Friday, December 12, 2014

Discovery to Table

Cellar to Table with Your Chanticleer Wines
By Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, aka grape goddess®*
You’ve discovered a great wine, visited the winery, scored a spot on the mailing list, and the wines are now in your hands, ready to deliver pleasure to you and your guests. Yet it is at this very point that joy gives way to anxiety. How long should it be aged? What is the proper way to store it? When will it be ready to drink? As these questions go unanswered, it is often easier just to leave the little buried treasures behind and move on with life. The convenience of having your favorite wines at hand is forgotten.

A very basic cellar is as simple as a laying down a few boxes in an existing dark cool place in your home such as in the back of a closet or under a staircase. Wine bottles should rest on their sides, keeping wine in contact with the cork to prevent it from drying out. If the cork dries out, oxygen may get in. This would prematurely age or even spoil your wine. Ideal spots are also free from vibration and extreme temperature fluctuations. A nice homey option is to convert an existing piece of furniture. If you are thinking bigger, your options are either to convert or build a room, or to purchase a freestanding wine cabinet. 52-56° is ideal for serving whites and storing reds. Noted wine expert and gardener Hugh Johnson says “When humans need air conditioning, so does wine.”

Install a thermometer/hygrometer (about $20 at Radio Shack) in the area you are considering and check for temperature and humidity spikes at times of extreme weather in your area. Stable patterns slightly higher or lower than the target 55-65°F/65-75% humidity range are better than wild fluctuations, which are more damaging to the wines. The refrigerator is not a good place to store wine for more than a few months. Wine doesn’t like being agitated by the constant vibration, which mutes character, and may lead to premature aging.

When is the right time to open your wine? There are a few things to consider, the most obvious being grape type and color of the wine. Another is the raw quality of the fruit. A great wine comes from healthy, ripe fruit grown in an ideal environment, or “terroir”. It is easy to make great wine with great fruit, and plenty of bad wine is made with great fruit, but great wine cannot be made from inferior fruit.  Great wines will generally age longer than inferior wines.

Then there are the wine’s structural elements, things like acids, tannins, alcohol, and sugar. Wines need acidity for longevity, especially whites. Tannins (components from grape skins or oak barrels that give the wine an astringent, drying quality) and pigments are preservatives as well. The best reds for long-term aging have had extended skin and/or barrel contact so that their tannin levels are initially high. Wines with high levels of residual sugar, or very sweet wines, have a very long life span.

Balance is critically important when evaluating when to open your bottle.  As any fruit ripens, its acidity drops. Think about tomatoes. At peak ripeness they are so heavy with sugar they end up on the ground. They truly taste like fruit, and have little tartness left. Grapes that are allowed to ripen to such extreme have so much sugar that the yeasts, whose job is to convert that sugar into alcohol, can’t do the job alone. They need a starter, runner, and closing colony to complete this conversion. The resulting wines have low acidity and therefore are not necessarily getting better with age, but more likely are deteriorating. In this category we find many cult wines, or “big time” wines that get very high ratings from the more well-known American wine critics.
Chanticleer’s winemaker Chris Dearden has always bucked the trend of making “Big Time” wines, instead making wines that are subtle, understated, compatible with food and capable of aging. I have known and followed Chris since he was winemaker at Benessere. While I have professionally evaluated nearly every wine he has made at Chanticleer, I recently tasted the complete line-up of Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon, from 2000 to 2010, all at once, to see how the wines had progressed, changed, matured, and transformed over the years. I did this at my leisure, over several days. I sampled and resampled the wines over this three day period.

Wine critics, known for their fast paced, assembly-line approach, and even wine judges including myself, often create sometimes life-changing reviews based on only a snapshot of the wine, when it is in the glass in front of us. We swirl, sniff, sip, and spit, pen or tablet in hand, entering notes furiously so we can get to the next wine. I have always preferred doing only the initial tasting this way, ideally in the morning, in my lab, where the natural sunlight is ideal and the environment is free of strong odors, then tasting the wine with food later in the day. Then I simply place the cork back in the bottle and taste it the next day, and the next day again. Call this the grape goddess 3-day rule if you like.
For starters, I can see where the wine is on its aging curve, and when it most likely will show its best. Secondly, a wine that stays fresh after being opened for a few days is ideal for many people who want to enjoy only a glass or two with a meal. Thirdly, the most beautiful surprise in the world is that shy butterfly who, after a couple of days getting familiar with their surroundings, speaks up so magnificently. So it is with the Chanticleer wines.

