2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, PureCru Wines

Birthday wine, this gem, one selected specifically for the occasion. Where does a gent go for satisfaction and representation of the Finer Things Club? Yes, the answer is Napa Valley Cab. This one is new for me, a 2016 from PureCru Wines. Let’s break it down.

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, PureCru Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The date is April 7, 2022. It’s evening, a long workday slowly sliding into the rear view mirror. I’m fatigued, in part from the concentration and in part from the early start of this Thursday. Thankfully this bottle, a dinner of several favorites, and Cara’s good company are there to raise my spirits. Several ‘nifty gifties’ are neatly wrapped and well within my interested gaze…

The 2016 PureCru Cabernet Sauvignon simply caught my eye on a recent trip to the wine store, seeking a bottle worthy of this milestone. Loved the striking bottle design, the raised red lettering both stamped and scrawled over the textured black label. Plus I’m a sucker for anything like the PureCru where there is limited production—there were fewer than 500 cases of this wine produced. 

I think “Napa” is my actual favorite four-letter word? Anyway, the wine is a pleasure. A bright, cheery and cherry wine filled with ripe fruit flavors. It’s all about red fruit and full bodied goodness, but has subtle notes of chocolate or plum just behind the dominant cherry. I’m tired but want to tip my cap to Mitch Cosentino – winemaker – for this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was barrel-aged for 39 months in French oak. I only purchased one, but additional bottles are in order, yes sir…

2015 Azienda Agricola Marianot, Garblet, Barolo

About two years ago I snatched up several of these “Garblet” bottles from Azienda Agricola Marianot, and slowly I’ve worked through them without providing a Notes summary—until today. This is a classic Barolo from Italy’s Piedmont region, with Nebbiolo fruit harvested from vineyards (ranging in age from 10 to 40 years) in Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, Novello, La Morra, Ceduno, and Grinzane Cavour.

The 2015 Barolo vintage, I’ve come to learn, is pretty exceptional and I half-question the good deal that delivered the Marianot Garblet to me. I mean to say, if 2015 is indeed a great year for Barolo (and acknowledging Barolo as the “king of wines”) doesn’t it suggest this a fledgling offering if I obtained at less than $20 per bottle? Freely I share that the previous bottles I sampled felt slightly undeveloped, but that could have been me drinking too early or without allowing the wine to breathe as much as I did tonight.

2015 Azienda Agricola Marianot, Garblet, Barolo, Italy.
2015 Azienda Agricola Marianot, Garblet, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy.

This bottle I liked much better, and not just because I was savoring the UNC victory over Duke tonight. The wine is light red in your glass, clearly not as deep-hued as a Cabernet or Syrah, but delivers excellent cherry flavors. Call it garnet red? The 2015 Marianot Garblet has notes of strawberry and earthiness on the nose too, a dry wine overall. It grew on me over time and I’m wistful I had not allowed the previous bottles to set up properly. We had this wine with dinner, a Saturday night special with steak, wedge salads, and asparagus—and though light in color its tannins stood up well to the task.

Of the 2015 Marianot Garblet, James Suckling comments, “A fragrant Barolo that adds a spicy, herbal edge to the impression of dried rose petals and caramelized orange peel. Medium-bodied and grainy. Medium-chewy and medium-long on the finish.

The Marianot team fermented the Nebbiolo in stainless steel tanks and ultimately let the wine mature for 24 months in Slovenian oak barrels. Fining consisted of 4 to 6 months in stainless steel tanks and at least 6 months in the bottle. The result is an intense, harmonious 2015 wine that I really enjoyed. Looking forward to more Barolo in the days and weeks ahead. 

2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend, Judd’s Hill

Red blends recently caught my eye while buying online, and the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines from Judd’s Hill was one of the batch. Now, I’m an easy sell for any ‘old wines’ grapes, and that bias generally serves me well—just as it did here with this Napa Valley bottle.

The winery is family run, and proud of it. Judd’s Hill produces not only well-known California treats like Cab Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, but also less-frequent AVA guests like Viognier and Grenache. They’re also sharing prominently the Judd’s Hill focus on small lot wines, and all that gears one up for a great tasting experience. That’s exactly what I enjoyed here with the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend.

2017 Walt's Old Vines Red Blend, Judd's Hill, Napa, California, USA.
2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend, Judd’s Hill, Napa, California, USA.

This 2017 growls softly at you. The wine is replete with berry goodness, an explosion of blueberry and blackberry on your palate. Those are the obvious notes, but others are at play too. The winery’s website indicates “marionberry, huckleberry, and lingonberry” are also conveyed in Walt’s Old Vines, but I simply don’t have the palate or previous taste for any of those more subtle hints. Check it out and let me know? I do get a gentle whiff of pepper, but it is very faint—not as pronounced as a Syrah or Zin. The aftertaste has slightly less rounded notes, a bitterer profile that I’d think more like a cranberry vibe. All in all, it’s really quite enjoyable!

If you’re trying to find the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend from Judd’s Hill, you might see results including the Cuttings (The Prisoner Wine Company), Machete (Orin Swift Wines), or even Scout’s Honor (Venge Vineyards) in your search feed. Each of these Napa Valley greats has a profile similar to Walt’s and would serve you and your guests very well. I bought two the first time out and encourage you to better that score when you make your buy. You’re welcome—and thanks for reading.

2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard Red Blend, K Vintners

This black-cherry treat was an upgrade on a recent online order. The 2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard is a red blend, a mix of Syrah (31%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (69%)—two of my favorite grapes and combined to excellent effect here.

