2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery

Many things go into selecting a good wine for the evening. There’s your meal, calendar, need for celebrating—the company plays a significant role too. And just sometimes you pull a cork because of what you’ve got in mind for dessert.

This is one of those occasions.

2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir from Buena Vista Winery rings the bell in the way their Pinots have been up for the challenge for many years. I’ve had bottles shipped to me in New Jersey and North Carolina over the past 10 years, and I’m somewhat surprised to learn that my relationship with Otelia goes back to the 2008 and 2010 vintages. How many relationships do you have go back a decade? 

This sweet girl never disappoints. Otelia mixes cherry flavors with a little hit of strawberry…just a little note of earthiness too. It’s not a light Pinot Noir, and not one where you have vanilla flavors that are almost cloyingly sweet. Bottle 260 (the individually marked bottles is a gimmick I have loved since first encountering it with Buena Vistas past) is more like a Pinot Noir blend, and if you’re a Belle Glos Pinot drinker this will be a good home for you too. In any event, the wine as a great complement to the fresh strawberries (dipped in semi-sweet chocolate) that we had prepared for our dessert this evening.  

These are the winemaker’s notes: “This Pinot Noir is sourced from some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Sonoma Count; this wine has [a] distinctive blend of clones that is enhanced with a small amount of Pinot Meunier to add depth and complexity. A variety of soils ranging from sandy loam with a shallow clay layer to heavy clay contribute to the distinctive deep fruit and earthy flavors in this wine.”

As always, a note of appreciation to the team at Buena Vista Winery. May all our relationships be this generous and rewarding!

 

2016 Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir

On several prior occasions, Notes has covered the Belle Glos Las Alturas in celebratory fashion. One of my favorites was the bottle of Belle Glos that I received from Jackie and the KW team as a housewarming gift, a happy occasion that lifted my spirits and recognized days, weeks, and months of hard work in a joyful tasting.

Belle Glos

2016 Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, California, USA.

This was not that type of success story. The 2016 Belle Glos I selected for a quiet team dinner (at a Ruth’s Chris in Boca Raton), one where we sequestered ourselves for a brief hour(s) from our most significant client and their 2020 national sales meeting. Yes, this was a firing bottle, the one I selected to share with my hard-working colleagues just after we learned that we had been relieved of our final duties in support of their meeting.

The wine was flat-out great. Always is. It’s a fruit-forward red flavor bomb, more a Bordeaux-style tooth stainer than the type of Pinot Noir you might associate with the Russian River Valley and their strawberry-, vanilla-, and cherry-noted options. Our waiter (who was at times embarrassingly derelict in his attention to our team) had no issues with the unique wax neck of the Belle Glos, and that made me half-wistful for the type of exposure he must have to this excellent wine and even better options.

So there you have it. Filet and Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard wine to celebrate our firing from a job just one yard from the finish line. After thousands of man hours, it was a crushing blow and only softened slightly by good wine and great camaraderie. It’s not a feeling I’m excited to repeat any time soon. 

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines

The wines on my birthday dinner have not always made Notes. There are a lot of factors in play, from great company to competing priorities or even just cruising past a glass without making any tasting notes. This year I jotted some ideas down while this 2014 Steele Pinot was still top of mind.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines, Carneros, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Pinot Noir, Steele Wines, Carneros, Sonoma County, California, USA.

First? The setting. A great restaurant (O-Ku) in downtown Raleigh, a cooly lit and funky-vibed sushi place that had a great understated buzz to it. Second? I’m there with Mom, and we’ve done a couple really fun birthday celebrations over the years. (Hell, she was there at the start!) Third–the food. It’s really delicious, a mashup of great presentation and unbelievable flavors. Yes we did edamame, then traipsed through an amazing rock shrimp “O-Ku” style (with honey sriracha aioli, fried shallots, and mixed greens), and then hit our entrees. Mine was the Hamachi Crunch – which consisted of yellowtail, jalapeño miso aioli, crispy rice puff, serrano, and black volcano salt. Really amazing…

…but how about the wine? This is the 2014 Steele Pinot Noir, a Carneros bottle that of course reminded me of adventures past. The winery sources grapes from Sangiacomo properties that, like much of the region, surely benefits from the cool breezes and evening temperatures that help the fruit develop amazing flavors. This wine is aged for nine months in a combination of French and Hungarian oak barrels.

It tastes light, it tastes strawberry, and it tastes cherry. No question about that at all. It pours a gentle red in your glass, and immediately you catch notes of the strawberry flavors at play. At the same time it’s juicy, carrying just a little heft to it but of course far easier than the red blends and California Cabs that I’ve sampled more recently. Liked it a ton, but the overall evening far more. A fun memory that’ll keep!

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.

2014 Babcock Pinot Noir

The lobby of the Fairmont Santa Monica served this tasty beverage, which I enjoyed after a challenging presentation to our best clients. I hadn’t slept at all or eaten beforehand, so I was living on fumes and this 2014 Babcock Pinot Noir to celebrate the end of a long day.


The wine was fun, but its taste I scarcely remember. The winery is located in Santa Monica County, California, so practically local. The 2014 Babcock is a little cherry, a little raspberry, and a tad deeper in color than the Pinots from my favorite winery.

Oh yeah…nearly forgot. Not pictured here, but captured nevertheless on my phone was Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Biggest celebrity citing of this lifetime. Apparently the Governator often frequents the Fairmont with his crew, stopping by mornings after bike rides and workouts, but on this evening he had dropped by with a bodyguard too. Sort of looked like he needed a shower and some gel but seated 20 feet from me in the flesh.

I had two glasses of the Babcock and would have enjoyed more…but in the privacy of my own home. The grapes were good and the need to celebrate (in triumph and relief) was pronounced. And thanks to our special guest star, I’ll never forget this wine or the event.