2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Daou Vineyards

This 2018 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon makes a vertical here in Notes, with the 2016 and 2017 having received previous attention from this wine fan. As neither of those received a worthy summary, I’m going to take a few moments this Sunday afternoon to share feedback for those of you who’ve yet to taste a Daou Cab.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Daou Vineyards, Paso Robles, California, USA.

This wine is great value for the price, a striking red that is not cloyingly sweet or artificially spiced. Red fruit flavors do abound, and you’ll have no trouble detecting cherry in your glass or maybe even raspberry too. The 2018 vintage finishes easy on your palate and has a smooth, even character.

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Daou Vineyards pours ruby red in your glass and does not need much time to breathe and open up. It’s totally feasible to just uncork, pour, and enjoy. This particular bottle accompanied a simple seared chicken breast, kicked up with a spice blend of rosemary, basil, sundried tomato, orange peel powder, and a few others. Yes, it feels like summer here in the south so corn of the cob was part of the mix too, and a wedge salad with just the right accents of onion, tomato, bacon, and blue cheese.

The wine wove a warm red ribbon through the whole of it, and I was glad to share all this goodness with great company. Yes, that same great company whipped me in Gin, but I felt lucky nevertheless. This Daou is readily available, and you can find it (probably) as easily in your grocery store as you can your favorite wine retailer, whether brick and mortar or online. I’m sorry to see it go and looking forward to my next one already. Enjoy your Sunday…

2017 Z R. Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah, Jeff Runquist Wines

Notes has covered Jeff Runquist wines on several occasions since first meeting the winery, and it’s a staple on my dinner table even when not covered in these pages. The 1448 in particular, and the Runquist Petite Sirah first on my birthday back a few years ago. On that happy occasion I sampled the Sirah first on a winestore tasting machine and, having enjoyed that experience so much, had it for dinner that night at Del Frisco’s in Charlotte. Good memories of all that…

2017 Z R. Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah, Jeff Runquist

2017 Z R. Salman Vineyard Petite Sirah, Jeff Runquist Wines, Plymouth, CA.

Let’s be clear. This is great juice; big and full mouthfeel that hurls the dark fruits at your palate. It pours—like all my favorite Sirah—so purple in your glass that it’s nearly black. You smell blackberry and plum and try to think of other dark berries as the notes waft up at you from the glass. This 2017 finishes so smooth that you come back for another glass, and then another refill without even noticing the bottle has quietly slipped out the back door.

I’m not yet sure of the significance of the Z. R. Salman Vineyard and will research that and share here on another day. Know that this 2017 accompanied first a fiercely contested game of rummy 500 and then a “make it up as you go” dinner. Mine consisted of kale, sausage, garlic, leeks, and green onion over quinoa (sambal oelek as an accent)—an interesting mashup of spices to which the Z. R. Salman Petite Sirah held up very well.

Here are notes from a gent (Jim Gordon) more polished than me: “Big, spicy and almost sweet, this showy and full-bodied wine overflows with chocolate, baking-spice and blackberry syrup flavors. It’s tannic, but the richness of the fruit and the sweet-seeming oak component soften it nicely.”

Always enjoy a day that includes a little Runquist and know you will too. Thanks for reading and enjoy your holiday weekend.

2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery

Many things go into selecting a good wine for the evening. There’s your meal, calendar, need for celebrating—the company plays a significant role too. And just sometimes you pull a cork because of what you’ve got in mind for dessert.

This is one of those occasions.

2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir from Buena Vista Winery rings the bell in the way their Pinots have been up for the challenge for many years. I’ve had bottles shipped to me in New Jersey and North Carolina over the past 10 years, and I’m somewhat surprised to learn that my relationship with Otelia goes back to the 2008 and 2010 vintages. How many relationships do you have go back a decade? 

This sweet girl never disappoints. Otelia mixes cherry flavors with a little hit of strawberry…just a little note of earthiness too. It’s not a light Pinot Noir, and not one where you have vanilla flavors that are almost cloyingly sweet. Bottle 260 (the individually marked bottles is a gimmick I have loved since first encountering it with Buena Vistas past) is more like a Pinot Noir blend, and if you’re a Belle Glos Pinot drinker this will be a good home for you too. In any event, the wine as a great complement to the fresh strawberries (dipped in semi-sweet chocolate) that we had prepared for our dessert this evening.  

These are the winemaker’s notes: “This Pinot Noir is sourced from some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Sonoma Count; this wine has [a] distinctive blend of clones that is enhanced with a small amount of Pinot Meunier to add depth and complexity. A variety of soils ranging from sandy loam with a shallow clay layer to heavy clay contribute to the distinctive deep fruit and earthy flavors in this wine.”

As always, a note of appreciation to the team at Buena Vista Winery. May all our relationships be this generous and rewarding!

