August 15th 2023 Newsletter - The Grape Tray

August 15th 2023 Newsletter

On Deck for wine tasting next week at VRW:

Wine Spectator 94 Points
Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Estate 2021

Rich and toasty up front, with grilled orange, toasted cumin, nectarine and honeycomb notes, plus dried ginger and cardamom. Shows a touch of salted toffee to complement peach preserves, dried pineapple and Honeycrisp apple. Juicy finish. Drink now. 2,100 cases made. $70

James Suckling 94 Points
2021 Paul Hobbs Russian River Chardonnay

Cooked apple, pie crust, stone, and vanilla bean aromas with hints of flint. Full body. Crunchy fruit with sliced apple. Hints of oak. Dense in the center palate yet firm and focused. Excellent. Drink or hold. $75

Vinous 95 Points
2021 Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir

The 2021 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) is dense, heady and explosive. All the classic Russian River exuberance comes through, but amplified in all of the good ways and none of the bad. Even with all of the richness and intensity, the 2021 retains good freshness as well as energy. A touch of whole clusters brightens the finish nicely. $80


Taste 2018 Chateau La Cabanne Pomerol and 2012 Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan at Vintage Reserve Wine (VRW) for $25 per person.
Tuesday, August 15th. Available 12:00 noon -5:45 PM

Jeb Dunnuck 93 Points
Chateau La Cabanne 2018 Pomerol

The 2018 Château La Cabanne is another pretty, perfumed, incredibly pure Pomerol with loads of blueberry and cherry fruit as well candied violets, spice, and leafy herbs. I love its purity, it has great tannins, a layered, deep mid-palate, and an outstanding finish. It's great today, in a youthful, vibrant fashion, yet will benefit from 2-3 years of bottle age and keep for 10-15 years. It's a gorgeous wine and one of the finest I've tasted from this address, surpassing even the 2016. $47

Jeb Dunnuck 95 Points
2012 Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan

The 2012 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion is terrific, with a beautiful, classy, incredibly impressive style that's drinking beautifully today. Offering up pure dark fruits (some blue fruits as well) to go with notes of smoked tobacco, scorched earth, graphite, and violets, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a layered, seamless profile, impressively polished tannins, and a great finish. It's beautifully done, and while certainly showing what it has today, it's going to evolve for another 20-25 years. CA Market Price $145-$169.


Taste 2021 Ornellaia Toscana Le Volte, 2018 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa and 2018 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino at Vintage Reserve Wine (VRW) for $15 per person.
Wednesday, August 16th. Available 12:00 noon -5:45 PM

Wine Spectator 92 Points
Ornellaia Toscana Le Volte 2021

Shows expressive, succulent flavors of black currant, blackberry, cassis and lavender that need time to integrate with the firm, dusty tannins, some of which come from the oak. Comes together even better with a few minutes of air. Offers fine length. Decant now. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Best from 2024 through 2033. 14,400 cases imported.—B.S. $41

Wine Spectator 92 Points
ZENATO Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa 2018

Enticing smoke and spice notes on the nose underscore flavors of baked blackberry, cured tobacco, bacon fat and rich earth in this sculpted red. Packs a rich profile on a medium- to full-bodied frame, yet this is well-balanced and poised, thanks to fresh acidity, a minerally underpinning and fine-grained tannins. Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone. Best from 2023 through 2030. From Italy.—A.N. $32

Wine Spectator 94 Points
CASTELLO ROMITORIO Brunello di Montalcino 2018

A graceful red hallmarked by cherry, strawberry, rose, mineral and Mediterranean herbs. Lacy and succulent yet firm, ending on the minerally side. Vibrant and long. Best from 2025 through 2042. —B.S. $77


Taste Shafer Vineyards and Winery: 2022 Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros Chardonnay, 2021 TD-9 Napa Cabernet and 2021 One Point Five Napa Cabernet at Vintage Reserve Wine (VRW) for $20 per person.
Thursday, August 17th. Available 12:00 noon -5:45 PM

