Hello Colgin My Old Friend

By AJ McClellan

For Ivans birthday you know that we are going to push the boat out. It was a great Graileys day, only a few members in and a handful of great wines. Of course we had the table full of good juice but the three that really stood out for me are below…

Colgin my old friend

2009 Tusk Cabernet Franc Magnum – We went and visited this estate last year and the experience was phenomenal. This magnum came from that visit and we promised to save it for a special event. Well, it was Ivans birthday and I could not think of a better time to open the bottle than for the birthday of the one that turned us onto the wine. Once opened aromas of blackberry, cherry, vanilla, cedar, anise, and lavender exploded from the glass like that have just been waiting to be released since bottling. The wine was plush on the palate and while I think it could have benefited from a days worth of decanting I was very pleased with the results.

COlgin my old friend2

1995 Colgin Herb Lamb – Ah yes, hello my old friend. I love Colgin Herb Lamb. This wine represents the best vale I have had in wine for a good long while. The pure expression of fruit is stunning and the silky texture of this wine is unparalleled. I have had many vintages and bottles of this wine and it always impresses. This wine is simply one of the best I have had out of Napa.

1997 Araujo Eisele Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Magnum – Another great bottle of wine from a wonderful producer.  This will be the third time I have had this wine in the last two months and the magnum has shown the best out of all of them. Sweet red and black fruits with subtle earthy aromas make this a very Bordeaux like bottle of wine.

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Thursday Sippin’

photo dom ruinart 02

A few descended on Graileys last Thursday and it was clear from the first bottles hitting the tables that it was going to be a fun afternoon.

I decanted a 1989 Leoville Barton about two hours before the wine was going to be consumed. Wow, this is a wine that is in prime drinking window right now. A spectacular bouquet of menthol, forest floor, and green tobacco layered with sweet blackcurrant note emerged from the glass. In the mouth, it was medium-bodied with a silky texture. The savory notes of earth, dried tobacco and forest floor with sweet black fruit flavors subtly build in the mouth creating this layered complexity. Bottle age has truly melted the tannins away creating a wine with a very smooth mouthfeel.  Good length with a nuance of forest floor.

I loved the bouquet and the texture of the 89 Leoville-Barton that I instinctively sat my glass down on the table so I can just re-experience it every few minutes. In the meantime, I sat back and sipped on a powerfully structured, focused, very zesty 2002 Dom Ruinart Rose. In the mouth, the wine was tightly-wound with the structure driven by a lip-smacking acidity. I thought it was very young and quiet backward. Slowly, aromas of crushed rocks, minerals, citrus, ginger spice, green apple, floral undertones, and red currant emerged from the glass. Very elegant, refined bubbles.  This wine was about power and potential for longevity. I think it just needs some bottle age to allow the firm acidity to settle down a little bit. I’d love to revisit this Champagne in another 5 years and see how it evolves.

We went back to Bordeaux courtesy of the smoky, broad, and fleshy 1990 L’Evangile. This showed more intensity on the nose with smoke, plums, black cherries, and a truffle, underbrush, and dried herb undertones. The palate was also richer, with more flesh and concentration as well as a sweeter fruit profile. The wine’s concentration and balance suggest that it could continue improving in bottle for years to come.


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Double Trouble

photo salon 1999

Fresh from some Bordeaux shenanigans last Tuesday, our Wednesday afternoon was whiled away sipping some prestige cuvee Champagne. James R was in and he didn’t waste any time in treating us to two of the most glorious bubbles around.

First on the table was a 1999 Salon Blanc de Blancs.  This was refined elegance in bottle. Beautiful and layered nose of citrus blossoms, lemon, green apple and nuance of flinty/smoky minerality pop from the glass. Unbelievably fresh in the palate. Silky textured, extremely refined bubbles, just seamless. Flavors were consistent with the aromas; citrus, white peach, white blossoms, green apples builds in the mouth.  The wine finishes with persistent length and a precise minerality that keeps the wine fresh and readies you for the next sip!

The 1985 Dom Perignon, on the other hand, showed tremendous power and structure. This had a more savory edge with dried mushrooms, roasted nuts, toast, honeycomb, peach, and quince holding forth on the first sniff. In the mouth, this showed a creamy mouthfeel, flamboyance, and richness of fruit that I loved!