 

2018 Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

Unshackled is a typical Prisoner wine–a delicious big red blend that kicks serious tail. It’s an approach to winemaking that has made me a fan of Dave Phinney wines since I first tasted the Prisoner, all his recent productions through Orin Swift Cellars, and certainly the diverse Thorn, Saldo, and Cuttings bottles I’ve had experienced courtesy of Chrissy Wittmann, the current Director of Winemaking at The Prisoner Wine Company. If you have followed Notes for any period of time, you’ll know that my favorite three winemakers are Buena Vista, Orin Swift, and The Prisoner Wine Company, and bottles from each appear here with regularity. 

2018 Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

2018 Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, St. Helena, California, USA.

Unshackled I tasted earlier this year but did not take a moment to memorialize any tasting notes, so this is a first run at it. Unshackled is big fruit, big Cabernet Sauvignon from California. While it is not quite a “tooth stainer”,  Unshackled does pack in plum and dark berry in plentiful supply. Cherry or perhaps some black cherry notes too. It is smooth, neither too dry nor too sweet, and easy drinking right now; this bottle I didn’t age at all but hit it right after purchasing from my favorite wine store. This wine combines grapes grown from along the north and central coast of California (e.g., Monterey, San Benito, Paso Robles, Lodi, Sonoma, Dry Creek, Mendocino, Redwood Valley), and they are aged for 10 months in both French and American oak by the Prisoner team. This is the official word from TPWC:

Aromas of plum and blackberry with a hint of olive. Vibrant flavors of black stone fruit and dried herbs with solid tannin structure result in a flavor-forward Cabernet Sauvignon with balanced acidity.

We had the 2018 Unshackled with fresh salmon and a Greek-style farro, a light meal that was well-accented by this Cab blend (which includes Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot too). The price point on Unshackled is done right too–it keeps you from dipping into your weekday cellar defenders or from having to level up to your single-vineyard Napa hallmarks. A great wine overall, and a tasting experience I’ll look forward to again soon. 

 

 

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery

Quilt wine was first shared with me several Thanksgivings ago (thanks Potter!) and I enjoyed that big Cabernet Sauvignon right away. Notes should have reviewed that bottle at least once since (I’ve enjoyed a couple), and when I saw The Fabric of the Land was available at my favorite local wine store*, I made sure to add a bottle to a recent order.

Suffice it to say, the Fabric made its appearance last night, a welcome reward for working with my hands throughout the afternoon. There’s something to be said…something primary…something elemental for putting your hands in the dirt and planting while a kind sun beams down on you. I had bare feet in warm grass–occasionally wet grass–that felt equally rich for my overly desked body, and I was appreciative of the opportunity to shape the world around Cara and me for a few hours.

Neither of us felt like cooking for the first time in weeks, so we decided to pick up barbecue from Picnic and have that with the Fabric. We split a kale salad, potato salad, and slaw to varying degrees; she opted for pulled pork (which was great) and I went with the brisket. The brisket was only average, but thankfully the wine was above average. And that’s good, right? After all, this is a wine blog first and foremost.

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Fabric of the Land is produced by Quilt, which is part of Copper Cane in Napa Valley, California. Right on the bottle the Quilt team proudly promotes the mix of Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot grapes that go into this big red (French Oak barreled) blend. Quilt selects these grapes from across Napa Valley, including the Oak Knoll and Calistoga areas of this rich AVA.

When combined, you get a nice even, fruity blend. The Merlot is soft and gentle; the Sirah definitely adds some of the spice notes you’ll detect on your palate. It’s obviously less of a Cabernet or Petite Sirah taste and much more of a Bordeaux-style that reminded me of Conundrum. (I picked up one of those too in the recent wine run, and that new vintage we’ll assuredly cover in the days ahead.) In your glass the Fabric is dark cherry, and it has that flavor to it too, along with definite black raspberry afterthoughts. Here’s how the Quilt team articulated that idea:

“Full-bodied and complex flavors of tart raspberry, blackberry, dark chocolate, and light notes of spice. This wine as a long finish with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel.”

Honestly, I get more of the cherry than raspberry but that’s simply this guy’s take. Quilt wines are well-packaged and well-marketed, including this new personality added to the Wagner family roster. You’ll enjoy, so be sure to pick up a couple the next time you can stop by your local wine store. Enjoy!

* Yes, this was a safe, controlled-environment curbside transfer…thanks COVID-19 for that extra wrinkle.

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Conte di Castelvecchio

The Notes review of this Montepulciano is overdue, but believe me dear readers you are not missing much in this wine. Yes this is still part of my wistful “there with you in spirit” Italian vibe, but this thinking has had me kissing more frogs than princesses as of late. Notes has covered more than 100 Cabernets (mostly hailing from California) and 110 red blends (ditto) to date, and I’ve become much more adept at picking winners from that AVA than I have from the old world.

Based on an interesting price point and forecasted tasting notes, I selected from an online provider this 2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, from Conte di Castelvecchio in Montepulciano, Italy. It’s not so amazing, and it leaves me wanting for a better class of Italian red…something as delightful as the Amarone recently reviewed here.

