2014 Count’s Selection Sangiovese, Buena Vista Winery

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am thankful for many things this year (you know who you are) and Buena Vista wines are one of ’em. This bottle is from the vineyard’s first-ever vintage of Sangiovese and is a harbinger of promising horizons for Buena Vista. Founded in Sonoma in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s oldest premium winery (also my favorite) and this tempting red shows the winery not content to rest on its laurels but rather the winemaker’s ongoing commitment to excellence and experimentation.

screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-4-35-18-pmWe pulled the cork on a gorgeous November afternoon; with the sun shining brightly and temperatures in the high 60s, all of us gathered for dinner were relaxing outside instead of watching football on a day I often call “Dallas Thursday” to the ire of all non-Cowboys fans. Tailgating games were in full swing, and beverages flowing–including this Sangiovese. Only a few entries of Sangiovese (see the Puglia, Amantis, or Biltmore) exist on Notes, but they do seem to coincide with family and holiday gatherings so this bottle is coincidentally relevant to this trend.

Our host and hostess provided an AMAZING spread (thank you so much, Brandon and Jackie), one that was bountiful and full of delicious treats. There were two turkeys, a spiral-cut ham, all kinds of vegetables, stuffing, cranberries, mac-n-cheese, rolls, and yes, 15 pounds of potatoes, too. So that’s the backdrop against which this 2014 Sangiovese made its (brief!) appearance.

The wine is really good, and it held up well on an occasion that calls for indulgences of all kinds. It’s got red berry scents too it, mixed with earthy spices. The 2014 Count’s Selection Sangiovese isn’t quite as tannic or peppery as, say, a Syrah or a Buena Vista Charbono, but it has a nice red/black fruit taste that is plenty inviting. It’s a nice, full finish like a Cab but a little less tannic. Since I had car tripping pending for the end of the day, I had to be restrained in my ‘tasting’ of the Sangiovese but would have gladly pushed for more if not a driver on this holiday.screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-4-32-58-pm

Here’s how the Buena Vista people describe the wine: “Our inaugural vintage of Sangiovese opens with complex aromas of Bing cherry, rose petals, and a touch of leather. Tempting flavors of cherries and orange marmalade, with a touch of anise, caress the palate.

I know my friends enjoyed it too and were asking about the bottle, so here it is guys and gals in case you’re looking to order for yourself. Glad to share the day and its celebrations with you all, and looking forward to the next occasion. Miss you all already!

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2013 Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista

It’s New Year’s Eve, right on the verge of 2016, and a perfect time for a double dose of great beverages–we’re celebrating here with the 2013  Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir, and with my wife’s favorite champagne. That‘s how you ring in the new year!

2013 Geza's Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2013 Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Friends and long-time readers of Notes of Note may recall that Buena Vista wines and Veuve Cliquot have both made prior appearances for such occasions. They are fantastic examples of the craft, grapes that cost more than the norm (at least for our modest household) and taste better too. We are pouring amply and with big smiles; we hope to make it to midnight.

The staff at Buena Vista describes this offering from their cellar as follows: “A beautiful ruby color in the glass, this Pinot Noir opens with floral aromas and hits of raspberries and dusty herbs. Flavors of wild plum and brambleberries are accented by hints of pepper and rich chocolate.” If you’re one of those people who says you can’t tell the difference between a $10 wine and a $40 bottle, the 2013 Geza’s Selection is your proof. Numbered bottle or not, you know the quality in this Pinot Noir as soon as you smell and sip this bad boy.

And what of the food? It’s about new experiences for us…including potato pinwheels topped with sour cream, bacon, and green onions (pictured), and a delicious tuna nacho dish. This my bride adapted from a recent meal she’d had out in the city (before the Amy Schumer show) and featured fresh seared tuna and a wasabi mustard mix. It sort of has an aioli bite to it, and we enjoyed both dishes thoroughly. Hopefully both are indicative of good things for us in the year ahead.

Happy New Year everyone!

2013 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery

After a few recent blue-collar bottles it was time for a palate cleanser–a nice, medium-bodied red with a lasting finish. Something closer to a Cabernet than a Zinfandel or a Pinot, and once again it was a Buena Vista wine that rang the bell.

The 2013 Count’s Selection Carignane is a member of the Boisset Collection (look that up) and worth the effort to put your hands on one. It’s 100% Carignane, a grape traditionally available in the western Mediterranean and also in California’s Central Valley, and here courtesy of Mendocino County. Buena Vista Winery only produced 175 cases of this 2013 vintage, so do the math on the possible availability of a bottle.

If you find the 2013 Count’s Selection Carignane, you should expect some flavors of blueberry and black raspberry. I’m not exactly sure what currant tastes like in a wine, but I mention it because there is a lot dark fruits in play here that I can’t quite nail down; just a bit of spice or earthiness too. And the wine wasn’t the night’s only treat, as we had this 2013 with cole slaw and baby back ribs. Those we set up with an ancho chile-based dry rub and finished after nearly six hours of low heat with a “Whammy” all-purpose barbeque sauce, picked up from a Charlotte BBQ festival.

