2016 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

Notes has profiled vintages of The Sheriff from 2013 and 2015 for sure, and I’m not quite sure how I missed the 2014 along the way. It’s a rich, well-balanced red blend, and long-time readers may nod remembering those previous reviews. Buena Vista Winery is my favorite in Sonoma and carries great memories of adventures and wines past, in equal measure.

2013 The Sheriff of Sonoma County, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2016 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2013 I described as a “kitchen sink” red because of its unique blending of grapes, and the 2016 follows a similar pattern of success. This vintage is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%). Like the other vintages, the 2016 Sheriff is weighty, from the heft of the bottle and its special badge design to the wine itself. Purple flavors tumble out of this bottle, with some blackberry and dark chocolate notes figuring prominently. Compared to, say, a Michael David red blend, the 2016 Sheriff has a bit more of the Syrah that comes through it in your tasting. It is even, measured, and has faint traces of some other spices in the glass. Really nice wine overall…

…and I had it with a garden salad (arugula with some spinach) and a grilled steak. Just what the doctor ordered after 10 long days on the road for work. I invested far too much of myself in this travel and was nearly tired to the point of intoxication before I tasted even sip one. That said, I made time to slow down and sample amply.

Here’s how the winemaker explains the makeup of the 2016 Sheriff: “The varietals that compose the blend are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Alexander Valley, the Sonoma Valley, Rockpile and Dry Creek. The individual varietals were aged separately in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.

For those interested in the fine details, that’s 10 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). For those interested in the overall effect, it’s noteworthy. A great welcome home gift and much appreciated by this fan of good grapes.

2014 La Giaretta Amarone

Amarone is special wine, made in a classic style (ie, drying grapes prior to fermentation) that has spanned centuries and dates back to the first days of winemaking–some reports say as far as 4th Century BC. The Venetians are usually acknowledged as the masters of Amarone, specifically, and that means this Italian red has old world charm in spades.

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2014 La Giaretta Amarone, Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy. 

Aged for a minimum of two years, Amarone often has a higher sugar content than other reds and thus is stronger vino. It’s also relatively pricey because of the amount of fruit used in the process. If you’re interested in a longer explanation of the Amarone method, just click here for Notes‘ quick take on the topic…but we’re moving on to the present. This bottle came out on a Friday night, a badly needed wine experience that put a long week into the rear view mirror, if only for a few hours.

It accompanied a simple meal of seasoned pork chops (little bit of spice rub; plus salt, crushed black pepper, and a garlic/lemon salt blend) and white rice. The pork was on the grill about a minute too long, and the fruity La Giaretta helped compensate and add just a bit of juice into each bite. The Amarone is rich, it is intense, and it packs a hint of the raisin smell that I have attributed to such bottles in the past. It is a lovely drink and makes for great complement to your evening. This one originates from Amarone della Volpolicella, Italy, and I’m certainly interested in adding more to my wine rack. Thanks for reading – and be sure to tell a friend. Nothing like sharing good wine!

2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company

It’s The Prisoner who started off our evening, a 2015 purchased along with a few other Phinney red blends that will be opened during this Christmas season.  The Prisoner made a Thanksgiving appearance, too, enjoyed by long-time friends and family gathered for delicious bird and festivities.

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2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company, Napa County, California, USA.

While I opted for a comparable Buena Vista red on that occasion, this evening I went with the Prisoner Wine Company offering.  The delicious, rich taste of the red overcame a rookie mistake: the bottle had sat in cold, December temperatures for several hours and I didn’t allow it to warm up enough when first serving.  Once the wine had warmed in the glass, its true character–big cherry and chocolate notes–were much more apparent on the nose and to the taste.Screen Shot 2017-12-25 at 11.14.47 AM

It accompanied hors de oeuvres (essentially cheese and crackers), and our three glasses quickly dented and polished off this 2015.  The taste?  The Prisoner you may already know, but if not suffice it to say it is vintage red blend, a mix of Bing cherry, chocolate, black raspberry, and warm spices.  Not earthy notes but more baking-type accents.  Its finish is very smooth and leaves that cherry as a sign-off.  Always a great treat!

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, the Prisoner Wine Company

Back in July I had occasion to taste test several amazing Orin Swift wines at my favorite wine store. The 2014 vintage of The Cuttings was instantly a new favorite, and I’ve since taken home two of these bad boys and enjoyed each immensely.

2014 Cuttings, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Let me tell you, The Cuttings deserves a more experienced palate than mine. It is layered, it is juicy, it is nuanced in ways I appreciate very much and have not the vocabulary to do full justice. This Cabernet is clearly a red blend of some exquisite kind, a black berry backbone with some spices carefully interwoven in my glass. The Cuttings smells heavenly, a clear contrast to lesser wines I have had over the past week. I am positive Dave Phinney (the winemaker) would object to the comparison but this wine of his reminds me a lot of a Michael Davis creation or one of Jeff Runquist’s “kitchen sink” wines–both profiled here in Notes in 2017 and in years past.

The wine is right, the glass is right, and even the day is right on this one. Hell, even the bottle feels substantive when you hoist it. The 2014 Cuttings was a reward from time well spent and poured all too quickly into my excited Riedel stemware.

The Prisoner Wine Company describes more effectively the goodness you’re in for when you uncork The Cuttings for yourself. There’s a reward in that glass and one I’m looking forward to again in the near future myself. Get one yourself and enjoy!