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!

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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.

2015 Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

A busy and productive Saturday gets capped off with one of my favorite wine bottles, the Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon. Dog swap? Check. Productive work around the house? Check. Lots of healthy walking? Check. Dallas Cowboys playoff football? Check!

2015 Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

2015 Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

I first sampled the Cuttings Cabernet over a year ago during a blind taste testing of Dave Phinney wines, and it’s been a go-to for me on special occasions–or even when it’s been time to make a special occasion. It’s bordeaux-style,* presenting not just king Cab but also some Syrah and Zin grapes that add nice layers that you taste while sipping contentedly. Yes this creates some spice undertones that you’ll appreciate! But mostly it’s big, jammy bomb of fruit flavor…

Here’s how the winemaker describes: “Deliciously smooth with flavors of blueberry, dark cherry, and cocoa. Aromas of fresh roasted coffee, black currant, vanilla bean, brown spice, and wild berries.

I had the Cuttings with grilled chicken and a green salad that I pulled together; arugula and iceberg lettuce, yellow onion, green olives, and fresh ground black pepper sprinkled over blue cheese dressing. Great mix of tastes and textures between the hot and cold elements, and well-accompanied by the Cuttings. Importantly, the Cowboys played the ‘hawks tough and came away with a big home victory. I toasted their success more than once.

The Cuttings has been firmly entrenched in my Top 5 ever since I first sampled. Hoping you have the chance to do the same…it’ll make your Best Of list too. Thanks for reading and let’s go Big D!
*Cuttings is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and a 20% blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel.

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.