As expected, the older wines held their own, those in the mid-range of age opened nicely, and the youngsters in the crowd showed well at first but then dramatically improved after breathing naturally for 48 hours. In fact, most young New World Cabernet Sauvignons actually get better after being opened for a few days, and doing nothing to them other than drinking the odd glass or two. The slow aeration, or oxidation – the wine is drinking it in – or technically breathing it in– actually helps to soften tannins and lift up the wine’s true character. For example, in Piedmont, Italy, the guest of honor gets the dregs of the Barolo from the night before. This is the same idea.
Despite their moderate prices, the Chanticleer wines, especially the reds, are age-worthy and may be laid down for some time with good results.

Pinot Grigio (Decanting unnecessary)
This medium-bodied dry white wine is ready to enjoy upon release, but will mellow further for another year or two.

Sangiovese (Decanting for a short time is beneficial)
So much joy is in the bottle, it is hard to resist. Go on, give in to temptation. But if you wish, the wines may be aged for up to 4-6 years.

Riserva (Decanting for up to an hour is recommended)
This nearly equal blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon tows the line between the lithe, tart Italian varietal and Napa’s showpiece, manly Cabernet Sauvignon. If it is on the menu tonight, decanting for aeration will help soften the edges.  A simple carafe or pitcher will do. Otherwise, it may age well for 6-8 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon (Decanting for an hour or more is recommended)
There is no other place in the world so ideal for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon to its fullest than Napa Valley, but a sense of restraint is necessary to achieve that elusive balance, something Chris Dearden seems to do in his sleep. Chanticleer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon will absolutely benefit from decanting when young, and will mellow, soften, and come together beautifully, expressing their full range of characteristics at up to 8-10 years. If decanting older vintages, watch for sediment.

Ten Years of Chanticleer Excellence
2009  -  100  May age well for 8 or more years
2008  -    98  May age well for 6 or more years  
2007  -    98   May age well for 8 or more years
2006  -    96   May age well for 4 more years
2005  -    98   May age well for 2 – 3 more years
2004  -    98   May age well for 3 or more years
2003  -    92   This wine is at its peak
2002  -    96   Drink now or over the next 2 – 4 yrs.
2001  -    92   Drink now
2000  -    98   Drink now or over next 2 years

Full Report Here:
As a reference point, I used the 2010 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Napa Valley. 
Here are my original tasting notes on this wine, which, along with the others, illustrates the consistency in style that are the hallmark of the Morningside vineyard, and the winemaker’s gentle handling of the transformation of that fruit into wine.
On the nose, the wine is immediately engaging with warm, inviting notes of double-dark chocolate brownies baking and earthy, aged Sumatra coffee brewing,  along with cedar, vanilla bean, cherry compote, black currant jam, fig puree, a sanguine salami note - Fra Mani Salame Nostrano perhaps, along with  bay leaf, summer lily and Parma violet, and a gentle, chalky minerality. On the palate the wine is powerful, fleshy, opulent and plush with notes of wild blackberry, mulberry, plum, bittersweet Mexican chocolate pot de crème, and cigar box. Subtle tannins become firmer as the palate expands, and a soft, gentle acidity provides a slightly mouth-watering effect. On the finish the wine shows its youthful rich tannic structure, and the finish goes on for nearly two minutes. Decant for two hours before serving, or age for several months at a minimum, up to 6 years, though it will be difficult to have that kind of willpower.

2009 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville - Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes - Open and inviting upon first pouring, this gorgeous, understated Napa Cab has notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, plum fig and vanilla bean. On the palate, it is more like a layer cake, contrasting opulent, showy boysenberry and cassis and more delicate, tart raspberry, rich mocha and sweet-tart cherry cola, and showing a streak of sanguine, iron-rich minerality. The wine is rich, full, and plush, with very fine, well-integrated tannins and is very well-balanced. Juicy acidity carries the long finish. Ready to drink now, but decanting for aeration would reveal even more character. Excellent for on and off- premise, and a nice change of pace from the usual over-ripe fruit and oak-bombs so prevalent in this super-premium category.
New Tasting Notes – With sour cherry, Kirsch , raspberry , cedar, dark roasted coffee bean notes on the nose, a rich, luscious silky palate and a nice tarry minerality, the wine showed almost identically upon first tasting. However, as predicted, this beauty really developed over the 3 days, to finally show notes of  white pepper, mushrooms, stewed meats, chile con carne,  green olives, and black licorice in addition to the trademark cherry notes of the vineyard. This wine may age well up to 8 or more years.
Ranking   100 Points

