2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtney Benham

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtney Benham, Napa Valley, California, USA.

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2017 Saldo Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company

Two of these bottles so far, and hoping for more in the future. This is the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, bottled in Oakville by The Prisoner Wine Company. Delicious stuff–Zinfandel primarily–but like many Phinney wines, it brings a few more threads into the braid. Let’s explore further…

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

For starters, it’s a combination of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah grapes sourced from Dry Creek, Lodi, and Amador. Yes all favorites (the grapes and the AVAs) of this oenophile, and grounds well traveled here in Notes over the past seven years or so. Just check the filter to the left and you’ll see firsthand.

The 2017 vintage pours very dark in the glass, a red on the verge of purple, and shares with you a host of rich, earthy notes. The Petite Sirah and Syrah confer a bit of black pepper, and the Zin has plenty of cherry as you might expect. It’s fruit-forward and has soft tannins. There are some other subtleties in play but I cannot separate each of those for you here. Remember, the site tries to be unpretentious?

Having said that, research is part of the experience. A quick read on the Prisoner Wine Company website shows that Saldo means “here and there” in Latin (don’t remember any of that from my own rudimentary studies…) and it’s a tip of the cap to their red blend philosophy. The 2017 Saldo Zinfandel is aged in French and American oak barrels (25% new).

A refreshingly fruity red blend hiding as a Zinfandel. Enjoy!

2017 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars

This fireball is still a tad young, but still beckons…an alluring bottle of red, a headsy blend that’s got a solid Petite Sirah backbone. The 2017 Machete from Orin Swift Cellars is probably meant to age far more than I allowed but sometimes it’s about today and it’s about now instead of the future.

2017 Machete

2017 Machete Petite Sirah, Orin Swift Wines, Helena, California, USA.

So flame on. This 2017 bottle of Machete is from a Milk Run, and I’ve got a couple more for days ahead. Tonight is a work night and crazy one at that so less notes from me this time. I’ve offered Machete tasting notes in the past (just run a quick search or filter for Petite Sirah) and you can be damn sure I’ll do so again too.

 

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines

The wines on my birthday dinner have not always made Notes. There are a lot of factors in play, from great company to competing priorities or even just cruising past a glass without making any tasting notes. This year I jotted some ideas down while this 2014 Steele Pinot was still top of mind.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines, Carneros, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines, Carneros, Sonoma County, California, USA.

First? The setting. A great restaurant (O-Ku) in downtown Raleigh, a cooly lit and funky-vibed sushi place that had a great understated buzz to it. Second? I’m there with Mom, and we’ve done a couple really fun birthday celebrations over the years. (Hell, she was there at the start!) Third–the food. It’s really delicious, a mashup of great presentation and unbelievable flavors. Yes we did edamame, then traipsed through an amazing rock shrimp “O-Ku” style (with honey sriracha aioli, fried shallots, and mixed greens), and then hit our entrees. Mine was the Hamachi Crunch – which consisted of yellowtail, jalapeño miso aioli, crispy rice puff, serrano, and black volcano salt. Really amazing…

…but how about the wine? This is the 2014 Steele Pinot Noir, a Carneros bottle that of course reminded me of adventures past. The winery sources grapes from Sangiacomo properties that, like much of the region, surely benefits from the cool breezes and evening temperatures that help the fruit develop amazing flavors. This wine is aged for nine months in a combination of French and Hungarian oak barrels.

It tastes light, it tastes strawberry, and it tastes cherry. No question about that at all. It pours a gentle red in your glass, and immediately you catch notes of the strawberry flavors at play. At the same time it’s juicy, carrying just a little heft to it but of course far easier than the red blends and California Cabs that I’ve sampled more recently. Liked it a ton, but the overall evening far more. A fun memory that’ll keep!

