2013 The Vault Red Blend, Banknote Wine Company

Birthday wine – this year’s answer is 2013 The Vault Red Blend, from the Banknote Wine Company of Napa, California. It didn’t quite go with dinner so I just sampled a glass or two before holding it over for today. Love the numbered bottles each and every time I sample one! Great gimmick…and the second I’ve tasted from Banknote specifically.

2013 The Vault Red Blend, Banknote Wine Company, Nap Valley, California, USA.

2013 The Vault Red Blend, Banknote Wine Company, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Yes I have a soft spot in my heart for red blends, and this one was pretty enjoyable. Easy, grooved-down-the-heart-of-the-plate cherry and blackberry mix here. Softer than a Cabernet, and reminiscent of the Michael David blends that Notes has covered with some recurring frequency throughout the years. Or even the Sheriff produced by my favorite winery. Just a little spice to it that I presume comes from a Syrah or Petite Sirah? Bottle #2501 accompanied pork chops seasoned with garlic salt and pepper, white rice, and a green side salad. Oh yeah, a chocolate bundt cake with chocolate chips too!

Says the winemaker, “The rich, smooth palate follows with a dense core of rip blackberry, cherry preserves, vanilla, and espresso. The long, persistent finish and mellow tannins make this wine extremely versatile in food.” 

Thanks for all the birthday wishes; I raised a glass of thanks to each of you who made for the special day.


2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery

It’s well established that Notes covers California Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends with recurring frequency. This is one of the latter, shipped from the vineyard’s Alexander Valley location via an online distributer in a bottle with some considerable heft. When the bottle itself is weighty, you sort of expect the same from the wine too, right? Sometimes that doesn’t bear out in the tasting, and others – like this occasion – it really does.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

There’s a ton of flavor in White Oak’s 2012 Napa Reserve, a bordeaux-style blend that packs in dark fruit flavors that open up beautifully as you go through the wine. It has some tannic scents when you first pull the cork, but if you let it decanter or similarly open up, you’ll find it mellows out and lets other berries come through. Yes, there is definite black berry on the nose, and probably some other dark chocolate notes that you’ll detect too. There is some damp earthiness at stake too…

I ignored some unwritten rules with this wine choice, as I was having it with some pepper-rubbed salmon and rice instead of grilled meat. Call that a little nod to cut back on the cholesterol (at least for the night!). A white might have been the textbook choice, but toss that book out and just enjoy good wine when you can.

And that’s what I’m doing here. The 2012 Napa Reserve from White Oak Vineyards & Winery folds in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, and I’m betting its aged in oak for some time to instill the subtle notes you encounter through this rich, ruby red wine. I don’t think you can find it on the White Oaks website at present, but perhaps your favorite distributor can get you access?

It’ll be worth it. This is a nice wine for the price and I’m glad I got to sample a bottle.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marquis de Bacalan

Saturday night is usually a red night and, as you may notice, most often a California Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled steak. This weekend, however, it was time to approach things from a fresh angle–hence a fish dish and this delicious Blanc instead of a Cab. George Costanza would be proud (and hey I think it was Jason Alexander’s birthday too, so maybe there’s some kismet involved).

2015 Marquis de Balacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

The 2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc was part of an online wine order, a sampling of reds and whites from Bordeaux. The region’s reds get far more attention in the magazines and such, but whites like this nicely balanced bottle deserve some of the spotlight too. It has such a fresh, summer smell to it–quite fragrant and inviting when uncorked. This evaluator is not crazy about orange (i.e., the fruit), but the citrus notes of the Marquis were gentle and encouraging instead of off-putting. There is something that almost makes you want to chew this wine…a scent that I can’t better describe than saying it made me hungry for a sip.


2015 Marquis de Bacalan Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France.

That did bode well for the meal, a Blue Apron salmon recipe that sat ignored and uncooked for several weeks until tonight. Displayed here you see a crispy-skinned salmon with a French sauce gribiche, grilled vegetables (cherry tomatoes and purple summer beans), and mashed potatoes. With plenty of garlic, shallot, and tarragon in the mix, the meal came together really nicely and was the perfect setup for the 2015 Marquis de Bacalan. The dijonnaise mustard flavor worked effectively with both the seafood as well as the wine. My only critique of the food? Wish this chef had diced the cornichons a little finer instead of simply thinly slicing them.

Here’s hoping the leftover portion will stand up well for its encore performance later this week. Certainly the 2015 Marquis de Bacala will, and its good showing on this occasion (along with other recent offerings from Bordeaux) deepens my interest in future whites from one of the world’s best-known wine-producing regions.


*Quick confession: I did open a Cab while making dinner, so it’s not like reds went unrepresented in this house for the night.

2013 Count’s Selection, Charbono, Buena Vista Winery

We’ll get to more details later in this summary, but know right now the 2013 Charbono was a big hit at our gathering this evening. I’ll do some reading so that I can better share the origins and goals of this delicious red gem from Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery–but it was flat-out great.

2013 Count's Selection, Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

2013 Count’s Selection, Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

Let me say that I have never heard of Charbono as a varietal and, upon selecting this bottle for our company, was basing its “worthiness” on the reputation of (and years of experience tasting) Buena Vista Winery. Those following Notes have seen numerous Buena Vista raves that weave their way through weekly postings and make our Top Reds list–not only annually but all-time as well. (If you’re reading this, my friend, I’d say Buena Vista is to me as Merry Edwards is to you.) Nevertheless, I expected only “goodness” from the 2013 Charbono but no flavors or accents, specifically.

Our guests included lifelong friends and their families, visiting overnight for the Charlotte Panthers football game. We had a big pile of snacks, fresh veggies, cheeses, and excellent conversation before and all throughout dinner. The main course was a crowd-pleasing macaroni-and-cheese-and meatloaf combination (salad too) that was both delicious and a rib-sticker at the same time. I don’t know if a bold red is supposed to be paired with this kind of dish, but we damn well loved the wine. Would you understand my thinking if I said it reminded me of a split between a Cab and a Syrah? Even before finishing the bottle we were lamenting that we had only one of these.

Later I pulled out the winemaker’s notes and share here: “This rare wine, a deep dark red in the glass, opens with inviting aromatic notes of blackberry and plum. Flavors of black cherry, blueberry, and dark chocolate are balanced with a touch of leather and an earthy spiciness. This medium-plus bodied wine has a textured mouthfeel, big tannins, and long, satisfying finish.

Reading the above you can see why we loved it. The 2013 Charbono had all the characteristics I find desirable in a good wine: the fruits, the hint of spice, the earthy undertones. The Count Agoston Haraszthy, founder of the winery, supposedly brought vines of this rare varietal back from a trip to Europe in the 19th century, and the 2013 vintage was barrel-aged for 18 months in seasoned French, Hungarian and American oak barrels. To excellent effect, I might add.

It was a great evening for wine (we finished a delicious 2012 Reata Pinot Noir and a 2013 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, also Sonoma treats, after the Charbono), as we were tucked away from the damp and the rain. These great grapes engendered smiles for us all and readied us for the Panthers’ win too. Wish you could obtain a bottle yourself, but that’s a big task for sure since the winery has sold all of its original production. But give it a go–SO worth it.