The lobby of the Fairmont Santa Monica served this tasty beverage, which I enjoyed after a challenging presentation to our best clients. I hadn’t slept at all or eaten beforehand, so I was living on fumes and this 2014 Babcock Pinot Noir to celebrate the end of a long day.
The wine was fun, but its taste I scarcely remember. The winery is located in Santa Monica County, California, so practically local. The 2014 Babcock is a little cherry, a little raspberry, and a tad deeper in color than the Pinots from my favorite winery.
Oh yeah…nearly forgot. Not pictured here, but captured nevertheless on my phone was Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Biggest celebrity citing of this lifetime. Apparently the Governator often frequents the Fairmont with his crew, stopping by mornings after bike rides and workouts, but on this evening he had dropped by with a bodyguard too. Sort of looked like he needed a shower and some gel but seated 20 feet from me in the flesh.
I had two glasses of the Babcock and would have enjoyed more…but in the privacy of my own home. The grapes were good and the need to celebrate (in triumph and relief) was pronounced. And thanks to our special guest star, I’ll never forget this wine or the event.
Yes this is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Cliff Lede Vineyards in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley, California. Great juice, here, and no surprise that it resonated so powerfully with this aficionado of the region and the varietal.
This AVA is one of the best known in the world, and the small 60-acre lot that produces the fruit for Cliff Lede fuels a state-of-the-art processing operation set into the California hillside. The winery’s technology is well-described here if you’re curious for a deeper dive; more interesting to me was learning of the ‘rock blocks’ (My Generation, Dark Side of the Moon, etc.) used to name each segment of the vineyard. Love that kind of fandom…
…and speaking of fandom I loved this 2014 Cab. How could you not? Crafted by winemaker Christoper Tynan it is a real beauty of a wine, with grapes sourced from their Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard, and a few gracious (and surely well-compensated) neighbors in the District. Given the terroir described for these areas there are some really interesting layers at work in the Cliff Lede Stag’s Leap District Cab. Of course there is plum and blackberry, and some things hinting at vanilla but not quite. It is crazy dark purple in your glass and amazing on your tongue, layers of something that reminds me of high-end soaps and their subtle fragrances.
Says the winemaker: “Interwoven into the floral notes are unctuous layers of plum, blackberry, and black currants. Loads of smoked cardamom, cinnamon, and black licorice unwind onto the palate where the vibrant acidity carries the long finish to a state of balance and equilibrium.”
Whoa. Said in short? Helluva wine. Yeah it’s got the mash up that I so enjoy in Bordeaux-style red. This one comprises a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Merlot. They made 7,246 cases of this stuff, bottling it in July of 2016 after aging in French oak barrels for 21 months.
Do yourself a favor and read about the sorting, fermentation, and related production notes…and then get a bottle for the next big celebration you have. You can thank me later.
Winemaker Dave Phinney is in his #5 vintage of this California Locations wine, and this is the first of two CA5 bottles I picked up prior to the holidays. California always offers a wide variety of grapes, tastes, and AVAs for consumers, and it feels incredibly ambitious to bring together all of these tastes into one single bottling that captures the essence of the region. Phinney has a long track record of doing this successfully, however, particularly in his Prisoner series and other related blends, so if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt it’s him.
I’m still mulling over some of the subtleties at play in the CA5. Let me mention this wine includes fruit from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Sierra foothills. I’m not sure how Locations networked with growers for the international Locations fruit, but it stands to reason he knew who to call in California for good grapes. In the CA5, there is an obvious cherry and blackberry foundation. The wine is smooth and fruit-forward–not as direct as a Michael David wine–and easy on the palate. The Locations people tell you it’s a blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Grenache, and the grapes are nicely combined. A big red feel that is very much in keeping with the Bordeaux-style California Cabernet Sauvignons.
This to me is less Syrah, less peppery, but stacks of red and black berries. A hint of smoky spice too. The CA5 is barrel aged for 10 months in French oak, and it has a 15.5% alcohol content that sneaks up on you. I had it tonight with a pork and broccoli dinner, and the wine was a nice contrast to the roasted flavors in my meal. I’m considering pulling the cork on the second CA5 next weekend while this taste is fresh on my palate–if you have tasted this vintage perhaps you would share your thoughts here too for Notes readers?
Thanks for your consideration and your readership, and best in 2018.
It’s The Prisoner who started off our evening, a 2015 purchased along with a few other Phinney red blends that will be opened during this Christmas season. The Prisoner made a Thanksgiving appearance, too, enjoyed by long-time friends and family gathered for delicious bird and festivities.
While I opted for a comparable Buena Vista red on that occasion, this evening I went with the Prisoner Wine Company offering. The delicious, rich taste of the red overcame a rookie mistake: the bottle had sat in cold, December temperatures for several hours and I didn’t allow it to warm up enough when first serving. Once the wine had warmed in the glass, its true character–big cherry and chocolate notes–were much more apparent on the nose and to the taste.
It accompanied hors de oeuvres (essentially cheese and crackers), and our three glasses quickly dented and polished off this 2015. The taste? The Prisoner you may already know, but if not suffice it to say it is vintage red blend, a mix of Bing cherry, chocolate, black raspberry, and warm spices. Not earthy notes but more baking-type accents. Its finish is very smooth and leaves that cherry as a sign-off. Always a great treat!