2017 Papillon, Orin Swift Cellars

Nearly two summers ago I had my first exposure to the Orin Swift Papillon. While Notes did not fully profile the wine at that time, it did make the Top 10–high praise given the 400+ bottles covered in these pages. I’m here to say the 2017 vintage continues that standard of excellence.

2017 Papillon, Orin Swift Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It’s a bordeaux-style blend, a new release that mixes five different grapes (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and merlot) sourced from throughout Napa Valley. After pulling the cork you’ll be greeted by big, rich scents of blackberry and pepper, and an inky reddish purple that’s probably the color of blood before it hits oxygen. My first sip was too soon–the wine had not yet had a chance to breathe and was slightly tart. After sitting for 15-20 minutes during a late-night dinner prep, the Papillon settled into a deep, flavorful dark fruit medley. Definite blackberry or black cherry scents wafting (maybe cedar or spice box?) heavenly from the glass…lip-smacking goodness.

This is from our winemaker friends at Orin Swift: “Intensely layered and decadent on entry, the wine exudes characteristics of black plum, boysenberry, kirsch and dark chocolate with a silky soft yet weighty texture. A prolonged finish of Provençal lavender, fig leaf and ripe currants close out the wine.

The 2017, a very special gift that I appreciated on multiple levels, is aged for 15 months in French oak (43% new) barrels to very good effect. It delivers a nice, easy finish for a wine with so much gravitas. Special shout out for the great photo and my favorite company. The Phinney magic touch continues again for another year…

2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, Juggernaut Wine Co.

This is the 2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet and yes, for those of you asking, this guy can be swayed by cool branding. Check out this crazy fierce label! It’s as big as the wine itself, and you’ll do well to go looking for it in your favorite wine store / source.

Juggernaut

2016 Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, Clarksburg, California, USA.

The Juggernaut is produced by the Bogle family, and you know they’ve been at this game for quite some time. My winestore source said they’ve been growing grapes for winemaking since 1968 and in the Clarksburg area in particular. Here they combine grapes from the North Coast, Livermore Valley, Alexander Valley, and the Sierra Foothills–all hillside terrior and vineyards going into this luscious bottle. Obviously with all the hillside talk you have this inference of “hard growing” and “extreme” (and hell, isn’t just about every vineyard photo you see on some kind of a mountain?!?) but know for our purposes it ultimately translates into really nice, easy-drinking California cab. Yes hillside can mean fewer grapes and smaller berries, but that also means concentrated flavors and complexity in the wine itself.

Not every hillside wine gets this right, but the Juggernaut does. There is big, dark blackberry-type flavors in the 2016, and maybe just a whiff of vanilla too. I suspect the new French oak barrels (its aged 12-18 months) have something to do with that. The 2016 Juggernaut (I have two more of these) is really nice value for the price. It’s accessible wine, both for your wallet and your palate. I enjoyed over a couple of nights and will look forward to the next such occasion. Thanks for following Notes and feel free to share with a friend.

 

2016 Sailor’s Grave Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael Possan Wines

Napa Valley Cab–such a favorite of mine and even more so when it’s shared with interesting company. In my mind, great grapes are always paired best with great conversation. (Okay, okay…a perfectly grilled NY strip makes a strong argument too, I’ll grant you that…) And with that said, here’s the 2016 Sailor’s Grave Cabernet Sauvignon.

2016 Sailor’s Grave Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael Possan Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This vintage gets its backbone from Cabernet Sauvignon (76%) but also mixes in the Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc (2%), and Petite Verdot (2%). I couldn’t recognize the Verdot in the equation, as the fullness of the Cab and Merlot really drive this red. It’s rich, and there are definite blackberry and black cherry flavors in the 2016 Sailor’s Grave. It’s more red, less inky, and less purple overall than the Buena Vista Sheriff that was recently profiled here in Notes. Little whiff of something else too that I can’t quite place…is it spice box? Leather? I am not sure but that’s okay…my mind is on other things even as I sample.

The first vintage of Sailor’s Grave Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2010, and glad to taste that steady process of evolution and refinement here in the ’16. Really fun to get lost in a world of great ambiance, wine, and company. This time matters.

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.