2017 Boggione Claudio Brunate Barolo

An important goal for this trip was a stop at Mamma Maria, a well-regarded mainstay of Boston’s North Square and part of our ongoing quest for great Italian. This one checked all the boxes! I’ll never forget its amazing windows and striking views of downtown Boston—along with our fantastic eats and vino. 

Our beef carpaccio (with shaved black truffles!) and braised rabbit ragu with homemade pappardelli were perfectly prepared and highlights of a night spent wandering through Cara’s former stomping grounds in the North End. The lines outside the bakeries and the merriment of all the customers will be in my memories for years to come, just like the 2017 Boggione Claudio Brunate Barolo.

2017 Boggione Claudio Brunate Barolo, Piedmont, Italy.

As I have but limited experience with old world wines, I was not entirely sure what to expect from the Barolo. We ordered it in part based on the reputation of Piedmont region wines, its price, and the Barbaresco selection we’d made just two nights prior (we wanted to switch it up with a more substantive pick)! It’s produced from Nebbiolo grapes, and we savored the wine’s red cherry goodness while overlooking cobblestones and city streets once walked by Cotton Mather, Paul Revere, and Charles Dickens. Headsy stuff!

We had a fantastic waiter, and he was attentive to our glasses and generous with his pour. This Barolo had plentiful red cherry and leather notes along with a bold finish. Ample tannins but not to the point of overpowering…

Quick sidebar for you on the Boggione family: they sold grapes from their Barolo Brunate parcel to notable winemakers until 2008, when they decided to bottle under their own label. Brunate is one of the most famous vineyards in all of Italy, and the Boggiones only produce 6,000 bottles annually. Their production is free of pesticides and herbicides and also embraces traditions and techniques true to the region. The resulting Barolo is structured and sooo enjoyable. 

The wine, the ambiance, and night out will stay with this fella for years ahead. 

2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco “Santo Stefano”

Barbara Lynch’s No. 9 Park in Beacon Hill marked the start of this weekend’s food adventures, a thoroughly pleasurable fine dining event that included the 2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco “Santo Stefano.”  I had the inside track to this powerhouse restaurant, with its James Beard Award-winning wine list and recognitions from Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston and 50 Best Restaurants list. The entire experience was meticulously curated, delivered in the decor, the ambiance, staff, and certainly the wine and food that were the star attractions.

Our meal kicked off with hors d’eouvres that included hers and his steak tartare (with charred onion aioli and pine nuts) and prune-stuffed gnocchi, which we swapped throughout. Absolutely LOVED the foie gras that was served with the gnocchi—Cara said this appetizer has been on the menu since the beginning and I fully understand why. Faroe Island salmon, with asparagus, crème fraiche, and beets was the entree each of us selected. Your host is a big fan of all these elements, and for the most part they added up to a healthy dinner.

2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco “Santo Stefano”, Piedmont, Italy.
2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco “Santo Stefano”, Piedmont, Italy.

But this is a wine blog first and foremost, so let me share a bit more on this 2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco. It’s not the first Piedmont wine covered in Notes, but it’s likely the first Barbaresco. (I think the only one I’ve had previously goes years back to a Buffalo work trip with the Ivoclar team [Dr. Tysowsky picked one, as I recall…]) I selected the Santo Stefano from No. 9 Park’s extensive wine list, which included a number of old world wines from boutique vintners. In the glass I thought it poured light, ultimately showing a brick red garnet, and shared notes of strawberry at first. Certainly it tilted more to strawberry and raspberry rather than dark cherry or dark fruits. 

Castello di Neive crafts this bottle from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, and the wine is very well balanced overall with an even, tannic finish. While my tastes traditionally run more to Bordeaux-style blends and Napa Cabs, this Barbaresco was great accompaniment to the start of our weekend in Boston. We began it in good fashion, tucked away in the restaurant’s cozy back dining room, glad for excellent foodstuffs, wine, and the exciting days ahead.

A final thought—I suspect most reading Notes are not looking for a recommended buy or shopping Italian red wines. If you are, though, then the 2017 Castello di Neive Barbaresco Santo Stefano would be an excellent choice. 

