2008 Baldacci IV Sons Fraternity

One of my latest wine adventures took place over, who would have guessed it, dinner. Okay, maybe everyone.

There are some meals that never get old. I would say that in an average month there are several nights when whether time does not permit or we just desire familiarity we will revisit a household favorite. Being the person in our family who does the lion’s share of the cooking, I will attest that regardless of how much I love to cook and spend time in the kitchen it sometimes gets exhausting thinking up new and invented culinary wonders every night.  On these such occasions it is necessary to have a small arsenal of household favorites that you can put together in a moments notice. For me one of those dishes is grilled Rib-eye.

I do my best to include a new cast of supporting characters whether it be a different sauce, side, or wine. A big part of the fun for me is choosing a different wine to stack up against the most sacred part of this sacred animal, the Rib-eye steak.  On this night the supporting cast member was a perfect complement to the star of dinner. I would even venture to say, without implying that it wasn’t a good pairing or that the steak wasn’t everything one imagines, that the 2008 Baldacci IV Sons Fraternity kind of stole the show.

Baldacci Family Vineyards is situated on what can only be described as prime real estate in the heart of the Stags Leap District of the Napa Valley. The 17 acres of vineyard land they call home was purchased in 1997 by owners Thomas and Brenda Baldacci. Driven by their love for fine wine and family the focus here is on producing beautiful wines that showcase the amazing terrior they affectionately cultivate with minimalist intent. In 2003 they hired world-class winemaker Rolando Herrera . Rolando got his start working at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars eventually working his way up to Cellar Master. His resume also includes Director of Winemaking at Paul Hobbs Consulting and his own label, Mi Sueno.

The IV Sons label, an ode to Thomas and Brenda’s four sons and a celebration of family, is their entry-level wine. The term entry-level somehow doesn’t seem to fit the wines I have tasted. All though they are the least expensive wines they make, they are far from entry-level and hold their own against the best wines Napa Valley has to offer.


The 2008 IV Sons Fraternity is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from their  Stags Leap Vineyard and Merlot and Syrah from their estate  vineyard in Carneros to the south. The wine was everything you could want it to be and more. It drank wonderfully all on its own and was also paired wonderfully with the night’s dinner.


Retail – $39.99

Notes –

Dark opaque purple in color. Beautiful nose of dense blackberry layered with dark cherry and blueberry pie accompanied by light waves of anise and a very subtle pencil lead note. The dark fruit driven palate showing dusty blackberries up front and then picks up a layer of fig on the mid palate which continues through a peppery very rustic finish. Despite the obvious Cabernet notes the Syrah fruit really made it seem (to me) quite reminiscent of a wine from the southern Rhone Valley think Chateaunuef, gigondas, vacqueyras.

91 – Stumblingsommelier

90 – Wine Enthusiast


2008 Athair Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

I think it’s safe to say that my wife is obsessed with Pinot Noir. Don’t get me wrong I love a good Pinot and if you were keeping track you would probably find that we drink  more Pinot Noir than anything else. The reason for this really does make sense. For one it’s a great choice  during the summer months because it is typically lighter than most other reds. Secondly, it goes really well with a diverse range of food.

The other night my wife was yet again calling for a Pinot Noir with dinner. It seemed to make sense based on the nights fare of Parmesan crusted pork loin, sautéed mushroom, onion, and sweet peppers served with the staple Dijon lemon sauce that I put over my cereal. However I was more in the mood for something that would give a good punch in the face. So the wine I selected was one that fit the bill on both counts.

I think it is safe to say that at 14.7% alcohol the 2008 Athair Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is not your average Pinot. In a style that is big, bold, and hedonistic this wine could only be from California and what better spot for California Pinot Noir than the RRV. It was everything I was hoping it would be, quenching my thirst for something bold, satisfying my wife’s request for Pinot Noir, and happened to go great with dinner. It more than amply stood up to the pork loin and Parmesan crust. The rich sweet fruit paired surprisingly well with the sautéed veggies, bringing out the sweetness of the onions and peppers. The lemon sauce was a little lost but for the most part, it was a great pairing.

Athair Wines is a joint venture between Tom Keith (President) and his son-in-law and winemaker Jim McMahon. It’s a new operation with the 2006 being the first of hopefully many vintages to come.


