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.

2010 Meritage, Dry Creek Vineyard

This 2010 Meritage was part of a great gift set that I received from my mother for my birthday last month. It was not supposed to be the headliner of this trio (that was due to be The Mariner) of reds, but in truth it was. We enjoyed The Mariner to be sure, but whereas that wine did not quite live up to its reputation (I still think of its sharp notes) this Limited Production 201o wine very much did.

2010 Meritage, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA.

2010 Meritage, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA.

We uncorked the 2010 without much fanfare as part of our dinner preparations and did not let it breathe before tumbling it out, fresh, berry, and vibrant, into our waiting glassware. By contrast to the vineyard’s Mariner, it is much more even and less tannic in its makeup. You get a big whiff of cherry and black berry layered together, and a subtle little ribbon of vanilla that winds through the red blend. I’ve previously broken down the mix of this big red, and I think you get that vanilla from the Cab but am not really sure. Is it perhaps the Merlot that helps get that nice, meaty balance here? Try it and let me know.

The 2010 Heritage from Dry Creek Vineyard–one of the first post-Prohibition vineyards in Dry Creek Valley–accompanied a set of delicious steaks. My wife had doctored up the meat with a great spice rub of rosemary and sage, plus the usual salt and pepper, and I for a change remembered to pull the steaks from the grill with enough time to let ’em set up nicely on our plates. Complement that and the wine with some roasted potatoes (fingerlings?) and fresh asparagus and you’ve got quite a nice spread to enjoy with loved ones.

My only disappointment was the end of the bottle, and knowing that no more of these rest comfortably on our wine shelf for next weekend. Here’s to always leaving ’em wanting…

2010 Meritage, Dry Creek Vineyard

Limited production? Private reserve? Yeah, I’m a sucker for exclusivity, whether real or just perceived. The idea of special consideration or some kind of separation from the herd always plays well with this fella. And so yes, the 2010 Dry Creek Vineyard Meritage Limited Production this Tuesday evening, served beside a delicious turkey burger with onions, baby spinach, and cheese.

2010 Dry Creek Vineyards Meritage, Sonona County, California, USA.

2010 Dry Creek Vineyards Meritage, Sonona County, California, USA.

We cracked open this Dry Creek Valley wine last night, a red to go along with a healthy meal consisting of grilled tuna steaks, waxed beans, and Golden Jewel Blend cous cous. (I picked the photo of the burger instead of the tuna steaks, but that was really a call that could have gone either way.) Great seasoning and freshly ground black pepper right in the mix, and really a nice way to pair off with the red blend.

Speaking of the Meritage, it’s a blend of 48% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 10% Cab Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Quite a profile, and it’s very well balanced–a Signature wine from the vineyard. This Dry Creek is a birthday present and a good one at that. The 2010 Meritage straddles the line in that it’s clearly not a Cab, not a Merlot, etc…it’s rather the sum of all parts, with very subtle hints of multiple grapes as you taste the wine. They’re woven together in a way where you cannot really distinguish exactly which grapes you’re drinking until you glance over the label that lays it all bare.

The label for this Sonoma County Red Wine also shares this vision of the winemaker: “It’s crafted to be concentrate and flavorful ready to drink upon release and exquisitely balanced to allow extended cellaring.” I received three of these to help celebrate my birthday and am glad to know at least two more are still in my future. This one is a keeper and I hope you get to enjoy too.

2004 Merlot, Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series

This bottle has been along for quite the journey. It shipped eastward from our favorite Sonoma vineyard several years ago, originally landing in our NJ home, where it somehow escaped consumption for several years–perhaps as many as four or five? I’m not sure if I thought we should just have at LEAST one Buena Vista bottle on hand at all times, or perhaps I was caught up in a post-Sideways backlash against Merlot. Even good Merlot!

2004 Merlot, Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series

2004 Merlot, Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series, Sonoma, California, USA.

Regardless, this 2004 Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series Merlot eventually moved with us down south, surviving 18 unopened months in our rental before sliding to our new home just two months ago. And then the cork came off and we started pouring. Who’s ready for theirs?

I confess that I made little record of the tasting, and an Ida’s Selection Pinot Noir (also from Buena Vista) followed close on its heels so I have some recency bias toward the Pinot. Didn’t record our meal here either. Based on some research, I can tell you the grapes originate from the Carneros appellation, a slice of heaven right in the corner of Sonoma and Napa’s southern boundaries that produces some great adult beverages like this one.

Since finishing the 2004, I’ve done some searching of Wine Searcher and other other retailers without finding this particular vintage. I’m not sure it was a great year or bottle, at least to critics, but I can tell you this one went fast and engendered many warm smiles in our home. Happy hunting!