2015 Le Clos Guillot Chinon, Bernard Baudry

Date night with my girl this evening, and we’ve met out for drinks and dinner in Bull City. It’s a cool little French bistro, and only my second time here—and first for dinner. She looks great; freshly coiffed and even her eyes are smiling at me as I jump out of my ride to meet her.

Baudry

2015 Le Clos Guillot Chinon, Bernard Baudry, Loire, France.

The ambiance? High, industrial-style ceilings where sound carries even without a big crowd. Chalkboards on the rear walls share enticing specials for guests, and my eyes are on one even while we slide up to the corner of the bar, our favorite setup so we can lean in close and enjoy each other’s company and intoxicating smells. 

I have a few more stories from the dumpster fire of the past week, a few new angles that we’ve unearthed—but this really isn’t a night to talk shop. It’s a time to relax, to enjoy foodstuffs, to enjoy each other, and to enjoy wine. We’ve selected the Le Clos Guillot Chinon from an extensive tasting list and, though it takes some time to open up, it eventually does and we run through it to good effect.

This Le Clos Guiilot Chinon is organically produced and hails from Loire. It’s a Cabernet Franc that pours ruby red in the glass, with damp, earthy notes that this reviewer can detect even among all the delicious smells of Rue Cler. There’s a bit of cherry in the tasting, and some darker fruits too that I imagine come through the Cabernet Franc grapes themselves. I’ve been very California-focused as of late and this Baudry wine is (at least for me) walking a fine line between those Napa Cabs and Petite Syrahs that I’ve been tasting from this side of the ocean. A medium finish… 

Still recovering from severe sleep deprivation, I’m not going to lay on the menu too thick this time. (I promise to make that up in new Notes entries soon enough.) Just know I’m impossibly happy to be home, and even more so to be out on the town with this special lady. Oh yeah, the wine’s been a fun experience too! A rare trip overseas for this guy but much appreciated. Hoping you do too and thanks as always for your readership and kind words. 

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.

 

2016 Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir

On several prior occasions, Notes has covered the Belle Glos Las Alturas in celebratory fashion. One of my favorites was the bottle of Belle Glos that I received from Jackie and the KW team as a housewarming gift, a happy occasion that lifted my spirits and recognized days, weeks, and months of hard work in a joyful tasting.

Belle Glos

2016 Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, California, USA.

This was not that type of success story. The 2016 Belle Glos I selected for a quiet team dinner (at a Ruth’s Chris in Boca Raton), one where we sequestered ourselves for a brief hour(s) from our most significant client and their 2020 national sales meeting. Yes, this was a firing bottle, the one I selected to share with my hard-working colleagues just after we learned that we had been relieved of our final duties in support of their meeting.

The wine was flat-out great. Always is. It’s a fruit-forward red flavor bomb, more a Bordeaux-style tooth stainer than the type of Pinot Noir you might associate with the Russian River Valley and their strawberry-, vanilla-, and cherry-noted options. Our waiter (who was at times embarrassingly derelict in his attention to our team) had no issues with the unique wax neck of the Belle Glos, and that made me half-wistful for the type of exposure he must have to this excellent wine and even better options.

So there you have it. Filet and Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard wine to celebrate our firing from a job just one yard from the finish line. After thousands of man hours, it was a crushing blow and only softened slightly by good wine and great camaraderie. It’s not a feeling I’m excited to repeat any time soon. 

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.