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A Pair of 2009 Cali Cabs with Exceptional PQRs

blog 2009 value cabs

Here at Graileys we pride ourselves in our ability to find great wines at every price point. Through countless tastings-blind and open, we seek the best in category for classic fine wines from around the world. With ever more wines in the marketplace and the rise of wine marketing overload, a service that I enjoy providing my clients is the random email/text request: “What your best Cali Cab @ $40-I have a (bbq/party/camping/sporting event) next week an need some good juice.” or “I am looking for a$150 Cab for half the price-what do you have?” In these instances real service is provided in the world of wine and I enjoy that part of the day. I was thinking about that after drinking these 2 excellent 2009 Napa Cabs with outstanding Price to Quality Ratios or QPRs. I like this method for thinking of wine purchases or drinking-how much relative wine “bang for my buck” am I getting? It is me and my wife? us and another couple we like? A larger dinner with strangers? Providing booze for a book club event? Each scenario presents a different QPR requirement as well. Oh the nuances of wine…

The first Cab was the 2009 Casa Piena “Our Gang” Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville. This is from an adjacent vineyard to the modern classic Kapcsandy Family and their State Line Vineyard. This was the core of Beringer Private Reserve Cab for 30+ years. This is a modern day classic in the making. This would be the “second label” meant for earlier drinking to the Grand Vin Case Piena. Thomas Rivers Brown mans the helm here with grapes from the always wonderful Jim Barbour.  If you love the smooth, hedonistic side of Napa Cab, this is a pop & pour Cab that shows wonderfully! This wine is saturated and dark purple in color with a nose of violets, coffee bean, vanilla, creme de cassis, crushed black raspberries, toast and ripe blackberries. The palate is riveting with round, sweet supple fruit tannins balanced by black raspberry acidity and very generous toasty, sweet spice and chocolate oak notes and lush dark fruits. The wine is seamless, pure and generous and every drink makes you want to inhale another. All this for less than $80. Bravo TRB and Jim-a wine to slurp down without guilt!

Next one of my “go-to” Napa Cabs, 2009 Five Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon from Saint Helena, rocked at always for an insanely low price. The ultimate party Cab for friends! This is literally the fifth generation of vintners in the Napa Valley making great wine from a small estate vineyard in Saint Helena. They make phenomenal QPR wines like Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and this Cab. Krisi Raymond can trace her family roots back to Jacob Beringer in 1876. Her husband Kirk Wrede makes wine at Raymond now and it a young talent to watch. This is my ultimate baby Cakebread Cab. It is loaded with blue, purple and black fruit with violets, cocoa and sweet tobacco and creme de cassis. The oak is coffee bean, dark chocolate, and smoke framing the lush blueberry, blackberry and dark plum fruit. Violets, pipe tobacco, a lightly tugging velvety smooth tannin adds length to this wonderful wine. This is a wine to keep a case sitting around of. It is always fantastic.

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Happy Birthday Don!

By: AJ McClellan

Happy birthday to Don! We had a great night just hanging out and drinking some stunning juice and reminiscing about our trip to Bordeaux….


2010 Opus One – This wine was surprisingly open and drinking very well. The fruit was powerful and backed by a forest of oak but still in balance.

1989 Cos d’Estournel – This is always one of my favorite wines. The 89 Cos was drinking lovely with earthy aromas of moss, forest floor, and wet foliage. The fruit was still sweet showing black berries, currants, and cherry.

1999 Trapet Chambertin – The 1999 Trapet Chambertin is one of my favorite bottles of Trapet I have ever had. It is in a perfect place right now with still fresh fruit showing ripe Bing cherry and loads of cranberry. There is a wonderful mineral note of limestone on this wine as well adding to the complexity.

2010 Greer Cabernet Sauvignon – I was not super impressed with this wine. It may have just needed more time to open up but to me it was a little one dimensional with hard oak notes and flat fruit.

1998 Lynch Bages – It has probably been over half a year since I have had a 98 Lynch Bages. I must say that this bottle was very surprising to me. The last time I had one it was tight and closed down, no so with this wine. The Lynch Bages was full and fruity with lovely rich body and very pretty earth notes on the end. A very impressive bottle…

1994 Dominus – No surprise here, the 94 Dominus was drinking AWESOME. This bottle always shows very well when we have had it. A slight green note on the front of the palate but nothing that detracts from the sweet red and black fruit as well as the great spicebox notes that linger on the finish.

2007 Gargiulo Vineyards G Major 7 Cabernet – I was very impressed with this bottle. I remember when it first came out and I was saying this is going to be a stunning bottle of wine. A year later I can tell you I am still excited to see how this bottle will develop. Sweet red fruit on the palate with lush tannins and a long savory finish.

