2014 La Giaretta Amarone

Amarone is special wine, made in a classic style (ie, drying grapes prior to fermentation) that has spanned centuries and dates back to the first days of winemaking–some reports say as far as 4th Century BC. The Venetians are usually acknowledged as the masters of Amarone, specifically, and that means this Italian red has old world charm in spades.

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2014 La Giaretta Amarone, Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy. 

Aged for a minimum of two years, Amarone often has a higher sugar content than other reds and thus is stronger vino. It’s also relatively pricey because of the amount of fruit used in the process. If you’re interested in a longer explanation of the Amarone method, just click here for Notes‘ quick take on the topic…but we’re moving on to the present. This bottle came out on a Friday night, a badly needed wine experience that put a long week into the rear view mirror, if only for a few hours.

It accompanied a simple meal of seasoned pork chops (little bit of spice rub; plus salt, crushed black pepper, and a garlic/lemon salt blend) and white rice. The pork was on the grill about a minute too long, and the fruity La Giaretta helped compensate and add just a bit of juice into each bite. The Amarone is rich, it is intense, and it packs a hint of the raisin smell that I have attributed to such bottles in the past. It is a lovely drink and makes for great complement to your evening. This one originates from Amarone della Volpolicella, Italy, and I’m certainly interested in adding more to my wine rack. Thanks for reading – and be sure to tell a friend. Nothing like sharing good wine!

2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve

There are several interesting nuances that I’m going to share with you on the White Oak Napa Reserve Blend—a wine that some consider a slight bump up from the winery’s highly rated Alexander Valley Reserve offering. First, it is somewhat of a rarity, as White Oak only produces this wine about three times each decade. The grapes are pulled from a side of Wooden Valley that “collects heat from the Palisades” and they only go to bat for this wine when conditions are ideal. Sounds like a labor but one of love for the growers.

2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve, Napa Valley, California, USA.

White Oak has about 750 acres around Alexander Valley and they focus on small-quantity releases. This one is a Bordeaux Blend, with a foundation in Cabernet Sauvignon (47%) and Merlot (15%) for sure, but also with a big Petit Verdot (23%) and Malbec (15%) presence as well. At your first sip the Malbec has the biggest bite and announces itself loud and clear; once the wine breathes a bit it takes more of a back seat to the Cab/Merlot blend. This mix is dark, deep purple in the glass and has the Malbec greet your nose. The 2012, crafted by winemaker Bill Parker, is aged 18 months in French Oak.

This is a Vivino purchase and they describe as a “very dark, structured, and aromatic wine that has the shoulders of Howell Mountain but the midsection of Stag’s Leap.

The 2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve is a bold red that comes at you in waves. I have one more bottle of this same blend and may decant the next one so that it properly breathes; this one I rushed just a bit. The 2012 White Oak Napa Reserve accompanied chicken and pasta on one evening, and a flatbread pepperoni pizza on the next. The bottle was enjoyable with both, and with better care by me next time I have even higher expectations. Hope this helps you with the same.

 

2013 Nickel & Nickel – Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon

A group of friends, some new and some old, came together tonight for some great vino while a nor’easter raged outside. Although the winds gusted and trees toppled nearby, inside we were all smiles while enjoying great grapes like this 2013 Nickel & Nickel, Branding Iron Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a 100% Cab from the Oakville appellation in Napa Valley and a fantastic beverage–many thanks to Jorge and Denise for hosting and opening this gem.

2013 Nickel & Nickel - Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA

2013 Nickel & Nickel – Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The vineyard is close to the base of California’s Mayacamas Mountains and comprises “well-drained clay loam”, with vines vertically trellised to maximize their exposure to sunlight in morning and afternoon times. It was planted in 1998 on eight acres that have to be pretty valuable at this point, located north of Yountville and near the famed Stag’s Leap District. Its grapes were harvested in October 2013 and aged for 17 months in French oak (47% new; 53% once-used) before released to the public in September of 2015. The vineyard’s website contains excellent information to expand upon this snapshot if you are so inclined.

Rather than visit those notes, however, you might better spend your time ordering a bottle or tasting this big, mixed berry treat. It’s more purple than red in your glass, and wow does it have legs. This single-vineyard wine practically slouches down your glass and is so endearing on your palate…it’s fantastic. There is definite blackberry in the mix, and an earthiness too I think. Having said that, there was also some Johnny Walker Green Label on the counter and it may just be the idea of good whisky that influenced my brain on the deep peat moss notes that I was smelling.

This is the first time I’ve sampled a Nickel & Nickel Branding Iron Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and, with a little luck, it will not be the last. Several friends have shared their praise for the vineyard too, and I can understand why. This wine commands your attention, with its big mouthfeel and easy finish–thanks again to our hosts for breaking out this showstopper.

2014 Babcock Pinot Noir

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.

 

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede Vineyards

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.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

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.