On the palate: The first element on the palate is round ripe fruit compote, a mix of black and red berries.  It is soft and turns aromatic after a few seconds, bringing some violet aloft.  Finish is brief, but full and clean.

In summary: Overall, a soft, solid, mid-palate experience, generating three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale.

Updated notes, over a year later, March, 2013: Consistent color.  Light nose, perhaps lightly corked.  Fresh, full and fragrant fruit remains.  This particular bottle is slightly corked, however, tarnishing the experience, which does seem that it would be otherwise quite solid.


Updated notes, over two more years later, July, 2015:  Medium magenta, opaque just in the center. Clean, fresh light berries on the nose.  Seems like it will show red raspberry fruit.  It is ripe raspberry on the palate, some hot alcohol.  Nice red berry finish.  Very youthful, gets a plus on top of the three stars for the bright, red berry stylings, still going strong after seven years from vintage date.

Monday, June 22, 2015

*** 2003 Chez Ray Pinot Noir / Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003, Columbia WA, Lodi, CA

Original review, five years from vintage date, sampled October, 2008: This is a strange combo: pinot noir plus cabernet sauvignon. Somehow, at the time, it seemed like a good mix. The aromatics from the Columbia, WA, pinot noir added bounce to the deeper Lodi, CA, cabernet sauvignon. Let's see what some bottle time has done...

In the glass, it is deep red, definite bricking around the edges. Aroma is earth and deep fruit, just a touch funky. Might need some air time. The palate has a first, sweet flush, then resolves into an odd bright fruit plus some lightly sweet acids. Ok, definitely odd, two stars out of five on the Spirit of Wine scale, because it was an interesting - not horrible - experience.

Updated review, almost seven years later, now 12 years from vintage date, June, 2015:  Still deep red brick, almost dark orange at the very edge.  Soft, settled fruit on the nose.  The former oddness now resolves into a pleasant distinctiveness, bringing sweet, soft red and black berries that are definitely not showing their 12 years of age.  An absence of obvious tannins or cheek-clenching acids belies how well this strange blend has aged.  There is something else here that is helping the Chez Ray Pinot/Cab combo stand the test of time.  Very quaffable and now touches three stars.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

***+ Chez Ray CRR7 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Russian River Valley, Sonoma

CRR7 (2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Russian River Valley, Sonoma):

Tasting notes from blending party, May, 2011:

Ray: color medium brick; aroma deep fruit and alcohol; flavor clean bright but light, 2+ for bright fruitiness.  Karin: delicate flavor, sweet finish, 3.  Jim, good fruit.  Eric, L aroma not much smell; flavor, very nice tannins, strong finish, rich flavor but not too remarkable (though very enjoyable!), 3+.  Rob: color, deep red; aroma, tarry; flavor, alcoholic, 2.

Updated review, over six months later, December, 2011:  Deep ruby red in the glass.  This bottle was corked!  Cracked open a second bottle....  Same color.  Shy red fruit on the nose, some hint of plum.  Soft and rich palate, though, excellent mouthfeel, gentle red and black berry flavors.  Three stars with a plus for its outstanding mouthfeel. 

Updated review, another two years later, December, 2013:  Full, rich blackberry on the nose.  Gentle, fresh, blackberry fruit, with solid tannins and light acids still holding up the freshness.  Still aging nicely after six years from vintage date!

Yet another updated review, another year and a half later, now eight years from vintage date, May, 2015:  Deep brick in the glass.  Aroma bold red, but partially corked (wow, two corked bottles in same batch!)   Ignoring corked elements, still shows nice rich, fresh red fruit.  Opened another bottle.  Same color.  Aroma is clean, with just the tiniest hint of tiredness.  Rich and yet bright on the palate. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: **** MS8, 2008 Merlot, Suscol Ranch, Napa, California

Review: MS8, 2008 Merlot, Suscol Ranch, Napa:  Deep brick and magenta, almost opaque in the center.  Brilliant, red and purple ink on the nose.  Piquant, aromatic purple floral highlights on the palate, sleek and bright center of red fruit.  Clean finish that holds up nicely to the six years of age since vintage date.  Four stars.