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!

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

I deserved this bottle. Yeah, I said it. I was bone weary last night, the final day in a work week that included late nights, crazy travel, and unyielding deliverables, but not too tired to take a moment to savor one of the finer things in life. Because that’s what a Buena Vista bottle is–it’s a “stop and smell the roses” event each and every time.

West Coast client deliverables meant I got a late start on this 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, but it also meant I was ready to fully immerse myself in the experience by the time I got to pour and enjoy a glass. Made the deliverable, confirmed with the client, and here we go. I’ve had a couple Buena Vista Karolys before, and this one was equal to the previous.

2014 Karoly's Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2014 is delicious. It needs a moment or two to breathe, but when it does you can really pull on the black cherry or blackberry scent. There is a smoke of some kind here too…not quite earthy or a spice but an accent that I can’t quite isolate. It is full, it is robust, it has a great finish. If you drift toward Cabernet Sauvignon or other big reds in your wine tastes, you’ll dig the 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah. If you prefer lighter Pinot Noirs this might not quite be your bottle–but you’ll be missing something fun!

Okay, a quick summary of the foodstuffs: What you see here is a seared chicken dinner and a creamy couscous with an olive and raisin sauce. The chicken came out great (for a change!)–pulled from the heat while cooked through but still juicy. The couscous was a blend of cool (that’s from the verjus blanc and creme fraiche plus celery) and hot, courtesy of red pepper flakes. I’m not sure a full-throated red was the right pairing for this dish, but I figured the best of both worlds was a suitable strategy regardless. Here’s how the Buena Vista folks describe the vino:

“Our 2014 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah offers seductive aromas of black cherry and dark chocolate with hints of anise. Upon the palate, flavors of blackberry pie, brambles, and a slight touch of granite are well-balanced with good density and a juicy structure.”

Can’t tell you what ‘brambles’ taste like, or if this 2014 Karoly has such flavor in it, but the black cherry I can very much confirm. This wine is aged 17 months in Hungarian Oak and I’m glad it escorted me into the weekend.