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. 

2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery

There was a time in Notes history when I scrambled to capture every bottle, every wine tasting adventure, seemingly every random thought about wine. Several hundred bottles later, that pattern has slowly changed with opportunity (and to some extent, taste). These days I always find time for a glass and a thought, but not always for sharing feedback in this modest column. 

2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery, Mendocino County, California, USA.
2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, Buena Vista Winery, Mendocino County, California, USA.

The photos? Yes, those I have for sure. Like many oenophiles I assuredly have all the labels recorded. Like others, I have a few notes and thoughts that are half-discernible in various apps and scraps of paper…and on a few rare occasions I even get ‘em down here where others can read and sample. That’s no excuse – just reality, and perhaps even a forecast of the pending “Ones that got away” Q2 2022 that is on its way soon. Here in the meantime is my take on the 2019 The Count’s Selection Carignane, from Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, California. 

I bumped into Buena Vista’s Carignane several years ago, having cracked a bottle for friends who were in town for a quick visit. The Carignane surprised me at that time (was it my first with this grape? Think so…) and quickly found its way into my recurring order from Buena Vista Winery. This 2019 I drank a tad early…perhaps I should have left it on the rack for one more year? It’s quite good, but the tannins here felt a bit grippy. 

There is plenty of blackberry on the nose, with other red fruits in the mix too. The 2019 Carignane has the blackberry taking a lead role, but there are other subtleties involved too. It is dark, dark purple in the glass and very rich on your palate. The wine starts a little dry but the blackberry notes fill that space pretty quickly.

The winemaker notes, “Ripe, juicy flavors of red cherry and blackberry cover the palate with a hint of licorice and a touch of black pepper that lead to a long, savory finish.

According to the Buena Vista team, these are old vine grapes (an 80-year-old site known for Carignane), sourced from vines that are dry-farmed in the Ukiah region. Buena Vista harvested them in September, fermented, and ultimately aged the wine in French oak (13% new) for 15 months prior to bottling. The outcome of that production is the 2019 vintage of The Count’s Selection Carignane—I enjoyed this very much and know you will too. 

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, PureCru Wines

Birthday wine, this gem, one selected specifically for the occasion. Where does a gent go for satisfaction and representation of the Finer Things Club? Yes, the answer is Napa Valley Cab. This one is new for me, a 2016 from PureCru Wines. Let’s break it down.

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, PureCru Wines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The date is April 7, 2022. It’s evening, a long workday slowly sliding into the rear view mirror. I’m fatigued, in part from the concentration and in part from the early start of this Thursday. Thankfully this bottle, a dinner of several favorites, and Cara’s good company are there to raise my spirits. Several ‘nifty gifties’ are neatly wrapped and well within my interested gaze…

The 2016 PureCru Cabernet Sauvignon simply caught my eye on a recent trip to the wine store, seeking a bottle worthy of this milestone. Loved the striking bottle design, the raised red lettering both stamped and scrawled over the textured black label. Plus I’m a sucker for anything like the PureCru where there is limited production—there were fewer than 500 cases of this wine produced. 

I think “Napa” is my actual favorite four-letter word? Anyway, the wine is a pleasure. A bright, cheery and cherry wine filled with ripe fruit flavors. It’s all about red fruit and full bodied goodness, but has subtle notes of chocolate or plum just behind the dominant cherry. I’m tired but want to tip my cap to Mitch Cosentino – winemaker – for this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was barrel-aged for 39 months in French oak. I only purchased one, but additional bottles are in order, yes sir…

2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend, Judd’s Hill

Red blends recently caught my eye while buying online, and the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines from Judd’s Hill was one of the batch. Now, I’m an easy sell for any ‘old wines’ grapes, and that bias generally serves me well—just as it did here with this Napa Valley bottle.

The winery is family run, and proud of it. Judd’s Hill produces not only well-known California treats like Cab Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, but also less-frequent AVA guests like Viognier and Grenache. They’re also sharing prominently the Judd’s Hill focus on small lot wines, and all that gears one up for a great tasting experience. That’s exactly what I enjoyed here with the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend.

2017 Walt's Old Vines Red Blend, Judd's Hill, Napa, California, USA.
2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend, Judd’s Hill, Napa, California, USA.

