2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel

After an unprecedented amount of October work travel, it’s amazing to just unwind for an evening. The world slows down for a beat and lets you appreciate the finer things in life. A day spent relaxing, sipping a fine glass of wine (or two!), and enjoying quality time. That’s what this night is all about.

Margaux’s Restaurant is playing host. It’s just into the cocktail hour, and the bartender is attentive with hors de’ouevres as well as the stemware. Having skipped lunch, we’re out early and seeking sustenance in all forms. Company, foodstuffs, and grapes too of course—this bottle is the 2016 “Old Vine” Zinfandel from Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma Valley (Healdsburg, actually). It’s an apt selection for Zin fans, and the winemakers pride themselves on harvesting fruit from old vines that are over 95 years in age—and in some cases more like 130. That’s a lot of time to take on the character of the terroir (here an iron-rich, rocky and gravelly loam), I am sure.

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

So what about this Old Vine Zin? It’s a swirl of dark fruit flavors, with definite vibes of blackberry and perhaps plum in the mix. Like all the zins that resonate with this guy, there is a spicy note or two, and several other intangibles that I can never quite define as precisely as I’d like. This 2016 bottle is a combination of zinfandel (78%), petite sirah (19%), and carignane (3%) grapes, and it has a nice, rich finish that’s very gentle. 

Here’s how the Dry Creek team describes for you: “This vintage presents alluring aromatics of blackberry cobbler, fresh cranberries with notes of white pepper, cola and dried herbs. On the palate, brambly layers of black cherry, black raspberry and dark chocolate come forward with nuances of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.

Okay, so “spicy note or two” is vague but directionally solid. Sounds great, right? In researching I also uncovered that the 2016 was actually harvested the first week of September 2016, and it was stored 5 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (27% new). We’re sampling with roasted Brussel sprouts, a chilled platter of Old Bay steamed shrimp, and a funky salad (or should I say “salat”?) involving a bit of Belgian endive wizardry. 

Thankful the evening and all the good things that it portends. Hoping you can put your hands on a bottle too and share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Enjoy your night, and your wine too. 

2017 The Boxer Shiraz, Mollydooker Wines

It’s finally happening—Notes is covering one of the most beloved cult wines in the 2017 The Boxer Shiraz from Mollydooker Wines. For those of you used to seeing California Cab and Dave Phinney projects (past and present) here, just turn your gaze west across the Pacific to Australia and this big, jammy flavor bomb.

Since I know you’re curious too, a “Mollydooker” is a left-handed boxer in Aussie slang. So there’s your tie-in between producer and product. The winery is located outside of Adelaide in the McLaren Vale, and that puts their grapes in a Mediterranean climate conducive to great wines. Mollydooker encompasses 114 acres of Shiraz, Cabernet, and Merlot grapes that are grown sustainability (always love that).

2017 The Boxer Shiraz, Mollydooker Wines, McLaren Vale, Australia

The Boxer 2017 vintage, however, is more than that. Mollydooker pulls grapes for The Boxer (48,929 cases of this vintage!) not just from its own Coppermine Road and Mollydooker Home vineyards in McLaren Vale, but also Birchmore and Joppich vineyards in Langhorne Creek too. They barrel-ferment this wine and allow it to mature in American oak using a combination of new (42%), one-year old (42%), and two-year old (16%) barrels. If you haven’t yet sampled the Boxer, know that the wine is bigger than the sum of its parts. 

It’s a complex, fruity, and layered wine and embodies everything I like about good Cab and Syrah. The Boxer offers you cherry flavor and plum too; I’d say balancing the red and black berry fruits but folding in too some chocolate notes too.

Says the winemaker, “This alluring and unashamedly bold Shiraz has hints of spiced plums, blackberry jam and cherry all at the fore and finishes with coffee cream, licorice and vanilla. Full bodied with vibrant berry fruit characteristics, yet elegant with restrained tannins, resulting in a soft mouthfeel.

