The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2021

Life often gets in the way of a timely Notes review, and I look up and see several bottles that have passed by my table without getting their due review. I try to share a “quarterly update” of sorts…perhaps it is of no value whatsoever, but I take this step in part so you as visitors have better context for those wines I do ultimately review.

  • 2019 Karoly's Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.
  • 2012 Old Vine Grenache, Quo Ono, Campo de Borja, Spain.

Without any further preamble, let me share the July/August/September bottles that are described thusly:

  • 2019 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.
  • 2012 Old Vine Grenache, Quo Ono, Campo de Borja, Spain.
  • 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Dreaming Tree, Acampo, California, USA.
  • 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Meander Wines, Napa, California, USA.
  • 2019 Austin Cabernet Sauvignon, Austin Hope Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.
  • 2018 Highland Falls Red Wine, Estate of the Art, Middletown, California, USA.
  • 2015 Finca Rio Negro Red Wine, Vino de la Tierra de Castillo, Spain.
  • 2019 Conundrum Red Wine, Wagner Family Wines, Fairfield, California, USA.
  • 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Anderson Family Vineyards, Napa, California, USA.
  • 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin Vineyards & Winery, Paso Robles, California, USA.

Yes, I acknowledge that certain patterns and tendencies do emerge–both in this snapshot of Q3 2021 as well as throughout Notes. Any time you’re seeking a good gift, or you’re a winemaker looking for advocates, you know where to find me. -R

2013 The Count’s Selection, Syrah, Buena Vista Winery

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to bottle number 3026 of The Count’s Selection Syrah, produced by Buena Vista Winery. Yes, another Syrah, loyal readers. You know I have a tendency to hold onto Buena Vista wines for special occasions, but this weekend (which also included the new Bond flick Spectre) I needed some TLC courtesy of these good Sonoma folks and fired up this 2013 to get my fix.

2013 Count's Selection, Syrah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

2013 The Count’s Selection, Syrah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

This Syrah is very easy drinking, a blackberry-flavored red with earthy undertones, a bottle that you’re so disappointed to see dwindling over the course of the evening. Savor every glass, my friends, because excellence is fleeting and impermanent.

Buena Vista says The Count has “…round, well-integrated tannins, flavors of dark fruits, and a touch of black pepper [that] lead to a velvety finish.

The Count’s Selection works well in both low-brow (i.e., grilled cheese sandwiches) and high-guard (e.g., grilled steaks) applications. Accompanying the cheese you get a sense of the contrast, the spicy pepper-tinged underpinnings of the Syrah. Eaten with the grilled meat, you experience more of the complimentary flavors, the way the seasoning of the steak parallels the leathery complexion of the Syrah. But hell, a drink this fine you could drink with just about anything and it’ll improve both the food and your mood.

That’s my prescription for you this evening–take one of these to cure what ails ya. I hope I remembered to order another in the November shipment that’s presently en route.

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 Karoly’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista

September of 2014 the good folks at Buena Vista shipped us the Karoly’s Zinfandel, and you know for damn sure this Russian River red sat beckoning from our wine rack each and every day until this holiday weekend when it finally made its appearance at our dinner table. The July 4th weekend is the perfect time to break out grilled steaks and all the summer fixin’s–including fresh corn, tomato, and arugula salad and the Karoly.

2012 Karoly's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2012 Karoly’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

We are drinking a bottle from one of just 504 cases of the Karoly’s Selection, and appreciating the complexity of what’s happening here. When you smell this deep red in the glass, you detect some acidity that seems to hint at a tannic finish–but that’s not how the drink actually tastes at all. It’s deceivingly smooth. When you taste this vintage of the Karoly, you actually get an entirely different vibe–it’s dark berry (plum? black cherry?) and kitchen spices that I called “peppery” and was unsurprised to read that I was in the right vicinity with that taste but not as detailed as you’ll hear from Buena Vista.

Here’s the vineyard’s summary: “The 2012 Karoly’s Zinfandel is a stunning ruby color in the glass with an aromatic bouquet of dark chocolate that evolves into notes of bramble berry and vanilla. Ripe dark cherries abound on the palate, where the rich flavor is rounded into hints of anise and cola and culminates in a lengthy finish that begs for another sip.

