2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto

My first Barbaresco for Notes this evening, and breaking quite a domestic run that I’ve been enjoying over the past several months. Before this Italian gem, the only “offshore” wines I’ve sampled as of late have consisted of Orin Swift‘s Locations, so even that means international grapes through the lens of a US winemaker. Many years ago at a client dinner in Buffalo I had my only previous Barbaresco, and since I don’t remember that very well this one is getting a good up-close glimpse.

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto, Barbaresco, Italy.

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto, Barbaresco, Italy.

The wine is really nice, an easy-drinking red that runs lighter than a Napa Cab but heavier (and smokier) than a Pinot Noir. At its core the 2012 Barbaresco Riserva is cherry in flavor, albeit with some definite spice and smoke on the palate. It is made from Nebbiolo grapes and a nice break from the fruit-forward reds I have favored as of late. This fruit is grown in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy and mixes “tart berry flavors with dray earth, spices, and potpourri.”

Vivino (from where I purchased this bottle) says of Barbaresco, “If you ever wished that Pinot Noir had the punch of Cab, this might be the wine for you!” A truism and I just might be that dreamer–at least on a summer nights where a Cab is a bigger commitment.

This evening the 2012 Barbaresco Riserva from Roberto Sarotto accompanied a simple meal consisting of grilled steak (seasoned only with salt and pepper) and a garden salad. Enjoyed the meal; enjoyed the bottle of wine even more.

It’s the first Barbaresco for Notes but I’m pleased to report it will not be the last. Thanks as always for your readership!

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2018

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2015 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Edwards & Chaffey, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Cambridge Meritage, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Domaine d’Andezon Cotes due Rhone, Red blend. Rhone, France.

2015 Mestizaje, Mustiguillo Vineyards & Winery, Red blend. Spain.

2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet, Padthaway, Australia.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 Acha Red, Mark Herold, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2002 Syrah, Miller Wine Cellars, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Claret, White Rock Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Robert Storey Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

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

2014 Amarone la Giaretta della Valpolicella, Italy.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon was recently featured at my favorite wine shop and, as a birthday present to myself, I picked up a bottle several weeks ago. Tonight I decided was the occasion to break it out. I had high expectations given the emphasis winestore placed on it, and I was interested to share my findings with all who follow Notes here.

Important comment: I did not taste the Willowlake prior to purchasing, which is somewhat unusual for me when buying from that shop because they do a great job of giving consumer access through their sampling machines. No, this time I bought based on the description of the wine (Only 84 cases produced! “I would really challenge any of you who are Cabernet lovers to find something of this caliber at this price. The wine is INSANE.”), the bottle design, and the overall reputation of the Howell Mountain AVA in Napa Valley. Okay, a little bit based on price, too. How could I go wrong with all those factors lined up in my favor?

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon has some heft, its sturdy glass and cork covered not with foil but actual wax. Not sure any of the 350+ bottles covered in Notes to date has had this treatment, so that was a first for this taster. Such presentation seemed promising too and, as the wine tumbled into my Reidel Cab glassware, my interest in the Willowlake peaked. My brain was thinking “Hey this was a $135 release that I got for less than half that price!” and was already trying to interpret the vanilla and oaky notes I detected rising up from my first big pour.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

And here’s the thing. It just didn’t measure up. Man, that never happens to me, and never with a bottle that should have so many things going for it. I have read others comparing the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus, and I do not think they are evenly remotely similar. I’ve previously remarked of the fruit bomb that I find the Wagner offering to be, and this is not really like that in flavor at all. The vanilla I found a bit too far forward, and it took my taste buds away from any layering or earthiness that I expected in the Willowlake wine. Don’t misunderstand me; the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon is really good stuff–but it is not the GREAT wine that I had in mind.

Part of me went, “Dude, you should have just tried the Disciples or grabbed another bottle of the Cuttings or the Palermo instead…” But that’s the whole point of wine tasting, right? You identify some favorites, sample new options, make some notes, and compare bottles as best you can with those from your memories. There is no wrong answer as long as the vino is flowing! Thanks for your interest in Notes and the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon–share both with a friend.