2006 Proximus Pinot Noir, Adastra Wines

This is the second occasion I’ve been treated to a Proximus Pinot from Adastra, this one a 2006 magnum. Big thanks to the GDog for breaking this one out for Draft Weekend 2022 with the fellas. It’s an annual tradition spanning nearly 10 years, and great wine has often marked these gatherings as any follower of Notes may know.

2006 Proximus Pinot Noir, Adastra Wines, Carneros Napa Valley, California, USA.
2006 Proximus Pinot Noir, Adastra Wines, Carneros Napa Valley, California, USA.

Adastra is derived from the Latin phrase per aspera ad astra (through striving to the stars) and the history of this family-owned estate is easily accessible so I’ll spend less time on that here. Most important to you is the great Pinot created by this Carneros winery, and that Adastra prioritizes environmentally conscious farming practices for all four wines (Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir) they produce.*  The 2006 Proximus Pinot Noir is ruby colored and is a weightier Pinot. We busted this out around a table fire and a host of jokes, some older than this bottling and others as fresh as this pour. 

Knowing my fandom of all things wine, the guys asked how I tasted the 2006 Proximus Pinot Noir. It almost felt like a challenge, from these lifelong friends who have seen me drink crappy keg beer more memorably than fine wine. Hoping I answered the call, I gauged it dark cherry to taste, with notes of burnt matches or charcoal on the nose. Very fruit-filled and substantive. They pushed further (of course!) and asked if there was “earth” to the wine. Lots of laughs as we swirled the wine in our glasses and debated terroir for a few moments. I mulled this over and stuck to my original tasting notes—not earthy or peat moss but rather charcoal or maybe pepper. And tannins more like a Cab than I’d usually equate to a Pinot.

Adastra has produced two different Pinot Noirs, a Regulus and Proximus; the latter made only in very small quantities as the “best of the best”. In Latin, Proximus means “closer” and the winery uses the term to mean “closer to the stars”. The 2006 Proximus Pinot Noir was developed by Pam Starr, the winemaker for many years at Adastra (and now a consultant, I think), and was quite exceptional. Our only gaffe was setting the bottle too close to the flames but that was far overshadowed by our clear enjoyment of gathering together again after all these years.

I’m so thankful for the brotherhood, for friendships that span miles and decades. I appreciate too great wine like Adastra’s 2006 Proximus Pinot Noir and George for sharing it with us all. Looking forward to the next gathering and next Adastra too! 

*Adastra has been a California-certified organic farmer for more than 15 years and eschews burning practices often used to curb vineyard growth, instead processing old vines with chipping machines to process yearly cuttings. 

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cakebread Cellars

Broke out this 2017 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon to help celebrate the special occasion. Cakebread has built quite the cult following (big fan of their Chardonnay in particular in our house) over the past 50 years or so, and we’re so glad to open up a flagship red for Christmas.

It’s a big new world wine. Inky in the glass (we’re doing Cabernet stemware today) and plenty of legs, too. This guy rarely has the patience (or forethought) to let a bottle breathe adequately, but this one did have the better part of an hour to open up before splashing down into our dinner glasses. On the nose you experience dark cherry, maybe just a hint of vanilla or perhaps tobacco underpinning the fruit. The 2017 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon is well balanced on the palate, with a slightly tannic finish. This wine is full, to be sure, but avoids the jammy, tooth-stainer profile to which I often gravitate in weekend tastings. 

This particular Cakebread accompanied a really delicious cut of beef, a prime rib that had a great bark and a red, juicy center that was perfectly accented by homemade horseradish sauce. To know me is to know I enjoy salty steak and reds in equal measures, but the seasoning and the sauce were just great even without salt. Our Christmas table also included hasselback potatoes, Tuscan kale, popovers (yes, complete with Christmas tree butter, because those finishing touches matter!) and carmelized onion and mushrooms. The house smelled fragrant, a mash up of the beef, garlic, rosemary, and all those aromatics, and added to these heady scents soon was the smell of our dessert (jelly roll consisting of sponge cake and apricot).

Part of the fun with this wine was splitting it four ways, ensuring each of us had a chance to sample the 2017. It was great; the only negative as you might imagine is that we’d only had one on hand for the holiday. I regret it’s taken so long to take up the reviews here at Notes Of Note but encouraging you to stick with it—few good wines from the world over are sure to follow shortly.

In the meantime, season’s greetings to you and best in the year ahead. Thanks for reading!