2022 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros Chardonnay

Winemaker Notes: The 2022 Red Shoulder Ranch is a refreshing, vibrant Chardonnay characterized by its lush, glass-filling aromas of white flowers, lemon zest, and exotic fruit. On the palate it offers a graceful balance of energy and richness, with flavors of white melon, apricot, ripe pineapple, flint, honey, and Crème Brûlée. With its pure, Chablis-like acidity this vintage offers effortless structure and elegant balance with a long, delightful finish. $70

2021 Shafer TD-9 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes: In its first vintage as a Cabernet Sauvignon, TD-9 fills the glass with irresistible aromas and flavors of fresh black cherries, black currant, red plum, thyme, rose petal, and cocoa. Lush and mouth-filling, this 2021 offers the kind of complexity and structure that ensures many years of enjoyment ahead. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. $75

2021 Shafer One Point Five Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes: One Point Five is Shafer's signature Cabernet Sauvignon, reflecting the timeless elegance of top Napa Valley vineyards. This wine honors the founding partnership of John and Doug Shafer, who said they'd worked together so long theirs wasn't a second-generation story but a generation and a half. The long, sunny 2021 summer created idyllic growing season. The fruit developed rich color with clean, elegant, and pure aromas and flavors. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petite Verdot, 2% Merlot, 1% Malbec $125


Antonio Galloni, Vinous 96 Points
2021 Paul Hobbs West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The 2021 Pinot Noir (West Sonoma Coast), a new wine in this range, is lights out. Rich, ample and bold, the 2021 races across palate with layers of purplish fruit, lavender, spice, menthol, licorice and spice. A dollop of stems adds nuance, but without dominating the overall balance. There's terrific acidity and structure to play off the natural fruit richness that is such a distinctive attribute of the best sites in the appellation. $84 (Available GT)

2021 J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet

Winemaker Notes: Exhilarating blackberry and blueberry aromas are enhanced by crushed violet, herbes de Provence, and spiced tea. On the palate, dense and soft, with finely textured tannins. Juicy layers of black and red currants lead to a bright finish, accented by pastry notes from extended barrel aging. $30 (Arrives GT 8/16/23)

Wine Spectator 96 Points * CLOS DU MONT-OLIVET Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Cuvée du Papet 2019

Dark in profile, but very seductive, with the cassis, crushed plum and cherry reduction notes carried by the substantial yet very silky structure. Light floral, incense, black tea and warm earth details score the finish. Tantalizing now for its mouthfeel and expressiveness, but there's no rush at all. Drink now through 2038. —J.M. 100 cases imported. Internet Price $85. GT and VRW email subscriber price $73.95 (Available GT and VRW)

Antonio Galloni, Vinous 96 Points
2019 Mt. Brave Mt. Veeder Cabernet

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Mount Veeder wine loaded with strong savory and mineral accents. Black fruit, graphite menthol and licorice lend complexity to this huge, explosive Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins are pretty fierce at this stage, so readers should plan on being patient. $150 Our Price $124.95 (Available GT and VRW)

Wine Spectator 92 Points
Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo Ravera 2018

An elegant Barolo, offering floral, cherry, strawberry and wild herb flavors. This is backed by a lively structure, with refined tannins lining the long finish. Should be approachable soon. Best from 2025 through 2040. 290 cases made, 72 cases imported. $66 Our Price $59.99 (Available GT and VRW)

Wine Advocate 100 Points
2016 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, Magnum

Fontodi's 2016 Flaccianello della Pieve is a masterpiece. This review represents a composite of notes from two separate tasting sessions, one at the winery and a second bottle tasted repeatedly over the course of 24 hours at my own pace. In the case of the second sample, it ended up in a blind flight next to the 2016 Masseto, and as beautiful as that Merlot-based wine is, this wine paints an even more beautiful portrait of a perfect Tuscan landscape, thanks to that tangy Sangiovese typicity. This vintage shows amazing depth and poise, with a sheer sense of elegance that comes from the undisputed quality of fruit achieved in this balanced vintage. The bouquet opens to dark cherry, blue flower and tilled earth. The tannins are taut, almost crunchy, and the wine offers profound pedigree and persistence that is driven by the evident acidity. That depth is what stands out most. Until the 2013 vintage, Flaccianello was aged in barrique for 24 months. After that vintage, six months of the total aging time is spent in botte instead. This 2016 vintage includes a small part from clay amphorae for the first time. This slight change in the relationship of wine to barrel size has resulted in a more elegant and finessed wine. That point is especially underlined in this vintage. Because of cool spring temperatures during the flowering, yields were reduced by 20% in 2016 compared to 2015. Some 65,000 bottles were made. $570/magnum. Our Price $487.99/magnum. (Available GT and VRW)