Retail – $34.99 Well worth the price

Notes –

Showing itself as a highly viscous wine it is dark garnet to purple in color and coats the glass. Big bold nose of jammy ripe cherry, blueberry, and plum is accented by a cherry cola note. Don’t know why but it conjured memories of Bear Country in Disneyland. The palate is saturated with rich and sappy red and black fruit with a predominant strawberry preserve thing going on. There is a sweetness at the front of the palate that meets serious oak on the mid palate and the two walk hand in hand through a long finish.

91 – Stumblingsommelier

90 – Wine Spectator

Blind Tasting, Italian Bordeaux?

This is the second installment of my blind tasting series. In preparation for the Level 2 Sommelier Certification Exam I have been practicing blind tasting where I attempt to deduce the grape varietal, the region it comes from, and give a close guess at the vintage of the wine. This is not an easy practice and I have been learning a lot from these posts as I go back and watch myself go through the progressions.

Blind tasting is a great  way to train your palate and also a great way to spice up your love affair with wine. I’ve also done blind tasting wine parties were all of the guests bring a mystery wine and well, things unravel quickly and they are a lot of fun. For those interested here is a link to the tasting grids, http://www.courtofmastersommeliers.org/pdfresources/certtastinggrid%20Tasting%20Grid%20Student.pdf

First the good, and in my opinion there was a lot more good this time. 1. I was able to accurately describe and pinpoint the key grape varietals in the wine. Not bad despite the fact that I added a grape. 2. When it came to naming the region I had already arrived at a preconceived  conclusion. This may be wrong of me but it only seems natural to have a good idea of what you think the wine is based on past experience, even before going through the progressions. Once I had all of the facts in front of me and I headed into the initial conclusion I used that information to rule out any other possibilities (in this case, the correct answer). My point here is that when I started looking at other possibilities I went to the correct region and actually mentioned the correct wine. I really only ruled out the correct answer based on the concept that it wasn’t “classic grape, classic region”. This was a serious misstep on my part because Bolgheri wines do have a very distinctive character and this wine truly exhibited that profile. 3. When it comes to naming vintages it’s fairly simple to determine whether a wine is young or has some bottle age. It’s another thing to really understand the difference between vintages from certain regions. With that said, if you are incorrect in your deduction of the region then the best you are going to achieve is a close proximity to the correct vintage. So regardless that I guessed the vintage correctly it was nothing more than a lucky guess. Still putting this in the win column.

The bad…To be honest I feel pretty good about this evaluation. Having dismissed the correct answer as being outside of the parameters of the “game” I think Bordeaux was the only other realistic option. Would I have guessed Bolgheri if I would have thought it was an option? I really can’t say. I can say that I was noticing a lot of things about the wine that were reminiscent of Italian wine, Tuscany in specific.

2009 Chateau De Chamirey Les Ruelles

As you head south of the Cote D’Or you find yourself in the farming community of Mercurey, the largest of five villages that focuses on wine production in the Cote Chalonnaise.

Chateau De Chamirey is owned by the Devillard Family who owns many properties in the Burgundy region including Domaine De La Ferte, producing wines from Givry, and Domaine Des Perdix in Nuit St Georges. Mercurey is the area they call home, in a centuries old property that is at the forefront of their family’s winemaking history.

Named after the French word for small roads or paths, Les Ruelles is sourced from a 3.7 acre Premier Cru Vineyard called a monopole. Monopole as you can imagine is the term used for a property owned by one entity. The wine is aged in 25% new French oak and although it will withstand the test of time, I don’t know how much of it will last that long, it’s just that good right now.  I have had this wine on several occasions in different glasses and have scored it 90, 91, 92 respectively. I would consider this more an ode to a consistently good product rather than a flaw in the rating system or a query into the effects of glassware on wine. Haters of the hundred point scale can feel free to rant away if you deem it necessary. Connoisseurs can wax on about the appropriateness of glassware.

And now the wine in all of it’s glory, regardless of glass.

Notes –

The wine is dark and viscous ruby in color. Black cherry, raspberry, rhubarb pie and clove on the nose. Rustic red fruit dominated by sour cherry with a brooding dark fruit component that peeks in through the lithe mid-palate and carries over to the finish. Nice integration of oak, this drinks great now but really shows aging potential.

Retail – $34.99 Wine Spectator listed this as a good value in the $50.00 price range so if you can find it at a better price, buy more than one.

91 – Stumbling Sommelier

90 – Wine Spectator

2009 Patrick Javillier Les Clousots

The Javillier family has been growing grapes in the French wine region of Meursault for centuries. However it wasn’t until shortly after WWII when Patrick’s father Raymond took the helm that the family started to heavily invest in the acquisition of vineyard land in the area.

