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.
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.
If you know me, or had occasion to visit Notes in the past, you know that I often think of wine as a way to celebrate special occasions. Or, for that matter, to make an occasion. This bottle of the Count’s Selection I picked up earlier this year and held it…not long by a collector’s standards but certainly by mine, fan of Buena Vista wines as I am. At that time I didn’t know why, or for how long I’d sit on it, but I really do now.
The 2018 Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, produced with fruit from the Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley, is the bottle I selected to commemorate the passing of my dear, dear friend Ridley. This hound-retriever mix has been my constant companion for over a decade, a loyal and lovable dog that has seen me through many of the happiest and most challenging times in my life.
I still recall the exciting morning when I met Rid for the first time, a rescue dog who’d been transported all the way to NJ from the south. With a shake of his tags and a lolling tongue, he made me a huge fan right from moment one. There’s a great clip I took of Ridley that early May morning, video showing him cruising around his new yard, sniffing and checking things out, before he comes bounding across the grass and crashes right into my camera. That memory always makes me smile.
Those gifts, those fond memories, those images…they come easily to me now. There are too many to count. On a very sad, solitary walk I started thinking, “Could you name a Top 100 things you loved about this dog?” My list was more than 20 before I even crossed the street. He was so expressive—those eyes, that smile, and his brow—but it was his ears that often told you most about how he was doing. That’s also what makes his passing all the more painful. Ridley was showing me clues but I just didn’t interpret the signs or fully appreciate what he was going through.
We had been to two different vets in this last month, each time seeking answers to the gastrointestinal issues I was seeing in Rid. I was recording frequency, consistency, and color of his distress, and I was sure this diligence would assist the veterinarians with the right course of action. Both vets had similar approaches to his diarrhetic symptoms, prescribing a bland diet that would go easy on his GI tract, in combination with anti-nausea or anti-bacterial meds, to alleviate his issues. Sadly, that was not enough.
Ridley was not just sick with a stomach bug, had not eaten something unhealthy on one of our many walks. On this unhappy Monday, my vet called back to say further exam had indicated the prescience of a large mass in his abdomen, and that x-rays had revealed aggressive spreading throughout his abdomen and lungs. Ridley was not a candidate for surgery and would not be able to come home one last time. “It’s time,” said the vet, and I reprocessed her words and finally understood my poor dog was wracked by rampant cancer and had been bravely taking it on for several weeks.
Cara and I climbed into the car immediately and raced to him. Ridley came into the special little goodbye room a little nervously. I’ll never forget his eyes and how soft and sweet he looked in that moment. I was devastated for my guy and simply tried to be there with him and for him in that last hour of his life. We both were. Ridley received tons of petting and rested as comfortably as possible. The word rampant thundered in my head over and over as he pressed against my leg, and I was appreciative the vet was adamant that he should not go another day with this burden.
We cried. It was unimaginably heartbreaking, and it’ll continue to be so in the days and weeks and months to come. I know he felt comforted to have such love surrounding him in these moments. The rest of our final visit is personal, but know Ridley went bravely yet quietly into his next adventure—and I’ll look forward to seeing him there.
So that’s the reason for the Count’s Selection. Ridley has seen me pour many bottle of Buena Vista in our time together, but this one is special. The 2018 Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is the one we’re sipping this evening to celebrate Rid’s life. To think back on the good life he received, the way he returned the love tenfold. I miss him terribly already and always will. The wine is great to be sure, a red cherry treat, but for me it’ll always be the bottle we selected to toast my friend one last time. Thanks for reading, and for (hopefully!) thinking good thoughts of Rid or your own furry friends. Love to you all.
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!
The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stanton Vineyards is the second callout that I selected to celebrate my birthday. This Oakville winemaker harvests grapes from a 33-acre property that features gravelly, sandy clay and loam soils that produce fruit for their own label as well as well-known wineries that include Stag’s Leap, Raymond, Groth, and one of my favorites—Orin Swift.
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards, Oakville, California, USA.
About six tons of their yearly yield go into Stanton wines, and this one shows all the best marks of the region and its terroir. i purchased this 2015 from my local winestore based on its location (I’m a huge Napa Cab man) and that Dave Phinney made his signature imprint on their portfolio. I’m a fan of his too, and that was enough to motivate me to bring this bottle home for the celebrations.
Okay, so this is black berry and black cherry goodness, with just the right amount of dark fruit blended without being excessively fruity. There is a whiff of mineral or old leather in this Cabernet Sauvignon; it finishes soft and velvety with a very mellow mouth feel. It pours reddish-purple in your glass, great legs and an enticing bouquet to it. Certainly every wine has its pluses and minuses, but I couldn’t help to compare this to the Switchback that I had Wednesday night. The Stanton was by far the more enjoyable wine, and I didn’t regret skipping the decanter and going right to the stemware.
This 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stanton Vineyards accompanied a really tight, delicious birthday dinner of steaks, broccoli rabe, and wedge salads with all the right accents. Cara showed this cool technique—basting the steaks with butter, rosemary, and thyme—for the meat just before we pulled it from the skillet (you can’t quite do that on your grill, people!). The strips were well seasoned and it was so much fun seeking the perfect bite all evening as we celebrated my latest trip around the sun.
All this made for a memorable evening and one I will not soon forget. Looking forward to more of it all—including this great wine.
2017 Eulenloch Pinot Noir, Belle Glos, Napa Valley, California, USA for Easter dinner, and 2017 Chardonnay, Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA. Click here for the Notes review of 2016 and 2018 Belle Glos gems.
Any time I have the presence of mind to pick up an Amarone (like this 2016 Tenuta Gugi Amarone Della Valpolicella), I’m rewarded for the choice. There’s just something about the production of this wine that strikes a chord with my favorite tastes in wine. And that feels odd to say, because it’s very different from the big Napa reds that I often enjoy and write about here in Notes.
2016 Tenuta Gugi, Amarone Della Valpolicella, Italy
The 2016 Tenuta Gugi, Amarone Della Valpolicella has dark fruit notes in plentiful supply. Culled from Corvina (60%), Corvinone (20%), Rondinella (15%), and Oseleta (5%) grapes in the Illasi Valley of the Veneto region, it’s a wine made in the classic Amarone style. It’s different enough from most modern wine production that I’ve talked about in nearly each Amarone wine entry. In the Tenuta Gugi, the grapes are harvested and left to dry for 90 days. They’re fermented for 80 days, and aged in French oak barrels for 30 months.
Fantastic stuff, and indicative of the Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG. This results in raisin-like cherry flavors, delicate spices that are just beyond your reach, and notes of licorice and black pepper. It pours the most intense, blood-like red in your glass, but it’s also soft and flavorful without being too overbearing.
I picked this up (good price point too!), and a few more just like it, from one of my favorite online suppliers. I’d encourage you to keep your eyes open for the same. Cheers to you in the meantime, and thanks as always for your readership.
The 2017 concentrates powerful dark fruit flavors and spice notes into deep, inky red hues that tumble, fresh, into your glass. Notes has previously presented the 2015 Antal’s Selection, and the newer vintage carries forward the wine’s history—the zin is a varietal that Count Haraszthy helped flourish when he brought the grape to the new world nearly 150 years ago.
2017 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.
Antal’s Selection throws a heavy cloak over you, a full-bodied red with a dark cherry profile and just a bit of smoke and pepper. Apologies for the shorter review in back-to-back entries (time is in short supply, even in this pandemic climate) and encourage you to browse further for the last Antal review or others in Notes here on Buena Vista wines—they’re my favorite and in ample supply.