2008 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes - At once the wine is captivating and engaging, with warm, inviting fruit notes of cassis, blueberry and blackberry pie. These are balanced with soft green notes of fennel seed and spearmint. Soft cedar chest and earthy notes of brown mushroom and potting soil round out the aroma spectrum in this complex wine. On the palate this gorgeous Cab is full-bodied with a soft luscious texture and layers of plush fruit, vanillans, black licorice and kalamata olive. Firm but well-integrated oak tannins and a light fruit tannin give structure and balance, as does moderate natural acidity, and the finish is long with notes of dark berry and vanilla.
New Tasting Notes – At first the nose showed caramel and vanilla bean oak notes, then bright red fruits, fig, and a slight herbaceous note. Oak seemed to dominate the palate as well. I gave this a low ranking. As it opened, however, the wine became more complex, with notes of chocolate truffle, cocoa powder, black pepper and beautiful dark berry fruit edging out the green notes. This wine may age well for up to 6 or more years.
Ranking: 98 Points

2007 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes - On the nose the wine has notes of cherry, cranberry, porcini dust, pancetta, and oak spice. It is full and round on the palate, with notes of cherry and cranberry as well as darker fruit notes of plum and blackcurrant. Tannins are fine and well integrated, and though alcohol is medium-plus the wine is beautifully balanced and ready to drink now. The finish is long and fresh, showcasing the classic Cabernet Sauvignon cassis notes. This wine is a very elegant expression of Napa Valley Cabernet.
New Tasting Notes  - Right out of the gate the wine was spicy, sultry, feminine, Syrah-like with dark berries, floral notes, and sandalwood. On the palate developed notes of cumin and sumac added to white rose and raspberry mocha. There are layers upon layers of flavors, and Chris’ trademark structure, combining that fine interplay of rich oak tannins and gentle natural acidity to keep things in check and maintain the elegance he is known for. As it opened, the wine maintained its lively flavor profile and even on the third day showed very similar to what is was like upon first opening, including the soft, round mid-palate with cherry, mulberry, blackcurrant, and vanilla bean notes. This wine may age well for up to 8 or more years.
Ranking – 98 Points

2006 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes – This wine has aromas of cherry cobbler, blackcurrant, strawberry, stewed tomato, sage, bay leaf, dark chocolate, chocolate malt, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. On the palate it is full in body and round and creamy in texture with intense black and red fruit and vanilla flavors. Oak tannins are lavish but very supple and well-integrated until the long, cherry/nutmeg finish, where they become slightly drying. It is very youthful and should be decanted if served now. It will benefit from a few years in the cellar. This wine stands out from many other Napa Cabs. It has only 3% Sangiovese in the blend but that little bit gives lift, complexity, and a sense of finesse for such a powerful wine. With production at 479 cases there should be enough to supply high quality wine merchants as well as discerning sommeliers looking for artisanal wines. The quality here is excellent, and the wine has great character.
New Tasting Notes – Cherry cobbler, that classic Napa Cabernet marker, is loud and clear here again – it was the first thing I wrote down, without looking at prior notes! I also got the Australian red licorice, which is rather intense, toasted wheat bread, dried herbs, lavender, and a slight bit of fennel seed. As it opened, the focus shifted back to cherry cobbler, some fig, and vanilla. This wine may age well for up to 4 or more years.
Ranking – 96 Points

2005 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville-Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes - This blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Sangiovese from the 8-acre Morningside Vineyard in Yountville captivates immediately with aromas of cassis, fraise de bois, morello cherry, cantalope, spearmint, tarragon, cedar, and vanilla. It is a luscious red with ripe dark berry fruit, juicy natural acidity, and creamy oak notes. This silky, mouthfilling Cabernet only shows its tannic structure on the slightly drying finish, which is also imbued with a gorgeous long lasting blackcurrant note. 
New Tasting Notes – Crimini mushroom , porcini dust, leather, saddle, moss, underbrush, sage, graphite and eucalyptus emerge right away.  Minus the Australian native Eucalyptus, this could easily be mistaken for a classic left bank Bordeaux such as a Chateau Pichon Baron. Structurally as well, this is showing layers of fruit but also a rich lively tannic and acidic underpinning, and the wine has a long tar-mineral-prosciutto note on the finish. As it opened, the nose became softer, with fruit aromas fading there and on the palate as well, replaced with earthy, mossy notes, and orange peel. It struck me as I was “chewing” my way through the finish , that if you drink this now, it leans towards a Bordeaux style, but if you wait longer than 2-3 years or so, it will show more like the very tannic and juicy Aglianico from Southern Italy, or Xinomavro from Northern Greece. In other words, if you wait, you trade finesse for feistiness. This wine has major sediment so decanting is recommended.
Ranking – 98 Points

