2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, the Prisoner Wine Company

Back in July I had occasion to taste test several amazing Orin Swift wines at my favorite wine store. The 2014 vintage of The Cuttings was instantly a new favorite, and I’ve since taken home two of these bad boys and enjoyed each immensely.

2014 Cuttings, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

2014 The Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon, Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

Let me tell you, The Cuttings deserves a more experienced palate than mine. It is layered, it is juicy, it is nuanced in ways I appreciate very much and have not the vocabulary to do full justice. This Cabernet is clearly a red blend of some exquisite kind, a black berry backbone with some spices carefully interwoven in my glass. The Cuttings smells heavenly, a clear contrast to lesser wines I have had over the past week. I am positive Dave Phinney (the winemaker) would object to the comparison but this wine of his reminds me a lot of a Michael Davis creation or one of Jeff Runquist’s “kitchen sink” wines–both profiled here in Notes in 2017 and in years past.

The wine is right, the glass is right, and even the day is right on this one. Hell, even the bottle feels substantive when you hoist it. The 2014 Cuttings was a reward from time well spent and poured all too quickly into my excited Riedel stemware.

The Prisoner Wine Company describes more effectively the goodness you’re in for when you uncork The Cuttings for yourself. There’s a reward in that glass and one I’m looking forward to again in the near future myself. Get one yourself and enjoy!

2014 Petite Petit, Michael David Winery

The Petite Petit is a fruit bomb, as Notes readers have seen previously, and this reviewer asserts that it stacks up favorably to some of California’s best-recognized red blends–Caymus being one such example. This is a 2014 Petite Petit, and was used to counterpunch an earthy meal that will be detailed below.

2014 Petite Petit, Michael David Winery, Lodi, California, USA.

2014 Petite Petit, Michael David Winery, Lodi, California, USA.

The Petite Petit is 85% Petite Sirah / 15% Petit Verdot–and red, juicy goodness. Michael David Winery produces this blend as well as the Freakshow and 7 Deadly Zins that you can see on your grocery wine shelves or your favorite wine store. All three are welcome in this house any time and should be for you too. Whenever you see the big red 7 or circus stuff on a label just grab it, put it in your cart, and thank me later.

Why pull the Petite tonight? Simple – this delic dish called for a “lush and fruity” red and I can think of few better options for that prescription. The 2014 is no longer available if you’re ordering direct from the winery, but I’m sure the 15 mashes together red berries and peppery accents just like this vintage. This bottle accompanied a big bowl of French green lentils, sautéed spinach, and diced tomatoes and cucumbers. Throw in a chopped shallot, a few garlic cloves, red wine vinegar, and some Dijon mustard and you have a dish that is both filling and refreshing.

So is the wine. It’s aged 13 months in French oak and hails from the Lodi appellation, a dark red gem that tumbles fragrant and fruity in your glass. Always a treat and hope you find time to enjoy one today.

2015 Zinfandel, Leese-Fitch

Opened this Leese-Fitch zinfandel earlier in the week but finished it off this evening to complement a Blue Apron meal that consisted of sautéed beef and roasted eggplant. I had selected the 2015 Zinfandel (and a Cab too) from Winestore not from the reputation of the winemaker, which was new to me, but rather the grape and the price point. It’s got great value at $10 and I would highly recommend if price is a driving force in your wine selection.

2015 Zinfandel, Leese-Fitch, California, USA.

2015 Zinfandel, Leese-Fitch, California, USA.

Sneaky by the Leese-Fitch team is the 18% Petite Sirah that they added to the wine, and even as I write here I’m not sure if I’ll classify this bottle as a zin or a red blend. Suffice it to say you’ll drink with a smile regardless, so let us not split hairs. It pours dark purple and has notes of blackberry and spices (thanks to the PS) in your glass, and it has that plus tastes of cherry and dark berries on the palate. This is one of those times you should drink not with some preconceived notion of taste, i.e., governed by price, but rather just enjoy for what it is–fun, easy-drinking zinfandel.

Mine accompanied a Middle East-influenced beef dish, served with roasted eggplant and spinach on a bed of rice that was kicked up thanks to an “Afghan-style” spice blend*. A creamy cucumber salad on the side was cool and refreshing, offsetting the spices of the main dish. I nearly blew the timing of the meal as I worked to free the eggplant from the sheet pan but if you look at the image here you’ll see I did recover in time (and yes ate ‘both’ portions). The 2015 zinfandel from Leese-Fitch was great with this meal, its earthy qualities calming to the spices too. Since I had opened it earlier in the week, the combo was more happy accident than intention but still effective. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

* Peppery nigella seed, cassia, and bittersweet saffron.

