2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Daou Vineyards

This 2018 Daou Cabernet Sauvignon makes a vertical here in Notes, with the 2016 and 2017 having received previous attention from this wine fan. As neither of those received a worthy summary, I’m going to take a few moments this Sunday afternoon to share feedback for those of you who’ve yet to taste a Daou Cab.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Daou Vineyards, Paso Robles, California, USA.

This wine is great value for the price, a striking red that is not cloyingly sweet or artificially spiced. Red fruit flavors do abound, and you’ll have no trouble detecting cherry in your glass or maybe even raspberry too. The 2018 vintage finishes easy on your palate and has a smooth, even character.

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Daou Vineyards pours ruby red in your glass and does not need much time to breathe and open up. It’s totally feasible to just uncork, pour, and enjoy. This particular bottle accompanied a simple seared chicken breast, kicked up with a spice blend of rosemary, basil, sundried tomato, orange peel powder, and a few others. Yes, it feels like summer here in the south so corn of the cob was part of the mix too, and a wedge salad with just the right accents of onion, tomato, bacon, and blue cheese.

The wine wove a warm red ribbon through the whole of it, and I was glad to share all this goodness with great company. Yes, that same great company whipped me in Gin, but I felt lucky nevertheless. This Daou is readily available, and you can find it (probably) as easily in your grocery store as you can your favorite wine retailer, whether brick and mortar or online. I’m sorry to see it go and looking forward to my next one already. Enjoy your Sunday…

2018 Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

Unshackled is a typical Prisoner wine–a delicious big red blend that kicks serious tail. It’s an approach to winemaking that has made me a fan of Dave Phinney wines since I first tasted the Prisoner, all his recent productions through Orin Swift Cellars, and certainly the diverse Thorn, Saldo, and Cuttings bottles I’ve had experienced courtesy of Chrissy Wittmann, the current Director of Winemaking at The Prisoner Wine Company. If you have followed Notes for any period of time, you’ll know that my favorite three winemakers are Buena Vista, Orin Swift, and The Prisoner Wine Company, and bottles from each appear here with regularity. 

2018 Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company

2018 Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon, The Prisoner Wine Company, St. Helena, California, USA.

Unshackled I tasted earlier this year but did not take a moment to memorialize any tasting notes, so this is a first run at it. Unshackled is big fruit, big Cabernet Sauvignon from California. While it is not quite a “tooth stainer”,  Unshackled does pack in plum and dark berry in plentiful supply. Cherry or perhaps some black cherry notes too. It is smooth, neither too dry nor too sweet, and easy drinking right now; this bottle I didn’t age at all but hit it right after purchasing from my favorite wine store. This wine combines grapes grown from along the north and central coast of California (e.g., Monterey, San Benito, Paso Robles, Lodi, Sonoma, Dry Creek, Mendocino, Redwood Valley), and they are aged for 10 months in both French and American oak by the Prisoner team. This is the official word from TPWC:

Aromas of plum and blackberry with a hint of olive. Vibrant flavors of black stone fruit and dried herbs with solid tannin structure result in a flavor-forward Cabernet Sauvignon with balanced acidity.

We had the 2018 Unshackled with fresh salmon and a Greek-style farro, a light meal that was well-accented by this Cab blend (which includes Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot too). The price point on Unshackled is done right too–it keeps you from dipping into your weekday cellar defenders or from having to level up to your single-vineyard Napa hallmarks. A great wine overall, and a tasting experience I’ll look forward to again soon. 

 

 

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery

Quilt wine was first shared with me several Thanksgivings ago (thanks Potter!) and I enjoyed that big Cabernet Sauvignon right away. Notes should have reviewed that bottle at least once since (I’ve enjoyed a couple), and when I saw The Fabric of the Land was available at my favorite local wine store*, I made sure to add a bottle to a recent order.

Suffice it to say, the Fabric made its appearance last night, a welcome reward for working with my hands throughout the afternoon. There’s something to be said…something primary…something elemental for putting your hands in the dirt and planting while a kind sun beams down on you. I had bare feet in warm grass–occasionally wet grass–that felt equally rich for my overly desked body, and I was appreciative of the opportunity to shape the world around Cara and me for a few hours.

Neither of us felt like cooking for the first time in weeks, so we decided to pick up barbecue from Picnic and have that with the Fabric. We split a kale salad, potato salad, and slaw to varying degrees; she opted for pulled pork (which was great) and I went with the brisket. The brisket was only average, but thankfully the wine was above average. And that’s good, right? After all, this is a wine blog first and foremost.

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

2018 The Fabric of the Land, Quilt Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA.

The Fabric of the Land is produced by Quilt, which is part of Copper Cane in Napa Valley, California. Right on the bottle the Quilt team proudly promotes the mix of Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot grapes that go into this big red (French Oak barreled) blend. Quilt selects these grapes from across Napa Valley, including the Oak Knoll and Calistoga areas of this rich AVA.

When combined, you get a nice even, fruity blend. The Merlot is soft and gentle; the Sirah definitely adds some of the spice notes you’ll detect on your palate. It’s obviously less of a Cabernet or Petite Sirah taste and much more of a Bordeaux-style that reminded me of Conundrum. (I picked up one of those too in the recent wine run, and that new vintage we’ll assuredly cover in the days ahead.) In your glass the Fabric is dark cherry, and it has that flavor to it too, along with definite black raspberry afterthoughts. Here’s how the Quilt team articulated that idea:

“Full-bodied and complex flavors of tart raspberry, blackberry, dark chocolate, and light notes of spice. This wine as a long finish with a smooth and velvety mouthfeel.”