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Simon Exploring the Right Bank … in Phoenix

By: Simon Roberts

Blog SImon

A visit to Phoenix this weekend has me drinking some great wines. The standouts have both been Bordeaux right bank wines, but very different in style. A great buy four years ago for our Graileys members was the 2000 vintage of Chateau Bel-Aire Ouy’. If you still have this wine in your cellar I would suggest popping a bottle, it is drinking exceptionally well. It has perfect balance of fruit and is punching way above it’s weight, this has turned out to be a very astute buy back in the day, as was the 2006 Le Bon Pasteur from Pomerol. This was another find that we offered a few years back and patience has paid off with this wine, it has a killer nose of blueberry pie, with a deep mid palate, cedar, vanilla and toasty oak dominate and it has a lingering , pleasurable finish.. A very good Merlot based wine that was a great buy for those who bought. We have some big guns coming out tonight at a clients house but if they are any near as good as these two we will be in for a treat.


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Three Decades of Rocking Out with our Corks Out

By: Ryan Tedder

blog 3 decades good

You know something I seldom here from wine enthusiasts around the city: “I wish I was drinking less aged wines. I only want to drink young wines fresh off the boat.” The quintessential “Jerk” line from Steve Martin seldom rings true-”Let’s splurge a little-let’s get something from THIS year. With an umbrella in it…” As someone that has a pure love for wine and the lifestyle that comes with, I firmly believe that fine wine must be aged-it is a moment in time; a memory of a special place, person or thing; the blood, sweat and tears of the vigneron dancing with the cards dealt by good old mother nature. The dance continues every day, but to truly see the majesty of the dance, you need to take a step back and reflect on the vintage, the producer and the story of that singular bottle of juice. You could say I’m a romantic, I think I would agree…. Today we had a great chance to reflect on three great wines spanning 3 full decades from three classic regions. All the vintages are classics and all the wine were showing great. Ah, great vino-my lust and desire;)

We started with a bottle of 1989 Michele Chiarlo Rocche di Castiglione Barolo that was drinking great! I had low expectations but wow I was wrong. This is classic aged Nebbiolo-haunting aromas of dried roses, truffle, cranberry, red currant and fig with refined, silty tannins and a long, elegant finish. This was not an expensive bottle of wine but as a time capsule of 1989 I know I liked it more than “Read My Lips” and the Gulf War. Chiarlo makes a LOT of wine now, but his feet are firmly in a traditional, high quality Baroli state of mind.

Next we had the honor of opening a bottle of 1996 Emmanuel Rouget Les Beaumonts 1er Cru Vosne Romanee. Although this vineyard shares its name with the one of the best towns in Texas, no Texans were harmed in the production of this wine nor do the grapes hail from there. Instead we have the nephew of legendary Burgundy luminary Henri Jayer crafting a wine from one of the finest Premier Crus in the whole of the Cote de Nuits in about as classic of a vintage as you will find. This is a 50 year wine. When we opened it the wine smelled like shit and filled the room with stank. The flavor was muted with primary red fruit, wet mud, mushroom, tobacco and dead animals. Oh what a difference 2 hours of air makes…This beautiful libation generated the fruit we were expecting yielding lush berries, dark cherries and raspberries, truffles, pine needles, dried earth, beets, pomegranite, roses and dried tobacco. The finish was stunning on the last sip and the special quality of this wine feels like we somewhat missed it because we drank it too soon. In 1996 I was a high school junior driving a grey firebird trying to date every cheerleader and do illegal activities. I took my first ACT and bought my first jewelry for Valentines day. I wish I had been in Burgundy helping craft this enchanted elixir.

We finished with a hot rod of a wine called 2007 Cristia Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf-du-Pape. You would have to have charred taste buds and no sense to not realize how absolutely slurp-tacular this wine is. This 70-80 year old 100% old vine Grenache bottling was opulent, fleshy, full-bodied and well endowed in every way. Ripe to jammy blackberry, black cherry pie, Kirsch, red licorice, dried fennel, lavender, garrigue and exotic spices ooze out of the glass and the ripe, round quality of the fruit tannin just frames this tour de force of ripe fruit, jammy extract and a touch of old world savory to reel it all in. This wine is a baby with lots of life left in it. In 2007 I had just taken over as the wine guy at Stephan Pyles main restaurant. I think this wine would go great with his dry aged Ribeye with beans and fried onions. I think I ate that 3 times a week there. Cristia is a winery to find, drink and collect. Every wine they make has been great so far for 5 years now. Bravo

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Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow

diamond creek 1980

Ivan the Fiver generously shared this bottle around last Wednesday. I really shouldn’t have been drinking… well, that was the plan but when Ivan offers you a taste of anything, be prepared to see your resolve just dissolve.

