2017 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars

 

We all know that ‘normal’ life has taken on new meaning over these last weeks. Jobs, values, and activities that we’ve perhaps taken for granted have been fundamentally changed in ways that are still to be fully determined. Our connectivity to one another continues to evolve in near real-time, and one of the ways I keep my calm and share my values is here in Notes.

2017 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, California, USA.

2017 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, California, USA.

The 2017 Machete, a Milk Run release from Orin Swift Cellars, is a great reason to hit the keys. It’s a petite sirah, but the wine is anything BUT petite in taste. This Machete is actually a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache grapes, and it packs a helluva wallop. It pours the darkest purple in your glass, as Notes has covered previously, and invests plum and blackberry in every sip. 

We had this 2017 Machete with Mexican-spiced shrimp lettuce (butter lettuce made great little cups!), black beans, and Poblano pepper. Navel orange and drizzle of garlic yogurt helped offset the spices of the shrimp, and though I suspect a crisp, minerally wine would have been the go-to choice for this food, we did the Machete thing instead—to great effect, I might add.

Our friends at Orin Swift say,

Massive on the entry, the mid-palate is diverse with flavors of dark plus, black pepper, Amarena cherries, slow-roasted Moroccan lam and a marbled leather texture.

Love this juice so very much…

Cara pointed out that you, dear readers, have a host of blogs to browse at present. I’m grateful that you’re taking a moment to check out this one—thanks and cheers to you all.

2017 Centine Rosso Banfi

Honestly, this time it’s not about the wine or tasting notes. The 2017 Centine Rosso Banfi is more about the tip of the cap. It’s a red blend consolation prize doled out by COVID-19, aka the coronavirus. Yes this a wine from Tuscany but those are not the foothills of beautiful Montepulciano in this background. That Italy trip will have to wait for another day…

2017 Centine Rosso Banfi, Tuscany, Italy.

…and the situation over there is deteriorating rapidly; Cara and I have wayward eyes cast in that direction even while we enjoy this amazing scenery (which involved several white-knuckle moments on the drive in). We’re trying to unwind airline, hotel, and similar reservations while trying out this Italian red and a few similar bottles from the old country.

This is a medium red, a cherry- and strawberry-noted Tuscan offering that combines Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes. The wine is (curiously) lighter than all three, which seems odd to me given that it’s a blend delivered on the backs of these richer reds. We’re drinking it, and that’s fine and all, but different from sampling Tuscan reds straight out of the vineyard tasting room(s). Each of us is a “glass-is-half-full” optimist, pun intended, and looking forward to another shot at Repubblica Italiana.

Wishing you well, readers, and stay safe out there.

WA5, Locations Wine

This day started with a quest for martini fixings, but since all the local ABC stores are closed for the holiday, it’s wine time here. Yes I am a fan of all things Dave Phinney, and I thought the WA locations would be more than a great fill-in for the missing well drinks.

WA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

Importantly, know this bottle fits all the beats of a Phinney wine. Ripe, layered, and kitchen-sink style in its blend overall. This one is blueberry, it is blackberry, and it is hints of merlot to be sure. I found it to be fruit-forward but not the flavor bomb that some of Dave’s creations can embody. I assert here it was the right bottle for the evening, one where I’m recuperating from weeks of overwork and singular focus on a particular outcome. 

The WA Locations 5 accompanied a green salad (complete with mushrooms, yellow onion, radishes, arugula, and cucumbers) and a kick-ass chili that was kicked up with the heat—cumin, chili powder, and all the accoutrements. A nice give and take between the grapes and the food!

Tikves Bela Voda 2016

My first Macedonian wine (many thanks, Lauren!) is the Tikves Bela Voda, a 2016 that I received as a very thoughtful Christmas gift. I tried to hold onto this wine for as long as possible before curiosity–or the need for a good adult beverage–got the best of me and compelled me to wrestle with these Mediterranean grapes.  I lasted almost three weeks! I hang my head a little at that lack of self-discipline, but it does allow me to share the below with you all.

