2015 Pinot Noir, Kosta Browne and 2018 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars

Yes, fellas, it’s Draft Weekend 2021, and time to enjoy brotherhood that is decades in the making. Friendships cemented in laughter, tears, triumph–and more trash talk than time can count. Our once-yearly tradition continues, this time from the sands and shores of the Atlantic.

2015 Pinot Noir, Keefer Ranch, Kosta Browne; 2015 Pinot Noir, Gap's Crown Vineyard, Costa Browne; 2018 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars
2015 Pinot Noir, Keefer Ranch, Kosta Browne, Russian River Valley, California, USA; 2015 Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Costa Browne, Sonoma Coast, California, USA; 2018 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.

These are among the many gems of the weekend. Yes, we have cellar defenders for the afternoon and the various competitions underway (and certainly no shortage of other adult beverages), but for me this is one of the highlights. This group knows serious wine, and brings plenty to share.

Yes, Saeger, I’m chuckling over box wine breakfast, but it’s the 2015 Kosta Browne combo and the 2018 Machete that headline the event. The Machete came out first–rich, purple-red goodness with plum and pepper flavors–and this Petite Sirah-Syrah-Grenache blend stepped up the evening for a time. The Pinots followed shortly after, but they were unfortunately part of the downward spiral of debauchery that still often marks our happy occasions together. All of us enjoying the fruits of our labors had spent long hours sipping other drinks and probably no longer held the palate for these sophisticated wines.

The 2021 Auction will long have its place in our memories, but this time because of the friendships rather than these wines. I’d gladly have another go at any one of them on a day where the wine is a centerpiece rather than a hapless accessory.

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!