2018 The Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Buena Vista Winery

If you know me, or had occasion to visit Notes in the past, you know that I often think of wine as a way to celebrate special occasions. Or, for that matter, to make an occasion. This bottle of the Count’s Selection I picked up earlier this year and held it…not long by a collector’s standards but certainly by mine, fan of Buena Vista wines as I am. At that time I didn’t know why, or for how long I’d sit on it, but I really do now.

2018 The Count's Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Buena Vista Winery, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County, California, USA.
2018 The Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Buena Vista Winery, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2018 Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, produced with fruit from the Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley, is the bottle I selected to commemorate the passing of my dear, dear friend Ridley. This hound-retriever mix has been my constant companion for over a decade, a loyal and lovable dog that has seen me through many of the happiest and most challenging times in my life.

I still recall the exciting morning when I met Rid for the first time, a rescue dog who’d been transported all the way to NJ from the south. With a shake of his tags and a lolling tongue, he made me a huge fan right from moment one. There’s a great clip I took of Ridley that early May morning, video showing him cruising around his new yard, sniffing and checking things out, before he comes bounding across the grass and crashes right into my camera. That memory always makes me smile.

Those gifts, those fond memories, those images…they come easily to me now. There are too many to count. On a very sad, solitary walk I started thinking, “Could you name a Top 100 things you loved about this dog?” My list was more than 20 before I even crossed the street. He was so expressive—those eyes, that smile, and his brow—but it was his ears that often told you most about how he was doing. That’s also what makes his passing all the more painful. Ridley was showing me clues but I just didn’t interpret the signs or fully appreciate what he was going through.

We had been to two different vets in this last month, each time seeking answers to the gastrointestinal issues I was seeing in Rid. I was recording frequency, consistency, and color of his distress, and I was sure this diligence would assist the veterinarians with the right course of action. Both vets had similar approaches to his diarrhetic symptoms, prescribing a bland diet that would go easy on his GI tract, in combination with anti-nausea or anti-bacterial meds, to alleviate his issues. Sadly, that was not enough. 

Ridley was not just sick with a stomach bug, had not eaten something unhealthy on one of our many walks. On this unhappy Monday, my vet called back to say further exam had indicated the prescience of a large mass in his abdomen, and that x-rays had revealed aggressive spreading throughout his abdomen and lungs. Ridley was not a candidate for surgery and would not be able to come home one last time. “It’s time,” said the vet, and I reprocessed her words and finally understood my poor dog was wracked by rampant cancer and had been bravely taking it on for several weeks.

Cara and I climbed into the car immediately and raced to him. Ridley came into the special little goodbye room a little nervously. I’ll never forget his eyes and how soft and sweet he looked in that moment. I was devastated for my guy and simply tried to be there with him and for him in that last hour of his life. We both were. Ridley received tons of petting and rested as comfortably as possible. The word rampant thundered in my head over and over as he pressed against my leg, and I was appreciative the vet was adamant that he should not go another day with this burden. 

We cried. It was unimaginably heartbreaking, and it’ll continue to be so in the days and weeks and months to come. I know he felt comforted to have such love surrounding him in these moments. The rest of our final visit is personal, but know Ridley went bravely yet quietly into his next adventure—and I’ll look forward to seeing him there.

So that’s the reason for the Count’s Selection. Ridley has seen me pour many bottle of Buena Vista in our time together, but this one is special. The 2018 Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is the one we’re sipping this evening to celebrate Rid’s life. To think back on the good life he received, the way he returned the love tenfold. I miss him terribly already and always will. The wine is great to be sure, a red cherry treat, but for me it’ll always be the bottle we selected to toast my friend one last time. Thanks for reading, and for (hopefully!) thinking good thoughts of Rid or your own furry friends. Love to you all.