2012 Karoly's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2012 Karoly’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Am I crazy or does that sound sort of like the description I would give a wine? It’s a mash up of technical information (granted, slightly more nuanced than I could offer) and tasting experience. It was also a very good pairing for the grilled London Broil and an instant summer classic. Brian Maloney and Eric Pooler have done a great job with the harvest here and we should continue to expect great things from their collaboration at Buena Vista in the future.

2004 Merlot, Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series

This bottle has been along for quite the journey. It shipped eastward from our favorite Sonoma vineyard several years ago, originally landing in our NJ home, where it somehow escaped consumption for several years–perhaps as many as four or five? I’m not sure if I thought we should just have at LEAST one Buena Vista bottle on hand at all times, or perhaps I was caught up in a post-Sideways backlash against Merlot. Even good Merlot!

2004 Merlot, Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series

2004 Merlot, Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series, Sonoma, California, USA.

Regardless, this 2004 Buena Vista Ramal Estate Vineyard Series Merlot eventually moved with us down south, surviving 18 unopened months in our rental before sliding to our new home just two months ago. And then the cork came off and we started pouring. Who’s ready for theirs?

I confess that I made little record of the tasting, and an Ida’s Selection Pinot Noir (also from Buena Vista) followed close on its heels so I have some recency bias toward the Pinot. Didn’t record our meal here either. Based on some research, I can tell you the grapes originate from the Carneros appellation, a slice of heaven right in the corner of Sonoma and Napa’s southern boundaries that produces some great adult beverages like this one.

Since finishing the 2004, I’ve done some searching of Wine Searcher and other other retailers without finding this particular vintage. I’m not sure it was a great year or bottle, at least to critics, but I can tell you this one went fast and engendered many warm smiles in our home. Happy hunting!



2012 Arpad’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista

Blackberry, pepper, and spice–you get healthy doses of each in the 2012 Arpad’s Selection Zinfandel, a great red from Sonoma Valley’s Buena Vista Winery. This wine is named for the third son of Count Agoston Haraszthy, who credited his father for bringing the Zinfandel grape to Sonoma. Be glad the Count did, because this wine is excellent in quality and rich in fruit. His legacy is surely intact in the 2012 vintage.

I’m sure there is more than just blackberry in the mix here, because the 2012 Arpad has great subtleties interwoven throughout. My wife and I both remarked on its fantastic, easy finish and its spices when we sampled from our porch on Good Friday, and I (with more than some appreciation) enjoyed it again this evening. Buena Vista Winery made just 300 cases of this Zinfandel, and bottle #690 graced our home.

2012 Arpad's Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

2012 Arpad’s Selection Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma Valley, California, USA.

The Arpad’s Selection Zinfandel first accompanied a local pepperoni pizza, and tonight a thick Angus steak seasoned with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Dinner included roasted baby potatoes (coincidentally suggested as a good pairing by the folks at Buena Vista) and asparagus, and the Zinfandel effectively complemented the sides. It was best, though, with the pepper and smoke of the steaks–each a solid inch in thickness.

The grapes for this 2012 were sourced from vineyards North East of the town of Sonoma. Quite a fantastic wine–this one you’ll see on our Top Reds list as well. Happy Easter everyone…

2012 Pinot Gris, Count’s Selection, Buena Vista

After sitting on this crisp white for nearly two years, we finally broke out the 2012 Pinot Gris, Count’s Selection, Buena Vista this week while readying to move our home. it was already chilled, right, so why not crack open the top and give it a go? Particularly when you’re all parched from boxing up your life for an exciting shuffle down the road?

2012 Pinot Gris, Count's Selection, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

2012 Pinot Gris, Count’s Selection, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

It’s got an obvious pear scent to it, and is not overly sweet. You might even call it creamy? Buena Vista is situated in California’s Sonoma Valley, and this site has mentioned on many occasions the interesting flavors and notes produced by the unique terroir and climate of this AVA. We sampled this Count’s Selection with all sorts of odd meals; the white held its own whether consumed with dinner, as a nightcap, or even last night during the cocktail hour (when we actually finished it before the redbuds shown).

