Étienne Doué "Cuvée Sélection" Brut NV

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Couldn’t think of a better way to kick off a dreary weekend (it’s going to storm here in North Eastern Illinois all weekend long) than to imbibe in a little sparkler!

Just so happens that on Thursday evening I attended a Grower Champagne Seminar put on by one of the local wine shops and hosted by Robert Houde Wines. A very nice lineup of 7 Champagnes from different parts of the Champagne region. While they were all very good, I could have stopped (not really) at the first one. From the small area called Montgueux and a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, came the Étienne Doué "Cuvée Sélection" Brut NV.

Starting with bright brioche and honeyed aromas, the wine continued on the palate with vivid citrus notes and a creaminess that perfectly balanced the wine. A friend next to me compared the wine to the male/female comparison, this wine being the feminine others, bigger and bolder, the male version. Quite accurate.

I also learned something new! In the Montgueux region there is no classification system as in Champagne (Premiere and Grand Cru). South of Reims and Epernay, Montgueux is near Aube. I asked about its classification and learned that the area doesn’t use the same system. They have the “autre cru” (or “Other Cru”) classification. I don’t care what they call it, I called the wine delicious! As an area without the highfalutiness of Champagne, the wine was a bargain around $35. Clarification - I like Champagne’s highfalutiness!

So no matter where you are, take a weekend break, open a bottle of bubbly (obviously the Étienne Doué) and relax and enjoy!


Orin Swift Papillon 2014

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What an apropos category for this post. Just what I want to do “Whine-some-more!” The wine for this issue of “Wine-Sum-More,” started off on what I consider the wrong foot!

At a local restaurant (the name withheld to protect the guilty) I was asked to choose a wine to open for a small group of friends. In fairness to the establishment, they are going through some changes. What I saw on the wine list was the Orin Swift Papillon 2016. Now you’re probably asking “Then why are you reviewing 2014?” Let me tell you….

I pointed out the wine selection to my server and awaited their return. Before opening the bottle, I ALWAYS check to make sure it’s what I ordered. My examination revealed that they had brought out the 2014 Vintage. Having had 2014 before I knew it was delicious but I was really hoping to try the untested (for me anyway) 2016 Vintage. What did I do? Let me tell you….

Realizing that this was about picking a great wine and not about me being able to try something new, I politely opted to keep the 2014 and have them open it for the group. At this point, you’re probably ready to tell me to “shut up and move on.” Which I was ready to do but I remembered in the Old Fart Handbook that crotchety old men are supposed to be ornery and ALWAYS complaining. Torn between duty and politeness, I eventually succumbed to the later.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, & Cabernet Franc and matured for 16 months in French oak, 40% which was new, this just keeps getting better with age. Dense blackberry fruit with a vein of tannins running through the wine and subtle nuances of earthiness, culminating in a long fully enjoyable finish. Click here for more technical notes. This wine has many more years in which to develop and should do so nicely. What did everyone else think? Let me tell you….(I know, enough with the LMTY)

Fully enjoyed by everyone! So mission accomplished, even if it was the wrong wine! No hard feelings toward the restaurant or staff, but it does remind wine drinkers that you may want to check what you ordered versus what showed up at your table.


Harris Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Julie's Creekside Vineyard” 2013

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In a rare moment of clarity, I broke away from my usual buying program (a system I wrote about recently in my blog titled “I’ll Take Two” www.HiItsDon4Wine.com/dons-blog/2019/4/24/ill-take-two) and decided that it was worth spending more to obtain more than one bottle of what was a fantastic deal on wine.

While perusing the shelves at a local wine shop, I came across a “Sale” sticker that gave me pause. The first thing that caught my eye was that the price was a full “50% OFF.” Not a small amount! As the wines are arranged by price, I also knew that the regular price was going to be MUCH HIGHER! It was, in the range of $150, making the sale price $75. So far this looks like something I should scrutinize. Further investigation led me to discover this was a 2013 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. I love 2013 Napa Cabs! More searching uncovered reviews from Robert M. Parker, Jr of Wine Advocate and Antonio Galloni from Vinous Media of 95 and 94 Points, respectfully. Respectfully, that’s outright astonishing! The wine?

Harris Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Julie's Creekside Vineyard” 2013

Combining the multi-purchase with my trusty Coravin, I knew I could extend my admiration for this wine quite extensively. Admiration is a misnomer. Once tasted, I knew I had made the right decision for this Outstanding wine.

This is a big wine! Extracted fruit with layers of flavor. Dark and rich with that rustic and earthy edge. 100% Cabernet from the Calistoga AVA, using fruit from their 2.5-acre vineyard of “Julie’s Creekside” (formerly Jake’s Creek) in Napa Valley and aging 20 months in 85% New French Oak made by none other than winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown and producing a scant 160 cases! Side note; in 2014 the winery was sold and renamed Heritage School Vineyards, but Thomas Rivers Brown continues as the winemaker.

While I was totally enamored with the wine, best to prepare to decant easily for a couple of hours or lay that puppy down for at least another 5 to 10 years.


Revana Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2016


Let’s see; Monday I did a “Wine of the Week,” Tuesday the latest edition of “Wine Tasting Tell All,” Wednesday was a regular (well, nothing is “regular” on my blog) post, and as I haven’t met anybody that I can write a “Meet the Winemaker” column, I’m left with a “Wine-Sum-More” post. This actually works out very well considering the wine I’m bringing to you. It happens that I could have written about this wine under any (except the “Meet the Winemaker”) of my columns. It’s a great wine, I found it at a wine tasting and this will be less formal so it qualifies for the category I’m eventually placing this under, “Wine-Sum-More.”

