2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve

There are several interesting nuances that I’m going to share with you on the White Oak Napa Reserve Blend—a wine that some consider a slight bump up from the winery’s highly rated Alexander Valley Reserve offering. First, it is somewhat of a rarity, as White Oak only produces this wine about three times each decade. The grapes are pulled from a side of Wooden Valley that “collects heat from the Palisades” and they only go to bat for this wine when conditions are ideal. Sounds like a labor but one of love for the growers.

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

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

White Oak has about 750 acres around Alexander Valley and they focus on small-quantity releases. This one is a Bordeaux Blend, with a foundation in Cabernet Sauvignon (47%) and Merlot (15%) for sure, but also with a big Petit Verdot (23%) and Malbec (15%) presence as well. At your first sip the Malbec has the biggest bite and announces itself loud and clear; once the wine breathes a bit it takes more of a back seat to the Cab/Merlot blend. This mix is dark, deep purple in the glass and has the Malbec greet your nose. The 2012, crafted by winemaker Bill Parker, is aged 18 months in French Oak.

This is a Vivino purchase and they describe as a “very dark, structured, and aromatic wine that has the shoulders of Howell Mountain but the midsection of Stag’s Leap.

The 2012 White Oak Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Reserve is a bold red that comes at you in waves. I have one more bottle of this same blend and may decant the next one so that it properly breathes; this one I rushed just a bit. The 2012 White Oak Napa Reserve accompanied chicken and pasta on one evening, and a flatbread pepperoni pizza on the next. The bottle was enjoyable with both, and with better care by me next time I have even higher expectations. Hope this helps you with the same.

 

2013 Nickel & Nickel – Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon

A group of friends, some new and some old, came together tonight for some great vino while a nor’easter raged outside. Although the winds gusted and trees toppled nearby, inside we were all smiles while enjoying great grapes like this 2013 Nickel & Nickel, Branding Iron Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a 100% Cab from the Oakville appellation in Napa Valley and a fantastic beverage–many thanks to Jorge and Denise for hosting and opening this gem.

2013 Nickel & Nickel - Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA

2013 Nickel & Nickel – Branding Iron Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The vineyard is close to the base of California’s Mayacamas Mountains and comprises “well-drained clay loam”, with vines vertically trellised to maximize their exposure to sunlight in morning and afternoon times. It was planted in 1998 on eight acres that have to be pretty valuable at this point, located north of Yountville and near the famed Stag’s Leap District. Its grapes were harvested in October 2013 and aged for 17 months in French oak (47% new; 53% once-used) before released to the public in September of 2015. The vineyard’s website contains excellent information to expand upon this snapshot if you are so inclined.

Rather than visit those notes, however, you might better spend your time ordering a bottle or tasting this big, mixed berry treat. It’s more purple than red in your glass, and wow does it have legs. This single-vineyard wine practically slouches down your glass and is so endearing on your palate…it’s fantastic. There is definite blackberry in the mix, and an earthiness too I think. Having said that, there was also some Johnny Walker Green Label on the counter and it may just be the idea of good whisky that influenced my brain on the deep peat moss notes that I was smelling.

This is the first time I’ve sampled a Nickel & Nickel Branding Iron Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and, with a little luck, it will not be the last. Several friends have shared their praise for the vineyard too, and I can understand why. This wine commands your attention, with its big mouthfeel and easy finish–thanks again to our hosts for breaking out this showstopper.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede Vineyards

Yes this is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Cliff Lede Vineyards in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley, California. Great juice, here, and no surprise that it resonated so powerfully with this aficionado of the region and the varietal.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This AVA is one of the best known in the world, and the small 60-acre lot that produces the fruit for Cliff Lede fuels a state-of-the-art processing operation set into the California hillside. The winery’s technology is well-described here if you’re curious for a deeper dive; more interesting to me was learning of the ‘rock blocks’ (My Generation, Dark Side of the Moon, etc.) used to name each segment of the vineyard. Love that kind of fandom…

…and speaking of fandom I loved this  2014 Cab. How could you not? Crafted by winemaker Christoper Tynan it is a real beauty of a wine, with grapes sourced from their Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard, and a few gracious (and surely well-compensated) neighbors in the District. Given the terroir described for these areas there are some really interesting layers at work in the Cliff Lede Stag’s Leap District Cab. Of course there is plum and blackberry, and some things hinting at vanilla but not quite. It is crazy dark purple in your glass and amazing on your tongue, layers of something that reminds me of high-end soaps and their subtle fragrances.

