2017 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

Number 500! It’s a great pleasure to share with you all post #500 on Notes Of Note. Only recently did I realize Notes was approaching this milestone and glad that a New Year’s Eve bottle rings the bell.

I’m thinking about death by 10,000 paper cuts. Water over Niagara Falls. All these metaphors and images about slowly chipping away at it over time. Gladwell’s notion that you need 10,000 repetitions to achieve mastery of a given skill…none apply to Notes so let me simply say I’m pleased to still be at this occasional hobby after all these years.

A 2010 wine (I think?) led off this blog back in 2011, and I encourage you to check it out. My motives are intact. The format is largely unchanged, a mix of time, places, a casual photo…perhaps a little research or the winemaker’s comments to explain further? Those are all staples of the column nearly a decade later.

2017 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA. For notes on previous years of this flight, please click here for the 2016, 2015, and 2014.

What’s different? My understanding of how many thousands of oenophiles do this same thing, embrace this same love of wine, tasting, and sharing. All the Vinvo, Wine.com, and Instagram apps and accounts devoted to wine tasting. Still thousands more tackle the process, the vineyards, and the related foodstuffs that go hand-and-glove with wine.

Also different from that simple start are my tastes. There are dozens of grapes, varietals, and wines covered here, including Cabs and red blends (more than 100 each!), Pinot (72 at present), Zins (30+), and even rareties like Zweigelts. Anyone reading from the origins of the column to its current posts show a clear and growing bias for California Cabernet Sauvignon, to jammy red blends and earthy new world Syrahs. Structured, dark-fruited wines, often with peppery accents and leathery notes. So if you are deciding on me as your wine influencer (ha thanks brother for the chuckle) be sure to base your choices accordingly.

And fans. New followers and tenured supporters, you know who you are!

This bottle has fans among my favorite people. Enjoyed it on birthdays, ECFF draft weekends, and my favorite dates. Including this one. We’re having the 2017 Cuttings with fondue to usher in the new year. There are two different kinds of bread (including a solid pumpernickel), two veggies (hello asparagus and broccoli!), and both filet and kielbasa (the latter a surprisingly great treat!) poised for our Gruyere/Swiss blend. I’ve had nearly as much fun looking up vintage fondue pots and recipes as I have sipping this amazing wine, courtesy of the Prisoner Wine Company.

It’s 80% of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel, and it’s as great as the first vintage I tasted years ago. Black berry fruit, black cherry, and earth spices—just exquisite winemaking! It’s so damn good that we’re not going to make it to the champagne tonight; this bottle of 2017 Cuttings is all the celebration we need. So here’s to milestones, and hoping for another 500 posts on Notes. Best to you all too in the year ahead.

Most importantly, thank you for your readership!

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

Slipped away to the lake this weekend for some quiet and quality time. The Sheriff of Buena Vista has been covered previously in Notes and this 2018 vintage is worthy of the history. Be sure to review older vintages on the site, including the 2017, 2016, 2015, and even the 2013. We’re old friends at this point.

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

This bottle accompanied grilled strip steaks and sweet potatoes, and good times and even a refresher guitar session courtesy of my brother from another mother. Looking forward to more of all this in the future. Thanks BMan…

2018 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company

The Prisoner is a favorite red blend, for me as well as so many Dave Phinney fans. Back in 2003 when Phinney first created it, the Prisoner was not familiar to me but has thankfully become a welcome dinner guest. I wish I could say “frequent” dinner guest but that’s really more a case of wishful thinking.

2018 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Anyway, so here we go..The Prisoner stopped by last night and again this Halloween night to keep us company. Friday a 2018 vintage of The Prisoner accompanied a fun Greek (including a great hummus…can’t believe I’m writing that…) meal and tonight it finished up with a memorable seafood dinner, one with all the right fixings and high-class touches. That’s the right way to enjoy the Prisoner for sure!

Yes, Notes has covered The Prisoner on prior occasions. (And various Dave Phinney wines—if you’re interested just do a Search on the site) What’s true there remains valid here as well. It’s a rich, black cherry gem, delivering a huge mouthfeel and an even finish. All these flavors are blended together, a wine with many fathers—including zinfandel, cabernet, syrah, petite sirah, and charbono grapes in a proprietary blend. The Prisoner offers you hints of other dark fruit plus vanilla and earthiness, and a cult of fans extols its virtues.

Here is The Prisoner in the winemaker’s own remarks: “Bold aromas of black cherry and plum are heightened by hints of oak and Madagascar vanilla. A soft and velvety palate of anise, dark cocoa powder, and roasted sage lead into a dense finish with luscious tannins.

I’ve had this wine to celebrate life events both great and small, and it goes well on these occasions and every thing in between. Happy Halloween to you all.

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve spent time with Notes in the past, you’ll know how much I enjoy the The Sheriff of Buena Vista red blend. Its luscious combination of Petite Sirah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Mission, and Merlot grapes has been well-traveled ground, and you can read my feedback on the 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013 each here. I’m offering similar praise this evening, albeit perhaps in a less verbose post than usual.

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

There is tons of big fruit in this wine, rich flavors of blackberry and dark cherry with little spice accents that are really a treat. Be sure to read previous coverage of the Sheriff if you’re up for a deeper dive into the wine itself. While I’m always biased toward the Petite Sirah offered by Buena Vista (you’ve just got to hit their Karoly’s Selection…), I’m always very pleased when I remember I’ve ordered up a bottle of the Sheriff too.

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery has been good to me for a long time. My first taste came during a pop-in visit during a Sonoma wine country trip, and Buena Vista wine has become a staple to which I often turn for life’s celebrations, large and small. This evening included!

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Thus, the 2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah celebrates the end of a long streak: I had gone nearly 20 years without breaking a bone (and funny how so many of the fellas remember that occasion and its poor choices) but that run was fractured this week. Officially it’s a closed, non-physeal metatarsal fracture at the lesser toe. Don’t bother looking that up—means I broke a small bone in my foot near the smallest toe. Three quick x-rays told the doctors all they needed, and I’m now in a ridiculous little walking shoe. It’s not quite a “boot” but still makes me feel clumsy.

So did cutting my index finger earlier this week…and the puncture wound I made in my palm just now. In a week filled with bad moves, the best two I made were inviting a special lady to join me for a post-emergency room dinner and serving us this 2017 Karoly’s Selection. This wine pours crazy dark purple in the glass, and it packs pungent earthy notes into its intense berry flavors. You have definite plum and black cherry or blackberry scents in play. It’s aged 18 months in 100% French oak (30% new). We both nodded in appreciation and set forth on this wine plus Greek food that included salads (cucumber sauce!), kabobs (both chicken and lamb), and carbs—for at least one of us 🙂

The Buena Vista team remarks, “On the palate, bold flavors of blackberries, raspberries, and a hint of cola lead to a full body with rich tannins, well-balanced acid, and a satisfying, lingering finish.

Really good grapes! I just ordered another bottle tonight for February shipment and that’ll be fun to enjoy too. 

This bottle of 2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah is individually numbered, and 5381 has been a real treat. Raise your glasses, to yourselves, your loved ones, and to the start of a new streak—hopefully one that’ll carry me through the rest of my days. Thanks as always for your readership.  

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. 

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!