Honestly, I get more of the cherry than raspberry but that’s simply this guy’s take. Quilt wines are well-packaged and well-marketed, including this new personality added to the Wagner family roster. You’ll enjoy, so be sure to pick up a couple the next time you can stop by your local wine store. Enjoy!

* Yes, this was a safe, controlled-environment curbside transfer…thanks COVID-19 for that extra wrinkle.

2016 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon,Duckhorn Wine Company

Yeah, this is birthday wine, and grapes done well. Big shout out to my brother Steve for the amazing hookup–this was an unexpected surprise and much appreciated!

If you’re following this Notes journey, you may have realized the Italian wines about which I’ve recently written were not in fact consumed in the hillsides of Montepulciano but rather here in NC while looking wistfully overseas. In the spirit of solidarity, I’ve tried to embrace those grapes but they are not as near or dear to my heart as is a Napa Cab. Brother, this is exactly what the doctor ordered!

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2016 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon, Duckhorn Wine Company, Napa Valley, California, USA.

So here we are: birthday dinner. This one checks all the boxes. The perfect date? Yes. Steak? Yes. Asparagus and crispy crowns? Check! And a lovely Napa Cab–this is about a good a day you can have in the middle of a workweek slash pandemic. (Yes, my favorite movie is queued up too…of course I honor traditions always, and hell yes to thine own self be true…)

The Duckhorn has a host of great qualities, and great brand awareness too–deservedly so. It’s pleasantly fragrant when uncorked, an oaky, plum that’s completely enticing. Even before pouring, I know it’s a much heartier wine than the Nebbiolos I’ve been recently sampling. In the glass it’s ruby red, nearly purple. This Cab is more dark fruit than red…more plum and blackberry than dark cherry…and has really nice, subtle notes of spice to it too. I love it immediately, as does Cara. The best sip is your first, and the worst is your last…because…well…

A Duckhorn Cab is one of those reasons you push through a tough workday, slog through challenging work, bosses, and clients. It’s the way you reward yourself for taking it all on, headfirst and like a man, for answering the bell each new round. I’m so appreciative of the gift, and for the occasion. Looking forward to my next, and sending big thanks to you all who took time to make an impact on my day.

2017 The Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery

If you’ve spent time with Notes in the past, you’ll know how much I enjoy the The Sheriff of Buena Vista red blend. Its luscious combination of Petite Sirah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Mission, and Merlot grapes has been well-traveled ground, and you can read my feedback on the 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013 each here. I’m offering similar praise this evening, albeit perhaps in a less verbose post than usual.

2017 Sheriff of Buena Vista, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma County, California, USA.

There is tons of big fruit in this wine, rich flavors of blackberry and dark cherry with little spice accents that are really a treat. Be sure to read previous coverage of the Sheriff if you’re up for a deeper dive into the wine itself. While I’m always biased toward the Petite Sirah offered by Buena Vista (you’ve just got to hit their Karoly’s Selection…), I’m always very pleased when I remember I’ve ordered up a bottle of the Sheriff too.

2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company

The Prisoner Wine Company makes several of my very favorite wines, including cult classic The Prisoner (natch) plus the Cuttings (my favorite wine of the summer two years ago), and this really enjoyable Saldo. Each has been covered in Notes previously, but I really like sharing my love for them so apologies for if I repeat myself here in the 2017 Saldo California Zinfandel.

2017 Saldo

2017 Saldo California Zinfandel, The Prisoner Wine Company, Oakville, California, USA.

This bottle is a Friday night selection, a dark ruby gem that accompanies a new meal I’m making for the first time: a healthy version of a creamy butter chicken with white rice. The dish packs in onions, garlic, ginger, paprika, and curry, so the wine has to have enough legs to hold up to the Indian spices. I erred just a bit on the coconut milk used to offset the heat, but good wine helped overcome that oversight.

And the 2017 Saldo answers the bell. Yes, it’s a robust red that has notes of pepper and cherry (not really blackberry, black currant, or strawberry here) readily available, and little spice accents as well. Do you see why I thought it might accompany the chicken dish? The wine has a good mouthfeel; it’s substantive and rich but very smooth overall. Given the grapes used to create Saldo you’ll understand if I consider this as much as red blend as I do many of the zinfandels covered here in this blog.  

Let us touch on the blend—because if you follow PWC like I do you know the wine is never a straight-up single vineyard, one varietal bottle. Their 2017 California Zinfandel is actually a combination of zinfandel (85%) and a petite sirah / syrah blend (15%), aged in both French and American oak barrels (25% new). Saldo is sourced from AVAs that include Dry Creek, the Sierra Foothills, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, and Lodi; winemaker Jen Beloz (formerly of Ravenswood) selects fruit from Mattern, Aparicio, Teldeschi, Grist, Taylor, and Bismark Mountain Vineyard for this Saldo zinfandel blend.

Trying to understand the meaning of “Saldo”? We’ve covered that before and you can check out here if you have another moment. Me? I’m off to better things and say thanks as always for your readership.

 

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 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.