2014 Babcock Pinot Noir

The lobby of the Fairmont Santa Monica served this tasty beverage, which I enjoyed after a challenging presentation to our best clients. I hadn’t slept at all or eaten beforehand, so I was living on fumes and this 2014 Babcock Pinot Noir to celebrate the end of a long day.


The wine was fun, but its taste I scarcely remember. The winery is located in Santa Monica County, California, so practically local. The 2014 Babcock is a little cherry, a little raspberry, and a tad deeper in color than the Pinots from my favorite winery.

Oh yeah…nearly forgot. Not pictured here, but captured nevertheless on my phone was Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Biggest celebrity citing of this lifetime. Apparently the Governator often frequents the Fairmont with his crew, stopping by mornings after bike rides and workouts, but on this evening he had dropped by with a bodyguard too. Sort of looked like he needed a shower and some gel but seated 20 feet from me in the flesh.

I had two glasses of the Babcock and would have enjoyed more…but in the privacy of my own home. The grapes were good and the need to celebrate (in triumph and relief) was pronounced. And thanks to our special guest star, I’ll never forget this wine or the event.

 

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede Vineyards

Yes this is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Cliff Lede Vineyards in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley, California. Great juice, here, and no surprise that it resonated so powerfully with this aficionado of the region and the varietal.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag's Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA.

This AVA is one of the best known in the world, and the small 60-acre lot that produces the fruit for Cliff Lede fuels a state-of-the-art processing operation set into the California hillside. The winery’s technology is well-described here if you’re curious for a deeper dive; more interesting to me was learning of the ‘rock blocks’ (My Generation, Dark Side of the Moon, etc.) used to name each segment of the vineyard. Love that kind of fandom…

…and speaking of fandom I loved this  2014 Cab. How could you not? Crafted by winemaker Christoper Tynan it is a real beauty of a wine, with grapes sourced from their Poetry Vineyard, Twin Peaks Vineyard, and a few gracious (and surely well-compensated) neighbors in the District. Given the terroir described for these areas there are some really interesting layers at work in the Cliff Lede Stag’s Leap District Cab. Of course there is plum and blackberry, and some things hinting at vanilla but not quite. It is crazy dark purple in your glass and amazing on your tongue, layers of something that reminds me of high-end soaps and their subtle fragrances.

Says the winemaker: “Interwoven into the floral notes are unctuous layers of plum, blackberry, and black currants.  Loads of smoked cardamom, cinnamon, and black licorice unwind onto the palate where the vibrant acidity carries the long finish to a state of balance and equilibrium.

Whoa. Said in short? Helluva wine. Yeah it’s got the mash up that I so enjoy in Bordeaux-style red. This one comprises a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Merlot. They made 7,246 cases of this stuff, bottling it in July of 2016 after aging in French oak barrels for 21 months.

Do yourself a favor and read about the sorting, fermentation, and related production notes…and then get a bottle for the next big celebration you have. You can thank me later.

CA5, Locations Wine

Winemaker Dave Phinney is in his #5 vintage of this California Locations wine, and this is the first of two CA5 bottles I picked up prior to the holidays.  California always offers a wide variety of grapes, tastes, and AVAs for consumers, and it feels incredibly ambitious to bring together all of these tastes into one single bottling that captures the essence of the region. Phinney has a long track record of doing this successfully, however, particularly in his Prisoner series and other related blends, so if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt it’s him.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

I’m still mulling over some of the subtleties at play in the CA5. Let me mention this wine includes fruit from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Sierra foothills. I’m not sure how Locations networked with growers for the international Locations fruit, but it stands to reason he knew who to call in California for good grapes. In the CA5, there is an obvious cherry and blackberry foundation. The wine is smooth and fruit-forward–not as direct as a Michael David wine–and easy on the palate. The Locations people tell you it’s a blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Grenache, and the grapes are nicely combined. A big red feel that is very much in keeping with the Bordeaux-style California Cabernet Sauvignons.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

CA5, Locations Wine, Napa, California, USA.

This to me is less Syrah, less peppery, but stacks of red and black berries. A hint of smoky spice too. The CA5 is barrel aged for 10 months in French oak, and it has a 15.5% alcohol content that sneaks up on you. I had it tonight with a pork and broccoli dinner, and the wine was a nice contrast to the roasted flavors in my meal. I’m considering pulling the cork on the second CA5 next weekend while this taste is fresh on my palate–if you have tasted this vintage perhaps you would share your thoughts here too for Notes readers?

Thanks for your consideration and your readership, and best in 2018.

2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company

It’s The Prisoner who started off our evening, a 2015 purchased along with a few other Phinney red blends that will be opened during this Christmas season.  The Prisoner made a Thanksgiving appearance, too, enjoyed by long-time friends and family gathered for delicious bird and festivities.

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2015 The Prisoner, The Prisoner Wine Company, Napa County, California, USA.

While I opted for a comparable Buena Vista red on that occasion, this evening I went with the Prisoner Wine Company offering.  The delicious, rich taste of the red overcame a rookie mistake: the bottle had sat in cold, December temperatures for several hours and I didn’t allow it to warm up enough when first serving.  Once the wine had warmed in the glass, its true character–big cherry and chocolate notes–were much more apparent on the nose and to the taste.Screen Shot 2017-12-25 at 11.14.47 AM

It accompanied hors de oeuvres (essentially cheese and crackers), and our three glasses quickly dented and polished off this 2015.  The taste?  The Prisoner you may already know, but if not suffice it to say it is vintage red blend, a mix of Bing cherry, chocolate, black raspberry, and warm spices.  Not earthy notes but more baking-type accents.  Its finish is very smooth and leaves that cherry as a sign-off.  Always a great treat!

F4, Locations Wine

It was the Dave Phinney name that put this “F” Location squarely on the map for me. Notes has covered his wines on several occasions this year, or those he helped launch, and knowing my favorite Winestore had a holiday special on Locations got me up and moving early this weekend.

Orin Swift Locations F4, Napa, California, USA.

Orin Swift Locations F4, Napa, California, USA.

This is my first Location, based on the recommendation of the store clerk, and I have the Orin Swift “I”, “CA”, and “E” as options in 2018 too. I pulled the cork this evening and poured amply, with no decanting on this tasting. Grapes for the fourth release of “F” come from growers in Rhone, Roussilon, and Bordeux, and if you haven’t heard of Locations previously, it’s a twist on the kitchen sink conceit. Phinney is less concerned about the specific varietals and more about capturing the essence of wine from a given region, blending with all kinds of freedom.

The “F” I had with steaks, slathered with a chili spice / butter sauce, roasted Yukon potatoes, and steamed broccoli.  (Fun food fact—broccoli was first introduced to the US in the 1920s.)  And the wine was really fun.  It is kind and fruity, with some red raspberry and a little tang of cherry mixed in. The “F” has subtle earthy notes, but they’re so gentle that they don’t really come through in the tasting.  This fourth release of “F” is less tannic than a Cab or a Syrah, and has more body to it than does a Pinot Noir.  It is a very easy drinking wine overall that will go with just about any occasion.

A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and assorted Bordeaux varietals make up the fourth Orin Swift“F” Location, which is barrel aged for 10 months prior to release. The dinner was good; the Phinney wine was better.