2004 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville-Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes - While the 2003 version of this Tuscan-influenced Cabernet was earthy with cherry and tobacco notes, this 2004 release has notes of blueberry, plum, smoke, and cedar. Both are consistent in style though, with that gorgeous, supple character, and a bright lift of juicy natural acidity. The current release is blended with 7% Sangiovese. 
New Tasting Notes – Closed and delicate at first, with notes of raspberry, blackcurrant, orange peel, pink and red rose petal, and vanilla, this wine reminded me of a Right Bank Bordeaux, a classic, traditional Pomerol such as Vieux Chateau Certan. As it opened, the fruit ramped up, especially the hallmark cherry notes, and the wine was rich and full in texture with very soft, fine-grained tannins, again like a Pomerol. It is hard to say on this one, but it may age well for up to 3 or more years. However, it is so gorgeous now, why wait? This wine has major sediment so decanting is recommended.
Ranking – 98 Points

2003 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville-Napa Valley
Original Tasting Notes - Full bodied with silky, voluptuous tannins and a brooding, earthy, bitter cherry character. A fully ripe Napa Cab without the harsh tannins.
New Tasting Notes – if you are not sure what bottle stink is, smell this right away. First there is no fruit and lots of rubber. Then, as it takes a long drink of air, and composes itself, it begins to offer subtle notes of cedar, tobacco, cigar box, forest floor, damp cellar, mulberry, cherry, fig, and chocolate pudding. On the palate the fruit is big, and the oak tannins are bigger. Green olive and fennel come out over time, and the mid-palate becomes quite luscious, but tannins are wound up and fighting for their share of screen time. This wine is probably at its peak – we don’t want to miss the fruit window - and would pair beautifully with rich meat dishes. This wine has major sediment so decanting is recommended.
Ranking – 92 Points

2002 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville-Napa Valley
New Tasting Notes – Vinous ( a fancy word for “where has  the fruit gone?”) with notes of spearmint, banana taffy, maple syrup, rose water, dill, fennel, chalk, cedar and aged balsamic vinegar, it is only on the palate we begin to get the cherry fruit, and stewed tomato notes.  As it opens, however, the nose becomes more inviting, and showy, with notes of strawberry, and black pepper, and oak spice. The structure is soft and rich. Drink now or over the next 2-4 years. This wine has major sediment so decanting is recommended.
Ranking – 96 Points

2001 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville-Napa Valley
New Tasting Notes – Well, after breaking the cork in half during extraction, I was treated to a scoop of Rum Raisin  and a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream. This was followed by Cherry Icee, Cherry cola, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Tang, Fanta Orange soda, Fernet Branca, mulch pile, browning meat, and wet forest floor. This wine is wildly complex and very mature. As it opened up, the fruit slid away, leaving rather prominent grainy, cedary tannins and the Fernet notes. Drink now. This wine has major sediment so decanting is recommended.
Ranking – 92 Points

2000 Chanticleer Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville-Napa Valley
New Tasting Notes – I absolutely loved the aromas right out of the gate of Vernors Ginger Ale, Quinine, S’Mores, Marzano tomato, Mesquite-grilled chicken, grilled flank steak,  sandalwood, and cedar. Very soft, supple, billowy almost with completely integrated tannins, bright acidity, and bright cherry and blueberry fruit on the palate, the wine also showed a Pasilla Pepper-like earthy, spicy finish. As it opened, it showed soft, subtle dried fruit notes, earth, and a Bordeaux-like leather and restraint. Drink now or over the next 2 years. This wine has major chunky sediment so careful decanting is recommended.
Ranking – 98 Points

*Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis is a nationally known wine judge, lecturer, reviewer, author and advisor. She is Master Sommelier at Planet Grape® LLC -, a wine consulting firm providing education, entertainment, content, reviews and sommelier services. Catherine created her alter-ego, grape goddess®, to help bring wine down to earth for consumers as well as those entering the wine industry. She is the only person in the world to hold both the Master Sommelier and Advanced Certified Wine Professional credentials, and is the world’s only Master Sabreuse, opening Champagne with a sword.

This report is reprinted here with the persmission of Chanticleer Vineyards. Please visit the winery at and contact us for winery visit requests.

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