 

2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon

This Napa Valley red jumps immediately to my Top 5 all time, an amazing thank you gift from a long-time author friend. The 2012 Cardinale is flat-out spectacular and the best wine Notes has covered all year. Many thanks, Steve, and definitely raising a glass to our continued friendship.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cardinale, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cardinale, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The 2012 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot grapes, and truthfully is a whole lot more than that. It is a superfluous wine for which I entirely lack the vocabulary even after several hundreds of tastings covered here over the past decade. Upon initial tasting I could hit on dark cherry, on blackberry–even plum is a possibility–and some definite wisps of vanilla and peat (not sure that’s the right term for what I’m trying to describe in the latter) that I’m sure is driven by the terroir here.

A little online research shows that seven different AVAs (Howell Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Stags’ Leap, Yountville, and St. Helena) were sourced by winemaker Chris Carpenter in developing this black cherry beauty. There are so many little subtleties in play that each time your brain seems to seize on one particular nuance it suddenly registers another flavor. Makes the 2012 very difficult to describe but spectacular to drink.

Just so I don’t leave you entirely bereft of actionable information, here’s a review from The Wine Advocate: “With enormous complexity and richness as well as full-bodied power and voluptuousness, it is a wine of exceptional purity, intensity, and well-integrated acidity, alcohol, tannin, and wood. This seamless, majestic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated 2012 should drink well for two decades.

Now, that’s a ton of technical jargon and very high praise to include on a website that’s declared purpose is to be the opposite of pretentious. Certainly not my intent, but the 2012 Cardinale Cabernet was really stunning and even thinking back I’m so amazed and privileged to try this. Many thanks Dr. G and looking forward to our next occasion!

2014 Freakshow Red Wine, Michael David Winery

Lake Monomonac is the backdrop for this red blend, one of my favorites from Michael David winery and often featured in Notes. It’s a big, jammy red with just a touch of spice that’s a little more tobacco than it is pepper.

2014 Freakshow Red Wine, Michael David Winery, Lodi, California, USA.

2014 Freakshow Red Wine, Michael David Winery, Lodi, California, USA.

The 2014 Freakshow Red Wine is a blend of 71% Syrah, 25% Petite Sirah, and 4% Souzao grapes, and it’s presumably the dilution of the Syrah that makes me think there’s less pepper in play here. It’s going to sound ostentatious but know the Freakshow accompanied filet mignon, lobster, fresh homemade bread, a mix of yellow and green string beans, and plenty of other delicious accents. And it poured out rich, nearly chocolatey, for each glass.

Of the 2014 vintages, the winemaker comments, “Aromas of blackberry cobbler, toasted walnuts, espresso bean, and hints of brandy. The wine is weighty with a velvet-like texture boasting flavors of ripe brambleberry jam, toffee, and dark chocolate mousse…

Much of that is true, and you should be drinking the 2014 Freakshow Red Wine just in case my tasting notes are even close to accurate. So release your inner Dog-Faced-Boy and let that dog hunt–as long as he’s chasing down this bottle you’ll be very satisfied.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, John William Vineyards

Few things in life are both cathartic and fulfilling all at once. That’s what you’ll find in the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from John William Vineyards, with a little dash of calm thrown in the mix too. We know 2014 was a great vintage in terms of Napa reds, and this one falls squarely into that category. I pulled the cork on Friday at the end of a long work week and finished it off with a smile just this evening.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, John William Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, John William Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Friday this red blend was the backdrop to a crazy late afternoon thunderstorm where the rain was driving down at an angle, bending plants and trees to its will. The John William I had intended to accompany some grilled pork chops but instead it went with a couple of leftover burgers that were the perfect antidote to standing outside in the rain getting drenched. And so it went yesterday, and the pork chops kept nicely for Saturday dinner and perfect temperatures–both outside and in the entrée.

I liked this wine right from the first pour, and my enjoyment only increased as I researched this vintage. Most of the grapes for the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from John William reserve vineyards, terroir including Howell Mountain and St. Helena that comes together in a delicious blend of deep, dark red that is nearly purple in the glass. I drank from Cabernet Sauvignon stemware and could smell and taste a rich set of dark berries in the works here. Less cherry flavors and more like blackberry, with accents of spice (not pepper like a Syrah) and a long fruity finish that is really wonderful. I haven’t done its profile justice in previous bottles that I failed to record in Notes, and most importantly you should know I’d hit another one right now if given the opportunity but I obtained from an online offer and not sure how accessible it is in my local wine shop.

Some details from the Winemaker:

  • They deliberately kept the grapes separated by region throughout the fermentation and aging processes in order to keep their unique characteristics.
  • The separate lots were aged in 35% new French oak barrels for 15 months.
  • The final product is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon with 7.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Merlot varietals.

Great grapes, discerning process, and a fantastic result. I originally purchased based on vintage and AVA–and out of deference to one of my favorite composers John Williams of Star Wars and Spielberg/Lucas fame. Whatever the reason strikes a chord with you, just get it and see for yourself. You can thank Notes later.