2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard

A man, his dog, fire, and great grapes…no, not the start of some joke but rather a great way to spend a Saturday Happy Hour. In this case, the vino is the 2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet from Laurel Glen Vineyard. It’s a single-vineyard Cab harvested from Sonoma Mountain, and the Laurel Glen team produced just 250 cases of this “Proprietor’s Blend Special Cuvee.”

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, California, USA.

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard, Glen Ellen, California, USA.

I’m guessing you like the photo* but let’s hit some quick research before you get bored. Sonoma Mountain is an extinct volcano located about 20 miles from the Pacific, one of those amazing California spots were you get long periods of sunlight on the vines, and cooling winds as well. Always bears well for the fruit, and virtually every wine from the region. Feels like the very definition of terroir. The hand-picked grapes are fermented for 18 months in a combination of new and older oak barrels, and the result is this 2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet. The vineyard’s website does a nice job of describing their process and philosophy in equal measures.

I started the bottle last night after a long work week (I know, I know…they all are…) but really had a chance to think about its taste today while fireside. My wood pile was filled with branches downed from storms Florence and Michael, and that pile is much smaller today as I indulged in my inner pyromaniac and oenophile simultaneously. It’s a deep red wine, one that imparts notes of plum, black cherry, and spicy undertones upon tasting. The Red Hill Ranch is wonderfully fragrant and I found myself rolling it around in the glass just taking it in…

I snatched up a few of these bottles (thanks for the good value, winestore team!) and look forward to sampling another as the fall season makes great reds so enjoyable. Hoping you have an opportunity to do the same. Thanks for reading.

*The perfectionist in me hates the streak marring the label, yes, but hoping the rest of the composition resonates for you. 
Advertisements

Fall 2018 – The Ones That Got Away

2015 Eola Hills Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Reserve, Willamette Valley, OR; 2016 Abstract Red Wine Blend, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, CA; 2016 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, CA; 2015 Robert Storey Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Napa Valley, CA; 2013 Edwards & Chaffey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA.

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2015 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Edwards & Chaffey, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Cambridge Meritage, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Domaine d’Andezon Cotes due Rhone, Red blend. Rhone, France.

2015 Mestizaje, Mustiguillo Vineyards & Winery, Red blend. Spain.

2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet, Padthaway, Australia.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 Acha Red, Mark Herold, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2002 Syrah, Miller Wine Cellars, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Claret, White Rock Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Robert Storey Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

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

2014 Amarone la Giaretta della Valpolicella, Italy.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon was recently featured at my favorite wine shop and, as a birthday present to myself, I picked up a bottle several weeks ago. Tonight I decided was the occasion to break it out. I had high expectations given the emphasis winestore placed on it, and I was interested to share my findings with all who follow Notes here.

Important comment: I did not taste the Willowlake prior to purchasing, which is somewhat unusual for me when buying from that shop because they do a great job of giving consumer access through their sampling machines. No, this time I bought based on the description of the wine (Only 84 cases produced! “I would really challenge any of you who are Cabernet lovers to find something of this caliber at this price. The wine is INSANE.”), the bottle design, and the overall reputation of the Howell Mountain AVA in Napa Valley. Okay, a little bit based on price, too. How could I go wrong with all those factors lined up in my favor?

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon has some heft, its sturdy glass and cork covered not with foil but actual wax. Not sure any of the 350+ bottles covered in Notes to date has had this treatment, so that was a first for this taster. Such presentation seemed promising too and, as the wine tumbled into my Reidel Cab glassware, my interest in the Willowlake peaked. My brain was thinking “Hey this was a $135 release that I got for less than half that price!” and was already trying to interpret the vanilla and oaky notes I detected rising up from my first big pour.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

And here’s the thing. It just didn’t measure up. Man, that never happens to me, and never with a bottle that should have so many things going for it. I have read others comparing the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus, and I do not think they are evenly remotely similar. I’ve previously remarked of the fruit bomb that I find the Wagner offering to be, and this is not really like that in flavor at all. The vanilla I found a bit too far forward, and it took my taste buds away from any layering or earthiness that I expected in the Willowlake wine. Don’t misunderstand me; the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon is really good stuff–but it is not the GREAT wine that I had in mind.

Part of me went, “Dude, you should have just tried the Disciples or grabbed another bottle of the Cuttings or the Palermo instead…” But that’s the whole point of wine tasting, right? You identify some favorites, sample new options, make some notes, and compare bottles as best you can with those from your memories. There is no wrong answer as long as the vino is flowing! Thanks for your interest in Notes and the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon–share both with a friend.

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards

The Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon is the little brother to the flagship Pine Ridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons produced by this well-regarded vineyard from the Stags Leap district. The winery has been in acquisitive mode, securing more than 150 acres from five appellations in Napa Valley–including Stags Leap, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford, and (one of my favorites) Carneros.

Given this access to grapes from different terroir (pretty expensive terroir at that), it’s easy to see the Pine Ridge winemakers can mix and match to achieve subtleties in their offerings. The Encantado – which means “charmed” in Spanish – is a good example of this approach, as fruits for this big Cab are sourced from holdings across the valley. It’s a Bordeaux-style red, with big flavors of cherry leading the charge. I almost think there’s some vanilla notes in play, but I liked the Encantado too much for that. Maybe I’d describe that subtlety as slate instead? That ribbon running through this ruby red is not what I often describe as peat moss or earthy, and it’s not quite leather or spice box as other reviewers would describe. Thus I give you slate?

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Grapes for the Encantado were selected and sorted prior to pressing, and this fruit went through extended maceration after fermentation so that certain flavors could be pushed forward–sounds cool and I can tell you the taste speaks well for the care the Encantado receives. It’s also aged in 100% new French oak barrels for 18 months prior to bottling.

Really nice wine and, since I purchased from WTSO.com, I am pleased to say I have another one or two of these to continue my Encantado adventure. This 2014 vintage accompanied a classic Memorial Day meal–burgers and dogs from the grill (braved in the rain!), a little green salad, and potato salad too. Some might opt for a Miller Lite or something with this lineup, but this guy is more a wine aficionado than a beer fan–but that is an option for the future too. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend and thanks again for following Notes.

2015 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, the Prisoner Wine Company

This review of the 2015 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon will be short and sweet. It is very similar to the 2014 vintage covered by Notes previously, and puts this grateful fan one step closer to a vertical flight of the Cuttings. The 2014 was immediately ranked inside Notes‘ Top Ten (#5) all time, and this one paces that result favorably. Already I’m wondering what will be in store for this amazing wine in the future bottling.

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

Pictured here is the 2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

This one is a birthday present, and one I really appreciated. It definitely “fits”! Mom and I enjoyed this bottle on a lazy Sunday afternoon, sipping contentedly while watching The History of the Eagles. Great music, and even better vino.

It’s so rich and decadent on the nose, and a massive fruit bomb on the tongue. In the 2015 The Cuttings, there is black cherry in spades, and a leathery spice undertone as well. Others have used the terms “baking spice”, “cigar box”, and “freshly roasted coffee” and I nod in agreement to each even though I wouldn’t have detected those notes specifically myself. I just love its massive red layers.

This is great birthday beverage, a treat that makes you smile and feel glad to be alive. I’m appreciative of all and thank my mother for the thoughtful gift of her visit and this amazing 2015 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon too.

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.