2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red, Bevan Cellars

Saturday night with old friends and new wines, notably the 2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red from Bevan Cellars, and a 2016 bottle of Cab from Daou. Our evening didn’t finish with these two bottles, but rather kicked it off as we enjoyed a fun dinner at the Echo & Rig Butcher and Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red, Bevan Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2013 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard Proprietary Red, Bevan Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Sugarloaf came with the highest reviews (and hefty price tag–thanks Tony for this treat!) and was batting leadoff. It’s a bold red blend, and even on the cork you could smell its pungent mix of dark fruit. The Sugarloaf is fantastic, a combination of dark plum and blackberry notes, with just a hint of spices below the surface. The wine is composed of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes. This Bevan Cellars offering pours so purple that it’s almost miscast as a ‘red’ wine. We did let it breathe, but honestly just for a few moments and swirls. With four of us splitting the Proprietary Red there was just enough for a first glass, and course it left us wanting more. I know the winery doesn’t do public tastings so you’ll have to just trust me (which is fair…I do taste a lot of California red for a ‘regular’ dude) and sample wherever you can–or just go buy one.

2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, USA.

Next up was the 2016 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, a bottle that similarly earned raves from our foursome. It may have cost a fraction of the top-shelf Sugarloaf, but its excellence was right on par with the more expensive Napa blend. Whereas the 2013 primarily accompanied appetizers, the Daou we had with our entrees. It was bold and fruity, packed with dark cherry notes and a little bit of that earthy spice that I so enjoy among California Cab. Great mouthfeel overall!

I went with a filet mignon this evening, and we did a bunch of family-style sides at this steakhouse. The staff was great, the meal was exceptional, and the friendship even better than that. Forgive me for having less information on the wine this time…I was too busy enjoying the good company. Lots of smiles in our bunch on this evening, which we would soon extend to a wine bar just up the street for after dinner drinks. Raising a glass to all that made this night so enjoyable!

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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!

 

 

 

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto

My first Barbaresco for Notes this evening, and breaking quite a domestic run that I’ve been enjoying over the past several months. Before this Italian gem, the only “offshore” wines I’ve sampled as of late have consisted of Orin Swift‘s Locations, so even that means international grapes through the lens of a US winemaker. Many years ago at a client dinner in Buffalo I had my only previous Barbaresco, and since I don’t remember that very well this one is getting a good up-close glimpse.

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto, Barbaresco, Italy.

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto, Barbaresco, Italy.

The wine is really nice, an easy-drinking red that runs lighter than a Napa Cab but heavier (and smokier) than a Pinot Noir. At its core the 2012 Barbaresco Riserva is cherry in flavor, albeit with some definite spice and smoke on the palate. It is made from Nebbiolo grapes and a nice break from the fruit-forward reds I have favored as of late. This fruit is grown in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy and mixes “tart berry flavors with dray earth, spices, and potpourri.”

Vivino (from where I purchased this bottle) says of Barbaresco, “If you ever wished that Pinot Noir had the punch of Cab, this might be the wine for you!” A truism and I just might be that dreamer–at least on a summer nights where a Cab is a bigger commitment.

This evening the 2012 Barbaresco Riserva from Roberto Sarotto accompanied a simple meal consisting of grilled steak (seasoned only with salt and pepper) and a garden salad. Enjoyed the meal; enjoyed the bottle of wine even more.

It’s the first Barbaresco for Notes but I’m pleased to report it will not be the last. Thanks as always for your readership!

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2018

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2015 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Edwards & Chaffey, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Cambridge Meritage, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Domaine d’Andezon Cotes due Rhone, Red blend. Rhone, France.

2015 Mestizaje, Mustiguillo Vineyards & Winery, Red blend. Spain.

2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet, Padthaway, Australia.

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

2012 Acha Red, Mark Herold, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2002 Syrah, Miller Wine Cellars, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Claret, White Rock Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Robert Storey Cellars, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Amarone la Giaretta della Valpolicella, Italy.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon was recently featured at my favorite wine shop and, as a birthday present to myself, I picked up a bottle several weeks ago. Tonight I decided was the occasion to break it out. I had high expectations given the emphasis winestore placed on it, and I was interested to share my findings with all who follow Notes here.

Important comment: I did not taste the Willowlake prior to purchasing, which is somewhat unusual for me when buying from that shop because they do a great job of giving consumer access through their sampling machines. No, this time I bought based on the description of the wine (Only 84 cases produced! “I would really challenge any of you who are Cabernet lovers to find something of this caliber at this price. The wine is INSANE.”), the bottle design, and the overall reputation of the Howell Mountain AVA in Napa Valley. Okay, a little bit based on price, too. How could I go wrong with all those factors lined up in my favor?

The 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon has some heft, its sturdy glass and cork covered not with foil but actual wax. Not sure any of the 350+ bottles covered in Notes to date has had this treatment, so that was a first for this taster. Such presentation seemed promising too and, as the wine tumbled into my Reidel Cab glassware, my interest in the Willowlake peaked. My brain was thinking “Hey this was a $135 release that I got for less than half that price!” and was already trying to interpret the vanilla and oaky notes I detected rising up from my first big pour.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon, Willowlake Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

And here’s the thing. It just didn’t measure up. Man, that never happens to me, and never with a bottle that should have so many things going for it. I have read others comparing the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus, and I do not think they are evenly remotely similar. I’ve previously remarked of the fruit bomb that I find the Wagner offering to be, and this is not really like that in flavor at all. The vanilla I found a bit too far forward, and it took my taste buds away from any layering or earthiness that I expected in the Willowlake wine. Don’t misunderstand me; the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon is really good stuff–but it is not the GREAT wine that I had in mind.

Part of me went, “Dude, you should have just tried the Disciples or grabbed another bottle of the Cuttings or the Palermo instead…” But that’s the whole point of wine tasting, right? You identify some favorites, sample new options, make some notes, and compare bottles as best you can with those from your memories. There is no wrong answer as long as the vino is flowing! Thanks for your interest in Notes and the 2015 Willowlake Cabernet Sauvignon–share both with a friend.

I4, Locations Wine

Yes a Dave Phinney wine, and the first Locations covered in Notes in months. This is the second I4 that I purchased before the holidays (the first review got away from me…), and somehow I had enough restraint to hold off opening it until this evening. And open it I did.

I4 Locations Wine, Italy.

I4 Locations Wine, Italy.

Loved savoring this wine, this mix of black cherry and spices. It classed up a nondescript dinner that isn’t worth sharing here. The I4, however, is. This red blend is rich, it carries faint scents of raisin, and it has a smooth lasting finish.

The grapes? Well, these I had to look up as we are definitely straying from the California vineyards I travel so frequently. In the I4 blend are negroamaro and nero d’avola from Puglia and barbera from Piemonte. I’m searching my memory and think the only time I’ve sampled this fruit previously was the I4 I drank nearly six months ago.

Of the I4 Locations, the winemaker’s notes are as follows: “Black cherry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cured meat–which are complemented by shades of sandalwood, vanilla, balsa, and evergreen. The entry is silky smooth with a textured mid-palate of velvety fig, blueberry jam, and soft oak.

I suspect the fig is what I called raisin, but good to know I’m not too far off the pace. Black cherry is a no-brainer too. And “cured meat” sure sounds awesome but this escaped my unrefined palate. You’ll have to try it yourself and make a call.

I am aware that most Notes photos show label fronts, and perhaps I surprise you by avoiding Phinney’s iconic lettering? No matter; I just like the clean lines and striking red of the back label and decided to show this to you instead as a change of pace. Pull one from the shelf of your favorite wine store and share your thoughts–I’ll be waiting.