Patrick followed suite and in 1973 received his Diplôme National d’oenologie from the University of Burgundy in Dijon. Patrick vinified his first wine in 1974 and the family business grew to become one of the well-respected names of the Cote du Beaune region of France, namely in Meursault.

Patrick’s focus is on terroir, with each vineyard site being vinified separately to capture, if you will, the soil and conditions from the particular vintage for each given place. Every year he selects two vineyard sites with terroir that complement each other and creates two cuvees that best exemplify his craft, “Tête de Murger”, and more recently the cuvée “Les Clousots”. It is the 2009 Les Clousots that we had with dinner the other night and is our focus today.

Notes –

Star bright dark straw to gold in color. Lemon curd, granny smith apple, and apricot on the nose backed up by vanilla and spring flowers. On the palate apple and honey suckle notes are tightly wound in lemon pulp and lime zest. This wine is nicely complex but also high in bracing acidity and the French oak needs a little time to integrate. This is very young and just needs some time to mellow out. I enjoyed this wine for what this wine will be in the future. No doubt this is a cellar selection and when the acidity softens and the oak integrates this will be amazing. In 5-10 years this has the potential to rate 92-94.

Retail $40.00

90 – Stumbling Sommelier

92 – Burghound (Allen Meadows)

Blind Tasting, Nobody Bats 1,000

For those of you who haven’t read my “About” page, I am a Level I Sommelier studying for the Level II Certified Sommelier Exam.One aspect of this test is in the blind tasting of wines. In the test you are given 15 minutes to blind taste one red and one white wine. I have been practicing irregularly for the past year and one of my goals with this blog site was to video record my attempts for your viewing pleasure and to increase the regularity of my practice.

What I didn’t realize about endeavoring to video Chronicle these attempts is what a valuable tool these videos would be in analyzing my methods and really SEEING what I was doing wrong.

So, for your viewing pleasure here is my first of many video blind tastings that will appear on this site, followed by some of my thoughts as to what I did right and wrong during my analysis.

The good.

In hindsight, my tasting notes and descriptors are right on the money and for the most part are classic Bordeaux descriptors.  It really smelled/tasted like Cabernet upon first inspection, at least that was the notion that crossed my mind. Blackberry is the note that stood out which is indicative of Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark cherry and plum are synonymous with Merlot which is the other main grape used in making of left bank Bordeaux.

Another thing I was pleased with when reviewing my tasting was the emphatic attention I gave to the gravelly component and the fact that I picked up on the granite note. The region in Bordeaux, Graves, is actually named after its gravelly soil because of its profound impact on the wines of this area. Granite is a rock composed primarily of quartz and feldspar and the soils of Graves are rich in quartz. So pats on the back for that.

Now for the bad…and there was quite a bit of bad.

This particular wine had a lot of attributes that were not indicative of classic Bordeaux. Many producers in Bordeaux especially in the lesser appellations have started gravitating towards making a more modern style wine that is more palatable for western consumers. This wine is a very good example of this style of Bordeaux. It exhibited high viscosity and more rich and bold fruit than what I would normally think of when Bordeaux enters my mind. My first misstep was really to overlook this modern style and dismiss Bordeaux based on this newer example of wine emerging from the region.

With that thought in mind I have to beg the question, If the wine didn’t fit as Bordeaux for these reasons how could it fit as Nebbiolo from the Piedmont? My train of thought was this. I have been drinking a lot of Barolo and Babaresco lately that have exhibited these very qualities. Higher viscosity, richer more “new world” fruit, and that gravelly, potting soil tannin on the finish. The high acidity which is common in young Bordeaux is prevalent even more so in Nebbiolo. Combine that with the floral notes that I often experience in Nebbiolo (mainly the classic rose petal notes) were the last little push I needed to go in that direction. Thinking back, the floral note really wasn’t the classic rose petal, at that point I think I had made up my mind to go in that direction and was reaching a bit to make my case.

The main lesson I think I can take from this tasting was to take a step back when coming to my final conclusion. The main thing that deterred success was that I let the secondary notes override the primary notes in my analysis. I really started to hone in on the floral and anise qualities and let those things drive my decision instead of really looking at what my palate was telling me. My palate really did scream Cabernet and Merlot, and I was too stubborn to hear it.

Muscadet and Seafood, Better Than Gay Sex?