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Conte di Castelvecchio, Montepulciano, Italy.

Yes, I fully realize it’s not just to compare this (mass production?) Montepulciano to an Amarone, but life’s too short to drink bad wine. This Montepulciano became a fast “weeknight” dinner beverage instead of a staple that you look forward to in a weekend bottle.

The 2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has cherry at its base structure, but it’s a thin and underdeveloped cherry at that. It has a ribbon of smoke running through it, but really tastes so immature that I was disappointed in my selection. There’s really not that much to be said for this wine, so I’ll cut the review short. Hoping you’re enjoying your quarantine and staying safe!

2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini

This Amarone gem breaks a run of recent “meh” Italian wines sampled for Notes in recent weeks. Whereas each of those was undermuscled and generally thin, this 2015 Amarone from Allegrini compared very favorably to what I traditionally enjoy in a new world Cab, Syrah, or robust red blend. Thanks for the great birthday gift Mom, and here for you all is the run down on the 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – Allegrini.

2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini, Italy.

Notes has covered on a few prior occasions the process used in the production of Amarone wines (just browse or filter by “Amarone” if you’re interested), so a repeat is unnecessary here. Do know that this wine packs in nearly 15% alcohol and is a powerhouse. It is full of fruit (corvinone, oseleta, rondinella, and corvina veronese grapes) and has a pleasantly bitter finish. In sampling the 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, you’ll likely detect black cherry, a little bit of chocolate, and certainly the “raisin” or dried fruit typical of an Amarone. That’s one of my favorite notes and I’m 100% confident I could pick it out from other varietals.

This 2015 accompanied a Mediterranean meal that was as fun to prepare as it was to eat. Our menu included a Greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and green onions, accompanied by a homemade dressing of vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper), falafel, tabouleh, tzatziki, hummus, and toasted bread that stood in for pita. My favorite of the foodstuffs was a lemon dill yogurt sauce that accented any of those bites. It’s one of those meals where you can search all night for the right combination that produces the “ideal bite” and enjoy the hell out of each attempt – even when you fail you win.

Plus, we had this rich, balanced drink to make the whole thing come together. The Allegrini Amarone is high class grapes, and we treated it with all the necessary respect. Our only want here was a second bottle. Give it a go and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Big thanks for this thoughtful and delicious gift!

2016 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon,Duckhorn Wine Company

Yeah, this is birthday wine, and grapes done well. Big shout out to my brother Steve for the amazing hookup–this was an unexpected surprise and much appreciated!

If you’re following this Notes journey, you may have realized the Italian wines about which I’ve recently written were not in fact consumed in the hillsides of Montepulciano but rather here in NC while looking wistfully overseas. In the spirit of solidarity, I’ve tried to embrace those grapes but they are not as near or dear to my heart as is a Napa Cab. Brother, this is exactly what the doctor ordered!

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2016 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon, Duckhorn Wine Company, Napa Valley, California, USA.

So here we are: birthday dinner. This one checks all the boxes. The perfect date? Yes. Steak? Yes. Asparagus and crispy crowns? Check! And a lovely Napa Cab–this is about a good a day you can have in the middle of a workweek slash pandemic. (Yes, my favorite movie is queued up too…of course I honor traditions always, and hell yes to thine own self be true…)

The Duckhorn has a host of great qualities, and great brand awareness too–deservedly so. It’s pleasantly fragrant when uncorked, an oaky, plum that’s completely enticing. Even before pouring, I know it’s a much heartier wine than the Nebbiolos I’ve been recently sampling. In the glass it’s ruby red, nearly purple. This Cab is more dark fruit than red…more plum and blackberry than dark cherry…and has really nice, subtle notes of spice to it too. I love it immediately, as does Cara. The best sip is your first, and the worst is your last…because…well…

A Duckhorn Cab is one of those reasons you push through a tough workday, slog through challenging work, bosses, and clients. It’s the way you reward yourself for taking it all on, headfirst and like a man, for answering the bell each new round. I’m so appreciative of the gift, and for the occasion. Looking forward to my next, and sending big thanks to you all who took time to make an impact on my day.

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve spent time with Notes in the past, you’ll know how much I enjoy the The Sheriff of Buena Vista red blend. Its luscious combination of Petite Sirah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Mission, and Merlot grapes has been well-traveled ground, and you can read my feedback on the 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013 each here. I’m offering similar praise this evening, albeit perhaps in a less verbose post than usual.

2017 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

There is tons of big fruit in this wine, rich flavors of blackberry and dark cherry with little spice accents that are really a treat. Be sure to read previous coverage of the Sheriff if you’re up for a deeper dive into the wine itself. While I’m always biased toward the Petite Sirah offered by Buena Vista (you’ve just got to hit their Karoly’s Selection…), I’m always very pleased when I remember I’ve ordered up a bottle of the Sheriff too.