2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel

After an unprecedented amount of October work travel, it’s amazing to just unwind for an evening. The world slows down for a beat and lets you appreciate the finer things in life. A day spent relaxing, sipping a fine glass of wine (or two!), and enjoying quality time. That’s what this night is all about.

Margaux’s Restaurant is playing host. It’s just into the cocktail hour, and the bartender is attentive with hors de’ouevres as well as the stemware. Having skipped lunch, we’re out early and seeking sustenance in all forms. Company, foodstuffs, and grapes too of course—this bottle is the 2016 “Old Vine” Zinfandel from Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma Valley (Healdsburg, actually). It’s an apt selection for Zin fans, and the winemakers pride themselves on harvesting fruit from old vines that are over 95 years in age—and in some cases more like 130. That’s a lot of time to take on the character of the terroir (here an iron-rich, rocky and gravelly loam), I am sure.

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard, “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA.

So what about this Old Vine Zin? It’s a swirl of dark fruit flavors, with definite vibes of blackberry and perhaps plum in the mix. Like all the zins that resonate with this guy, there is a spicy note or two, and several other intangibles that I can never quite define as precisely as I’d like. This 2016 bottle is a combination of zinfandel (78%), petite sirah (19%), and carignane (3%) grapes, and it has a nice, rich finish that’s very gentle. 

Here’s how the Dry Creek team describes for you: “This vintage presents alluring aromatics of blackberry cobbler, fresh cranberries with notes of white pepper, cola and dried herbs. On the palate, brambly layers of black cherry, black raspberry and dark chocolate come forward with nuances of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.

Okay, so “spicy note or two” is vague but directionally solid. Sounds great, right? In researching I also uncovered that the 2016 was actually harvested the first week of September 2016, and it was stored 5 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (27% new). We’re sampling with roasted Brussel sprouts, a chilled platter of Old Bay steamed shrimp, and a funky salad (or should I say “salat”?) involving a bit of Belgian endive wizardry. 

Thankful the evening and all the good things that it portends. Hoping you can put your hands on a bottle too and share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Enjoy your night, and your wine too. 

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

The Sheriff of Buena Vista has become one of my favorite red blends, and it’s made annual appearances on Notes. Feedback on the 2016, 2015, and 2013 are all here for easy access but know now each is a bold, full-flavored powerhouse. This is big flavors that you sort of need to balance against something as weighty–or not.

 

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

 

This vintage runs back the formula that worked so effectively in the 2016. I’m betting the response from consumers was such that the team at Buena Vista decided, “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” Here is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%), and it conveys big blackberry and plum from your glass. Darker notes of chocolate and spice are pretty evident too. See what I mean about the overall weight of this bad boy?

Here’s how the winemaker sourced this year’s Sheriff: “The varietals that compose 2017 vintage are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Moon Mountain, Sonoma Mountain, Fountaingrove, Chalk Hill, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. The individual varietals were aged separately for 10 months in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.

Hmm. No shout out to Dry Creek this year. This wine is aged in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). I never see it on the shelves of my local wine stores but seems readily available through Buena Vista (I’m a tenured member and long-time fan). Tip of the cap to this good Sonoma County friend and enjoy.

2017 Saldo Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company

Two of these bottles so far, and hoping for more in the future. This is the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, bottled in Oakville by The Prisoner Wine Company. Delicious stuff–Zinfandel primarily–but like many Phinney wines, it brings a few more threads into the braid. Let’s explore further…

2017 Saldo Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

For starters, it’s a combination of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah grapes sourced from Dry Creek, Lodi, and Amador. Yes all favorites (the grapes and the AVAs) of this oenophile, and grounds well traveled here in Notes over the past seven years or so. Just check the filter to the left and you’ll see firsthand.

The 2017 vintage pours very dark in the glass, a red on the verge of purple, and shares with you a host of rich, earthy notes. The Petite Sirah and Syrah confer a bit of black pepper, and the Zin has plenty of cherry as you might expect. It’s fruit-forward and has soft tannins. There are some other subtleties in play but I cannot separate each of those for you here. Remember, the site tries to be unpretentious?