A couple important facts regarding the wine:

1) Its grapes were harvested October 19th, 2013. I’m not sure why but I love the specificity.
2) The grapes were aged 10 months in seasoned French and Hungarian barrels.
3) Of the outcome, the winemaker remarked, “Our 2013 Carignane exudes a classically decadent nose of rich, darker fruits…

I apologize for including no photo with this first recap, but if you check back in the next day or two I’ll be sure to share a glimpse of this delicious 2013. Thanks for reading and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

2012 The Aristocrat, Buena Vista

The Aristocrat is one of the finest wines I’ve ever enjoyed, and it’s going right onto Notes‘ Top Five Reds list. It’s really special. This 2012 is the inaugural vintage, and it’s already sold out at Buena Vista so coming by this gem will not be easy–yet a worthwhile pursuit if you’re even remotely inclined toward great wine.

2012 The Aristocrat, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2012 The Aristocrat, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2012 Aristocrat is more cherry and blueberry in its flavor. It is crazy smooth, packed full of fruit, and has a spectacular, even finish. There is not even a hint of sharpness, of tannins, of the need for time the way you often get with a Bordeaux or similarly styled red blend. It has great legs, and a jammy color that you’ll find–like its bouquet–extremely enticing.

My wife and I enjoyed this 2012 from a mountainside cabin in western NC, along with a rack of ribs (that’s a dry rub you see in the photo) and a salad featuring some vegetables we picked up fresh at a roadside farm stand.

The team at Buena Vista did not assemble this winner haphazardly–it is filled with purpose and intention. It features Valdiguie (a first for me?), Petit Verdot, and Charbono grapes, each harvested from vineyards in Napa Valley’s Calistoga AVA.  Believe it or not, the vines of the Valdiguie, located at the base of the Vaca Mountains, date back before Prohibition. Poking through the Buena Vista website, I also relay to you that the Charbono is grown on one of Napa’s last remaining Charbono vineyards. This amazing wine is aged (in separate lots) in 100% French oak for 16 to 18 months before being blended.

Special thanks to my mother for presenting us with this amazing housewarming gift. We are thrilled at the reason you selected the 2012 Aristocrat, and thrilled too at the occasion to enjoy it. Hope we brought just a little bit of that back to you in the recap and the photos!

2012 The Mariner, Dry Creek Valley

This Bordeaux-style red blend is produced by Dry Creek Valley Vineyard, a family-owned winery in northern Sonoma Valley. It’s been in the Stare family since 1972 when, inspired by trips to the Loire Valley, founder David Stare purchased an old prune orchard in Dry Creek Valley and started planting grape vines that would become his family’s winery. Today they produce single-vineyard wines, reds and whites in their “signature” series, and this Mariner–which I received as a special birthday gift.

The 2012 vintage has had accolades from various reviewers, and you can find them scattered throughout the web. If you’re still reading here on Notes, though, you’re less interested in numeric scoring or some high-brow critic’s take on this 2012 meritage. You’re looking for a “real world” analysis and I’m happy to share.

2012 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA.

2012 The Mariner, Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma, California, USA.

The first thing you should know is that the 2012 The Mariner accompanied our steak dinner on this Memorial Day weekend. My wife and I had an opportunity to slow down from the usual pace of the week, and we used it to great advantage. Our steaks were seasoned with a special home-made “proprietary” blend of spiced salt and smelled of sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. The steaks set for perhaps an hour, and we thought The Mariner would be a great complement, given its own hints of spice and blueberry smells. We also had corn fresh from the cob and a killer potato salad that tied the summer meal together–quite a platform on which to display The Mariner.

Here’s how the Stare family shares its summary of this delicious 2012 red blend: “The wine displays high-toned perfume aromas of rose petal, cranberry, blueberry and oregano. Several more minutes reveal hints of wild sage, allspice and dark cherry characters. The palate is full and rich with mouthfilling complexity carrying notes of espresso, sweet vanilla, anise and dark fruit tones. The tannins are smooth and supple providing balance and sophistication.” I wholeheartedly support their fruit flavors, but I am not sure the tannin profile is quite accurately posed. Even after allowing the bottle to breathe for some time, my wife noted its sharper scent on the nose and, though I thought it less pronounced in tasting, it is definitely still present (is that from the Malbec?). Not sure if aging the bottle for a longer period or perhaps decanting would bring it more in line with the winemaker’s original intentions?

The 2012 is a red blend consisting of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc, and its is aged for 20 months in French oak (50% new oak). It is very easy drinking and would be great to have another at some point in the future. The meal was fantastic, and the wine was really damn good too–there’s not a drop of this left after our Sunday dinner.