2018 The Count’s Selection Charbono, Buena Vista Winery

This Christmas special had to follow up a 2017 Machete from Christmas Eve, and it was very equal to the challenge. Whenever possible, I try to keep Buena Vista in mind for life’s occasions, even when that occasion is simply to make a celebration. Voila…

2018 The Count’s Selection Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It poured ruby red, little flecks of rich color flecking our glassware as it tumbled from the bottle. From these first notes you could scent dark, heady fruits—I think perhaps black berry or black cherry?—at the heart of the Charbono. With our minds thinking of family and friends far away, I had been asked to pick a good red (but nothing too sweet!) and I was positive this 2018 would answer the call.

The Charbono is a byproduct of a European vine-collecting expedition by the winery’s founder, Count Haraszthy, and I presume there are far fewer of these grapes grown in Napa Valley than the Cabernet Sauvigon that’s the hallmark of this AVA. The warm Calistoga weather brings us this wine, a soft, medium-bodied red. It tastes more black cherry than plum, and yes a few earthy spices that add a little complexity to the wine.

Our 2018 Charbono accompanied pan-seared duck breast called into service by virtue of postponed travel plans. An amazing port/cherry demi-sauce went with the bird, as did Hericots Verts and a fun parsnip purée that was flavorful and delicious. Our arugula salad included shaved fennel, sweet onion, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese crumble. Yes, dinner rolls and a Christmas Tree butter rounded out our plates just as the Buena Vista did our glasses, which we raise in toast to those who couldn’t be with us this day. Sending much love to you all…

Notes’ Top 5 Wine Surprises of 2015

Again in 2015 we had the opportunity to taste and, through Notes Of Note, share feedback on some excellent wine. Several new vintages (e.g., the 2013 Buena Vistas) lived up to their previous accolades while others (the 2012 Boom Boom! Syrah, for example) were slightly behind previous years’ releases. Others were first-of-a kind adventures that will bear repeating over the coming annum. As last year, the below is not necessarily a “best of” list but some notable grapes you’d do well to sample as time permits:

Many others were better visited or better wines overall, but you’ll have to explore Notes further to decide for yourself. I appreciate your readership and raise a glass to everyone who joined in the sampling here at our home or yours this past year. Best to you all in 2016!

2013 Count’s Selection, Charbono, Buena Vista Winery

We’ll get to more details later in this summary, but know right now the 2013 Charbono was a big hit at our gathering this evening. I’ll do some reading so that I can better share the origins and goals of this delicious red gem from Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery–but it was flat-out great.

2013 Count's Selection, Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

2013 Count’s Selection, Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

Let me say that I have never heard of Charbono as a varietal and, upon selecting this bottle for our company, was basing its “worthiness” on the reputation of (and years of experience tasting) Buena Vista Winery. Those following Notes have seen numerous Buena Vista raves that weave their way through weekly postings and make our Top Reds list–not only annually but all-time as well. (If you’re reading this, my friend, I’d say Buena Vista is to me as Merry Edwards is to you.) Nevertheless, I expected only “goodness” from the 2013 Charbono but no flavors or accents, specifically.

Our guests included lifelong friends and their families, visiting overnight for the Charlotte Panthers football game. We had a big pile of snacks, fresh veggies, cheeses, and excellent conversation before and all throughout dinner. The main course was a crowd-pleasing macaroni-and-cheese-and meatloaf combination (salad too) that was both delicious and a rib-sticker at the same time. I don’t know if a bold red is supposed to be paired with this kind of dish, but we damn well loved the wine. Would you understand my thinking if I said it reminded me of a split between a Cab and a Syrah? Even before finishing the bottle we were lamenting that we had only one of these.

Later I pulled out the winemaker’s notes and share here: “This rare wine, a deep dark red in the glass, opens with inviting aromatic notes of blackberry and plum. Flavors of black cherry, blueberry, and dark chocolate are balanced with a touch of leather and an earthy spiciness. This medium-plus bodied wine has a textured mouthfeel, big tannins, and long, satisfying finish.

Reading the above you can see why we loved it. The 2013 Charbono had all the characteristics I find desirable in a good wine: the fruits, the hint of spice, the earthy undertones. The Count Agoston Haraszthy, founder of the winery, supposedly brought vines of this rare varietal back from a trip to Europe in the 19th century, and the 2013 vintage was barrel-aged for 18 months in seasoned French, Hungarian and American oak barrels. To excellent effect, I might add.

It was a great evening for wine (we finished a delicious 2012 Reata Pinot Noir and a 2013 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, also Sonoma treats, after the Charbono), as we were tucked away from the damp and the rain. These great grapes engendered smiles for us all and readied us for the Panthers’ win too. Wish you could obtain a bottle yourself, but that’s a big task for sure since the winery has sold all of its original production. But give it a go–SO worth it.

2012 The Aristocrat, Buena Vista

The Aristocrat is one of the finest wines I’ve ever enjoyed, and it’s going right onto Notes‘ Top Five Reds list. It’s really special. This 2012 is the inaugural vintage, and it’s already sold out at Buena Vista so coming by this gem will not be easy–yet a worthwhile pursuit if you’re even remotely inclined toward great wine.

2012 The Aristocrat, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2012 The Aristocrat, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2012 Aristocrat is more cherry and blueberry in its flavor. It is crazy smooth, packed full of fruit, and has a spectacular, even finish. There is not even a hint of sharpness, of tannins, of the need for time the way you often get with a Bordeaux or similarly styled red blend. It has great legs, and a jammy color that you’ll find–like its bouquet–extremely enticing.

My wife and I enjoyed this 2012 from a mountainside cabin in western NC, along with a rack of ribs (that’s a dry rub you see in the photo) and a salad featuring some vegetables we picked up fresh at a roadside farm stand.

The team at Buena Vista did not assemble this winner haphazardly–it is filled with purpose and intention. It features Valdiguie (a first for me?), Petit Verdot, and Charbono grapes, each harvested from vineyards in Napa Valley’s Calistoga AVA.  Believe it or not, the vines of the Valdiguie, located at the base of the Vaca Mountains, date back before Prohibition. Poking through the Buena Vista website, I also relay to you that the Charbono is grown on one of Napa’s last remaining Charbono vineyards. This amazing wine is aged (in separate lots) in 100% French oak for 16 to 18 months before being blended.

Special thanks to my mother for presenting us with this amazing housewarming gift. We are thrilled at the reason you selected the 2012 Aristocrat, and thrilled too at the occasion to enjoy it. Hope we brought just a little bit of that back to you in the recap and the photos!