Having said that, research is part of the experience. A quick read on the Prisoner Wine Company website shows that Saldo means “here and there” in Latin (don’t remember any of that from my own rudimentary studies…) and it’s a tip of the cap to their red blend philosophy. The 2017 Saldo Zinfandel is aged in French and American oak barrels (25% new).

A refreshingly fruity red blend hiding as a Zinfandel. Enjoy!

2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, Orin Swift Cellars

How do you commemorate writing a @*%* tax check for Uncle Sam? You shake your head and reach for a bottle of good wine to cushion the landing. This guy opted for the 2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon from Orin Swift Cellars. (Yes, I’d have celebrated a better return the same way, those of you asking…)

2016 Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon, Orin Swift Cellers, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Palermo has been on my radar for some time, as a gift for friends, from friends, and once on a memorable date that I enjoyed a ton. We didn’t even finish the bottle on that occasion – guess the company was the more intoxicating play. Said another way, this was the first time I was drinking this Bordeaux-style red with thoughts of how I would describe here in Notes. It’s rich purple in your glass (I went with Riedel stemware for this one) and waves blackberry scents to you right from the first pour. The 2016 vintage is very drinkable, dark berry fruits, and has an easy finish that is probably some of the blended fruit rounding off the harsher tannic corners of the Cabernet. Little spice notes that are far more subtle than the blackberry / dark cherry taste.

The Palermo is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes that the winemaker sources from across the ripe floors of Napa Valley. Calistoga, St. Helena, Coombsville, and Oak Knoll all contribute to this kitchen sink of a wine as does Pope Valley, Atlas Peak, and both Rutherford and Oakville. To what extent? Only the winery knows for sure, but you can bet their inclusion is for both taste and the overall marketability of the Palermo. They mature the Palermo in French Oak barrels for 10 months.

This evening, the 2016 accompanied a pork loin (just a tad overdone) and just a big ol’ salad of arugula, spinach, green olives, and a sweet onion that I shaved into little slivers of goodness. And yes, fresh ground pepper and bacon, with blue cheese dressing. Hey, if tax day doesn’t bring out your sense of carpe diem and good wine what does?!?

2016 Petite Sirah, Stanton Vineyards

Sirah and Petite Sirah always have a special place in my heart, and the 2016 Stanton is one of the reasons why. Yes I’m unquestionably a fan of California Cab and big grapes in particular, and when I drift on the outskirts of this amazing territory it’s the Sirah or red blend that often grabs my attention. Only 286 cases of this wine were produced by the Stanton team, and if you’re able to put your hands on this wine, you’re pleased.

2016 Petite Sirah, Stanton Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2016 Petite Sirah, Stanton Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This bottle I opened after a redeye flight from San Diego to Raleigh (back-breaking stopover in ORD) when I was probably working on 1.5 to 2.0hrs of sleep. I was tired but trying to push on through…and I’m pleased to report this 2016 cushioned the landing. It’s a gem and packs a massive, nuanced wallop that is belied by the simple label / production notes. Dave Phinney was quietly involved in this production, and those of you reading Notes with any kind of regularity know my appreciation for his gifts. Phinney has produced not only the Prisoner but also the Locations wines that are often-noted within this blog.

Earlier this day I tried a Merlot but had to shed its taste lest it corrupt the (Stanton) wine I had ready for the rest of the evening. The Merlot I could not finish but the Stanton enticed me ever forward. Said Doug Stanton, winemaker, “There remains a small but dedicated group of growers and wineries who remain steadfast in their appreciation of Petite Sirah.

Could not agree more. This wine of inky violet has a nose with spice and coffee, and it is CRAZY aromatic. The wine packs in dark fruit flavors (e.g., blackberry, blueberry) and I’m ready for more. But mostly trying to fend off massive fatigue. Miss you all, fans, and hope you’re sampling early and often.