2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard Red Blend, K Vintners, House of Smith, Walla Walla, Washington, USA.

Winemaker Charles Smith maintains his vineyards in Walla Walla Valley, Washington, and opened for the first time in 2001. Most of his operation features small lots of single-vineyard Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. Though he reportedly sold his first wines from the back of a truck, they’ve come a long way over the past two decades. This bottle is named for his mother (Roma-Jean) and those who read Notes know I have long enjoyed bottles that tie in a family connection. 

Smith is proud of his “Rhône-centric winery” and, tasing this 2018 Roma, I understand why. It’s full bodied and infuses a little something subtle under the black cherry notes that lead the band here. It’s not quite cedar, but definitely something earthy like perhaps peat moss? Tannins are present but pretty mild…

It’s easy drinking and feels like this wine is punching all the right buttons. Most K Vintners wines are hand picked, fermented with naturally occurring yeasts, and basket-pressed—this one too. I only had one 2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard Red Blend in my order, and I wish I had another. You will too—score one when you can and thank me later. 

2017 Ryan’s Reserve, Tertulia Cellars

The 2017 Ryan’s Reserve red blend is a real pleasure. Formerly produced by Tertulia Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington, it’s a supple wine, one of those great drinks proven to be greater than the sum of its parts.

2017 Ryan’s Reserve, Tertulia Cellars, Walla Walla, Washington, USA.

The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (21%), Cabernet Franc (21%), and Malbec (8%) grapes. Tertulia apparently gets its name from the Spanish word for a “social gathering of friends” and that’s a nice inference, even if a hokey label design. (Look it up—you’ll see that plus “bull session.”) Additionally, both the vineyard manager and winemaker were named “Ryan” so they doubled-down on the branding at Tertulia. 

Lots of great tastes here, and the fruit must be contributing to the rich flavor realized in the 2017 Ryan’s Reserve. It is not too sweet and is certainly distinct from the fruit bombs often covered in Notes. The wine pours fragrant, an even black cherry or plum, and earthy while avoiding a peat moss type of fragrance. Structure or undertones conveyed from the Merlot, perhaps? 

I bought the 2017 Ryan’s Reserve from Underground Cellar, one of my first experiences with the online retailer. Their value proposition has intrigued me and I’m still in the process of evaluating—more on that to follow. In the meantime, enjoy your vino responsibly and make the 2017 Ryan’s Reserve one of your next tastings. Unfortunately, the winery went out of business in 2021 so this is part of a shrinking inventory…step lively, people! 

2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine

Conundrum is always a great option for your vino fix, a proprietary red blend that Notes has covered many times and in many ways over the years. This site has covered bottles going back nearly a decade, and be sure to cruise notes on the 2012, 2013 (there are several) and even the 2014, or others at your convenience. I am not sure how I missed a vintage in this vertical but looking to make up for that here.

2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine, Napa Valley, California, USA.
2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It’s a flavor bomb, a tooth-stainer of a red that has fans all over the world. As with previous vintages, the 2019 Conundrum is jammy and packs in the dark berry goodness. Sampling Conundrum for the first time or the 100th you’ll surely detect the dark cherry or plum notes, the leggy red tumbling full and inky into your glass. I have occasionally whiffed a little hint of vanilla in the mix, but this particular bottle had more of the fruit than the spice as defining characteristics. It had a few minutes to breathe but was essentially ready to enjoy right away without decanting, filtering, or similar preparation.

Yes the label is eye-catching, but less so than the Wagner name (Notes covers many of those, too) for most oenophiles. On the other hand, I’ve missed recent vintages of Conundrum so the silver did work as a marketing tool.

Polished off this 2019 tonight with a healthy tilapia (white wine, butter, garlic/caper goodness), broccoli, and apple sauce dinner. Trying to make good decisions early and often in 2022, and hoping your new year is off to a similar good start. Thanks for reading and best in the year ahead.

2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

Time to ring in the new year, and no better way to celebrate the passing of 2021 than with a Buena Vista red. Here is the 2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel, a small production run of just 550 cases, and one bottle therefrom made its way into my fall shipment from the vineyard.

2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

Let’s take a moment and break down this “get,” shall we? The 2019 Private Reserve Zin is produced by one of the oldest vineyards in the US, located in Sonoma, California. It is less jammy, less sweet than other Zins you might sample. Those notes may be part of the wine; they may also be partially a result of my penchant for rushing a pour instead of letting a new bottle breathe for a spell. 

It shares a bit of strawberry on the nose, and it’s a bit spicy too, but has more of a cherry slant when you’re actually tasting the wine. The 2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel is full-bodied and rich on your palate. While I cannot speak authoritatively on this vintage, the Buena Vista Private Reserve Zins are usually hand-picked and fermented separately in open-top vats prior to pressing and aging in French, Hungarian (yes, Cara and Lauren!), and American oak barrels. I’ve also had the good fortune to sample the 2012 and 2015 Private Reserve Zin, and I’d encourage you to check out those notes—and drink the wine—at your convenience.

Special thanks to Loona for ensuring the fridge was stocked with our delicious New Year’s Eve supper. It was so thoughtful, and wonderful to see the little plates and ramekins labeled with your careful instructions! Here’s our interpretation of your prep: the holiday ham, the collared greens, the black-eyed peas with all the fixin’s, and even homemade apple sauce. The wine is just a capper on a great bit of ambiance curated for our celebration. 

Already 2022 feels lucky by comparison. Hoisting a glass to health, home, and loved ones near and far. Hoping your own celebrations take on special meaning, and best to us all in the year ahead.