2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery

There was a time in Notes history when I scrambled to capture every bottle, every wine tasting adventure, seemingly every random thought about wine. Several hundred bottles later, that pattern has slowly changed with opportunity (and to some extent, taste). These days I always find time for a glass and a thought, but not always for sharing feedback in this modest column. 

2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery, Mendocino County, California, USA.
2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery, Mendocino County, California, USA.

The photos? Yes, those I have for sure. Like many oenophiles I assuredly have all the labels recorded. Like others, I have a few notes and thoughts that are half-discernible in various apps and scraps of paper…and on a few rare occasions I even get ‘em down here where others can read and sample. That’s no excuse – just reality, and perhaps even a forecast of the pending “Ones that got away” Q2 2022 that is on its way soon. Here in the meantime is my take on the 2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, from Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California. 

I bumped into Buena Vista’s Carignane several years ago, having cracked a bottle for friends who were in town for a quick visit. The Carignane surprised me at that time (was it my first with this grape? Think so…) and quickly found its way into my recurring order from Buena Vista Winery. This 2019 I drank a tad early…perhaps I should have left it on the rack for one more year? It’s quite good, but the tannins here felt a bit grippy. 

There is plenty of blackberry on the nose, with other red fruits in the mix too. The 2019 Carignane has the blackberry taking a lead role, but there are other subtleties involved too. It is dark, dark purple in the glass and very rich on your palate. The wine starts a little dry but the blackberry notes fill that space pretty quickly.

The winemaker notes, “Ripe, juicy flavors of red cherry and blackberry cover the palate with a hint of licorice and a touch of black pepper that lead to a long, savory finish.

According to the Buena Vista team, these are old vine grapes (an 80-year-old site known for Carignane), sourced from vines that are dry-farmed in the Ukiah region. Buena Vista harvested them in September, fermented, and ultimately aged the wine in French oak (13% new) for 15 months prior to bottling. The outcome of that production is the 2019 vintage of The Count’s Selection Carignane—I enjoyed this very much and know you will too. 

2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend, Judd’s Hill

Red blends recently caught my eye while buying online, and the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines from Judd’s Hill was one of the batch. Now, I’m an easy sell for any ‘old wines’ grapes, and that bias generally serves me well—just as it did here with this Napa Valley bottle.

The winery is family run, and proud of it. Judd’s Hill produces not only well-known California treats like Cab Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, but also less-frequent AVA guests like Viognier and Grenache. They’re also sharing prominently the Judd’s Hill focus on small lot wines, and all that gears one up for a great tasting experience. That’s exactly what I enjoyed here with the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend.

2017 Walt's Old Vines Red Blend, Judd's Hill, Napa, California, USA.
2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend, Judd’s Hill, Napa, California, USA.

This 2017 growls softly at you. The wine is replete with berry goodness, an explosion of blueberry and blackberry on your palate. Those are the obvious notes, but others are at play too. The winery’s website indicates “marionberry, huckleberry, and lingonberry” are also conveyed in Walt’s Old Vines, but I simply don’t have the palate or previous taste for any of those more subtle hints. Check it out and let me know? I do get a gentle whiff of pepper, but it is very faint—not as pronounced as a Syrah or Zin. The aftertaste has slightly less rounded notes, a bitterer profile that I’d think more like a cranberry vibe. All in all, it’s really quite enjoyable!

If you’re trying to find the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend from Judd’s Hill, you might see results including the Cuttings (The Prisoner Wine Company), Machete (Orin Swift Wines), or even Scout’s Honor (Venge Vineyards) in your search feed. Each of these Napa Valley greats has a profile similar to Walt’s and would serve you and your guests very well. I bought two the first time out and encourage you to better that score when you make your buy. You’re welcome—and thanks for reading.

2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard Red Blend, K Vintners

This black-cherry treat was an upgrade on a recent online order. The 2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard is a red blend, a mix of Syrah (31%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (69%)—two of my favorite grapes and combined to excellent effect here.

2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard Red Blend, K Vintners, House of Smith, Walla Walla, Washington, USA.

Winemaker Charles Smith maintains his vineyards in Walla Walla Valley, Washington, and opened for the first time in 2001. Most of his operation features small lots of single-vineyard Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. Though he reportedly sold his first wines from the back of a truck, they’ve come a long way over the past two decades. This bottle is named for his mother (Roma-Jean) and those who read Notes know I have long enjoyed bottles that tie in a family connection. 

Smith is proud of his “Rhône-centric winery” and, tasing this 2018 Roma, I understand why. It’s full bodied and infuses a little something subtle under the black cherry notes that lead the band here. It’s not quite cedar, but definitely something earthy like perhaps peat moss? Tannins are present but pretty mild…

It’s easy drinking and feels like this wine is punching all the right buttons. Most K Vintners wines are hand picked, fermented with naturally occurring yeasts, and basket-pressed—this one too. I only had one 2018 Roma River Rock Vineyard Red Blend in my order, and I wish I had another. You will too—score one when you can and thank me later. 

2017 Ryan’s Reserve, Tertulia Cellars

The 2017 Ryan’s Reserve red blend is a real pleasure. Formerly produced by Tertulia Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington, it’s a supple wine, one of those great drinks proven to be greater than the sum of its parts.

2017 Ryan’s Reserve, Tertulia Cellars, Walla Walla, Washington, USA.

The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (21%), Cabernet Franc (21%), and Malbec (8%) grapes. Tertulia apparently gets its name from the Spanish word for a “social gathering of friends” and that’s a nice inference, even if a hokey label design. (Look it up—you’ll see that plus “bull session.”) Additionally, both the vineyard manager and winemaker were named “Ryan” so they doubled-down on the branding at Tertulia. 

Lots of great tastes here, and the fruit must be contributing to the rich flavor realized in the 2017 Ryan’s Reserve. It is not too sweet and is certainly distinct from the fruit bombs often covered in Notes. The wine pours fragrant, an even black cherry or plum, and earthy while avoiding a peat moss type of fragrance. Structure or undertones conveyed from the Merlot, perhaps? 

I bought the 2017 Ryan’s Reserve from Underground Cellar, one of my first experiences with the online retailer. Their value proposition has intrigued me and I’m still in the process of evaluating—more on that to follow. In the meantime, enjoy your vino responsibly and make the 2017 Ryan’s Reserve one of your next tastings. Unfortunately, the winery went out of business in 2021 so this is part of a shrinking inventory…step lively, people! 

2017 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard

The 2017 Mariner is the second vintage covered here in Notes; the previous entry (written nearly six years to the day) presented the 2012 produced by the Stare family’s Dry Creek Vineyard. Based in Sonoma County, the vineyard has been on-task since 1972 and is known for its single-vineyard wines.

2017 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.
2017 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

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!

2017 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

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.