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!

 

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2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard

A man, his dog, fire, and great grapes…no, not the start of some joke but rather a great way to spend a Saturday Happy Hour. In this case, the vino is the 2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet from Laurel Glen Vineyard. It’s a single-vineyard Cab harvested from Sonoma Mountain, and the Laurel Glen team produced just 250 cases of this “Proprietor’s Blend Special Cuvee.”

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain, California, USA.

2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet, Laurel Glen Vineyard, Glen Ellen, California, USA.

I’m guessing you like the photo* but let’s hit some quick research before you get bored. Sonoma Mountain is an extinct volcano located about 20 miles from the Pacific, one of those amazing California spots were you get long periods of sunlight on the vines, and cooling winds as well. Always bears well for the fruit, and virtually every wine from the region. Feels like the very definition of terroir. The hand-picked grapes are fermented for 18 months in a combination of new and older oak barrels, and the result is this 2016 Red Hill Ranch Cabernet. The vineyard’s website does a nice job of describing their process and philosophy in equal measures.

I started the bottle last night after a long work week (I know, I know…they all are…) but really had a chance to think about its taste today while fireside. My wood pile was filled with branches downed from storms Florence and Michael, and that pile is much smaller today as I indulged in my inner pyromaniac and oenophile simultaneously. It’s a deep red wine, one that imparts notes of plum, black cherry, and spicy undertones upon tasting. The Red Hill Ranch is wonderfully fragrant and I found myself rolling it around in the glass just taking it in…

I snatched up a few of these bottles (thanks for the good value, winestore team!) and look forward to sampling another as the fall season makes great reds so enjoyable. Hoping you have an opportunity to do the same. Thanks for reading.

*The perfectionist in me hates the streak marring the label, yes, but hoping the rest of the composition resonates for you. 

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery

It’s well established that Notes covers California Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends with recurring frequency. This is one of the latter, shipped from the vineyard’s Alexander Valley location via an online distributer in a bottle with some considerable heft. When the bottle itself is weighty, you sort of expect the same from the wine too, right? Sometimes that doesn’t bear out in the tasting, and others – like this occasion – it really does.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

2012 Napa Reserve, White Oak Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA, USA.

There’s a ton of flavor in White Oak’s 2012 Napa Reserve, a bordeaux-style blend that packs in dark fruit flavors that open up beautifully as you go through the wine. It has some tannic scents when you first pull the cork, but if you let it decanter or similarly open up, you’ll find it mellows out and lets other berries come through. Yes, there is definite black berry on the nose, and probably some other dark chocolate notes that you’ll detect too. There is some damp earthiness at stake too…

I ignored some unwritten rules with this wine choice, as I was having it with some pepper-rubbed salmon and rice instead of grilled meat. Call that a little nod to cut back on the cholesterol (at least for the night!). A white might have been the textbook choice, but toss that book out and just enjoy good wine when you can.

And that’s what I’m doing here. The 2012 Napa Reserve from White Oak Vineyards & Winery folds in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, and I’m betting its aged in oak for some time to instill the subtle notes you encounter through this rich, ruby red wine. I don’t think you can find it on the White Oaks website at present, but perhaps your favorite distributor can get you access?

It’ll be worth it. This is a nice wine for the price and I’m glad I got to sample a bottle.

Fall 2018 – The Ones That Got Away

2015 Eola Hills Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Reserve, Willamette Valley, OR; 2016 Abstract Red Wine Blend, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, CA; 2016 Machete, Orin Swift Cellars, Saint Helena, CA; 2015 Robert Storey Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker’s Reserve, Napa Valley, CA; 2013 Edwards & Chaffey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA.

2016 Machete, Orin Swift Wines

This 2016 Machete brings Notes back in spades. The blend of Petite Sirah and Grenache, developed by one of this site’s favorite winemakers, is a robust red combination that you’ll definitely appreciate. And not just from its funky label!

2016 Machete, Orin Swift Wines, California, USA.

2016 Machete, Orin Swift Wines, St. Helena, California, USA.

It has been forever (biggest gap to date?) since the last review on Notes, and I’m glad this wine allows us to re-engage. It’s a heavyweight, and I will always have fond memories of my first taste of Machete. That was well over a year ago, when I got to bogart a glass from a best friend who won the bottle as part of a football bet and treated me to a taste of his winnings. So special shout out to GDog and Eagan for putting me on this path…

…back in the present now: I opened the Machete last night after a long work week (rueful chuckle here) and allowed it to breathe in a decanter while I fired up the grill beneath the day’s fading sun. It is so purple on the pour…abundant whiffs of blackberry and black plum too. You don’t want to be too eager and sip before the wine opens up, because the finish is far smoother once you give it a few moments.

Is the seal a pain in the ass? Yes. Yes it is. You have to score the waxy plastic seal before you can get to the cork, but once you pass this test you’re sitting very pretty.

I had this 2016 with a New York Strip and a killer green salad (mixed, arugula, sliced green olives, bacon, cheese, fresh-ground black pepper and blue cheese dressing). The Machete lasted me through dessert too, a 72% cacao “intense dark” square of Ghiradelli that just finished things up perfectly.

I’m doing part of a Milk Run with this review, so expect another 2016 Machete from me in the near term. Enjoy the above for now, and more again soon. Kind regards to all.