2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel

After an unprecedented amount of October work travel, it’s amazing to just unwind for an evening. The world slows down for a beat and lets you appreciate the finer things in life. A day spent relaxing, sipping a fine glass of wine (or two!), and enjoying quality time. That’s what this night is all about.

Margaux’s Restaurant is playing host. It’s just into the cocktail hour, and the bartender is attentive with hors de’ouevres as well as the stemware. Having skipped lunch, we’re out early and seeking sustenance in all forms. Company, foodstuffs, and grapes too of course—this bottle is the 2016 “Old Vine” Zinfandel from Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma Valley (Healdsburg, actually). It’s an apt selection for Zin fans, and the winemakers pride themselves on harvesting fruit from old vines that are over 95 years in age—and in some cases more like 130. That’s a lot of time to take on the character of the terroir (here an iron-rich, rocky and gravelly loam), I am sure.

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

So what about this Old Vine Zin? It’s a swirl of dark fruit flavors, with definite vibes of blackberry and perhaps plum in the mix. Like all the zins that resonate with this guy, there is a spicy note or two, and several other intangibles that I can never quite define as precisely as I’d like. This 2016 bottle is a combination of zinfandel (78%), petite sirah (19%), and carignane (3%) grapes, and it has a nice, rich finish that’s very gentle. 

Here’s how the Dry Creek team describes for you: “This vintage presents alluring aromatics of blackberry cobbler, fresh cranberries with notes of white pepper, cola and dried herbs. On the palate, brambly layers of black cherry, black raspberry and dark chocolate come forward with nuances of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.

Okay, so “spicy note or two” is vague but directionally solid. Sounds great, right? In researching I also uncovered that the 2016 was actually harvested the first week of September 2016, and it was stored 5 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (27% new). We’re sampling with roasted Brussel sprouts, a chilled platter of Old Bay steamed shrimp, and a funky salad (or should I say “salat”?) involving a bit of Belgian endive wizardry. 

Thankful the evening and all the good things that it portends. Hoping you can put your hands on a bottle too and share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Enjoy your night, and your wine too. 

2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company

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.

2017 Saldo

2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

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.

 

2017 Saldo Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company

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…

2017 Saldo Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

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!

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery has been in my life for nearly 15 years at this point, and each time I’m reminded of my first exposure to wines in their Sonoma tasting room. That’s an era before social media and some of the viral marketing that the Buena Vista now uses to attract visitors to one of the state’s oldest wineries. Probably a cheaper fee for admission, too…

2015 Antal's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

Several of their newer releases have won awards in regional competition and, while I don’t think the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel was among them, it earned raves from me nevertheless when I opened this evening. I’d been sipping a Grenache-Syrah blend from the Rhone for most of this week (very pedestrian…still have to write that up), so this Buena Vista Zinfandel was like a shot of adrenaline to my taste buds. I opened it while jamming on some final work obligations for the week and decided to go all out, opting for the decanter and that whole production as well.

Seemed like good decisions all around. The wine opened up really well, releasing notes of cherry and strawberry almost immediately. Great aromas in the glass and even better at the taste. It kicked with a little something, more innate and nuanced than sometimes I sense in the market-leading David bottle. I ate a simple cheese tortellini dish with this wine, accented with a bit of butter and olive oil. The wine was really the headliner of this whole setup, and longtime readers of Notes know that Friday is often “wine reward” nite for surviving the ever-evolving challenges of the work week.

Baldacchi Vineyard (reputedly with 100-year old vines) produced the grapes used for this 2015 Zin, which pours dark red in the glass. Again, a nice contrast to the Chateau Rochecolumbe bottle that is relatively pale by comparison. Here’s how the winery described what’s at play in the Antal: “Richly layered flavors of strawberry and currant are complemented by notes of graham cracker and mocha leading to a spreading finish with a slightly savory note.”

I’ll just say it was great! Buena Vista produced 401 cases of the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, so I’m not sure how easy it will be to score some after all the wine club shipments go out but you’d be glad if you find it. Mine was bottle #2249–love the individual numbering and this wine overall!

 

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery

This 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is a savory, fruit-forward red, one that served as an end-of-week reward for this fan of Buena Vista Winery. The wine is really outstanding, a burst of dark berries that pours dark and fragrant into your glass.

Only 450 cases of the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve have been produced by the winery, and you’re paying for that exclusivity and the “reserve” classification to some extent, but the wine is really excellent. It is filled with big scents of plum and dark cherry that open up nicely as the wine breathes. The wine accompanied steak and garlic-mashed potatoes last evening, and then cavatelli pasta and shrimp, with a medley of summer vegetables tonight. The zin is great with both, but in particular with the grilled steak and its robust flavors.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The grapes for this wine come from 30-year-old vines on properties adjacent to the winery and part of Count Haraszthy’s original winery (according to Buena Vista’s notes). The fruit is harvested by hand, with the best lots then fermented separately in open-top vats before being pressed off and aged in barrels of French oak. You can almost taste that care as you sip contentedly on the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve.

Though not the cabernet sauvignon for which I’d often reach with such meals, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve still abounds in big, dark red flavor. Guidance from the vineyard includes: “[grapes] sourced from the warmer regions in Sonoma County, allowing for warm summer days to deepen the richness on the palate…Bright flavors of tart cherry, cranberry, and boysenberry are balanced with notes of cocoa and a touch of vanilla upon the finish.

As of the time this post goes up on Notes, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is available on the Buena Vista Winery website if you have been moved by this summary of its many favorable qualities. Great choice for weekend drinking!