Says the winemaker: “Interwoven into the floral notes are unctuous layers of plum, blackberry, and black currants.  Loads of smoked cardamom, cinnamon, and black licorice unwind onto the palate where the vibrant acidity carries the long finish to a state of balance and equilibrium.

Whoa. Said in short? Helluva wine. Yeah it’s got the mash up that I so enjoy in Bordeaux-style red. This one comprises a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Merlot. They made 7,246 cases of this stuff, bottling it in July of 2016 after aging in French oak barrels for 21 months.

Do yourself a favor and read about the sorting, fermentation, and related production notes…and then get a bottle for the next big celebration you have. You can thank me later.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rued Estates

The 2008 Rued Estate Cabernet Sauvignon packs a powerful cherry punch. You can taste it right away, a red fruity salvo that announces cherry to anyone sampling this Sonoma County Cab.
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2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rued Estates, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

I still don’t know if this is pronounced “red” or “rude” but it is striking in label design and obviously in its taste. Regardless, the winery is located in Dry Creek Valley, a fertile 2-mile stretch of land that receives cool morning fog and abundant afternoon sun. Notes has profiled a Dry Creek wine or two in its day, including a Cabernet Sauvignon, and you can see the overall semblance of this red gem to those wines if you care to explore those tastings further.

This bottle I had with a hearty winter dinner, a sheet pan deviled chicken (slathered with a smoky spice / Dijon coating) and a really delicious side of collared greens (accented with yellow onion and garlic) and a baked sweet potato. All tasted great and probably would be even better if not for the head cold that has plagued me and my taste buds as of late.
I don’t have as much experience with the 2008 vintage but this one is worth a repeat. The initial production was less than 400 cases, though, so you may not have many options for doing so. This 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon is barrel-aged for 30 months in French oak (more old oak than new) and smells of cherry from the very first pour. Consequently, you see the color as red but probably veers closer to purple than you’d initially think. There is a hint of pepper in play too, but not like a Syrah, and the ’08 from Rued has gentle, dry tannins.  I hope you enjoy this wine as much as I did and thanks for your continued readership of Notes.

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2017

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, the Prisoner Wine Company

Back in July I had occasion to taste test several amazing Orin Swift wines at my favorite wine store. The 2014 vintage of The Cuttings was instantly a new favorite, and I’ve since taken home two of these bad boys and enjoyed each immensely.

2014 Cuttings, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Let me tell you, The Cuttings deserves a more experienced palate than mine. It is layered, it is juicy, it is nuanced in ways I appreciate very much and have not the vocabulary to do full justice. This Cabernet is clearly a red blend of some exquisite kind, a black berry backbone with some spices carefully interwoven in my glass. The Cuttings smells heavenly, a clear contrast to lesser wines I have had over the past week. I am positive Dave Phinney (the winemaker) would object to the comparison but this wine of his reminds me a lot of a Michael Davis creation or one of Jeff Runquist’s “kitchen sink” wines–both profiled here in Notes in 2017 and in years past.

The wine is right, the glass is right, and even the day is right on this one. Hell, even the bottle feels substantive when you hoist it. The 2014 Cuttings was a reward from time well spent and poured all too quickly into my excited Riedel stemware.

The Prisoner Wine Company describes more effectively the goodness you’re in for when you uncork The Cuttings for yourself. There’s a reward in that glass and one I’m looking forward to again in the near future myself. Get one yourself and enjoy!