As I stood there at the wine tasting perusing the many wines, I happened across a couple that looked particularly interesting, i.e. Cabernets! One by one I started my quest (appropriate word as I just got the first season of Game of Thrones on CD and plan to binge-watch to catch up now that’s it’s ending – late to the party I know). Anyway, the last wine was of more than just a passing interest. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent posts, I am eagerly awaiting wines, mostly cabs, from Napa from the 2016 vintage. This one qualified!

Revana Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Being familiar with the name and knowing that the wines are now made under the direction of Thomas Rivers Brown after reading a recent article in Wine Spectator, a little more digging and it gets even better; as the winery explains: “Renowned winemaker Heidi Barrett has been responsible for crafting the exceptional wines of the Revana Estate vineyard since its first vintage in 2001. She has left an indelible imprint and today winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown continues the tradition of making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in the Revana style.” Two world-class winemakers!

The wine was world-class as well! Slightly more fruit driven with a rustic quality to balance it out. Full-bodied but with subtle tannins making this a wine to enjoy either now or to find a place in the cellar to age gracefully for another 5 to 10 years. Click here for more technical information. This wine also confirms my suspicions, and hopes, that the 2016 Vintage in Napa will produce other outstanding wines that will end up on this blog and, more importantly, in my cellar!

One last item. The wines of Revana are not easily acquired. Most are sold directly from the winery, but it does distribute a small allotment in certain states, I guess Illinois is one of those. Okay, two items. To avoid a little sticker shock, I will mention that the Terroir Series comes in just under $100, compared to the Napa Estate Vineyard Cabernet that retails around $165. Not inexpensive, but as I’ve said many times, “Quality Never Is!”


Three Sticks Sonoma Coast "Casteñada" Rosé 2018

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I’ve got a little special “Wine-Sum-More” edition today. As you may know, beginning this past Monday, and extending for another two, I am reviewing three different Chardonnays from Three Sticks Winery. As an “Extra,” I’m bringing you another wine being released and, in fact, the winery is hosting a “Spring & Rosé Release Event” today at their Adobe. Since I am fortunate to also have the Rosé, I thought I would sway you with my review of this wine as well.

Officially, the wine is known as the Casteñada Rosé 2018. Make no mistake, this is a wine from the same team that brings you all of the other Three Sticks wine. As the winery likes to describe; “Made up of mainly Syrah and Grenache, this wine has substance and presence, while Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier provide hedonistic aromatics.” The grapes coming from the Sonoma Coast arena and is fermented in all Stainless Steel. Also, direct from the winery: “The Rosé is one of three Casteñada wines honoring Don Juan Casteñada - the first owner of our Adobe tasting room. The Adobe is one of Sonoma's last remaining buildings from California's Mexican era, and we cherish the opportunity to honor it and its history with this wine.” Side note: I love the label and while the bottle doesn’t conform too well to wine racks in general, it too, is so cute!

Okay, now for the important stuff!


When opened you get a burst of strawberry rising from the glass. That same flavor with maybe a hint of cherry peaking your taste buds along with a wonderful acidity finely balancing the wine to make it such an enjoyable experience. What really hit me was that fine balancing act the wine exhibits. A richer fruit component but with that offsetting crispness. Finishing taut but dry, and as I said about the “Origin” Chardonnay and a comparison to a Grand Cru Chablis, this wine should be what a Rosé from maybe the Tavel region of France should aim for.

Only one thing. A scant 180 cases of the wine was produced. It’s only available to club members and folks on their allocation list. So be smart and sign-up, who knows, maybe they’ll still have some, if not, at least you’ll be there for next year.


Carlisle Winery Napa Valley "Palisades Vineyard" Petite Sirah 2014

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My memory still holds dear the first attempt I ever made to acquire a wine from Carlisle Winery. It was their 2007 Syrah Papa’s Block. I was so anxious to get ahold of the wine. I remember reading about the 98 Point Review that Wine Spectator had given it. It was also, I believe, the last time any wine was offered in Illinois from Carlisle in a retail establishment.

My love for Syrah is deep and long-lived. If you haven’t had wines from Carlisle, maybe you’ve heard the name of the owner/winemaker, Mike Officer? Either way, if you haven’t tried any of the wines, you are missing out, big time!

That was my intro to the winery. Since then it is one of only a handful of wineries that I am a member. Trying to pick and choose each release, what wines I should opt for. Not an easy decision.

That brings us to this “Wine-Sum-Mor.” The 2014 Carlisle Winery Napa Valley "Palisades Vineyard" Petite Sirah. The Palisades Vineyard, just north and east of Calistoga under the majestic Palisades cliffs is one of the very few vineyards left in Napa Valley still producing Petit Sirah. The vines used in this bottling are right around 50 years old (oh how I wish I was ONLY 50!). Anyway, with scores hovering all around the 95 Point area, it was about time to pop the cork on this beauty and take it for a spin around the dinner plate (lame, I know).

The wine, however, was miraculous. Deep, almost black wine with dark fruit aromas lifting from the glass. On the palate you sense the full-bodied wine caressing the inside of your mouth, Blackberry fruit with supportive tannins that carry the wine and leave that sense of pleasure remaining endlessly, allowing you to savor the nuances of each sip. I feel that this wine can last many more years, glad I still have some left.

Focusing originally on Zinfandel and Rhone Varietals, Mike has since expanded the line and the various vineyards from which he now sources the grapes. As I mentioned, when allocation time comes, it pushes me to the limit of what to buy. Outside the winery, a quick search shows some of the wines may be available through wine shops, but do yourself a favor, and just get on their members-only list.