2013 Aristocrat, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve followed Notes to any real extent over the past 6 or 7 years, you’ll know the special place that Buena Vista wines have for me. Buena Vista has a great tasting room and was the very first wine club I joined—their bottles are braided throughout these posts and have a prominent role in the Notes Top Ten Reds list. 

2013 Aristocrat, Buena Vista Winery, Calistoga AVA, California, USA.

The Aristocrat I’ve had once previously, and it was flat-out great. That 2012 vintage (the inaugural) was fantastic, and from this 2013 I had similar expectations. I’ve held onto this bottle for several years, looking for the right situation or celebration to break out the red blend. This Friday was the exact right occasion—the company, the accomplishment, the week survived—but the 2013 Aristocrat didn’t really live up to my expectations. 

We had the right glasses, a pair of stemless Reidel reds, and right mood to appreciate these grapes. They’re harvested from the Calistoga AVA of Napa Valley, and I believe the final blend includes both charbono and petite syrah fruit. That’s more from a bit of research, though, because the wine itself was a little underwhelming. This bottle was a safe shot down the fairway. It didn’t have the subtle structure or layered nuances that I so often detect in my favorite wines, including the dozens of Buena Vistas that I’ve covered here in Notes. It was a red with an easy, smooth finish—but was otherwise just ‘meh’ overall. 

I know the 2013 is just the second vintage of the Aristocrat, however, so perhaps they just skipped a beat after the first batch? I have not tasted subsequent vintages so don’t know if this is a blip on the radar or was perhaps just a rare miss at the bottle level. I’ve shared feedback on more than 400 wines over the years (most reds), and just 2 Aristocrats so perhaps I just hit an outlier. If you’ve tried the Aristocrat of any vintage, would you perhaps share your findings or notes here so we can paint a fuller picture for Notes readers? Thanks for your continued readership and have a great day.

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

The Sheriff of Buena Vista has become one of my favorite red blends, and it’s made annual appearances on Notes. Feedback on the 2016, 2015, and 2013 are all here for easy access but know now each is a bold, full-flavored powerhouse. This is big flavors that you sort of need to balance against something as weighty–or not.

 

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

 

This vintage runs back the formula that worked so effectively in the 2016. I’m betting the response from consumers was such that the team at Buena Vista decided, “If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” Here is a mix of Petite Sirah (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Grenache (14%), Syrah (11%), Petite Verdot (5%), Mission (2%), and Cabernet Franc (1%), and it conveys big blackberry and plum from your glass. Darker notes of chocolate and spice are pretty evident too. See what I mean about the overall weight of this bad boy?

Here’s how the winemaker sourced this year’s Sheriff: “The varietals that compose 2017 vintage are harvested from vineyards throughout the county, including the Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Moon Mountain, Sonoma Mountain, Fountaingrove, Chalk Hill, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile. The individual varietals were aged separately for 10 months in a variety of new and neutral oak barrels before being blended prior to bottling.

Hmm. No shout out to Dry Creek this year. This wine is aged in French, American, and Hungarian oak (15% new oak). I never see it on the shelves of my local wine stores but seems readily available through Buena Vista (I’m a tenured member and long-time fan). Tip of the cap to this good Sonoma County friend and enjoy.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery has been in my life for nearly 15 years at this point, and each time I’m reminded of my first exposure to wines in their Sonoma tasting room. That’s an era before social media and some of the viral marketing that the Buena Vista now uses to attract visitors to one of the state’s oldest wineries. Probably a cheaper fee for admission, too…

2015 Antal's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

Several of their newer releases have won awards in regional competition and, while I don’t think the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel was among them, it earned raves from me nevertheless when I opened this evening. I’d been sipping a Grenache-Syrah blend from the Rhone for most of this week (very pedestrian…still have to write that up), so this Buena Vista Zinfandel was like a shot of adrenaline to my taste buds. I opened it while jamming on some final work obligations for the week and decided to go all out, opting for the decanter and that whole production as well.

Seemed like good decisions all around. The wine opened up really well, releasing notes of cherry and strawberry almost immediately. Great aromas in the glass and even better at the taste. It kicked with a little something, more innate and nuanced than sometimes I sense in the market-leading David bottle. I ate a simple cheese tortellini dish with this wine, accented with a bit of butter and olive oil. The wine was really the headliner of this whole setup, and longtime readers of Notes know that Friday is often “wine reward” nite for surviving the ever-evolving challenges of the work week.

Baldacchi Vineyard (reputedly with 100-year old vines) produced the grapes used for this 2015 Zin, which pours dark red in the glass. Again, a nice contrast to the Chateau Rochecolumbe bottle that is relatively pale by comparison. Here’s how the winery described what’s at play in the Antal: “Richly layered flavors of strawberry and currant are complemented by notes of graham cracker and mocha leading to a spreading finish with a slightly savory note.”

I’ll just say it was great! Buena Vista produced 401 cases of the 2015 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, so I’m not sure how easy it will be to score some after all the wine club shipments go out but you’d be glad if you find it. Mine was bottle #2249–love the individual numbering and this wine overall!

 

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery

This 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is a savory, fruit-forward red, one that served as an end-of-week reward for this fan of Buena Vista Winery. The wine is really outstanding, a burst of dark berries that pours dark and fragrant into your glass.

Only 450 cases of the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve have been produced by the winery, and you’re paying for that exclusivity and the “reserve” classification to some extent, but the wine is really excellent. It is filled with big scents of plum and dark cherry that open up nicely as the wine breathes. The wine accompanied steak and garlic-mashed potatoes last evening, and then cavatelli pasta and shrimp, with a medley of summer vegetables tonight. The zin is great with both, but in particular with the grilled steak and its robust flavors.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The grapes for this wine come from 30-year-old vines on properties adjacent to the winery and part of Count Haraszthy’s original winery (according to Buena Vista’s notes). The fruit is harvested by hand, with the best lots then fermented separately in open-top vats before being pressed off and aged in barrels of French oak. You can almost taste that care as you sip contentedly on the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve.

Though not the cabernet sauvignon for which I’d often reach with such meals, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve still abounds in big, dark red flavor. Guidance from the vineyard includes: “[grapes] sourced from the warmer regions in Sonoma County, allowing for warm summer days to deepen the richness on the palate…Bright flavors of tart cherry, cranberry, and boysenberry are balanced with notes of cocoa and a touch of vanilla upon the finish.

As of the time this post goes up on Notes, the 2015 Zinfandel Private Reserve is available on the Buena Vista Winery website if you have been moved by this summary of its many favorable qualities. Great choice for weekend drinking!

 

 

 

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.