2017 Papillon, Orin Swift Cellars

Birthday celebrations for loved ones–yes, that’s how you do wine. Especially great wine, like the 2017 Papillon from Orin Swift Cellars (yes, you all know I’m a massive fan). We uncorked this bottle after a long work week, allowing it to decant and really open up before tearing into it.

2017 Papillon Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.
2017 Papillon Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.

I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy Papillon on several prior occasions, including a 2017 and through various tasting banks at my favorite wine store. This one was, in fact, a gift from Cara (the sibling to the 2017 referenced previously), so no better way to enjoy than in celebration of her trip around the sun. 

It’s a powerhouse wine, a big red in the Bordeaux style but with new world traits. The 2017 Papillon is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec grapes, and yet it has a smooth, even finish. The mouthfeel is luscious and full, with black berry fruits and just a hint of oak and pepper (is that the Verdot?) in the nose. It’s velvety and fruitful to the point you almost want to try chewing it. This is superb wine (aged in French oak for 15 months) that makes any event into a special occasion. 

Says our winemaker, “Powerful aromatics escape the glass with rich notes of ripe blackcurrant, blackberry, peppercorn, and a touch of chaparral supported by a frame of sweet oak.

Cara and I had this bottle of 2017 Papillon with New York strip steaks, pan-seared with butter and rosemary, baked potatoes, and roasted broccolini. The steaks were a little thinner than we’d have liked, but cooked to the right temps and their flavors paired well with the wine. I was so very pleased by the opportunity to share in the festivities and this great bottle of wine! Looking forward to so many more of both… 

2015 Pinot Noir, Kosta Browne and 2018 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars

Yes, fellas, it’s Draft Weekend 2021, and time to enjoy brotherhood that is decades in the making. Friendships cemented in laughter, tears, triumph–and more trash talk than time can count. Our once-yearly tradition continues, this time from the sands and shores of the Atlantic.

2015 Pinot Noir, Keefer Ranch, Kosta Browne; 2015 Pinot Noir, Gap's Crown Vineyard, Costa Browne; 2018 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars
2015 Pinot Noir, Keefer Ranch, Kosta Browne, Russian River Valley, California, USA; 2015 Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Costa Browne, Sonoma Coast, California, USA; 2018 Machete Red Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, St. Helena, California, USA.

These are among the many gems of the weekend. Yes, we have cellar defenders for the afternoon and the various competitions underway (and certainly no shortage of other adult beverages), but for me this is one of the highlights. This group knows serious wine, and brings plenty to share.

Yes, Saeger, I’m chuckling over box wine breakfast, but it’s the 2015 Kosta Browne combo and the 2018 Machete that headline the event. The Machete came out first–rich, purple-red goodness with plum and pepper flavors–and this Petite Sirah-Syrah-Grenache blend stepped up the evening for a time. The Pinots followed shortly after, but they were unfortunately part of the downward spiral of debauchery that still often marks our happy occasions together. All of us enjoying the fruits of our labors had spent long hours sipping other drinks and probably no longer held the palate for these sophisticated wines.

The 2021 Auction will long have its place in our memories, but this time because of the friendships rather than these wines. I’d gladly have another go at any one of them on a day where the wine is a centerpiece rather than a hapless accessory.

2018 The Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Buena Vista Winery

If you know me, or had occasion to visit Notes in the past, you know that I often think of wine as a way to celebrate special occasions. Or, for that matter, to make an occasion. This bottle of the Count’s Selection I picked up earlier this year and held it…not long by a collector’s standards but certainly by mine, fan of Buena Vista wines as I am. At that time I didn’t know why, or for how long I’d sit on it, but I really do now.

2018 The Count's Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Buena Vista Winery, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County, California, USA.
2018 The Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Buena Vista Winery, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2018 Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, produced with fruit from the Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley, is the bottle I selected to commemorate the passing of my dear, dear friend Ridley. This hound-retriever mix has been my constant companion for over a decade, a loyal and lovable dog that has seen me through many of the happiest and most challenging times in my life.

I still recall the exciting morning when I met Rid for the first time, a rescue dog who’d been transported all the way to NJ from the south. With a shake of his tags and a lolling tongue, he made me a huge fan right from moment one. There’s a great clip I took of Ridley that early May morning, video showing him cruising around his new yard, sniffing and checking things out, before he comes bounding across the grass and crashes right into my camera. That memory always makes me smile.