So, I swirl and sniff…

Tremendous iron note, graphite, and a touch of cedar were the initial bouquet on the nose. The palate was medium-bodied, vibrant, and smokier than the nose suggested. As it aerated in the glass, a note of blackberry and plum started to emerge. I’m wowed by how ‘pretty’ this wine was and it just got better and better as it took some air. The fruit became sweeter and layered with menthol, then cedar, then iron, and spices.  I’m thinking, Bordeaux. Something from a vintage that is more about restrain and elegance rather than power. I thought, maybe 88?

This turned out to be a 1980 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow.


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Two Beautiful Old Bags from Margaux

By: Ryan Tedder

Blog Old Margaux

Great Margaux is the stuff of legends. This oft maligned village on the left bank gets knocked for having a very high number of classed growths that often do not live up to their pedigree. I often agree with this point of view. The second and third growths are often disappointing especially in “off” vintages. In good and great years, the really good wines will blow you away. Yesterday was a Margaux experience that would make a fan of the appellation. Great Margaux’s like these have a bouquet that oozes out of the glass like no other. The dried flowers, cigar wrapper and beefy minerality paired with the dark plum and cassis is riveting.

1990 Rauzan Segla was the first bottle we tried. I had this same bottle 2 months ago and this wine mirrored its excellence. This wine needed 2 hours to properly open. The powerful granite and top soil minerality lead this wine followed by fennel, anise, cassis, and black truffle. Cigar wrapper, wet leaves and ferns also showed up while the tannins were present yet refined. This was a vintage of Rauzan Segla makes this an obvious second growth. I wish every Segla I tried was of this quality.

The next wine was truly special. The 1978 Chateau Palmer had a funky, nasty cork and it was a royal pain to extract. As Simon often says, “The Nastier the Cork on Old WIne the BEtter the Juice.” He is wise…This wine got called 1982 Pichon Lalande blind by a member and the Pauillac notes were definitely present. Pencil lead, cedar, slight herbaceous, bell pepper, powerful blackberry, creme de cassis, violets, dried tobacco, saddle leather, dried marjoram…Oh My! My favorite Bordeaux I have nhad in a few weeks. The wine was great out of the shoot and just got better over the next 3 hours. What a treat. If you see this out anywhere-buy it! Stunning juice.

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T.R.B. loves the Dark Blossom

By: Ryan Tedder


The weather is warming up in sunny D and people are coming out from hibernation. We had a fun small group of great people the other day to try the new release of SQN on the eve of the Final Four descending upon the area. Another one of my newest Napa faves also got popped and the good times rolled.

We opened the 2011 Sine Qua Non Dark Blossom Grenache to sample the newest vintage of this perennial Cali Cult wine. The 2011 Dark Blossom follows the 2010 Five Shooter. Comparatively speaking the 2011 DB was more linear and focused down the middle of the palate. The wine was less opulent, forward and creamy than the 2010 5S. This is not to say the wine is weak, far from it. The overall style of the wine feels like you should tuck this one away for a year or so before you try it. The linear nature of the palate seemed to be holding back a tidal wave of dark, brooding purple and black fruit, dense truffle, chocolate, and light earth with an extremely long (albeit unrefined) finish. The heady aromatics of the wine were a melange of exotic spices, violets, orange peel with plump blackberry and creme de cassis. This is not a wine to ever “pass” on a vintage of-the 2011 year was hard in California. SQN’s first expression of this challenging year was quite the stunner. Bravo Krankl!!

We followed with a bottle of 2010 Pulido Walker Melanson Vineyard Cabernet made by heralded winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown. To our knowledge, this bottling is the only Pritchard Hill Cab that TRB makes. You know Pritchard Hill-Colgin, Bryant…Mountain Cab Nirvana…This tiny production Cabernet (150 cases) was presented to us very humbly by the owner of the winery late last year. Pulido Walker only makes two Cabs from single vineyards in Napa. The Melanson was the plumper, dark, more well endowed Cab to us. The wine can be presented so modestly because once you open a bottle, the excellence of the wine simply speaks for itself. Rich, dense dark mountain fruit with violet aromatics. Bold, ripe but round tannins make for a caressing palate experience with balance and balanced but delicious French Oak. This is every Napa Cabs lovers dream. If you can find some: buy it. This wine is a head-turner.

Lastly with one season winding down and another starting up:


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