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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The Prisoner Wine Company makes several of my very favorite wines, including cult classic The Prisoner (natch) plus the Cuttings (my favorite wine of the summer two years ago), and this really enjoyable Saldo. Each has been covered in Notes previously, but I really like sharing my love for them so apologies for if I repeat myself here in the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel.
This bottle is a Friday night selection, a dark ruby gem that accompanies a new meal I’m making for the first time: a healthy version of a creamy butter chicken with white rice. The dish packs in onions, garlic, ginger, paprika, and curry, so the wine has to have enough legs to hold up to the Indian spices. I erred just a bit on the coconut milk used to offset the heat, but good wine helped overcome that oversight.
And the 2017 Saldo answers the bell. Yes, it’s a robust red that has notes of pepper and cherry (not really blackberry, black currant, or strawberry here) readily available, and little spice accents as well. Do you see why I thought it might accompany the chicken dish? The wine has a good mouthfeel; it’s substantive and rich but very smooth overall. Given the grapes used to create Saldo you’ll understand if I consider this as much as red blend as I do many of the zinfandels covered here in this blog.
Let us touch on the blend—because if you follow PWC like I do you know the wine is never a straight-up single vineyard, one varietal bottle. Their 2017 California Zinfandel is actually a combination of zinfandel (85%) and a petite sirah / syrah blend (15%), aged in both French and American oak barrels (25% new). Saldo is sourced from AVAs that include Dry Creek, the Sierra Foothills, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, and Lodi; winemaker Jen Beloz (formerly of Ravenswood) selects fruit from Mattern, Aparicio, Teldeschi, Grist, Taylor, and Bismark Mountain Vineyard for this Saldo zinfandel blend.
Trying to understand the meaning of “Saldo”? We’ve covered that before and you can check out here if you have another moment. Me? I’m off to better things and say thanks as always for your readership.
Nearly two summers ago I had my first exposure to the Orin Swift Papillon. While Notes did not fully profile the wine at that time, it did make the Top 10–high praise given the 400+ bottles covered in these pages. I’m here to say the 2017 vintage continues that standard of excellence.
It’s a bordeaux-style blend, a new release that mixes five different grapes (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and merlot) sourced from throughout Napa Valley. After pulling the cork you’ll be greeted by big, rich scents of blackberry and pepper, and an inky reddish purple that’s probably the color of blood before it hits oxygen. My first sip was too soon–the wine had not yet had a chance to breathe and was slightly tart. After sitting for 15-20 minutes during a late-night dinner prep, the Papillon settled into a deep, flavorful dark fruit medley. Definite blackberry or black cherry scents wafting (maybe cedar or spice box?) heavenly from the glass…lip-smacking goodness.
This is from our winemaker friends at Orin Swift: “Intensely layered and decadent on entry, the wine exudes characteristics of black plum, boysenberry, kirsch and dark chocolate with a silky soft yet weighty texture. A prolonged finish of Provençal lavender, fig leaf and ripe currants close out the wine.”
The 2017, a very special gift that I appreciated on multiple levels, is aged for 15 months in French oak (43% new) barrels to very good effect. It delivers a nice, easy finish for a wine with so much gravitas. Special shout out for the great photo and my favorite company. The Phinney magic touch continues again for another year…
The Sheriff of Buena Vista has become one of my favorite red blends, and it’s made annual appearances on Notes. Feedback on the 2016, 2015, and 2013 are all here for easy access but know now each is a bold, full-flavored powerhouse. This is big flavors that you sort of need to balance against something as weighty–or not.
This vintage runs back the formula that worked so effectively in the 2016. I’m betting the response from consumers was such that the team at Buena Vista decided, “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” Here is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%), and it conveys big blackberry and plum from your glass. Darker notes of chocolate and spice are pretty evident too. See what I mean about the overall weight of this bad boy?
Here’s how the winemaker sourced this year’s Sheriff: “The varietals that compose 2017 vintage are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Moon Mountain, Sonoma Mountain, Fountaingrove, Chalk Hill, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. The individual varietals were aged separately for 10 months in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.”
Hmm. No shout out to Dry Creek this year. This wine is aged in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). I never see it on the shelves of my local wine stores but seems readily available through Buena Vista (I’m a tenured member and long-time fan). Tip of the cap to this good Sonoma County friend and enjoy.
Two of these bottles so far, and hoping for more in the future. This is the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, bottled in Oakville by The Prisoner Wine Company. Delicious stuff–Zinfandel primarily–but like many Phinney wines, it brings a few more threads into the braid. Let’s explore further…
For starters, it’s a combination of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah grapes sourced from Dry Creek, Lodi, and Amador. Yes all favorites (the grapes and the AVAs) of this oenophile, and grounds well traveled here in Notes over the past seven years or so. Just check the filter to the left and you’ll see firsthand.
The 2017 vintage pours very dark in the glass, a red on the verge of purple, and shares with you a host of rich, earthy notes. The Petite Sirah and Syrah confer a bit of black pepper, and the Zin has plenty of cherry as you might expect. It’s fruit-forward and has soft tannins. There are some other subtleties in play but I cannot separate each of those for you here. Remember, the site tries to be unpretentious?
Having said that, research is part of the experience. A quick read on the Prisoner Wine Company website shows that Saldo means “here and there” in Latin (don’t remember any of that from my own rudimentary studies…) and it’s a tip of the cap to their red blend philosophy. The 2017 Saldo Zinfandel is aged in French and American oak barrels (25% new).
A refreshingly fruity red blend hiding as a Zinfandel. Enjoy!
How do you commemorate writing a @*%* tax check for Uncle Sam? You shake your head and reach for a bottle of good wine to cushion the landing. This guy opted for the 2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon from Orin Swift Cellars. (Yes, I’d have celebrated a better return the same way, those of you asking…)
Palermo has been on my radar for some time, as a gift for friends, from friends, and once on a memorable date that I enjoyed a ton. We didn’t even finish the bottle on that occasion – guess the company was the more intoxicating play. Said another way, this was the first time I was drinking this Bordeaux-style red with thoughts of how I would describe here in Notes. It’s rich purple in your glass (I went with Riedel stemware for this one) and waves blackberry scents to you right from the first pour. The 2016 vintage is very drinkable, dark berry fruits, and has an easy finish that is probably some of the blended fruit rounding off the harsher tannic corners of the Cabernet. Little spice notes that are far more subtle than the blackberry / dark cherry taste.
The Palermo is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes that the winemaker sources from across the ripe floors of Napa Valley. Calistoga, St. Helena, Coombsville, and Oak Knoll all contribute to this kitchen sink of a wine as does Pope Valley, Atlas Peak, and both Rutherford and Oakville. To what extent? Only the winery knows for sure, but you can bet their inclusion is for both taste and the overall marketability of the Palermo. They mature the Palermo in French Oak barrels for 10 months.
This evening, the 2016 accompanied a pork loin (just a tad overdone) and just a big ol’ salad of arugula, spinach, green olives, and a sweet onion that I shaved into little slivers of goodness. And yes, fresh ground pepper and bacon, with blue cheese dressing. Hey, if tax day doesn’t bring out your sense of carpe diem and good wine what does?!?