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.

 

2016 Petite Sirah, Stanton Vineyards

Sirah and Petite Sirah always have a special place in my heart, and the 2016 Stanton is one of the reasons why. Yes I’m unquestionably a fan of California Cab and big grapes in particular, and when I drift on the outskirts of this amazing territory it’s the Sirah or red blend that often grabs my attention. Only 286 cases of this wine were produced by the Stanton team, and if you’re able to put your hands on this wine, you’re pleased.

2016 Petite Sirah, Stanton Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Petite Sirah, Stanton Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This bottle I opened after a redeye flight from San Diego to Raleigh (back-breaking stopover in ORD) when I was probably working on 1.5 to 2.0hrs of sleep. I was tired but trying to push on through…and I’m pleased to report this 2016 cushioned the landing. It’s a gem and packs a massive, nuanced wallop that is belied by the simple label / production notes. Dave Phinney was quietly involved in this production, and those of you reading Notes with any kind of regularity know my appreciation for his gifts. Phinney has produced not only the Prisoner but also the Locations wines that are often-noted within this blog.

Earlier this day I tried a Merlot but had to shed its taste lest it corrupt the (Stanton) wine I had ready for the rest of the evening. The Merlot I could not finish but the Stanton enticed me ever forward. Said Doug Stanton, winemaker, “There remains a small but dedicated group of growers and wineries who remain steadfast in their appreciation of Petite Sirah.

Could not agree more. This wine of inky violet has a nose with spice and coffee, and it is CRAZY aromatic. The wine packs in dark fruit flavors (e.g., blackberry, blueberry) and I’m ready for more. But mostly trying to fend off massive fatigue. Miss you all, fans, and hope you’re sampling early and often.