Those gifts, those fond memories, those images…they come easily to me now. There are too many to count. On a very sad, solitary walk I started thinking, “Could you name a Top 100 things you loved about this dog?” My list was more than 20 before I even crossed the street. He was so expressive—those eyes, that smile, and his brow—but it was his ears that often told you most about how he was doing. That’s also what makes his passing all the more painful. Ridley was showing me clues but I just didn’t interpret the signs or fully appreciate what he was going through.

We had been to two different vets in this last month, each time seeking answers to the gastrointestinal issues I was seeing in Rid. I was recording frequency, consistency, and color of his distress, and I was sure this diligence would assist the veterinarians with the right course of action. Both vets had similar approaches to his diarrhetic symptoms, prescribing a bland diet that would go easy on his GI tract, in combination with anti-nausea or anti-bacterial meds, to alleviate his issues. Sadly, that was not enough. 

Ridley was not just sick with a stomach bug, had not eaten something unhealthy on one of our many walks. On this unhappy Monday, my vet called back to say further exam had indicated the prescience of a large mass in his abdomen, and that x-rays had revealed aggressive spreading throughout his abdomen and lungs. Ridley was not a candidate for surgery and would not be able to come home one last time. “It’s time,” said the vet, and I reprocessed her words and finally understood my poor dog was wracked by rampant cancer and had been bravely taking it on for several weeks.

Cara and I climbed into the car immediately and raced to him. Ridley came into the special little goodbye room a little nervously. I’ll never forget his eyes and how soft and sweet he looked in that moment. I was devastated for my guy and simply tried to be there with him and for him in that last hour of his life. We both were. Ridley received tons of petting and rested as comfortably as possible. The word rampant thundered in my head over and over as he pressed against my leg, and I was appreciative the vet was adamant that he should not go another day with this burden. 

We cried. It was unimaginably heartbreaking, and it’ll continue to be so in the days and weeks and months to come. I know he felt comforted to have such love surrounding him in these moments. The rest of our final visit is personal, but know Ridley went bravely yet quietly into his next adventure—and I’ll look forward to seeing him there.

So that’s the reason for the Count’s Selection. Ridley has seen me pour many bottle of Buena Vista in our time together, but this one is special. The 2018 Count’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is the one we’re sipping this evening to celebrate Rid’s life. To think back on the good life he received, the way he returned the love tenfold. I miss him terribly already and always will. The wine is great to be sure, a red cherry treat, but for me it’ll always be the bottle we selected to toast my friend one last time. Thanks for reading, and for (hopefully!) thinking good thoughts of Rid or your own furry friends. Love to you all.

.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stanton Vineyards is the second callout that I selected to celebrate my birthday. This Oakville winemaker harvests grapes from a 33-acre property that features gravelly, sandy clay and loam soils that produce fruit for their own label as well as well-known wineries that include Stag’s Leap, Raymond, Groth, and one of my favorites—Orin Swift.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards, Oakville, California, USA.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stanton Vineyards, Oakville, California, USA.

About six tons of their yearly yield go into Stanton wines, and this one shows all the best marks of the region and its terroir. i purchased this 2015 from my local winestore based on its location (I’m a huge Napa Cab man) and that Dave Phinney made his signature imprint on their portfolio. I’m a fan of his too, and that was enough to motivate me to bring this bottle home for the celebrations.

Okay, so this is black berry and black cherry goodness, with just the right amount of dark fruit blended without being excessively fruity. There is a whiff of mineral or old leather in this Cabernet Sauvignon; it finishes soft and velvety with a very mellow mouth feel. It pours reddish-purple in your glass, great legs and an enticing bouquet to it. Certainly every wine has its pluses and minuses, but I couldn’t help to compare this to the Switchback that I had Wednesday night. The Stanton was by far the more enjoyable wine, and I didn’t regret skipping the decanter and going right to the stemware. 

This 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stanton Vineyards accompanied a really tight, delicious birthday dinner of steaks, broccoli rabe, and wedge salads with all the right accents. Cara showed this cool technique—basting the steaks with butter, rosemary, and thyme—for the meat just before we pulled it from the skillet (you can’t quite do that on your grill, people!). The strips were well seasoned and it was so much fun seeking the perfect bite all evening as we celebrated my latest trip around the sun.

