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. 

 

 

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.

Winter 2019 – The Ones That Got Away

2016 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Fairfield, California, USA.

2017 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

2017 Evodia, Altovinum, Spain. 

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA. 

2017 Courtney Benham Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Amarone Della Valpoliccella Classico Riserva, Catarina Zardini, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopeland, California, USA.

2015 Villa Maffei Amarone Della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

 

 

2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, Juggernaut Wine Co.

This is the 2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet and yes, for those of you asking, this guy can be swayed by cool branding. Check out this crazy fierce label! It’s as big as the wine itself, and you’ll do well to go looking for it in your favorite wine store / source.

Juggernaut

2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, Clarksburg, California, USA.

The Juggernaut is produced by the Bogle family, and you know they’ve been at this game for quite some time. My winestore source said they’ve been growing grapes for winemaking since 1968 and in the Clarksburg area in particular. Here they combine grapes from the North Coast, Livermore Valley, Alexander Valley, and the Sierra Foothills–all hillside terrior and vineyards going into this luscious bottle. Obviously with all the hillside talk you have this inference of “hard growing” and “extreme” (and hell, isn’t just about every vineyard photo you see on some kind of a mountain?!?) but know for our purposes it ultimately translates into really nice, easy-drinking California cab. Yes hillside can mean fewer grapes and smaller berries, but that also means concentrated flavors and complexity in the wine itself.

Not every hillside wine gets this right, but the Juggernaut does. There is big, dark blackberry-type flavors in the 2016, and maybe just a whiff of vanilla too. I suspect the new French oak barrels (its aged 12-18 months) have something to do with that. The 2016 Juggernaut (I have two more of these) is really nice value for the price. It’s accessible wine, both for your wallet and your palate. I enjoyed over a couple of nights and will look forward to the next such occasion. Thanks for following Notes and feel free to share with a friend.