Additional scores: Wine Spectator 97 Points and Vinous Media 100 Points


Taste 2021 Resonance Willamette Valley Pinot, 2019 JAX Napa Cabernet and 2018 Frank Family Reserve Cabernet at Vintage Reserve Wine (VRW) for $15 per person.
Friday, August 18th. Available 12:00 noon -5:45 PM

Wine Spectator 94 Points * RÉSONANCE Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2021

Precise and elegantly structured, with detailed raspberry, savory tea and crushed stone accents that gather richness and tension toward refined tannins. Drink now through 2031. 10,870 cases made.—T.F. $40

James Suckling 92 Points * 2019 JAX Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Aromas of blackberries, blueberries, dark cherries, dried thyme and baking spices. It’s full-bodied with fine tannins and lively acidity. Creamy, with a flavorful, fresh finish. Drink or hold. $50

Jeb Dunnuck 94+ Points
2018 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Reserve

Largely in the same style, the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Reserve reminds me of a top Pauillac with its darker blackcurrant fruit as well as notes of lead pencil, crushed stone, cedar, and smoked tobacco. Rich and full-bodied, it has wonderful purity of fruit and the balance and structure to evolve for two decades. $95


Taste 2021 Hartford Court Russian River Pinot, 2017 Beringer Distinctions Napa Cabernet and 2014 Arrowood Reserve Speciale at Vintage Reserve Wine (VRW) for $15 per person.
Saturday, August 19th. Available 12:00 noon -3:45 PM

Jeb Dunnuck 92 Points
2021 Hartford Court Russian River Pinot

A youthful and saturated ruby hue, the 2021 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley is ripe and spicy, with aromas of fresh pine, cherry liqueur, and fresh wildflowers. Medium to full-bodied, with ample richness on the palate, it reveals notes of ripe berries, turned forest floor, and toasted baking spice, and it has a classic feel, with good structure and a long finish. Drink it over the next few years. 15,000 cases were produced. $42

2017 Beringer Distinctions Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes: A ruby hue sets up aromas of pomegranate, crème de cassis and acai, with notes of oak, cloves and black olive. Flavors showcase blue fruit led by blueberry alongside blackberry, a bit of licorice, walnuts and hazelnut. Opulent, well-balanced and high-toned, the wine shows good depth and a distinctive, lingering finish. Built for immediate enjoyment, the ample tannins frame the possibility that the Cabernet will continue to evolve and grow more complex as it ages. Enjoy over the next decade and longer. $50

Wine Advocate 95 Points
2014 Arrowood Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Speciale

Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Speciale has a black forest cake and crème de cassis-scented nose with touches of charcoal, black soil, mocha and salami plus a hint of cigar box. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is packed with black fruit and savory layers with beautifully ripe, fine-grained tannins and just enough freshness, finishing with great persistence. 1,103 cases produced. $100


Vintage Reserve Wine (VRW)
1552 E. Champlain Drive, Ste 109 Fresno, CA 93720
Via Montana Center (NE Corner Shepherd and Champlain-Two doors south of Big 5) 559-878-3953
Tuesday-Friday 12:00 Noon-6:00 PM
Saturday 12 Noon-4:00 PM

The Grape Tray (GT)
6023 N. Palm Avenue Fresno, CA 93704
Opus One Center (NW Corner Bullard and Palm) 559-226-6828
Tuesday-Friday 10:30 AM-5:30 PM
Saturday 10:30 AM-4:00 PM

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