All this made for a memorable evening and one I will not soon forget. Looking forward to more of it all—including this great wine.

2015 Yeoman Cabernet Sauvignon, Goldschmidt Vineyards

The holiday this year includes fewer fireworks, but this wine goes off with a big bang* nevertheless. Happy July 4th, friends, so pull up a chair and check out the 2015 Yeoman Cabernet Sauvignon from Goldschmidt Vineyards.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon - Yeoman Vineyard, Goldschmidt Vineyards

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Yeoman Vineyard, Goldschmidt Vineyards, Alexander Valley, California, USA.

We found this Cab in the fine wines section of Raleigh’s version of Wegman’s. Sigh. What a fun field trip to cruise through its well-stocked aisles…even writing this now I’m thinking of the amazing charcuterie awaiting Cara and I later today.

Shortly after sipping a couple delicious watermelon cocktails, we turned our focus to dinner and opened the Goldschmidt while prepping. It’s first impression is black cherry and leather, a heady mix of the bold and the subtle. My favorite wines often weave together such traits, and probably why I often gravitate to California Bordeaux-style Cabs and powerful Syrah.   

The Yoeman Vineyard is specifically a 3-acre plot near Geyersville, a small bit of land that is home to loamy soils and Eastern morning suns. Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt notes that the topography enables extended grape hang time for maximum flavor development—this taster nods appreciatively. The fruit was harvested October 1, 2015, hand-picked and aged 31 months in French Tarasaud barrels.

It’s 100% Cabernet. A powerful red (pours like ruby) that is slightly tannic but not dry; to the contrary it’s lush and full. Little bit of blackberry flavor too. Really great wine. As excited as I was to sample this Goldschmidt, I know in the back of my head that it would be even better if we let it breathe for a couple beats before drinking. That’s a prescription for another day some time off in the future.

Because today we’re celebrating things. Freedom. Time together. And even our dinner—charcoal-grilled strips, grilled asparagus, and a Romaine salad (also grilled!) with anchovy vinaigrette and toasted and buttered panko. Proud to report that we kept the coals crazy hot; they produced not only great steaks but also stayed hot enough to support a couple killer s’mores too.

Sometimes wine IS the occasion, and sometimes you have wine to mark an occasion. On a day this great I’m not sure which applies, but I want more. Bring on the “too much” I’ll take every bit I can get.

 

* Yes, I know it’s a ‘dad’ joke but hey sometimes these things write themselves…

2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini

This Amarone gem breaks a run of recent “meh” Italian wines sampled for Notes in recent weeks. Whereas each of those was undermuscled and generally thin, this 2015 Amarone from Allegrini compared very favorably to what I traditionally enjoy in a new world Cab, Syrah, or robust red blend. Thanks for the great birthday gift Mom, and here for you all is the run down on the 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – Allegrini.

2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini, Italy.

Notes has covered on a few prior occasions the process used in the production of Amarone wines (just browse or filter by “Amarone” if you’re interested), so a repeat is unnecessary here. Do know that this wine packs in nearly 15% alcohol and is a powerhouse. It is full of fruit (corvinone, oseleta, rondinella, and corvina veronese grapes) and has a pleasantly bitter finish. In sampling the 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, you’ll likely detect black cherry, a little bit of chocolate, and certainly the “raisin” or dried fruit typical of an Amarone. That’s one of my favorite notes and I’m 100% confident I could pick it out from other varietals.

This 2015 accompanied a Mediterranean meal that was as fun to prepare as it was to eat. Our menu included a Greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and green onions, accompanied by a homemade dressing of vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper), falafel, tabouleh, tzatziki, hummus, and toasted bread that stood in for pita. My favorite of the foodstuffs was a lemon dill yogurt sauce that accented any of those bites. It’s one of those meals where you can search all night for the right combination that produces the “ideal bite” and enjoy the hell out of each attempt – even when you fail you win.

Plus, we had this rich, balanced drink to make the whole thing come together. The Allegrini Amarone is high class grapes, and we treated it with all the necessary respect. Our only want here was a second bottle. Give it a go and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Big thanks for this thoughtful and delicious gift!