I would be the first to say that I have it made. I have a beautiful wife, amazing kids, and I’m wanting for nothing, mostly…When my wife and I first met we were, well let’s say, passionate. We were passionate, a lot. Now we are still “passionate” but maybe once a week, twice on a good week. One result of that “passion” is that we have acquired a couple of children along the way. Now, our kids are the most rewarding thing we have ever done but, as anyone will tell you the most rewarding things in life are also the hardest. Did I mention they’re expensive? A government report estimates it costs the average middle class family $235,000.00 to raise a child from birth to 17. Another shortcoming would be common interest. I can’t stand the waste of skin on whatever “Housewives” show you’re watching and don’t enjoy shopping for clothing. My wife on the other hand doesn’t watch football and wouldn’t know who’s the starting nose tackle for the AZ Cardinals.

Why is being gay so awesome? Let’s take a look.

Your partner has the sexual appetite of, well, a man. Which means the “passion” isn’t going to drop off after five years and a couple kids. Oh, did I say children? Yeah, you don’t have to worry about those snotty little brats messing up the house and sucking your wallet dry because all of that “passion” you’re having comes without consequences. Did I mention the fact that because no one has to stay home with the kids you have two male incomes? On top of all that, you have someone with like-minded interests who enjoys the same things you do.  So to recap being gay is awesome! Sex whenever you want it, you have just shy of half a million dollars  to be a really well dressed gay guy driving your expensive German car to your very clean (child free) urban home in close proximity to sporting venues and fine dining establishments. Did I mention the bedroom not being used by a child that you transformed into a first class wine cellar?

At this point you’re asking yourself, “why am I straight?” err I mean “Is this a wine blog?” YES, I digress.

The responsible party for this somewhat off the wall rant was tonight’s dinner, which like my children I take full responsibility for and wouldn’t trade for all the gay “passion” in the world. Dinner was a dish composed of simple ingredients that we had around the house and the desire to eat shrimp (I will post the recipe at the end of this rambling). The pairing was somewhat of a no brainer; Muscadet has long been paired with shell-fish and for good reason.

Muscadet is a French Wine AOC ( Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) located around the estuary of the Loire River into the Atlantic Ocean. All French Wine AOC are named after the region the wine hails from or in the case of Alsace labeled with the grape. Muscadet is the exception to the rule, named after the musk like flavor property it (supposedly) exhibits. Muscadet is made from the Melon De Bourgogne grape which (hence the name) has its origins in Burgundy but has since been prohibited there. It was purportedly brought to this region by Dutch traders in the 17th century and widely planted for its ability to resist the rigid wind and cold weather typical of this region in the winter.

It is the region and its proximity to the ocean that makes Muscadet such a wonderful pairing for seafood. The colder weather, the coldest of the Loire valley makes for higher acidity. Potassium and magnesium in the soils add a salty, briny quality that is reminiscent of the sea. The wine itself practically screams for seafood. It is the like qualities of the wine and seafood that make them such a good match. One wine pairing basic, is to look for complimentary qualities and find a common ground for the food and wine to come together at.

For dinner I prepared Cajun spiced shrimp in a lemon butter caper sauce tossed with linguini. The wine 2010 Ch. Du Jaunay was a great example of Muscadet to begin with; however when paired with the food the tart green apple flavors in the wine softened and gave way to apricot and other tree fruits. The acidity in the wine meshed with the lemon in the sauce and enhancing the finish and dulling the sharp edge. The same qualities in the wine brought out the richness in the shrimp meat and made the lemon in the butter sauce really pop. The icing on the cake was the briny quality of the capers that was perfectly mirrored by the wine. It was absolute harmony and only took half an hour to make. This was a match that makes straight and gay couples jealous and instead of reaping the “passionate” rewards I stayed downstairs writing this blog. Does that make me gay?

Without further ado, here is the link to the full wine review and the recipe, http://wp.me/p2yH4o-1T


1 lb. raw shrimp 16 -20 per pound

Emeril’s Essence Spice

2-3 large garlic cloves (minced)

½ Box linguini

1 lemon zested and juiced

1 tbsp. salted butter

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

Handful of Italian parsley leaves (fine chopped)

Handful of capers

Generously coat shrimp with Essence spice while cooking pasta in water, olive oil, and pinch of salt until al dente. In another pan heat olive oil on high heat then add salted butter. Add garlic and shrimp cook until done 3-5 minutes, remove from pan. Lower heat to med-low and add unsalted butter and lemon zest. Melt butter scrapping pan then add pasta, shrimp, lemon juice, parsley, and capers. Toss and serve immediately with garlic bread and 2010 Chateau Du Jaunay Muscadet Sevre Et Maine