Tikves Bela Voda 2016, Macedonia.

As I thought of the Tikves Bela Voda, I couldn’t help but go back to my longest, deepest tie to the region–that’s obviously For Your Eyes Only (for quite some time my favorite Bond movie) and the double agent interplay of Milos Columbo and Kristatos, as uncovered by 007 himself. Well, those Greeks have been supplanted by the Bela Voda, a really enjoyable and dense red blend culled from vines grown high above sea level. I chipped into this wine after a work project, one that was hundreds of man hours in the making, went astray and deposited me at home a day early. The wine was easy to drink, really well balanced, and helped cushion the crushing work setback. In its welcoming embrace I detected blackberry and dark fruits, spice notes, and other subtleties that I don’t have the palate to describe even after all this time and all these bottles. A little research says it’s a blend of Vranecet (70%) and Plavec (30%) grapes…my first sampling of each and really well balanced.

Lauren liked this wine for many reasons, prominently among them its “underdog” status. I contemplate this label and imagine she meant Macedonian wines as a whole…their relative lack of respect compared to Napa grapes, Bordeaux, Tuscany, and Australian AVAs of higher renown…because the Tikves Bela Voda 2016 takes no back seats in its own flavors and notes. It has merits up the wazzoo, and Tikves is the oldest winery (an 1885 start) in Macedonia, now using sustainable practices throughout its operations.  The Bela Voda is a rich, dense red blend that could go toe to toe with many wines that are better known to Americans like this fella.

The Bela Voda has dark, robust fruits on the nose, and it’s very smooth. It has faint traces too of spices that you’ll really enjoy if you track down one of these bottles. An easy finish. A nice cushion to a tough professional fall! I’m thus very appreciative for the kind gift, both as a great bottle and as a lever prying open a region about which I still know far too little.

 

Winter 2019 – The Ones That Got Away

2016 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Fairfield, California, USA.

2017 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

2017 Evodia, Altovinum, Spain. 

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA. 

2017 Courtney Benham Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Amarone Della Valpoliccella Classico Riserva, Catarina Zardini, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopeland, California, USA.

2015 Villa Maffei Amarone Della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

 

 

2013 Aristocrat, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve followed Notes to any real extent over the past 6 or 7 years, you’ll know the special place that Buena Vista wines have for me. Buena Vista has a great tasting room and was the very first wine club I joined—their bottles are braided throughout these posts and have a prominent role in the Notes Top Ten Reds list. 

2013 Aristocrat, Buena Vista Winery, Calistoga AVA, California, USA.

The Aristocrat I’ve had once previously, and it was flat-out great. That 2012 vintage (the inaugural) was fantastic, and from this 2013 I had similar expectations. I’ve held onto this bottle for several years, looking for the right situation or celebration to break out the red blend. This Friday was the exact right occasion—the company, the accomplishment, the week survived—but the 2013 Aristocrat didn’t really live up to my expectations. 

We had the right glasses, a pair of stemless Reidel reds, and right mood to appreciate these grapes. They’re harvested from the Calistoga AVA of Napa Valley, and I believe the final blend includes both charbono and petite syrah fruit. That’s more from a bit of research, though, because the wine itself was a little underwhelming. This bottle was a safe shot down the fairway. It didn’t have the subtle structure or layered nuances that I so often detect in my favorite wines, including the dozens of Buena Vistas that I’ve covered here in Notes. It was a red with an easy, smooth finish—but was otherwise just ‘meh’ overall. 

I know the 2013 is just the second vintage of the Aristocrat, however, so perhaps they just skipped a beat after the first batch? I have not tasted subsequent vintages so don’t know if this is a blip on the radar or was perhaps just a rare miss at the bottle level. I’ve shared feedback on more than 400 wines over the years (most reds), and just 2 Aristocrats so perhaps I just hit an outlier. If you’ve tried the Aristocrat of any vintage, would you perhaps share your findings or notes here so we can paint a fuller picture for Notes readers? Thanks for your continued readership and have a great day.

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!