This 2017 growls softly at you. The wine is replete with berry goodness, an explosion of blueberry and blackberry on your palate. Those are the obvious notes, but others are at play too. The winery’s website indicates “marionberry, huckleberry, and lingonberry” are also conveyed in Walt’s Old Vines, but I simply don’t have the palate or previous taste for any of those more subtle hints. Check it out and let me know? I do get a gentle whiff of pepper, but it is very faint—not as pronounced as a Syrah or Zin. The aftertaste has slightly less rounded notes, a bitterer profile that I’d think more like a cranberry vibe. All in all, it’s really quite enjoyable!

If you’re trying to find the 2017 Walt’s Old Vines Red Blend from Judd’s Hill, you might see results including the Cuttings (The Prisoner Wine Company), Machete (Orin Swift Wines), or even Scout’s Honor (Venge Vineyards) in your search feed. Each of these Napa Valley greats has a profile similar to Walt’s and would serve you and your guests very well. I bought two the first time out and encourage you to better that score when you make your buy. You’re welcome—and thanks for reading.

2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine

Conundrum is always a great option for your vino fix, a proprietary red blend that Notes has covered many times and in many ways over the years. This site has covered bottles going back nearly a decade, and be sure to cruise notes on the 2012, 2013 (there are several) and even the 2014, or others at your convenience. I am not sure how I missed a vintage in this vertical but looking to make up for that here.

2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine, Napa Valley, California, USA.
2019 Conundrum 10th Anniversary Red Blend, Wagner Family of Wine, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It’s a flavor bomb, a tooth-stainer of a red that has fans all over the world. As with previous vintages, the 2019 Conundrum is jammy and packs in the dark berry goodness. Sampling Conundrum for the first time or the 100th you’ll surely detect the dark cherry or plum notes, the leggy red tumbling full and inky into your glass. I have occasionally whiffed a little hint of vanilla in the mix, but this particular bottle had more of the fruit than the spice as defining characteristics. It had a few minutes to breathe but was essentially ready to enjoy right away without decanting, filtering, or similar preparation.

Yes the label is eye-catching, but less so than the Wagner name (Notes covers many of those, too) for most oenophiles. On the other hand, I’ve missed recent vintages of Conundrum so the silver did work as a marketing tool.

Polished off this 2019 tonight with a healthy tilapia (white wine, butter, garlic/caper goodness), broccoli, and apple sauce dinner. Trying to make good decisions early and often in 2022, and hoping your new year is off to a similar good start. Thanks for reading and best in the year ahead.

2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery

Time to ring in the new year, and no better way to celebrate the passing of 2021 than with a Buena Vista red. Here is the 2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel, a small production run of just 550 cases, and one bottle therefrom made its way into my fall shipment from the vineyard.

2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

Let’s take a moment and break down this “get,” shall we? The 2019 Private Reserve Zin is produced by one of the oldest vineyards in the US, located in Sonoma, California. It is less jammy, less sweet than other Zins you might sample. Those notes may be part of the wine; they may also be partially a result of my penchant for rushing a pour instead of letting a new bottle breathe for a spell. 

It shares a bit of strawberry on the nose, and it’s a bit spicy too, but has more of a cherry slant when you’re actually tasting the wine. The 2019 Private Reserve Zinfandel is full-bodied and rich on your palate. While I cannot speak authoritatively on this vintage, the Buena Vista Private Reserve Zins are usually hand-picked and fermented separately in open-top vats prior to pressing and aging in French, Hungarian (yes, Cara and Lauren!), and American oak barrels. I’ve also had the good fortune to sample the 2012 and 2015 Private Reserve Zin, and I’d encourage you to check out those notes—and drink the wine—at your convenience.

Special thanks to Loona for ensuring the fridge was stocked with our delicious New Year’s Eve supper. It was so thoughtful, and wonderful to see the little plates and ramekins labeled with your careful instructions! Here’s our interpretation of your prep: the holiday ham, the collared greens, the black-eyed peas with all the fixin’s, and even homemade apple sauce. The wine is just a capper on a great bit of ambiance curated for our celebration. 

Already 2022 feels lucky by comparison. Hoisting a glass to health, home, and loved ones near and far. Hoping your own celebrations take on special meaning, and best to us all in the year ahead.