.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stanton Vineyards is the second callout that I selected to celebrate my birthday. This Oakville winemaker harvests grapes from a 33-acre property that features gravelly, sandy clay and loam soils that produce fruit for their own label as well as well-known wineries that include Stag’s Leap, Raymond, Groth, and one of my favorites—Orin Swift.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards, Oakville, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards, Oakville, California, USA.

About six tons of their yearly yield go into Stanton wines, and this one shows all the best marks of the region and its terroir. i purchased this 2015 from my local winestore based on its location (I’m a huge Napa Cab man) and that Dave Phinney made his signature imprint on their portfolio. I’m a fan of his too, and that was enough to motivate me to bring this bottle home for the celebrations.

Okay, so this is black berry and black cherry goodness, with just the right amount of dark fruit blended without being excessively fruity. There is a whiff of mineral or old leather in this Cabernet Sauvignon; it finishes soft and velvety with a very mellow mouth feel. It pours reddish-purple in your glass, great legs and an enticing bouquet to it. Certainly every wine has its pluses and minuses, but I couldn’t help to compare this to the Switchback that I had Wednesday night. The Stanton was by far the more enjoyable wine, and I didn’t regret skipping the decanter and going right to the stemware. 

This 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stanton Vineyards accompanied a really tight, delicious birthday dinner of steaks, broccoli rabe, and wedge salads with all the right accents. Cara showed this cool technique—basting the steaks with butter, rosemary, and thyme—for the meat just before we pulled it from the skillet (you can’t quite do that on your grill, people!). The strips were well seasoned and it was so much fun seeking the perfect bite all evening as we celebrated my latest trip around the sun.

All this made for a memorable evening and one I will not soon forget. Looking forward to more of it all—including this great wine.

2018 The Cuttings, The Prisoner Wine Company

The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon has achieved cult following here in Notes, as this is now the fifth vintage of the wine covered in these pages. This 2018 measures up to previous reviews, which you’re encouraged to explore further by tapping on any of the links shown in the caption.

2018 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA. For notes on previous years of this flight, please click here for the 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.

A big shout to Chrissy Wittman of The Prisoner Wine Company—it’s a treat to sample her work not just here during Women’s History Month but all year long.

2018 Post & Beam, Far Niente Wineries & Vineyards

If you’re an oenophile of any sort, you probably know Far Niente by name, reputation, or at perhaps its signature label. Yes, me too. When I first saw the 2018 Post & Beam and its attractive price tag I scooped up a few right away.

2018 Post & Beam, Far Niente Wineries & Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It’s the debut vintage from the Napa great, with amazing plum and dark berry notes woven throughout this hearty red. There is fantastic depth in this wine, and all kinds of subtle accents that I look forward to sampling in the next bottle.

This first one accompanied a Chicken Romano dish (yes I was pleased by how it turned out – a challenge unto itself when your audience is a professional!), smashed potatoes, green beans, and an arugula salad. There’s another portion of the chicken in the fridge but none of the sides—or the wine!

The winemaker comments, “Classically crafted from carefully selected Napa Valley vineyards, Post & Beam Cabernet Sauvignon honors the fundamentals of traditional winemaking. It is our purest expression of Cabernet Sauvignon, with elegant layers of fruit, supple tannins, whispers of oak, and a finish that is pure finesse.

Great wine. I’m craving more even here as I jot out this brief sketch for you! If it’s stocked at your favorite wine store, be sure to grab several because this is going to go fast. It’s that hot!

 

2018 Chronicle Cabernet Sauvignon, Rebel Wine

The attributes of this wine line right up to the preferences of this oenophile. The 2018 Chronicle is produced on California’s North Coast, it’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (88%) and Petite Sirah (12%), and has an intriguing label that just may include an individually numbered bottle. Let’s dig deeper…

Generally, the North Coast includes Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, and Marin counties. St. Helena is just west of the Mayacamas Mountains, located in the Napa Valley AVA, and is home to many of California’s best-known wines. The Valley itself extends about 30 miles from Napa at the south to Calistoga in the north, right along Route 29 and including St. Helena.

