The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2021

Life often gets in the way of a timely Notes review, and I look up and see several bottles that have passed by my table without getting their due review. I try to share a “quarterly update” of sorts…perhaps it is of no value whatsoever, but I take this step in part so you as visitors have better context for those wines I do ultimately review.

  • 2019 Karoly's Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.
  • 2012 Old Vine Grenache, Quo Ono, Campo de Borja, Spain.

Without any further preamble, let me share the July/August/September bottles that are described thusly:

  • 2019 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.
  • 2012 Old Vine Grenache, Quo Ono, Campo de Borja, Spain.
  • 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Dreaming Tree, Acampo, California, USA.
  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Meander Wines, Napa, California, USA.
  • 2019 Austin Cabernet Sauvignon, Austin Hope Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.
  • 2018 Highland Falls Red Wine, Estate of the Art, Middletown, California, USA.
  • 2015 Finca Rio Negro Red Wine, Vino de la Tierra de Castillo, Spain.
  • 2019 Conundrum Red Wine, Wagner Family Wines, Fairfield, California, USA.
  • 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Anderson Family Vineyards, Napa, California, USA.
  • 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin Vineyards & Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

Yes, I acknowledge that certain patterns and tendencies do emerge–both in this snapshot of Q3 2021 as well as throughout Notes. Any time you’re seeking a good gift, or you’re a winemaker looking for advocates, you know where to find me. -R

2018 No.8 Proprietary Red, Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards

The 2018 No. 8 Proprietary Red is smokin’ hot. Love this limited production wine (courtesy of Rutherford-based Verdon Estate Winery) and so very glad that my cellar has a few more of this well-crafted big red. 

2018 Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards No. 8 Proprietary Red, Napa, California, USA.
2018 Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards No. 8 Proprietary Red, Napa, California, USA.

Let’s start with the particulars. First, the fruit is produced in two small, rocky vineyard sites near Duckhorn and the Napa River. Those grapes—a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Malbec (30%), and Merlot (20%)—are then managed by winemaker Kevin Morrisey of Petrus, Etude, Stags Leap, and Ehlers fame. 

That pedigree makes for a stunning wine, one that tonight accompanied a pan-seared ribeye, perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper. The meat paired well with the No. 8 Proprietary Red, handling its tannins and dark cherry notes nicely. This 2018 bottle has the cherry and pepper hints of the Cab, and the soft underbelly of the Merlot. 

“Reminiscent of a top Amarone, the blend is ethereal with divine balance, a gentle grip, a deep berry richness that carries through to the finish.”

—Verdon Estate

In the near term, Notes will have a follow-up to this first post on the 2018 Verdon Estate Blue Vineyards No. 8 Proprietary Red, and I hope you’ll check back again for further thoughts this amazing bottle engenders. In the meantime, enjoy your wine and your weekend. 

2019 Ser Passo Super Tuscan, Barbanera

This Italian red blend was a great surprise and packed with dark cherry notes. It’s the type of wine I enjoy finding: a mix of dark berry fruits, hint of spice, and unexpectedly affordable too.

2019 Ser Passo Super Tuscan, Barbanera, Toscana, Italy.
2019 Ser Passo Super Tuscan, Barbanera, Toscana, Italy.

The 2019 Ser Passo is obviously produced in Tuscany and was offered to me from WTSO.com; I am not sure what resonated for me in that promotion but pleased I snatched up a foursome of these bad boys. It’s made in the ripasso method, in which winemakers use the grape skins in a second fermentation step (mostly in Valpolicella) in hopes of infusing more complexity to the wine. 

The result is a rich, even red wine. I’m not saying color (which is also a deep, enticing red) but rather a velvety, smooth, and even mouthfeel. You’ll find yourself looking back at your glass between sips, working to identify the various aromas and tastes at play, and thinking about your next.

That’s what I’m doing too. On this occasion my notes have nothing to do with the accompanying food but rather keeping you focused on the wine itself. Without researching further, I’d suggest this is a Sangiovese/Cabernet blend at the minimum…maybe a Merlot or similar to offer a bit of the sweetness you’ll sample in the Ser Passo? Even in a young vintage there’s a fine, blended vibe to this wine…not artificial but well-founded in the (re?)fermentation or pressing processes.

I’m reminded of Amarone, and at a far different price point. Again, the 2019 Ser Passo is a fun Friday wine and suggesting you pick up a few yourself. Thanks as always for your readership and cheers.

2017 Papillon, Orin Swift Cellars

Birthday celebrations for loved ones–yes, that’s how you do wine. Especially great wine, like the 2017 Papillon from Orin Swift Cellars (yes, you all know I’m a massive fan). We uncorked this bottle after a long work week, allowing it to decant and really open up before tearing into it.

2017 Papillon Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.
2017 Papillon Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.