Here’s what the vineyard offers up for you: “This medium-bodied wine with fresh aromas of apple and pear. Displaying a great balanced mineralogy, flavors of Meyer lemon, white peach, and honeydew melon load to a crisp, clean finish. This refreshing white is perfect for sipping or as an aperitif.

Buena Vista produced 500 cases of this Pinot Gris in this vintage, and I’m betting it did great business for them as a summer respite, as a party favor with the wine and cheese crowds, and among fans of even-keeled whites. Long-time readers of Notes will know I tread less frequently on the white roads, but this one was an enjoyable journey throughout the week.

2012 Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista

Great wine is often best paired with life’s big moments, and a Buena Vista bottle actually serves both requirements – effortlessly. Last night we pulled the cork on the 2012 Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir from Sonoma County’s Buena Vista Historic Winery in order to celebrate finding a new home for our family. We’re finishing it tonight, and before reading any further you should know this wine is simply amazing.

2012 Geza's Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Historic Winery

2012 Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir, Buena Vista Historic Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

Long-term Notes readers, friends, and family all know our clear bias for Buena Vista wines, but the accolades are all well suited for this fragrant, luscious Pinot Noir. Throughout the winter we’ve been sampling California Cabernet Sauvignon and rich, Bordeaux-style red blends (a few Spanish reds are sprinkled in too), and the 2012 Geza is a fantastic counterpunch to them all. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to immediately recognize the brilliance of this wine. It’s soft, it’s nuanced, and it’s finish is beyond smooth. The team at Buena Vista comments, “The 2012 Geza’s Selection Pinot Noir is a testament to its terroir. It is a rich, ripe wine with soft berry flavors and a bright fruit finish that makes it the perfect pairing for garlic and herb roasted pork tenderloin or oven-baked salmon filets.

Our accompanying meals, coincidentally, didn’t stray far from those recommendations. We had the 2012 Geza’s Selection with grilled steaks and with pork chops, and the wine was spot on in both instances. There is virtually no acidity, no lasting tannin finish, and only ample smiles resulting from tasting Geza’s Selection. If we had opened this on a weekend it wouldn’t have lasted overnight!

We received the Geza with our November 2014 Count’s Club shipment, but you can get your own through the Buena Vista website if you’re not able to drive to that beautiful vineyard. There are only 300 cases of the Geza’s Selection for this vintage, however, so don’t too long to make up your mind and do the right thing. We had bottle number 0504 so you’ll have to choose another ;).

2013 Jovita’s Selection Chardonnay, Buena Vista

It’s Rivalry Week, and the best ticket in all of college hoops is unquestionably UNC/Duke–tonight their first matchup of the season. I’m winding down for the evening, pulling for the ‘Heels, and putting down the last of a 2013 Jovita’s Selection Chardonnay, from Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County.

2013 Jovita's Selection Chardonnay Buena Vista Sonoma County California USA

2013 Jovita’s Selection Chardonnay, Buena Vista, Sonoma County, California, USA.

The folks at Buena Vista make a really fine Chardonnay, and this is one of them in spite of its youth. It smells full on the nose, a bouquet of citrus and maybe some vanilla in your glass. Of course it’s more robust than a Grigio, and this one is rich without being sticky or overly sweet. I’ve sample a glass over the last several nights with salmon, pork (a fantastic meal in and of itself), and even as a precursor to ground beef–Jovita stands tall with all of ’em.

I’ve got to return my attention to the ballgame but want to leave you with just one more nugget–the winemaker’s notes: “The 2013 Jovita’s Selection Chardonnay is a rich, unctuous wine with a beautiful, lingering acidity that belies its origins on both sides of Sonoma Mountain. Aromas of lemon zest and green apple lead to a palate delighted by flavors of gingerbread and a touch of vanilla on the finish.

This is bottle #2187 of just 500 cases produced, and a great small production run at that. Excuse the brevity on this occasion–hope to have more to say about Jovita the next time she visits.