Fog in the region impacts its vineyards in meaningful and very specific ways. The complexities of cool and warm climates, sunlight, ocean airs, and earthquakes makes for diverse appellations and even subappellations conducive to different types of grapes (e.g., Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon), even among neighboring growers and towns. It’s a place that beckons to my soul even while I’m jotting a few notes for you all here.

2018 Chronicle Cabernet Sauvignon, Rebel Wine, St. Helena, California, USA.

The 2018 Chronicle is a medium- to full-bodied dry red blend, with dark fruit notes that I’m calling more blackberry or black cherry than plum. Sometimes my palate can pick that up; other times it’s less clear so use your own judgment here. I do smell a bit of leather in my glass, and the peppery finish is suggestive of both the Cab and Sirah grapes for the wine.

We had the Chronicle with Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, served with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was flat-out great, with tenderly seared beef and vegetables so tender…wow! Those who follow Notes regularly know the meal is often less relevant to this taster than is the accompanying wine, but this is not one of those occasions. The dish was so rich and savory that I really thought less of the Chronicle and more of the food flavors. Understand me: the wine is tasty but the stew even better.

The label (but less easy to support with online research) suggests that Joel Gott and Charles Bieler are the vintners here for the 2018 Chronicle. Thanks gents for your contribution to a great evening. I enjoyed your wine and will buy more in the future, but what I’m really excited to repeat is the Beef Bourguignon.

2017 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

Number 500! It’s a great pleasure to share with you all post #500 on Notes Of Note. Only recently did I realize Notes was approaching this milestone and glad that a New Year’s Eve bottle rings the bell.

I’m thinking about death by 10,000 paper cuts. Water over Niagara Falls. All these metaphors and images about slowly chipping away at it over time. Gladwell’s notion that you need 10,000 repetitions to achieve mastery of a given skill…none apply to Notes so let me simply say I’m pleased to still be at this occasional hobby after all these years.

A 2010 wine (I think?) led off this blog back in 2011, and I encourage you to check it out. My motives are intact. The format is largely unchanged, a mix of time, places, a casual photo…perhaps a little research or the winemaker’s comments to explain further? Those are all staples of the column nearly a decade later.

2017 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA. For notes on previous years of this flight, please click here for the 2016, 2015, and 2014.

What’s different? My understanding of how many thousands of oenophiles do this same thing, embrace this same love of wine, tasting, and sharing. All the Vinvo, Wine.com, and Instagram apps and accounts devoted to wine tasting. Still thousands more tackle the process, the vineyards, and the related foodstuffs that go hand-and-glove with wine.

Also different from that simple start are my tastes. There are dozens of grapes, varietals, and wines covered here, including Cabs and red blends (more than 100 each!), Pinot (72 at present), Zins (30+), and even rareties like Zweigelts. Anyone reading from the origins of the column to its current posts show a clear and growing bias for California Cabernet Sauvignon, to jammy red blends and earthy new world Syrahs. Structured, dark-fruited wines, often with peppery accents and leathery notes. So if you are deciding on me as your wine influencer (ha thanks brother for the chuckle) be sure to base your choices accordingly.

And fans. New followers and tenured supporters, you know who you are!

This bottle has fans among my favorite people. Enjoyed it on birthdays, ECFF draft weekends, and my favorite dates. Including this one. We’re having the 2017 Cuttings with fondue to usher in the new year. There are two different kinds of bread (including a solid pumpernickel), two veggies (hello asparagus and broccoli!), and both filet and kielbasa (the latter a surprisingly great treat!) poised for our Gruyere/Swiss blend. I’ve had nearly as much fun looking up vintage fondue pots and recipes as I have sipping this amazing wine, courtesy of the Prisoner Wine Company.