I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy Papillon on several prior occasions, including a 2017 and through various tasting banks at my favorite wine store. This one was, in fact, a gift from Cara (the sibling to the 2017 referenced previously), so no better way to enjoy than in celebration of her trip around the sun. 

It’s a powerhouse wine, a big red in the Bordeaux style but with new world traits. The 2017 Papillon is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec grapes, and yet it has a smooth, even finish. The mouthfeel is luscious and full, with black berry fruits and just a hint of oak and pepper (is that the Verdot?) in the nose. It’s velvety and fruitful to the point you almost want to try chewing it. This is superb wine (aged in French oak for 15 months) that makes any event into a special occasion. 

Says our winemaker, “Powerful aromatics escape the glass with rich notes of ripe blackcurrant, blackberry, peppercorn, and a touch of chaparral supported by a frame of sweet oak.

Cara and I had this bottle of 2017 Papillon with New York strip steaks, pan-seared with butter and rosemary, baked potatoes, and roasted broccolini. The steaks were a little thinner than we’d have liked, but cooked to the right temps and their flavors paired well with the wine. I was so very pleased by the opportunity to share in the festivities and this great bottle of wine! Looking forward to so many more of both… 

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 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard

The 2017 Mariner is the second vintage covered here in Notes; the previous entry (written nearly six years to the day) presented the 2012 produced by the Stare family’s Dry Creek Vineyard. Based in Sonoma County, the vineyard has been on-task since 1972 and is known for its single-vineyard wines.

2017 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.
2017 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Like the last bottle, this one was a thoughtful birthday gift from my mother and I uncorked it to much delight. On the nose it’s a pleasing blend of blackberry and leather…like unleashing a whiff of history. There’s also a hint of dryness and tannins promised, but that’s diminished when you pour The Mariner in your glass. It is purple-red in its hue, and shows medium legs.

Many winemakers (including several of my favorites) do not disclose their proprietary blends, preferring the mystique and the buzz that accompany their big reds. That’s not the case here, and I think I’m glad—a good wine is more than just the sum of disparate grapes. Having said that, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Merlot (15%) Cabernet Franc (6%), Petite Verdot (5%), and Malbec (5%) grapes make up The Mariner and that’s proudly displayed right on the bottle you see before you.

This evening, the 2017 Mariner was served with a delicious garlic-butter chicken and lemon asparagus, and I suggest the food brought out the blackberry fruits in the wine as well as just a kiss of pepper and maybe a little oak barrel goodness. Wine is great for creating memories, and the Mariner does that in spades. Thanks for the gift, Mom, and for making such a positive impact on our evening—we were both enjoying this one!

2018 Chronicle Cabernet Sauvignon, Rebel Wine

The attributes of this wine line right up to the preferences of this oenophile. The 2018 Chronicle is produced on California’s North Coast, it’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (88%) and Petite Sirah (12%), and has an intriguing label that just may include an individually numbered bottle. Let’s dig deeper…

Generally, the North Coast includes Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, and Marin counties. St. Helena is just west of the Mayacamas Mountains, located in the Napa Valley AVA, and is home to many of California’s best-known wines. The Valley itself extends about 30 miles from Napa at the south to Calistoga in the north, right along Route 29 and including St. Helena.

Fog in the region impacts its vineyards in meaningful and very specific ways. The complexities of cool and warm climates, sunlight, ocean airs, and earthquakes makes for diverse appellations and even subappellations conducive to different types of grapes (e.g., Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon), even among neighboring growers and towns. It’s a place that beckons to my soul even while I’m jotting a few notes for you all here.

2018 Chronicle Cabernet Sauvignon, Rebel Wine, St. Helena, California, USA.

The 2018 Chronicle is a medium- to full-bodied dry red blend, with dark fruit notes that I’m calling more blackberry or black cherry than plum. Sometimes my palate can pick that up; other times it’s less clear so use your own judgment here. I do smell a bit of leather in my glass, and the peppery finish is suggestive of both the Cab and Sirah grapes for the wine.

We had the Chronicle with Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, served with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was flat-out great, with tenderly seared beef and vegetables so tender…wow! Those who follow Notes regularly know the meal is often less relevant to this taster than is the accompanying wine, but this is not one of those occasions. The dish was so rich and savory that I really thought less of the Chronicle and more of the food flavors. Understand me: the wine is tasty but the stew even better.

The label (but less easy to support with online research) suggests that Joel Gott and Charles Bieler are the vintners here for the 2018 Chronicle. Thanks gents for your contribution to a great evening. I enjoyed your wine and will buy more in the future, but what I’m really excited to repeat is the Beef Bourguignon.

The Ones That Got Away – Winter 2020

This gallery contains 6 photos.

  I’m always regretful when the business of daily life prevents me from sharing tasting notes. There are so many bottles and so little time…here’s a snapshot of several of the great wines that closed out this 2020 year. Best to you all in the year ahead! -R