2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, Orin Swift Cellars

How do you commemorate writing a @*%* tax check for Uncle Sam? You shake your head and reach for a bottle of good wine to cushion the landing. This guy opted for the 2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon from Orin Swift Cellars. (Yes, I’d have celebrated a better return the same way, those of you asking…)

2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, Orin Swift Cellers, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Palermo has been on my radar for some time, as a gift for friends, from friends, and once on a memorable date that I enjoyed a ton. We didn’t even finish the bottle on that occasion – guess the company was the more intoxicating play. Said another way, this was the first time I was drinking this Bordeaux-style red with thoughts of how I would describe here in Notes. It’s rich purple in your glass (I went with Riedel stemware for this one) and waves blackberry scents to you right from the first pour. The 2016 vintage is very drinkable, dark berry fruits, and has an easy finish that is probably some of the blended fruit rounding off the harsher tannic corners of the Cabernet. Little spice notes that are far more subtle than the blackberry / dark cherry taste.

The Palermo is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes that the winemaker sources from across the ripe floors of Napa Valley. Calistoga, St. Helena, Coombsville, and Oak Knoll all contribute to this kitchen sink of a wine as does Pope Valley, Atlas Peak, and both Rutherford and Oakville. To what extent? Only the winery knows for sure, but you can bet their inclusion is for both taste and the overall marketability of the Palermo. They mature the Palermo in French Oak barrels for 10 months.

This evening, the 2016 accompanied a pork loin (just a tad overdone) and just a big ol’ salad of arugula, spinach, green olives, and a sweet onion that I shaved into little slivers of goodness. And yes, fresh ground pepper and bacon, with blue cheese dressing. Hey, if tax day doesn’t bring out your sense of carpe diem and good wine what does?!?

2013 The Vault Red Blend, Banknote Wine Company

Birthday wine – this year’s answer is 2013 The Vault Red Blend, from the Banknote Wine Company of Napa, California. It didn’t quite go with dinner so I just sampled a glass or two before holding it over for today. Love the numbered bottles each and every time I sample one! Great gimmick…and the second I’ve tasted from Banknote specifically.

2013 The Vault Red Blend, Banknote Wine Company, Nap Valley, California, USA.

2013 The Vault Red Blend, Banknote Wine Company, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Yes I have a soft spot in my heart for red blends, and this one was pretty enjoyable. Easy, grooved-down-the-heart-of-the-plate cherry and blackberry mix here. Softer than a Cabernet, and reminiscent of the Michael David blends that Notes has covered with some recurring frequency throughout the years. Or even the Sheriff produced by my favorite winery. Just a little spice to it that I presume comes from a Syrah or Petite Sirah? Bottle #2501 accompanied pork chops seasoned with garlic salt and pepper, white rice, and a green side salad. Oh yeah, a chocolate bundt cake with chocolate chips too!

Says the winemaker, “The rich, smooth palate follows with a dense core of rip blackberry, cherry preserves, vanilla, and espresso. The long, persistent finish and mellow tannins make this wine extremely versatile in food.” 

Thanks for all the birthday wishes; I raised a glass of thanks to each of you who made for the special day.

2012 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer Vineyards

This bottle I’ve been saving for six months (pretty sure it’s actually been longer), looking for the right occasion to break it out. This day is not quite unfolding in reality as it had in my mind’s eye, but the 2012 Beringer Private Reserve is doing good things keeping me grounded. This wine brings together some delicious berry notes and spices in a way that is so refreshing after the last couple of beer days I’ve had.

2012 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer Vineyards, California, USA.

2012 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Beringer Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Beringer is sharp. And that’s not to say tannic. I mean it’s a nice, headsy beverage. High caliber. Really a nice-drinking vino, with deep purple colors and a boatload of dark berry flavors. This is blackberries from the vine, and a nose full of spices that are more kitchen-based than from the forest floor. This Cabernet Sauvignon is practically screaming to be enjoyed with a nice grilled steak but (surprisingly) accompanies a lovely piece of salmon and asparagus with burnt butter sauce instead. Both wine and fish disappear with astonishing speed…

Here’s what the Winemaker offers on the Beringer Private Reserve: “After aging for 17 months in French oak barrels, the final blend showcases black fruit, mint, and dark chocolate along with a long, luxurious finish.

That all sounds amazing as I read on the now-empty bottle. I love single vineyard reds–and Napa Valley Cabs in particular–and 2012 is certainly a banner year for both. I know, I know…Notes can seem to alternate between single vineyard Cab and “kitchen sink” reds so who am I to trumpet for either? I’m blessed to say I’ve had more winners than losers in my little lifetime, and the Beringer is a big “W”.  Enjoy your weekend everyone.