I really didn’t sense any vanilla in the mix, so it may be a note too refined for my palate. I nod vigorously at the cherry and plum, though. The 2017 The Boxer has a lot of character and a long finish that does remind me of a Swift red blend. I had this wine with oregano-seasoned chicken over a nice bed of couscous, mixed with poblano pepper, sweet roasted peppers, olives, a spicy sour cream. Sorry that you didn’t see this final product (only sent that photo privately) but know it was a much-needed meal and drink after a long work week in New Jersey.

The Boxer was well worth the wait–and I’ll be faster to the trigger for my next one. Enjoy!

 

2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company

The Prisoner Wine Company makes several of my very favorite wines, including cult classic The Prisoner (natch) plus the Cuttings (my favorite wine of the summer two years ago), and this really enjoyable Saldo. Each has been covered in Notes previously, but I really like sharing my love for them so apologies for if I repeat myself here in the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel.

2017 Saldo

2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

This bottle is a Friday night selection, a dark ruby gem that accompanies a new meal I’m making for the first time: a healthy version of a creamy butter chicken with white rice. The dish packs in onions, garlic, ginger, paprika, and curry, so the wine has to have enough legs to hold up to the Indian spices. I erred just a bit on the coconut milk used to offset the heat, but good wine helped overcome that oversight.

And the 2017 Saldo answers the bell. Yes, it’s a robust red that has notes of pepper and cherry (not really blackberry, black currant, or strawberry here) readily available, and little spice accents as well. Do you see why I thought it might accompany the chicken dish? The wine has a good mouthfeel; it’s substantive and rich but very smooth overall. Given the grapes used to create Saldo you’ll understand if I consider this as much as red blend as I do many of the zinfandels covered here in this blog.  

Let us touch on the blend—because if you follow PWC like I do you know the wine is never a straight-up single vineyard, one varietal bottle. Their 2017 California Zinfandel is actually a combination of zinfandel (85%) and a petite sirah / syrah blend (15%), aged in both French and American oak barrels (25% new). Saldo is sourced from AVAs that include Dry Creek, the Sierra Foothills, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, and Lodi; winemaker Jen Beloz (formerly of Ravenswood) selects fruit from Mattern, Aparicio, Teldeschi, Grist, Taylor, and Bismark Mountain Vineyard for this Saldo zinfandel blend.

Trying to understand the meaning of “Saldo”? We’ve covered that before and you can check out here if you have another moment. Me? I’m off to better things and say thanks as always for your readership.

 

2017 Papillon, Orin Swift Cellars

Nearly two summers ago I had my first exposure to the Orin Swift Papillon. While Notes did not fully profile the wine at that time, it did make the Top 10–high praise given the 400+ bottles covered in these pages. I’m here to say the 2017 vintage continues that standard of excellence.

2017 Papillon, Orin Swift Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It’s a bordeaux-style blend, a new release that mixes five different grapes (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and merlot) sourced from throughout Napa Valley. After pulling the cork you’ll be greeted by big, rich scents of blackberry and pepper, and an inky reddish purple that’s probably the color of blood before it hits oxygen. My first sip was too soon–the wine had not yet had a chance to breathe and was slightly tart. After sitting for 15-20 minutes during a late-night dinner prep, the Papillon settled into a deep, flavorful dark fruit medley. Definite blackberry or black cherry scents wafting (maybe cedar or spice box?) heavenly from the glass…lip-smacking goodness.

This is from our winemaker friends at Orin Swift: “Intensely layered and decadent on entry, the wine exudes characteristics of black plum, boysenberry, kirsch and dark chocolate with a silky soft yet weighty texture. A prolonged finish of Provençal lavender, fig leaf and ripe currants close out the wine.

The 2017, a very special gift that I appreciated on multiple levels, is aged for 15 months in French oak (43% new) barrels to very good effect. It delivers a nice, easy finish for a wine with so much gravitas. Special shout out for the great photo and my favorite company. The Phinney magic touch continues again for another year…