I4, Locations Wine

Yes a Dave Phinney wine, and the first Locations covered in Notes in months. This is the second I4 that I purchased before the holidays (the first review got away from me…), and somehow I had enough restraint to hold off opening it until this evening. And open it I did.

I4 Locations Wine, Italy.

I4 Locations Wine, Italy.

Loved savoring this wine, this mix of black cherry and spices. It classed up a nondescript dinner that isn’t worth sharing here. The I4, however, is. This red blend is rich, it carries faint scents of raisin, and it has a smooth lasting finish.

The grapes? Well, these I had to look up as we are definitely straying from the California vineyards I travel so frequently. In the I4 blend are negroamaro and nero d’avola from Puglia and barbera from Piemonte. I’m searching my memory and think the only time I’ve sampled this fruit previously was the I4 I drank nearly six months ago.

Of the I4 Locations, the winemaker’s notes are as follows: “Black cherry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cured meat–which are complemented by shades of sandalwood, vanilla, balsa, and evergreen. The entry is silky smooth with a textured mid-palate of velvety fig, blueberry jam, and soft oak.

I suspect the fig is what I called raisin, but good to know I’m not too far off the pace. Black cherry is a no-brainer too. And “cured meat” sure sounds awesome but this escaped my unrefined palate. You’ll have to try it yourself and make a call.

I am aware that most Notes photos show label fronts, and perhaps I surprise you by avoiding Phinney’s iconic lettering? No matter; I just like the clean lines and striking red of the back label and decided to show this to you instead as a change of pace. Pull one from the shelf of your favorite wine store and share your thoughts–I’ll be waiting.

 

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards

The Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon is the little brother to the flagship Pine Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons produced by this well-regarded vineyard from the Stags Leap district. The winery has been in acquisitive mode, securing more than 150 acres from five appellations in Napa Valley–including Stags Leap, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, and (one of my favorites) Carneros.

Given this access to grapes from different terroir (pretty expensive terroir at that), it’s easy to see the Pine Ridge winemakers can mix and match to achieve subtleties in their offerings. The Encantado – which means “charmed” in Spanish – is a good example of this approach, as fruits for this big Cab are sourced from holdings across the valley. It’s a Bordeaux-style red, with big flavors of cherry leading the charge. I almost think there’s some vanilla notes in play, but I liked the Encantado too much for that. Maybe I’d describe that subtlety as slate instead? That ribbon running through this ruby red is not what I often describe as peat moss or earthy, and it’s not quite leather or spice box as other reviewers would describe. Thus I give you slate?

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Grapes for the Encantado were selected and sorted prior to pressing, and this fruit went through extended maceration after fermentation so that certain flavors could be pushed forward–sounds cool and I can tell you the taste speaks well for the care the Encantado receives. It’s also aged in 100% new French oak barrels for 18 months prior to bottling.

Really nice wine and, since I purchased from WTSO.com, I am pleased to say I have another one or two of these to continue my Encantado adventure. This 2014 vintage accompanied a classic Memorial Day meal–burgers and dogs from the grill (braved in the rain!), a little green salad, and potato salad too. Some might opt for a Miller Lite or something with this lineup, but this guy is more a wine aficionado than a beer fan–but that is an option for the future too. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend and thanks again for following Notes.

2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend, Waccamaw Wines

The 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend is a delicious red wine, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Toriga, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cab Franc–and I guess shows my blended state of mind this weekend after the 2016 Sheriff last evening. It’s affordable, layered, and fruit forward in a very generous way. Whereas I recall the Syrah textures and blackberry flavors of the Sheriff, my memory of the Waccamaw ties it more closely to black cherry notes. More of the Zin and Cab I think?

2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend, Waccamaw Wines, California, USA.

2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend, Waccamaw Wines, California, USA.

My friends at Winestore liken the 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend to the Banshee Mordecai, and I think the Waccamaw is far and away the better option. The Banshee always seemed to need time to open, but the Waccamaw was ready to go right from the time of uncorking. It was better than the Rockus Bockus red blend that I’d sampled recently too.

A great value and I should have purchased more of these when I was last in my favorite wine store. Sorry for the short review, folks, and I look forward to expanding further on the 2016 Waccamaw Proprietary Red Blend when I get my next one.