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.

2017 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars

 

We all know that ‘normal’ life has taken on new meaning over these last weeks. Jobs, values, and activities that we’ve perhaps taken for granted have been fundamentally changed in ways that are still to be fully determined. Our connectivity to one another continues to evolve in near real-time, and one of the ways I keep my calm and share my values is here in Notes.

2017 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, California, USA.

2017 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, California, USA.

The 2017 Machete, a Milk Run release from Orin Swift Cellars, is a great reason to hit the keys. It’s a petite sirah, but the wine is anything BUT petite in taste. This Machete is actually a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache grapes, and it packs a helluva wallop. It pours the darkest purple in your glass, as Notes has covered previously, and invests plum and blackberry in every sip. 

We had this 2017 Machete with Mexican-spiced shrimp lettuce (butter lettuce made great little cups!), black beans, and Poblano pepper. Navel orange and drizzle of garlic yogurt helped offset the spices of the shrimp, and though I suspect a crisp, minerally wine would have been the go-to choice for this food, we did the Machete thing instead—to great effect, I might add.

Our friends at Orin Swift say,

Massive on the entry, the mid-palate is diverse with flavors of dark plus, black pepper, Amarena cherries, slow-roasted Moroccan lam and a marbled leather texture.

Love this juice so very much…

Cara pointed out that you, dear readers, have a host of blogs to browse at present. I’m grateful that you’re taking a moment to check out this one—thanks and cheers to you all.

2017 Centine Rosso Banfi

Honestly, this time it’s not about the wine or tasting notes. The 2017 Centine Rosso Banfi is more about the tip of the cap. It’s a red blend consolation prize doled out by COVID-19, aka the coronavirus. Yes this a wine from Tuscany but those are not the foothills of beautiful Montepulciano in this background. That Italy trip will have to wait for another day…

2017 Centine Rosso Banfi, Tuscany, Italy.

…and the situation over there is deteriorating rapidly; Cara and I have wayward eyes cast in that direction even while we enjoy this amazing scenery (which involved several white-knuckle moments on the drive in). We’re trying to unwind airline, hotel, and similar reservations while trying out this Italian red and a few similar bottles from the old country.

This is a medium red, a cherry- and strawberry-noted Tuscan offering that combines Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes. The wine is (curiously) lighter than all three, which seems odd to me given that it’s a blend delivered on the backs of these richer reds. We’re drinking it, and that’s fine and all, but different from sampling Tuscan reds straight out of the vineyard tasting room(s). Each of us is a “glass-is-half-full” optimist, pun intended, and looking forward to another shot at Repubblica Italiana.

Wishing you well, readers, and stay safe out there.