2015 Prelude Francs, Chateau Marsau

Always intriguing when you’re drifting back to older vintages, those that are perhaps less available than selections more readily available on the shelves of your wine store. The 2015 Prelude grabbed my attention—partly because of its catchy label, and partly because it goes back a few years before the recent 2018s I’ve been sampling.

2015 Prelude Francs, Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Bordeaux, France.
2015 Prelude Francs, Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Bordeaux, France.

Unfortunately, this 2015 fell short of my expectations.  It’s Bordeaux profile should have lined up well with many recent bottles covered (with admiration, I might add) in Notes, but the Prelude was just underwhelming. It was very dry, even more tannic, and did not work either solo or with foodstuffs. The 2015 does have aspects of cherry and smoke—which are positives—but it’s just way harsher on the finish.

I don’t usually compare my thoughts to other reviewers, but did on this occasion to see what I missed. Others raved. One crazy guy called a “poor man’s Petrus” and, though I have yet to sample Petrus among these more than 500 tastings, I imagine it has a richer flavor profile by far than the Prelude. A less severe mouthfeel. 

“Coming from the youngest vines of the estate, it is also made of 100% Merlot”

Says the winemakers at Chateau Marsau

Maybe we chalk it up to an over-exuberance of youth? This reviewer is a Gen-Xer, so yes I understand that not everyone is a winner. Not every bottle gets a ribbon or a medal. The Prelude is okay, but only okay. My table has lots of favorites, and more repeat bottles than I have time to write about here…but this one needs no such repeat performance. Thanks for reading and enjoy your vino!

2016 Thorn, Prisoner Wine Company

Let’s just start here—I’m “in” on anything from The Prisoner Wine Company. There’s of course the flagship wine and my obvious fandom of that great red bend, plus the Cuttings and Saldo that have been often chronicled in Notes too. And now I’m adding Thorn to the same list of PWC treats.

2016 Thorn, The Prisoner Wine Company, California, USA.

On this trip to Las Vegas I had occasion to spend a dinner (and this great wine!) with friends that go back all the way to my youth. We have reconnected frequently in recent years, and have been lucky enough to share a fun bottle of wine or two together on these gatherings. The setting—a quaint little restaurant situated beside a lake (yes, man made, CW!) and just a hint of holiday lights yet to come. You get to your table by walking through a wine store (“Marche Bacchus”) with a robust selection of imports and domestic bottles. I wasn’t quite sure what to pull but then stopped dead in my tracks upon seeing Thorn in a PWC box. 

Cool thing about this spot? There’s one price if you’re buying on the go, and a second rate if you’re going to uncork and consume your bottle at the restaurant. Bingo. So we’re in on Thorn, splitting it among four glasses that were absolutely gone too soon. Yes we followed Thorn with other grape treats but this Merlot blend was (at least for me…sorry Tony!) the hit of my evening. A lot of welcome character in the Thorn!

Thorn is a combination of merlot (80%) and other grapes—syrah, petite syrah, and white malbec. You can definitely taste that as you work your way through the wine, the layering of black cherry, dark chocolate, and maybe a bit of loam. You’ll stop and ponder your sip, because there’s clearly more than just merlot in play with the Thorn. Exceeded my expectations and had plenty of eager nods among our circle. For me, this 2016 accompanied a delicIous lobster risotto that was the perfect easy meal before a cross-country, red-eye flight home. 

Thanks so much for coming out to visit, friends, and special thanks to TW for treating us to the great dinner (and this wine)! Can’t wait to see you all again soon, and can’t wait to have another Thorn!   

2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County, Buena Vista

You should always cap off a day of wine tasting with a good wine–the 2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County is assuredly one of those. It’s a dark, spicy red blend from my favorite winery and culls grapes from AVAs throughout Sonoma County into one fantastic wine. This was a birthday gift and came out to play just this weekend.

2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

This vintage is mix of Petite Sirah (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (29%), Syrah (18%), Grenache (12%), and Malbec (11%)–what I’ve heard termed a “kitchen sink” wine by more experienced tasters because of the mash-up. It’s hefty, and I do not mean just the special bottle. The glass, adorned with this badge thing, is the heaviest bottle I’ve ever tasted and almost instills some gravitas into the tasting experience. What I mean is the actual wine itself. The Sirah/Syrah is very much present in this wine, an undercurrent beneath a rich Cabernet/Merlot layer. It is really magnificent and a worthy successor to the Caymus that I sampled just hours beforehand.

Last night the Sheriff accompanied bacon-wrapped filet mignon steaks, sizzled to perfection on hot NC evening, and sides of potato and salad. Tonight the 2013 complemented mixed salad greens (including freshly chopped basil that is fighting hard against some hearty sun…and getting some good love along its journey), waxed beans, and a couple of pork chops grilled up to taste and also accented with crushed black pepper and basil.

Say the Buena Vista folks, “Inspiring dark red fruit aromatics arrest the senses while rich raspberry, blackberry, and semi-sweet chocolate flavors are deliciously unleashed on the palate.” Yup, good friends all, those flavors, and accurately described.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.16.22 PMThe winemaker explains they have sourced the grapes from Rockville, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley in the 2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County. I understand that it’s performed very well in competition and with reviewers, and this guy is no exception. It’s my second Sheriff of this year (neglected to post Notes on the first…story for another time…) and I’m truly appreciative of the gift and wish I had saved more to share. Fun beverage to write about, and even better to drink.

 

2012 Napa Merlot, Beaulieu Vineyard

Ushering in a festive family weekend is this 2012 Beaulieu Vineyard Napa Merlot, a gentle red from one of California’s best-known wine makers. It had an opportunity to breathe and ultimately came out for the cocktail hour and hors de oeuvres on the back patio. The sun’s out, the company is good, and the food is here too–game on.

2012 Merlot Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates, California, USA.

2012 Merlot Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The 2012 Napa BV is a nice fruity red, with strong cherry vibes to it and of course a tad of blackberry. We sampled the BV with a cheese plate, crackers, and strawberry halves complemented with some dipping yogurt. I sort of avoided the strawberries, not sure how their flavors would mix with the Merlot (I might have had some if drinking a Pinot Noir), but in hindsight wonder if I missed an opportunity to bring out some other nuances of the BV. The 2012 had a mild finish and was very approachable.

Of the 2012, the winemaker offers, “Bing cherry, plum and raspberry mingle with chocolate-cherry truffle and red rose petal in this wine’s sensual aromas and flavors. Silky tannins and beautifully balanced acidity gently support the expansive flavors through the delicious, lingering finish.

Tomorrow we’ve got an early curtain call for my cousin’s wedding, so we’re opting for discretion over valor – but yet moving onto a La Mer red blend shortly. Good decisions on both!

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!