It’s 80% of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel, and it’s as great as the first vintage I tasted years ago. Black berry fruit, black cherry, and earth spices—just exquisite winemaking! It’s so damn good that we’re not going to make it to the champagne tonight; this bottle of 2017 Cuttings is all the celebration we need. So here’s to milestones, and hoping for another 500 posts on Notes. Best to you all too in the year ahead.

Most importantly, thank you for your readership!

The Ones That Got Away – Winter 2020

This gallery contains 6 photos.

  I’m always regretful when the business of daily life prevents me from sharing tasting notes. There are so many bottles and so little time…here’s a snapshot of several of the great wines that closed out this 2020 year. Best to you all in the year ahead! -R

2017 Reale Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2017 Sonoma County Reserve from Reale makes an appearance as Notes sneaks up on review #500. This bottle breaks a recent streak of France-based Cabs but doesn’t quite come all the way back to the Napa-based Cabernet Sauvignon that this reviewer (often) finds so enjoyable.

Reale 2017

2017 Reale Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Let’s stop for a second. Perhaps this is obvious, but not all California Cabernet is created equal. AVAs have been established specifically to showcase the distinct differences in grapes from one location to another. Case in point—Napa and Sonoma are a stone’s throw from one another but produce very different grapes. Sonoma offerings, for example, have slightly different exposure in coastal sun and soil from their eastern brothers. Sonoma is also almost twice the size of Napa, so there is more diversity among its production, too. 

Part of this comes through in the 2017 Reale, which is a gentle, slightly more tannic expression of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. This wine is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It shows plenty of dark berry (e.g., black cherry, blackberry) notes, with a kiss of spices, And I know, I know…Notes sometimes shares a pretty interesting meal or two in context to the vino, but this weekend that’s less a consideration. Suffice it to say the grapes stand on their own merit.

Here are the words of the winemaker: “The wine showcases a ruby color with aromas of red fruits and dark cherry. Hints of red raspberry and black cherry follow with spicy notes of currants, anise, cloves, cedar, and a touch of vanilla.”

This bottle was obtained from an online reseller, and I have only seen it offered once (this occasion) so I’m not sure how easily you can find a similar Reale. If you do, know that it’s a good one, and decent value as you consider its taste versus the cost. I’ll look to order my next and encourage you do to the same. Until then, cheers!

2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon

This reviewer is often biased toward new world Cabernet Sauvignon, and each new vintage released by my favorite Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles-area winemakers brings me great joy. Discovering (or rediscovering) their nuances is the perfect example of wine therapy. Recently, however, I had the pleasure of the 2018 Mazet de la Palombiere and now this 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are flat-out excellent!

2019 Vellas
2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon, Mas du Pont, France.

The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon tastes way beyond its price point. There’s an earthy, layered undertone just below the dark cherry and plum surface of this wine. It has great legs and an even finish that begs for your next taste. The deep burgundy colors and gentle aromatics ensure this 2019 makes for a great tasting experience.

Ours came in the context of late Saturday dinner. Charcoal-grilled chicken (nice marinade!) plus peppers, zucchini, and portobello mushrooms served as the backdrop for this Cabernet Sauvignon. It took a while for the coals to provide a suitable bed for the foodstuffs, but they’re probably still going now so that’s a strong alternative to propane. 

A quick word on the winemaker, who sounds to be growing increasingly hot too. The Vellas family, which has been making wine for four generations, has accumulated properties throughout the Languedoc-Roussillon and Roussillon regions of France. The 2019 Vienobles Vellas Cabernet Sauvignon is produced near Montpellier in Mas du Pont. Its fruit comes from regions such as Costiere de Nimes, Coteau Varois, Oc, Saint-Guilhem, Grès, Saint Drézery, Muscat de Lunel, Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, and Faugères.

My wine budget for this month is already spent. If it wasn’t, though, I would be right back to the wine store to grab another case of this. The 2019 Vellas COQ Cabernet is really that good. Enjoy!