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.

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2017 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

The 2017 concentrates powerful dark fruit flavors and spice notes into deep, inky red hues that tumble, fresh, into your glass. Notes has previously presented the 2015 Antal’s Selection, and the newer vintage carries forward the wine’s history—the zin is a varietal that Count Haraszthy helped flourish when he brought the grape to the new world nearly 150 years ago.

2017 Antal’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA.

 

Antal’s Selection throws a heavy cloak over you, a full-bodied red with a dark cherry profile and just a bit of smoke and pepper. Apologies for the shorter review in back-to-back entries (time is in short supply, even in this pandemic climate) and encourage you to browse further for the last Antal review or others in Notes here on Buena Vista wines—they’re my favorite and in ample supply.

2018 The Count’s Selection Charbono, Buena Vista Winery

This Christmas special had to follow up a 2017 Machete from Christmas Eve, and it was very equal to the challenge. Whenever possible, I try to keep Buena Vista in mind for life’s occasions, even when that occasion is simply to make a celebration. Voila…

2018 The Count’s Selection Charbono, Buena Vista Winery, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It poured ruby red, little flecks of rich color flecking our glassware as it tumbled from the bottle. From these first notes you could scent dark, heady fruits—I think perhaps black berry or black cherry?—at the heart of the Charbono. With our minds thinking of family and friends far away, I had been asked to pick a good red (but nothing too sweet!) and I was positive this 2018 would answer the call.

The Charbono is a byproduct of a European vine-collecting expedition by the winery’s founder, Count Haraszthy, and I presume there are far fewer of these grapes grown in Napa Valley than the Cabernet Sauvigon that’s the hallmark of this AVA. The warm Calistoga weather brings us this wine, a soft, medium-bodied red. It tastes more black cherry than plum, and yes a few earthy spices that add a little complexity to the wine.

Our 2018 Charbono accompanied pan-seared duck breast called into service by virtue of postponed travel plans. An amazing port/cherry demi-sauce went with the bird, as did Hericots Verts and a fun parsnip purée that was flavorful and delicious. Our arugula salad included shaved fennel, sweet onion, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese crumble. Yes, dinner rolls and a Christmas Tree butter rounded out our plates just as the Buena Vista did our glasses, which we raise in toast to those who couldn’t be with us this day. Sending much love to you all…

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

Slipped away to the lake this weekend for some quiet and quality time. The Sheriff of Buena Vista has been covered previously in Notes and this 2018 vintage is worthy of the history. Be sure to review older vintages on the site, including the 2017, 2016, 2015, and even the 2013. We’re old friends at this point.

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista

2018 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

This bottle accompanied grilled strip steaks and sweet potatoes, and good times and even a refresher guitar session courtesy of my brother from another mother. Looking forward to more of all this in the future. Thanks BMan…

2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery

Many things go into selecting a good wine for the evening. There’s your meal, calendar, need for celebrating—the company plays a significant role too. And just sometimes you pull a cork because of what you’ve got in mind for dessert.

This is one of those occasions.

2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The 2017 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir from Buena Vista Winery rings the bell in the way their Pinots have been up for the challenge for many years. I’ve had bottles shipped to me in New Jersey and North Carolina over the past 10 years, and I’m somewhat surprised to learn that my relationship with Otelia goes back to the 2008 and 2010 vintages. How many relationships do you have go back a decade? 

This sweet girl never disappoints. Otelia mixes cherry flavors with a little hit of strawberry…just a little note of earthiness too. It’s not a light Pinot Noir, and not one where you have vanilla flavors that are almost cloyingly sweet. Bottle 260 (the individually marked bottles is a gimmick I have loved since first encountering it with Buena Vistas past) is more like a Pinot Noir blend, and if you’re a Belle Glos Pinot drinker this will be a good home for you too. In any event, the wine as a great complement to the fresh strawberries (dipped in semi-sweet chocolate) that we had prepared for our dessert this evening.  

These are the winemaker’s notes: “This Pinot Noir is sourced from some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Sonoma Count; this wine has [a] distinctive blend of clones that is enhanced with a small amount of Pinot Meunier to add depth and complexity. A variety of soils ranging from sandy loam with a shallow clay layer to heavy clay contribute to the distinctive deep fruit and earthy flavors in this wine.”

As always, a note of appreciation to the team at Buena Vista Winery. May all our relationships be this generous and rewarding!

 

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve spent time with Notes in the past, you’ll know how much I enjoy the The Sheriff of Buena Vista red blend. Its luscious combination of Petite Sirah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Mission, and Merlot grapes has been well-traveled ground, and you can read my feedback on the 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013 each here. I’m offering similar praise this evening, albeit perhaps in a less verbose post than usual.

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

There is tons of big fruit in this wine, rich flavors of blackberry and dark cherry with little spice accents that are really a treat. Be sure to read previous coverage of the Sheriff if you’re up for a deeper dive into the wine itself. While I’m always biased toward the Petite Sirah offered by Buena Vista (you’ve just got to hit their Karoly’s Selection…), I’m always very pleased when I remember I’ve ordered up a bottle of the Sheriff too.

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery

Buena Vista Winery has been good to me for a long time. My first taste came during a pop-in visit during a Sonoma wine country trip, and Buena Vista wine has become a staple to which I often turn for life’s celebrations, large and small. This evening included!

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Thus, the 2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah celebrates the end of a long streak: I had gone nearly 20 years without breaking a bone (and funny how so many of the fellas remember that occasion and its poor choices) but that run was fractured this week. Officially it’s a closed, non-physeal metatarsal fracture at the lesser toe. Don’t bother looking that up—means I broke a small bone in my foot near the smallest toe. Three quick x-rays told the doctors all they needed, and I’m now in a ridiculous little walking shoe. It’s not quite a “boot” but still makes me feel clumsy.

So did cutting my index finger earlier this week…and the puncture wound I made in my palm just now. In a week filled with bad moves, the best two I made were inviting a special lady to join me for a post-emergency room dinner and serving us this 2017 Karoly’s Selection. This wine pours crazy dark purple in the glass, and it packs pungent earthy notes into its intense berry flavors. You have definite plum and black cherry or blackberry scents in play. It’s aged 18 months in 100% French oak (30% new). We both nodded in appreciation and set forth on this wine plus Greek food that included salads (cucumber sauce!), kabobs (both chicken and lamb), and carbs—for at least one of us 🙂

The Buena Vista team remarks, “On the palate, bold flavors of blackberries, raspberries, and a hint of cola lead to a full body with rich tannins, well-balanced acid, and a satisfying, lingering finish.

Really good grapes! I just ordered another bottle tonight for February shipment and that’ll be fun to enjoy too. 

This bottle of 2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah is individually numbered, and 5381 has been a real treat. Raise your glasses, to yourselves, your loved ones, and to the start of a new streak—hopefully one that’ll carry me through the rest of my days. Thanks as always for your readership.  

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.